Why did you start your start-up, which problem do you address and how do you solve it?
Our two founders Fabian Eckert and Florian Pachaly had the idea with RECUP during their studies. They were bothered by the disproportionately high consumption of disposable cups and the resulting mountains of waste. Both wanted to make a contribution to environmental protection and the conservation of resources as well as to change something - so they came up with the idea for the deposit system.
Take-away food or simply order the delivery service to your home - absolutely in demand at the moment, of course. And once again you have disposable packaging and tons of plastic at home, so it was only a matter of time before the company wanted to find a solution for this too. So the idea of REBOWL was born in 2019. The digital deposit system for reusable take-away packaging represents a resource-saving alternative to conventional to-go disposable packaging in the food sector.
The principle is very simple: Order take-away food and deposit a deposit, enjoy the meal on the way in the REBOWL, return the REBOWL to a participating partner and get the deposit back. The caterer takes over the professional washing up and is in his role an essential cornerstone of the system. Breaking up firmly established patterns of behaviour, finding and offering sustainable alternatives and acting as a role model for other sustainable ideas - this is the driving force behind the daily work of RECUP and REBOWL.
What is special about your business model, what do you do differently?
Our focus is on social impact and we actively contribute to sustainable development in our society. And we do it with a lot of passion, team spirit and fun! As a team, we want to show that a sustainable business model allows you to survive economically independently, and so far we've managed to do this quite well. With our company we can drive ecological, economic and social change. Therefore, we want to be a pioneer for other sustainable ideas and projects in addition to our work.
In terms of the system, the REBOWL differs from other returnable cups in that it has a particularly long life cycle, as it can survive 200 passes. REBOWL deliberately does not work with an already existing bowl from the market, but has developed a product itself, which is not only 100% recyclable, but also made of 100% recycled plastic and is more scratch-resistant than other products. This guarantees a high level of resource conservation on the basis of "Bowl2Bowl". This cradle2cradle principle makes it possible to reconcile the health aspect of consumer safety and sustainability through durability and resource conservation. REBOWL focuses on simplicity instead of complexity and thus makes the system very user-friendly.
Having RECUP as a strong, already established brand at our side is great. It gives it a recognition value and people already understand the system behind it. So we can also use the network effect and take our RECUP community on the way of REBOWL. Together we will take the reusable way on the #coffeetogorevolution and the #rebowlution in Germany.
What was the most valuable advice someone gave you during your founding phase?
Fabi was once told by an investor that sometimes you just have to keep going. In the beginning there are always phases which are extremely exhausting and stressful, in which you sometimes ask yourself why you are taking all this on yourself. In this moment it helps to say to yourself: "Just get on with it!" And most of the time, a few days later, the world looks completely different again and you can face all coming tasks and challenges strengthened and motivated. We believe that this is an important thing, because it is the only way to develop yourself, learn from mistakes and grow slowly but steadily.
What has been your greatest success so far?
We are continuously developing our brands. The fact that we, together with so many partners, are able to fight more and more consistently against the mountains of waste caused by disposable packaging is our greatest success. With REBOWL we want to continue writing this success story.
What would you recommend to other founders?
Look for partners who absolutely fit to you and continue, even if it seems hopeless at first, because the founding phase is a constant up and down.
Where did you get to know each other as a team?
Flo and Fabi contacted the same person with the same idea, who then brought the two together. The small two-man team has grown steadily and faster and faster. Today almost 40 employees belong to the RECUP and REBOWL family, who together with a lot of heart and soul work for the coffee-to-go revolution and since last year also for the rebowlution.
Where do you see start-up in three years?
The vision of REBOWL is to change our environment with the digital, circular and area-wide deposit system for take-away trays, to break up consumer habits and to save resources together with our partners by going the reusable way and taking others with us. We will be on this mission in three years. We are also super curious how everything will develop!
Do you have an office cat/dog/turtle?
Two office dogs belong to our team. Frido, who lovingly beats up his whole herd every day and Freya, who loves every bit of cuddling from all human colleagues.
What gave you the reason to expand your product range?
We save an incredible number of disposable cups with RECUP. So why not go even further and reduce the packaging waste in the kitchen? We save an incredible number of disposable cups with RECUP. So why not go even further and fight packaging waste in the food sector? Especially now, in the time of the Corona Virus, we all became aware once again how necessary sustainable alternatives are and how in demand these are now also among restaurateurs and end consumers. Everywhere overcrowded garbage bins and plastic packaging as far as the eye can see - this is a state of affairs we neither want nor are allowed to be satisfied with.
How far are you currently in product development? When will REBOWL be available in the restaurants and cafés?
REBOWL is in the 3rd test phase of the system. From the middle of June we will put bowls into circulation again to test the system with regard to a digital component. At the moment you can get your take-away dish at some partners in Munich, Cologne and Berlin in REBOWL. From mid-June on, partners in other cities will be added. These bowls are only an interim solution for us - also due to Corona. We are currently in the process of developing a Bowl that is even more sustainable. Because what you can find on the market at the moment is not yet optimally suited for the reusable sector and is therefore not satisfactory for us.
The official market launch will take place in November. Until then, we are working on the digital component of REBOWL on the one hand, in order to find the most user-friendly technology for our system, which works most sustainably in the circulation system. On the other hand, material and design decisions will be finalized. REBOWL wants to finish the test phase 3 at the end of October and start with the Bowl of the future on November 4th. So you can be very excited!
What challenges are you facing right now?
The biggest challenge at the moment is time. We are working at full speed on the product and the brand in order to be able to launch the REBOWL rocket on its mission of rebowlution on time in November. Due to the COVID crisis we also had to limit our working hours and now we have to cope with less time and all the tasks and challenges that are coming up.
But it's also a lot of fun and increases your motivation enormously. The various test phases that we have already gone through and are still going through provide us with a lot of revealing information. This information has to be constantly analysed, implemented and based on this, the Bowl of the future is developed - sustainable, user-friendly and innovative - our REBOWL.
Does the current Corona crisis have an impact on you and your project and if so, how do you deal with it?
As already described, the Corona crisis limits us a little bit in time. Nevertheless the whole team is working motivated and determined on the REBOWL and the deposit system to be ready for the market in November. On the other hand, we see that the Corona pandemic is also an important wake-up call.
People are becoming even more aware of how important it is to avoid plastic and protect the environment. Many people are now becoming increasingly aware of sustainable alternatives. We are of course also feeling the effects of this, which makes us very happy. Many restaurants and RECUP partners approach us with inquiries and report that a sustainable solution like REBOWL is very much in demand.
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