European Green Deal
According to the European Commission, each European generates almost 180kg of packaging waste per year on average. Consequently, the European Commission proposed a new regulation to cut down on packaging waste. Under the proposal, all 27 EU members will be required to reduce packaging waste per capita by 15 per cent in 2040 compared with 2018 levels.
One such company working towards the mission of bringing an end to single-use food and beverage packaging waste is Ozarka. Based out of Amsterdam, Ozarka is committed to solving the problem of disposable food packaging at every level through reusable food packaging, zero-waste delivery, logistics, and commercial food service.
Raised €500K funding
To advance its operations to the next level, the Amsterdam startup announced that it has raised €500K in a Seed round of funding from angel investors, all of whom are current or former C-level or senior executives from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, NVIDIA, Netflix, Lyft, Airbnb, and BUNQ. Joanna Invests, Amsterdam’s women-led investment firm for female founders, helped Ozarka close the seed round.
The announcement follows the Dutch startup’s Pre-Seed funding round of €240K. As a part of our Founders on funding series, Silicon Canals reached out to Beth Massa, founder and CEO of Ozarka, to better understand the company’s purpose, funding strategy, challenges, and other related topics. Here’s what she had to say.
Sold house to bootstrap Ozarka
Beth Massa spent the initial part of her career at Amazon and Microsoft in the Netherlands. During her stint at Microsoft, Massa learned about the plastic pollution crisis from her scientific research clients and got obsessed with finding practical ways to tackle this global issue. “This environmental issue obsessed me because it is a big dumb, horrifically destructive problem that is the result of corporate greed and irresponsible marketing,” says Massa. Massa came up with the idea for Ozarka at a café during a solo weekend in Paris. “I realised that, given the coincidence of my professional background, I had the experience to solve the problem of food packaging pollution at scale, at the consumer level. So, I came home from that little break in Paris, left my job, and sold my house to bootstrap Ozarka.”
Getting Ozarka up and running
According to Massa, internal struggles rather than external situations presented the biggest challenge. Massa originally conceptualised Ozarka as a physical grocery store, where all the packaging would be ‘grab-n-go’ and reusable. However, she realised that the model was risky, capital-intensive, and had thin margins. “I knew this, but it was such a beautiful vision. I need a paradigm shift: to convert my perceived competitors into customers. Fortunately, the path to profitability was easier and faster. The environmental impact was greater. And our ability to scale increased by a bazillion,” she shares. Thus, Ozarka came into the world as a B2B proposition.
Purpose of Ozarka
The Amsterdam-based startup aims to end single-use food and beverage packaging waste. Ozarka focuses on ready-to-consume and made-to-order food packaging in corporate and professional catering, stadiums, office parks, events and festivals, food halls, food courts, takeaway, and delivery. Massa says, “We source our reusable containers from European manufacturers and distributors. Our packaging must be free from toxic chemicals, of course, durable up to 1000 uses, and tolerate commercial dishwashers.” “We also choose containers that provide the best customer experience, leak-proof, stackable and nestable, and otherwise gastronomy compatible. It is crucial because you don’t want to disrupt a client’s processes, and storage space is always an issue,” she adds.
‘By existing, we raised awareness’
Measuring impact is a crucial part of running a responsible and sustainable business. Massa says, “We use a few tools to measure our impact from an LCA perspective. We look at the overall reduction of material waste, food waste, CO2, transportation, and logistics factors.” On the impact Ozarka created, Massa adds, “Just by existing, we’ve raised a lot of awareness around the overall issue of packaging pollution, not just in our lane, but the issue as a whole.”
Balancing ‘Growth and profitability
Massa says, “Ozarka and our clients are buffered against uncertain economic conditions to a large extent because of our reusable model, and hyperlocal supply chain.” “Ozarka sets the price on the fees for using our containers and is not dependent or catastrophically vulnerable to the fluctuating prices of raw materials or international supply chain disruptions.” On Ozarka’s growth plan, Massa states, “The goal is to get as few food containers as possible to be reused as often as possible. In achieving this optimum infrastructure, our margins get fatter, our path to profitability is shortened, and our impact on reducing waste becomes bigger.”
Starting a business can be confronting
According to Massa, the biggest lesson she learned during her entrepreneur journey is that “starting a business can be confronting.” “Everyone has shortcomings or bad habits, and we all have them, but it doesn’t magically evaporate just because you are starting your own company. For example, I have to check with myself that I don’t get distracted or overly excited about new ideas or opportunities at the expense of the execution of current projects,” she says
Beth’s valuable insights
On seeking funding
“I wrote out a long list of everyone I met in my whole life who might have taken a special interest in me, who maybe always supported me or given me encouragement from the sidelines. I got a lot of angel investment in this way, pulling people out of the woodwork. I am acutely aware that this advice comes from a place of privilege,” she says. “When it is time to reach out beyond your immediate network, understand and empathise with the day-in-the-life of an investor. Don’t be one in a cloud of mosquitoes buzzing around their heads. Be the butterfly that lands in the palm of their hand,” she adds.
For aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders
Massa says, “Your ambitions can be enormous, but don’t let them paralyse you in getting started. If you were challenged to launch your idea six weeks from today, how small would you need to get to launch?” She continues, “Make sure you aren’t wasting your mental energy hiding in a dark little corner worrying about someone stealing your idea. Good ideas aren’t rare and don’t think your idea is so precious, even if it is unique.” “Share, ask for support, give support. Get involved, encourage, and be encouraged,” she says. “Early on, I learned to temper my environmental righteousness when speaking to investors. Your company needs to make money, lots of money. Don’t shy away from that. Position the environmental impact as a result, not the goal. The goal is to build a robust, profitable, scalable,” concludes Massa.
This article was published by Silicon Canals on 21 February 2023. See here: https://siliconcanals.com/news/startups/massa-selling-house-to-fund-ozarka/