LAURITS JØRGENSEN & MARIA POULSEN FROM REFURBISHING FOODS
July 6, 2021
BY Nina Lyhne
MEET LAURITS & MARIA
Laurits has a Bachelor of Engineering in Biotechnology with a subsequent business specialization
Maria has a Master of Engineering in Chemistry, also with a business specialization
They are co-founders of Refurbishing Foods, which upcycles byproducts and turn them into new foods
They founded Refurbishing Foods in December 2020
Laurits is CPO, and Maria is COO
Laurits and Maria have a good reason to be popping champagne – they just received a Sustainable Development Goals Micro Grant worth 50.000 DKK from The Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship
HOW DID THE IDEA OF BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS ARISE?
Like so many others, we hope to make a positive impact on our society and planet – and being an entrepreneur is a great opportunity to do so. Not only in relation to the product itself and the vision with the company, but also as project managers and business partners. Here we get the opportunity to create a good and healthy work environment that people would be happy to be part of.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
The idea for Refurbishing Foods arose during a business specialization for diploma Engineers in the spring of 2019. We were four people with different engineering backgrounds, who were working on an innovation project. We got an idea of making jam from discarded fruit and vegetables from supermarkets in Aarhus. However, a meeting with the fiery souls from Sager der Samler quickly changed the idea, and we modified our business strategy. Instead, we started to develop ice cream and other foods made from fruit remains from the countless juice cafés in Aarhus – and since then by using by-products from the industry in general to ensure scalability and consistency.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE PROCESS
One of the biggest challenges has been the constant changes in the beginning of our startup. We have adapted to feedback from both market and suppliers in order to create a more resilient business model, and the phrase ‘Kill Your Darlings’ is well known to us by now. In addition, we have had to do and learn everything from scratch, so the learning curve has certainly been steep in a wide range of areas.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORKWEEK LOOK LIKE IN RELATION TO COMBINING YOUR STARTUP WITH YOUR STUDIES?
Two weeks are rarely alike – sometimes an exam is the main focus, and sometimes it is an event or production in relation to Refurbishing Foods. This means that we sometimes spend only 10 hours on the company in some weeks, and in other weeks, we are approaching 80. This has really been one of the advantages of being two co-founders, since we have been able to help each other out, when necessary.
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR ACADEMIC SKILLS AS ENTREPRENEURS?
Laurits used both his internship semester and bachelor project semester (both six months) to work as a food architect. Here, he spent a lot of time in food labs where the focus was on product development – more specifically on implementing one specific component into one specific food product. Also, he has had courses about enzymes, food chemistry, biochemistry and molecular cell biology, all of which have helped to provide a broad understanding of what happens in food on a reactive and microbial level.
In addition to our specific academic competencies, we both make great use of the working methods and tools we have been presented to in connection with group and project work during our studies.
WHERE IS THE COMPANY TODAY, AND WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE?
At the moment, we are on the verge of launching our first product: a crispbread, which contains 40% upcycled juice pulp.
Our vision with the company is to make a circular transition of the food industry (which is why we love Doughnut Economics). For this to be possible, we need to tap into several food sectors! That’s why we are dreaming of having a wide range of food products in the future, that will cover many different needs. This could, for instance, be ice cream and ketchup, just to name two very different end products. By doing so, we also hope that we can contribute to showing consumers that products made from by-products can indeed be delicious!
YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS?
Give it a shot. Even the things that do not succeed, you will still learn a lot from. And definitely, you should become part of an entrepreneurial community! Through The Kitchen and Food eHub, we have gotten a huge network of competent supervisors, who assist us in all sorts of aspects – law, SoMe, business development and many others. In addition to the always helpful people in these hubs, we have also been connected with businesspeople, competitors, funds, events, workshops, and yes… You name it! It really kicked us off to a good start, and it has been so nice and rewarding to be a part of.