Making the world a slightly better place – one toothbrush at a time
Last semester was hectic, to say the least, for German exchange student Enrico Berardone at Arcada. Not only did he get to experience life in a new country while adding a number of business courses to the degree in industrial engineering he’s studying towards. It was also the year when he put his entrepreneurial spirit to the test and founded his company Fairbrush – an initiative that also netted him the win in the first ever Arcada Mindventures competition.
“Small things can make a big difference,” Enrico says.
He is talking about Fairbrush, both the name of his company and of the bamboo toothbrush that he’s just introduced on the market. For each ecological toothbrush sold, one is donated to people in developing countries.
“I brought this idea with me from Germany when I arrived in Finland in August. When taking a course in e-distribution at Arcada we were tasked with creating an online shop, and I asked my fellow team members if they’d be interested in working on the Fairbrush shop. It was a great help when getting going, not least since some of the students are majoring in marketing and could come with valuable input. After that I’ve been busy contacting suppliers and testing a wide range of potential toothbrushes to invest in and launching the company. I’ve just returned from Asia after donating the first round of toothbrushes.”
Entrepreneurship with an environmental focus
A guiding principle behind Fairbrush is that the concept offers something valuable for all parts involved.
“There are many companies that are only in it to make money. In the end, this is often achieved on someone else’s expense. Most often either the environment or people in developing countries. This business model, on the other hand, provides an advantage for all stakeholders. Besides the company making a profit and the government getting tax revenue, it’s also good for the environment and people in need get both toothbrushes and knowledge.”
By finding local partners in developing countries Enrico shares knowledge both about oral hygiene and ecological thinking in general.
“You’d be surprised how many people in the world that may have heard about toothbrushes, but actually never seen one.”
Besides a great idea, a professional pitch and a solid understanding of the market, this ecologic aspect was an important factor when Enrico won first place in the first ever Arcada Mindventures competition.
An entrepreneurially-minded environment
Arcada Mindventures, which took in the beginning of December, is an internal entrepreneurship competition where students can win 1.000 euros as well as valuable coaching from the four entrepreneurship experts forming the competition’s jury.
“Participating in Mindventures definitely was a good experience and everyone with a business idea should sign up,” Enrico says. “It’s a good opportunity to test if your idea is actually interesting, and not just interesting to yourself. I’ve also found myself afraid of talking to much about my ideas before – what if someone would steal them? But something I realized in Finland is that there’s so much to be gained from being open and talking about your plans. You get so many new ideas and hear so many opinions that helps you take the next step.”
To summarize Enrico’s semester in Finland it started out as “wanting to experience nice nature, complement my engineering studies with business courses and think about what to do after graduating.” But it soon turned out as the perfect stepping stone for launching his company.
“I’ve known for some time that I didn’t want to limit myself to only engineering, but also wanted to learn more about management, leadership and business. I was really lucky when choosing Arcada, since the courses I’ve taken here have given me a solid foundation for starting my own company. I’ve learnt a lot about e.g. e-distribution, public speaking and communication. The course Project management and budgeting was of course also very important for me, and provided knowledge that was easy to put to practical use. I also appreciate that people here are so open about their entrepreneurial ideas, easy to talk to and always willing to share their experience and ideas.”
Enrico is now headed back to the Neo-Ulm University of Applied Sciences in Germany to write his thesis before graduating. At Arcada we wish him all the best with his future endeavours, and look forward to getting our hands on his ecological toothbrush in 2018.