Tinia, can you tell us about you, and what did you do before creating Re-Nuble?
I lived in NYC for 6 years and during two of those years, I used to live in Harlem. If I wanted to go to the local supermarket down the block for an organic tomato or produce of any kind, I’d often have to go downtown to the Trader Joes or Whole Foods because natural or organically certified produce was often too expensive or not within easy access for my community.
I began to spend a lot of time thinking, why is this? Why is it that there’s more affordable chemically-laden and processed food available than natural and healthier options. After doing extensive research, I soon realized that it’s because our food system is incredibly inefficient. A pound of organic certified tomatoes is often sold at a price that’s 43% higher than chemically produced (conventionally grown) food because its easier and cheaper for growers to produce. With the alarming adversities our society is facing with food and water scarcity and with 70% of global population estimated to live in and near cities by 2050, I knew that we had to be more smart and efficient with our natural resources and overall production of healthy, good food.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I used to work in investment management for four years prior to leaving the corporate world and I knew that I had a greater calling. Almost 30% of my time was spent organizing pro bono events or leading projects in the community and I had received more gratification from my unpaid work than I was from my 9 to 5 during those days. I spent close to a year ideating what could be Re-Nuble, which to be honest was very foreign and abstract to me. I lacked a biology or science-based background as my bachelors degree was in Business Information Technology and I didn’t have a large community of professional colleauges currently involved in food waste, food systems, or anything remotely similar to these interests.
So I randomly, while employed at the 9 to 5, took a personal week of vacation, attended a conference in De Moines, Iowa called Biocycle, which is a trade publication that provides industry research and best practices on businesses and municipalities involved in the convergence of food waste and renewable energy. I attended this conference by myself, knew absolutely no one, and participated with a completely new slate with intentions on reinventing myself. It was this pivotal moment that I realized that this was my calling. Despite the inherently large risks and tumultuous journey of an entrepreneur, I realized that my curiosity to learn new concepts and apply it to large impending societal and environmental problems was sufficient to give me the confidence that I could do this.
These traits and my passion to make a difference by aligning my personal values with my career purpose have kept me going till this day.
How would you define Re-Nuble’s mission in a few sentences? What has been its impact so far?
Re-Nuble’s mission is to sustainably manage our local communities’ consumed resources, rendering them into valuable renewable inputs at minimal or zero cost to the environment while increasing the affordability and accessibility to healthy food for all.
What is Re-Nuble’s business model? How do you generate revenues ?
Re-Nuble uses a capital light, patent pending process to transform vegetative waste into non-toxic, liquid hydroponic nutrients that help boost hydroponic yields at a fraction of the cost of chemically based alternatives.
We take a decentralized, novel approach to solving the problem of food entrepreneurs and lawn and garden consumers have in lacking access to liquid hydroponic nutrients that are competitive in both price and performance to synthetic, or chemical, nutrient alternatives while staying 100% organic. Similar to compost tea, our products are derived from food and vegetative waste streams but its processed in a food processing technology that sterilizes and stabilizes this material in order to create a year-long shelf life and deliver reliable results. Products such as compost tea and other organic alternatives often create issues in a hydroponic system, which is much less forgiving than soil-based growing, such as clogging and lead to the presence of bacteria. The exciting innovation is that we can recreate standard chemical fertilizer products using food waste as our raw materials at locations closer to the farmers that will buy our products.
This enables us to significantly cut down on distribution costs, transfer savings to customers, and minimize our carbon footprint at the same time.
We sell our retail and wholesale products direct to consumers, retailers and commercial farmers.
How much did you need to invest to create Re-Nuble, and how did you finance the initial investment?
We’ve been fortunate to bootstrap Re-Nuble during it’s product development stage by self-funding and receiving various grants, most recently a $10,000 grant from the Wild Gift. Now that we have identified and established a market-fit and have interested parties in our product, we’re crowdfunding $50,000 on Indiegogo nowdays in order to help us scale-up our technology and increase production to be able to distribute more products to interested users.
The journey has been almost two years, but I’m glad we took it slow and spent a substantial amount of time building critical relationships and de-risking our business model as much as possible because the learning curve associated with this process has been immensely valuable.
Today, what do you enjoy the most in your entrepreneurial journey?
Great question! I really enjoy empowering others, learning about new innovations, applying my creativity in an unstructured environment, and giving back in ways that I’m not limited. The best thing a social entrepreneur can do is to create a business model that is sustainable and can create a predictable cash flow. What ignites me, is when our team has the fundamentals in place to create a decent ‘cash flow’ and we can give back in ways we’d prefer.
Our interests are not to give back by in the form of a 10% donation or giving something away for free, but in more direct, meaningful ways where community members can associate our brand with projects such as creating a new community garden, opening a new school gardening and food education program, or others that are dear to our mission.
The limitless opportunities that an entrepreneur can create for his or her team or self are what drives me!
If you had to give 1 advice (and 1 only!) to the people who are reading this interview, who find your story inspiring and dream to create their own world-changing business one day: what would it be?
My one piece of advice that I try to practice everyday, is to talk to one new person about your idea or business everyday. With every conversation I’ve had with a new person, whether it was consequential given the circumstances or preconceived, I have learned a better way to tell my story, a new contact that would be interested in potentially investing, or a potential end user that would like to try our product.
At first, everyone is reluctant to share their baby and that’s normal but to sit on your idea without vetting it with others or networking with like-minded interests will only hurt your growth and limit your confidence.
- Learn more about Re-Nuble: www.re-nuble.com
- Get involved by supporting Re-Nuble crowdfunding campaign: indiegogo.com/transforming-food-waste-to-affordable-nutrients
Solène is the Chief Empowerment Officer of Creators for Good.
She developed a methodology that allows Global Citizen to start and grow their own impactful businesses from anywhere in the world – and with no need for investors or government support.