Taking the risk to start working for real on your MBA final project may be a bit scary but you can always learn from the experience. This is the case of Benno Orschulik, MBA Alumni class 2020 and co-founder of CALOW. The company idea came for the final project of the programme but he decided to take the risk and try it.
We caught up with him and he told us about the experience of being an entrepreneur and what is coming in the future.
1. Tell us more about yourself. How did your interest in entrepreneurship come about?
I started my professional career back in 2011 with a dual study for Industrial Engineering and an apprenticeship for Wholesale and Foreign Trade at the company Big Dutchman in Germany. After completion of my bachelor’s degree in 2015, I worked for about a year as a Sales Trainee for the Middle East and Africa. In 2016 I became Area Sales Manager for parts of the Middle East and Africa including countries like Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria. Two and a half years later I decided to take the next step and applied for the International MBA at EADA. Already at the beginning of our MBA we formed as a group and shared ideas about setting up our own business. My general interest in entrepreneurship grew even more and more during the program.
2. Tell us more about your project. How did the idea start?
The idea started when we had to search for a final project for the MBA program. We had many, many ideas that we evaluated within our team and that we threw out. After a hint from one of our classmates about the hype of Hard Seltzer in the US, we looked in detail on that topic and it was very quickly clear: That’s the project! We want to bring Hard Seltzer to Europe. That was the start of CALOW.
3. How would you describe CALOW?
The overall Hard Seltzer category is a new category of alcoholic drinks that combines a refreshing drink and low sugar and low calorie. It is made out of sparkling water, alcohol and fruit aroma. Whereas the Hard Seltzer companies in the US mainly use fermented sugar as the alcohol base, we decided to look at the European market and the common tastes. Therefore we decided for a fruit wine as the alcoholic base. CALOW Hard Seltzer is a super light fruit wine spritzer with 4% alcohol. Low in sugar, low in calories, gluten-free and vegan.
4. What is your view about innovation in the beverage industry?
As the main alcoholic beverages like beer had in the last decades a decline in volume, I see that there are more and more trends coming up. I think that people drink more consciously today. They actually even somehow celebrate the procedure of drinking as we see for example in all the instagram stories of Aperol glasses. But I am also convinced that people will become even more conscious about the nutritional value – even for alcoholic drinks. To give you just a brief example: A glass (250ml) of Cider contains about 24g of sugar – 7-8 cubes! In CALOW (250ml) there is only 1,5g of sugar (0,5 cube).
5. What were the biggest challenges to starting your own business and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge was to finally decide to take that “risk” to start. Today, I would actually not call it a risk as there is so much to learn from it, even if it would turn out as a failure. I said to myself that I don’t want to be annoyed later for not trying.
6. What knowledge learned at EADA did you apply in this project?
There are so many things that I learnt at EADA that I can apply. A major lesson for the start that Bart Huisken teaches us: “Talk about your idea!”. People tend to be too anxious to talk about their ideas – myself included before EADA. But this anxiety prevents you from getting valuable feedback and especially support.
Moreover James Haigh told us that “it is about keeping it simple and getting started“. And finally for the marketing Alexis Mavrommatis taught us: “keep it consistent and coherent!”
Furthermore, there are so many learnings from EADA that I can apply for my additional job as Consulting & Project Assistant to CEO at Big Dutchman.
7. What are the future plans of your venture?
As I am currently working at the same time full-time at Big Dutchman I would like to develop CALOW step-by-step. Trying to use fritz-kola as an example, a company that was founded by two students and successfully took a lot of market share from Coca Cola in Germany over the last years. I think that the potential of the whole category is really large – if it turns out that the consumers are open and innovative enough for such a new category. We will do our best to make it happen.
8. What advice would you give to students wanting to start their own business in the industry?
Gather your courage and just start. There is so much to learn in setting up your own company. Moreover: get connected. A lot of people are open to new ideas and are willing to give advice. Just enjoy the journey!