KITRO provides customers with an overview of their food waste and suggestions on how to mitigate avoidable food waste, and empowers restaurants to adapt more efficient work practices and decrease their food waste.
Product / Service Offering: Hardware/Software
Co-founder Interviewed: Naomi MacKenzie
Other Key Management Team Members: Anastasia Hofmann
This article is part of our Women Entrepreneurs Spotlight series featuring female entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
The co-founders met at Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), where they graduated in June 2016 with Bachelor’s degrees in International Hospitality Management. We immediately connected based on our entrepreneurial drive and interest in sustainable development. We worked together for 6 months on the pre-opening of the Faena district in Miami Beach in 2015. Additionally, we completed our final bachelor project together in 2016. As one of the four teams selected, we had the opportunity to undergo a Student Entrepreneurial Project for nine weeks in a team of six.
The idea for KITRO was inspired by our personal experiences in the food and beverage industry. We often observed the large amounts of avoidable food that is thrown away on a daily basis. During our work experience in kitchen and service positions, we were actually the ones standing in front of the waste bins throwing out perfectly edible food. These practical experiences, in combination with our educational background, inspired us to make a change in this industry. We strive to empower restaurants to effortlessly change their inefficient working practices towards more sustainable workflows. Everyday we learn and experience new things. For us, building KITRO is really an incomparable opportunity, and we are determined to push it to its full potential to really make an impact.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
We started working full time on KITRO in February 2017; however, the idea was sparked during our university studies in October 2015. A challenge at Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne asked teams of three to envision what a sustainable restaurant would look like in 2025. Initially we came up with a very elaborate and unrealistic idea. From this we saw that there was something valuable and realistic in this big idea. Combining our realization with our research and first hand experience of food waste in the hospitality industry, we saw that there was a real need for a product like KITRO.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
KITRO provides customers with hardware and software that enables them to effortlessly reduce their food waste across the entire outlet. By providing customers with an overview of their food waste and suggestions on how to mitigate avoidable food waste, restaurants are empowered to adapt more efficient work practices and decrease their food waste.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Direct competitors focus on food waste reduction or waste management within the food and beverage industry. They fail to seamlessly integrate the functionality into existing workflows of the food and beverage outlet. These competitors have also been unable to develop a tool that accurately measures and calculates food waste in an automated, non-intrusive and effortless manner. KITRO’s technologically advanced design offers consumers a fully automatic product allowing zero transaction time and increased accuracy.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
We are still quite a young startup, so for us a big challenge has been growing the team. Financing to pay salaries has also been a big challenge.
The Perfect Entrepreneurial Team: Transformer, Examiner, Architect, and Mover
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Since starting to work full-time in February, we have really pushed the development of KITRO. Fortunately, we have received great support from various sources in the Swiss startup ecosystem. We are active in various programs such as Kickstart Accelerator, which allows us to really accelerate our progress as it enables us to secure some funding and expand our network and visibility.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
So far we have funded everything through small cash prizes we have won from various competitions. If we had to start over, one thing we would do differently is actually talk to our customers and validate the market before creating a business plan.
The Key to Startup Success: Customer Discovery
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
How do we quantify the full extent of the value that we are offering customers and forecast the sales volume?
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Our challenges are funding and growing the team.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
There is an immense amount of people out there who want to support startups and feed innovation. Everywhere you go, ask and open as many doors as possible. You never know what kind of opportunity you might stumble across.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Every day there are millions of tons of food being wasted. Two thirds of all food thrown away is said to be edible food that should have been eaten and could have been avoided. KITRO seeks to raise awareness and tackle food waste by designing sustainable products that enable and empower the food and beverage industry to take responsibility and address this growing issue. We are very passionate about what we are doing and are extremely motivated by the environmental impact this product will have.
Are you familiar with other Women-led startups? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!