It is member highlight time! Please meet Laura Lidaka from Naturally Switzerland. A company that is all about sharing the same goal: Reducing waste during ephemeral events.
Hi Laura, before we dive in, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Hey Ashleigh, well I am 33 years old, originally from Latvia and I’ve been living in Switzerland for over 15 years. I studied hospitality and I have a passion for fintech and I work in insurance at la Bâloise. Even though I love my job, I was looking for something more – for a meaningful challenge. This is when I came up 2 years ago with the idea of “Naturally Switzerland” with my partner Ralph, who works at Medtronic.
Can you tell us about more about Naturally Switzerland and the concept?
Sure! Ralph and I love nature and the mountains and all that comes with it. We’re so disappointed and shocked each time we climb up more than 2000 meters to find cigarette butts and dive into the lake to swim into plastic plates and cups, and thought seriously to ourselves: “we need to do something useful to change this and preserve our beautiful Switzerland.” So, we scratched our heads to find something interesting to fight against single use plastic: using Bioproducts in events.
We found BIOTREM that is made by a Polish engineer who transforms leftover, wheat bran, into cutlery and edible plates. In Oslo, Oya – to name one, many festivals use this alternative to plastic cutlery and plates and it works really well!
Nowadays many “youngsters” are demanding for change and we see that Switzerland has enough buying power to implement such environmental changes.
Why did you develop Naturally Switzerland and what problems are you solving?
There is indeed a lot of competition on the market, but many of these substitutes to plastic are produced in China. The wheat bran we are using comes from Warsaw and therefore shipping to Switzerland is much eco-friendlier. Our products also only take 30 days to disintegrate!
As in Switzerland lakes are in our backyard, we absolutely need to take care of the nature surrounding us, it’s our duty.
What’s your vision for your business?
We aim to switch all influential and renowned local Festivals (such as le Montreux Jazz, Paléo and Sion sous les étoiles) to BIOTREM cutlery & tableware instead of single use plastic and sugar cane or bamboo that comes from China. The carbon imprint is enormous.
Many large sports clubs and associations run events in plain nature, so we would like to convert them too!
In your opinion Launching a company in Switzerland is…
Comparing to France, England and other European companies that is. There are not many admin tasks, you can easily register your company at “le register du commerce” in half an hour for just 250CHF (for a basic registration).
Many entrepreneurs might be worried of the costs of setting up a startup in Switzerland. What do you think?
Well, there are many angel investors or private investors who are willing to invest in new ideas, especially when it comes to preserving the environment. Event though there are no subsidies from the government for startups, as the EU development fund for example, they do help you in finding qualified staff and pay for half of their salaries ( reinsertion in a new profession supported by Regional placement agencies) to help kick things off!
What do you think about the coworking scene here in Switzerland?
La Bâloise have an office at Gotham, another coworking space in Lausanne and many “old school” firms from the banking sector are changing their old ways to be more innovative. At la Bâloise management is literally “breaking down walls” by converting all offices to open, flex space.
I really like spaces such as Impact hub as they are great place for exchanging ideas and receiving constructive criticism.
Many people in coworking space are experts who are reconverting, you never who can be sitting next to you!
The swiss can be quite attached to “their old ways of working” (by for example staying in the same company for 20 years) but in bigger cities mentalities are changing. Careers are not linear anymore.
But it’s important to keep in mind that from one end of Switzerland to the other (French, Swiss German, Italian) cultures and mentalities are quite different!
What are your impressions of OurPlace coworking?
Living next door, I was curious at the beginning of the year when I was passing by the construction site.
As soon as I walked in at the reception I was welcomed with “a sunshine vibe” by the community managers who showed me around and made me feel very welcome. I have been enjoying the community and the space ever since!