Interview with Pasta Straw alternative, Stroodles Founder Maxim Gelmann

Maxim has over 11 years of international strategy consulting and operational and interim management experience with a focus on FMCG, Fashion, Retail- (tech), SaaS and Data Management in the areas of strategy, business development, new market entry, value chain and process optimisation, with clients ranging from start-ups to MNCs, including Volkswagen, Danone and Master Card. He has also been a mentor to companies, such as Snack Brand Brave, and is an investor in a vertically-integrated, luxury Swimwear Manufacturer.

Passionate about easily sustainable changes, Mr Stroodles knew that he must lead the charge and deliver an answer to the current straw problem.

Mr Stroodles
Maxim Gelmann, Founder

 


  1. What is Stroodles?

We couldn’t bring ourselves to use the mediocre alternatives to plastic straws and soggy paper isn’t our style. Thus, to say “Pasta la vista” to all of those, we’ve lovingly engineered a super smooth, naturally golden straw to be strong for over an hour, 100% biodegradable and flavourless.

Stroodles are pasta straws, made from only two natural ingredients – durum wheat and water. Unlike soggy paper straws, Stroodles stand strong in cold drinks for well over an hour and don’t change the taste of your drink. They can be used in all drinks, from cocktails to thick smoothies to freshly squeezed juices.

Stroodles can even be eaten just the way they are (a nice snack after a few G&T’s) or can, of course, be boiled just like normal pasta, to make a delicious Mojito-carbonara or spaghetti bolognese!

But Stroodles is not just a straw company. Stroodles is a movement. At Stroodles, we believe that making a change for good should be easy. While there is increasing awareness of the plastic problem, we all rarely know what we can do without having to change our lives. Stroodles offers every single individual an “easy”, inspiring and uncompromising (on drinking experience and behavioural change) solution to be part of making the difference, without having to be an eco-warrior (the “drink-easy”-way)! It is Change made easy – one Stroodle at a time.

 


2. How did you come up with the idea of Stroodles?

I have worked in the commercial world for a long time, and I started to get sick of it. Strongly inspired by my wife, I wanted to work on something that has an impact, something that I can be proud of and where I can leave a legacy. And while trying to push my values in previous business ventures, I never really had a chance to do so.

I was in a stage in life, where I had some previous life-shaping experiences and I guess this put me in the “right” mindset to finally be true to myself and be ready to do something I can be genuinely passionate about.

With this mindset, coupled with having always been an avid traveller and diver, and always being shocked and conscious about the increasing plastic pollution, when I then saw Italians just drinking from long (but thin) tubular pasta purely for fun, something ‘clicked’. That’s when my head started working at 100 miles an hour at the realisation, how something so simple can be powerful enough to actually solve such a big global problem. I knew, at that moment, that for its simplicity, I need to take this solution to the whole world. In the same way, it inspired me, I realised that it is my mission to inspire all those people globally to make small changes, one step at a time. And so Stroodles was born.

And ever since, I am super proud of my effort to make changes that are good for the planet, and from this small ripple, I hope that Stroodles will be a part of a much bigger positive wave.


3. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?

This is a great question, and there were two kinds of obstacles. The first type of obstacles has to do with setting up the business. It starts with the challenges of finding a factory to produce, especially in the early stages with no volume to offer. Then it also has to do with wearing all the different hats at once from a straw sorter-packer to an accountant, to sales and marketing person. Furthermore, being a self-funded business, the challenge was to run the business and get it to where it is on a tight budget and aiming for as much organic growth as possible. However, now I can say that this was a good challenge to have, as this mindset allowed me to make exactly the right decisions for the business along the way and get the business to where it is today. On the way, we were indeed blessed with lots of organic growth and Stroodles went viral across global media. Therefore I am happy to say that I feel all those circumstances were very crucial to the development of Stroodles.

The other side of the obstacle coin is a mindset thing, as I was always used to bouncing off my ideas with someone, while when being a sole-founder this is not always possible. But I am grateful to have had people along the way who supported me and became that sounding board when I needed it. In addition to that, running your business comes with its ups and downs, including the financial risk one is taking – this is a mindset that needs to be managed. Again, in my case the amazing journey I had with Stroodles just offsets any obstacles and challenges and I am still enjoying every day of this very rewarding ride. What I love is that you don’t know what the next day will bring and you might wake up to an email that might change the whole dynamics of your business literally overnight 😉 And those are the energy bumps that let you overcome and forget all the so-called obstacles.


4. What makes you different from your competitors?

Stroodles serves a bigger picture over the other alternative straws, as we are so much bigger than that – we are a movement. Stroodles is there to inspire how easy it is to make a change and how uncompromising – to one’s lifestyle and behaviour – it can be by using a Stroodle. So whilst Stroodles is a very logical and effortless solution to the plastic problem (and the search for alternatives), our driving goal is to become a vehicle for change. We hope that Stroodles can act as an enabler, subtly inspiring people to question how they consume everyday items. At Stroodles we want to be a gateway for change.

We want people to realise that change for the better can actually sometimes be easy and uncompromising. For example, it starts with using a Stroodle instead of a plastic straw and continues with choosing the fruits and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in plastic next time in the supermarket. We hope these incremental changes will lead to a ripple effect and create a greater shift in behaviour, one Stroodle at a time. And our impact goes beyond the environment. The Stroodles that don’t meet our high-quality expectations get donated to food banks, where they can be eaten as normal pasta. Additionally, a share of Stroodle’s sales is donated to charities, who help us fight plastic waste. In the future, we further plan to engage in educational projects to spread awareness about the plastic straw problem.

Stroodles-030-1.jpg


 

5. What is the future of the plastic alternative space?

I think we are witnessing, how awareness for the plastic-problem is luckily increasing at drastic speed and thus the demand and need for plastic alternative products is growing. And the beauty and key will lie in designing alternative products that are uncompromising in terms of giving people the opportunity to make changes and use alternatives, without demanding a behaviour change- just like Stroodles. I feel this will be key to making a difference across the masses, as while everyone recognizes the problem, many don’t know what to do and others “can’t be bothered” to do something, as the stereotypes prevail that using plastic alternatives means drastically changing behaviours. Thus the key is for alternative products that enable a lot of small changes across as many people as possible. We thereby need to show people that this is not the case and that it is easy to make a change. Thus a big element alongside developing products will be education to spread the awareness about the easiness of change.

Further, I think that in general, the market for alternative products will grow quickly, which is already evident in the number of products on the market and respective specialized stores being opened. I also feel that over time more and more very simple solutions will pop up on the market made from things that are already around us and are gonna be natural and easy to implement. Or alternatively, we might see things from “pre-plastic times” being “reinvented”, as society did survive before all the plastic appeared.

So, I think this is a very very interesting space to watch and I am very excited to see what products will appear and how we will be able to inspire many people to make many small changes to then create a ripple effect.


 

6. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?

There are really three things:

  1. Don’t be afraid to start your company and implement the idea and always keep going no matter what happens as you really don’t know what the next day brings- it might be that business crucial news.
  2. When possible, make sure to meet up with other founders as much as possible, no matter from what industry- as extreme that if you are running an ice cream shop, it is fine to meet with a tech-founder. it’s about exchanging experience and hearing each other “so-called struggles” of running a business- it just sometimes is good to hear that everyone has very similar entrepreneurial challenges to overcome, independent of industry. and thus you will soon realize, how helpful this realization is that you are just on the normal entrepreneurial journey that everyone around you also goes through and so you are not really alone. And more so you will find that you can help each other tremendously with anything from business advice to contacts.
  3. Just enjoy the journey and make sure to take time to enjoy the wins- no matter how small they are (I know it is not easy, but very very necessary)

 


We would like to thank Maxim for speaking with us.

 

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