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An interview with Franziska Schaal

"feelfood is a clever meal that allows everyone to quickly regain energy and feel good at any time."

Our alumna Franziska Schaal (B.Sc. BWL, M. Sc. Corporate Development) is co-founder of PLANT BASED POWER GmbH and co-developer of the "almost ready" meal feelfood.

Ms. Schaal, your start-up company "feelfood" has made it its mission to offer nutritious, healthy and plant-based instant meals. How did your founding idea come into existence?

I was very active during my studies and was working at the same time. Because of this I often asked myself what I could eat without much effort. However, with the conviction that nutrition is crucial for how we feel, I was aware that simple instant meals are not the right thing! My broad knowledge of healthy and plant-based nutrition simply could not be combined with quick and uncomplicated meals.

Fortunately I met Fabian Zbinden, who was already on the best way to solve my problem. My co-founder Fabian is a trained cook. He worked in top-class gastronomy for several years before setting up his own food truck business in Switzerland. With his foodtruck he sold savoury stews in a bread. Thanks to the great demand for his simple and healthy dishes, he developed a first version of a healthy "almost-ready meal". With this he made his way into the Cologne start-up scene.

Here we got to know each other and developed his idea further. Fabian's basic idea remained: to make vegetable and high-quality meals quickly available. The product was supplemented with my wish to still receive all essential nutrients. And so vegetable protein, fibre and vitamin B12 made their way into the feelfood cup.

Now feelfood is a clever meal that allows everyone to feel energized and well at any time.

However, with the conviction that nutrition is crucial to how we feel, it was clear to me that simple instant meals are not the way to go!

During your studies you were already active in the "Entrepreneurs Club Cologne", later even as chairperson. Furthermore, you were also co-founder of the start-up RHIVE. Was it always clear to you that you wanted to go in the direction of "founding a company"?

No, it wasn't always clear to me. It was rather a lot of small experiences that let the idea of founding your own company mature over time. 
After my first internship at an insurance company, I quickly realized that I didn't like the group structures. I missed the leverage to quickly set something big in motion. I knew that my work there made sense, but the results were not visible to me and were not big enough. 

So I did my next internship in a start-up and got involved in the Organisationsforum Wirtschaftskongress, a student initiative that organises the "World Business Dialogue". Here I noticed what can be achieved with a small group in a short time.
However, my plan to found my own company only became really clear during my time as CEO of the Entrepreneurs Club Cologne and the founding of the entrepreneurship conference "RHIVE".

During this time I got to know an enormous number of start-ups and players from the Cologne start-up scene and felt very comfortable in these circles. I was also able to take on a lot of responsibility, implement my own ideas and build up a team in a short time. In the end, I enjoyed this so much that I absolutely wanted to found my own company. When I met Fabian, it became clear pretty soon that I would take this chance and found a company with him.

Franziska Schaal and feelfood Co-Founder Fabian Zbinden © Julia Wolf

Are there any key insights, contents and experiences that you took from your studies that helped you in founding "feelfood"?

The degree course in business administration has given me a very good basic knowledge. Especially the courses "Technology of Business Accounting", "Accounting" or "Law" help you to understand how companies work. 
So I am quite happy to know how a Balance Sheet is structured or which form of company is the right one for us. I think to build a company without basic business knowledge would take much more time, because you would have to become familiar with these areas first.

You were able to meet your co-founder of "feelfood" through personal contacts. To what extent did the topic "networking" already play a role during your studies?

For me, the topic of networking is incredibly central. I have always been a person who likes to make new contacts by nature, so I automatically started early. Besides working in the initiatives, I have attended many events and enjoyed exchanging ideas.
Ever since I founded the initiative, I am very grateful for my large network. I feel it pays off every day to know someone who can help me in specific areas. In addition, the doors to investors open much faster if you are personally recommended and our support programmes, such as the start-up scholarship or the Okandada-Accelerator-Place, are, at least in the first step, established through personal contacts.

Ever since I founded the initiative, I am very grateful for my large network. I feel it pays off every day to know someone who can help me in specific areas.

The current crisis situation leaves no one unaffected. Delivery services are experiencing a boom, but healthy food is also playing an increasingly important role in the lives of many people. To what extent have the past few months affected "feelfood"? Are there rather advantages or disadvantages for you resulting from the crisis?


Since we were still in the planning phase of our start-up during the lockdown, we were not affected.
The trend towards a healthier, plant-based diet and also towards the increased purchase of organic products was already apparent in recent years, regardless of Corona. I can well imagine that Corona will further increase awareness of this, because people have started to deal with what is really important to them. This would then of course also increase the demand for our meal. Whether this is really the case, remains to be seen.

Franziska Schaal at the ECC Gründerabend © Manor Lux

Finally, do you have three tips? What would you like to share with our students?


Network, network, network!

And I don't mean that you should start collecting "empty contacts" by randomly sending LinkedIn or facebook requests. I mean start building real relationships. Relationships with people who are convinced of you and trust in your strengths. Get into conversation with others who have a different perspective on problems and issues and let yourself and your ideas be critically examined. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and with whom you can develop new ideas. And form founding teams with people who complement your strengths and with whom you still share the same values and ideas!


Interview: Lorraine Hoffmann