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Vernon Flassak – Oh, Honey!

Vernon Flassak from Oh, Honey!

The word "sustainability" can be found in the vision statement of many companies. The marketing idea, impact awareness and product do not always combine as harmoniously as in the case of WiSo alumni Vernon Flassak's iced tea brand Oh, Honey!. Lorraine Hoffmann presents the entrepreneur.

It's buzzing at Oh, Honey! Vernon Flassak and Philipp Leistenschneider must have seemed like two busy bees in a hive when they first brewed tea in their shared kitchen. Vernon continues to push the first experiments to this day and is now at the head of Oh, Honey!, an iced tea brand that donates 10 cents to bee conservation projects for every bottle sold.

The genesis of an idea

The two business administration graduates met at a party during their first two semesters in the business administration bachelor's programme at the WiSo faculty, then met again and again for evenings together cooking and quickly became friends. During those cooking sessions, they not only talked about "everything and anything", as Vernon says, but also enjoyed Philipp's homemade iced tea on warm summer evenings. On one of these occasions, Philipp had no sugar left, so he used honey instead – the birth of the idea of his own iced tea brand.

Vernon is from Wiesbaden. He was already enthusiastic about entrepreneurship during his high school days and had already discovered his joy in setting up something of his own and becoming active as an entrepreneur while organising school parties. The desire to study business administration and the opportunity to deepen his theoretical knowledge of entrepreneurial activities was obvious.

How to build a business

After the two young entrepreneurs had first made the plan to start their own iced tea brand, they converted the kitchen in the shared flat into a laboratory. They experimented with different types of tea and mixing ratios until they eventually found the perfect taste. Armed with a mulled wine cooker, they went to their first market test. For 16 hours, the two busy little bees made tea for a street festival near Kiel. Heavy eyes from the all-night work could not dampen their spirits. And so the two cheerfully fielded their market research questions and showed that even as a sustainably oriented garage company, you can give greats like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs a run for their money in terms of entrepreneurial spirit.

After the successful market test, a professional bottler was finally found. Even though the search took a little longer, as not all bottlers would be able to produce the iced tea equally, the two found a family business in Hessen. The original idea of bottling the tea themselves in a restaurant kitchen turned out to be difficult from a food law point of view. The possible production volume was also unrealistic. On a good day, together the young men would manage about 200 to 300 bottles - an amount far below what would be needed in the near future: at the moment, the ordinary iced tea fan can find Oh, Honey! not only at Alnatura, but, starting in August, presumably also in 80 Rewe branches in Cologne and the surrounding area.

Sustainability as part of the brand core

Oh, Honey! in sustainable glas bottles. ©Oh, Honey!

The founding idea was then easily combined with the aspiration for environmental protection and sustainability. By moving from Wiesbaden to Cologne, both issues became more and more of a personal concern for Vernon. The newly won freedom in the city of Cologne also offered freedom in the choice of food purchases. Bringing a product to the market that reflects a positive added value went hand in hand with these thoughts.

The choice to support bee conservation was based not only on the fact that Philipp and Vernon use honey instead of sugar for their brand, but also on the desire to make bee conservation more visible for everyone. Even though topics such as sustainability and environmental protection have become popular in many areas of life, bee protection unfortunately sometimes falls behind in the public perception. If individuals want to do something for bee conservation, it is often more difficult than expected. You can buy vegan products from the supermarket and see the impact, but buying bee colonies to protect them is rather difficult.

Another problem in bee conservation is not only the visibility in everyday life, but also that active intervention and helping is more complicated than some might think. If you don't have a garden that you can plant in a bee-friendly way, it becomes difficult for individuals to create an immediate impact. Although there are many young people who would like to start their own beekeeping business, it is usually not affordable and too expensive to start.

Oh, Honey! wants to counteract all this and donates 10 cents from the proceeds of each bottle directly to bee protection projects. It almost goes without saying that 100% of the honey used comes from regional organic cultivation. Currently, the Oh, Honey! team is dividing up the donations it generates. One part goes to a colony of 50,000 bees that is being newly invested for a beekeeper. Another part is donated to Hektar Nektar. Hektar Nektar is an initiative that deals with bee protection in connection with companies as well as private individuals and beekeepers. Moreover, the start-up wants to commit itself not only to the protection of honey bees, so it donates another part of the proceeds to wild bee projects.

In general, Oh, Honey! - even though Philipp is no longer with the company - wants not only to establish itself as a brand for bee protection, but obviously hopes to stand for lifestyle and sustainability as well. Vernon wants to create a positive ecological impact with his company, both via a financial impact through revenue, as well as by arousing curiosity about bee conservation through presence in the supermarket.

At the pulse of time

"Today's Ideas. Tomorrow's Impact" - one could almost describe this success story using the WiSo motto.

When asked what impact the business studies at the WiSo faculty have had on his current situation, Vernon recalls a few things. Of course, the studies did not have an immediate impact on making tea in the kitchen, but the more entrepreneurial the developments around Oh, Honey! became and the closer the market entry approached, the more applicable what he had learned became. Last but not least, the WiSo network and exchange with fellow students, student initiatives and other founders outside of theory also helped.

The fact that the WiSo Faculty is launching the new Bachelor's programme "Management, Economics and Social Sciences" starting this coming winter semester was like music to Vernon's ears. The new programme combines interdisciplinary global challenges of our time such as sustainability, social inequality and digital transformation. When asked what tips he had for new first-year students, he answered happily: "First of all, congratulations on an excellent choice of study, because these are the topics of the future!" He was pleased that such topics are now also becoming more and more popular in an academic setting and could only advise all students to immediately deepen and implement the theoretical knowledge in practice and thus get into exchange with others. Vernon himself is the perfect example for the tip to combine topics that will determine the future with personal concerns in a professional profile.

Vernon also has plenty of plans, wishes and ideas for the future of Oh, Honey! Getting many people in the region excited about the product and concept is of course top priority. But the whole team is also looking forward to a hopefully rewarding summer after a successful listing at Alnatura and Rewe. Last but not least, Oh, Honey! would of course also like to expand the company by moving into its own team office - just like a small swarm of bees that builds its own colony within its hive.

The Oh, Honey! Team.