We spoke to Mehmet Karakus, founder of Spain’s first on-line food shop with zero waste

Of Turkish descent, Mehmet Karakus was born in Germany in 1998. Today he is 21 years old and lives in Barcelona, where he is in the final year of his Bachelor in Management course at the TBS Education. Mention of his name is often heard in the School’s corridors – Mehmet won the local and national prizes in The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition by EO with the start-up which he founded himself: Freshy.

At the beginning of this academic year, the TBS Education in Barcelona interviewed Mehmet Karakus, at a time when Freshy was beginning to be talked about. It is the only on-line food shop in Spain that applies the concept of zero waste, as the Freshy team strives to solve the problem of recycling in Barcelona and Spain. As it is a subscription shop which leaves no waste, it helps to conserve the environment by means of re-usable receptacles. After his sweeping victory in The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition by EOwe again spoke to our Turkish student so that he could tell us, at first hand, about his success and about the development of his business.

Mehmet Karakus, in the presentation of ‘Freshy’ before the jury of The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition by EO.

First of all, congratulations to all the team at Freshy! Tell us about The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition by EO.

The competition is mainly for students who are actually studying now, and who own or are part of a business. It is held in almost every country in the world, and Freshy competed in the Spanish version. There are many stages in the contest: first, together with other student entrepreneurs from Barcelona, we had to present our project before a jury. After the local competition, we had to compete at the national level, against candidates from all over Spain. Now, after winning the national competition, we have qualified for the World Finals, which are going to take place from 26th to 28th April in South Africa, where we shall present Freshy to the whole world. The winner at the world level will receive a prize worth $25,000 to launch his or her business, among other prizes.

On another occasion, you told us what Freshy consists of and how it operates. Could you now point to any innovation made in the last few months?

Yes, we are very proud and happy to announce our biggest and most important collaboration agreement so far, which is with Nozama. Why is this so important? Simply because I am sure that you, as a customer, don’t like paying more than €14 in delivery charges for each order. Now, delivery and collection of our products will only cost €3.95.

Another big advantage from this collaboration is that, now, not only will Freshy’s customers be able to return their re-usable jars, but also, Nozama will be responsible for collecting all the waste and recycling it without any charge at all. Moreover, the customers will also be able to trace the positive effect that they have on the environment by means of a device, available at Freshy, through which they can see how much CO2, plastic or paper they have saved or recycled.

Regarding the products, we have joined forces with more than 13 suppliers in order to offer our customers a wide selection and to satisfy all their needs. We are also in discussions with three large supermarkets (I can’t tell you which ones), and we hope to associate with at least one of them, not only to offer our customers a better range of products, but also to work on other projects in which we hope to have Freshy offline as well as online.

Finally, Freshy is going to exhibit at the 2020 Home Delivery Event, in mid-March in Amsterdam, and in June in Philadelphia. Apart from all this, there are constant changes and daily developments at Freshy, related to its team, the users’ experiences, the special offers, etc.

What are your responsibilities in the business?

At the moment, as you can imagine, I am doing everything. From staff management to marketing and sales, and I have even had to make some deliveries myself. As, at the outset, one never has sufficient funds to pay everybody, the founder always has to deal with a little of everything. But now we are on the point of adding new members to the team, and this will help everyone to concentrate more on their own tasks, and to be more efficient, each within their own area.

A view of some of the products available on Freshy’s website.

So who is in the Freshy team?

At the moment there are three people in the team. There is our other co-founder, Erik Brieva, who helps us to obtain investments, because he is in contact with the big brands and companies to try to form associations. He also deals with the legal side of the company and the development of the business. Then there is Oscar Correas, who recently joined Freshy and will be working mainly in the areas of finance and operations, as well as having many other duties.

We also accept trainees and people needing work experience, so if someone is really passionate about digital marketing and wants to join a new company, they can contact me by e-mail or through LinkedIn.

How is the market reacting to Freshy?

We launched our MVP – minimum viable product in November, I believe, with only one product, and we received two orders within a few days. But then the orders stopped, and we knew we had to offer more products to satisfy our customers’ needs. So by January we had more than 50 products and more than 49 units sold. We realized that the customers were buying mainly products like bamboo toothbrushes or knives, rather than dry food. The reason could have been the higher price, but we soon began to think that we would get more traction because of the fall in price of this kind of article, and because of the value provided by Nozama’s service and the low charge for delivery.

Do you collaborate with other brands besides Nozama?

At present we are collaborating mainly with brands that sell products that have zero waste and are ecological and sustainable: Naturbrush, Coco by Angela, TheMaxLevel, SUP, Kashaya Kombucha, Guilt-Free… and we shall have a few more collaborations in the next few weeks.

Finally, what are Freshy’s plans for the future?

My short-term challenges and plans are to obtain financing so that Freshy can climb up as we would like it to, to reduce costs for our customers and to offer the best possible service. We believe that the best salespeople and ambassadors of our brand are the customers, and if they are happy, then they will market us more effectively than we can market ourselves.

In the long term we would like to expand locally in physical shops with a new concept, or to expand into other cities in Spain but continuing to focus on our on-line business. In five or ten years’ time I see Freshy as a strong brand for sustainable purchases in many cities and countries, with the vision of making sustainability possible and accessible for everyone, instead of expensive and unattainable.

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