Her.ie Speaks To Foodie Start-Up Elizabeth Fingleton of Obeo 5 years ago

Her.ie Speaks To Foodie Start-Up Elizabeth Fingleton of Obeo

Starting out in business is never an easy decision.

While you might have a great idea, knowing how to execute it while making a profit is another story.


So when Elizabeth Fingleton decided to start-up a food recycling company, she decided to pitch for a chance to take part in the AIB Start-Up Academy.

Here, Elizabeth tells us about taking an idea, working on your target audience and pitching your way to success. 

Can you tell me a bit about Obeo?

Myself and Kate Cronin found Obeo Ltd and it is a spin-out company from The National College of Art and Design. The Obeo food waste box is an easy, clean way to deal with food waste. It's a compostable box for food waste that goes straight in the brown bin when it’s full. Obeo is tough and water-resistant so there's no smells and no mess. Obeo is stocked in Dunnes Stores nationwide and SuperValu where a pack of 5 boxes retails for €3.85.


What motivated you to start-up the business?

I wanted to change the world, one little brown box at a time! Well kind of. It started out much more modestly than that. I was working as an accountant and slowly realising I needed to work at something I really loved. Meanwhile Kate, my co-founder, was researching the area of food waste as part of her Masters in Sustainable Design. We realised that people weren’t using their brown bins because they thought it was really gross, so Kate set about designing a new little invention to take all the mess and smells out of food waste recycling. Once we realised there was a gap in the market for Obeo, we knew we had to give it our full attention as it had such potential. So we took the plunge.


What was your experience with the food waste recycling industry prior to starting-up your own business?

I’m interested in the area of sustainability and wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the environment. We spent a year and a half researching the market, building and testing prototypes, speaking to potential customers and retailers and finding out all the issues people had with their brown bins.

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What has been your biggest barrier in starting out on your own?

I didn't really see any barriers when starting up Obeo. We had previously ran another business called Klickity, a homeware design company, so we were used to the ups and downs that come with starting up something new.


What prompted you to apply for the AIB Start-Up Academy with the Irish Times?

I saw it advertised and thought it was an amazing prize for a start-up to win. That kind of advertising spend and mentoring is invaluable for a business like ours who are just starting out.

What were you hoping to learn from the Academy ahead of starting?

I was hoping to learn about digital marketing and pitching to investors.


How would you describe the pitching experience?

It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience but once it was all over you get such a buzz out of it! The judges were very fair and they had various questions so you'd want to be pretty prepared before you get up on stage.

What was the highlight of the Academy for you?

I think the highlight would have to be the big pitch night in the Sugar Club. It was such a rush presenting in front of all those people and also fantastic exposure to get to tell that many people about our product.


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How will you use the information and experience to stand out from market competitors?

There was so much information and advice to take in at the Academy. The piece of advice that I'll use to stand out from my competition is  "Sell the benefits not the features". People aren’t interested in all the details of how your product is made, they want to know what problem it solves for them. Also people are interested in a brand's story so learn how to tell it well.

How has being an Academy finalist helped your business?

The press coverage and exposure we have gotten from the Academy has been fantastic. It's helped build our brand and has definitely impacted on sales.

Have you had many mentors? What has been their greatest advice/ words of guidance?

We’ve had so many great mentors provided by Enterprise Ireland and also by the Going for Growth Programme run by Paula Fitzsimons. I think the best piece of advice we’ve gotten is ‘don’t promise anything you can’t deliver’, and we’ve always stuck to that one! Also I thought this analogy was quite fitting that a mentor once told me 'Starting a business is like cycling uphill into the wind, you've just got to keep pedaling!'

To get more information on the AIB Start-Up Academy, click here. To apply for a place on the AIB Start-Up Academy training and mentoring programme with the Irish Times Training Department, come right this way.