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Dieser Artikel ist in der Ausgabe erschienen: Nr. 04/19  |  Freitag, 25. Januar 2019

Plants as a Lifestyle Choice

English Practice – Can a start-up business succeed in changing the outlook of persons to general health and lifestyle choices? SWZ feature writer Geoff Barclay interviews Stephen Tierney, an Irishman known in Bozen for being a partner in the Temple Bar business for a decade or more and now looking to start up a business together with his wife Petra in the lifestyle area of plant-based diets by offering an alternative healthy food delivery service to individuals, homes and businesses here in South Tyrol.

SWZ: So, what brings someone in their forties to leave a successful business and get involved in a start-up?
Stephen Tierney: The answer to this is two-fold. First, I always say “Why I do what I do is because of where I am in my life”. And the second is because certain things disturb us and starting a plant-based lifestyle business will bring a lot of benefits to a lot of people. Being socially and environmentally conscious was our reason for change.   

What is it you are so passionate about?
I believe that food and the enjoyment of eating with family and friends and strangers is so important. Enjoying a meal with other people is probably the number one method of breaking down social barriers. We are looking to offer an experience of healthy eating while opening up peoples’ minds AND taste buds to the culinary delights of the rest of the world.

Would you say the passion is driving the business and if so can the passion be a double-edged sword?
Without passion how cannot you start your business and be happy. Why would you start a business if you don’t have passion? However, passion can also be blinding so therefore it is imperative to research both the market and also your own knowledge of what you want to do. Passion alone will not make you succeed but without it you will only fail.

As a new family business do you fear your approach might not be right?
Not at all. Just look at some of the small businesses that have been started by families like ourselves such as “Novo” the non-plastic shop or Re-Bello and Cora Happywear both sustainable clothing companies.

Have you realised in the build-up to the business launch that you are missing certain skills?
With the trends in how the food business operates it is important that we look to the future. Being prepared and open minded to how things will change is imperative. It is perhaps in this area, and also in the world of Social Media, that are level of skills will be greatly tested.

Are you surprised about the amount of attention people focus on choice of company name, branding and packaging in general?
It is something to be very conscious of and is the reason why we still don’t have a name or logo for our business. It is for me the most important part of the package.

Have you gone about doing a classic business plan and defining your vision, mission, strategic objectives and values?
There are two tools we have found extremely useful to help us with our strategy, mission, value and understanding of our business. One is the “Canvas Board” which allows you to dissect each sector of the business and see what needs to be done, see the requirements of each part of the business and understand the flow and development of the business. The other is the “Business DNA”. This gets you to ask yourself what is the business about, why is it a business, who is it for, why will it succeed, why will customers want your business, why is it different. Answering these really gets you to search inside yourself and find answers. With these answers you get a better understanding of what it is you want to do.   

The way to distinguish between vision and mission always fascinates me. Have you been able to draw a distinction between the two?
For me the mission is what we are about. What impact we want to have. Why are we doing it. What do we stand for. It is generally a short statement or a couple of sentences that give the observer an idea of what your goals are as a business, be it in the present and also in the future. Stay true to your mission and I believe you will succeed.
The vision is how you see your company operating in 1, 3, 5 years time. What are the future plans of development? How do you see it growing? What impact do you wish your company to have?
In a way the mission is the heart of the business while the vision is the brain that makes it work. A healthy heart and a healthy mind make for a super powerful body.

Excessive bureaucracy is often mentioned as an obstacle to developing start-ups in Italy. Has this not put you off?
The one area that scares me is employment. As a start-up flexibility in your team is vital and employing the wrong person should not hinder the advancement of the company, unfortunately employment laws in Italy do. This is unfortunate for both the employee and the employer as businesses are reluctant to offer full-time employment.

You must have had some hurdles to overcome already. Can you mention one or two? Perhaps the most surprising or infuriating ones ...
One frustrating thing is the lack of speed and enthusiasm shown by other companies providing a service. Time, integrity and diligence are extremely important and with the amount of people experiencing employment abroad and coming back here to work they find some of the services very frustrating.

Have you thought much about whether your business is product or service based and does this distinction matter much?
Our business is both product and service based. Our product is a plant based healthy food and our service is providing an education into the benefits of such diet/lifestyle. The distinction is a crossover. Some people are looking for healthy options on the food market while others are looking for alternative options. At the moment the “vegan movement” is growing and thanks to all the movies and documentaries etc available to see on the net more people are becoming aware of what they eat. Our product and service is a response to this information.

Is it right to describe your business as being of lifestyle character?
As a family choice our own lifestyle became one of waste less, consume less, reuse and recycle more and become more conscious of how we will live. There is so much evidence and research now about the benefits of a plant-based diet and also the positive impact it will have on our environment that we strongly believe our lifestyle choice is the right one.

What would you say are the prevalent factors in South Tyrol in determining lifestyle?
First, we have fantastic farmers markets for food and such beautiful scenery that people from all over the world have this region down on their bucket list. Just look at the number of top sports people and artists and designers coming from the region. There is a great community spirit in South Tyrol, you will find it when you open up yourself to it.  
The other factor is the amount of foreigners now residing in South Tyrol. They too have provided an insight into to how goals can be achieved, life can be lived and for some, suffering can be overcome. Over the years they have brought with them a richness of culture and ideas that exist only beyond these mountains but are now integrated here.

Is South Tyrol on general on the right path when it comes to environmental and the future of society issues?
Yes. There is a lot of innovation and development in several sectors that are looking to improve our eco footprint. Organic wine, fruit and veg production is on an increase in the region and with NOI Tech growing, more and more companies will be looking to open in the region and tap into the wealth of knowledge and talent growing here.  

Where would you like to see your business in a year’s time?
In a year’s time our goal is to be stable and recognised as a leader in healthy alternative food options for the people of Bolzano. Out vision is to expand throughout the region and although it is a big meat-eating region with some of the best restaurants in the world we believe that there is room for a few more plants dishes on the table. So, watch this space.

You seem to have a core to your business model but are there any offshoots which you already have in mind?
Although we aim to provide cooking courses we will also be looking to provide excursions to the farmers fields for children. It’s very important to get the young generation connected with nature and understand where the food is coming from. Petra will also be looking to offer yoga to children in three different languages and I will continue with my full moon hikes. And you never know, maybe one day a plant based Ice cream shop!

What advice would you give to anybody going about starting up their own business.
Belief and passion in what you want to do are not only essential but also the number one reason for starting your business. When you have this then research, study and learn as much as you can about your sector. Look for mentors either close by or on the net. Share your idea with as many people as possible to get feedback. It is this feedback which will ultimately fuel your passion. Nothing will be perfectly as you wished at the start and there will be difficult times and decisions to make. Be patient and when your opportunity presents itself grasp it with both hands. If you want it so bad then: Just Do It!

What about if you fail? What happens then?
We won’t fail as our success is not determined by numbers but by living a life worth living. We will be working at something that will give us so much happiness. Sharing as much as possible to so many people our creations, collaborating with so many people to bring these ideas to the people. We will be working to live and not living to work. And hey…..we’re still young.

Well, as one young businessman to another I wish you the best of luck.
Thank you and ‘top of the morning to you’
Interview: Geoff Barclay
taste bud: Geschmacksknospe
double-edged sword: zweischneidiges Schwert
to dissect sth.: etw. analysieren
to be reluctant to do sth.: sich dagegen sträuben, etw. zu tun; etw. nur ungern tun
bucket list: Liste von Dingen, die man vor seinem Tod gemacht haben will
core: Kern
offshoot: Ableger
to grasp sth.: etw. (fest) ergreifen/packen
Top of the morning to you!: Einen schönen guten Morgen wünsche ich Ihnen/dir!

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