The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is committed to building the world's most influential community of entrepreneurs. One way we encourage and support young entrepreneurs is through the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA), EO's premier competition for university students who own and operate a business. The competition culminates with the Global Finals, where "studentpreneurs" from 50+ countries compete and make connections with both seasoned entrepreneurs and fellow competitors. We asked 2019 EO GSEA Lessons from the Edge Award winner, Fabian Lindner, co-founder of Zzinga, about his entrepreneurial journey. Here's what he shared:

What inspired you to start your business?

During an exchange semester in Lithuania five years ago, I quite enjoyed an internship on mead (honey wine) making. Inspired by the delicious honey taste of this ancient drink and the global problem of bee mortality and loss of biodiversity, my startup idea was born. Zzinga connects people and nature by creating unique, refreshing honey drinks and engaging ourselves and others in support of bees and biodiversity.

Why is it important to bring mead into the modern marketplace?

Once the drink of gods and noblemen, mead is the oldest alcoholic drink in the world. After flourishing in pre-medieval times, mead disappeared over the last centuries. Crafting mead requires honey from bees, which are becoming increasingly endangered.

As the primary pollinators for vegetables and fruits, the bee population's decline plays a crucial role in our current "pollination crisis"--a decrease in the richness of pollinators, which results in insufficient pollination, impacting the human food supply and leading to biodiversity loss.

In my company, we believe that by bringing back the refreshing honey flavor of mead, we can connect people and nature. We give back to the bees by raising awareness of their critical role and engaging in activities that support them.

How will Zzinga address the alarming plight of bees around the globe?

We aim to support bees and biodiversity in three ways:

  1. Building a transparent honey supply within Europe, which guarantees both high-quality honey and ethical treatment of bees.
  2. Teaming with local organizations, donating 5 cents per bottle sold to projects that support bees and biodiversity. For example, through Zonnebloemen voor Boer, a project to enhance biodiversity in the Netherlands, we help local farmers plant sunflower rows on the edges of farmland as an additional food source for bees and other pollinators.
  3. Informing and motivating people on the importance of biodiversity and the need for bees through social media, public relations and events. We provide information on how to take action, such as giving away bee-friendly seeds to encourage people to plant local flowers. We're currently working with the GSEA finalist from Sri Lanka, Uttunga Jayewardene, and Xylo Industries on biodegradable coasters with bee- and insect-friendly flower seeds.

What did you learn from your fellow "studentpreneurs" at GSEA Global Finals?

Meeting entrepreneurs from all over the world, seeing the companies they have built and learning about their successes and struggles was inspiring. I learned that:

  • When you dream big and are determined to reach that goal, you can make "big" happen.
  • Entrepreneurs, regardless of where they are from, are like a family because they have gone through similar challenges and understand you. They are open to connecting and sharing these experiences.

The difference between GSEA and other student pitch competitions was the whole experience and network around it. Staying in Macau, China, for several days and participating in workshops allowed me to find a group of student entrepreneurs who became friends as we shared personal stories. Meeting and getting inspired by international and ambitious people was my most valued takeaway: I realized I was not alone on this path.

You won the GSEA "Lessons from the Edge" award. Why?

Three months after launching our first batch in 2019, we realized that a second fermentation started in the bottles. The pressure in the bottles increased, leading to a risk of explosion. As a result, we recalled and destroyed more than 4,000 bottles. Even worse--our filler went bankrupt. We suffered losses, had no bottles to showcase our product, and needed further funding to keep the business running.

From this experience, we learned three great lessons:

  1. Choose your partners carefully. We researched new partners and their previous projects thoroughly to ensure they'd be trustworthy and capable.
  2. Take into account worst-case scenarios. We work through different options in case things don't go as planned.
  3. Keep going--no matter what. We don't take no for an answer but as a challenge to improve and turn it into a "yes, let's do it."

What are your plans to evolve your business in the future?

Early next year we will launch our second product, a refreshing honey drink without alcohol, offering consumers an exciting, alcohol-free alternative.

In the long run, we aspire to become a beneficiary corporation (B Corp) and follow their plan of balancing purpose and profit. We aim to become a driving force in the global movement of people using business as a force for good as we grow into an international brand connecting people and nature.