New office food culture – a fruitful company built step by step

Anne-Rieke Thurm

Sometimes, what drives a woman to launch her own enterprise is the urge to satisfy her needs as a consumer. This is what Anne-Rieke Thurm, founder of BYOFIT, realised when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle at work. Always preferring to bring in her own vegetable and fruit snacks, Anne-Rieke noticed that her colleagues were always interested in the food she brought in to work and saw this as a business opportunity. The idea was simple: produce healthy snacks, such as salads, smoothies or muesli bars and delivering them directly to workplaces. It was important for her to build a service that would be healthy for workers and the environment, so she decided to use compostable packaging and deliver by bike.

From the first idea to getting a female entrepreneur award

The first idea developed about 5 years ago in the seminar ”Idea Management” that Anne-Rieke was taking at Münster University of Applied Sciences when studying Nutrition Sciences. Many attendees presented ideas about new exotic flavours, but Anne-Rieke was convinced that there was a need to go back to consuming pure food without additives. Her idea was at first rejected in the classroom, and potential investors were sceptical.

Nevertheless, Anne-Rieke kept going. She took part in start-up seminars, identified potential issues, did market research, worked on the website and polished her project. She also started to add presentations and workshops about healthy eating habits to her services.

Eventually, her hard work finally paid off, as she was awarded with the Unternehmerinnenbrief NRW, an award for female entrepreneurs of the region, given by the Ministry of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministerium für Heimat, Kommunales, Bau und Gleichstellung). This helped Anne-Rieke find more support and confirmed her intuition was correct. She talked a lot about her idea before launching it, to hear what others thought about it, and to get advice and brainstorm. Family and friends were a big help, for example, her father built the bike trailers, and her siblings helped with marketing and research. Still, Anne-Rieke was a solo entrepreneur and went through some phases of doubt: “Some days I asked myself what I was doing and if my work would pay off. The next day a big order came in, and things looked bright again. The fact that I love what I am doing carried me over the obstacles”. Looking back, she admits that, although she had a lot of support, it would have been easier to launch the business with a partner.

Taking it step by step

“You need to be both courageous and fearful. This way you advance, but you do not rush into things and ask for advice on your way. You have to accept that you will make mistakes. You will need to make decisions, and some of them will be wrong. It’s a constant learning experience,“ said Anne-Rieke.

Anne-Rieke planned BYOFIT according to the principles of an organic business growth. In her case, the investments to start the business did not have to be huge and taking small steps made her feel calm and in control.

Challenges as a woman

Anne-Rieke never felt discriminated, but sometimes there was just a feeling of being taken less seriously when asking for money at the bank, but Anne-Rieke added: “What helps is that 90% of my clients are women. They are more interested in the topic of healthy food. Being a woman myself makes it easier to sell the product.”

Next steps

“At present, I am working on finetuning the menu, and above all, acquiring new customers. Reaching big corporate clients would be ideal,” said Anne-Rieke. “I am sure this formula could work anywhere as a franchise, but before expanding in other cities, I want to make sure that I can maintain the same high standards. It is a continuous process of trying and learning, which is a challenge but also exciting!”