a workshop-like discussion on how to create a sustainable business with the experts from Bolder Impact.

Creating a Sustainable Business Meet the experts


Library Life — published 11/09/19

At The Library, we are in awe of the work being done by Ilana Taub and Michael Minch-Dixon from Bolder Impact. In 2013, they co-created SNACT: A sustainable snack brand that has saved over 250 tonnes (and counting) of food from going to waste. Years later, Ilana and Michael found their way back to Brussels, set up Bolder Impact – helping companies be the solution to environmental issues – and joined us at The Library.

In October, we are organizing a series of workshop lunches at all three Libraries, where you can meet Ilana and Michael and find out more about how to create a sustainable business and tackle the climate crisis.

Ilana and Michael, you have dedicated your careers to help the rest of us make climate friendly choices. Were you always passionate about this cause?

 

Michael: Maybe not always but it goes back a very long way. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and remember fondly my uncle taking me to the Irish countryside. Then, when I was studied Economics at university, I started to think about the economics of climate change and seeing how profoundly climate change would not only impact our environment but also our economies. Both in negative sense and in an opportunistic one – if we are to manage climate change, it will require fundamental changes in our economy and I found that quite an exciting prospect. So I focused my thesis on that and never looked back. I did an MSC in Environmental Technology after my undergraduate, set up a sustainability strategy consultancy and then later went on to work for Vestas, one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world.

 

Ilana: My journey isn’t exactly the same but there are a lot of similarities. It was my last year at Edinburgh University that really started determining this trajectory, though I should point out that from a young age, I’ve always loved and cared for the natural world and studied environmental sciences at school. I also have very fond memories of being in nature (but in Finland, not Ireland). My first job after university was working here in Brussels for (what was at the time) Dexia Asset Management where I analysed hundreds of companies across different sectors on their environmental and social performance. I found it very interesting but not “hands on” enough so I went to do the same MSC (in Environmental Technology) Mike had done a few years before. Knowing what we know about the state of the world, we both can’t imagine doing anything else… The nature of what we do will of course change but it will always involve working in sustainability.

 

You sold SNACT and set up shop as consultants. What made you make that change?

 

Ilana: A few different things came together at the right time to lead us to that decision. We’d spent 5 years working on SNACT and whilst we loved what we were doing, we felt it was time for a change. We sort of fell into the world of FMCG and developing a snack brand by accident – we saw an issue, food waste, and wanted to do something about it but we were very naïve about what it would take, and certainly about what running a food business in the UK would entail! The world of food retail is extremely competitive, it’s a really tough space to break into. We wanted to start a family and we decided a change of pace in our life would be a good thing, at least temporarily.

 

Michael: We found a lot of people came to us for advice as entrepreneurs and we’ve always been keen to help others. It made sense that once we had sold SNACT, we would build on our own business experience and expertise in sustainability to work with other businesses and continue having impact in the issues we care about. We’ll definitely start another venture in the future. It’s the sustainability challenge that excites us. Once we got SNACT up and running, we spent our days running a food business and that’s not as exciting as thinking about new ways of dealing with the issues we’re facing.

 

You are one of many entrepreneur couples at The Library (including Robert and me), what are your tips for couples working together?

 

Ilana: When we ran SNACT together, we were pretty strict about making sure our evenings and weekends were not spent talking about (and working on) the business. It’s hard, as start-ups tend to consume most of your time but we needed to make sure we had non-SNACT time to stay sane. Otherwise… The obvious stuff: Communicate and be kind.

 

Michael: Just do it. It’s a shame more couples don’t work together. We spend so much of our lives at work, it’s great to be able to share that with the person you love. And then what Ilana said!

 

Finally, you’ve been members of The Library for more or less six months. How is coworking affecting your work/life balance?

 

When you can structure your day however you want, it’s quite easy for your work to creep into every part of it. So having a space where you can go and work helps separate things a bit – especially with a young baby, it’s been very useful to have a place to truly focus.

 

Creating a Sustainable Business workshop & lunch

Thursday 3 October at 12:30

The Library Ixelles

 

Tuesday 8 October at 12:30

The Library Europe

 

Thursday 10 October at 12:30

The Library Ambiorix

 

The Creating a Sustainable Business workshops & lunches are in principle exclusively for Library members. If you are not a member, but would like to join, please email Anne-Sofie at asr@thelibrarygroup.be.