The idea of using something that others see as garbage is just awesome!
That’s why the Worm Composter is a product that fascinates me in a certain way. It is a simple and completely natural concept of letting worms take over the work of biowaste recycling.
David Witzeneder is the founder of the company “Wurmkiste” and has given us answers to 10 questions and an insight into the every-day life of a founder like him.
We are really happy to support this company and wish you lots of fun and inspiration reading about it!
How and when did you come to the idea to start your own business?
8 years ago, when I started my studies, I was already annoyed about organic waste in the residual waste. After some research, I came across worm composting and found out that this method of recycling organic waste is also possible in homes. Then I built my own box and I was so excited about it that I also wrote my bachelor thesis about this topic. The enthusiasm of the people who came to visit me eventually led me to pursue this idea.
What was your motivation and vision at that time?
It always bothered me that organic waste is only seen as trash and not as a resource. At the beginning I just thought the idea was very cool, but then I understood more and more about how big the potential for it really was. Organic waste not only means fruit and vegetable waste, but includes “black water”, so waste water from households. There is so much that many people currently see it as garbage, which just isn’t true if you can use it. This motivation remained the same until today.
Were there initial challenges?
Yes of course. The product, the homepage, the online shop, etc., were finished at some point, but no one came to the homepage. That was really frustrating at the beginning. With Google Analytics I see in real-time how many people are visiting the website. I can still remember how one person was shown, but already jumped off after 30 seconds. Unfortunately, with such a thing you get no feedback and I do not know why it happened this way.
I almost wanted to stop, but then another company asked if they could put the worm box on their online shop which made things really kick off.
The importance of marketing was not that clear to me from the beginning.
What does a typical day in your life look like today?
I’m at the office at 8 am, then I answer a few e-mails and see what else has to be done that day. Often there are phone calls or meetings. Sometimes I just build a lot of boxes during the day. A part is made in advance in an integrative operation, but the assembly takes place at ours.
In the evening I often get invited to lectures or visit interesting events.
What are the key skills and qualities to succeed in your industry?
There was a time when worms were just a product for me. An indifference has crept in. But only after a few months did I notice what I actually did there. I think in this industry it is very important that every worm is seen as a living being. I care about where it ends up and what it becomes, because it is a living being and not a pure product. This is really not just about business and you need some appreciation for it.
As a start-up, you are often driven to grow fast, which makes no sense. You have to realise this first and become aware of it. It fits the way it is and you do not have to go crazy fast.
Do you have a secret of success?
Well, it is difficult to measure success at all. I am concerned with the “good life”. Maybe you could be more “successful” if you sleep much less and work more, but that’s not what I want. It’s always about the question: when is it enough? When are you satisfied?
I would rather consider this as a game and know that theoretically I could stop at any time if I want to.
How do you / does your business earn money?
We sell worm compost boxes. In the long term, our business model will develop to offer people to buy their organic waste. This would make the biowaste a resource and people would be happy to get something for it. We could then use it to grow the worms and make worm compost. This would be an important step in promoting the idea that organic waste is not waste but a resource.
Is there anything that you think could be improved in your industry?
Well, the vermicomposting industry is quite small. I think we fall into two different industries. One is waste recycling, where there has been a waste ordinance for 25 years, which should be reconsidered. Worm composting is as hygienic as biogas plants according to some scientific studies. I would like see an adaptation.
The second industry is online trading. Since Amazon, nobody wants to pay for shipping costs and the drivers of shipping services are often criticised.
If you could start again, would you do something different?
I think it would have been good if at the beginning if someone had advised me on certain things.
There were some programmes, but I did not find myself in those. A mentor or something similar would certainly have been helpful to save me from making some bigger mistakes.
What do you advise others for their lives and careers?
Try it and give your idea at least 3 years.
It was not economical for me during the first two years. Then, by the third and fourth year, it was really economical.
There are so many options, hundreds of ideas, and thousands of courses to choose from. It’s often easy to just look at things for a short time and stop if it doesn’t work.
I would advise people to come to terms with a commitment and give the idea a chance over a few years.