It’s Friday which means we’ve got a new inspiring female founder’s story to share! Today we’re talking to Beth Massa, member of TheNextWomen and co-founder of Ozarka BV. As an introduction to our new podcast series: Foreign Founders, Beth will reveal her business secrets with you today.
My name is Beth Massa. I’m an American expat living in Amsterdam for 12 and a half years and I’m the owner and founder of Ozarka. Ozarka is a B2B service that helps traiteurs, take away, restaurants and all prepared food establishments go circular and sustainable by replacing single-use take-away boxes with reusable, returnable (statiegeld) containers.
I learned so much I’m going to write more than you probably have room for here.
We completed two pilots. One was more successful than the other, but both provided tremendous insights and learning. The lesson we learn and relearn is to constantly observe, test, ask, and validate. The customers will often surprise you. We have everything to learn from them and when we learn everything from them, we can give everything to them that they want.
The other big lesson I have learned is that the longer you wait, the better your decisions will be. The conversations around the startup world is always around fast growth. We have learned to take a wait, wait, wait, hurry up approach. We take our time for deep dives, contemplation, debate, and reflection to make sure we are making the best decisions. But once those decisions are made, we act and execute on them as fast as we can. And the final big learning I’ll reveal is that even if you are loving your work, you are still at risk for burn out. I’ve come to the edge twice in the last two years, working too many days in a row or too many hours in a day. The body always slams on the breaks. It takes discipline in this startup environment to pace yourself.
Scale, baby scale. We are out of the pilot face and now building our customer base and increasing our revenue. In addition to hitting our revenue targets, we’re looking for the first time to increase the size of our team. And on a practical note, we received a grant from Rijkswaterstaat to build our automated returns pilot and we’re extremely committed to making that a success so that cities in the Netherlands will partner with us on adopting it.
It’s all about the network. The most valuable thing for us so far from a business point of view is access to investors and pitch clinics. We started at zero knowledge on how to pitch and whatever progress or improvements we have made have pretty much 100% been through TNW. There are no shortcuts here. It’s a step by step process but with the TNW women, the steps have come quicker and bigger than anything I could ever hope to do on my own.
And from a personal point of view I love the Founders Focus groups. Our group is pretty committed to meeting on a regular basis and sticking to it as we all know how easy it is to let the enthusiasm for these initiatives slide if you don’t commit to it. We all support each other in such a positive way. All of us have come to the meeting either on a high or a low and we support and encourage each other no matter what.
Just start. The sooner you start, the sooner you will learn, build, and grow. In the beginning, you will make mistakes. You might feel like you embarrassed yourself. You might have long stretches of time where you feel like you are going nowhere. This is what I love about the TNW. You can be a beginner in a safe and supportive environment. We’ve all been there and all of us are at different stages in the process. All we want to do is help each other succeed.