Origin Story Interview W/ Sandra Einvall, Fikat

Origin Story Interview W/ Sandra Einvall, Fikat

Brighter Future


Sep 7, 2022

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #PlantBased #ZeroWaste #VeganLife #FoodInnovation #HealthyLiving #swedishtreats #handmade

Brighter Future

We’re thrilled to be joined by Swedish founder Sandra Einvall, the founder of Fikat, a sustainable cookie company launched in early 2021 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Hi, Sandra! Thanks for joining us today. We’re excited to learn more about you and your delicious cookie company, Fikat. Let’s jump in with the basics. Where are you from? 

Hi! I’m Swedish, although I was born in Portugal. I was just four years old when we moved back to Sweden and I’ve lived there my whole life after that, up until I started university. It was at that time that I met my Dutch boyfriend and thought, why not move to the Netherlands? Back home in Sweden, I lived in a very small town of around 20,000 people. Not very exciting or special. Maybe that’s why I wanted to leave so badly.

Everything was pretty traditional and everyone did what they had always done. I was quite the opposite of that. I don’t believe that tradition alone is a good reason to continue to do something. I became very passionate about being sustainable and doing the right thing for the environment when I was really young. I tend to be a very black and white person when it comes to right and wrong. To me, it doesn’t really matter if something is inconvenient or if no one else is doing it because we’ve always done it in another way. When I heard about climate change, I knew it was bad. I started to sort out our waste at home, and then I became vegetarian when I was around fifteen. It was difficult to do this my town and in my parents’ house because I was almost completely alone in that and there weren’t many (or any) vegetarian options available. My parents did get me fake meats on the side. I wanted to go vegan but that would have been highly inconvenient for everyone around me, so I didn’t want to do that. But I was vegan at heart.

When I moved out of home to a bigger Swedish city to study graphic design at university, I was finally able to be as dedicated as I wanted to be. I started to care even more for the environment, and I became vegan immediately. It was at college that I met my boyfriend. I finished the first year in Sweden and then moved to Groningen, which is in the north of the Netherlands. I’ve been here ever since, which is almost four years now. I graduated last summer, so I’ve been working for a year now.

Amazing! So, you spread your wings and had the opportunity to really explore and practice your beliefs and values. From there, how did Fikat come about?

The journey of Fikat started when I was in Groningen, looking for internships. During this search, I found Lazy Vegan, which is another Dutch brand based in Amsterdam. Then, we moved from Groningen to Utrecht.

In Groningen, there was a vegan student association that I was part of, but this didn’t exist in Utrecht. I felt it was the perfect moment for me to start something based on what I love. It was scary to take that leap, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I went all in. We became the biggest vegan, student association in the Netherlands within four months. We broke all records. I was doing this alongside my internship, but my internship was really relaxed and supportive, so I was basically doing it full time. I loved it, and I had the most amazing board working with me. It was so much fun. Then, after that year was done and I had graduated, I felt it was time to hand it off to another student. But I didn’t want to just go back to my normal life and get a normal job. I knew I loved starting something. I felt so passionate and so energised when working towards something based on my own creativity and initiative. So, I realised that starting a business would be the next step if I wanted to live a life I loved. That was the spark that resulted in Fikat!  

Wow! Amazing. Had the food industry always been on your radar as something you’d like to explore from an entrepreneurial perspective?

In some ways, looking back, food was always a focus, especially with Lazy Vegan and the Vegan Student Association. It was always about love and peace and doing no harm, but it was also about great food. I see food as a love language. I think food connects people. Food can make someone feel so happy, and it creates memories. We experience many things through food.

When I was in the business brainstorming phase, I went to the supermarket and just looked at all of the different shelves. I was looking at which shelf is the least sustainable? Which had the most waste packaging? Where’s the biggest gap? Where is this needed the most? And, of course, it was the cookie section. Almost everything was packaged in plastic. There weren’t companies doing anything good in the cookie section. It was just cheap cookies with a lot of palm oil and plastic and milk powder everywhere. I knew immediately that there was an opportunity there. I already had an obsession with glass jars because in a zero-waste lifestyle, you’re basically living with glass jars. I already had my collection, which I love so much. Glass jars make me so happy because they’re beautiful, they’re versatile, they’re hygienic—they’re just perfect. They come in so many different sizes and they’re also cheap. You can use a glass jar so many times and recycle it endlessly. It doesn’t degrade in quality. After some thought, I came up with the idea of cookies in glass jars.  

That’s an incredibly creative approach. So often, budding entrepreneurs are given the advice to focus on the WHY that is driving their idea forward. What’s your WHY behind Fikat? What was the core motivation for starting this company?

My biggest motivation is knowing it’s possible to create amazing, sustainable food products and proving that. There are other sectors where it is very difficult to incorporate sustainability, but in the food sector, it really is possible to make excellent products using plant-based ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging. And there’s always something extra you can do, like planting trees for every product sold or donating money.

Proving that it’s possible and encouraging more people to do it will make it cheaper and more mainstream. And it’s not that we are extremely expensive. It’s really that other products are extremely cheap. For those, we pay the price elsewhere: with our health, with our planet and with our future.

When you think about Fikat, who is your target audience? Who resonates most with your product and the messaging behind it?

Well, there are young people like myself, who have graduated and have their own money and can decide what they want. And they are very likely within my age group. I am 23. So, our target age group is aged around 23 to 35, and they are naturally quite open to what we are doing. They already know about sustainability. They know about plant-based diets, and they know about planting trees. The people most interested in Fikat are already on board with everything we stand for, so if they want to buy cookies for themselves or someone else, they have the option.

But then, we also do this to educate people who are perhaps a little bit older and haven’t tried a product like this in the past.

From a business perspective, Fikat was created as a passion project for me. I want to learn from this experience. I have nothing to lose with this one. Luckily, the cookies have sold really well and we’re happy with the people we’ve served through the business.

It takes a lot of vision and bravery to go against the norm and start a business. Can you think of a time in your life (or with Fikat) when you chose to do something different than what was expected of you?

In my life, there was definitely one instance like this. You see, I barely spoke English when I met my Dutch boyfriend. We were communicating via Google Translate because I hated learning new languages. I was so bad at English. But then a little life trip happened, and I chose to do my bachelor’s degree in English. Shortly after, I met my boyfriend, and we got an apartment together and settled in Sweden. There was no plan whatsoever to move to The Netherlands. But then I realised that I had a perfect opportunity before me. I was 19 and there would be no better time to take a risk. Within two weeks of having that thought, I had canceled my degree, booked a flight to The Netherlands, and changed the trajectory of my life.

You mentioned that you launched Fikat just last year. You’re still quite young, even by entrepreneurial standards. What gave you the confidence to know that you could start a business and make it successful?

I gained a lot of confidence from the student association that I created. That gave me a huge boost and shown me just how much I could achieve. It was also such a low-risk thing to do. Nothing really bad could have happened. If you start a student association and it doesn’t go well, no one really cares. But it went very well, and people took notice. I was really passionate about veganism, sustainability and food, and I was also really driven, which is super important when you want to make something a success. Also, I am the eldest in my family, so I’ve always been the organised big sister who is on top of things. I think my natural personality has a lot to do with it. Combined, that gave me just enough self-belief to pull it off.

In business, things never go completely the way we hope. With Fikat, were there times when you took a different direction than originally planned?

Only on a very small scale. For example, I was supposed to do a full relaunch next month, but I decided to calm my horses and put it off for a few months. Nothing extremely special has happened so far. It’s mostly going according to plan, with only a few small changes. But that’s  mostly because we’ve only been live for less than a year. We haven’t really had time to have any drastic changes. We are still a bit too new for that.

Great! I appreciate that it’s still early days. It seems like your general approach is about being flexible. Would you say that’s a fair analysis?

Yes, I always try to remain flexible, without compromising on our core values. For example, our product is always going to be as sustainable as possible, it’s always going to be plant-based, and it’s always going to be Swedish. Those things are untouchable. That’s what we are and who we are. For everything else, however, there is some flexibility.

For example, I never planned to do this alone. I was with my first baker, Jennifer, for about half a year until she had to move back to Sweden. Now I have two other bakers, Tamara and Shona, who are also working with me on big decisions. I try to be as flexible as possible with them so they also feel involved. Hopefully, one day, they will become more than just bakers so we can do more of this together. It has always been really important to me to have a great team and wonderful people around me to brainstorm and share ideas with.

That’s awesome, Sandra! It’s great that you know what your business needs and that you’re focused on building a great team. People are so important in the success of any business. I know it’s still a little early for questions like this, but have you experienced any failures—large or small—yet with Fikat?

No. Thankfully, there haven’t been any major failures yet. There have been small disappointments, of course. For example, there have been launches that didn’t go as well as we would have hoped. We did a collaboration for Easter with another vegan bakery company, and we did 50/50 with them. They sold out in two hours and we only sold like five in total. It felt like a disappointment compared to them, but it’s not really a failure. It’s a comparison with another company that happens to be very successful.

That’s very true. Comparison is the thief of joy. What did you learn from that particular disappointment that you will take forward with you?

Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently except set more realistic expectations. We had different target audiences and different messaging, so of course we didn’t achieve the exact same results. However, it did give us an insight into other things. For example, we have the same number of followers, the same amounts of normal orders, but my target group disliked this or that compared to their target group. We could then look into things more deeply and learn from them. I have no regrets about that collaboration at all.

That’s a great attitude to have. Everything in life and in business is a learning experience. In your life, have there been any big “a-ha!” moments? A time when things suddenly clicked in your mind or perhaps changed your understanding of something?

Yes, absolutely. When I got my cats. That was a big “a-ha!” moment for me. It was actually my boyfriend who wanted cats. I was reluctant because I didn’t really see myself as a cat person. However, they have changed my life completely. They have really showed me how excited I am to become a mum. Of course, I knew before then that I really wanted to become a mum, but they really brought that out in me so much more. They mean so much to me, and I care so much for them. That was a big “a-ha!” moment in my life because I never had pets before that I really cared about. I love them to death. In fact, at our recent house-warming party, almost all the gifts I got were cat-related. That was another “a-ha!”moment when I realised I had fully become a crazy cat lady!

Starting a business of any kind often means making sacrifices. Whether it’s financial sacrifices, time and energy sacrifices, missed opportunities, social life sacrifices, etc. Is that true for you, too? Is there anything you’ve had to give up in order to pursue your dream with Fikat?

Sure, there are some sacrifices. For example, I could have just got a normal full-time job and been a lot more financially stable as a result. I would also probably have a lot more free time to enjoy, too. I think that is the biggest sacrifice: my free time. Sometimes there’s absolutely no free time and no energy whatsoever, and then there are periods, like right now, when it’s fine. That was a big sacrifice, but I am comfortable with it. I can’t really imagine having just a normal nine-to-five job either. I’ve never really had a normal life. Right now, I do nine-to-five three days a week and Fikat on the side. I think I’ll always need to have my own little project on the side.

It sounds like you’ve got a good balance at the moment. That’s great to see! As a planet and as a people, we’re currently undergoing a period of great change. Fikat’s core values are aligned with building a better future. With that in mind, we’d love to know how you personally envision the future?

Well, I think it depends on how far into the future we’re looking. Personally, I don’t think there is a good ending to this story. We have so much work to do. In terms of our food production alone, there are so many terrible practices that need to be eliminated, especially with regard to how we treat animals.

If we continue on this path and look far into the future, I don’t think we will be able to save the planet. But in the near future, maybe over the next ten years, I think we will experience a revolution and make great changes. I hope that start-ups like Fikat and other amazing people who are doing their best for future generations really have an impact and secure a better ending for us all. But I think that’s going to take time. It needs to become mainstream fast and be taken seriously by governments if we are to have any chance. Right now, I don’t see that happening.

Thank you for that honest answer. We find that people outside of this space tend to believe that it will all be okay, but those who are really immersed in the facts of what is happening take a much more objective view and warn that things are not looking good for us.

So, when you are no longer on this Earth, what do you want people to say about you and all you have achieved on your life journey?

I want people to think that I did something good—that I stood up for the animals and then I stood up for our planet, and that I did my best. I think that’s the most beautiful thing you can be remembered for. Standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

You’re an inspiring young person who is making a difference through business. We’d like to give you a chance to speak directly to other up-and-coming entrepreneurs, young or old, who are just starting out and are possibly shaping the future through their businesses. What advice do you have for them?

Don’t care as much. I think that’s the biggest thing ever. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If it fails, it fails. So what? It’s easy to overthink and plan to start a business for months or years. Just do it. Worst-case scenario, you suck, and people tell you that. It’s not the worst thing in the world. You should really just do it. And if it fails, you’ll still learn something—and you can use that lesson in your next idea or business.

Great advice! That first step is always the most difficult. Sandra, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to you today. We’ve got some final questions for you, starting with: If there was one lasting message you could share with the world, what would it be?

Go vegan. We don’t want to hurt the cow!

Can you recommend something that inspired you or changed the way you see the world?

Cowspiracy. This documentary changed my life. That was my big turning point. From that moment on, my view on reality, view on the world, and view on animals changed for the better. I recommend it to everyone!


A huge thank you to our wonderful guest Sandra Einvall from Fikat for participating in this interview and sharing her start-up experience! If you would like to find out more about Sandra and her delicious, sustainable, plant-based cookies (or if you want to order some for yourself), you can find her at: www.wearefikat.com.

To stay up to date with all of our latest content and interviews with amazing people like Sandra, subscribe to the Brighter Future newsletter here.

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