“Ten years of experience in a multinational and an MBA are not enough to prepare for a start-up.”

Between deadlines, do you live on a diet of pizza, coffee and Redbull? Gingerwald’s juice shots aim to get hard workers with unhealthy eating habits into ginger, pomegranate and beetroot. The start-up wants to do this without encouraging, and their accessible concept – with an app, a juice corner and juice credits to reward colleagues – is catching on.

As a civil engineer Jan Verhoeven worked for ten years for multinationals in the field of renewable energy. Many trips abroad, a busy schedule and tight deadlines made him live on a diet of pizza, cola, coffee and Red Bull. Things didn’t improve when he took a year off to get his MBA, and had to regularly pull an all-nighter.

Jan Verhoeven, founder Gingerwald

That’s how the idea for Gingerwald began to mature. The start-up delivers fresh, cold pressed juice shots to businesses. Twice a week they get a fresh assortment, with new flavours and variations each time. Accompanying the juices is an actual juice corner – the juice corner as the new take-a-break spot – and an app where Gingerwallies can track, for example, how many ingredients and how many calories they’ve consumed in a day. A bit like their pedometer.

”From an average of 25% already healthy fruit takers at work, we’re moving towards 80 to 90% of colleagues on juice at our clients.”

Juice for people who don’t do juice, reads the tagline on Gingerwald’s website. “We are really aiming at people like me”, emphasizes Jan Verhoeven. “Not just the fitness freaks, not just the health gurus. However, there is a large group of people who want to live a healthier life, without giving up pizzas, coffee and cola completely. The people who want to compensate for their poorer dietary habits and redress the imbalance a bit. We’re targeting the people who, without Gingerwald, would probably never ingest fresh ginger, pomegranate or turmeric.”

The belief in nudging

Jan Verhoeven strongly believes in nudging. “We want to give people free choice and push them very gently in the ‘right’ direction with positive incentives. Many companies want to help their employees live a little healthier. They then bring in the fruit bowl, which is already a noble initiative. But after ten days, who still uses it? The people who are already fit and healthy, studies showthe people who were eating enough fruit before the fruit bowl was introduced. Many others just trade their apple back in for their Snickers again.”

”Well-intentioned initiatives die a quiet death because they are often too pedantic or encouraging.”

Well-intentioned initiatives die a quiet death because they are often too pedantic or encouraging. We want to stay away from that. Rationally, everyone knows that an apple is better for you than a Snickers, but we are not purely rational beings. That’s why Gingerwald needs to be easy and approachable. There you go. One shot. It couldn’t be easier.

With our juice corner and accompanying app, we also want to strengthen the sense of belonging at work. You can check to see who is the ginger king, or the spinach queen. All very playful. And you can treat colleagues to a juice shot: Dear colleague, it seems to me that you are drowning in deadlines this week, you could use a dose of beetroot’. Above all, it mustn’t become too encouraging or serious.”

Gingerwald app

Bowls, bowls and more bowls

The first two years of Gingerwald were mainly spent fine-tuning the concept, but then the company gained momentum. With a little help from Birdhouse.” Doing business there is, first and foremost, fun. You find a great place to work and like-minded people. You share your successes, (laughs) or after a brooding sleepless night you always find someone with even bigger bags.”

“But it’s mostly my Birdhouse mentors who have really provided a mindswitch,” Verhoeven emphasizes . “They believed in Gingerwald’s concept from the start, but did put their finger relentlessly on the wound: was I going to be the local juice shop under the church tower, or was I going to scale with a real growth concept? They took me out of my comfort zone, and taught me to think in step changes .”

Not married to the production

Gingerwald makes all its own juices. “That wasn’t actually a conscious decision,” explains the founder. “I was looking for a partner to outsource production. But I didn’t want to compromise on the quality of the juices, they had to be pure nature: cold pressed, unpasteurised, without additives. Very hard to find someone who could. So I had equipment brought over from the US, and started making my own juices. Which was not the plan, and which I didn’t see myself doing at all in the beginning. I’m still open to an outside partner. It’s running well now, we’ve invested in the production capacity, but we’re not married to it.”

It does make running a start-up extra challenging. Gingerwald is part tech, part manufacturing, part logistics. “Every time I want to dive into new features for the app, something happens in production or distribution. And vice versa. A start-up is a lot of improvising, and it’s the ideal learning experience to learn to prioritize.”

”Even ten years of experience in a multinational and an MBA are not enough to prepare for a start-up.”

“I know it’s a cliché, but even ten years of experience in a multinational and an MBA are not enough to prepare for a start-up”, says Verhoeven. “But that’s just the beauty of it. Falling down and getting up again and again. Sometimes you curse and lie awake for a night. But the day after, you can be extremely euphoric because a pitch is successful or because a customer has encouraged another company to use Gingerwald.

“We also do a lot of corporate events for our clients. Then sometimes I see people standing on the terrace with a cigarette or a coupe of champagne in one hand, and a Gingerwald juice made from beetroot in the other. It may sound strange, but then we are proud: that person will probably have left that reception feeling better, thanks to that one shot.”

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