[Startup story] Estiverde | RubikEDU Incubator, Batch 2
August 26, 2023
First of all, we would like to know who’s behind the keyboard.
Hello, there! My name is Miruna Iliescu, and I am a professional in the world of digital communication with various hobbies and interests. With a strong background in business and management consulting, I currently work as a sustainability consultant. I hold a Ph.D. in communication sciences, focusing on trans-cultural SME promotion, and I share my knowledge as a university lecturer in the domains of internal communication and business analysis.
My dedication and expertise have not gone unnoticed, as I was featured on Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2022 for transforming my passions into business. I am the co-founder of three companies in the sustainability field, one of them – estiverde.ro.
Tell us more about your startup.
estiverde.ro is a platform for sustainable, eco-friendly products carefully selected for you and for nature. We are two young entrepreneurs, embarked on this journey with the desire to help our customers choose quality products, made under carefully evaluated and responsible conditions towards nature.
We have ensured that only natural ingredients are used in the selected products, steering clear of pollutants and toxic substances for both the body and the environment. We believe in natural products that are demonstrated through the list of ingredients they contain, rather than relying on promises of labels, promises that often fall apart once we get acquainted with the product.
From the beginning of the purchasing cycle to the end, our customers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with and adopt a responsible lifestyle: we deliver by bicycle in Bucharest, we package only in paper or cardboard, and we aim to educate digitally through the community we are forming.
We seek to grow this community, engage in education, and disseminate information related to sustainability and responsibility, offering ideas to those who want to make small changes in their purchasing habits.
Currently, we offer natural cosmetics for nature enthusiasts and beyond, including SPF or hydration products, locally made pouches, and reusable masks crafted by seamstresses in Rahova. And… we have big plans for the upcoming year!
Do you already have a team supporting you? If yes, tell us more about it.
I started this company with Ioana, my friend whom I met while volunteering during university. She moved to Portugal in 2021 and handles the backend bureaucracy of orders, the website, and all the technical details. Also, big supporters of the business, even since the beginning, were my close friends and family who helped with pictures, social media content, and even recurring orders.
For a startup, there are many aspects that contribute to success. Motivation and founder/market fit are among the key factors. Tell us what’s your “why”.
There is a rising awareness and concern about environmental issues among consumers. Many people are actively seeking eco-friendly alternatives to traditional products, creating a strong demand for sustainable options. Also, to be honest, green products are no longer a niche market. They have become a mainstream trend, attracting a larger customer base, and increasing sales potential.
It has been quite some time since you participated in RubikEDU #2. How has the program impacted your journey?
RubikEDU helped me refine the business model, understand more about the customers, and get inspired by other young entrepreneurs. I am grateful for all the team members and mentors we had, and I will always be grateful for Raluca’s help beyond the program’s agenda and her responsibilities.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Now already a competitive landscape of online eco-friendly platforms, even in Romania, a distinct advantage can be gained by focusing on a curated selection of high-quality, genuinely sustainable products.
We also provide transparent information about product eco-credentials and ingredients. We tried during the years also to provide educational content that can further establish trust and engage conscious consumers. This approach positions the platform as a reliable source for informed eco-friendly choices.
What are your plans for your startup in the next 6-12 months?
As I mentioned before, my co-founder Ioana has been living in Portugal for 2 years already. As it seems to become a more permanent decision, we started to re-evaluate the current business model and the feasibility in a remote context. Our plans in the future are to focus more on education and educational materials rather than cosmetics and beauty products.
What are the biggest rewards of being a startup founder?
I really feel proud about overcoming the challenges and building up the motivation to continue working in a business area in development, facing a lot of skepticism or lack of resources. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I gained from my experience with young students, and I am always looking for opportunities to empower and motivate them.
What about the biggest challenges?
Estiverde.ro is my second company so I was familiar with a couple of common challenges related to accounting, legal, bureaucracy etc. Maybe something unexpected for this new endeavor was the lack of support from similar businesses. I understand the competition issue in a for-profit setting, but I was expecting people in the sustainability field to be more cooperative and community orientated. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but working together we can grow the niche and raise more awareness on protecting the environment and degrowth.
Why would you recommend others with a startup idea apply to our program?
RubikEDU is a good starting point for any team trying to understand their USP (unique selling point), build a product, and launch a business. I would recommend others to apply to brainstorm and improve their work with the help of kind and open mentors.
What message do you have for other startup founders?
Never give up and always listen to your customers.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Estiverde is a chic store, yet mindful of the environment and our planet’s resources. It aims to convey that an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort for scarcity, but rather entails heightened attention and interest during the purchasing process. You can use skincare, hydration, and household products without compromising the conveniences of our era. However, it’s important to ensure these products contain natural ingredients, are cruelty-free, free of plastic elements, and crafted through sustainable production processes.