Luise Grossmann On Creating Social & Environmental Impact As An Entrepreneur

Luise Grossmann is Co-Founder and Director at Five Oceans. A passionate surfer and entrepreneur, Luise and Felix Wunner successfully launched the ecoFin, the world’s first surfboard fin based on ocean waste.

Five Oceans are also engaged in education and waste recovery programs which teach the value of upcycling, entrepreneurship and the circular economy. Luise and Felix are working hard to change people's attitudes and behaviours in regards to the impact of waste and are working to launch other lifestyle products made from plastic recovered from the ocean.


Luise Shares her experience as an entrepreneur, providing insights into how to tackle problems, crowdfunding, useful tools and other inspirational impact initiatives. 


Highlights from the interview (For full details, listen to the podcast)

[Tom Allen] - To start things off could you please share a bit about your background and what led you into the path of entrepreneurship? [1:57]

[Luise Grossmann] - A lot of passion! Finding out a lot about the problem of ocean waste, combined with their passion for surfing and travelling. Backgrounds of innovation, marketing, management and engineering. There's nothing out there, let's create it and take the challenge on.

One things having an idea, an the other is actually committing to it. What were the decisions you made around actually committing to turning an idea into a real product? [3:07]

It comes in flash moments sometimes when things stand as clear as day... and then you take the moment to think, "well at least I'll give it a go." Then you talk to people and they love the idea.

Not being scared of it is essential.

You probably don't have all the answers, but there's an explorative approach to trying something and one leads to another. Then you look back and you've created it but you need to push it further. Breaking it down into small stages. You encounter problems and if you find a solution great, and if it's a killing point you have to find the courage to say no. But the project kept going and we kept positive. 

So you made a series of small steps or goals and they were the gatekeepers as to you pushing forward with your project? [5:26]

During the process, having small goals takes a lot of pressure off you, because you don't feel the pressure of having to fulfil the big goal. It's important to be aware of the end goal. 

If you woke up every morning and thought "I have to clean the oceans" it would probably be a bit overwhelming. But breaking down into the small goals and projects makes it feel manageable and more achievable.

The very first ecoFins to be shipped.

The very first ecoFins to be shipped.

You've made some big sacrifices to make this project a reality. So what were those sacrifices you made and what have been the biggest challenges along the way? [6:22]

You are not aware of all the sacrifices that are coming in the end. You sacrifice an ease of mind and your safety - financial safety and all of the convenience that comes with a stable job. On the other side you have a lot of exciting things like freedom and flexibility and the ability to just do an idea.

You are often running short of time, which can affect friends and family and time for yourself. Work life balance. And time to learn things - you learn so much all the time on the job but sometimes I miss being able to profoundly research ideas and solutions.

Tell us more about the story of Five Oceans and the ecoFin - what is it about, how did it start and why the ecoFin? [10:16]

Five Oceans as a brand wants to transform rubbish into awesome products. The ecoFin is the flagship product which is a surfboard fin made from recycled ocean waste sourced from Bali, Indonesia. We developed a material called Ocean Composite which is a material using recycled plastic which is fibre reinforced to give it the necessary characteristics for a quality product.

If you can fly to the moon, why would we scare away from making good plastic materials from rubbish? It sounds a lot easier!

We want to create more products and materials. We want to help communities. I really enjoy the waste management part. But there's also the education part and how that can change behaviour. Through the ecoFin we showed a solution and an example for industry but also linked it to the educational side which changes behaviour.

Luise shredding a wave in Bali.

Luise shredding a wave in Bali.

You’ve spent considerable time overseas travelling, especially in Bali. What are the particular educational programs you're involved in around the world, how do they operate and how do they make people more consequent with their ideas and actions? [14:35]

We do a lot of work with children because it's a good way to start educating people. We've recently done work with Project Purpose in Lombok in waste education and beach cleanups. It's been eye opening seeing how children respond. We've got further projects lined up with them next year. It also provides education for the wider community. Infrastructure needs to be developed and that's what we're doing with our partners in Bali.

In Australia we engaged with the Jump Start program which took kids on a hands on journey which saw them engage in a beach cleanup, a visit to our manufacturer and we created the fin keys together which were shipped to our customers. It's great to see the students get excited and change their perspective about waste and the sort of work they want to do.

Luise sharing insights at the  Jump Start  Social Entrepreneurship Program.

Luise sharing insights at the Jump Start Social Entrepreneurship Program.

Not long ago you launched a successful crowdfunding campaign. Tell us about the crowdfunding campaign and what did you learn about that process? [19:30]

There's so much work involved... and we took it even further because we created a movie for the campaign too (video below). In creating that documentary, we used that to support the campaign. We toured around Australia and Europe to do screenings and that helped the crowdfunding campaign get to a wider audience.

You should choose the crowdfunding platform which best suits your purpose and target market. Question what the value is for the user - ask, "is crowdfunding the right way to get funds?" Crowdfunding has developed a lot to a very professional level which has changed the landscape - and it's harder to get noticed now. It was a steep learning curve. It's important to activate your whole network and have the balls to push the campaign all the way through. If you cannot convince your friends, how will you convince someone who you don't know? 

Get your message right and learn how to tell your story that moves the people.

When times have got tough are there any tricks or strategies you’ve used to pull through and maintain your passion in the project and keep the project alive? [24:33]

When problems come up, it's important to recognise where the problem is coming from. Structure the problem and break it down. Where's the seed of the problem?

To find that you need to dismantle everything. Take a step back and find the critical part holding something back. Using mind mapping and visualising things has helped a lot.

Are there any other tools which you’ve used along the way that you’d recommend to the listeners which have helped you deliver your impact? [26:50]

Trello is a good tool that helps me to structure tasks. I'm a big 'to-do' list person.

Have you found any other environmental or social issues throughout your travels which you believe could be or should be getting tackled by initiatives such as Five Oceans? [27:50]

I'd like to see a lot more projects happening in transportation. One of the issues I see, particularly in Australia is car-pooling solutions don't work here - which is a shame. It seems like a tough field to establish those platforms.

Have you come across any other inspiring projects or initiatives recently which are creating positive social and environmental change? [28:57]

One of our favourite partners here in Australia is the Clean Coast Collective and I think they're doing an amazing job in protecting our marine environment from waste.

To finish off, are there any good reads that you could recommend to our listeners? [29:53]

[Luise discusses the books listed below in depth and why she likes them.]





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