Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourself!
Thomas Greulich: We’re Bean United — the social coffee startup from Oberhaching in the south of Munich. We’re 80 years old — or 2×40. Because we’re twin brothers, you could say we’ve known each other our whole lives. Philipp, who is two minutes younger, studied sport economics at TU Munich, and I — Thomas — studied international business at FH Nürnberg and in Mexico City. After completing our studies, we both took part in a Red Bull internship program and then went different ways professionally until we worked up the courage in 2018 to found a social business together, a.k.a. a social coffee company.
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Thomas Greulich: “Education is the great engine of personal development” — Nelson Mandela. Buy selling social office coffee, we fund school meals in Burundi, Africa, which in turn promotes education because the free school meals allow children in the poor northern region of the country to stay in school for continuous lessons.
Coffee beans for school meals
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Thomas Greulich: Yes and no. Other brands like Lycka or ChariTea help as well, but we have two unique selling points:
First, we pass on a higher percentage than any other coffee brand, namely a whole 2.50 euros for each kilo of coffee, which finances exactly ten school meals in Burundi. We work on the project in cooperation with Welthungerhilfe and visit locally as often as we can.
Secondly, we concentrate 100 percent on the B2B market as “the most social office coffee brand in Germany.”
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Thomas Greulich: 1) Reeling in the “big fish” as customers. We now work with companies like Adobe, Allianz, Freeletics, Münchner Rück, Salesforce and Sono Motors — and do so without contracts, but instead based on trust.
2) Communication of “friendly trade” instead of a fair trade certificate.
3) Redesigning our brand identity with awesome freelancers instead of expensive agencies — bootstrapping at its best. After one year, we’re currently in the final stages and a preview is now available on Instagram.
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Thomas Greulich: We are very pleased and have exceeded our targets: We were able to provide 250,000 school meals in Burundi in 2019 — and Bean United has been financed with its own revenue from the very beginning, without any investors whatsoever.
Our exclusive cooperation with Dean&David across Germany was definitely the first major milestone. We’re now in discussions with numerous top companies, every one of which — in cooperation with Bean United — could make more than 100,000 school meals possible every year. An increasing number of startups and SMEs have also been getting in contact with us and we usually come to an agreement quickly.
Our goal to provide more than one million school meals in 2021 might even be reached earlier than planned.
A smart and social concept is a good fit for Munich
Munich Startup: How do you view Munich as a startup location?
Thomas Greulich: For us, it really is perfect here in our hometown. Successful startups and SMEs are located here along with many large corporations, all of whom are investing a growing amount of resources in issues such as sustainability, CSR, employee satisfaction and employer branding. Our smart and social concept fits right in.
Munich Startup: Coworking or your own office?
Thomas Greulich: Our company is located in a small co-working space in Oberhaching and we also have a spot when needed in Wework in downtown Munich, where we supply the barista bar with Bean United Coffee. It is really special to be in a mutually inspiring environment with freelancers and dynamic individuals — and having fun is a part of it too.