Meet the student entrepreneur helping to reduce household food waste | Top Universities

Meet the student entrepreneur helping to reduce household food waste

By Keshala Jayawickrama

Updated February 29, 2024 Updated February 29, 2024

When was the last time you threw something in your fridge away because it was past its use-by date?   

Each year we throw away 900 million tonnes of food, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme’s food waste index. That’s enough to circle the Earth seven times.   

In fact, the report found that 17 percent of all the food available to consumers is thrown away, and 60 percent of this is in the home.   

NEOMA Business School student Louise Arnauld Des Lions is trying to reduce household food waste with her start-up Chest’Nut, which she developed with the help of the school’s start-up incubator.   

Top Universities spoke to Louise about her experience creating Chest’Nut and what it’s like to be a student entrepreneur revolutionising the way we approach food waste.  

How does Chest’Nut reduce food waste?   

The inspiration behind Chest’Nut started when Louise noticed that her family tended to throw out a lot of expired food from their fridge, having failed to eat it before its use-by date. Being a problem solver who had always enjoyed creating projects, Louise saw an opportunity to make a change.  

She started working with the advisors at NEOMA Business School’s start-up incubator to create her own app which can target this problem.   

The app allows users to scan a QR code with their phone, which Louise printed on to freezer bags, and enter a best before date. The app would then send notifications to users, reminding them that their food product will soon be expiring.  

This simple idea has potentially huge implications. Louise hopes it will be used by families like hers to help them reduce the amount of food that goes in the bin.   

“It will also help people like me, young professionals who aren’t very organised. I don’t know what I have in my fridge, so I would use this app to reduce the amount of food I waste,” said Louise.   

Future developments   

Louise is continually developing and improving the database so that the app will soon be able to develop its own best before dates for the food, saving the user time.   

Louise said: “I’m doing a lot of research to ensure that these use-by dates are safe, and users will be referred to the information if they would like to check this. The app will also give users useful information about food hygiene and safely defrosting food.”  

Louise will be hiring three developers to make this new version of the application. The application is currently only available online but will eventually be added to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.  

Currently the app uses QR codes printed on freezer bags, but in the next year Louise plans to expand this to Tupperware-like food storage containers.  

In the longer term, Louise hopes that the app might be used by small food and hospitality businesses, such as coffee shops, to keep stock of their inventory and to work towards their sustainable development goals.  

“I know there is a lot of opportunity for this app, but I want to do more market research to ensure the app is optimised to help whichever area we expand into.”  

Making the most of NEOMA Business Schools’s entrepreneurial expertise   

This start-up would not have been possible without the help of NEOMA Business School, where Louise is studying a master’s in management.   

NEOMA’s start-up incubator supports students at every step of building their business, from the initial idea to fundraising.  

“Working with the incubator, you are part of a strong network, and you’ll work alongside other entrepreneurs, which allows you to share knowledge and opportunities. This is very important to me,” said Louise.  

Each student gets access to personalised coaching and mentorships with experienced business graduates.   

Louise was supported throughout by a coach, who was able to offer advice and put her in touch with professionals who could help her with aspects of the project she needed help with.   

“Sometimes they will just tell you, ‘This idea is bad, and you should change it’– the incubator is very honest with you. This can be disappointing, but it’s also a necessary part of creating a great product,” said Louise.  

Applying knowledge from her master’s degree   

Something that's quite interesting about the master's in management programme at NEOMA Business School, which is ranked 74th globally in the QS Business Master's Rankings 2024: Management, is the flexibility it allows to the students.  

The programme offers students enough flexibility via a tailor-made curriculum with 40 possible course combinations. In the first year of the programme, students will receive guided freedom of choice and a preliminary level of in-depth study before choosing the area of specialisation in the second year.  

In addition to the wide range of majors and minors available to specialise in, the business school also offers expertise tracks such as the charted financial analyst track and financial markets and technologies track for interested students.  

Students can also choose to graduate with a double degree, complementing their management studies with subjects like sustainability, further enhancing their academic experience.  

Putting into practice what she learned across all aspects of her studies was an essential part of building Chest’Nut, explains Louise.   

She explained some of the ways she used the knowledge from her master’s in management in her start-up:   

  • PESTEL analysis: “To target a market, you need to think about PESTEL analysis, an analysis of the political and economic issues in your country. Without my master’s in management, I might not have thought about this.”  

  • Legal issues: “There are important legal aspects to consider, such as separating my professional and personal bank accounts, which I was aware of because of my degree.”  

  • Global perspective: “The master’s in management helps you to have a global point of view on business, and to have a better understanding of what you are doing and why.”  

“The start-up gave me the opportunity to practice what I’ve learnt throughout my degree. There is a lot of knowledge I am gaining from creating my start-up that will help me in my degree,” she said.   

Balancing studying and entrepreneurship  

Being an entrepreneur and a full-time business student can be very tiring, so we asked Louise how she balances studying for her master’s in management with working on her start-up.  

“My master’s programme only has lectures in the morning, so I use the afternoons to work on my start-up. I think without this separation it would be very difficult. NEOMA Business School is very good at giving you the time to develop your start-up,” she said.   

Louisa tries to wake up at 6am every day. Instead of wasting time on social media, she uses the time before class to work on her project. Then it’s back to working on her start-up in the afternoon.   

“The structure of my days is similar but as an entrepreneur the tasks I work on will be different every day,” she said.  

Learning how to build and develop key skills  

Louise reveals some of the key things she learnt from her start-up:  

  • Marketing: “I learnt how to market online on social networks. At the moment I don’t use social media content to market my project, but I’ve helped friends on theirs.”  

  • Building a network: “It’s important to be able to approach other people when you need help solving a problem.”   

  • Developing an app: “Although I didn’t write the code, I learnt the logic behind it, so I understand how my application works even though I didn’t develop it myself.”  

  • Public speaking: “You will need to present your project to people, so you’ll gain public speaking skills.”  

  • Utilising technology: “If you need a particular function, you’ll need to develop this even if it only has three or four lines of code. For this, I can ask ChatGPT and other similar AI programmes.”  

  • Becoming an ambassador for environment and sustainability development goals: Louise emphasised that among the key skills she gained, one stood out as particularly significant: the ability to advocate for the cause her product provides a solution for. 
    Being a founder of a startup offering a sustainability focused solution, she had to create a community around the topic by highlighting the importance of sustainable development and introducing sustainable development goals to regular households. 

** 

The future is looking bright for Chest’Nut, which recently won third place in the Coup de Pouce contest, organised by the Le Roch les Mousquetaires foundation. This competition is aimed at the creators of businesses that are in the start-up stage.  

We asked Louise what advice she would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs:  

“My advice is to start now. Many people who would like to be entrepreneurs say, ‘I’ll start later when I have more experience,’ but you will only gain that experience by working on your start-up. Now is the best time to start.  

“You might fail, but you’ll learn a lot from failing and you can always pick yourself up and start again.”   

FAQ 

What are the benefits of studying a master's in management?   

Studying a master’s in management offers a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it equips individuals with essential leadership and managerial skills, preparing them for diverse roles in various industries. It provides a deep understanding of organisational dynamics, strategic planning, and decision-making processes, which are all essential for driving business success.  

Furthermore, pursuing this degree often opens opportunities for career advancement, higher earning potential, and global networking. Overall, a master’s in management empowers individuals to become effective leaders, problem-solvers, and innovators in today's competitive business world. 

How much does it cost to study at NEOMA Business School? 

The tuition fee for the master’s in management programme at NEOMA Business School for the academic year 2023/24 ranges from €15,300 to €16,000. However, it's important to note that these fees are subject to revision each year.  

Therefore, it's advisable to refer to the programme page for the most updated fee information. 

What are the admission requirements for NEOMA Business School? 

To enrol in the master’s in management at NEOMA Business School, applicants must meet the following admissions requirements

  • Hold a bachelor's degree from a non-French Institution with a minimum of three years of education, with at least two of those years completed outside of France. 

  • Complete the online application, specifying the master’s in management programme. 

  • English track: IELTS 6.0, TOEFL 83, Cambridge FCE 175, Duolingo 105; GMAT or GRE recommended 

  • French track: French B2 level and IELTS 5.5 or equivalent; TAGE MAGE recommended 

How can I apply for a programme at NEOMA Business School? 

To apply for a programme at NEOMA Business School, start by completing the online application here and paying the application fee. Ensure to provide scanned copies of all original documents in either English or French, including your CV, motivation letter, and transcripts.  

Qualified candidates will then be invited to participate in a deferred interview. Admission results are typically communicated via email within two weeks following the interview. 

What is sustainable development? 

Sustainable development refers to the practice of meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves balancing economic growth, social progress, and environmental protection to ensure long-term viability and prosperity for both current and future generations.  

A few sustainable development examples include renewable energy sources, waste reduction and recycling initiatives, sustainable agriculture practices, and green transportation systems. 

This article was originally published in May 2023 . It was last updated in February 2024

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