Dialogue with colleagues from the master’s programme, two years of experiments and progress and, above all, a mentality devoted to continuous improvement. Martin Leban, AMIE (now IMIE) alumnus, tells us how the idea of a shampoo contained in biodegradable marbles came about.
Training in the family business, discussions with colleagues in the master’s programme from around the world and, finally, the establishment of a startup that, inspired by principles of social and environmental sustainability, gives life to a small product, but with a large potential. It’s the story of Martin Leban, a young Slovenian entrepreneur and co-founder of the startup OneTwoThreeZero, as well as alumnus of AMIE (now evolved into IMIE, International Master in Innovation and Entrepreneurship) at MIP Politecnico di Milano: «The master’s taught me that there are a lot of ideas, good and less good. What makes the difference is the effort put into developing them. And that’s exactly how I and my colleagues conceived of shampoo in biodegradable marbles».
From the idea to its implementation
Leban comes from a family that owns a small hair care product company. «An environment in which I learned a lot, observing day by day», says Leban. «Creating no waste cosmetics has been a goal of mine since I was working at my family company and saw how much plastic we produce. When Renata Alessio, Indira Pambudy and Sarra Elamin started the project of biodegradable shampoo marbles at AMIE I immediately liked it and asked them to join the team».
The ecological potential of this idea is clear: «The cosmetic industry uses a lot of plastic for its packaging, even for small quantities of a product, as is the case, for example, with the vials distributed in hotels. We started from a product conceptually like the detergent capsules used in dishwashers. In that case, however, the covering is a plastic material. For us, the challenge was to find a biodegradable material that at the same time was resistant enough to contain the shampoo inside it». A challenge taken up by his two partners and chemists, Anja Pajntar and Uros Novak. «It’s a research process that has now lasted for two years. The difficulty is due to the small percentage of water in the shampoo, 10%, which on its own is a big savings compared to the 80% of average shampoos. We could have fallen back on a product without water, but the effect on hair wouldn’t have been the same». The roadmap for OneTwoThreeZero foresaw a series of important tests in April 2020, but the current health situation has forced Leban and his team to postpone. «By now we’re there, however. So much so that the laboratory that hosted us until now is no longer sufficient; we will shortly start to produce larger quantities of our product».
The importance of not being satisfied
Leban doesn’t hide that the MIP experience was crucial for the creation of this startup. «Starting with my classmates, from 17 different nationalities. This diversity has proved to be a real value added, because it gave me exposure to different points of view and cultures, which generated a true creative flow. Now I make use of the principles of design thinking learned thanks to the master’s programme, which taught me how to set up a balanced team, evaluating the most strategic individual characteristics for the company».
The project work experience was also important: «It’s one of the reasons I chose MIP. I learned what makes up the development process, which isn’t only a matter of notions, but also of mentality. Focusing deeply on an idea, to discover its real potential and give life to a series of virtually infinite possibilities».
Finally, some advice for those are about to enrol in a master’s programme: «The best way to experience it is to try to arrive with clear ideas on what you want to achieve. And never be satisfied, but work on yourself. The level of lessons is very high, and pushes you to aim even higher, to increasingly deepen your knowledge. It’s this mentality that allows you to approach your goals, both if you want to work as an entrepreneur, or as a consultant. The job prospects tied to this master’s are manifold».