We were introduced to Abeego through an amazing women's network called SHEeo which supports female majority led and owned businesses. Toni, the inventor and founder of Abeego was one of five women awarded a low interest loan by SHEeo to help catapult her business into it's next chapter. Abeego is an all natural, reusable food wrap that drastically cuts down on household food waste by preserving food longer than you can imagine. Think of it like putting the peel back on a lemon or fresh herbs back into the ground. It is one of those "how did she think of that?" products. In a word, it's genius. We spoke to Toni about how she changed directions in her career, plunged into entrepreneurship, and all the successes and challenges that go with it.
FP: In your previous life you were a holistic nutritionist, how did this influence Abeego?
TD: Before Abeego, I studied Holistic Nutrition and did yoga teacher training so was pretty immersed in a healthy balanced lifestyle. It affected how I ate, lived and how I thought. I was working in a health food store as a nutritional consultant. when I had the idea for Abeego. It was around the time when BPA was a becoming a major issue and plastic products were being pulled off the shelves. I had a lot of people coming in and asking how do I store my food without plastic. This got me into the process of thinking of food storage in another way. Around this time, I also started thinking about how nature packed food. For example: a lemon’s peel is not air tight, it isn’t transparent. I wanted to mimic the way nature wrapped food and make it modern and convenient.
FP: I’m a huge supporter of Abeego since meeting you and learning about your product. I am especially amazed at how long cut herbs can last inside an Abeego wrap. It must cut down on food waste?
TD: The average household throws away about 40% of the fresh produce they purchase equaling about $1,600 a year in wasted money.
FP: How did you transition into Abeego full time?
TD: In the beginning there was a lot of exploration. I used my work place as a testing ground. I never kept it a secret, I talked about it with everyone. I used to keep a little scrap of it in my pocket and I would show it to people and talk to them about food wrap. My place of work became my research facility. I stayed at the health food store and slowly began cutting down my hours. When I first had the idea for Abeego, I immediately wanted to quit my job and one of my co workers told me to think of myself as a rock climber - sometimes you need to swing back and get your footing before you move forward - and that was powerful for me. That work place really developed Abeego into what it became and they were the first store to stock it as well.
FP: How did you prepare to pivot from 9-5 to entrepreneur? Had you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
TD: I had always wanted to make my career my own. My original plan had to been to start a corporate holistic nutrition consulting firm where I would be dealing with businesses. The natural tendencies for being an entrepreneur were there but the discipline as well as the ability to run and grow a business had to be learned.
FP: Tell us more about the discipline you have developed?
TD: My skills are constantly developing. As an entrepreneur you have to wear so many hats, especially when you are starting out and creating a market. I invented the concept so not only did I have to sell it, I had to learn about it and understand the product myself! Some of the best advice I got early was around picturing the business I wanted to see in the future and behaving as if I was running that business. I’m quite structured and organized even though I’m a big picture thinker.
FP: What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face?
TD: The first challenge was trusting Abeego. When I invented it, there was no evidence that my idea was going to work. However there were examples of beeswax being used in relevant applications such as to seal the top of canning jars, in cold cellars as a breathable environment etc. A lot of what has been done before synthetic food wrap existed informed Abeego. From the beginning it was hard to sell because I didn’t know everything about it myself…we still don’t exactly know today how it works, we are constantly learning! I eventually had to let that go and realize that the product worked, I had proved it and that was evidence enough to sell it.