Sustainability

Sustainability in Business To Change the World

How an MBA graduate is using algae to make an impact

An entrepreneur who thrives in corporate environments, Adrián García offers the perfect blend of big brand perspective and a start-up mindset. A founder himself from a young age and with businesses opened in China, Germany, and Mexico, Adrián initially had no interest in the corporate environment. “But after hearing that PepsiCo was looking for someone to join their innovation team, I saw the perfect opportunity for me. It was an ideal situation o continue learning and expand my professional experience,” Adrián explains.

This flexible and curious mindset led to new opportunities in both his career and his personal life. After enjoying the corporate world for a few years, Adrián was ready for a change. “I always wanted to do an MBA, to put my career on hold and really immerse myself in the experience. Since my wife is German, we agreed to try living in Germany for a while. It was after searching for the best business schools in the country that I found WHU.”

For Adrián, the biggest attraction to WHU was its personalized approach, with a diverse student body and close connections to well-known German corporations and start-ups. However, it wasn’t long after graduating from the program that his previous director from PepsiCo encouraged him to return to and lead the international innovation team for the US and Canada. This prompted Adrián to move back to Mexico and transition to Frito Lay North America in Dallas, Texas.

Exploring sustainable ideas

“The iwi brand was created about a year before I joined. When they reached out to me at first, I was looking for reasons to say no. The company was based in Houston, and we just built our house in Dallas. I had no experience in the supplement space. But after hearing about their sustainability journey and business opportunity, I was excited to join their team. They wanted someone with corporate marketing experience but the entrepreneurial spirit of a smaller one. Which is something I try to bring to my work every day.”

iwi is a purpose-driven supplement brand, offering products including Omega-3, which are made not from fish oil but from the source – algae. However, the big picture for the brand is more than just the product. iwi focuses on redefining farming methods and nutrition by utilizing existing resources in innovative ways. This mission and a strong sense of purpose have garnered a large amount of attention from consumers, sustainability spokespeople, and, just as importantly, investors. Earlier this year, they closed a funding round of $12.5 million that saw them form new European partnerships to support their accelerated growth and global presence.

How do they do it? iwi takes non-arable land in West Texas and southern New Mexico. It uses saltwater from aquifers to grow the algae, reusing more than 98% of the water that goes through their harvest system. With the sun as the primary energy source, the process consumes very little energy; instead, it consumes CO2 and releases oxygen. More importantly, there is no harm to any marine systems. This sustainable farming process saw the brand featured on the groundbreaking television series Earth presented by John Holden. He was understandably impressed by such novel methods. (Watch the video here)

The future of iwi

“It’s important that we also walk the walk as much as we talk the talk,” says Adrián. “We give back 1% of our net sales to Ocean Unite (https://www.oceanunite.org) and participate in volunteer work. September 18 is International Coastal Clean-Up Day, where we will go to Galveston, Texas, as a team with our families. We will also incentivize our customers around the world to participate through an app, winning prizes for collecting the most trash.”

For iwi, as they continue to grow in the USA, their following projects aside from international expansion include developing their proprietary and unique protein derived from the same algae. “What I love about the start-up environment is that it is very agile, and it moves quickly. You can learn and make changes where the risk is lower than in bigger corporations. I bring their best practices and adapt them for smaller companies.

As for what I learned at WHU, I often revisit the contents of my Corporate Strategy and Marketing and Innovation classes. One of the classes I enjoyed the most was the entrepreneurship course with Professor Peter Witt. He explained the concept of an exit strategy in business, which I never considered even with my own companies. In the first week of my role at iwi, it was one of my first questions to the CEO,” Adrián recalls. “This month of September, I graduated from my MBA at WHU exactly 10 years ago. But the learnings, experiences, and friendships will last and continue to accompany me throughout my life.”