Founders Fridays is a StartupAmsterdam initiative showcasing local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem's most inspirational stories and role models. We hope we'll all learn and grow together by providing startup founders a space to share their insights and experience.

 

This week we spoke to Laurie Lancee, founder of Vini Mini. After having a personal experience with her son, Laurie came up with the idea of Vini Mini. She found an innovative solution to produce food supplements to reduce the risk of babies developing food allergies.


How did your career journey lead you to founding Vini Mini?

Vini Mini was founded after my personal experience with my son Viggo. When he was 6 months old, he had a life-threatening allergic reaction after eating just a tiny piece of egg. He was allergic; after doing tests, it turned out he was prone to becoming allergic to many other foods, such as peanuts and nuts. Thanks to giving those foods to him in a controlled, dosed way in a safe setting, we managed to prevent him from becoming allergic to those products. This traumatic experience changed my life and made me leave my corporate job and start Vini Mini with Jozien Boersma. We aim to ensure other parents don't have to go through such a traumatic experience as I had with my son Viggo and to help parents by giving allergens to their babies. Vini Mini offers a healthy, easy and safe way to prevent food allergies in your baby. We currently offer only peanut supplements but are also working on other products and allergens.

Promotional image of Vini Mini products, with bowl of food and cauliflower florets on a table

What makes Amsterdam a great city and ecosystem for a startup founder?

Amsterdam is a great place for startups! There are many events, programs and activities to help you create awareness and work on your business and partnerships. Co-working places and hubs for startups all across the city are ideal for connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs. At the Gemeente of Amsterdam, there are dedicated people to helping startups and building the startup ecosystem. Especially for impact startups, there are many great networks and initiatives. We are members of quite some startup networks in Amsterdam and are working with students from Amsterdam universities on several topics. We have recently moved into the VU StartHub, which is a great place to connect with other startups that often have similar challenges and to collaborate with students and professors from the VU. 

What are the goals and needs of Vini Mini for the upcoming months?

We have launched our first products for peanuts on our website and have learned a lot since. We would now like to ensure parents can also find our products offline, such as in pharmacies and drugstores. Next, we are launching other products and services in the coming months. We need to build our brand by creating awareness and building trust with customers. We are also looking for strategic partnerships. To do all that, we need funding.

Portrait of Mini Vini founders against yellow background

What has been a recent "challenge" for your business, and what have you learned from it?

Peanuts in baby food quality are challenging to find. In the first instance, we needed help getting suitable raw materials for our products. Then, we found it hard to find a co-packer willing to pack peanuts on their lines. And when we had our product, we noticed that it was not easy to launch a product in a new segment. We also thought it would have been easier to find subsidies or funding for Vini Mini, but since Vini Mini is on the edge of both Food & Health, and we are not a very tech company, we often don't fall in either bucket. We learned that it is true that you have many setbacks as a startup, but you have to keep on going and believe in your mission to succeed.

What has been a recent win for your business?

After all the setbacks mentioned, we were very proud and happy to launch our first products for peanuts, which we could finance with the Rabobank Innovation Loan. We are happy that we have a few ongoing projects with universities and an excellent Advisory Board. We had quite some PR (e.g. Ouders van Nu, Fabulous Mama, Quote, RTL, BNR) and collaborated with other baby brands. We are over the moon with our office at the VU StartHub and are proud to say we are a Pending B Corp. Last month we won a European Impact Competition in Lisbon in the category "Healthy Lives through Food" and the "Product of the Month" award from MKB Amsterdam. But, most importantly, we have helped 1000 parents to prevent food allergies in their babies!