"Your gut and your instinct are the most important thing"

with Alina Sartogo and Dini McGrath, Co-Founders of the Wonki Collective

Show notes:

Co-Founders Alina and Dini met each other at a Founders matchmaking programme, an interesting mix of Love Island and the Apprentice! They pretty quickly started working together, both fired by their mission to stop supply chain food waste.

And a lot has changed since then!

Alina had a baby 9 months into their business, leaving Dini to head the business as it navigated a change of business model from B2C to B2B SaaS. Now, Dini is about to have her first child, as the Wonki Collective goes out for its first funding rounds. Both really crucial moments in their business and personal lives. And what really shows from our conversation is their absolute trust and faith in one another as Co-Founders, in their gut instincts and their ability to flex and adapt.

It’s really inspiring to hear that mat leave when you’re a start up business is possible, but Alina and Dini are also really honest about the financial pressures of being a start up and having to pay for childcare.

This is a really important conversation for start ups navigating those early years of business and family life. I hope it’s helpful, and most of all, inspiring.

Resources mentioned:

Bubble App for startups
The Amazing If




About The Wonki Collective

Alina and Dini were brought together by the ugly truth of the wasteful world we live in. 40% of all food that’s produced in the UK never even makes it to a supermarket shelf and gets lost along the supply chain and this duo are on a mission to change this, making it as easy for food manufacturers to buy and sell surplus supply chain ingredients as it is to currently throw them away.

Alina by trade is a commercial lawyer who studied sustainability in Cambridge and Dini is a B-corp global brand builder with +8 years working in the food and drinks industry.

After seeing first hand how hard it is for even the most sustainable of manufacturers to map, measure and reduce their surplus easily, they set out upon a mission together to support UK food and drinks manufacturers and protect the planet’s finite resources.
Their solution? The first B2B matchmaking technology for food manufacturers to efficiently identify, sell and redistribute surplus – think Tinder for surplus.

Not only this but Alina welcomed her first child earlier this year and Dini is currently pregnant – they are building a business for our planet while growing our future.

The Wonki Collective’s Links:

LinkedIn (Alina)
LinkedIn (Dini)



Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I’m with Alina and Dini. They were brought together by the ugly truth of the wasteful world we live in and an unwavering obsession to make it as easy to use, reuse or repurpose surplus supply chain food as it is to throw it. Alina by trade is commercial lawyer who studies sustainability in Cambridge and Dini is a B Corp global brand builder with over eight years in the FMCG industry. After working in the FMCG industry and seeing firsthand how hard it is for even most sustainable of manufacturers to map, measure and reduce their surplus easily, they set out upon a mission together to support UK food and drinks manufacturers and protect the planet’s finite resources. Not only this, but Alina welcomed her first child earlier this year, and Dini is currently pregnant. They are building a business for our planet while growing our future. Well, thank you so much for joining me guys. How are you today?

Alina & Dini (01:27):
You so much for having us. It’s amazing to be here.

Caroline (01:29):
With an eight month old and not being that far off birth, time is precious for you guys, so I really, really appreciate the time you have taken and I know you guys founded your business before babies and in the thick of it right now of starting your journeys into motherhood. So I know our conversation’s going to be hugely valuable to others. I love hearing about moms who started their business and the career path that led there. We talked a little bit in the intro about why you guys came together, but how did you guys come together? I’d love to hear that story.

Alina & Dini (02:02):
So we actually met a year and a half ago in one of these founders programme, some sort of reality show where you’re all in a room and you’re supposed to meet someone who’d find a business. And we got along very well at the beginning, then did spend times working with other people and then after a month and a half we started working together and it turns out that I sort of became pregnant either week before, a week after we started working together. So it was very much same timing for the business and the baby. And then I had always a passion for food and sustainability and Dini came from the food industry. And so we started chatting around that and seeing all of the different issues and where was there waste and how we could help food businesses to reduce the food and make sure that any food would go back into the supply and actually be used as opposed to being thrown away.

Because when you think about it, on the one hand you have food being thrown away. On the other hand, it was a time where inflation was starting. You hear about people dying of hunger and even in the uk people not being able to afford food and at the same time how much food is being wasted. So it just doesn’t make sense. Yeah, we’ve had a rollercoaster of a year and a half ever since. I guess I think what brought us together originally was the fact that we really wanted to build a commercial business that was rooted with in sustainability and that was super passionate, something that both of us were super passionate about and I think that’s essentially what bonded us right at the start, wasn’t it? Is that one for that the marriage between commerciality and sustainability. And so that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve ever since. So our business model has changed. We’ve obviously had new arrivals, our teams have changed and yeah, it’s been a very exciting journey over the year and a half since we met on this sort of Love Island meets The Apprentice of VC programme.

Caroline (04:10):
I can’t believe it’s only been a year and a half. That’s amazing. And also just the fact I feel like Alina, you met your co-founder and they’re like, okay, I can have a baby now. That’s fine. I’ve sorted the career check box. And so tell us about how the business has changed in a year and a half. Are you still doing what you set out originally to do or just has there been changes, has motherhood changed anything to do with that or is it all kind of going to how you thought it would?

Alina & Dini (04:36):
I feel like with the business exactly, it never goes exactly to plan. That’s also the beauty of working in startups and I think what we both were yearning for, I’ve always worked in startups and Alina has always had her own businesses on the side when she was a lawyer, so we both have that sort of hunger for the pushing boundaries and things like that. But where we started off is actually, yeah, it’s a very different place to where we are now and it’s been the most amazing journey of getting there and we’re definitely not at the end, not at the end of our journey by any means, but what has stayed constant throughout it and what we’ve built our business on is this mission to stop supply chain food waste. So where there are so many different ways that you can build a business and a lot of people go after the business model, which looks like the best commercial business model out there, we’ve actually flexed our business model as we’ve learned and grown.

So we started off working, so trying to stop supply chain food waste started off working with a whole load of food suppliers rescuing their finished packaged goods that couldn’t be sold through retailers. So there are so many ridiculous rules in place. If a packet of pasta doesn’t have 70% of its shelf life, it won’t get accepted by the supermarkets. Everything needs to have 70% of its shelf life, so it could have a couple of years left and it’s still not accepted. So what happens then? So we were very much trying to be sort of an odd box for your whole grocery shop before they started going into groceries, which is amazing that they’re now doing it. So we basically bought a whole load of packaged goods off suppliers and sold ’em direct to consumers and we were building up our network. We were out on our bikes delivering to our local community, really trying to work out what businesses are working.

As soon as we met, we basically started doing pilots really quickly incorporated the business in April, did our first pilot in May. So we were moving really, really quickly, testing, learning, just seeing what we could do and we basically learned so much from moving that quickly and we built all these relationships with these amazing food suppliers who wanted to do better. They don’t want the waste, but they have so many external pressures on them that they end up with it. One of the key things that we learned whilst working with them as well as my background, my experience of working in the industry as well is that it’s not just the packaged goods that they waste, but they also waste ingredients and byproducts and various other things in their supply chain. And we suddenly were like, well, no consumer is
ever going to want to buy your byproducts or want to buy your 500 tonnes of flour.

So I guess that was going on. All of that feedback was coming through and we were processing it and then Alina had amazing Toska in January and while she went off, I then spent that time really refocusing on what it was that we wanted to do in order to achieve supply chain food waste in the most meaningful way possible. And that’s when we started pivoting at B2B. You had about three months with Toska and then came back, which was incredible over that period, I spent a long time, I had an amazing support network around me. So that’s something that I would highly recommend for anyone who’s going through it as make sure you’ve got people around you who are way more intelligent than you are who can support you along the way, whether it’s mentors, whether it’s interns, whether it’s whoever, just to keep the ship afloat and stop you from going insane. It’s really good to have those people to bounce things off when you’re going through such big changes. So that’s when our business switch to more of a B2B model. So we ended up doing what we’re doing now, so we’re buying from UK food manufacturers and selling to other UK food manufacturers using tech. So we’re now a B2B SaaS model versus where we were a year ago, which is crazy, but it’s a very exciting place to be and we’re getting a lot of traction, so it feels like the right move to have made. Well,

Caroline (08:29):
That’s fantastic, so much. You touched on that it’s beautiful to see your journey and just how you guys just went with it of what you had the mission in mind and you’re in line with that and then went from this place to the B2B SaaS and it’s amazing. It kind of sounds like it happened while Alina was on maternity leave and Dini. We actually met and networking and it was, I think while you’re like, oh, my co-founder’s on maternity leave and that’s why was jumped on it. I was like, what’s that? What did it really look like in practise kind of thing? Were you a bit nervous in the lead up to it or because it was still so new, do you think that might’ve made it easier? Maybe?

Alina & Dini (09:06):
I think what made it easier is the trust that we have between the two of us, and I think that without that it would’ve been impossible to do so. Alina very much left being like, right, we had a conversation, actually I went on a very delayed at honeymoon. I got married in lockdown, so I went away in December and left Alina nine months pregnant to do the last delivery and all of those things. And while I was away, I was thinking a lot about the future of the business and obviously Alina was too. We came back and we had about a week’s handover and we had this intense week of just chatting about future. So by the time Toska arrived, I felt like we were both very much on the same page. Alina totally trusted whatever I was going to do and me that made it a lot easier because it meant that I wasn’t doubting the decisions that I was making, the research that I was doing, the time that I was spending on various different projects. So that was definitely helpful, thank God they arrived a week later.

Caroline (10:13):
How did it feel for you, Alina, to take that step back for the first time in your life? I’m sure with your career and especially when you are onto something that’s so exciting for you, this is your passion, not just your career.

Alina & Dini (10:27):
I mean, I guess I was hanging onto it as late as possible, so I was in front of my computer till the morning that I ended up giving birth. So you just try to do as much as possible. And then I think being the first, I also didn’t really know, I thought in two weeks dini, I am not going to be fully available, but I will be able to do way more than I thought I ended up doing. So I think I didn’t realise that it would actually be more of a cut than what I was planning. And then I guess having taken care of the business and having gone through a lot of thinking and processing for the month and a half when Dini was away just before meant that I also knew that it was possible to run the business by yourself and that if I did it, then Dini could easily do it as well.

So I think that also made it sort of easy and the fact that we had that week of catch up in the middle allowed us to do a strategy for what’s happening in the next couple of months. And I also think what Dini was saying about the support network, again, very important to know that I knew that she would do well and so you’re not too stressed or too concerned. And even if I try to disconnect and especially if you’ve been through it, but the first couple of weeks or I had a good birth, but a pretty traumatic post birth ended up in intensive care. So the first of weeks weren’t as great as I would’ve taught or expected, but I wasn’t attending calls or anything but WhatsApping each other is I knew what was going on at times if I had that. So I would send five minutes long vocal messages to Dini when I had some time and she would send super long messages so when I had a break I could just listen through. So I think that keeping in touch really makes you be part of the business while not being hands-on.

Caroline (12:22):
It sounds like you guys found a communication style that works for you.

Alina & Dini (12:25):
Yeah, and it definitely took a couple of weeks and a couple of conversations of right, I’m just going to send you quick updates of what is going on so that if you want to read them, they’re there and you don’t feel like you’re going to be totally lost, but also not expecting you to do anything with this information, just take time.

Caroline (12:46):
And I guess intensive care, it can put things into perspective having, I’ve not been in it myself, but my baby has, and it really, yeah, I guess it’s that little bit of perspective sometimes of like, okay, it’s going to be a bit longer to connect with you kind of thing.

Alina & Dini (13:00):
I mean, I guess being a mum for the first time as well makes you put things into perspective and does change the way you see some of the things. But I also believe that everyone has different personalities. I didn’t have a wow moment when I became a mom of thinking this is totally going to change my life and from today I don’t want to do anything else part care of my child the entire day. I think it’s more of slowly you learn and you see what’s going on, and so you need that adaptation time, but equally, you very much, at least I very much remained was before super motivated wanting to change things around me. And so it’s not that you become a mum and suddenly that totally changes and you only care about being with your baby 24 hours a day. At least that didn’t happen to me. Yeah,

Caroline (13:51):
Hard relate on that. I feel like sometimes people tell you that’s going to happen and I kind of have a rant about this sometimes I think, like you said, everyone’s different and we’d never say in other circumstances in life this will happen to you. But it’s like people seem to love telling you that with children, don’t they? And no, and it’s really great to share that you became a mother, but your passion for your business and what drives you didn’t go anywhere. It’s still there. It just will look different. Now, is there anything you would’ve changed in how you prepared or would’ve done differently?

Alina & Dini (14:25):
I must admit I’m not someone that tends to think about things that way. I always try to think that things go one way or the other because they’re meant to be going one way or the other. I remember I was like a month and a half, I had literally just discovered I was pregnant, but I discovered it pretty late and one of my closest friends called me to tell me she was five months pregnant and she had been operating her business since her own startup since a year and a half. And she was like, yeah, I’m putting it in pause to get ready to welcome the baby. And I was like, wow, I’m literally just doing this tool at the same time and I have no intention whatsoever to stop anything because yeah, I don’t want to stop things and then you never know what happens.

Whatever it is. In retrospect, should I have done it differently? No, I think everyone prepares differently to motherhood. I’m not someone who did a lot of readings or a lot of preparation before it. And I think your guts and your instinct are in the end, the most important thing. And when you read too much or prepare yourself too much, I think you think, oh, my baby, I dunno, is not eating 10 times a day. But the book I read, five out of 10 books say that he has to eat five times a day. I didn’t read any books. So if it was five or six, as long as she seemed happy and smiley, it sort of was fine. But I think you just have to do what you feel like and I think that’s the most important thing. So no one should do what people tell them to do or should copy what their friends or their mom or their sister did. Just do whatever you think is what you feel like doing and what makes sense for you.

Caroline (16:02):
Yeah, I hard relate with that. I think there’s so much overwhelm with all the information and ultimately we need going back to trusting ourselves and what’s right for the things we birth is absolutely right, Dini, is there anything you would’ve done differently during that time?

Alina & Dini (16:18):
I don’t think so. I feel like we worked that really well. I just feel bloody lucky that both of us we’re two female founders and we can both understand what each other is going through and just have these open communications and this underlying trust, which for me is, yeah, I feel like very much changed the way that we built our business, but totally in a good way. And it means that I think it’s stronger off the back of it. It’s definitely, it hasn’t negatively impacted our business in any way, shape or form. It’s just amazing how you get on with it and you adapt. And actually a little bit like you were saying about motherhood, you adapt to that. So much of it is gut instinct and things like that. And that’s also what it’s like to build a startup.

Caroline (17:01):
Yes, I love that you’re sharing your mother’s superpowers and how that’s benefited you as founders. And I just think that’s pure magic and that should be shared with the world that yeah, this is what can happen if you get two women who become mothers and also become founders. So thank you. We need more stories like this. And with that in mind, you mentioned, did you do fundraising this summer? Was that something that a process you were going through?

Alina & Dini (17:29):
It was slightly postponed. So we’re literally kicking it off now.

Caroline (17:33):
Oh wow.

Alina & Dini (17:35):
In a couple of weeks.

Caroline (17:36):
How is it going just with the stats of female fundraisers and also being mothers in your journey? It shouldn’t make a difference, but statistically, I just would love to hear how that process is going from your experience.

Alina & Dini (17:50):
Well yeah, I think everyone knows the statistics on, well, they’re pretty much stacked against female founders, aren’t they? I think at the moment it’s still less than, it’s about one pence in the pound goes to an all female founder team if you’re looking at VC money, which is just totally, totally bonkers. And I guess it’s also something that drives us forward because we want to show that you can be female founders, you can be mothers, you can successfully raise and run a business, you can do it all. Yes, things have got to give here and there, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t build businesses in a way that men can, I guess. So yeah, it’s going well. We haven’t had, so far, we haven’t had any outright rejections from that. We put down to it being because we’re women or because I’m pregnant. We recently did a big pitch that we’re part of this amazing programme for Undaunted, which is a spinoff of Imperial.

I never really know how to explain it. And they basically backed 15 sustainable businesses every cohort and we’re one of them. And we recently did a end of year big pitch to 400 investors and things like that, and we managed to pull off a first prize. So we came first out of everyone pitching, which was very exciting. And it’s things like that that just really give you a confidence boost and you’re like, people get what we’re doing. And people, I’m pretty, obviously, I’m eight and a half months pregnant, so you can very much see my belly. There’s no hiding it and I don’t think you should have to hide it. But yeah, at no stage did I feel like we were being discounted because we were women or pregnant or any of that. So I feel like so far it’s been good. But I guess, I mean we’re really at the beginning of the fundraising journey, so for now we started with the demo day and have more people coming towards us rather than us reaching out to people. So I think when you attract people, you often attract people that are attracted by you. So they are probably already positively minded as opposed to some of the potentially investors you reach out to. But currently we haven’t had any horrible, worst story to report on, let’s say.

Caroline (20:10):

Alina & Dini (20:11):
And we hope not to have to be honest.

Caroline (20:13):
Yes. Yeah, no, and I’d love to check back again and do an follow-up podcast to see how it’s gone once your guys are further in both your motherhood and business journeys, your fundraising journey, will it be continuing once you have because you’re coming at your due date, will it be going on past then? How do you expect that to look during this time? Will you have to be doing some of this yourself, Alina?

Alina & Dini (20:33):
Yeah, so the plan is I’ll be leading most of the fundraising and investors discussion mainly because, so I can ensure there’s continuity even when baby arrives, but obviously until baby arrives, Dini will be very much involved and we are strong believers of our team. And so it’s important for investors to not only meet with me because I’m meeting the discussions, but me, both of us, and really take onboard the journey we’re going through and with Dini going away and all of that. And then while Dini will have to be in touch no matter what, because obviously I won’t be signing things or agreeing on deals or evaluations or any of that without having the discussions and without making sure that we are doing the right things for our business. But that shouldn’t be too complicated hopefully. I think the way that we see it is Alina and I both have very separate, very different skillset sets, but fundamentally we are both people, people and love to sell and we have these shared core values, which means
that we sort of built our business being we’re flexible.

It’s not like one of us is the CEO a hundred percent of the time. It sort of depends who’s around, who’s having a baby, who’s not. We’re both capable to do a position like that, which is quite a fun way to build a business because it means that you both get a certain amount of exposure you can both share in it and it means that you’ve got two really strong candidates for leading the business and taking it forward. And we can both work together whether or not we’re on a short maternity leave or in our office.

Caroline (22:18):
Yeah, you don’t have that gap missing, which you might do with some CEO/COO founders. That’s how their roles very much balance out. You do hear that a lot with co-founders, one’s more of a CEO, the other’s got more of the skillset of a COO. And so that’s great to see that you guys and your values being in line, that’s so important. I can imagine with both all the journeys are going on. And it’s interesting, I was reading about how Ada Ventures, is that what they’re called announced that they’re extremely exciting announcing that they have a partnership with Bubble Childcare app to provide 40 hours of backup childcare for founders. What do you think this could mean for bridging the childcare gap or not childcare gap, but the gap for female founders essentially? I think we talk about female founders, but it’s also why is it that female founders are struggling with fundraising and there’s going to be a huge part, we’ll be attached to the fact we are the ones that take up more of the caring responsibilities.

Alina & Dini (23:12):
Yeah, I mean I guess it’s a great step and we are moving forward, whether that’s enough what Ada Ventures is doing, the answer is no, because 40 hours of childcare is less than an hour a week. If you’re meant to be working on your business for that hour a week, you’re not going to go very far unfortunately. But it is going in the right direction and I think there is more attention to it than there was in the past and more awareness around the issue. I think where it becomes very complicated and we’ve been through it ourselves is especially when you start at the beginning of your journey, you’re obviously not paying yourself a salary and then you have this little thing that arrives, you take care of it and yes, you’re not earning a salary, you’re taking care of it, but it’s quite hard to bridge to do the step of actually having to
pay for care of your child or yourself for not getting a salary at all.

And I think that especially when you’re early on, it can be, and it’s the first time you’re paying childcare altogether because you didn’t have any child before. It can be I think one of the reasons why some women just stop there and don’t continue just as women just get out of the workforce. But I think it’s a very, yeah, it’s a step where if you don’t have the right support value or if you didn’t do a corporate job, I was lucky enough to do a corporate job for a very long time. So you have money aside and you can financially support that, but otherwise it can be if not hard, absolutely impossible to do it. And there should be more and more support around that to ensure that women aren’t the ones that have to take a step back.

Caroline (24:53):
Yeah, it is amazing because I mean there’s other statistics that come out that’s showing, I think many will relate to this because it’s showing that you need to be on a 50K salary really for childcare to be worth it and then take home money. And I actually had a conversation with a founder, a male founder who became a parent recently about if we’re going to bridge this gap in the household, potentially this is what me and my husband did. It wasn’t looking at my salary as an loan salary of if it was worth me to go back to work, but it was a joint salary and the career prospects it led to, it’s a really valuable conversation to have because very normal in the startup world, you don’t take a salary and is that realistic for parents and mothers especially. So it’s a start, like I said, backup childcare potentially for when something hits the fan with your children and you’ve got no childcare and you’ve got an investor meeting, but it’s not a solution like that for it. And how have you found Alina then? That is really good point to leads into structuring your week as a founder and a mother. Did you decide to go back five days per week? I think it’s really helpful people to know what that looks like.

Alina & Dini (25:59):
So the first sort of months when I started getting back on it was really these chit chats with Dini once in a while. And then when I started I relatively quickly begin five times, five days a week because I think once you’re back in, you actually want to pull a lot of energy and want to be active again. I’m someone who’s very organised and so I had already planned to have support with Toska because one thing that maybe the first couple of months when they sleep, you can get a bit of work done, but in practise it’s very hard to do both. And with, well I already feel, at least for me, the most complicated thing with balancing work will be the mom is that you’re always feeling that you’re not doing either at the maximum because your days are a bit shorter than they used to be because you still want to get home and see your baby and at the same time you’re not taking care of your baby the entire day.

So you feel a bit guilty because you haven’t spent enough time with her, but at the same time you feel a bit guilty because you haven’t worked enough during the day. So it’s always a balance, but I’d say try to organise yourself and have support around you and know what and what time you have to be home. And even with my husband, I know that for example, he takes care of her the six to 7:00 PM until I’m back to breastfeed her and put her to bed, which at least enables me to do a bit more at the end of the day. But I think if you have a plan and you’re organised, then it all works fine. But indeed you need childcare and you need someone you trust that you’re not worried about what’s happening to your kid while you are away and also being realistic about it.

So for example, we had a rule where we would never put any meetings in your diary before nine 30 because you had no idea exactly what time the morning feed was going to be and things like that, which for me as co-founder partner, it was really helpful. It meant that I knew that Alina might be in before them might not, but there was absolutely zero pressure and it meant that you didn’t have to feel like you were rushing that morning feed and then having to starting your day late and things like that. And I do actually think that’s one of the one bonus of having your own business. There’s a lot of downsides because of obviously the risk and the salary, et cetera, but you do have the bonus of it’s your business, it is flexible and you can set the rules. You don’t have to be in nine till five. And yes, it’s obviously a lot more work than that, but you can flex it and you’ve been amazing at leaving when you need to leave and then going home and carrying on, working for a couple of hours if you have the energy to do it and things. Yeah, so I think the flexibility that having your own business gives you is actually quite good in the first year of motherhood is what I’ve seen. So hopefully that’s true when it comes to me.

Caroline (28:48):
It’s amazing. You’ve definitely been so organised, Alina and it shows. And then also with you Dini respecting the boundaries that need to be in place. I mean I’m on the school hours now personally, it always changes and now I only block out nine 30 till two 30 is available and then everything else has to be a special case. And that is a perk of running your own business while it comes with the downfalls as well, is that you don’t have someone just shoving in eight 30 in your calendar and you’re like, I really can’t get to that or this is going to be really, really hard. So we talked about structuring your week. Is there anything you have approached differently coming up to your maternity dini because your business will be at a completely different stage now, I think that’s interesting about startups as well is say you guys do maternity again, you’ll be at a completely different stage of business versus now and you already are with the fundraising and everything. Do you have a similar plan in place of how Alina came back or are you going to go with the flow for the first few weeks?

Alina & Dini (29:47):
I sort of think you have to take it as it comes and I’m quite a laid back person. So again, actually quite similar to Alina. I haven’t read a whole load and planned those things because there’s so much unknown. Hopefully labour et cetera will all go fine.

Caroline (30:08):
It will all be like that. I’m sure for you Dini, I’m putting it out there.

Alina & Dini (30:13):
But yeah, you never know. So the idea is to take a few months off, learn how to be a mom, but obviously be there to check in because it’s a really, really important business time for us as well. So just be a bit flexible but have also enough space to give me some downtime and work it all out. I’m lucky that my husband gets a month paternity leave, so that’s also really nice to know that he’s going to be there. And I feel very lucky to be so supported on that front because yeah, I feel like that makes a massive, massive difference. And so yeah, I think don’t have any massive, massive plans in place, but just going to try and see how it all goes. Be fluid, which I think you sort of have to be if you work in the startup world. And then being totally transparent, this fundraise is seriously important because there’s no way that we’ve been not paying ourselves for quite a while and I need to have a certain salary in order, as we said before, to pay for childcare to cover those costs. So we need to close our fundraises by a certain point in order to be able to work full time for the foreseeable future. So that is a big pressure. It feels, it’s a very weird balance leaving I guess Alina to do such a big thing while I go off and have a baby, but obviously I’m going to be there to support, but not in the role that I guess first assumed I would. So yeah, it’s a lot of change, but it’s all very exciting and yeah, hopefully we’ll all go to plan.

Caroline (31:52):
Thank you for sharing that because actually a really honest point that you’ve mentioned on, because I think, I dunno if you know the amazing, but they were talking about they had kids when they already started it and it was common for founders to not take money and they’re like, well that doesn’t happen. I’ve got nursery fees to pay. And that is the reality is if you are a parent, you’ve got these huge fees to pay and so how long can we really go on without getting paid? So that is the other sign of following your passion. Well, I also want to say I actually really love listening to your maternity leave plans and stories. I worked for a startup with my first, but maternity leave you kind of wanted to be more flexible with it, I just don’t think. And then when I had my business for my second, I think I realised I wasn’t someone who wanted to go all in on maternity leave or not for long.

And it doesn’t mean I wanted to go all in back on my business straight away, but I think there’s this huge opportunity missing or discussion missing about is maternity leave full on for everyone after those early months. And it’s interesting, it sounds like you guys, especially you Alina, as you’ve gone through it, have a similar mindset on that everyone’s different and everyone has to do it differently and I think that’s a really valuable conversation to take away from this essentially. Is that, and do you have a team as well? Have they been supporting through all of this and are they at the stage of life they get it or is it as, how’s that been?

Alina & Dini (33:24):
I mean I guess we have to have a team because although I’m Superwoman, I don’t think I would manage to everything by myself when Didi leaves. So we have been planning the cover and have a great team around, well us, but will be supporting me in particular for the period when Dina is away on the sales. We have Abel who used to work for a big food waste startup, full potatoes who launched in the UK for a year and a half and then pulled back and went back to the original markets across Europe. Then we have Federico who’s helping us more on the strategy and then we have Daniel on tech and then we now have also an intern that is joining us next week. So yes, we have a pretty strong team around with very defined roles. So I know that these work streams are taken care of, so there needs to be, some are orchestrating, but at least they are going to lead these things and can do that independently.

Caroline (34:26):
That’s the truth of matter as well. I love that. So along with needing salary, you do need a team if you are doing this and I can hard relate to that as well. If there’s anything as well at the home that you’d recommend that you’ve established you need help for other than childcare that has really helped you, if you don’t mind me asking, because I’m all about making it transparent when not super women and we need help with stuff.

Alina & Dini (34:47):
No, I mean I guess I had a conversation with my husband, I think it was two, three years ago, explaining him that when you have a child things will change and you will need more help for some things. And it’s not that my days become three, six hours long from one day to the other. And so there are adjustments, but I guess I’ve always been someone that had help in the house because I always felt that my hours were a better spend doing other things than cleaning the house for example. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy it, I just think and everyone has different, I love cooking for example. So the cooking, I wouldn’t want to delegate to anyone. And I’m also lucky I think I didn’t really change anything in the house, but I’ve had a lot of support from my sisters and my mum.

So even when I go back home on holidays and all of that, I always have people around helping and taking care of trust. And I think it’s not so much the help, it’s the reassuring and the trust and the people that are around you that help you, that is the most important because if you don’t trust them, then yeah, you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whereas if you trust the people around you, then you know that even my dog for example, I totally trust I would leave Toska with the dog and I know that nothing happens, but nothing is going to happen and she’s going to be entertained for half an hour and I can just focus on something else.

Caroline (36:10):
It comes back to your instincts again with the trust piece. And I love that. I think that’s the beauty of female foundership and stuff is these conversations look very different about trust and instincts, especially when you’ve gone through that motherhood journey. Thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to hear your stories and I know it all really inspire others and it sets off those conversations about maternity sleeve as an early stage founder and fundraising and the early years in general of parenting. Thank you for being so honest and open about it and we know what’s next is that there’ll be another baby on the horizon and what’s also next for the wonky collective. Is there anything you’d like to share that will be in 2024?

Alina & Dini (36:49):
Well, I mean the big thing is going to be, we’re currently operating with an MVP on the tech side of things. So building traction with that. I think 2024 will be the year when we actually optimise and build fully stashed tech. So hopefully in one year time we will have that built and that’s going to make an even better and bigger difference in terms of stopping food waste in the supply chain for food manufacturers. We’ve also got some pretty exciting partnerships on the horizon that hopefully you’ll be able to see at the start of 2024 and they’re all pulled off, but that’s could be pretty exciting, an exciting moment for our business. So working with some pretty huge food manufacturers to understand their internal processes a bit better and how that then translates to supporting our technology so that we can then roll that out and help stop a whole load of food waste in other manufacturers supply chains because not everyone has the resources and both time and financially to commit to identifying where the surplus is happening and how to solve it. So that’s basically what we’re building and how we’re trying to support the industry.

Caroline (37:55):
I’m really excited to find out. Yeah, to meet such purpose-led founders is an absolute pleasure and I know our children will be thanking you one day for everything you do to help make the planet a best place. Thank you so much. And where can people find you if they want to find out more about the Wonky Collective?

Alina & Dini (38:11):
LinkedIn or website, www.wonkycollective.com. So pretty easy one. Or Instagram, although we’re not very active at the moment. Not very active is an understatement of what we are. We are not active at all. I’ve never been active. Exactly.

Caroline (38:32):
It’s not needed right now. You need to get the tech fundraising babies out. That’s all sorted. We can all leave Instagram. Wonderful. Well thank you so much ladies. Best of luck with everything Dini, and I look forward to hearing about your maternity leave and one day we can do this in a years time when we’re all at further stage

Alina & Dini (38:49):
Definitely. And hopefully we’ll bump into another female founder event.


Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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