For our Investment Ready Program, which helps circular and sustainable startups find the right investors, we collaborate with multiple partners, including the University of Amsterdam (UvA)’s Sustainable Business Models course of the MSc in Business Administration. Read this interview with course coordinator Dr. Francesca Ciulli to find out how UvA students supported Investment Ready Program Loop.a life, whose circular sweaters are pictured above, in adopting the right textile take-back schemes.

How Impact Hub started working with UvA’s Sustainable Business Models course

“For the applied component of our Sustainable Business Models course we want students to work with companies and other organisations who create social and environmental value. I was looking for new business partners for our upcoming student project, and Impact Hub Amsterdam and its strong network came highly recommended. So I reached out to director Tatiana Glad and developed a proposal with examples of previous collaborators, such as ParkFlyRent and Rural Spark. Soon after we decided to team up, I was impressed with Impact Hub’s enthusiasm for sustainable business and the power of its network. Investment Ready Program manager Manon Klein shared my proposal with interested enterprises and I could choose the one that closely matched the course’s goals. We settled on the circular fashion and took up a challenge put forth by Loop.a life.”

Researching take-back schemes for Investment Ready alumni Loop.a life

“Loop.a life was interested in analysing current textile take-back schemes developed to make fashion more circular. So I guided the students in exploring the business models of these schemes, investigating which companies and organisations were involved, and forecasting relevant trends in the textile industry. After a guest lecture by Loop.a life founder Ellen Mensink, who told the class about her startup and its main challenges, students divided into teams to develop frameworks for categorising existing take-back schemes and determining which were most appropriate for Loop.a life in terms of feasibility, costs and scale-up potential. For this, the students collected their own data through interviews with fashion-focused organisations and startups, including Amsterdam Fashion Institute, Repack, Sympany and Impact Hub partner Fashion for Good. All teams submitted detailed reports and presented their research in class to a manager from Loop.a Life and fellow students. We then selected a team to pitch their solution at Loop.a life’s office.”

What students learned about circular economy from Loop.a life’s assignment

“The urgency of this topic worked really well with students and they got new perspectives on how different organisations implement circular economy principles. They also had the chance to work directly with an entrepreneur and startup founder, and quickly understand that there is a business case in combining the economic side with an environmental and social drive. Many students also didn’t know about take-back schemes and they learned a great deal about the tech innovation that goes into developing such solutions to reuse materials sustainably. One student even decided to do her thesis on this topic. I also feel that the students grew as citizens and consumers; they now know what to consider when they buy their clothes.”

Why Loop.a life plans to use results in its strategy development

“Ellen was very happy and impressed with the students’ commitment and the quality of the take-back scheme insights they provided. She got a clear overview of their in-depth research, which will play a role in her business strategy”, says course coordinator Francesca Ciulli. Loop.a life founder Ellen Mensink echoes Francesca’s sentiment:  “The research carried out by the Sustainable Business Models Course students helped us a lot to make decisions and we’ll take it into account in our strategy development. And I found Francesca to be very thorough, involved and focused on delivering quality”, Ellen adds.

More about Investment Ready

During our 5-month Investment Ready Program, which is sponsored by the ING Nederland Foundation, we’ll help you review your business model, strategy and team and craft a funding plan to grow your sustainable business.

At the program’s Demo Day, you’ll pitch your plan to our network of impact investors for a chance to join the ranks of alumni who have raised more than 10,5 million euro. Apply by 28 November