Updated: Oct 6, 2019
A lovely Friday morning in August 2019, and I am on my way to meet Siri from Gruten in Sagene, a district in Oslo.
First things first: What is Gruten Oslo?
Gruten is a small company, using coffee grounds (in Norwegian = Gruten), to use it as base for either cosmetics, reusable coffee cups or as farming ground for organic oyster mushrooms.
This concept is simple and sustainable as well. Siri came up with the idea to reuse coffee grounds by accident when she realized, that it’s a great fertilizer in her own garden. After some research and a visit in a German manufactory, she started developing her own coffee grounds business in Norway.
The coffee grounds are collected throughout the week from sponsors, some of them produce quite large amounts, like bakeries or large companies. Siri explained to me that Norway is the number two Nation in coffee consumption! Reusing the leftovers, gives the coffee some extra value, which is just the type of idea we need in todays consume society.
The coffee grounds get transported to two shipping containers, a farm which can be moved if needed. Currently they stand at temporary shared manufactory ground. The growing process itself gets initiated by mixing the collected coffee grounds, husks from roasteries, and mushroom mycel, as base from which the fungi can start to grow. Oyster mushrooms are the mushroom of choice as it doesn’t need much maintenance and is quite resistant to mold and disease. The farmed mushrooms finally get sold to local restaurants and stores.
Gruten also makes soaps and scrubs with the coffee grounds which people can purchase at the store, or also at local museums. I got some soap myself, and to me it’s a much better souvenir than the stuff you get at tourist shops. Also, kits exist for everyone, who want to try growing mushrooms at home.
Becoming an environmental and social entrepreneur
Siri has currently two employees and some volunteers. People come and join Siris workshops to learn more about her work and how to make their own soap.
I was highly impressed by her entrepreneurship and passion. During the interview she admitted, that this probably won´t make her rich.
Contributing to increased awareness when it comes to food waste, reusing something that’s already available and being her own boss were motivation enough to get started.
She told me about some hurdles, like the fact, that each time she explained that she wanted to grow mushrooms, people wouldn’t want to rent a place to her as the Norwegian word for mushroom (=sopp) is the same word that is used for mold. Or that doing idealistic work and running ahead trends can be challenging and developing a stable network even harder.
Today, she is at a good level, the business has space to grow and she has gained much experience in developing new ideas and realizing them. Because Norway is rather generic when it comes to work, starting your own business is not the preferred choice for many people. People rather appreciate the stability in existing companies. They get paid accordingly and in comparison a start-up is just not providing much safety.
Siri found her way through with saved money, some federal support for founders and her aspiration to educate people with her expertise, which she gained during her time spent abroad in the US, the UK and during the development of Gruten.
When I asked her, what advise she has for people getting started with their own business, she said that one just needs to start becoming active. Once the ball is rolling it will move opportunities. It is okay to make mistakes and to learn and grow out of them. This quite fits with the saying that talking too long about something will prevent good things from happening.
The future of Gruten Oslo is looking good. Siri has plans on raising more awareness, encouraging also other people to start farms like hers and maybe, she hopes, even help larger restaurants or hotels to use her designed growing kits to create their own little stack of delicious oyster mushrooms. With much passion and patience I can see Gruten growing just into the right direction. I spent a lovely morning with Siri and I hope that next time I get to try those mushrooms.
Your take home message: If you have an idea or vision, start to make it your own reality!
Cover image: © Own picture
First image: © Gruten Facebook Page
Last image: © Own picture