EHL Success Stories: Start-Up Edition is a new series to show support to our EHL Family and, more specifically, our hard-working AEHL entrepreneurs. This project aims to showcase EHL's entrepreneur mindsets, support new and upcoming ideas and businesses. While overcoming a challenging time for all companies, these Start Ups prove that resilience and hard work can overcome any problems.
For this feature, we would like to present our very own Tosca Olivi, also known as ChefTosca on Social Media, who is also the founder of Nucheese, an artisan plant-based cheese company based in Geneva.
We had the chance to talk with our recent Alumni about how she built up her new company during a pandemic.
Can you present yourself in a couple of words?
My name is Tosca; I am American and Italian. I graduated from EHL in February 2020 and I currently live in Geneva, Switzerland.
Can you tell us more about Nucheese?
Nucheese is an artisan plant-based cheese company based in Geneva. Our goal is to democratize plant-based food by producing delicious dairy-free products for anyone to enjoy: be it for vegans, vegetarians, people with allergies, intolerances, or just individuals with really good taste.
Can you tell us the story of how it all started?
Nucheese is a product of confinement. During COVID, my co-founder and I were confined in the mountains. We had a lot of time to cook and create new recipes together. He's not vegan, but he's very curious and open to new ways of consuming. I was convinced I could make plant-based cheese that he would enjoy as much as a dairy-based cheese. After hundreds of recipes tested and very encouraging results, we decided to make it happen. We got back to Geneva and initiated the process of building Nucheese.
How long has your company been around?
We started producing our cheese alternative in June 2020 from our home kitchen. Today, we have about ten restaurants in Geneva that use our cheese in their recipes and 4 points of sales. Our e-shop is on the way. We recently moved the production out of our kitchen to a laboratory to start expanding our cheese alternative product range.
How did EHL play a role in your company creation?
EHL played a significant role in opening my eyes to the food and beverage industry and in developing my entrepreneurial mindset around it. Throughout my various EHL experiences, I was immersed in the food industry and realized how flawed our current food system is. I slowly transitioned to a plant-based diet, created a blog to share my vegan recipes with a growing community, and started giving cooking classes. I then became increasingly involved in the culinary scene at school. I was surrounded by inspiring individuals who challenged and contributed to my way of thinking about nutrition and food. In my final semester at EHL, I chose electives that inspired me to build (or at least try to build) my own business and promote sustainable diets. The combination of Corporate Social Responsibility, Brand Storytelling, and Entrepreneurship focused and fostered my entrepreneurial vision.
How was Nucheese's experience during the pandemic?
The company idea was born during the pandemic and confinement period. It was an excellent opportunity for us to brainstorm, create new recipes, and work on the business plan.
What was the biggest challenge faced during the past few months?
Having to wake up at 5 am to milk the cashews... More seriously, our company depends on food & beverage businesses such as restaurants, which are the most at risk with the current pandemic. Our biggest challenge was developing our new business with the current crisis. But then again, we are taking this time as an opportunity to work on R&D, strategy, and build our e-shop.
What advice would you have given your 2019 self?
I would have told my 2019 self to "be patient, don't quit, and keep doing what you love!". I think that doing more of what you love leads to beautiful results. Cheesy, I know.
What is your favourite quote?
One of my favourite quotes is from the movie Finding Nemo:
When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming
When Dory and Marlin are faced with the fear of the unknown, she immediately starts singing, takes his fin, and continues to swim. The song just got stuck in my head and has helped me move forward, think positively, and not take things too seriously. Now try not to sing it all day.