Alumni Spotlight: Jori Wefer on her Sustainable Business

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On behalf of Evolucio, Lone Mokkenstorm from the Class of 2017    sat down with Jori Wefer from the Class of 2014 to talk about life after college and her sustainable start-up. This is part of a larger series of “portraits” of Alumni. Want to be featured, have questions for Jori, or about alumni in general? Do not hesitate to reach out to Evolucio via LinkedIn, Facebook or evolucio.board@gmail.com.

Hi Jori, thanks for making time for us! Can you tell us a little bit about what life was like for you, directly after LUC?

After graduating, I went on directly to pursue a Master’s degree. I did a joint international MSc that partially took place in Dublin and partially in Giessen, Germany. It was called Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy, a topic that fits really well with Sustainability, my major in LUC.[1]

How did the workload and the content of your Master’s compare to LUC?

The content was partially more scientific than LUC, but it was still a very interdisciplinary degree. In that sense, I think it was a perfect continuation of my studies. The workload was slightly lower and the program was incredibly small, as we were just with 6 people. The first semester took place in Dublin, the second in Giessen and the third one was reserved for the thesis, which we could do wherever we wanted.

What did you write your thesis on?

I moved to Leipzig for my thesis – where I’m still living now – and did my thesis with an environmental institute, researching the impact of urban brownfields on climate change mitigation and adaptation. So I focused on the sociological aspects of climate change, and ecosystem services in general, using GIS.

And after finishing your thesis in Leipzig, you decided to stick around?

Yes! I really liked the city and I found a PhD position in Leipzig on theoretical ecology. I am studying the effects of global change, particularly change in temperature, on biodiversity and ecological network structures such as food webs in ecosystem models. Together with a friend from my Master’s, I also decided to start up my own small business, Hundert2Grad.72335641_617287125342105_366620701899096064_n

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do with your business?

The idea behind it is that we would like to share everything we learned. We initially wanted to start up a blog and write up all the scientific things we learn in a way that the general public can understand. Topics such as ‘What can you do to live more sustainably yourself’, and so on. After a while, we thought that writing wasn’t sufficient anymore: we wanted to show it to people, hands-on. So we started to organize some workshops, initially in collaboration with Friends of the Earth Germany. Eventually, we decided to start doing it in a more organized way, reach new people and try to earn some money with it as well. Having that said, it’s still more of a side project, as we’re also doing some other things on the side at the same time. The plan is to make it bigger and spend more time on it in the future.

What kind of workshops do you give with Hundert2Grad?

We try to focus on sustainability in everyday life and awareness of consumer decisions, such as cleaning, cosmetics, cooking, and fashion. We do talk a bit about the problem, but mostly focus on the solutions and options we have: what can you buy on the market that’s better than the conventional, what can you make yourself and what do you not need at all? Sometimes we focus on specific topics, such as palm oil, or workshops that are focused on a certain area of everyday life.72570181_3050041505013112_2188126433895776256_n

That sounds great! What advice would you give to alumni who are thinking about setting up their own business? And what were your biggest challenges?

We encountered many challenges, but those are very specific to which area you are in. For us in particular, the biggest one was that we provide a service that is very hard to put a monetary value on. We don’t want to make our workshops too expensive, but this also means that it is quite tough to start earning money with it. My tip would be to not expect it to be perfect but to get started with the best ideas you have and watch it evolve. In the end, it’s all a trial and error thing. But I would definitely advise doing it. It’s so much fun!

You now have your very scientific, theoretical PhD on one side, and your applied, human-focused business on the other. Which side of the ‘sustainability spectrum’ do you prefer?

I’m tending more  towards the practical, and I’m hoping to find a job after my PhD that complements the workshops that we do with Hundert2Grad. Of course, I find the theoretical, scientific part really interesting, but it is not my passion. I do still think that it’s good to be doing a PhD. When I was looking for jobs before, most I was interested in demanded a PhD.

Moving forward, what would your dream be for Hundert2Grad?

I would be happy if we could do a couple of workshops a week and reach more people, especially children. Maybe we could give workshops in school classes, for example. I do not need it to make us really big money, we just want to reach a lot of people. The feedback we get when someone tried something in our workshops and then gets into the whole ‘do it yourself’ lifestyle, that’s the whole goal: to reach people and help them make the first step towards a more sustainable everyday life.

Read more about Hundert2Grad on their website: https://www.hundert2grad.de/

[1] For graduates after 2016, the major in Sustainability was reformed and called Earth, Energy & Sustainability.

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