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Green business spotlight: Huebner Witaly

Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.

Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!

Today’s guest is Huebner Witaly from Imago Eco-Tech.

Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business.

People call me Tally. I’m from Germany, a 39-year-old individual with a deep love for traveling and exploring nature. Simultaneously, I harbor a passion for technology and sustainable practices. My professional journey began in the German car manufacturing industry, where I gained valuable experience. Later, as a mechanical engineer and vocational trainer, I transitioned into teaching industrial product design to students. Beyond Germany, my expertise expanded as I conducted workshops in Asia, training vocational teachers and in-company trainers in the application of German vocational teaching methods and project-based approaches.

What inspired you to create a purpose-driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?

My mind is a constant generator of ideas, ranging from the unconventional to the practical. I’m driven by a relentless pursuit of improvement, always seeking ways to enhance processes for practicality, ease of handling, and overall efficiency. The goal is to streamline and simplify, aiming for smoother experiences with as few steps as possible.

In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?

Navigating the startup phase has been a challenging yet enlightening experience, akin to building solutions during free fall from an airplane. The demand for green businesses and their products in China is on the rise and is expected to grow even more in the next 10 years. Encouragingly, the government is actively supporting green companies, aligning with the global push for sustainability.

Despite these positive developments, the cultural and historical background poses a unique challenge. The majority of Chinese consumers, while witnessing the surge in green awareness, are still reluctant to pay more for a product solely because it’s labeled as “green” or eco-friendly. This cultural dynamic adds an extra layer of complexity to the market landscape.

What is your business mission & purpose and why?

At the core of our mission is the promotion of eco-friendly business practices. We strive to reduce environmental degradation, nurture local ecological diversity, and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Empowering local communities and individuals is a fundamental aspect of our purpose, fostering public participation in decision-making processes. Our commitment is to assist customers in sustaining healthy businesses and lifestyles, delivering high value at every stage of the customer journey.

How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?

We support the production of locally made recyclable products and integrate energy-efficient and ecological technology solutions across the product lifecycle.

What are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?

The major two ones in our context it would definitely be…

  1. Lack of innovation: Failing to embrace and invest in innovative, sustainable technologies and practices.
2. Greenwashing: Falsely claiming to be environmentally friendly without substantial evidence or tangible efforts.

What makes your business unique?

We specialize in 3D printing tech events, products, and consultation services, emphasizing sustainability. Our offerings promote the use of eco-friendly and recycled plastics, reducing waste in the 3D printing process. From cutting-edge products to insightful events and strategic consultation, we integrate technology with environmental responsibility for a sustainable 3D printing future.

Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?

Yes, our commitment to sustainability extends beyond our business. Personally, I actively practice the principles of “refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle” in various aspects of my life. This includes conscientiously managing consumption at home, making mindful decisions when purchasing new items, and adopting sustainable practices while traveling. By incorporating these principles into both my personal and professional life, I aim to contribute to a more eco-friendly and responsible approach to living.

What do you like the most about the work you do? 

What I appreciate the most about my work is the opportunity to engage in tinkering and finding solutions for a diverse range of customer demands. Whether collaborating with a local green partner aiming to implement eco-friendly tech events focused on sustainability education, providing business consultation to a Swiss startup seeking product drafts with a preference for non-microplastic and recycled materials, or assisting a Danish company in transitioning plastic parts from 3D printing to mass production while exploring sustainable and eco-friendly solutions and manufacturers in China, each challenge brings a unique and fulfilling aspect to my role.

What makes my day is knowing that I can make a difference working with amazing entrepreneurs on their journey to build sustainable businesses. I have an artistic side so I enjoy developing graphics and presentations, but I am also a bit of a geek that loves working with spreadsheets and data, calculating performance and analysing trends.

In which area of your business are you struggling the most to reduce your environmental impact?

We are currently facing challenges in sourcing recycled options for 1.75mm printing filament, a key component in our operations. In response to this, we initiated the development of our own filament recycling machine, primarily for small-scale projects. This allows us to minimize reliance on purchasing from overseas, which is not an ideal solution due to logistical and environmental considerations.

As an alternative, we are utilizing PLA, an eco-friendly and industrially biodegradable plastic, for certain applications. This strategic shift aligns with our commitment to reducing the environmental footprint associated with our business activities.

What’s your day-to-day like?

Every day is unique, and I find myself juggling various tasks. Typically, at the beginning of the week, I allocate time for strategic planning. Mornings, my designated “green zone,” are dedicated to planning and working on projects. As the day progresses, I shift my focus to communication around lunchtime, ensuring effective collaboration. In the afternoon, I schedule calls, meetings, or customer visits to maximize efficiency in handling interactive and time-sensitive engagements. This structured approach allows me to navigate the dynamic demands of each day with a strategic and organized mindset.

How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?  

In the initial stages, I invested considerable effort in marketing, which included social media posts, open company visits and free trial events, to attract customers. Over the long run, the focus shifted towards consistently delivering positive results at every stage of the customer journey. This commitment has been instrumental in building trust, generating favorable publicity, and, notably, gaining recommendations from satisfied customers. The cumulative effect of these efforts has significantly contributed to the organic growth and positive reputation of our business.

What green businesses/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?

In my opinion, the fastest-growing green sectors include rising demand for eco-friendly daily-use items, indicating a trend towards sustainable consumer choices. The travel industry is evolving with increased demand for eco-friendly options, emphasizing carbon-neutral transportation and responsible tourism. Businesses offering innovative solutions to urban congestion, such as smart transportation and urban planning technologies, are gaining prominence as cities prioritize sustainability.

In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?

Successful eco-entrepreneurs require skills fundamental to any entrepreneur, such as creativity, resilience, problem-solving, and effective management. However, they also bring a distinctive eco-conscious approach, prioritizing a heightened awareness of environmental issues, commitment to sustainability, and a passion for positive planetary impact. This involves integrating green solutions into their business model, considering product life cycles, minimizing carbon footprints, and exploring eco-friendly alternatives. Fostering partnerships with like-minded suppliers and adopting circular economy principles are crucial for thriving in the evolving landscape of sustainable business.

Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?

Team collaboration is crucial from the beginning, fostering resilience during challenging times. Maintaining a long-term perspective and embracing a future-oriented mindset is essential for sustainable growth. Learning from the experiences of seasoned business owners provides valuable insights to inform and enhance one’s eco-entrepreneurial journey.

What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?

My personal life values. Sharing life with the people around me, who I consider precious and full of potential, adds purpose to my journey. The knowledge that my company is there to support my life goals and be beneficial to others further fuels my daily motivation.

Hi, I’m Huebner Witaly, a 39-year-old mechanical engineer and vocational education trainer. For over six years now, my family and I have called the West of China home. Before venturing into the realm of eco-tech, I accumulated years of valuable experience in the car industry and vocational education sector.

My journey is fueled by a passion for exploring nature and tinkering with 3D printers. A few years ago, I embarked on a new chapter, founding our eco-tech company. What drives me is the desire to do good with the resources we have and make a lasting impact.

Living in China’s west has provided a unique backdrop to my experiences, influencing the way I approach both life and business. My goal is clear – to grow the company by not only delivering top-notch services but also by assisting other businesses in realizing their goals of developing eco-friendly and sustainable products.

In this ever-evolving journey, I am committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, making a positive impact, and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Huebner Witaly, Imago Eco-Tech

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