Five questions to Hamburg's Jondi & Moon start-up

Jovanka Backhus and Randi Kittlitz on starting up and sustainable waste reduction
24 March 2022
Plastik waste

The cosmetics sector is full of environmental offenders ranging from disposable razors, tampons to plastic shampoo bottles. The Jondi & Moon start-up founded by Jovanka Backhus and Randi Kittlitz focuses on refillable, environment-friendly, socially responsible and fair-traded toothpaste. The duo are both graduates of the University of Hamburg.

Hamburg News: How did your business idea come about?

Jovanka Backhus and Randi Kittlitz: We hit on the idea for Jondi & Moon at university. We met during a seminar entitled "Building A Start Up" which we attended as part of our social economics course at the University of Hamburg. We realized quickly that we wanted to do something for the environment and to save packaging. After analysing various everyday products, we decided on toothpaste and set about developing an alternative. Then, a seminar essay gradually became reality.

Hamburg News: Wie habt ihr gegründet und wer hat euch unterstützt und gefördert?

Backhus und Kittlitz: Bereits zu Beginn hat die Universität Hamburg, insbesondere die Fakultät für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, uns bei unserem Vorhaben unterstützt – angefangen von der freien Labornutzung bis hin zu Probe-Pitches vor unserem Professor. Eine beyourpilot-Gründungsberaterin hat uns notwendiges Know-how hinsichtlich der Gründung vermittelt und uns bei unserer erfolgreichen Bewerbung zum EXIST-Stipendium unterstützt, welches der finanzielle Startschuss für unsere Gründung im März 2021 war.

Founders of Jondi & Moon
© Jondi & Moon UG
Randi Kittlitz und Jovanka Backhus

Hamburg News: What were the biggest obstacles?

Backhus und Kittlitz: The biggest hurdles were definitely the emotional lows. Even though the two of us are a strong and harmonious team, we worked with friends along the way, which didn't always work out and cost us a lot of money. On top of that, setting up a company in the middle of a pandemic was difficult for various reasons e.g., delayed delivery times and supply bottlenecks of materials and raw materials. The work was lonely with few networking opportunities, lots of staff shortages at production companies and general concerns about our business idea. 

Hamburg News: Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Backhus und Kittlitz: First and foremost, we hope to be healthy, balanced, and committed to what we do in five years. Our products will have made it into many bathrooms by then and we will have saved lots of plastic with our customers. In general, we would like to push the idea of the circular economy higher up the agenda in the coming years and be at the forefront of new, sustainable materials and packaging options.

Hamburg News: What important recommendation or tip would you give founders?

Backhus und Kittlitz: Practise being patient. Things normally go wrong and have to be changed or delayed. Do not give up right away because changes are not always bad. We do not see ourselves primarily as founders, but as people who are pursuing a corporate vision. There is no single right way or approach. Do not compare yourself so much with others. It's important not to lose sight of ourselves as people both as a team and outside the company. We are friends, partners, daughters and far more. Of course Jondi & Moon is very important to us, but so are other things and there should be time for them.

Interview by Charles Sinn, Co-ordinator of Content Management at Hamburg Innovation in co-operation with Hamburg News.