Nicola and Claudio met at BBS in 2012, during the Master in Business Management. Claudio is determined to build alone his own professional path, aware however that the ambition must be sustained with daily commitment. Nicola is a team player who loves clear goals and continually questions himself, giving his best when feeling part of an important project, a community. A year ago they decided to realize their entrepreneurial dream and found together Squat & Basilico, an innovative startup specialized in functional food and nutrition for fitness.
NICOLA: My name is Nicola Tasselli, born in ’88, an excellent year both for wines and for people. I come from Latina, and in Rome I started my studies in Business Economics and Banking at the University of the Vatican City. For one year I lived in Belgium thanks to the Erasmus program. As a child I dreamed of being a soldier or an astronaut. Then, since there was no more compulsory military lever, the first dream has decayed a bit and remained only that of the astronaut, which is in part still cultivated through my passion for astronomy. The passions change with time, they evolve, but I have the awareness of how beautiful and important it is to cultivate them. Over time I also understood that maintaining many interests leads you to have a greater ability to learn, then useful in an entrepreneurial phase of creation, where you have to realize an idea and make a profitable activity out of it.
CLAUDIO: I am Claudio Venezia. I was born in 1990 and I started my course of study in 2009 here in Bologna, where I graduated in Economics and Marketing. The last year before graduation I was also in Erasmus, in Madrid, where I finished my studies. Once I graduated, I immediately decided to do a Master at BBS, where I met Nicola. My career path after the Master immediately gave me the opportunity to enter the fashion world and apply the acquired analytical knowledge. I started working in Max Mara, then I continued my career for 3 years in Jeckerson in Bologna and finally 6 months in GUESS in Lugano. Unlike Nicola, who later discovered the passion for entrepreneurship, I have always wanted to do something about myself and track my path, but I started with the awareness of having to learn from the best ones first.
NICOLA: We met on the first day of the Master, I was coming back from London and Claudio from Madrid. We were both like sailors returned to their port, but already full of energy to leave again. From there we had the opportunity, in the Master phase, to deepen our knowledge of each other and friendship.
CLAUDIO: After the Master we have always kept in touch because we are quite compatible as characters. Then, when we had the idea of Squat & Basilico, we decided to work on it together instead of individually, because we know the best projects grow when you have the opportunity to confront with others. Getting to know us at BBS was fundamental.
CLAUDIO: The idea sprouted from a personal need. During our work in the respective companies, in the lunch break we found ourselves saying: but why can not we eat something healthy that can be functional to our training? From there we started with a market analysis in Bologna to see if the need we had was widespread or if it was just an isolated need of ours. We discovered that the interest actually existed and was also growing strongly. Furthermore, it could be driven by social media and new trends in nutrition. At the same time we started to carry out a project training path and when we felt ready, we left our jobs and started with the entrepreneurial project.
NICOLA: This was however a difficult choice. I found myself thinking that wherever I went, from company to company, something was always missing while working for someone else’s dream. Either you feel really well in a company, or you find yourself having to manage a grit, an unexpressed potential. At one point I developed the idea of wanting to put all my energy into what is my choice, my decision.
CLAUDIO: Squat & Basilico is the first startup in Italy specializing in the production and distribution of menus structured by nutritionists and personal trainers. By connecting to our website you can select your fitness or diet goal, select the functional dishes to your goal and order comfortably online. The peculiarity of our dishes lies in the technology we use. The containers, in fact, have a protective film that allows you to store them for 8 to 10 days in the refrigerator. This is essential for those who want to structure their weekly food plan and bring their own personalized menu in the office, at the gym, while traveling. Thanks to this technology, we are able to deliver in Bologna in 30 minutes and everywhere in Italy in 48 hours.
NICOLA: For the preparation of meals we rely on several suppliers throughout Italy, which we select based on some certifications that are fundamental to us. We make an inspection in their production center where we ensure that they meet our requirements, mainly with the use of organic and Italian raw materials.
CLAUDIO: The market response gave us confidence. We have had excellent feedback during the validation phase of the idea. A significant figure is a 60% repurchase rate.
NICOLA: For our promotion we use all the channels available to our budget, doing a great deal of it in person and by word of mouth. The first campaign we did was to wear the Squat & Basilico T-shirt and go training like The Rock in all the gyms in Bologna. We caught the attention and created a good word of mouth. So much so that on the day we launched our website we recorded 500 visits and increasing traffic. This first success convinced us that we were on the right track.
The best resources to support a startup in the process of validation and growth are the new digital tools, with Facebook Advertising in first position.
NICOLA: After 3 years of work experience in a company and having both arrived at a leading position, it was difficult to tell our parents that we wanted to leave our permanent jobs. In us the conviction was burning, but signing the resignation paper was perhaps the first real hurdle.
CLAUDIO: It is said that entrepreneurship is the art of solving problems. The biggest problem for startups in the Italian system is the access to credit. If you can not get a business project funded then it is difficult to bring on board good employees and make the necessary investments. For this reason the strategic decisions that can be taken must be two or at most three, but very focused.
NICOLA: There is a difficulty a day and this is the beauty. The hard part is the fascinating part. The tools available are limited and this leads to action by virtue of necessity. Often, being an innovative startup, we find ourselves breaking down barriers.
CLAUDIO: Starting from business experiences, we knew how to carry out the processes and for this we did not rely on an incubator. What we did, once the data on the potential of our idea was acquired, was to let an external investor join the company. The Italian landscape is trying to do something about investments, but there is still a gap between the startuppers and the bodies that provide loans and support. Often it it is about two different entities with different objectives.
NICOLA: Our investor is German. We met him at an “Tutto Food” fair in Milan, Seeds & Chips, where we were present with a promotional stand. Luck wanted us to meet friends at our stand while a business angel was passing by. Intrigued by the crowd of people he approached us and we jokingly told him that those were our most loyal customers who had come to visit us even at the fair. From here we have captured his interest, and illustrated the project. Later we organized a series of meetings aimed at establishing the potential of the project. After a few months of negotiation, he decided to finance us and enter into society.
Being an innovative startup we have to meet two basic requirements: scalability and replicability. We are structuring a franchise plan to launch the project in other cities.
NICOLA: Of my Master I remember very pleasantly the union that we had immediately. At the time we even created a brotherhood. My colleagues then turned into a network that was consolidated along with our friendship. I am aware that if I had to call a colleague who works in Yoox or Unigrà I would find an ally.
CLAUDIO: Above all, I remember the possibility of finding a direct application of the theoretical concepts learned. In these times, in the historical context in which we find ourselves, it is important to be able to differentiate one’s own training path. So, to access the world of work, it is good to build a career different from that of others. To make a parallel with the industrial world, in the era of standardization of processes and large multinationals, the key to success is differentiation. In our case, the Master led us to differentiate our experiences and skills through direct contact with companies and the BBS Business Network.
The theoretical concepts applied directly to the practice, the ability to speak with managers and companies and above all the opportunity to touch the labor market, which is not happening at the university, were the fundamental points of this experience.
NICOLA: In the Master phase we are still very young and anchored to an utopian idea of work, often very idolized. The Master makes you understand how is in reality the world you are facing and this is definitely a plus. In addition to this there are all the skills acquired, during our entrepreneurial journey we often found ourselves taking up the master’s notes!
CLAUDIO: In my opinion this is the generation that has more opportunities than ever before in history, because the tools we have available allow us to open up to a global market. For me, the most beautiful thing is to wake up in the morning and not know what will happen. The nightmare, and I think I can speak also on behalf of Nicola, is to know for the next 40 years what you will be doing. I advise everyone not to limit themselves to just one choice but to leave yourself a range of opportunities.
NICOLA: It is right to rely on professionals when you are not yet one, even in education. When you are a recent graduate student, perhaps with honors, you are too bold, convinced of yourself. I think it is important to choose the Master course also based on market needs.
CLAUDIO: A key point is flexibility. We need to understand that the work we do now probably will not be the same in 5 years or it will no longer exist. It is necessary to be able to adapt to situations with a strong background.