How an MBA helped this ex-banker become a cold chain innovator
Making a career switch can be challenging, but the grind is worth the effort — just ask Sebastian Leicht. The German started out in his career as a banker before becoming an entrepreneur in sustainable business.
Plunging headfirst from corporate banking and investment banking to cold chain solutions is akin to doing a career 180, but with an MBA under his belt, he was better prepared for the journey.
Today, the 37-year-old is the co-founder and managing partner of easy2cool GmbH — a company that produces sustainable coolers — which he runs with Marco Knobloch.
How an MBA served as the engine of reconstruction for his career
After over a decade in the banking sector, Leicht decided to pursue an MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management part-time. This enabled him to put what he learned into practice immediately.
“After about 15 years in various positions from corporate banking to investment banking, the main intention for the MBA was to be able to study independently of the industry and to be more widely positioned in the future. The Frankfurt School’s MBA was the best programme for me compared to other providers,” he told U2B in an email interview.
He credits his MBA for broadening his horizons and for helping him to think outside the box.
“Especially in the financial sector, you are strongly focused on certain areas. From my point of view, the diversity of the participants is an essential factor for success. The more heterogeneous the group is, the more exciting the discussions are. So, you can learn a lot from each other,” he said.
His MBA at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management also enabled him to discuss new ideas within his study group and access many opinions.
“Due to the different CVs and professions of my fellow students, there was a very well-founded and broad knowledge base. This helped me to go new ways and try things out,” he said.
From banking to cooler boxes
The idea for the foundation of easy2cool GmbH was born at a festival. The company steadily morphed from a startup producing cooling packs in a car garage to a company with over 70 employees.
Leicht said at 30 degrees, it was no longer possible to get pre-cooled drinks and food. So he and Knobloch worked on developing a cool box that would keep items cold for four days. Three months later, they founded their company.
Since its foundation in 2014 in Munich, the founders’ aim with easy2cool GmbH was to create a sustainable alternative for insulating packaging.
“Insulation systems for cooling shipment are usually made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and plastics. Due to high energy demand within the production of EPS and its extremely problematic disposal, an immense negative impact for our climate, water and soil evolves!” said Leicht.
They created a new sustainable insulation material, developed in a joint research project with TU Dresden, a public university in Germany.
“The basic material is simple and efficient at the same time – recycled paper! Since then, we have consistently expanded to become a leading supplier of integrated cooling concepts for transport and logistics in German-speaking Europe,” said Leicht.
Becoming a sustainable business
“My conviction is that sustainability is not only important for me and my company, but for everyone. Especially at events with a lot of participants, large amounts of waste are generated. This cannot be processed without great effort and is therefore usually treated as residual waste. Anyone who has ever seen a campsite after a festival knows what I mean,” said Leicht.
This prompted them to develop a cooler that is only made out of recycled materials that can be recycled again.
“From my point of view, sustainable and ecological products will only become successful if they achieve the necessary functionality and are produced in a sustainable way. Nobody uses products just because they are sustainable if they don’t fulfil their purpose,” he said.
Leicht notes that the cold chain packaging market is still heavily dominated by polystyrene — to the detriment of nature. There is hope, though. The understanding of sustainability and ecology in online shipping is steadily increasing.
“We assume that this trend will continue, which means further growth potential. This will certainly bring more competitors to the market. To maintain our current pioneering role, we are already setting high development and research standards today to continuously develop our products,” he explained.
They are currently branching out and are developing their ecological cooling packaging for the pharmaceutical and medical sector. He believes there is great potential for their products’ expansion in Europe and elsewhere.
“In my view, the megatrends for e-commerce and sustainable shipping solutions will continue to gain momentum. Therefore, I hope that in five years, we will be able to become one of the leading suppliers of sustainable shipping packaging in Europe,” he said.
While both he and Knobloch have to ramp up their production facilities outside of Germany, work on new product developments and simultaneously maintain the quality of their products to achieve this goal, he knows he’s prepared for the challenge.
Ultimately, his MBA from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management helped serve as a catalyst for his entrepreneurial journey.
“To sum up: If I had not done the MBA, I would not have started my own company. In this context, the MBA as a whole package was a complete success for me, and I can only recommend it to everyone,” said Leicht.