Fruit vendor with a mission.

Having a positive impact on society means turning problems into opportunities. Luca and Camilla re-invented the fruit vendor job and created Bella Dentro.

You met each other in first grade (in 1999), then you go to high school together and, at the end of it, you fell for each other. At the beginning, your careers begin in the most classic of ways. You, Luca, are immediately hired by one of the biggest multinational companies on earth, whilst you, Camilla, start working in publishing and advertising. Everything seems to be going well, but at a certain point, you read a National Geographic article that illustrates the dimensions and the socio-economic impacts of agro-food waste. Reading this makes you reflect, and hence, after a while, you decide to dedicate your life to a mission: reduce food waste by selling “wasted fruits”. This is how Bella Dentro (belladentro.org) project was born and how your life changed.

Interview 

Can you tell me what made you leave the comfort zone of a stable job to set up your own business? And how is your life going right now?

What pushed us to change our lives was the desire to win a new challenge, bigger than the one we won by finding a good job consistent with our studies and ambitions. The new challenge was (is!) that of building something from scratch, something that would have involved us not only in terms of effort but also for the potential ethical and socio-economic impacts that underlies it. Our life today is certainly more difficult than before: there are no many “relaxing” moments when every chance of success and growth of your business depend entirely on yourself and your dedication. At the same time, however, it is much more stimulating, both for the satisfaction of seeing something yours growing, and also because every single day is a perfect mix of fieldwork, strategy and personal relationships with new people, such as producers, customers or all people in general who collaborate in the success of our project.

There are about 800 million people in the world who are malnourished and with no access to drinking water, but every year about a third of the food produced is wasted. In front of these data, there are people who ignore them or just do not know them. People who are aware of it, think about it every day but at the end they do not do anything important. And finally, there are people, like you two, who gave up anything they have and decide to dedicate their professional life doing something concrete to reduce food waste. In your opinion, what would be the main strategies to raise awareness over this issue?

We have always been convinced, and now we have the concrete proof, that there are no people against or totally insensitive to the food waste issue. All people we met, regardless of their social class, education or personal sensitivity, believe that throwing away something good it is completely wrong, considering the effort and time spent to produce it. What makes the real difference is the level of people’s awareness, and hence, the information people manage to get. Especially for the type of waste we deal with, the very first part of the supply chain, the information is very little, because it is a “hidden” waste, and not really visible in our everyday life, especially if you live in big cities like Milan. What could really makes the difference, besides giving correct information, is to inform through an engaging way, without focusing on “guilt” and on issues of social conscience. According to us, a communication that makes you smile is much more effective than the one that aims at blaming in a more detached and serious way.

What makes the real difference is the level of people's awareness, and hence, the information people manage to get. Especially for the type of food waste we deal with.

— Luca e Camilla (Bella Dentro)

One of my favorite entrepreneurs of all time is Adriano Olivetti. At the beginning of the twentieth century he had succeeded in matching technological innovation with a corporate social culture, creating a company that was not only an expression of the profit he made, but also of the people who made it profitable. In your opinion, is it possible to combine business and social welfare? If so, how do you think you can do it?

In our opinion it is absolutely possible and is certainly one of the fundamental objectives of our project. Doing something that has a positive impact on society means improving the status quo and therefore transforming current issues into opportunities. This is why we are convinced that the potential of our project is not just to stem a problem such as food waste, but to convert it into an economic opportunity, not only for us, but for all the actors in the supply chain involved, from producers to costumers.

As we said, you are life and business partners. After many years spent “400 km away”, how do you manage to combine your personal life with your working life? Working together has strengthened your bond? What would you recommend to those who are thinking of launching a project with their partner?

Working together is beautiful because it makes us even more united; yet, it is also difficult since for us is practically impossible to keep the private and professional life separate. What was key for us as a couple and we would recommend it to anyone, was to divide all tasks in a clear way, recognizing and separating roles and responsibilities according to each one’s abilities and backgrounds, and, therefore, giving the right to have the very last word to the one with knowledge over that area of competence. Sharing any decision is essential, but it is often necessary to know how to take a step back and relying on the partner’s capabilities.

What was key for us as a couple was to divide all tasks in a clear way, recognizing and separating roles and responsibilities according to our abilities and backgrounds.

— Luca e Camilla (Bella Dentro)

A few quick questions 

In addition to food waste what is the one thing (among the many that do not work in our world) that sends you in tilt?

What makes us crazy is the attitude that often people have when facing this issue: passivity and discontent, which rarely turn into wanting to solve the problem and makes it as we said before, an opportunity.

When you are asked at dinner what do you do, what is your answer (in a word)?

Fruits vendors!

If you found a working time machine, and you could have one trip only, where would you like to live? In past or future times ?

In the past! Why ruin the surprise of what comes next?

If you could write a single word on a big billboard in Piazza Duomo in Milan, which word would you choose?

GIVE IT A GO

What is your favorite dish based on “Belli Dentro” vegetables?

A “all fruits” cake! This is something we cook for breakfast with all fruits wasted from our weekend sales!

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)?

The truth is always in the middle, what drives us in general in life and even more at work is to build something that tomorrow our children would benefit (economically) from and be proud of.