Life after the TEDxAmsterdam Award – taking action straw by straw

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Don't forget to apply for the 2018 TEDxAmsterdam Award! TEDxAmsterdam isn’t just about bringing you an event full of inspiring, entertaining and sometimes jaw-dropping talks and performances – it’s a stage for entrepreneurs with ideas worth doing. The TEDxAmsterdam Award mission is to make these ideas a reality.

An idea really can start from anywhere - and we don't discriminate at TEDxAmsterdam, so it doesn't matter how big or small your idea is. You've got nothing to lose in trying for this year's award, so don't hesitate to pitch your idea to us (before September 15) using this form . You can also find out more about the process here .

For some extra inspiration, we talked to one of last year's nominees, Ev Liu, to learn about the process and how it impacted her business project.

Summertime is here and who doesn't enjoy a drink in the sun? Sipping on a cocktail in the evening, or a smoothie in the morning. But did you ever think about what you're sipping through?

Most straws are made from plastic. It's not just about what happens when we use them, but also about the impact that their production has on the environment: "The production of 1,000kg polypropylene straws, causes 2,000kg or CO2 release and approximately 2,000kg or crude oil is used. "

The Straw by Straw project, pioneered by Ev Liu, was one of the 2017 TEDxAmsterdam Award nominees: straws made from leftover corn, harvested by farmers and hand cut into drinking straws. Chemicals and bleach are avoided in the production process, making these straws a simple but brilliant contribution to the fight against plastic waste.

Ev looks back on her journey with the TEDxAmsterdam Award fondly.

Tell us about your idea and how it is developed?

“I’m Ev and I’m a diver. To become a diver, you need to get a diving certificate, which includes some theory. You’ll learn about sea pollution as part of it, and also take an exam and a class to show your commitment to not polluting the ocean. So, it was through diving, and this new knowledge, that I first starting thinking about cleaning the ocean, and after my very first diving trip I felt that I really had to do something about it!”It does not matter if your idea is big, or just beginning.

Ev says she wasn't quite sure where she was headed next, but she had to start with small steps to grow her idea. She leveraged her background in marketing and research.

"I wanted to do something about plastic pollution, but when you talk about it, it's a big issue, and sounds impossible to tackle."

"But I started small, experimenting by having conversations - first with friends and family, then at events with strangers - finding out what they thought about plastic pollution and plastic alternatives. Straws attracted a lot of attention.

"So I thought, 'how cool would it be to have edible straws or an alternative'. Slowly, and organically the idea ​​developed into a business in the hospitality industry. "

How did you hear about the TEDxAmsterdam Award?

“I heard about it through a friend and in August I signed up. At that moment I was in a dilemma: I had prototypes of edible straws and was also in touch with farmers who could make straw straws, so really, two ideas.”

“So I pitched both ideas, and soon I received an email that I was selected, which was very exciting!

By November I was still in a dilemma about whether to focus on edible straws, or the straw straws for my TEDxAmsterdam Award presentation. But with the help of pitch coach, David Beckett , I decided to focus on the idea that was the most developed and pitched straw straws on the day. "


What was the Award experience like for you?

The Award process gives you the opportunity to engage with fellow participants as well as TEDxAmsterdam partners, who are experts in a range of fields, from business, finance, law, business development and more. Many people say sharing their ideas with their peers and the experts is crucial to helping their own idea flourish. You can imagine the possibilities for growth in such an environment! Ev had some particularly great outcomes from this opportunity.

"On the day I talked to many people who were with me on stage. I also met the team from the program Brandpunt+ from Dutch TV station KRO-NCRV. To my surprise, they wanted to make a short movie about me! I was quite insecure, but they really encouraged me, and we ended up creating a video about the project. "

"This video went viral, and then my idea really started to grow! "

What other support did you get during the process?

"Along with the video opportunity, networking and pitch coaching I also got to connect with a legal firm, TEDxAmsterdam partner Clifford Chance. It was great to get their insights and go through workshops with people who were working towards the same goal as I was. "

What part of the journey did you enjoy most?

"The most rewarding part was being included in a community of like-minded people, people with the same vision - to grow their idea! I met so many others focusing on social and environmental impact and change. "

"It was an opportunity to share and gain knowledge and experiences with people who could relate."

How do you help grow your idea into what it is today?

"When I signed up my ideas was still really a project. My pitch at TEDxAmsterdam allowed me to see how people would react to it. To me it was kind of like an A-B test, which helped me realise whether there was really a chance to develop it. It cleared up any dillema I had about direction, helping me to focus on the straw straws. "

To pitch, or not to pitch?

For people considering applying for this year's Award program, Ev says:

"I would say sign up, even if your idea is just a concept!"

"My idea was in its infancy when I signed up, and even though I didn't make it to the finalist round, I still found it so valuable!"


Any plans for the future or Straw by Straw?

"I want to transform the whole hospitality industry into one that is sustainable. I am currently developing some new products, which I sell online.

Make like Ev, and apply for the 2018 TEDxAmsterdam Award ...

If you have an idea worth doing and want to help realise it, sign up for the 2018 TEDxAmsterdam Award. Application deadline is September 15th - so, besides enjoying your summer drinks (with your plastic-free straws), pitch us your idea!

- written by Evelyn Grunau

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