With a dedication to sustainability and a fierce entrepreneurial drive, SBE alum (Bachelors and Masters, International Business) Laurent Estourgie typifies the millennial mindset. His burgeoning business, Sparcio, is the second he has built since earning his degree at Maastricht University in 2010—and the second business with an eco-friendly message.
Sparcio’s flagship product is a water-saving nozzle, which fits almost any tap and uses an atomiser inspired by jet engine technology to turn the water-wasting stream into a gentle spray. Standard taps have a flow rate of about 12 litres per minute; with the Sparcio nozzle, the flow rate is reduced to just 0.8 litres per minute, saving up 2.5 litres per hand washing, according to the company. In buildings that see foot traffic of hundreds or even thousands of people per day, this translates into huge savings in both water and money.
In November 2016, Estourgie and Sparcio business partner/current SBE student Kai Löffler won the Limburg University Fund’s Local Hero Award, a competition that required a detailed business plan, pitch deck and video, the latter of which is now available on the Sparcio website. With the recognition and a €10,000 prize, Estourgie and Löffler are quickly bringing the product to market.
Collaboration and full service
Partnership, collaboration and innovation have been key for Sparcio’s success. The idea for the business came to fruition after Estourgie spoke to friend and “serial entrepreneur” Michiel Coumans, who originally developed the nozzle. Coumans, founder and owner of De Maestrichter brewery and eco-friendly brick manufacturing company Douveren, both located in Maastricht, “wasn’t doing anything with it” just yet, Estourgie says.
“I thought, ‘It’s so cool. Somebody should be doing something with this idea,’” Estourgie says.
Estourgie and Löffler turned out to be those somebodies. Now, the pair see Sparcio expanding past just the single product: not only will the company offer the nozzle, it will offer an entire sustainability solution. A complete water audit, Estourgie explains, will analyse organisations’ current water usage, which Sparcio will use to prepare water-saving recommendations. They also plan to develop an online counter that will track how much water has been saved after the installation of Sparcio nozzles.
“For bigger customers, I sell it as a package,” Estourgie says. “I do the financials, installations, communications, stickers, the counter on the website, all these things. The aim would be that we offer a payback to customers of around one year.”
Estourgie has already developed the stickers to be placed on mirrors and other surfaces in locations where a Sparcio nozzle is installed, helping the organisation demonstrate its commitment to sustainability—a growing driving factor for organisational purchases, according to various consumer research such as Nielsen’s “The Sustainability Imperative”.
The product has already been installed in Belgium’s Sint-Trudo Hospital in Sint-Truiden and the municipality building of Asse, as well as Montessori College in Arnhem, the Netherlands; they are also currently in talks with Maastricht University to install Sparcio nozzles on campus.
To solar and sustainability and back again
Estourgie comes to Sparcio armed with experience, having spent three years as a consultant at Ernst & Young (EY) working on various projects. But though the excitement at EY was there, the sense of satisfaction was not.
“I did some really cool stuff [at EY],” Estourgie says. “I also learned a lot. I’m far more structured now in presentations and in products that I deliver. [Consulting] is a profitable business, but it didn’t give me the fulfilment that I was looking for. What I’ve seen now that I’ve started [Sparcio] is that I also missed this innovative, creative sort of stuff.”
Estourgie wanted to return to what he had already begun—building a business in sustainability. His first venture was Forsolar, a solar panel lease company that he developed just after graduation and concurrently with his position at Alliance Energy Group. Forsolar was a few years too early on the market, and he later moved on to Scheuten Solar, where he stayed until the company closed following the solar industry’s downturn in 2010. Though Estourgie is in a different sector now, he says, he still follows the solar market closely.
Being the millennial entrepreneur he is means that he may yet re-enter the solar industry. For now, however, Estourgie is busy with Sparcio—he and Löffler are currently producing the brochures, flyers, data sheets and other marketing materials to prepare for the nozzle’s March rollout. And though the Sparcio concept, including the water audit, is primarily geared towards larger B2B accounts, they plan to build a web shop for B2C purchases to address customers around the globe as well as small businesses. B2C is also on the radar, Estourgie says: two innovative water-saving products for both the kitchen and the bathroom will be available.
Though it’s certainly busy, Estourgie says that he likes being involved in all aspects of the business’s growth—and he certainly has his eye on it. On his “wish list” for target companies are large exhibition halls and multinationals that score high on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index—the bigger the better.
After all, he says, like all millennials, “everyone wants to make an impact.”