Miha Hrovat, a 26-year-old Slovenian, grew up in a family with high values; they strive for responsibility, constant learning, team spirit, effectiveness and quality. They have had a carpentry business for over 50 years and 3 generations have managed it. The youngest generation in their family, Miha and his brother Jaka, want to make the world a better place. They want to achieve that through a project Treecelet, which unwinds in Slovenia, Madagaskar, Tasmania – and practically all over our planet. When I first heard about this large-scale project through social media, I was immediately drawn to it.
The idea was born out of the wish to do better
Treecelet – trees and bracelets? What is that?
We encourage people to create sustainable life together. Planting trees is one of the most effective and financially affordable ways to create a bigger impact. So we asked ourselves, what would motivate people to plant trees. Maybe if they get something in return? That’s how the idea that we could raise funds through the sales of bracelets was born.
We as a company look differently at how companies should be run. We believe in nature and we believe in empowering people. Everything is based on those two beliefs. Treecelet is one of the projects that we run and is our main focus at the moment. Any future projects we will conduct, will also help nature or help people who don’t have the same opportunities as we have.
I love to hear the stories about how ideas are born, so how tell me how did yours start?
Everything started with our family carpentry business, because we are always looking for solutions. For example, how can we as a carpentry family business become more sustainable and how can we give back to nature, not just take from her. The idea of Treecelet started when we became the first, carbon-neutral crafstmen in Slovenia, that was in 2018. Back then, that was not a common topic here in Slovenia; now, awareness rises continuously.
We want to make a statement and be the pioneers of how green companies can be run, not only in Slovenia, but also in Europe and, in the long run, worldwide. Our carpentry made us feel really good and people responded really well, so we decided to scale that and make tree planting available to everyone, not only to us. We tried to find ways of doing that and one idea really stuck – that was the idea of selling bracelets. With the earnings, we can make a greater impact than what we can ever do with our carpentry business.
Turning the idea into the reality – challenging process
So, after Treecelet was born, what was the next step you took to make it happen?
We needed to find tree-planting partners and we managed to do that. That was a great step for us! However, since then, our project has evolved quite a lot and today, we successfully operate as a first tree-planting team in the world; not just in collaboration with partners. So our goal is to have our own tree-planting teams and our own tree-planting projects, not just in collaboration with partners. Obviously, our project has been continually evolving and we will find new and better ways to make our project larger, more transparent, reliable and easier.
Sharing is caring? Not always.
The environment we live in is also very important for our success or, at least, the time needed to succeed. A lot of times though, we make a mistake and talk to the wrong people about the wrong things and, because of the lack of understanding, that can negatively affect our drive and doubts can arise which can slow us down. Did you share your idea with others before you made it happen?
Not really, it was more like a home project. It was me talking with my brother, Jaka, and a co-worker, Domen Pokorn, about how it should look like; and about the ideas. But honestly, we did not talk a lot about it. We just wanted to start, make it happen and see what the response of the people was when we launched it.
Combination of a championship mind-set, no hard feelings and focus on improvement
After you launched it, did you get any negative responses and how did you deal with them?
Of course, I believe that is quite normal. It always happens when you are not average; when you do something extraordinary and it is still happening today. We handled it very positively, because, with a negative comment, we try to find ways to improve ourselves and our business so it is not something that drags us down.
Normally, you need some investment to start something before things start rolling. What were your first investments, if any?
We don’t have any investors or external financial partners. In the beginning, we used the money from carpentry, but now, Treecelet is funded exclusively by its sales.
The bracelets were at first just a product that was a part of the selling process, today it is an important part of the mission.
The link between like-minded people
Who makes the bracelets?
In the beginning, when we didn’t know how the project would go, we decided to import them, but, since then, the project has evolved so we make the bracelets in Slovenia now. The greatest thing we did was last year, in 2020, when we realised that we didn’t want to just make an environmental impact, but we also wanted to make a social impact. So we found a centre where people have trouble getting employment, for example, people with disabilities and other challenges. And they produce the bracelets for us. So we try to impact and improve as many lives as possible.
I was amazed by this answer, but especially by Miha who seems to be the link between like-minded people and nature, and people in need and purposeful work. There wasn’t a moment where he bragged or made it about him; it is all about the mission for him. It seems like the goal is to make the world a better place in every way … They understand that it needs improvement, but at the same time, they are realistic. They go hand-in-hand with confidence.
Passion is the fuel for our drive through life
What makes you tick?
We are really passionate about sharing our values and the vision for a better world which we have in mind for the future. We imagine the world having zero waste, sustainability, consciousness, conscious buying and buying stuff that is made in a way that doesn’t hurt the planet. We will do everything to be a good role model. Our project is not ideal at the moment, it probably never will be since it is a never-ending process, but we are trying our best to become perfect as soon as possible.
We have built a lovely community in Tasmania and we should be going there in March to plant trees with them … that would be amazing! However, to reduce our carbon footprint, it is not our intention to travel back and forth to plant trees. We know our model and what we are good at, which is raising funds and raising the awareness of the problem. So we decided to leave the work to the experienced tree planters, because it is not just putting a seed into the ground, the process is much more complicated; we decided to leave that to the professionals.
Life is full of surprises and challenges, how we how we face them is essential
What has been your biggest challenge from the initial idea until now?
Probably the challenge is still here, we are a very young project, so we don’t have huge media coverage; the biggest challenge is how to present the project as trustworthy. We believe, that will come over time and we are working on it constantly. It is like a motivation for us; we need to prove ourselves and we really do what we claim we do.
Why did you choose to plant trees outside of Slovenia?
For sure, there are areas which are far from perfect than Slovenia or Europe, but Slovenia has almost 60% of forested land and the percentage is increasing so we decided to help where the help is needed the most.
Doubts arrive and someone would already give up, but not the Hrovat family
It looks like the road was smooth, not bumpy?
Like every start-up, we have our ups and downs … sometimes we think about how it might not be the best idea we have ever had, but at the end of the day, we always come to the conclusion that this is something we want to work on. Basically, we need to go through our doubts and make sure that we get better every day.
Doing good means working for free? Not.
We do what we believe in and we want to contribute to the world. It is not ego-based; we truly believe that we can do something good. We want to achieve a decent living out of doing good and some people believe that doing good equals doing things for free, but if we want to make a greater impact on the world then free is not going to do it. People are paid for doing bad things – like cutting the trees – why shouldn’t they be paid for planting them? This is really important for us and we are not ashamed that we pay decent wages to anyone who works with us. We think it is fair if someone dedicates his or her time to a project that does good, they should be fairly paid.
With this strong message, in the end, Miha showed once again that he is different. He is emphatic and realises how important it is to be a team player and he chose to break the false belief that to work honestly and with purpose, you need to work for free. No, he is making a living out of it and has the desire to scale to improve as many lives as possible. Miha and his family are a true role model!
- Up until know 315 000 trees have been forested.
- 70 % of the profit is re-planted into the project.
- For the re-foresting and other charity projects over 40 000€ were appointed.
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Foto: arhiv Mihe Hrovata