Iris tells us about her experience with Erasmus for young entrepreneurs programme

Iris is a girl entrepreneur who started her exchange with Erasmus for Young Entrepreneur programme last Summer. She tells us about her own experience.

"I arrived to Magnifica Essenza, a company from Italy, in the middle of July 2020. This is a company that has control over its complete production chain, with its own aromatic plant producers which provide the raw material for the extraction of quality essential oils in Cavalese, a village in region of Trentino. I met the small team of this company and also the team from the other company, Bioenergia. The latter company is dedicated to heating water from woody resources, in order to supply the entire town of Cavalese with hot water while producing energy. As there is a steam surplus in this company, it was the best place to implement Magnifica essenza, with its steam distillers, co-associated with Bioenergia, while implementing circular economy and sustainability principles Cavalese its part of the so-called Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme. This community has a long history related to social formations including all the neighbors, who possessed and possess a collective heritage consisting mainly of woods and pastures, with annexed structures. The first list of the rules belonging to the Community of Fiemme is described in a document of 1234. In this document, a detailed survey of the territory is described together with its inhabitants’ rights regarding the commune resources. All this collective history can be found in the center of Cavalese, mainly in the Museo Palazzo Magnifica Comunita' Di Fiemme. 

Looking at the history of this community, which has been settling down since the 13th century, it is interesting to look at the present and notice how all its inhabitants have a high preference for products made in the Fiemme valley. It seems, that this community's history still lives on in each of its citizens. 

Soon enough, I was already working and learning all the processes involved in the company. The view from Magnifica Essenza company gives a glimpse of the other factory, of Bioenergia, and the high mountains of the Trentino region, known for its famous Dolomites. Roberto showed me the main distiller and the other one, a smaller one, and taught me how to properly use them; how to turn the equipment on and off and how the cleaning is done if the next distillation is from a different plant species, in order to avoid essential oil cross-contamination.

The months of summer are very important since most of the plants are harvested in this season, whereas others, mainly conifers, are also harvested in winter, mainly in the end of November and beginning of December.

As such, I had already the opportunity to go and meet the plant producers of Magnifica Essenza. Some of these producers are located near Verona and others located in the Trentino region. The herbaceous plants produced range from Lavanda intermedia, Lavandula angustifolia, Satureja montana, Hyssopus officinalis, Achillea millefolium and others.

Each plant has its own optimal period for harvesting and each essential oil has its own particular characteristics. The chemical profile of the essential oil can also be inferred by its color. For example, the essential oil of Achillea has a dark blue color which indicates the presence of the compound camazulene, which is present in the essential oil of few plant species, as for example in the essential oil of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).

After helping to harvest the plants, I discussed with the producers’ different plant production and harvesting methods and also talked about seeds and transplanting methods. Furthermore, we discussed their interest in aromatic plants and how the collaboration was made between Magnifica essenza and them.

When the plants arrive to Cavalese its time to distill. It’s important to distill the plants in the same day that the plants are harvested, if possible, to avoid yield loses. After the distillation, the essential oil is taken together with the aromatic water or hydrolat. As such, the essential oil has to be separated from the aromatic water and, to ensure that no water is present before bottling, anhydrous sodium sulfate (a type of salt) is added to absorb the water that might still be present together with the essential oil. This is important to maintain the quality of essential oil for a longer period since the presence of water can damage the chemical profile of the product.

When it is necessary to re-stock, the essential oil bottles that are still salted have to be filtered. When this process is done, the essential oil bottles go to a different fridge.

When it is necessary to make more final products, the filtered essential oil bottles are used to fill smaller bottles (of 5mL and 10mL) that afterwards are correctly and manually bottled and labeled. Furthermore, all the processes made are registered, from the filtration to the bottling, in order to make batch codes and properly identify all the life cycle, from the start to the final products.

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to engage directly with the consumers and clients of Magnifica Essenza, since this company besides selling to other companies, it sells also to the final consumer. In August, every Thursday it was made a “Magnifico Aperitivo” in which people could visit the distillery and have a drink afterwards. Furthermore, while drinking something refreshing, visitors could ask specific questions regarding Magnifica Essenza products and doubts about essential oils. The next event like this, more focused in Christmas, will be made in November 2020 with a different type of approach.

In addition, I also participated in the distribution of products to the re-sellers, mainly pharmacies and herbal shops, and got to know more about the agreements made between the company and the re-sellers.

The company integrated me completely in its team, they share all the information I need, they are attentive to my doubts and we have fruitful dialogues about the sector. All this integration and knowledge that they have been sharing with me will be of high importance for my business plan. Since I arrived that my perspective has completely changed, seeing from the inside is completely different than extrapolating about the sector based only on information from the university, books and on the internet.

I am very satisfied with the experience I am having with people working in the company, with different backgrounds of knowledge, with different perspectives, that are all discussed and integrated into a common project and goal".