1 From the BMT to a Working Business Model

And there you are: in one hand, you have your well-developed brilliant idea for a new company and in the other this book. The purpose of the BMT is to help you turn your idea into a viable project or organization—in whatever form. But where do you start? To be honest, it does not matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere. Pick up the BMT canvas once more and see which of the ten building blocks you think might be easiest to fill in. Sometimes starting is the hardest part—just start with that one building block and work from there, and the rest will follow naturally.

To illustrate this, we will look at two cases of an active/real project’s business model using the BMT. Firstly, the KipCaravan project (which is a mobile home—a caravan—for chickens) in the Brainport Eindhoven Metropolitan Area of the Netherlands. Secondly, the Sun at School NSV2 (Zon op School NSV2) project in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. KipCaravan involves low-scale egg production in several locations and the project’s BMT is presented below having been worked through in a step-by-step manner from top to bottom and from left to right (Fig. 14.1). The Sun at School NSV2 project involves several parents of pupils at a primary school in Nijmegen who organized themselves to put solar panels on the school’s roof. This project used the round or doughnut version of the BMT in contrast to walking through Building Blocks #1–10 (Fig. 14.2).

Fig. 14.1
figure 1

Chicken mobile home case

Fig. 14.2
figure 2

Sun at School case

2 KipCaravan Project

KipCaravan involves low-scale egg production in several locations and the name literally means chicken caravan/mobile home. Watch this YouTube video for an overview of the project: youtu.be/VW1QdbWmax4.

2.1 Building Block #1—Motive and Context

At a Brainport Eindhoven Metropolitan Region entrepreneurial networking event seeking to connect entrepreneurs in different parts of the region (city versus countryside), a competition was launched. Two entrepreneurs accepted the challenge that same evening. They combined their expertise (poultry farming and multiple value creation—new business models), and the concept—chickens travelling in their small-scale mobile barn (Project KipCaravan, n.d.)—was born. Context is also found in the desire to abandon the compelling cost-leadership strategy of the agricultural sector. The entrepreneurs concerned were tired of producing ever more eggs at an increasingly lower margin.

2.2 Building Block #2—Dream

The social enterprise was born out of passion: a poultry farmer’s dream. He saw a mobile poultry house in Austria while on vacation and decided that if there were ever an opportunity, he would farm poultry in the same way. The farmer wanted to start keeping poultry again, similar to his parents’ mixed fruit and poultry farm.

2.3 Building Block #3—Proposition

Essential to this idea is that the chickens are taken to the feed instead of the feed (from abroad) being brought to the chicken. The chickens roam freely under (fruit) trees and produce eggs and meat from food from nature and residual products (lost fruits and grain). The eggs are sold directly in the egg drive, which accompanies the mobile chicken barn. The chickens always travel with their KipCaravan to a new free-range area (fruit farms not owned by the poultry farmer but that he is welcome to let his chickens roam on). The media quickly picked up on this and headlined that the farmer goes on holiday with his chickens. After this, the farmer said: ‘Of course, my chickens also deserve a holiday’.

2.4 Building Block #4—Business Model Archetypes

When choosing from the three archetypes, a circular business model fits best in the light of the contribution to a circular agro-food system, combined with elements from a community model.

2.5 Building Block #5—Parties

Initially, the approach was to purchase a ready-made KipCaravan, but because the existing systems were not sufficient, a KipCaravan was tailor-made with the specific wishes for the concept. The KipCaravans are made by a former agricultural entrepreneur with a handyman business on his former farm.

The poultry farmer’s partner is a volunteer involved in a regional product shop. The concept also provides workers (who are patients with an intellectual disability) with an apprenticeship and daytime activity. With the help of the Brabant Outcomes Fund of the Province of Noord Brabant (a Social Impact Bond funded by several charities and Rabobank Foundation), a performance contract has been established for further development of the concept.

2.6 Building Block #6—Strategy

Using the direct sale of eggs and valorizing residual products from fruit farms as a feedstock for their chickens, the entrepreneurs want to produce in a future-oriented manner, with the business model taking into account societal issues such as reducing (food) waste and reducing its CO2 footprint. In other words, a cascading strategy is applied.

2.7 Building Block #7—Core Activities

The two core activities are the production of free-range eggs and daytime activities for people with intellectual disabilities.

2.8 Building Block #8—External Test

It is a unique approach to free-range chicken rearing. The concept complies with all laws and regulations, which are limited because of the small-scale keeping of animals.

2.9 Building Block #9—Impact

The impact of the concept is more substantial than had been anticipated. The entrepreneurs were pleasantly surprised on several counts during implementation. For example, the animals have demonstrably better animal welfare: they grow older, keep their feathers longer, and lay more saleable eggs. Other impacts are a lower CO2 footprint, more biodiversity, projecting a positive image of the agricultural sector, and the involvement of people who are distanced from the labour market. Possible negative impacts on animal health and safety have been investigated. Measures are taken with the expertise of the poultry farmer (all requirements from the regular sector apply).

2.10 Building Block #10—Value(s) Creation

The Kip Caravan concept has several transaction forms. The first form of transaction is conventional and simply based on money. The sale of the eggs covers operational costs. The second form of transaction is based on labour. Patients of healthcare institutions enjoy a novel and meaningful form of daytime activity at the Kip Caravan project as an assistant farmer. The third and final transaction form is aimed at generating local tourism: governments are making land available in exchange for attractive activities for people to do.

3 Sun at School NSV2 (Zon Op School NSV2) Project

The Sun at School NSV2 project involves several parents of pupils at a primary school in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who organized themselves to install solar panels on the school’s roof. This project used the round/doughnut version of the BMT in contrast to walking through Building Blocks #1–10. What follows is the order of building blocks that the project participants followed.

Note: You will not find the Sun at School order presented anywhere else in this book. This case illustrates that every project simply follows its own logic, with its own route through the BMT.

3.1 Building Block #1—Motive and Context

Just before the bell rings, the parents are waiting in the schoolyard for the children to run outside. They talk to each other, arrange babysitters and playdates for the children, and discuss today’s news.

3.2 Building Block #3—Proposition

One of the parents observes that the sloping roof of the school building would actually be ideal for solar panels. There is no shade, there are no dormers or chimneys, and there is ample space. Other parents agree, but no one has any idea how to approach this and whether it is worth it.

3.3 Building Block #9—Impact

At the request of one of the parents, the school’s headmaster finds out how much electricity the building actually uses. This turns out to be much more than expected: the lighting, computers and interactive whiteboards consume as much as 30 households on average: that is 30 × 3,500 kWh. The school uses grey electricity without any green/renewable power. Therefore, solar panels could have a positive impact on the energy bill, the image that parents have of the school, and—even if only a little—climate change. The roof is so large that, in theory, the solar panels could generate one-third of the electricity needed for the school itself. The initiators think that this is sufficient impact to warrant moving forward and start to work out a plan.

3.4 Building Block #5—Parties

During a pleasant meeting with some parents, they realize that the people who walk around the schoolyard are not just fathers and mothers. The parents have the most diverse professions and have extensive networks at hand. All kinds of talents that are needed to go from a plan to a project are there—they just have to be mobilized. There is a notary in the sandpit who can help set up a foundation. There is a lawyer at the bike shed who understands liability. A marketer plays soccer with her daughter, and a financial specialist has children in the same group. An illustrator wants to make a colouring page showing the school with solar panels. Everyone knows someone else who can also help.

3.5 Building Block #7—Core Activities

The group of initiators further develop the plan to get solar panels installed on the roof. They invite some local suppliers of solar panels and the technology involved to join the meetings. Technically it seems to be perfectly feasible. However, because the school, as a large consumer, purchases electricity together with other schools, it is not automatically possible to supply excess power to the grid. The ability to supply excess power to the grid is a key requirement because the projected solar energy production will be at its peak during the summer holidays when the school uses the least.

3.6 Building Block #6—Strategy

The student council thinks it is a good plan and wants to think about fundraising. The headmaster is already enthusiastic, but the school board has not yet been informed. The initiators decide to send an email to the board and approach the municipality to ask if there are any subsidy programmes. Pleased with themselves, they enjoy a glass of wine together.

3.7 Building Block #4—Business Model Archetype

By making good use of the diversity in the community, an effective way of working emerges. An initiative group oversees and manages the various aspects of the project, while others work on specific components. A project of this size cannot exist without several leaders.

3.8 Building Block #2—Dream

In the schoolyard, the solar panel plan creates a nice dynamic. The people involved dream of an energy-neutral school with class workshops on sustainability and the transition towards renewable energy. Some parents get so excited that they want to use their car to build a smart grid with the school. Moreover, they all share the ideal of a green school that will prepare the children for a sustainable future.

3.9 Building Block #8—External Test

The enthusiasm of everyone involved is almost dashed when it turns out that the school board is not in favour of the plan. This is a big downer. All kinds of objections are raised: is the roof strong enough? What if returning power to the grid is not possible or no longer allowed? Who will be responsible if those panels are blown off the roof? Who actually becomes the owner of the installation? The initiative group must go to great lengths to investigate and refute all objections one by one.

3.10 Building Block #10—Value(s) Creation

The financing of the system is quite a puzzle. There will be a jumble sale, a benefit drink, and a sponsored run. Parents can buy €50 certificates, with a return of €1 per year and a term of five years. The municipality does not provide a subsidy but does mediate with another funder. The school board eventually gives in and finances the rest. The expected savings on electricity costs go into a fund from which the certificates plus the return will be paid later. A separate foundation is established in which parents, the municipality, suppliers, and the board are represented.

3.11 Building Block #9—(Second Iteration) Impact

The project is a great success. The panels are installed and officially put into use with a big school party. Children give workshops on energy saving to parents and the mayor. The local press is present. The panels work well and provide clean power. However, the main impact is in the strengthening of the school network. Suddenly, many more parents know each other, and the children are proud of their solar panels. The project is still being talked about in the district and the city—an unexpected and positive impact on the community.

3.12 Building Block #3—(Second Iteration) Proposition

In retrospect, the combination of sustainable energy with crowdfunding and sustainability education is very obvious—particularly at a primary school, where the community meets every day. Why was this not thought of much earlier? It is interesting to ask why it took so long for all these elements to come together.

What the above story makes abundantly clear is that the Road to Rome is certainly not a straight line. It both starts and ends with a Proposition. Certain building blocks recur, with impact being perhaps the most important one. It is terrific to see how this process is one of construction, co-creation, and reflection. How, as a result, a group of people connected to the school by their children suddenly join forces and achieve a result that they might not have imagined beforehand.

4 The Secret to Success

These examples are, of course, shown in simplified versions. In reality, the steps for the development of, for example, KipCaravan were not completed one by one in a logical and predetermined order. In that respect, a BMT is like a waterbed: pushing on one side will cause something to happen on the other. The trick is to design all the building blocks in such a way that they come together as a logical puzzle. The interpretation of the building blocks is different for every project and every company, and there is no best order in which to stack the building blocks. The more you think about your business model, the more refined the information included in each building block will be. That is perhaps the essence of doing business: having the courage to start without a ready-made recipe. And in retrospect, if your project is successful, you may wonder why you did not recognize earlier that everything fits together so logically and smoothly. And when others ask you that question, you can answer that ‘Everything makes sense in hindsight, doesn’t it?’