In February 2022, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) announced that many impacts of global warming were irreversible, but there is still time to avoid the worst. Climate change and sustainability are terms we are very familiar with but often struggle to know how to help in our daily lives. While big corporations are scrutinized and lambasted for their sustainable actions and initiatives (or lack of), what can we do in our own communities to protect the planet?
“Terum is a social app for environmentalists,” explains Julia Marhan from her home in Washington, USA. “And by environmentalists, I mean people like you or me, who want to act and take action to protect the planet. It is our vision as Terum to build a world where we can improve the standard of living without harming the planet and enable citizens to act on its behalf.”
Launched in 2021, Julia is the co-founder and CEO of Terum, and a graduate of the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA program. Her resume is impressive, previously working for big names such as Nestlé and IBM. Most recent was as Vice President Enterprise Applications for B.Braun, a German medical and pharmaceutical company with more than 63,000 employees worldwide. “I had a very successful career,” says Julia, “I probably could have continued like that forever. But after the EMBA, I was questioning my purpose in life. I was on a certain career trajectory, but I examined whether it made me happy. From there, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur grew. When we moved to the USA, it geographically took the decision out of my hands. I could have easily found another job. However, I decided to take the risk and become a start-up founder instead.”
“You may not be able to change what’s happening on the other side of the world, but you can influence what’s happening around the corner.”
Terum, at its core, is based on the idea of community. It offers a platform for like-minded people to network, shares knowledge, and discover practical solutions for taking action. The app also has its currency, Tercoins, to offset sustainability as a topic only for those who can afford it. Organizations and individuals earn these Tercoins with the option to purchase sustainable products.
“We see that there are people with a high standard of living who are very comfortable with their situation and are less willing to change. Then some have more pressing issues to consider rather than sorting trash or buying fruit from the farmer’s market. We want to move people towards small behavioral changes to make impactful decisions and empower those who are not as financially fortunate to make such decisions freely. For every positive action you take, you are incentivized with Tercoins, a form of green currency. Our vision is that this currency is not only an in-app currency, but you would be able to purchase external sustainable products. We want to open a loop of working with industry providers to incentivize this sustainable behavior and start the cycle.”
“Kellogg-WHU was a driving force for me as a founder and a CEO.”
Julia joined the Kellogg-WHU program in 2018, looking for a fresh career perspective. “I felt that if I didn’t get more inspiration and external knowledge, I would be limited in what I could do. I wanted to develop myself both personally and professionally, and that was the initial trigger for choosing an executive MBA.”
As for why she chose Kellogg-WHU specifically, she mentions the study format and the reputation of the school and its diverse cohorts. “In my cohort alone, we had a high number of nationalities represented. It made it a valuable and unique experience. The study format also allowed me to combine my professional and family life with the learning experience. We discussed our purpose in life and our values during a leadership course. It triggered this thought that you should do something that matters to you. We then had other courses on entrepreneurship and strategic innovation. I think they strengthened my conviction to have the courage and mindset of an entrepreneur. Am I a risk-taker? Am I willing to fail?”
The Kellogg-WHU EMBA program is renowned for its global network, with seven campuses worldwide and over 65,000 alumni. This network of executives helped shape Terum in its very early stages. “I shared the pitch deck, and the network helped me to narrow it down. Now that I live in the USA, I also have many connections, and they have been a great help in the move. Sometimes it is professional partnerships, but sometimes it is a coffee chat, someone to bounce ideas around with.”
Looking back at her corporate career, to today as a founder, Julia reflects on how it fills her with great satisfaction. “I am very happy. I feel like I am doing what I should be and channeling my knowledge into something that matters. I don’t get up every morning and go to work; I must make it work. I want to fight for this. There’s no big paycheck. The reward is seeing more interaction feedback from partnerships you are building in the community. The reward is seeing the idea grow into something tangible.”