HHL Alumni Founders ZEN GEIST Spinnerei

Start-up Story: Bart Porthun from ZEN GEIST

by Sigrid Fischer | August 16, 2021
Interview with ZEN GEIST co-founder and HHL alumni Bart Porthun. A series on HHL’s start-ups and their impact on our well-being.

Bart Porthun – Co-Founder and CEO at ZEN GEIST

After visiting Seoul, South Korea, HHL alumnus Bart Porthun (M15) conceived the idea of Ginseng soft drinks, the company name ZEN GEIST (a word play between Asian “Zen” and German “Zeitgeist”), company logo, and basic recipe. Bart was later joined by scientist Martin Hartke. Both were astonished that consumers of soft and energy drinks have few options when it comes to natural alternatives.

A natural alternative to energy drinks

So, in late 2019, the two entrepreneurial-minded friends decided to create a solution themselves by building on Bart’s original recipe to offer customers two innovative, natural and tasty alternatives to existing soft and energy drinks.

Inspired by a trip to South Korea

These are: The Ginseng Original (the “classic”) and the Ginseng Matcha (the “vegan power combination”). ZEN GEIST use jaggery, which is unrefined organic whole cane sugar to sweeten their drinks. But what is Ginseng all about? The ginseng root contains so-called ginsenosides, which make up the positive characteristics of the plant. Ginseng is considered immune-boosting, energizing and stress-reducing.

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Key to success: grit, passion and stamina

With their products Bart and Martin are also supporting musicians as part of their earnings will go towards musician projects. In return, these musicians promote their drinks. When talking about their start-up, Bart shares that the “key to success is grit – passion combined with stamina. Everyone’s journey is a bit different, but if you’re motivated to reach where you want to go, if you’re willing to take small steps, and in spite of self-doubts keep going and keep trying, you’ll surely have success.”

Growing a company is a team effort

He lastly believes that “whatever you’re doing, it’s a people’s thing – meaning that you’ll need the support from talented people. If you can inspire others of your idea and to help you out, you’ll come a long way.” They’re hence tremendously thankful for the support they have received from the SpinLab – The HHL Accelerator and the HHL network. Along with Leipzig being a “trendy place” for their products this was an important reason for starting up their business right here.