Hungry Entrepreneurs Reinventing Jerky, Potatoes, and Granola

By Catherine Wei

At Cornell, students are hungry for education, opportunities, and most importantly, food. From dining halls to independent cafes, Cornell’s campus is filled with food vendors. But for several students that’s not enough; they want to reinvent the way students eat.

For the past few years, food startups have been on the rise as students delve into the food industry. By day, they are students in class, and by night, they are entrepreneurs working tirelessly on their company. One of the earliest food startups was Worthy Jerky led by Alex Krakoski ‘16 in 2014. His famous jerky started with the simple need for a filling, on-the-go snack. Krakoski asked his mom to make the jerky she had packed for him for his elementary school lunch box, and soon he learned how to master the recipe. By his second semester at Cornell, Krakoski began aggressively selling his jerky and even experimenting with different flavors.

Fast forward three years and food entrepreneurs have shifted their focus from filling food to including healthier alternatives. Last year, Vipul Saran, Masters in Food Science ‘17, partnered with his advisor, Dr. Syed Rizvi, to develop a process that made fresh-cut, peeled potato french fries. Saran named his company Natural Cuts and formed a team of classmates to redefine what the food industry believes can be achieved in fresh produce shelf-life. With success in increasing the longevity of a pre-cut potato, Saran hopes to expand into the avocado market and other fruits and vegetables. More importantly, Saran’s story highlights the countless resources Cornell provides to budding entrepreneurs. Natural Cuts is one of the 15 admitted teams for eLab, and Saran’s team member Natalia Solano MBA ‘17 says that at eLab, “the instant feedback, conversations, and workshops enable us to make each other’s products better.”

In October 2016, Jamie Kim ‘19 launched her own granola startup called Bumble & Butter. Although Kim had been baking granola since high school, it wasn’t until her marketing class in the Hotel School and encouragement from friends that she decided to pursue her granola as a business. Kim’s goal is to reinvent granola, and she credits Bumble & Butter’s differentiation as “introducing creative flavors and baking with high quality ingredients such as local honey sourced from Ithaca Honey Works and grass-fed butter.” With so many startup costs and initial investments, Kim had to find funding. In January 2017, she launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $2,282 in two days and being featured as one of Kickstarter’s “Products We Love.” Just last week, Bumble & Butter started selling in Manndibles Cafe and Kim was in contact with coordinators for Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg food festival where she hopes to showcase her granola at the annual event.

Krakoski, Saran, and Kim are just several examples of food entrepreneurs going outside the classroom to launch their startups to provide a healthier food culture on Cornell’s campus and beyond. The moral of their stories: stay hungry for great ideas.