From High School Science Project to 1000th Startup
by Danielle Forsythe, Director of Startup Engagement @dforsythedc
Yesterday I was lucky enough to score 5 minutes of interview time with the busy founder of our 1000th startup, Kavita Shukla of Fenugreen. Fenugreen, a cool environmentally conscious young company, has created a patented, natural food preservation technology that keeps perishable food fresher longer. Their product, FreshPaperTM, is also recyclable and best of all it promotes sustainability! Here’s a snapshot of our conversation.
The Inspiration to create Fenugreen
Kavita got the inspiration for Fenugreen during a visit to India in middle school. After she mistakenly swallowed some unfiltered water while brushing her teeth, her grandmother gave her a home remedy to prevent her from getting sick. The ancient herbal remedy worked so well, it sparked the idea for her high school science project, researching the potential applications of these ancient herbs. She patented the results of her successful project, a packaging material that kept perishables fresh for longer, in 2002 (and that wasn’t her first patent!)
Fast forward to 2011 (Kavita took some time away from her invention to go to college, win some awards and start a non-profit). Less than 1 year after co-founding Fenugreen with Swaroop Samant, MD, Fenugreen FreshPaperTM had its product launch at Harvest Co-op Market in Cambridge, MA.
The consumer response to Fenugreen FreshPaperTM has been amazing and the team has been growing to meet the demand for their product. Early this fall, Fenugreen launched an online store and expanded FreshPaper’s reach to several other Massachusetts retailers. FreshPaperTM will soon be available in Connecticut and New York retailers with more markets being added throughout 2012.
Fenugreen is already creating jobs and is on target to create many more. To meet demand and continue to grow, they will soon be expanding their manufacturing operation; best of all, the team is committed to keeping all their jobs here in the U.S.
Kavita and Swaroop also have big plans to expand the market for their all-natural products far beyond end consumers.
Their goal? To have their products touch each stage of the produce supply chain. Based on their success in a few short months, I expect to see all my produce in FreshPaperTM packaging soon.
Fenugreen, with its mission of “fresh for all,” also plans to give FreshPaper away to those who need it most (both in the US and in the developing world, where access to refrigeration is often limited). This holiday season, they are planning to launch a “get a pack, give a pack” program, partnering with local food banks.
Biggest Challenges / Why Startup America?
In a word, connections! Press, awards, word of mouth and old fashioned face to face customer interactions have helped this team expand their consumer reach in MA and beyond. But reaching national scale retailers, and their next target market, growers, is proving to be more difficult.
What to do? Kavita decided to join Startup America to take advantage of Corporate Connections and other My Success Kit benefits. She hopes these programs will help Fenugreen truly revolutionize the food economy.
Follow Fenugreen on Twitter: @fenugreen
To other startups out there, apply for your startup success kit and be the next to join the hottest new startup network.