How Two Michigan Ross BBAs Launched a CPG Startup During Senior Year
Second semester of senior year could be your most relaxing semester of college, as you wrap up activities and start planning for the next chapter of your life. Or you could use it to pursue a new business opportunity — that’s what we did.
In fact, there is no better time to start your first business than while you are a college student, especially at the Ross School of Business. First, it is a low risk point — there is no pressure to step away from your job or effort needed to do both at once. Second, there are countless advisors, campus connections, and grant programs to support you and your entrepreneurial venture.
At this point, you may be wondering… what exactly did you start, and how? Well, here is the story of Brassi and how we took full advantage of almost every resource available to us as Michigan Ross BBA seniors to launch our company.
Brassi's roots began when we made "cauli oats" by mixing a (hidden) cauliflower rice into oatmeal in our college kitchen. Our tasty recipes featured on Taylor’s Instagram Blog quickly became favorites among friends and family, and we knew we were on to something! Together we set out to build the perfect bowl of health, taste, and convenience to share with the world, and Brassi was born.
How we launched Brassi
That said, it took a lot of work to go from our idea to selling a packaged product. When we first started, we had a strong foundation on crucial topics from our BBA core classes (strategy, accounting, marketing), which allowed us to conduct analysis on the hot cereal market, model out basic financial statements to determine profitability, and think about marketing strategies to leverage.
But, we still had a lot of questions.
We were new to the food and entrepreneur space, and didn’t know how to incorporate a new business, how to size our potential market, and how retail and e-commerce differs for CPG food companies. So we utilized ZLI advisors, the Dare to Dream grant program, and Ross alumni to guide us through our questions along the way.
Zell Lurie Institute office hours
All students are able to make office hours appointments at the Zell Lurie Institute with multiple advisors, and we did just that. We talked to Stewart Thornhill about business in the health food space; Rashmi Menon about product lines and cost allocation; Jim Price about incorporation and business modeling... the list goes on and on. Through talking to these advisors, we learned about grant programs such as Dare to Dream.
Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Program
We’re currently in the second phase of the Dare to Dream. Dare to Dream has taught us a lot about determining financial feasibility and sizing our market, and we will receive grant funding to run Brassi through the program. Many of the program’s advisors have also worked with past Ross students who have launched their own food businesses, and this is how we got connected to awesome alumni, including Ellis at SIMPL and Harinee at Prayani.
Michigan Ross community
Additionally, the Ross community at large has provided amazing support in helping us spread the word. We have partnered with a variety of women leadership groups in the business community such as Lean In, Michigan Business Woman, and Woman Who Launch to connect with their members and host events on student entrepreneurship / entrepreneurship as two young women. For us, women empowerment especially within the business community is very important to us, and we want to be a resource to other female students who are interested in starting a business.
So far, leveraging these resources is already paying off. We have won a pitch competition and are now selling Brassi in three online marketplaces (Ypsilanti Farmers Market, Market Wagon, and UrsaNova). Soon we will begin selling at a few local retailers soon (McPherson’s, Capital City Market).
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