For our latest Hoyapreneur profile, we are excited to sit down with Hoyapreneurs and Co-Founders of Misfit Juicery Ann Yang (F’16) and Phil Wong (F’15) to learn more about how ugly fruit makes delicious juice. From their very first batch produced in a borrowed blender at the Corp to launching in Whole Foods, these recent grads have taken their business from the Hilltop to stores across the country.
1. How did you come up with the idea of Misfit Juicery? Was it that you were aware of the food waste problem? Or did you want to start a Juice company and realize you could solve food waste in the process?
From the very beginning of Misfit, we wanted to use delicious juice (and eventually other products) as a platform to 1) divert food from waste through our purchasing and b) talk about food waste on a cultural level. We wanted to prove that people should embrace misfits in food and in life. We started off by picking up four crates of ugly peaches from the Georgetown Farmer's Market and hitching a ride with Mike from the Facilities office back to Burleith; we used a borrowed blender to make our very first batch, and we began selling at a few Corp locations—truly a case of students serving students, which is the Corp's motto.
2. You were SIPS scholars at Georgetown.Can you tell us more about the SIPS program and how it was instrumental in helping you launch?
SIPS, and indeed a few other programs—not least the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative—were instrumental for us. Though we had a tough time balancing our lives as full-time college students with starting a company, we made it through to graduation with the support of SIPS, the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, and the larger Georgetown community. We waste 70 billion pounds in food waste. How many pounds has Misfit Juicery saved so far? How much misfit ugly fruit do you hope to save? And what's next for Misfit Juicery? We've diverted more than 100,000 pounds of produce from waste, but we want to add a few zeroes to that in the coming years. The scale of the issue and its environmental implications are enormous—we're heartened to see a growing community of entrepreneurs tackling this issue. We're on our way to becoming Misfit Foods, and we'll be making all sorts of products, both juice and not, from food that'd be wasted otherwise. For now, we're doubling down on our juice, because that vision of Misfit Foods is only as strong as our execution right now. To that end, we're launching in Whole Foods NYC and just launched in Whole Foods DC. We've got a few other exciting partnerships up our sleeve, too.
** A SIPS scholar is The Georgetown University Social Innovation and Public Service Fund http://sips.georgetown.edu/
3. What's it like as partners launching a startup?
We complement each other in the important ways, and it's hard to imagine starting a company with anyone other than a best friend. We see each other at our best and worst, and we carry each other through those extremes.
4. What was your favorite class and/or professor during your time on the Hilltop?
Phil: I had a couple of great ones, but the one that really stands out is STIA 305 (the introductory STIA course). I met some of my closest friends in that class and we had a truly incredible TA, Amer Doko, who had recently come to the US from Syria.
5. Given you started Misfit Juicery so shortly after school, how has the entrepreneur alumni network been helpful to you? How can the GEA support you going forward?
There are so many alumni who have built their own companies are passionate about mentoring young alumni. In particular, the sweetgreen founders, Luke of Luke's Lobster, and James and Tammy from Encore Alert have been inspirations to us. The GEA community is so cohesive, and that stickiness is definitely underappreciated. On top of that, it's been moving to meet mentors who model how beautiful our friendships from Georgetown can be—some even shared a suite in Village C West!