'UVM Start'ups: Beneficial bars
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 23:10
Two student entrepreneurs intent on combating poverty hope a caffeine-infused chocolate bar will create a buzz in the candy market while also stimulating the Ecuadorian economy.
Senior Varun Gopinath and junior Austin Davis created Napo Natural, an all-natural energy bar made from guayusa tea leaves, sugar and cocoa, after volunteering as medical aid workers in Napo, Ecuador last spring.
“It’s a very simple energy product that tastes great,” Davis said.
While traveling through the villages, Gopinath and Davis said they saw impoverished communities surrounded by a countryside rich in guayusa tea plants and cows. Guayusa, which is similar to its Amazonian cousin, matte, contains twice the amount of antioxidants as a cup of green tea.
The Napo Natural chocolate bar also contains the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, without the jittery effects, Davis said.
“So what we’re basically going for here is kind of a hybrid for your Red Bull culture mixed with your socially responsible consumer,” he said.
The vegan friendly bar is gluten and lactose-free, Davis said. Also, it slowly releases the caffeine to prevent any jitters or crashes that usually accompany caffeine products.
“It’s a completely different entity,” Davis said. “Something more, something sustainable, something socially responsible, something that’s going to give them the energy that they need that tastes great.”
With the help of UVM Start, a crowdsourcing website that pairs student entrepreneurs with alumni donors, the company hopes to obtain capital for their venture.
The team plans to support the people of Napo, Ecuador by putting 10 percent of their profits into short-term projects and 15 percent into long-term projects for this cause.
“There are children and adults alike who suffer from waterborne diseases due to inadequate filtration systems, fungal diseases and rapid deforestation of the Amazon,” Gopinath said. “We hope to stop these activities through our endeavor.”
Davis and Gopinath also said they plan to lease a facility in Ecuador in order to create jobs in Napo and initiate a direct link with the U.S. market.
“We’re getting that money and wealth, then pulling it back down,” Gopinath said.
The mission of Napo Natural is not only to help the Kastrup farmers in Ecuador, but also provide a sustainable energy product for consumers, he said.
“I don’t see it as a means to exploit the people and get the cheapest product — we’re here to help,” Gopinath said. “The economy can be utilized to help people and Napo Natural is what we believe is going to do that.”
The two plan to continue work on the company after they graduate from UVM.
“I’d like to see Napo Natural in five years being profitable, running efficiently and with both of us running it together,” Davis said.
‘UVM Start’ups is a weekly staple which will highlight eight student groups that have started their own business and are using UVM Start to promote their work.
UVM Start is a crowdsourcing website that helps student entrepreneurs connect with alumni for donations and advice on their projects. More information can be found on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/uvmstart.