"It's an easy-to-make, full-nutrition breakfast, and in two fun flavors!" says Jacqueline Sun.
From the May, 2021 issue
Sun is speaking about the cauliflower-oatmeal combo she and fellow U-M Ross business school grad Taylor Hurley produce and sell through their start-up, Brassi. (It's short for brassica, the scientific name for the cauliflower group).
Last summer, Hurley started mixing cauliflower into her oatmeal and wrote about it in her health and wellness blog, livelytay.com. Friends expressed interest, so during the U-M's extended semester break, she and Sun, a friend since freshman year, brainstormed from their homes (in Corvallis, Oregon and Los Altos, California, respectively). When they came back to town in January, they rented a commercial kitchen in Ypsilanti and started to produce and package their "cauli-oats."
Ross staff and alums offered advice and encouragement, and as business students, Sun says, they had "some foundation in accounting." They covered most of the start-up costs themselves-it was in the "low thousands," Sun says-and recently added the $10,000 they won in a U-M competition called the Social Impact Challenge.
The two downed a lot of bowls of oatmeal before settling on two flavors: apple and spice and cacao and coconut. The selling point is to boost daily vegetable intake with the "hidden" cauliflower. There's also rice powder for protein and flaxseed for fiber.
They sold about 500 of the $9.99, six-serving packs online before Brassi's retail launch in March. In the first month they had sold around 250 more at stores including McPherson Local in Saline and Agricole Farm Stop in Chelsea. (They're "in negotiations" with the People's Food Co-op, Sun says.)
Sun had a lighter (virtual) class load during the winter semester, so she did most of the pitching to stores, first by email and then by phone "because that's how older people prefer to talk." She regrets that the pandemic prevented them "from standing around in stores offering samples to shoppers."
Although Ross encourages entrepreneurship, "I would say 90 percent [of grads] go on to a traditional path" of taking salaried jobs at big businesses, Sun says. Before they started Brassi, the partners had committed to that path themselves, Sun with a company in New York, Hurley with one in Chicago. Now they hope to straddle both worlds, hiring people to continue making the product here while handling the business end remotely.
Brassi is no hobby, Sun emphasizes. "It's definitely a dream of ours to run this full-time."
[Originally published in May, 2021.]
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