ARISE N’GO: Two Western University Students Create a Healthy Snack Alternative for Health-Conscious Consumers Based on Their Roots, Amidst a Pandemic.
I spoke with Gurveer Bahia and Sucheta Khurana, both Bachelor of Kinesiology seniors at Western University in London, Ontario, about their start-up snacking company, ARISE N’GO. Their studies have inspired them to find an alternative snack to live a healthier lifestyle and promote healthy eating. The young entrepreneurs and roommates have worked together, alongside some programs run by the University, to curate a business plan for their popped waterlily seed snack and successfully tap into this niche market amongst the pandemic’s challenges all before graduation.
Tell us about yourselves and why you decide to start your business.
“We are roommates and business partners, currently both in our final year at Western University in Kinesiology. In our studies, we have discussed how improvement is essential in society regarding health and lifestyle. We started to think of what solutions we could provide for people to do and eat better in their lives. We never even have ideas of starting a business, it was more of just having conversations about how we could improve as a society.
[Gurveer] One night, I said to Sucheta, ‘Hey, let’s start a business, and that’s where we started having conversations around business, business ideas, and how we can help people do better in their lives. Being kin students, we had no business background and had no idea how to run a business. It was more of passion to provide people with something to help them be the best versions, and healthiest versions of themselves.”
[Sucheta] “We didn’t know anything about business, so we reached out to Propel, which is Western’s entrepreneurship program, and that provided us with all the resources we needed, from sales workshops, to how to put together a business plan and talk to customers, to customer target markets. That’s essentially how we got started. Their annual accelerator program takes 18 companies which we were so fortunate to be selected, into a 4-month long program that taught us the ins and outs of the business.”
What is your mission or the goals of your business?
Arise n’ Go aims to uplift and empower individuals to live a happy and harmonious life as they work towards becoming the best version of themselves! https://ariseonthego.ca/pages/about-us
“We want to provide a healthier snack alternative, diversify people’s pallets and introduce them to a culturally rich snack, packed with antioxidants, essential amino acids, that is free of preservatives, saturated fats, and essentially, everything that health-conscious consumers are looking for. It is a crunchy and nutritious alternative to a lot of processed snacks out there; like popcorn only better, we want people to “escape the ordinary with superfood snacks.”
Before you bloom, you have to go back to your roots…
This product holds a close place to our hearts and makes us feel closer to our Indian roots. We understand the power of this seed, as it united our purpose and passion together.
[Sucheta] “I grew up in India, and we up eating this snack which was ‘popped waterlily seed. My Grandmother used to flavor them with turmeric and mint, and other seasonings were my favorite things growing up. When I moved to Canada, I didn’t find anything like that here. Growing up, I was trying to fit in, so I would buy snacks and products my friends were buying and eating. One day last year, we worked in the library and snacking on bagels and crackers and decided that we needed a change. We both said to ourselves, ‘we’re studying health and kinesiology and look at how we eat.’ My mom re-introduced me to popped waterlily seeds, and I then introduced Gurveer.”
[Gurveer] “When I was introduced to them, it was something very new to me and is something that is not common in western society. It was something I never tried, but when I did, it resonated with the flavour of tradition and Sucheta’s family recipe. It’s a cultural snack from our roots in India and not yet part of the Canadian diet. We thought this was something that we could use to position ourselves in the Canadian healthy snack market, growing as people are looking for healthier alternatives. There are not many options out there; there are healthy snacks but nothing healthy and unique.”
Tell us about the product; What are popped waterlily seeds?
“Popped waterlily seeds, are a superfood snack, and come from the actual waterlily. They are extracted from the waterlily by farmers in India (but we source locally) and popped like popcorn! Popped waterlily seeds are similar to rice pops or rice cakes, packed with a light crunch and flavorful, they are a feel-good alternative. We do the roasting, flavoring, and packaging ourselves in our commercial kitchen in London ON.”
The snack is also gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, and corn-free.
Where has been your consumer base? In what ways do you reach your consumers?
[Sucheta] “We are students ourselves, and that’s how it started. Our idealization phase was pre-covid, and the plan was to start with Western University and students on campus. Making it available in vending machines around campus and in-residence cafeterias, but then Covid hit, so we had to alter that plan. We started an e-commerce website and attending farmers’ markets. We find that most of the people that are looking for healthy, organic, made with love snacks and products are a lot of the types of people we see at the London Farmers Market- people are looking for natural products made with real ingredients that fit many dietary needs and restrictions.”
[Gurveer] “This is a niche product that has been hard for people to sample due to Covid (which is an important aspect in the snack industry), but we have found ways around that. We aim to target customers who are looking for healthier alternatives and are willing to try something new because this product is new to the western diet, and not many people have tried anything like it, so we encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and try something new!”
Where are your products available for purchase right now?
London, Ontario Retailers:
- Remark Fresh Markets
- Scobey’s Extra (Oxford and Wonderland)
- No Frills
- Has beans
- Little Red Roaster
- St. Mary’s Foodland
- The Pulp Stratford
- Ahimsa Vegan Online
- and at https://ariseonthego.ca/
ARISE N’GO is planning on expanding throughout Ontario and eventually across Canada soon.
How has your business changed (if at all) since the pandemic?
[Sucheta] “Last year this time, we were creating our business plan, and we didn’t even want to do e-commerce; we just wanted to get into retail stores in London and The University. We didn’t even consider e-commerce until a week later, when the pandemic hit, and we realized we couldn’t do stores. No one was going to let us a sample or even talk to us because everything was so uncertain, but we were still going through with it. We changed our whole business plan and turned to e-commerce and started providing people with the snack online. It was good for us because it forced us to learn how to talk to our customers and figure out what type of people want to purchase our product and What type of stores we should reach out to once this passes. It gave us an overview of our consumers.”
[Gurveer] “We have been doing e-commerce longer, so we have been making more sales through that outlet, but we are seeing much success in stores now as things open, and people have learned about the product a lot more. We are also more credible now, so people are more willing to talk to us, and people are more open to trying it. May 2020 was our soft launch, and we didn’t have fully commercialized packaging, so in. In January 2021, we officially launched; in terms of that, it’s only been two months since the business’s launch. The initial eight months were getting the word out and promoting the product. When we launched online, we would send people free snacks; they just had to pay for shipping. We had to get creative with that, and it was scary, but now we are starting to see things pay off and get noticed more- which builds credibility and awareness with retailers. It’s incredible to see how much we have accomplished through a pandemic and managing school as well.
How do you manage school and a business at the same time?
[Gurveer] “It’s tough, but one thing, we both are very resilient. We’ve learned how to manage time- It’s not easy. It’s all about setting those boundaries for yourself, not just with school and business, but also in personal life. This is our last year in school; we are trying to do the best we can in class, but in terms of business, this is our passion, and once you have that passion and drive to get things done, you can make it work. And sometimes that means meeting school deadlines very last minute.
Covid, although it’s been super hard learning virtually, also helped in a way; when we’re at the commercial kitchen making our product, we can multitask and still attend lectures and complete school work. It’s helped build that resilience and allowed us to know when to focus on school or business. It’s a learning process and can be stressful to keep track of, but we have been able to do it every time. That’s the attitude you have to keep going forward. The stress is short-lived and in the moment, but and just believing you will get through it is the mindset you have to keep.”
[Sucheta] “We keep each other accountable and remind each other to take breaks and work on school. Sometimes we get carried away, which is common for young start-up businesses because there is so much that has to go into it.”
No idea is too small, trust the process and leap into the unknown. We hope to empower individuals never to undermine their capabilities and inspire continuous growth and transformation.
Check out Sucheta and Gurveer’s blog series featuring other go-getters and tips on how to become one yourself- they seem to be onto something.
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