Western roommates pop water lily seed snack company during pandemic
The kinesiology students came up with their own health-minded business
With a unique idea and whole lot of hustle, Gurveer Bahia and Sucheta Khurana became business owners during the pandemic.
The fourth-year Western University kinesiology students and roommates teamed up in late 2019 to start their first company, which at the time was without a plan or a product.
"We knew that our mission was to help people live a healthier lifestyle," said Bahia. "There was no idea, but I knew we had that little bit of entrepreneurship in us; that we wanted to be our own bosses someday, we wanted to run the show."
Void of business knowledge and experience, the pair started seeking out resources around campus. After attending workshops, they explored questions about what they should do, what's out there and how they can offer something to help people. That's when the idea came.
The spark that launched their idea
Khurana grew up in India and moved to Canada around the age of ten.
"She used to eat a snack in India and it was these popped waterlily seeds," said Bahia. "It was nowhere to be found here. Her mom used to get people from India to bring it to Canada and it would be something that she could eat."
It was during exam time that Bahia said they realized they wanted to bring a healthy snack to the local market.
"We were spending all night at the library, but we never had anything to munch on," she said. "That was something we saw with the people around us, everyone would just be buying Timmies at the university. It was unhealthy habits."
That's when Khurana offered her roommate some popped water lily seeds. "I was really amazed," Bahia said. "I was like, wow, there's nothing like this out here." She describes the snack as "crunchy and delicious."
Compared to popcorn, water lily seeds have less fat and calories, and more protein.
Launching their brand during the pandemic
Once Bahia and Khurana set their sights on creating their own brand of popped water lily seeds, they applied to Western's Accelerator Program, an immersive education program that provides mentorship, education and some funding.
By April, their new company, Arise N' Go, was founded. The water lily seeds were sourced and Bahia and Khurana were roasting, seasoning and packaging small bags of their product by hand. They also found themselves in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, with health measures that would prohibit traditional product launches with in-person sampling.
With the help of the Accelerator Program, Arise N' Go had a soft launch on May 19.
"So it was all very fast, we were moving very fast," said Bahia. "There was a pandemic going on as well, so it's kind of like we were just hustling. We were just trying to get product out there, get it in people's hands, get them to try it."
Since then, the company has expanded to a commercial kitchen and moved from hand-labelled packaging to more efficient bags with a longer shelf life. They also refined their product design and logo to up the "fun" factor.
They're currently selling three flavours of popped water lily seeds online and at 11 local retailers.
Building a health-minded community
In addition to launching their health brand, Bahia and Khurana also started a "Go Getter" movement that features health-minded blog posts and stories about other young entrepreneurs.
"Arise N' Go is about empowering people, giving them opportunities to do better," said Bahia. "So this is kind of our initiative to bring out that company value of empowerment as well."
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