Two millennial women of all ages just won $100,000 to scale their vegan ice product small business. Here’s how they perfected their ‘scoopable’ banana-centered recipe and landed their pints on Complete Food items shelves.


  • Stacy’s Increase Job awarded $100,000 in funding to Hannah Hong, cofounder of Hakuna Models
  • Hong and her cofounder Mollie Cha grew to become lactose intolerant in their early 20s and out of their adore for indulgent desserts, released Hakuna Brands to make oat-milk and banana-based mostly ice cream.
  • Hakuna’s leadership is entirely girls and three of the 4 applied to be coworkers at Bolthouse Farms. 
  • Hong talked to Organization Insider about setting up a team she enjoys and how she’s prevail over imposter syndrome.
  • Click on in this article for extra BI Primary content.

When Hannah Hong and Mollie Cha commenced their “nice-cream” business, they realized they have been getting their friendship to increased stakes. 

They had been now maids of honor at just about every other’s weddings and now they were being about to be business partners. In 2016, the University of California, Berkeley, grads quit their employment and went all-in on dairy-absolutely free ice product to launch Hakuna Brand names

“We both agreed that the minute our organization receives in the way of our friendship and there’s any sort of resentment or any detrimental feeling in which we sense like we won’t be able to be on this with every single other, the small business is about,” Hong mentioned.

She and Cha have disagreements and various factors of perspective, but Hong mentioned they often appear to an knowing. “It really is just like a relationship, you know, you can battle but you can however be married,” Hong mentioned. 

Now, the pair has an exciting new chance to concur on: how to make investments $100,000 for their business enterprise. 

On November 4, Padma Lakshmi, host of “Top Chef,” awarded Hakuna Brand names the grand prize for Stacy’s Increase Project, a funding and mentorship application designed to aid shut the funding hole for women organization homeowners.

Hakuna sells vegan ice cream designed with oat milk and bananas, building a beloved dessert less difficult on lactose-intolerant stomachs — and a lighter choice for any ice cream lover. The brand is capitalizing on key foodstuff trends like the paleo diet and the current explosion of oat milk

Hakuna’s banana ice creams come in 6 flavors and three frozen bars, which include cashew cookie dough, banilla, and strawberry. The oat-milk centered ice creams, which released in early 2019, come in peanut butter, vanilla, and chocolate. 

Business Insider spoke with Hong just after her win. She was proud to be sporting a pink, banana-included t-shirt as she posed for push photographs with Lakshmi and a large verify. “I know it can be not the coolest factor to wear in front of Padma, but I am not providing up the chance to wear my branded t-shirt in this image,” mentioned Hong. 

She’ll do whatever it requires to progress her company. “This is my initially born, this is my toddler, and there is nothing I would not do for it,” Hong reported. 

Hakuna Makes is centered in Los Angeles and led by four girls — three of whom were previous colleagues at Bolthouse Farms, a producer of environmentally friendly smoothies and carrot juice. Hong and Cha were being greatest pals in undergrad and later worked jointly at Bolthouse in method and innovation, building new product concepts. 

They equally became lactose intolerant in their early 20s and introduced their banana-centered ice-cream manufacturer out of their appreciate for indulgent desserts. Hong remaining her task at Bolthouse at the starting of 2016 and Cha remaining hers about a month ahead of they proven the business on Halloween of 2016.

Hannah Mollie Hakuna Brands

Nailing down the recipe and obtaining a factory

It took a whilst for Hong and Cha to great their first recipe, which was inspired by paleo “pleasant-creams” that use frozen bananas alternatively of dairy. “You are not able to just place that in a pint and then sell it. It actually turns into a block of banana ice,” Hong reported.

The ladies analyzed many iterations in their property kitchens until finally they identified the ideal, “scoopable” texture. Studying how to make the ice cream was just one of their most important road blocks, given that it utilizes components most dairy-centered companies usually are not as familiar with. “Most ice product that is sold commercially, it is really produced just one way and all factories are developed to make it that way,” Hong stated.

They moved their operations to a modest, industrial kitchen and bought their pints (which had been labeless deli containers at initially) from a freezer in a van they named “Fran,” driving down the southern California coastline from Thousand Oaks to San Diego various occasions a 7 days. 

But inevitably, they necessary to scale. Their subsequent big obstacle was obtaining a manufacturing unit that could replicate their recipe — they experimented with 3 services just before landing the suitable one. “Moving from our very small hundred-foot square kitchen to a manufacturing facility was one particular of the toughest matters I’ve ever carried out,” Hong said.

The trial-runs expected a lot of cash, Hong stated, which bundled spending for components and the time expended on the producing line. Each batch experienced to freeze for 24 hrs in advance of they could flavor it, so they could see how the ice cream hardened. 

“We had to go through so much to even figure out how to build a frozen enterprise,” Hong said. 

Hakuna Banana ice cream

Ideal friends and business associates

Both Hong and Cha come from people who started out their personal firms, so they realized 2nd-hand that it can be complicated to run a enterprise with buddies or family. 

The founders are greatest pals 1st and foremost. Right before making their organization formal and signing the LLC papers, they talked about their priorities for equally the organization and their relationship. 

In 2018, they included to their whole-time crew. Grace Robbin turned director of item growth, and Margie Clark turned director of sales and advertising and marketing. Hong worked with Clark for four decades when they have been at Bolthouse. 

Hong claimed she’s realized how important is it to decide on her staff properly, primarily as a smaller small business. “1 individual can have a enormous effect on your enterprise, and so selecting that human being has to be accomplished quite thoughtfully,” reported Hong. 

Hakuna Brands Team - Margie, Mollie, Hannah, and Grace

Obtaining around imposter syndrome

At just one position for the duration of the manufacturing unit-demo process, Hong reported she felt imposter syndrome location in. The factories were mostly owned and operated by gentlemen, and Hong mentioned that intimidated her. She understood how her recipe was supposed to turn out, but the created products was not appropriate. “I knew it was various. It wasn’t just in my head,” Hong claimed.

Following 3 factories did not get the job done out, she realized she necessary to be more confident in her item. When the upcoming manufacturing facility explained to her “this is just how your ice cream is,” she right away-transported a pint from Hakuna’s kitchen. The moment the factory personnel tasted it, she said they understood it was distinctive. “I think that genuinely served me establish my confidence,” Hong said.

In January 2017, Hakuna began selling in grocery suppliers — its very first retailer was an unbiased grocer in Los Angeles. Nowadays, the brand is bought in 430 California destinations, such as Full Foods and Sprouts Farmers Sector. 

Hakuna was bootstrapped right up until January 2019, when it held a buddies and loved ones funding round. Now with its funding from Stacy’s, Hong said the manufacturer designs to enhance in-keep efforts to gain new consumers, purchase social media advertisements, and increase production to a manufacturing facility on the East Coastline.

SEE ALSO: Ladies founders and CEOs share 9 really hard truths about elevating funds all modest enterprises will need to know

SEE ALSO: Females business people talk about the frustrations they confront when starting a business, and how they have dealt with issues like restricted accessibility to money

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