Ditch the chips and pitch the popcorn: two Western students are hoping Londoners’ tastes will rise up to enjoy popped water-lily seeds instead.
At the same time, they’re hoping customers will help champion the cause of their fledgling business, and those of other health-conscious women entrepreneurs.
Popped water-lily seeds have less fat, fewer calories and more protein than popcorn, and offer a snack that is both nutritionally and culturally rich, say the creators of Arise N’ Go, a packaged snack containing the seeds and three seasoning options.
Gurveer Bahia and Sucheta Khurana, fourth-year kinesiology students and roommates, decided last year that they wanted to create a business that helped improve people’s health.
“We knew that we wanted to pursue the path of entrepreneurship and provide people with a solution to do better in their lives,” said Khurana. “And since we don’t have a business background we decided, let’s just learn the terminology and stuff.”
The pair turned to Propel Entrepreneurship, the Western-based incubator that offers coaching, mentorship and workshops for young entrepreneurs. At first, they weren’t even sure what their idea was.
And then, Khurana’s family treated her to a package from India of seasoned, popped water-lily seeds.
“When I tried it, it was wonderful. There was nothing else like this here,” Bahia said. “It’s light, it’s crunchy and it’s flavourful.”
Arise N’ Go was born.
“It’s something so different that people haven’t heard of,” Bahia said. “It’s light and crunchy and it’s just the feel-good alternative to highly processed snacks out there. It’s vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, corn-free, kind of everything that the new health-conscious consumers are looking for.”
A year ago, she and Khurana were accepted as participants in the Western Accelerator, an immersive education in entrepreneurship for students, faculty and recent alumni with promising start-up ideas to help them refine their business plan and strategy.
Nicole Haney, business advisor with Western Entrepreneurship, has been meeting with the pair a few times each month to offer guidance in production, packaging, pricing, marketing and other aspects of the business.
“We’ve helped steer them on the right path,” she said. She credited the entrepreneurs for their problem-solving abilities and drive. “They are two fantastic young women. Incredibly smart, creative and dedicated to their business and their product.”
Today, less than a month after full launch, Arise N’ Go is available at 11 retail stores and two markets in the London area as well as online.
Khurana and Bahia have sourced the water-lily seeds locally and they prepare the snack with their own recipes and package them, all while continuing to study full-time with the aim of graduating this spring.
“Especially because we are students, we understand that struggle of not being able to find something healthy to eat,” Khurana said. “This aligns with our mission of allowing people to do better in their lives. It allows people to not only do better when it comes to snacking, but also diversify their options.”
At the same time, the pair are committed to making their business about more than a single product. Their homepage includes a blog that offers tips on healthy living, from mindfulness to healthy hobbies during a pandemic. It also profiles other young women entrepreneurs who share similar aims, what Bahia and Khurana call the #GoGetter movement.
“They’re a community that are just hustling and are thriving, and we want to inspire other people, especially women in business,” Bahia said. “Being part of a visible minority group, and as people with no business background, we’re still doing this. And we want to inspire others that no matter what barriers come along in life, you can do it if you want to do it. Take that leap and just do it. It’s not just our story; other people are doing it as well.”