Coconut Whisk baking mixes are selling like hotcakes for two young entrepreneurs.
Chief Executive Officer Bella Lam, 23, decided last year during her senior year of college to enter a Big Ideas challenge at Mankato State University about putting together a business plan and startup company.
Lam and her longtime partner Myles Olson, 24, ended up winning with their idea of Coconut Whisk, a vegan baking mix startup business. Lam, a Farmington High School graduate, decided she could use her public health degree and Olson could deploy his psychology and human resources education to become joint partners at Coconut Whisk.
The two operate their small business out of Rosemount and are busy developing partnerships with suppliers across the metro area.
"I was a huge baker and I realized there weren't any baking mixes on the market that were gluten free, vegan and the idea just sprung up one night, and I said Myles we have got to start this vegan baking mix company," Lam said.
At first, Olson thought she was crazy because the two were young and in college and did not have any professional business experience.
"We didn't have any money at the time either, but I just felt propelled to do it and coincidentally that same week there was this business competition that was auditioning," Lam said.
A few months later, the college students ended up winning the food division of the Big Ideas Challenge at Mankato State University and the prize was $3,000 of seed money.
"Winning that was everything to us and we have been able to reinvest everything we make into Coconut Whisk," she said.
The Big Ideas challenge was like a smaller version of the popular TV show "Shark Tank."
"It has been crazy and we started in farmers markets and then we got picked up by Hy-Vee in Mankato when they saw an article in the college newspaper about us winning the competition," Lam said.
Now the Coconut Whisk baking mixes are for sale on the Health Market shelves inside Hy-Vee in Lakeville and online.
After watching a documentary as a public health student, Lam decided she would make some healthy lifestyle choices with her own diet.
"I began being a vegan my sophomore year of college, so I don't eat any dairy products, meat and eggs for the past two years," she said.
When she began the vegan diet she was not always perfect, but she said she slowly made the dietary transition.
"I never looked back and it changed my life," Lam said.
Dating for five years, Lam loved baking for Olson and that is when the two began brainstorming about baking in a vegan way.
The business name Coconut Whisk came to be when she was working as a health intern for Verizon Center in corporate health.
"I remember the exact moment when I was messing around with words and I thought about Coconut Whisk, and now we have a social mission of giving back because the word "coconut" means the all-giving tree in a lot of classics," she said.
Many of the company's vegan baking mixes has coconut sugar included in the dry mixes. The product lineup includes cookie mixes like chocolate chip and snickerdoodles cookies, along with a pancake and waffle mix, a chocolate muffin mix and a popular decadent chocolate mug cake.
"Now we are in the development of new mug cake flavors because it has been super popular," Lam said.
Coconut Whisk is getting ready to launch new packaging this fall
The partners are working to land on the shelves of all the co-ops in the Twin Cities and are being sold in a vegan boutiques and a new vegan butcher shop in the North Loop in Minneapolis.
"We were thinking of opening a food truck and a warehouse but not really a storefront," she said.
Both partners admit they were bold to think they could start a company right out of college. The journey is still a learning process every day, but they both share faith in the company, its philanthropic mission and the determination to succeed as young entrepreneurs.
"Sometimes I feel very unqualified but it is all about the learning process and it has been going well so far," Lam said.
"We have learned a lot over the past year now since we have launched, and we have earned our own unofficial masters in business," Olson said.
Check out the products online at www.coconutwhisk.com or connect on the social platforms of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Coconut Whisk is a mission driven, vegan lifestyle brand and baking mix company with a partnership with Food For Life Global. With every purchase, the company provides a vegan meal for a child and animal in need.