Athletes Launch Sub-Zero Superfood Company
Performance enhancing ice cream sounds too good to be true, but two athletes may have created just that in their Boston University dorm. Mariana Ferreira, 21, and Rachel Geicke, 24, are the brains behind Snow Monkey, a sub-zero superfood with a texture similar to ice cream. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that recently raised over $30,000, the Los Angeles-based company will soon stock grocery store shelves with half-pint “pods” of its high-protein, fruit-infused product.
Ferreira, a runner and yoga devotee, and Geicke, a former field hockey player for Hong Kong’s national team and an enthusiast of CrossFit and Spinning, initially developed Snow Monkey as a healthy, frozen treat to eat for breakfast or after a workout. “We’re conscious about how we fuel our bodies but we also like to enjoy life,” Ferreira says. “The inspiration was, and still is, a balanced lifestyle that allows you to be active and adventurous but not sacrifice the indulgence.”
Snow Monkey is vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and contains no peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, wheat, or soy. “It has that creamy feel in your mouth. It melts on your tongue,” Ferreira says. A diverse ingredient list is responsible for the smoothness, including hemp seeds, bananas, apples, and sunflower butter. The pods come in two flavors: Goji and Cacao. “We really worked with this goal to make it wholesome and to make sure every ingredient in there was purposeful in terms of taste and nutrition,” Geicke says. “That’s how we avoided the stigma that it’s going to taste like cardboard.”
Even as undergrads, both founders knew they wanted to do something entrepreneurial eventually; they just didn’t know what form it would take or that it would happen this fast. “We hit a crossroads,” Geicke says. “I graduated and could have gone and got a corporate job and Mariana had a fantastic internship lined up, and we said, ‘Do we just put this to rest and look at it another time and go down a safer route?’ The two of us thought the risk of not pursuing it would be greater than the risk itself, so we fully jumped into it.”
Ferreira is the diligent and dynamic half of the partnership; the company’s task-master. Geicke took on the role of the visionary, ensuring that the company is on track to achieve its long-term goals. She also manages the external strategic partnerships.
In January, both B.U. graduates moved to California and threw themselves into building the business. “The healthy lifestyle is what people live and breathe here,” Ferreira says of Los Angeles, where she and Geicke run the company out of their living room. “We found that a consumer would adopt our product a lot faster and a lot more happily here.”
In February, they mounted a Kickstarter campaign to speed up the process of bringing Snow Monkey to market. New food products typically originate in home kitchens, are later introduced to consumers at farmers markets, then move into mom-and-pop stores. If successful at that level, founders often receive seed money or take out a loan, then invest in branding. The move to wide distribution in grocery stores can take years.
“We didn’t want to have to wait around and go through the small steps in the traditional parameters of how the product should go to market,” Geicke says. “And we don’t have to. That’s a blessing for us being in this generation where crowd funding is a legitimate source of funding.”
To create a visually stunning and information-laden Kickstarter page, the duo partnered with Moxie Sozo Design. They also talked to acquaintances with experience in crowd funding and did research to figure out how to maximize the campaign. Snow Monkey’s original goal of $20,000 was surpassed in only six days. Over 300 backers were rewarded with Snow Monkey pods shipped to them on dry ice.
To make that, and further production, possible, Geicke and Ferreira contracted a manufacturer in Pomona; the machinery, expertise, safety and health standards will help the business scale up quickly. “We are no food scientists nor are we manufacturers,” Geicke says. “We thought it was much smarter to outsource that part of it. It’s a better position for us to be teamed up with a manufacturer so that the minute we get a large order, it can just happen overnight. In terms of protecting our consumers as well, we didn’t want to put their health at risk. We have a lot of allergen-free claims and we wanted to make sure it was produced in a safe facility.”
As far as developing the product line further, the founders ask themselves what they would want from the brand if they were buying it. “We say that we are our best consumers because we love our product,” Geicke says. “We eat it daily. We advocate it not because there’s another incentive but because we believe in the lifestyle that’s represented in the product.”
For now, the focus is on getting the Goji and Cacao varieties of Snow Monkey into retail. More experimentation with flavors and exploring products that complement the brand will follow.
“We know that however we grow and whatever we end up introducing into the Snow Monkey family, it’s going to align with these values of an active, sustainable, and mindful lifestyle with minimalistic and carefully selected ingredients,” Geicke says. Eventually, the founders want Snow Monkey to evolve into a brand that goes beyond food. While the partners can’t disclose in detail what they have up their sleeves, their plans are the opposite of pint-sized.
“We don’t want our consumer relationship to stop after a monetary transaction,” Geicke says. “Our vision is huge. If we bite off more than we can chew, it will bite us in the ass.”