Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 13

FOOD ENTREPRENEUR

KULI KULI

LISA CURTIS
L

isa Curtis discovered moringa while
volunteering with the Peace Corps
in Niger, West Africa. Malnourished
from a scant diet of rice, beans and millet,
she was offered kuli-kuli, a peanut snack
made with the nutritious leaves of the
locally grown moringa tree.
"I started eating it, and it made me
feel a lot better and gave me a lot more
energy," Ms. Curtis said. "And then I did
a little research and was amazed by all of
moringa's benefits."
After returning to the United States,
Ms. Curtis launched Kuli Kuli in 2013 to

WHAT IS MORINGA?
Derived from the dried leaves of a plant native to parts
of Africa and Asia, moringa is rich
in protein, fiber, potassium,
calcium and vitamin A. With an
earthy green flavor, similar to
that of matcha, moringa may
be used in seasonings, baked
foods, vegetable chips or crisps,
dressings and beverages.

January 7, 2020

Founder and chief executive
officer of Kuli Kuli

grow awareness of the ingredient, which
is rich in protein, potassium, calcium and
vitamin A, while supporting its farmers
through sustainable sourcing practices.
Products feature the ingredient in nutrition bars, green powder, smoothie mixes
and wellness shots that are available at
9,500 retail outlets nationwide.
The company was named on the
latest Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing
food and beverage businesses, posting
three-year growth of 820% and generating
revenue of $4.5 million in 2018. Investors
in the business include Kellogg Co.'s eighteen94 capital and Griffith Foods.
Planting roots: "When I came back
to the U.S., I had $2,000, and I put all of that
into Kuli Kuli. Sometimes people ask, 'Why
did you fundraise so much or so early?' I
was 22. I didn't have any connections or
capital to put in it. I was just doing everything as scrappy as possible."
Business 101: "I honestly think I
Googled my way to a million dollars in
sales. 'What is a co-packer?' 'How does that
work?' 'How do you pay them?' Now we have
amazing advisers and investors and more

experienced team, and there's a lot more
people around me who know what they're
doing."
Chasing capital: "We quickly
realized that everything was going to cost
more money. We obviously had to do more
manufacturing runs. There's also marketing and trade spend fees and distributor
fees. So, then I started raising equity
money, which was very hard. At the time
I think most people took one look at me
and said, 'You're 23 years old, you've never
worked in food or business, you're going to
introduce this plant that no one has ever
heard of, and you're going to source it from
a continent that's not known for quality
products. How is this going to work?'"
Partnering with Kellogg: "I think
if you had told me three years ago that
our biggest investor and best supporter
is going to be the maker of Pop-Tarts, I'd
say, 'You're crazy. Why would they invest
in us?' We found them to be unbelievably
helpful, mission-driven... They really care
about what we're doing and go above and
beyond constantly to help us make it happen. They've been so great to work with." ▪
Food Business News

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Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020

Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020
Food Entrepreneur gives vibrant start-up community its own stage
Peter Rahal’s Next Venture
Into the "Cannabyss"
Inside the Incubator Village
Lisa Curtis Founder and chief executive officer of Kuli Kuli
News
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 2
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Food Entrepreneur gives vibrant start-up community its own stage
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Peter Rahal’s Next Venture
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 5
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 6
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 7
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 8
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Into the "Cannabyss"
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Inside the Incubator Village
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 11
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 12
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - Lisa Curtis Founder and chief executive officer of Kuli Kuli
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 14
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - News
Food Entrepreneur - January 7, 2020 - 16
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