Thursday, March 30, 2017

Small Business Nearly Makes It to the Big Game

November 23, 2015

Posted in: Guest Article

Small Business Nearly Makes It to the Big Game

By Brit Lang, Intern

Kavita Shukla’s idea for FreshPaper goes way back. As a 13-year-old who grew up in Ellicott City, she was visiting family in India. There, she drank a special tea with spices and herbs her grandmother brewed to keep her healthy. Her family called it a “healing tea.”

That was 16 years ago, and over the next several years, Shukla began to think that the tea’s ingredients not only could keep her healthy, but also could keep produce from spoiling.

The Birth of FreshPaper

She experimented with the idea, and by the time she was 17, she had multiple patents and had relocated to Massachusetts. She had decided that the best delivery method was a paper sheet imbued with her spice mixture, and once some samples were created, she distributed them to various vendors at a farmers market in Boston to see what response they would receive from customers.

The initial positive response convinced Shukla to become a vendor herself. She set up a table with the sole purpose of selling FreshPaper — and it became a hit, at least locally.

Shukla had still bigger plans for her creation, and she began marketing it to retail stores. Several large companies now sell FreshPaper, such as Whole Foods, Bed, Bath & Beyond and ACE Hardware, and it even can be purchased on Amazon.

A Big Opportunity

Shukla’s efforts and success offered her an opportunity to “win” a Super Bowl commercial for her product in the upcoming game. A significant prize all by itself, success would move her closer to an even bigger goal: to be able to distribute her product philanthropically to help save food in countries with limited refrigeration. This selfless goal of Shukla’s is slowly but surely becoming a reality.

The average cost of an NFL Super Bowl ad is $4.5 million for 30 seconds. Normally, only big corporations are contenders for the ads. However, for the 2016 Super Bowl, Intuit QuickBooks is holding a competition in which one small company will be awarded a 30-second commercial to run during the game.

Along with FreshPaper, other small businesses that made it into the top 10 included Chubbies Shorts (encouraging men to go back to shorts-wearing), Unshrinkit (a solution that can return a shrunken wool garment back to original size), ezpz (plates for young kids with suction on the bottom to reduce messes), Sword & Plough (fashion), G Mommas Cookies, Death Wish Coffee Company (“The world’s strongest coffee”), AnaOno (a photo company that creates collections for women who are going to undergo breast surgery), WiggleKids Inc. (to help keep all kinds of kids active and healthy), and Vidler’s 5&10 (an “entertaining shopping experience”).

Moving Onward

Unfortunately for Shukla, FreshPaper did not make it into the finals. The three finalists are Vidler’s 5&10, Chubbies Shorts and Death Wish Coffee Shop. However, she and the other competitors are not leaving empty-handed.

On smallbusinessbiggame.com, the awards other than the commercial are listed: “The Top 10 finalists received a trip to be featured at the QuickBooks Connect event in San Jose, California. Businesses in the Top 10 but not the Final 3 received a $10,000 check.” Since FreshPaper made it into the top 10, Shukla will receive those prizes. The two companies in the top three that do not win the commercial slot will win a $25,000 check — and a lot of media attention.

Although Shukla’s invention did not make it into the final three, her business is still growing, and she is still working toward her goal of helping underdeveloped countries preserve more food.

In telling her story via a “Ted Talk,” Shukla outlined her goal: “Today 1.6 billion people live without access to refrigeration. Twenty-five percent of the world’s food supply is lost to spoilage. This simple piece of paper could reduce that spoilage.”

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