‘A SPACE IN THE MARKET WHERE SOMEONE LIKE ME COULD FEEL WELCOME’
In Ghana, even the idea of food allergies is very new. Ntiri’s family didn’t know how to handle her dietary needs.
“At first, with the shock of it all, my family didn’t know how to deal with the changes. There was so little transparency in the market with regard to ingredients and allergen control that it took me on average more than two hours to shop for groceries per store,” Ntiri recalls.
“I had to read and research the origins of every ingredient, then call the companies I was interested in directly to confirm if information wasn’t clear. My scavenger hunts made me realize I had to venture outside the box if I wanted to find what I was really looking for, a space in the market where someone like me could feel welcome.”
NEW VENTURES AND NEW ADVENTURES
The scavenger hunts and the long calls to food companies led to the launch of Underscores Baked Goods, which has been successfully building its brand since 2013, with products sold in several chains and at its online store. It has a commercial kitchen in Massachusetts and a second opening soon in New York — and in the near future Jennifer and Agnes Ntiri plan to double their team of four employees, take on even more business, and partner with bigger, more quality focused foodservice companies and chains like LeanBox and Oath Pizza.
After establishing her venture in the marketplace and confident that her small-batch, artisanal treats are the highest quality, Ntiri decided the time was right to go back to school. She is in her first year at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and is thrilled that the school’s network has helped and continue her mission to combat the stereotype that healthy, vegan, allergen-free food does not taste good.
“I wanted to get my MBA and learn about venture capitalists’ investments and social entrepreneurship and incorporate that into our business models,” she says. “Since being at Duke I have felt nothing more than welcomed and I am appreciative of their endless support.”