2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Nine Times Bakery, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Nine Times Bakery

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Industry: Food and Beverage / CPG

Founding Student Name(s): Emily Mohr

Brief Description of Solution: Artisan bakery for quality desserts that accommodate allergies and food intolerances. So good, you’d never know they’re allergen-friendly!

Funding Dollars: $175,000

What led you to launch this venture? I developed gluten and lactose intolerance 10 years ago, and all of a sudden, I felt on the other side of a wall when it came to mealtime. I felt as if there were a lack of products that were tasty enough for me to share with my non-food-intolerant family and friends, especially when it came to dessert.

I decided to turn all of my favorite dessert recipes into gluten-free, dairy-free versions, some even soy-free and nut-free, and all my friends and family loved them! They couldn’t even tell they weren’t from a traditional bakery.

I started Nine Times so that more families and communities can share delicious food regardless of dietary restrictions.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Operationally, in August 2021, we supplied desserts for Butler University’s freshman orientation weekend. It was amazing to know that thousands of students were tasting our products and hopefully feeling a sense of comfort on their first weekend away at college.

In addition to that, fundraising success has definitely been a major accomplishment. We’re still actively working to grow our funding, but I feel very lucky to have incredible investors that believe in the ethos and mission of Nine Times.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I don’t know that I would have started Nine Times without having received my MBA at Kellogg, at least in this way. Originally, Nine Times was going to be a little shop in Martha’s Vineyard with my friend Kate — more of a retirement dream. My experience at Kellogg showed me that my dreams for Nine Times were scalable, venture backable, and could change a lot of lives, even if just in a small way.

Specifically, my experience in Kellogg’s Zell Fellows program was perhaps the most important part of my Kellogg experience as an entrepreneur.

Zell Fellows not only advanced Nine Times to be a scalable, venture-backable business, but more importantly, it taught me how to be a better founder. Every week, we met with our mentors who were experts across varying industry startups and venture capital firms. Those meetings held me accountable to the progress I wanted to make and also helped shine a light on opportunities that I hadn’t seen right off the bat. There are endless things to do when you’re a founder, so working with mentors and peers in 1:1s and group meetings helped me to prioritize, test quickly, and focus on what had the highest impact. I remember a point early on in Zell when multiple companies placed orders from Nine Times for client gifts. My cohort and the network of the Zell Fellows program helped me test corporate gifting as a potential customer segment and sales channel. Within 2 weeks, I found that it wasn’t worth pursuing because customer acquisition was so expensive. I would not have been able to test hypotheses and evolve the business that quickly if it weren’t for Zell.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Professor and entrepreneur Jeffery Eschbach, was the one who encouraged me to test Nine Times as a potential startup. He has been an incredible mentor, and he also shepherded me through the very daunting process of creating a company and all the administrative hurdles of getting a food company off the ground. He helped me to understand that being a founder is about passion and discernment and gave me the confidence to know that if Nine Times failed, it wouldn’t be because of lack of effort.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? New Venture Discovery was the most valuable class I took at Kellogg, mostly because it’s when I realized that entrepreneurship satisfied my love for creativity, autonomy, and impact. The class looks at problems first and then focuses on solution building around a deep understanding of the consumer problem, and I fell in love with learning from customers and what they are trying to achieve by using certain products.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? My goal for Nine Times is that it becomes the most trusted global food brand that focuses on dietary inclusion.

DON’T MISS: THE MOST DISRUPTIVE MBA STARTUPS OF 2021

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