2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: NUFYX, UCLA (Anderson)


UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Industry: Food & Beverage

Founding Student Name(s): Emily Smith (MBA ’22)

Brief Description of Solution: NUFYX® is a plant-based nutrition company focused on creating revolutionary and sustainable high-protein foods. “NU” stands for nutrition, which is essential for your body to thrive. “FYX” is a new kind of fix – a satisfying and healthy experience.

NUFYX® launched Heavenly Protein® Powder, the first protein in the world made with 100% Organic American-grown peas as its exclusive protein source. The delicious products are made with a short list of premium ingredients, contain a patented digestive enzyme, and have all 9 essential amino acids.

Funding Dollars: NUFYX® won $40,000 in non-dilutive funding from the Knapp Competition and an additional $10,000 in non-dilutive funding from awards such as the Young President’s Organization (YPO) Fellowship and Entrepreneurial Excellence Capstone Award (for #1 MBA thesis).

What led you to launch this venture? During the pandemic, my family was looking for a clean vegan protein to make healthy breakfasts. The vegan proteins on the market required sacrificing taste, digestion, sourcing, or health. This led to online research and many conversations with grocery store clerks to figure out the customer pain points in the plant protein space.

I realized this was a problem and massive opportunity, particularly when reviewing the results of the Clean Label Project study that reviewed 134 of the top selling protein powders according to Amazon and Nielson. The study found that 75% of the protein powders had elevated levels of lead and 55% had elevated levels of BPA, due to the contaminated soil in which the protein is grown overseas and the traditional plastic tub packaging.

The market needed a clean, delicious and easily digestible protein powder. NUFYX® made this possible through eight months of extensive R&D with a team of food scientists and the highest sourcing standards in the industry.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? NUFYX® is a profitable startup that has surpassed $500,000 in gross revenue without raising any outside capital. It has become the #1 best-selling protein powder at Erewhon Market, the nation’s most premium grocery chain, and will be distributed nationwide in 2023 with UNFI, the largest natural foods distributor in North America owned by Amazon.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Being in an environment as inspiring as UCLA Anderson’s MBA campus infused me with optimism every day. Anderson’s motto is “Share Success” and it is universally applied from students to faculty. Someone with five years of nationwide food sales was one Slack message away from an hour walk-and-coffee chat along Ocean Avenue – being in such close proximity to a diverse pool of knowledge was an invaluable asset.

Anderson gave me a platform to launch NUFYX®, for which I am eternally grateful. I joined the summer Activate program at the UCLA Anderson Accelerator run by the rock star director Trish Halamandaris. Trish and her team of advisors helped me curate a sharp pitch deck and get top notch mentorship, nominating me for a variety of awesome opportunities such as being on the Rob Dyrdek podcast in the process. I was ultimately selected to pitch NUFYX® onstage in a large auditorium, which attracted attention from leaders in the industry who became part of my professional network. Being the only launched startup in the program gave me unique opportunities that positioned NUFYX® for success.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My mom is my biggest source of inspiration as an entrepreneur – she has led by example my entire life, showing me in a multitude of ways that entrepreneurship makes it possible to draw and execute the blueprint of your life. Since working with her at age twelve, she instilled an early sense of business confidence in me that has encouraged me to set lofty goals and power through hard work to accomplish them. I observed firsthand that her success as an entrepreneur can be directly attributed to her consistent and contagious positive energy, obsession with following up and big picture mentality.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Anderson is unique in that most students decide to complete their master’s thesis capstone with the Business Creation Program. The prerequisites for this path led me to take Professor Olav Sorenson’s Entrepreneurial Venture Initiation (EVI) and Professor Jon Funk’s Business Plan Development (BPD). These classes allowed me to lead a team of six classmates to create the blueprint for the NUFYX® business plan and pitch deck, essential to being accepted into the Summer Activate program and Fall Accelerator Showcase and winning the Spring Knapp competition.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Before arriving at Anderson, I reached out to Elaine Hagan, the Associate Dean of Entrepreneurial Initiatives at UCLA Anderson. She instantly connected me to other Anderson Accelerator founders in the food and beverage space such as Elenita, Hiyo, KPOP Foods, and MagicDates. These industry connections taught me early on how integral an established ecosystem of industry peers is to a startup’s success.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Many of NUFYX’s key business developments can be attributed to LA’s thriving food & beverage ecosystem. The most revolutionary health and wellness trends across the nation find their roots in the Santa Monica / Venice area. These trends may start in LA, but they quickly grow worldwide. For example, buyers from all over the world visit Erewhon Market to discover the latest trends in the nutrition space.

There’s an abundance of influencers, creators, nutrition stores, smoothie bars, and health enthusiasts – so we hosted many events early on to create brand awareness and attract retail interest.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? NUFYX® envisions a future where every grocery store in America provides customers access to delicious easily digestible plant protein without compromise. We aim to strike the perfect balance between nutritious and delicious in all our products.


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