Born out of a classroom at the Robins School of Business, Absurd Snacks has shown immense company growth and inspired a new class of entrepreneurs a year after they launched their first product.
Absurd Snacks is a company dedicated to creating an accessible snack for everyone, regardless of food allergies. The snack is a bean-based, vegan trail mix that comes in both chocolate and maple cinnamon flavors, according to the company's website.
Benchtop Innovations, a new class started last year at the University of Richmond, co-taught by Shane Emmett, entrepreneur in residence, and Joel Mier, professor of marketing, allows students to come up with their own product ideas and sell them as tangible products.
CEO of Absurd Snacks Grace Mittl, ’22, went out on her own with COO Eli Bank, ’22, after graduation, making the company their full time focus.
Mittl and Bank house sat in Richmond for two months over the summer so they could continue working and live for free. They lived with a professor and his family for a month until they could find a place, Mittl said.
“I think it's such a blur because we work all the time,” Mittl said. “Building something is always a rigorous process, and we love it. It doesn't really feel like work.”
When Mittl and Bank decided to take Absurd Snacks full time, they knew they needed to reformulate their original product as they continue to expand, Mittl said.
“The integrity of them is much better than last year, and we're launching our rocking rosemary sea salt as our first savory flavor,” she said. “It has dried fruit in it, different seeds, and unique spices.”
To come up with new flavors, Mittl and Bank went through a rigorous research process.
“Eli and I did a ton of customer discovery and revamped our whole business model and did much more consumer segment interviews and a lot of market research around new and trending flavors,” Mittl said.
Mier gave the new flavor option a raving review.
“The last product was good, this product is great. It is 100 times better than the good product that they created,” he said. “They are 100% ready for growth, and they've grown as people.”
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Benchtop Innovations quickly became a class that gained a lot of publicity within the community, as UR continues to hone in on its initiative of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The goal isn't that everybody becomes an entrepreneur,” Mier said. “The goal is that everybody explores entrepreneurship.”
Junior Grace Clarke, who’s Benchtop group’s product won this year's competition with their drink Twin Tail Brews, spoke about how the class has been for her.
“It really provides an opportunity for a lot of different people with different skill sets to come forward and work together in a creative environment and come up with different ideas.” Clarke said.
Mittl and Bank, although no longer students at UR, are still deeply connected with the university. The two have an advisory board made up of some UR alumni and professors, and recently spoke at a Q-Camp panel.
In addition, Absurd Snacks listed three Richmond Guarantee positions, which will allow current students to receive a fellowship grant up to $5,000 for an unpaid internship with the company, said Mittl.
Clarke, head of sales for Twin Tale Brews, said Mittl and Bank have been great resources for her newborn company.
“They’ll talk us through it because they just went through this themselves,” Clarke said. “I think that’s been a really big resource for us.”
Contact lifestyle writer Bettina Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org
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