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Snack Company on a Mission

This young investment banker teamed up with a family friend to build Two Degrees Food, which gives a meal to a hungry child for every fruit bar it sells.
Will Hauser teamed up with long-time family friend Lauren Walters to start Two Degrees Food, a snack bar company with a mission to feed starving children in Africa.

Courtesy company

Will Hauser teamed up with long-time family friend Lauren Walters to start Two Degrees Food, a snack bar company with a mission to feed starving children in Africa.

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In early 2009, Will Hauser was restless. As a Goldman Sachs investment banker, he felt this work wasn't meaningful.  

"I just felt there was more out there," says Hauser. "I really wanted to be somewhere with a strong social mission." 

By August of that year, Hauser, 26, expressed this sentiment to long-time family friend Lauren Walters, 60, who'd become something of a mentor to Hauser. Walters had just returned from a devastatingly poor part of Rwanda, where he was serving as an advisor to Boston-based non-profit Partners in Health.

"Children were starving, and it shook me to the core," says Walters. "I found this new underlying belief that if some business only cared about this issue, it would be a force of good. When I talked to Will, I discovered he shared my values and he was passionate about solving a problem like this."

This conversation was the birth of Two Degrees Food, a company that sells nutritional food bars. Launched in January 2011, the company is founded on a one-to-one business model, so for every food bar sold, a meal is sent to a hungry child. Today, the company, which has eight employees, has sold more than 460,000 bars and has given the same amount of meals to children in need. The bars are now sold by nearly 40 small retailers nationwide and by a few major grocery store chains, including Whole Foods.  

But with no experience in running a food company--not to mention no experience running a one-to-one social mission--the duo's path to these recent milestones was by no means easy or quick. 

First, they had to raise capital. The two men bootstrapped the business, using their own savings at first. They also got 20 angel investors on board, and eventually raised $1.3 million to launch the business. 

"We talked to everyone we knew," says Hauser. "Friends, family, past co-workers, anyone who would be passionate about helping us start up."

Next, there was the little fact that neither of the men were chefs. 

"We ended up getting very lucky in this arena," says Walters. "I mentioned this problem to a family friend who referred me to her friends daughter, Barr Hogan, the creative chef at Odwalla. I thought, 'Wow, she would be perfect.'"

After a few conversations, the two convinced Hogan to come on as their chef and all-around food advisor. The founders gave her a blank canvas. 

"We really lucked out with Barr. She has really strong food values and understands the impact of ingredients," says Walters. 

What she created was a line of nine food bars that are made from natural grains, in flavors such as Apple Pecan and Chocolate Banana. 

On the charity side, Walters' experience with Partners in Health came in handy. From his previous travels, he knew that charities often gave out nutrition packs, which include a 500-calorie snack, to malnourished people.

So Walters and Hauser partnered with Valid Nutrition, a company based in Lilongwe, Malawi, to manufacture these nutrition packs. Valid hires local people and uses ingredients from local farmers to make the packs. Walters also began scouting partnerships with local charities that could distribute the nutrition packs to various villages in need. 

When the company officially launched in January of 2011, the duo flew to Lilongwe to oversee their first batch of donations--nearly 11,000 bars which would go to a small southern Malawi village via Partners in Health. 

Sine their first donation, the company has expanded their charitable network to dozens of organizations, including Shining Hope and Action Against Hunger. 

"We still have a long way to go, but it's been a great change for both of us," says Walters. "There's nothing more rewarding that putting 100% of your passion into your work. Seeing the payoff makes the long days worth it."

 

Last updated: Jun 14, 2012

NICOLE CARTER | Staff Writer | San Francisco Bureau Chief

Nicole Carter is Inc.'s San Francisco bureau chief. She was previously an editor at New York Daily News, and her work has also appeared in Consumer Reports magazine.




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