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Thursday, September 23, 2021

UC Davis students start protein bar company

BRIT’S BITES / COURTESY

Four friends hope to introduce healthy, delicious snack to UC Davis

Like many ideas, the concept of Brit’s Bites first emerged in somewhat mundane circumstances. Ivy Feng, a fourth-year political science public service and economics major; Justin Lu, a fourth-year applied math major; Shiang-Wan Chin, a fourth-year managerial economics and communication major and Brittney Chung, a fourth-year human development major, had gathered together for a late night study session during Winter Quarter of 2016. Each of them came with snacks. Feng brought Ranch Doritos, Lu had Lays and Chin had Cliff bars. Chung chastised the group for their unhealthy eating habits and presented her own offering, a homemade, original recipe protein bar.

“It tasted amazing,” Chin said. “It was high in protein and we actually felt good. We could study longer into the night whereas a lot of the time we just had junk food and felt bad afterwards.”

Thus began Brit’s Bites. The four seniors had surmised a problem with the snack market. All the tasty snacks were bad for you, and all the healthy snacks were not pleasant to eat. They resolved to introduce a product that both tasted good and was good for you, and what had started as a fun idea between four friends quickly evolved into a legitimate start up business within a matter of months. Brit’s Bites, self-described as an organic, plant-based, superfood protein bar, is made by students for students.

“We’re really trying to cater toward health-conscious students,” Chin said. “Students that go to the gym, students who go hiking, students who do yoga and just people who are trying to eat healthier in general.”

Currently the Brit’s Bites team has sold over 1,000 bars, but the process it took for them to develop the initial idea to the finished product was a long one. They first needed to figure out their identity.

“Our biggest block in the beginning was trying to figure out ‘what is Brit’s bites? What do we want people to know our bars for?’” Feng said. “We’re all cofounders, we’re all trying to create something that represented our values.”

Starting a company is no easy task under any circumstance, but attempting to do so while pursuing a college education only added an extra element of difficulty and pressure. Chin, Feng, Chung and Lu had to work tirelessly just to get Brit’s Bites off the ground.

“We stayed up every night until 2 or 3 a.m. just having baking sessions and packaging our products,” Lu said.

The Brit’s Bites team also had to overcome a lack of resources and were forced to figure things out as they went, as none of them had any prior business experience.

“A really big obstacle was getting started as students,” Chin said. “We had limited funding, so we definitely didn’t have the capital. We pulled together whatever we had to get started. We didn’t have a lot of experience so we had to rely on trial and error. We talked to as many people as we could in order to get good advice and mentorship.”

Regardless, the group pushed on and fought just to get their product into the public’s eye.

“Right now we’re not very well established,” Lu said. “When we set up tables at the ARC, we were getting kicked out. You really have to have that thick skin to go wherever you can to start talking to people, selling to them.”

Because their company was still relatively small, the Brit’s Bites team focused much of its energy on gaining exposure at UC Davis. The team gives free bars and other giveaways to students who follow them on Facebook and Instagram. They travel all around campus at all hours of the day setting up booths and handing out samples. Every bar sold mattered immensely to them as it was a sign of progress and expansion.

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes,” Chin said. “We’ll set up our table in two minutes, be there for five minutes if we can sell two bars.”

In addition to selling over a thousand bars and counting, the Brit’s Bites team has secured backing from ASUCD which provided them with much needed funding. Still, with the rising success some doubt remains.

“From the very beginning, fear was the biggest obstacle,” Chung said. “I was so scared of people not liking our product. We had to remind ourselves, ‘what is our real mission?’ and realize that it was to have healthier snacks available for students and help them achieve their goals.”

Throughout the journey of making Brit’s Bites into what it is today, one thing has remained constant: The friendship of its four founders. Chung, Feng, Chin and Lu believe that the whole process has only made them closer.

“It really pushes you as a team,” Feng said. “We’ve definitely had our ups and downs but it’s made us stronger and we’ve definitely grown a lot, and I think that it’s going to reflect in how Brit’s Bites grows too.”

Each member handles a specific aspect of the business. Chin is in charge of strategy and development, Lu handles the finance and numbers, Feng overlooks operations and event planning and Chung, the namesake of the bar, works on baking and marketing. Together they have grown immensely as they navigate through the business world.

“When you create a start-up you think it’s going to go one way but it never turns out how you expect it to,” Lu said. “You have to be very flexible, be able to adjust to everything and communicate with your team 24/7. It’s been a really fun experience so far.”

Through all of the hardship the four students feel that it is all worth it in the end.

“Being able to talk to students and other individuals and seeing them take a bite of the sample and say ‘wow that tastes good’ and ‘wow those are the ingredients’ really felt good,” Feng said. “So despite the bumps and obstacles it’s really been rewarding.”

 

Written by: Eddy Zhu — campus@theaggie.org

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