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Creating a Karmic Product

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Self-proclaimed wanderlust Sarah Pritzker, '16 MBA, spent her post-college years as a bike tour guide. As she pedaled across Ecuador, Spain, and Glacier National Park, she discovered many different approaches to sourcing, preparing, and enjoying food around the world. But it wasn't until she studied abroad as an MBA student that she tasted the food that would become her business.  

During Professor Mani Subramani’s global course—Managing in a Global Environment in New Dehli & Bangalore—Pritzker sampled a puffed lotus seed. “The best way to describe it is that it’s very similar in taste to popcorn, but it has about twice as much protein, no fat, no saturated fat,” she says. Especially given the seeds’ health benefits and anti-aging properties, Pritzker decided to bring the product back home.

While abroad, she also looked more closely at how businesses left a mark on their communities, and was inspired to infuse her start-up with a commitment to the public good. She remembers visiting an Indian recycling center where community members collected recycling and plastics from trains coming through a nearby station, and turned them in for pay. Not only was the organization providing jobs to for the poor, it was ridding litter from public spaces. Pritzker wove the concept into her own vision for a business.

“Karmic Kitchens speaks to the ethos of the company, which is to be a socially responsible company, not by giving a portion of our profits away—although we’re open to that—but really through creating complete transparency in our supply chain,” she says.

As she began developing her company, her goal was to create a system where every product purchase would benefit someone in a sustainable way.

Theoretical and experiential foundations

Pritzker certainly had enough passion to get her idea off the ground, but the experience and mentorship she got through the Sands Fellowship, her MBA classes, and the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship also played key roles.

“I remember meeting with John Stavig [the director of the Holmes Center] for the first time, and he was the first person to not just blindly agree with me just because I was enthusiastic,” says Pritzker. “He really found the flaws in my argument and my ideas and pushed me to seek answers to them.”

Stavig also introduced her to Melissa Kjolsing, who connected her with a plethora of resources and a network of people to help her begin to answer those challenges.

No matter the industry, a successful enterprise needs a good strategy, and she learned those fundamentals from courses led by professors like Aks Zaheer and Myles Shaver. “I wanted to create a concept that was broad enough to allow substantial growth but specific enough to actually be able to execute on,” says Pritzker. “I think having that lens and trying to understand what my competitive advantage is really came out of those courses.”

A system of good

Between preparing for Karmic Kitchen’s launch in farmers markets this October and her full-time job as an associate marketing manager at General Mills, Pritzker definitely has her hands full. In moving the hypothetical to the real, she hopes to use consumer feedback and insights to continue scaling up her business to encompass bigger retailers and expand to more products.

Pritzker knows that people are beginning to question not only food quality more and more, and she recognizes that it’s not enough to fix the product sometimes. You have to fix the whole system.

“It’s vital that the product can stand alone and be 100 percent sold on its merits,” Pritzker says. “It’s also important that we’re thinking about the bigger picture because it's the right thing to do, and frankly it's what attracted me to business in the first place: This idea that you can do good and support yourself.”