For this week’s Meet the Member feature, we spoke to the female entrepreneur team at OBA, winners of the FACC Germinators Face-Off startup pitch competition. Their first place win included a $10,000 prize, 1 year of membership in the FACC and 10 days of FACC-NY CoWork.
A prebiotic drink, OBA is sustainably harvested, contributing to the development of African communities where the primary ingredient is harvested. We spoke with Delphine Darmon, Founder, to learn more about the product, the company and their plans for the future.
FACC: Was OBA created in response to a void in the market? Did you have to develop any additional technology or production techniques to harvest the fruit and the fiber of the baobab fruit?
DD: There is indeed a void in the beverage market. Consumers are expected to choose between healthy and tasty drinks, most beverages are loaded with sugar and the reality of health claims may be very questionable.
We created OBA to be a real pioneer in the beverage market and finally offer to the consumer an organic drink that is tasty, with 1 to 2 grams of sugar only. It also helps address a major deficiency in the American diet: the intake of prebiotic dietary fiber which is a major impact on our gut health - also called our second brain!-and offers an overall wellbeing. This under-consumption of dietary fiber is even identified as a “public health concern” by the US Government in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
OBA is also a mission-driven company, working sustainably with fair trade baobab suppliers and giving back to take action for child literacy and girls’ education.
The fruits of the baobab tree have been harvested manually for centuries in Africa. When the fruit is ripe, it falls off the tree. Women collect the fruits, cut the shells in half and carefully take out the rich dry pulp that lies inside, without more processing. It is all natural.
We have chosen to work with fair trade sourcing solely. Our baobab is also USDA organic and Kosher certified
FACC: What are your plans for distribution in the United States?
DD: We want OBA to be accessible to all consumers in the US, because prebiotic are a must in our diet, not just a “nice to get”. We will begin in the NY area and work with national natural retailers. And expand from there.
We will also sell OBA online and in food service (corporate cafeterias, sports clubs, natural daily's and coffee places).
FACC: As female entrepreneurs, have you faced any dismissive attitudes from potential investors, corporations or other? What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs trying to juggle it all?
DD: OBA is a women-owned company and we work with a mostly female supply chain, the baobab fruit being harvested essentially by women.
We obviously feel concerned by the difficulties faced by many female entrepreneurs to access financing. We know that beverage distribution and grocery retail are not very diverse, but we have had no dismissive attitudes so far. Even on the contrary, there is a real interest from most of the men we met not only for the beverage itself, but also for our holistic approach, which really answers many of the concerns consumers may have today and will have even more in the future -Millennials and beyond-
We believe being female entrepreneurs will be instrumental in the success of our company. We have set the bar high regarding the integrity of our product and the mission of our company, and that will be what sets our brand apart. As women and mothers, we are very close to our core consumers and understand their expectations well. And as former executives of large corporations, we have a strategic perspective on our business, we think big and we know how to execute.
Our advice to other female entrepreneurs is not to compromise with their core values... and set ambitious goals for their business. Reach for the stars, don't be afraid!
FACC: How will the prize money from the Germinators Face-Off be used for OBA’s development?
DD: Germinator's prize will contribute to the first run of OBA and to the support we provide to the NGO, Room to Read. On top of giving us some funding, The Germinators Competition is also a beautiful recognition from our peers. It will be very helpful at this crucial time of our first fundraising. We are very thankful to FACC and to each member of the jury for this prize and for their support.