The first Georgetown Farmers Market of the season took place Wednesday afternoon in Red Square, offering local food vendors a location to sell their products. This year, the farmers market launched a new entrepreneurship marketplace to support student entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to test their food and drink startup ideas in a more professional setting. Here are three student and alumni startups that have been featured at the farmers market.
Lulu’s Ice Cream
Luisa Santos (COL ’14) started Lulu’s Ice Cream as a senior at Georgetown, and the business model was so successful that she continued it full time in a physical location in Miami following graduation. Lulu’s uses fresh, unpreserved ingredients to make the ice cream from scratch, then flash freezes it using liquid nitrogen as the customer orders, creating an experience and flavor available nowhere else.
Although Santos now operates her business full time as both a store and a catering service, she did not always have a permanent location. Santos started selling her ice cream at the Georgetown Farmers Market, before moving on to participate in other farmers markets in the area and catering.
However, her success was not without challenges. During her senior year, she prioritized the business, and she put her academics to the side.
“I joke around, but I pretty much just stopped school those last few months. Really, I wrote my thesis in like a few days. It was a mess,” Santos said.
Fortunately, she received enormous support from friends and the Georgetown community. In fact, she claims that her being in Georgetown and Washington, D.C. was an asset from the beginning, and that she relied on the help of countless individuals through the challenging process.
“It was so, so extremely helpful that I was in D.C. and school when I started, from the competitions I could enter to the amount of mentors I had access to on campus,” Santos said. “There were so many things happening at Georgetown that allowed me to even think this was an option for me that I don’t think I would’ve really done it if I’d thought about it after maybe doing a year in finance.”
Returning to the farmers market this semester is Georgetown Bubble, a bubble tea business founded by Tim Yim (SFS ’17), Michelle Hur (SFS ‘17) and Rachel Villanueva (SFS ‘16). Beginning with small pop-up stores a year ago, Georgetown Bubble grew steadily in response to both new and long-time fans of bubble tea, which was previously unavailable in the neighborhood.
“We had a good concept, we had a good market, and thought, let’s see where it goes. From our first pop up, we were surprised how well it was doing,” Yim said.
Yim, who also serves as the executive director of the business, took initiative in starting the business, a complex operation that is fully up to legal code and tax regulations and now employs 10 independent contractors.
Yim credits much of his success to the help of dozens of fellow Georgetown students, including his employees and peers who helped along the way. He also cites Santos in particular as one of his advisers.
While Georgetown Bubble has grown impressively within the last year, Yim does not plan to move the business to a physical location, at least not in the near future.
“The way I run the business is within my means. I don’t have to grow astronomically, but it’s sustainable, it’s self-sufficient and, in the end, profitable,” Yim said.
According to Yim, Georgetown Bubble has attracted students who had never tried bubble tea before.
“We catch a lot of people who have never had bubble tea but, because they see a long line, they want to give it a try. Once they have the sample, most of the time, their reaction is mind-blowing,” Yim said.
The Georgetown-famous Misfit Juicery, cofounded by Phil Wong (SFS ’15) and Ann Yang (SFS ’16), sells juices made from defective (or “misfit”) but delicious and healthy ingredients to stores in over a dozen locations in the D.C. area.
Wong and Yang developed the idea behind Misfit after they met in an entrepreneurship class in 2014. Currently, the company employs three to four individuals at a given time to produce the juice in a commercial kitchen in D.C.
Running a thriving business while being a full time student has challenged Yang and defined her time at Georgetown.
“It’s super crazy. It’s definitely been very personally transformative. I am so glad that I did it, and I don’t have any regrets at all. But it’s definitely been a very different college experience. I have definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices,” Yang said.
The team has also dealt with a number of difficult decisions, such as reconciling the ethical component of the small, personal business with the increased efficiency that comes from taking on bigger purchases from wealthier buyers.
“The way that sales growth works and the consumer products and goods, as you start getting larger accounts, it becomes less productive to deliver to smaller accounts even if they’re still really important, so you kind of have to weigh the balance of creating an efficient business,” Yang said.
Appreciating flaws not only in produce, but also in the business experience, Yang said she does not regret taking on this venture and she readily embraces the lessons she has learned from this experience.
“I think mistakes are super important in creating people’s ability to creatively problem solve and also just to push themselves out of their comfort zones,” Yang said.
Like Yim and Santos, Yang capitalized on the opportunities that Georgetown, the student body and the D.C. location had to offer. Despite the difficulty of launching a startup while in college, the three entrepreneurs’ businesses appear promising as they continue to grow and develop.