We are Britt Martin (GSAS ‘18) & Jenn Kim, Co-Founders of Food Period, and this is our journey in the NYU Prototyping Fund.
Food Period received it’s first grant from the Prototyping Fund in September 2017. We got straight to work on developing the MVP for our idea: a functional food product, sold in a monthly subscription box, that commercializes a practice used in functional nutrition to improve women’s menstrual cycles.
All we had was a vague idea of what we wanted our product to look like, how we thought it should taste, what the experience should be like for the user when they received their monthly box.
The key word was ‘vague’.
We had an idea, one we had talked and thought a lot about, but there wasn’t yet a physical manifestation of it. So creating something- anything, really- was better than the nothing we had.
The bar for success was set very low.
So we accomplished what was necessary to get to that first prototype or MVP: a set of energy bites, called Moon Bites, which combine specific seeds (and other natural ingredients) that women take during the two different phases of their menstrual cycles to promote regularity and calm unwanted symptoms.
Although it took months to get to a stage that we could begin selling our product, our checklist of items to get to this first prototype included three key items:
- An edible, preferably delicious, recipe with all the necessary seeds. Check.
- A shipping box with inserts and instructions for using the product. Check.
- A website with details on Food Period and how to order. Check.
Fast forward a couple months and we received follow-on funding from the Prototyping Fund in January 2018. (Thank you Sarah Maibach from the Entrepreneurial Institute, and Anne-Laure Fayard from Tandon!)
This grant was a lot bigger than the first and allowed us to run a small-scale, three-month Home Use Test (HUT). We’re providing our product, free of charge, to 20 women with different period-related symptoms and/or endocrine disorders. We ask that they track compliance, symptom improvement, and their general experience receiving and using our product.
The end goal is to get our users to help us refine the design of our current prototype by having them experience it and provide meaningful feedback.
In essence, the HUT is a three-month-long co-creation period.
But as we started working on designing our HUT, we noticed we were moving at a slower pace than when we had developed our initial MVP.
The Challenge of Perfection
What has really slowed us down- and what often slows startups down as they progress- is that we have way more information now. Feedback comes in from dozens of different channels: customers, potential investors, mentors, taste testers, product designers, naturopaths, nutritionists, food scientists.
We knew we needed to digest all this intel and incorporate into designing our HUT in a meaningful way.
But, this group of 20 women is sacred. They’ve all kindly agreed to participate for three months and track metrics we inquire about daily. We have only one shot to engage with these ladies, so we wanted to be methodical, purposeful, and- dare we say- perfect.
One of the main questions we have been battling with is how to deliver the daily questions to our HUT users: Should it be a physical journal that they send in every month? Do we use a text messaging platform to elicit real-time feedback? Maybe we need to develop an app to sync with their Apple Health data?
Another is how to logistically produce and ship 20 boxes of Moon Bites each month- we still make our product ourselves out of a commercial kitchen in Brooklyn- on top of fulfilling orders for our regular customers.
The irony is that in our attempt to perfect the experience for our sacred 20 HUT users, two of the recruits ended up purchasing our subscription box just because it was taking us too long to get it started.
Strive For Imperfection
Sure, it would be nice to have a perfect product and system designed for the HUT users. But the women we recruited needed us just as much as we needed them, and they were willing to forgive our imperfections. (Heck, they paid $68/month for something we were offering for free.)
And making the “wrong” decision on any of our stuck points would not sink the ship. Nothing is permanent or unfixable. And the truth is, we always had enough information to know which decision we should make or at least “test”, as a jumping off point.
We realized we needed to get back to our early mentality: just get our prototype out in the world.
Sure, trust the data, because it’s your compass, but you also have to trust your gut and keep moving.
Because, if you aren’t, someone else is.
Meet the Food Period team in person at the NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase on Tuesday, May 1!