Jamie Kim has always been interested in the food industry, cutting her teeth at a three Michelin star restaurant during her high school days. But it wasn’t until studying hospitality management at Cornell University, that she put her passion for pushing the envelope on culinary creations to the test. Find out how this college senior went from coed to CEO by elevating simple granola to A+ status.
Declaring a major…majorly delicious product, that is
Working in restaurants, Kim found inspiration at just about every turn. She was full of culinary concepts and ideas, and wanted to try them out on her family and friends, and in her experimenting, she found granola to be an ideal medium to try out different flavors, something that was beyond a simple topping for yogurt. “It was a blank canvas to try out all different kinds of flavor combinations from strawberry basil to bacon and maple in granola. I was playing around with that, and my friends always said I should start a granola business,” Kim says.
But it wasn’t until she got to Cornell, where the combination of missing cooking for friends and family and the lack of inspiring foodstuffs on local grocery store shelves, that Kim decided she’d give her friends what they wanted, and started her granola business. One of her first products was a rosemary granola baked with locally sourced ingredients including grass-fed butter and honey, and inspired by the farm-to-table movement. Other flavors have included sweet potato with ginger and cinnamon, and sharp cheddar with cracked black pepper.
Kim started out selling bumble & butter products in 2016, first at a table she set up on campus, and then at Smorgasburg, a New York City food festival. She sold her products in local areas, and being on a college campus, she became heavily involved in the entrepreneurial scene at Cornell. But she knew college wasn’t going to last forever, and Kim had started thinking about expanding her business, with a big dream of landing in Whole Foods Market.
Graduating to the big leagues
While reading an article about how to get retailers to notice your product, Kim heard about RangeMe and decided to sign up. She put up her first product—rosemary granola—and immediately had some doubts that maybe it wasn’t ready for market yet, as she was debating making a packaging change. Nevertheless, Kim says she felt RangeMe was “definitely a really good channel to put myself out there and be seen.”
Though she may not have felt ready, a certain retailer was definitely ready for her innovative product–a local forager buyer from Whole Foods reached out to request samples. And after requesting a second round of samples, the retailer offered Kim the chance to put her products in one of their stores, with the potential for more, if sales were good.
bumble & butter products launched in Whole Foods in November 2018, with three products in one store. Sales have been steady and reaction positive, Kim says. And a single store is ideal, she adds. “It’s almost a relief to have just that one store to worry about,” she says. “As a student, it’s a lot more manageable with just the one store.” Add to that the fact that the bumble & butter team is Kim, helped occasionally by a fellow student, and that one Whole Foods store is plenty—for now.
“I want to expand the business after graduation,” Kim says. She’s planning on moving to New York City and focusing her expansion in that geographical area while also using RangeMe to gain more exposure from retailers across the country. In the meantime, she’s working through a fellowship program of coaching and mentoring to help her business. “I definitely feel committed to this full time,” she says.