Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Betty Tang, founder of Upright, located in Branford, CT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Meet Upright, oat milk as nutritious as dairy (without the cow). Our first product is a category-defining high-protein, allergen-free instant oat milk in three creamy, delicious flavors: original, vanilla, and chocolate. Each tasty cup of Upright oat milk packs the same key nutrients as dairy, without the unwanted allergens or environmental impact. Ready whenever and wherever you want it: just add water!
Upright was created with the conscious consumer in mind. Our customers are health conscious and research high-nutrient clean label options. Each is values-driven and aims to live them through every family meal. They seek transparency in ingredients and across supply chains. They're open to exploring new brands and products across channels and are committed to quality.
Tell us about yourself
As someone who's lactose intolerant and cares deeply about the environment, dairy milk didn't make me feel good—physically or ethically. The more I learned about dairy alternatives, the more I realized they all make tradeoffs between health, taste, and sustainability. For a long time, I just drank my coffee black.
When I learned about oat milk, I was thrilled to find out that it was allergen-free and way more sustainable than other plant-based alternatives. Oatmilk uses 13 times less water than dairy and seven times less water than almond milk. But, like most other alternative milks, oat milk is missing a key piece of nutrition: protein. That's how the idea for Upright was born: high-protein oat milk that is good for people and our planet.
I'm motivated each day to do what I do, knowing that small actions can make a big difference. Each cup of oat milk that replaces dairy milk saves 39 gallons of water, 19 square feet of land, and 1.2 pounds of carbon equivalent emissions - and that's just one single cup! Imagine if the entire world was drinking oat milk.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been successfully pivoting during the pandemic. In early 2020, we were working on all sorts of plans: finalizing our commercial formulation with our food science team at their R&D food innovation labs producing our oat milk with co-manufacturing partners getting into cafes and store shelves, and conducting a big fundraising campaign to enable all this. Then—COVID hit.
The lockdowns and turmoil of last year made it seem as though we might have to give up on our goals. All in-person activities were shut down (food is very hard to develop when you’re not in person!), supply chains were completely disrupted, and retailers and investors were closed to new opportunities since they were focused on just managing their existing portfolios.
In the end, these challenges were a catalyst for innovation. We realized that pivoting to focus on instant powdered oat milk was a better opportunity. It allowed us to uniquely differentiate ourselves, better meet consumer needs for a shelf-stable product during the pandemic, simplify our supply chain logistics, and be delivered direct-to-consumer. It was also a more sustainable approach since we weren’t shipping water around the world in a ton of packaging.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Prioritization is the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner. There are always so many things to do - it's hard to figure out what to focus on when there are so many opportunities!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just do it - you'll never feel ready.
- Talk to customers early and often.
- Choose progress over perfection.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.