Kuli Kuli

Kuli Kuli

Oakland, NigerOakland, United States
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Kuli Kuli is introducing moringa superfood products to the US. We form women farming cooperatives in West Africa to grow moringa and improve local nutrition. By enabling moringa production and paying generous wages, Kuli Kuli is creating a sustainable solution to malnutrition fueled by the US market

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In West Africa, 18 million children are malnourished and over 75% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. Moringa is a nutritious superfood that grows in the region; however, few communities benefit from the plant because they process its leaves in ways that leach its nutrients and it is not an income-generating crop. Meanwhile, in the US, millions struggle with obesity and moringa is not on the mainstream market.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Moringa thrives in regions with high malnutrition. While this “miracle tree” is packed with protein, essential amino acids, 27 vitamins and 46 antioxidants, its powers are largely untapped. Kuli Kuli sells nutrition bars in the US made with moringa imported from West Africa. We support farming cooperatives that teach women to grow, process and incorporate nutrient-rich moringa into their families’ diets, reducing malnutrition. We import a portion of the moringa to the US for our bars, creating an international market for moringa and a livelihood for our farmers. Kuli Kuli could scale globally, as moringa thrives in many countries that suffer from malnutrition and is resilient to the increasing droughts caused by climate change.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our flagship moringa partner is It’s Moringa, which works with women farming cooperatives in Ghana. They bring seeds to villages and teach women to grow and process moringa in ways that retain its nutrients. It’s Moringa pays women fair trade wages and ensures they keep a portion of the moringa to feed to their families and sell locally. Many of the women we work with make 5-10x the average income in their region. The women use the profits to buy food and send their children to school. Kuli Kuli and It’s Moringa are working together to form a consortium of citizen sector and for-profit organizations, working to grow, produce and import moringa while ensuring strong quality standards and social impact.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In the last year, Kuli Kuli has transformed from an idea into a company. Through the team’s hard work and growing support network, we forged partnerships on the ground in West Africa, completed our first round of consumer product testing, and raised over $50,000 through an Indiegogo campaign to fund the first manufacturing run of our bars. We are currently negotiating a contract with Whole Foods for placement in their 40 SF Bay Area stores. Now that Kuli Kuli has proven that there is strong demand for our moringa products, it is time for us to return to West Africa and work with farmers to co-create a sustainable way of sourcing moringa that improves local health and incomes. Resources and connections from the Nutrients for All competition will allow us to use a human-centered design process to uncover which moringa organizations are having the largest impact on income and nutrition.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

It currently costs Kuli Kuli $1.50 to produce and package our bars. We anticipate a dramatic decrease to $0.75 as we reach economies of scale. We intend to take a 40% gross margin to sustain our business (and pay our farmers!) while also estimating an approximate 100% gross margin in distribution and retail costs per bar. We are pricing our bars at $2.89 which is on the low end for specialty raw and gluten-free foods.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Kuli Kuli has two competitive advantages: moringa and its social mission. As one of the first companies to bring moringa to the United States, we have the opportunity to introduce the superfood to the market, which is ripe for our gluten-free bars. The nutrition and energy bar market in the U.S. grew at 9% annually between 2006-11, reaching $1.7 billion in 2011. We are also set apart by our strong social mission that’s incorporated into our bottom-line, unlike Two Degrees and Kutoa, two companies that give a nutritional supplement to a child for every purchase.
Team

Founding Story

Lisa Curtis was inspired as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa where she worked with moringa to reduce malnutrition. She discovered three major challenges to the successful implementation of moringa as a form of nutritional intervention: seed inaccessibility, a widespread tendency to boil the leaves (leaching the nutrients) and little funding for agricultural projects. Lisa, Jordan, and Valerie started Kuli Kuli to address these issues while meeting U.S. demand for unique and interesting superfoods. Lisa’s background in international development, Jordan’s background in startups, and Valerie’s background in developing new food products, as well as the team’s growing support network, makes them well-position for success.
About You
Organization:
Kuli Kuli
About You
First Name

Lisa

Last Name

Curtis

About Your Project
Organization Name

Kuli Kuli

Organization Country

, CA, Oakland, Alameda County

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

While our founder Lisa was working in the Peace Core in Niger, a starving child collapsed in front of her. She grabbed some nutrition bars her mother had sent, praying they would sustain the child, but knowing it was not a long-term solution. Food aid and the lack of agricultural investment have led to a twist on the common phase, “give a Nigerien woman a sack of American-grown corn and she will eat for a day. Teach her how to improve her agricultural yield and grow nutritious food and she will feed her entire community.” Now Lisa has founded Kuli Kuli, a social enterprise on a mission to change the world by turning moringa into the next big superfood and doing so in a way that nourishes people worldwide, starting with women in West Africa

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

We began selling Kuli Kuli bars in local farmer’s markets, where the average conversion rate (sample to purchase) was an exceptional 16%. Our target market is a woman in her 30s who is health conscious, socially minded and regularly buys superfoods. To reach this audience, we have developed an online store, pre-selling 9,000+ bars. We are launching in ten Whole Foods stores in November, and plan to do targeted press outreach, and sampling events in groceries stores, yoga studios, and more.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

In the last year, Kuli Kuli has transformed from an idea into a company. To date, we have sold 9,000+ bars. Five-hundred women farmers in six West African women cooperatives are already profiting from the moringa market we are creating in the U.S. Within the next five years, we are poised to support over 2,000 women cooperatives and improve the livelihoods of 40,000 women farmers. Now that we have proven demand for our moringa products, it is time for us to return to West Africa to continue to co-create a sustainable way of sourcing moringa that improves local health and incomes. Resources and connections from Unilever will allow us to use a human-centered design process to build our own scalable moringa supply chain.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

Within the last year, Kuli Kuli has successfully completed a $53k Indiegogo campaign, manufactured and packaged our bars, and forged partnerships with organizations on the ground in West Africa. Our social mission is built into our bottom line. We need to become a profitable business, selling moringa products at scale, to support our farmers and scale our impact. More resources will allow us to develop our moringa supply chain, marketing, build a brand around moringa, and grow our four person team. We are already on the track to do this, and additional support will accelerate our development in turning moringa into a well-recognized nutrient-rich superfood in the United States that serves as a catalyst to improve nutrition worldwide.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

It costs Kuli Kuli $1 to produce our bars, which we sell for $2.89. We take a 40% gross margin to sustain our business and pay our farmers. We want to provide a sustainable livelihood for our farmers and ensure that we produce more moringa in West Africa than we source for the U.S. market. We are committed to paying them Fair Trade wages and reinvesting our profits in the moringa cooperatives.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Our CEO, Lisa Curtis is a serial entrepreneur, having launched four different initiatives before recruiting a team for Kuli Kuli. Each team member brings unique skillsets: Lisa is the visionary and networker; Valerie has extensive experience developing and marketing new food products for major CPG companies; Jordan brings his coding and operational skills and Anne has over 10 years of CPG design and branding expertise.

Comments

Lisa Curtis's picture

We'd love to talk to anyone who has worked with moringa before!

Raj Jani's picture

India has lots of Moringa as well but Indian ways to use it are very different. Want to know more? It could be interesting for your expansion plans...