City: New Orleans
Entrepreneur: Erik Frank
If you believe, as we do, that what you put into your body –what you feed yourself and all of your carefully calibrated, mortal parts – is as integral to your wellbeing as the breath you draw or the blood you pump, then Erik Frank may be your guy. Erik does not see cancer as something that can reliably be stamped out with chemicals and sharp knives alone. He does not believe what we’re doing now to treat cancer works as well as it could. He believes an effective treatment will not just attack in the most acute and finite way the metastasized cells that form a cancer. He knows that in the war of body versus cancerous intruder, a battle must be waged on all fronts, including diet.
Enter Erik’s company, Your Nutrition Delivered.
Erik is determined to prove that the right diet can help beat cancer, alongside traditional medical approaches. Through Your Nutrition Delivered, Erik wants to supply balanced meals that provide the nutrients a body needs to fight specific cancers. Bolstered by a nutritionist, a trial at a hospital, partners at medical institutions, and patients hungry (no pun intended) for holistic treatments, Erik is determined to change the way we treat cancer in America. He also wants to use diet to help prevent cancer and a number of other diseases. This all started with a vague dream in a home kitchen that wasn’t even his own.
The genesis of Erik’s business can be found in his origins as a personal trainer. Erik – a burly guy who, from the looks of it, wrestles alligators and bends railroad ties in his spare time – grew up in New Orleans. He started as a personal trainer, swiftly adding a variety of corporate clients to his roster. When interviewing employees of various local companies about their diet and exercise habits, Erik discovered a cornucopia of clientele who meant to eat well, but didn’t know how to or couldn’t find the time. As a solution to this quagmire, he decided to prepare them fresh, balanced meals for a reasonable price.
Erik hired a cook to do this out of the cook’s home kitchen. When demand for these nourishing meals jumped, Erik moved into a kitchen the size of a suburban living room. He sold to local grocery stores. He sold through corporate coolers – refrigerators-turned-vending developed specifically for this purpose, and which now dot the landscape of office buildings far and wide. He sold directly to customers through Your Nutrition Delivered’s website. He created demand by pounding the pavement. He grew his kitchen yet again, this time to industrial standards. He sought out technological advantages, working to integrate modified atmospheric packaging (the use of packaging enlivened with carefully calibrated gases to prolong shelf life).
This is where we came in.
As MBA Across America fellows, we worked with Erik to consider a potential partnership with a large national retailer famed for their embrace of natural products. This included creating a negotiation tool for weighing tradeoffs between managing inventory risk and the margin the retailer received. We also considered best practices for the expansion strategy, including differentiation, rebranding, adjusting product lines, in-store promotions and devoting human resources.
This was the first project our team completed. We are from a blend of business schools and as we adjusted to each other’s coffee addiction levels and exercise preferences, we learned how difficult it is for a small food company to negotiate with a mammoth grocer. A good product alone isn’t always enough. Relationship-building and a strong business plan are crucial. We also learned about the variety of gainful opportunities that present themselves to growing small businesses, and the discipline required by a thoughtful entrepreneur to stay true to their mission while balancing the tugs of investors, customers and employees. Erik didn’t set out to get rich. He set out to improve how we treat cancer by improving patient diets. Yet numerous opportunities seemed within grasp, many of which would significantly enrich Erik. But how would they sync with his company’s mission? This was the existential problem (opportunity, really) that colored our week with Erik.
The watchword of New Orleans is lagniappe, or “A little extra”. The lagniappe captures the soul of New Orleans in a word, and it also captures Erik. We’ve rarely met a more confident, adroit entrepreneur brimming with optimism, ready to produce a little extra and surprise everyone. While the science isn’t yet fully in on Erik’s view of food and cancer, Your Nutrition Delivered may very well be the little something extra – the lagniappe – that helps its customers beat cancer. We hope to see a future for Your Nutrition Delivered to be the delicious staple diet that the healthy and the healing eat alike. That’s a company we’re proud to get behind.