April 25, 2012

Shazi Visram ’04: Helping Parents Think Outside the Jar

Businesses that were first pitched as part of Columbia’s A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition are proving that visionary thinking — and tenacity — are keys to entrepreneurial success.

>> The Idea: To revolutionize the way babies are fed in this country. “It was outrageous to me that you could spend $1,000 on a stroller or $100 on a pair of fancy baby booties, while there were very few products that could really improve babies’ health,” says Shazi Visram ’04, whose idea for a line of organic baby food was voted an audience favorite in 2004. “I knew that it could be huge.”

>> The Business: Happy Family (formerly Happy Baby) is the leading premium organic baby and toddler food brand in the United States, offering everything from frozen baby and toddler meals and the first dry cereal with probiotics (potentially beneficial dietary supplements) to pureed foods delivered in pouches — eco-friendly packaging that is BPAfree.

Last year Happy Family ranked No. 2 among food and beverage companies in Inc. magazine’s annual listing of the 500 fastest-growing companies — the same year the magazine named Visram among its top 10 female entrepreneurs. Whole Foods and Target — which both sell Happy Family products — have dramatically increased the space allotted to organic baby products in the past five years. “We’ve created a product that has such a high demand, we’re actually creating a positive environmental impact,” Visram says. “We are helping parents put fewer pesticides into their babies’ growing bodies and into the soil.”

>> The Takeaway: Be persistent. “It’s these outrageous ideas that seem impossible and that are truly visionary that are the most challenging,” says Visram. “If you are on to something and have the passion and persistence to see it through, it can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.”

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