location: Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon
founders: Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori
Product: Vitamin-enriched coffee creamers and hot chocolate
goal: Complete trials; get on retail shelves
experience: Owusu-Ofori holds a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences and completed a Kauffman Foundation fellowship in lean startups. He is an adjunct professor in pharmaceutical sciences at Concordia and was previously operations manager at the City of Milwaukee Public Health Laboratory.
While he was completing his post-doctorate work in pharmaceutical sciences, Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori became disillusioned with the pace and impact of academic research.
“When it came to doing research, a lot of people at these universities do research, it just goes in a paper and sits there,” Owusu-Ofori said. “I thought to myself, ‘There could be a next step.’”[caption id="attachment_344845" align="alignnone" width="770"] Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori with the zebrafish at his lab.
So he wrote a business plan and completed a Kauffman Foundation Global Scholars fellowship focused on lean startup companies. The lean startup methodology involves quickly and cheaply building a company through iterative product development.
As a result of the program, Owusu-Ofori launched his company, The Anokye Food Co. LLC, to tackle a big issue he saw impacting people across ages and socioeconomic classes: anxiety.
In his pharmacy work, he had noted many people don’t want to take pills every day, so he created coffee creamers and hot chocolate enriched with vitamins to aid mental health. The vitamins include vitamin D, L-theanine and magnesium.
“At least in the Western world, in America, a lot of people are walking around with magnesium deficits, and that can cause anxiety and depression, as well,” Owusu-Ofori said.
In 2015, Anokye started selling its Satori coffee creamers and hot chocolate on Etsy.
Once the product was launched, Anokye began increasing its efficacy by studying Satori’s impact on users. Anecdotally, users have seen positive impacts on their mental health, he said.
“We’re just putting forth the products based on the research that’s out there, but we also have to do our own research,” Owusu-Ofori said. “Instead of going from cells to mice to non-human primates and hundreds of millions of dollars, can we test something that’s safe? All the vitamins we use are generally regarded as safe by the FDA.”
Owusu-Ofori and his team at Concordia are currently conducting two years of trials on zebrafish, because their biome and brain functions are considered a good model for human anxiety.
Next, Anokye plans to apply for a Small Business Innovation Research grant. And the company hopes to get its product on retail store shelves, ideally in coffee shops.