Landing on your big idea

Two founders explain how they came up with their company idea – the first marked a move from New York to California, while the second was the exact reverse.
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Aishwarya Iyer

Founder of California-based olive-oil brand Brightland

‘I was living in New York City and spending more time cooking at home when my partner and I noticed we kept getting stomach aches. Nothing too alarming, but enough to give us pause. So we started eliminating things like bread and cheese. We talked to nutritionist friends and, eventually, the only constant was the oil we were using. 

‘Until then, I’d never given olive oil a second thought. It turns out it’s a massive problem across the world – there's a slew of rancid, rotten product in supermarkets and stores. Consumers have been buying what is labelled extra-virgin olive oil, but actually it doesn't qualify to be that. There’s a lot of scandal and intrigue plaguing the industry.

‘I thought maybe a chef or restaurateur could pursue this project – I didn't come from a background in food, so I didn't think I had a space I could carve out for myself. When I moved to California in 2016, I started visiting olive farms on the weekends just out of curiosity and for fun. I didn't yet really understand the burgeoning industry that's here and I was so delighted by the quality and the conversation and the promise. 

‘It reminded me of what the California wine industry must have been like in the seventies. Then I thought maybe there is something I can do here. I didn't come in with a business plan and funding – I took some of my savings and said, “OK, let me do a first run and try to find the right farm partner that aligns with what this company's values are going to be. Then take it day by day after that.”’

More: Listen to our Courier Weekly podcast episode with Aishwarya here

Kay Kim 

Co-founder of New York-based plant company Rooted 

‘My co-founder Ryan and I were fortunate enough to grow up in California, surrounded by thriving foliage. So when we moved to New York and experienced that concrete jungle life, we began to miss the greenery. When we moved into an apartment, we decided that instead of buying really expensive furniture, what if we just decked out our place with plants?

‘We quickly discovered that that entire experience was a lot more difficult than we had expected. We were looking for affordability, convenience and variety, and they were hard to come by. We inevitably ended up at Home Depot where we had the affordability but not the variety or convenience. Especially living in NYC, you have to lug all of your plants onto the L train or order a really expensive Uber. We thought we could do the whole plant company thing a little bit better using our backgrounds in design, advertising and tech.

‘We started with “plant parties” – we got an entire freight truck filled to the brim with plants and decked out our house like an Ikea showroom, blasting music, inviting all our friends and having a good time. But they could also walk around our two-storey house and view plants in situ, emulating what they could look like in their own space. Eventually random people were showing up, saying, “Hey, I saw this on Instagram!” That’s when we were like: I think there’s something here.’

More: Listen to our Courier Weekly podcast with Kay here

This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2021. To become a subscriber or purchase our newest guide, head to our webshop.

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