SOARing to a More Sustainable Future
In 2019, Chloe Welch and Hanna Elzaridi were roommates in London during their freshman year as part of Northeastern’s Global Engagement Program. Both used protein powder and were frustrated with the limited options, bulky tubs, and plastic waste.
“We had this tiny dorm and since we didn’t like the same flavors, the tubs kind of took over our kitchen,” Welch said. “We wanted a way to improve the industry, and realized the business model was something that could be modified to improve a lot of elements of it.”
Early in the summer of 2021, they came up with the idea for a protein powder vending machine on zoom from opposite sides of the world. Welch was in San Francisco working at a data analytics firm and Elzaridi was home in Kuwait working on branding for a restaurant management corporation. After doing plenty of research into what it would take to start a business, they decided to go for it and bought a used candy vending machine that they would modify to serve their needs. The machine arrived on campus in September, which was also the beginning of their first semester in Boston; they spent their first two years in other cities across the world.
“Long term, we want to get rid of all single-use materials… that’s one of our main things, we want to be more sustainable than those huge plastic tubs that you get,” Welch said.
In October, they secured a spot to place their first machine: in the Marino Center, right next to the entrance to Wollaston’s. The next step was to modify the machine and get it up and running. To do this, they applied to the Sherman co-op, an initiative that allows students to focus solely on their own ventures for six months with financial support. They’re using the time to modify the machine, work on pitches, and apply for grants.
For their initial launch in Marino, the machine will dispense protein powder into paper cups, which customers can then pour into whatever bottle they want. The paper cups can be recycled, but they have an even more sustainable vision for the future. The pair recently purchased a second machine that they’re currently fitting to dispense the powder directly into a bottle or container. “It’s going to be like a soda machine – you can just go and fill it up,” Elzaridi said.
The next step for the pair is to finally put the first machine in Marino. They expect it to save eight plastic tubs per person per year for those who use it regularly. That’s not to mention the people who buy single-serving protein shakes in plastic containers.
After the first machine is set up, they plan to expand to other colleges in Boston before taking it further and looking for investments. “It’s trial and error to see what the most perfect machine would look like,” Elzaridi said, “and then eventually we’ll just design one that is completely fitted to our needs.”
For more information, visit their linktree at https://linktr.ee/SOARVending
Written by Adam Doucette – February 16, 2022