A Sustainable Phil-osophy for Food – Georgetown Alumnus Tackles Climate Change at the Venture Lab
Georgetown alumnus Phil Wong (SFS’15) and his team are taking a bite out of climate change through their food startup, Phil’s Finest – and they’re using the Georgetown Venture Lab as the headquarters to make it all possible.
The company offers an assortment of humanely-raised chicken and grass-fed beef products that are half vegetable, half meat, to provide a more sustainable approach to meat consumption in the United States.
“I started Phil’s Finest when I was still a senior in college with one of my best friends,” said Wong. “A lot has changed since then, but the two things that have stayed the same are the mission and inspiration for the company, which is the belief that we can use delicious food to bring people together and fight one of the most important issues of our generation.”
Wong started Phil’s Finest (formerly Misfit Foods) in his college kitchen with his friend and colleague, Ann Yang (SFS’16). The startup initially offered a series of cold-pressed juices sourced from upcycled food waste to resolve inefficiencies in traditional food supply chains and promote zero waste practices. After a successful launch, Phil’s Finest made the decision to focus on meat and plant hybrid products in order to serve a broader consumer base and make a greater environmental impact.
“More than 90% of the United States population eats meat, and I believe there is a huge market for sustainable products that cater to people choosing to live an omnivorous lifestyle,” said Wong. “So often meats and vegetables are drawn in opposition to each other, but we believe that they can be eaten in harmony.”
After showing initial success through Georgetown Entrepreneurship programs and competitions such as Bark Tank and the Summer Launch Incubator, the Phil’s Finest team became one of the original members of the Venture Lab in 2018. The team leveraged the lab as a physical space to build and scale their business alongside a community of fellow entrepreneurs.
After a short stint away during the pandemic – and a successful appearance on Season 12 of Shark Tank – Phil’s Finest once again returned to the Venture Lab with a renewed brand and growing team in the Washington, D.C., area.
“No matter where we are located, D.C. is inevitably home for us – there is a very strong pull of community and the Venture Lab is a big part of that,” said Wong. “There is some very real connectivity being built through the Venture Lab and the startup community.”
One of Phil’s Finest’s newest team members, Andrew Rutledge, runs their headquarters at the Venture Lab, which helps them keep a strong presence in the mid-atlantic region.
“Most of our team lives in Brooklyn, New York, and I live in Washington, D.C., but our primary brick and mortar retail presence at Whole Foods is in the mid-atlantic. D.C. was central to being able to access and leverage that market fully,” said Rutledge. “The Venture Lab not only gives us incredible physical space to work in in terms of operations and storage, but also it’s the HQ for when we continue to grow and build capacity as a team.”
Expansion and growth are undoubtedly in the plans for this food startup. The company will soon make its appearance in over 400 Sprouts stores nationwide – hitting the shelves later this month. Perusing the aisles of Whole Foods and Sprouts, hungry customers will find Phil’s Finest staples such as Kale Chimichurri and Maple Apple Chicken Sausages or Korean BBQ and Lao Curry Style Beef.
“We want to be a true family of products for omnivores and the possibilities are endless,” said Wong. “We just wrapped up an accelerator with one of the largest privately owned food service distributors in the United States, who is also an investor for us now, so we’re looking to make a foray into food services as well.”
As Phil’s Finest builds a promising future for sustainable consumption across the United States, they are quick to point out their recipe for success, which is a key component of the company’s mission.
“Community is the root of everything we do,” said Rutledge. “We cook food for people and empower them to make more sustainable choices for their health and the environment. Being able to tap into the various people and resources happening at the Venture Lab has been invaluable in broadening the way that we connect with others and approach our business.”
For Wong, this emphasis on community has been integral to his experience as a Georgetown entrepreneur, particularly when it comes to connecting with other Hoyas in the food industry.
“There is something in the water at Georgetown – the depth of food businesses at the school is incredible. Sweetgreen sponsored the first pitch competition that gave us our seed funding and we have been fortunate to have several other Georgetown alumni funding our business. It takes a village to start a new business, and we’ve been fortunate to pay it forward in some ways, but we have a long way to go to match the generosity that we’ve benefited from in the Georgetown community.”