MBA Alumna Inspired to Start Nutrition Company in Entrepreneurship Course
Like many great ideas and organizations, Fooblie Nutrition started as Melissa Antal Iftimie’s (MBA’19) class project. Fooblie educates and supports parents in their journey of feeding their kids and themselves. They help families from pregnancy through childhood and everything in between.
“Fooblie was something I couldn’t get out of my head,” said Iftimie. “I thought I could have it as a side project while I was continuing to work but it kept growing. I entered a lot of the pitch competitions at Georgetown and was nominated for the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize, which gave me both the confidence and money to get started.”
Iftimie did not enter Georgetown McDonough wanting to start her own business. Already armed with a masters in public health, she noticed gaps in the organizations where she worked. Whenever these organizations needed to overcome an obstacle, they turned to the business community for a solution.
“I thought if I could speak both languages — health and business — I could be more impactful.” said Iftimie. “I chose the Flex MBA program, which allowed me to continue to work, which was awesome because I could apply everything I was learning immediately into my job at the time.”
Going into her second year, Iftimie began to take classes focused on start-ups and entrepreneurship. One class, Innovation and Intrapreneurship, completely changed the trajectory of her career. Taught by Eric Koester, adjunct professor and serial entrepreneur, the class focused on how to innovate in a current role as opposed to creating one.
“I never thought I would become an entrepreneur — it seemed too scary,” said Iftimie. “That class helped me realize problems I was solving in my job abroad were happening here in the United States and no one was really taking them on. Due to the resources and support available to me, I was able to quit my job and start my own company while at McDonough.”
Iftimie credits Georgetown McDonough wholistically for the ability to venture out on her own. The coursework encouraged her to think in new ways as well as apply what she was learning to her startup. The mentor relationship with the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence proved invaluable because she was able to speak with people who had taken this leap before. As for her classmates, some were parents who became her first customers.
With all of this support, Iftimie was able to do her prep work and product testing before graduation. By the time she walked out of Hariri with her diploma, she had a live product up and running.
Fooblie is an all-in-one resource for parents when it comes to feeding infants and young children. Iftimie’s company is there to help families feel confident and empowered when it comes to their children’s nutrition. Unlike many companies pre-pandemic, Fooblie already had employed teleworking and telemedicine technology in its business plan. Though, Iftimie did not see it make a significant impact.
The pandemic did provide unique growth opportunities for Fooblie, but now where Iftimie expected.
“Overnight, our strategy changed because we were at home like a lot of others out there. We chose to focus our support to parents like us,” said Iftimie. “We helped parents occupy their time at home with kids using food and cooking not only as a way to eat, but also something to do. This grew our user base and helped us personally get through the early months of the pandemic; and we’ve seen growth in terms of partnership opportunities with new companies.”
Antal also commented that due to the direction they chose, the company has come out stronger overall.
“We chose to support parents at home as they were feeding their kids,” said Iftimie. “We helped parents occupy their time at home with kids using food and cooking not only as a way to eat, but also to provide activities. We’ve also grown in terms of our user base; our platform connects registered dietitians and lactation consultants to parents and we’ve seen growth there in terms of partnership opportunities with new companies.”
Iftimie’s time at McDonough enabled her to tackle a problem she saw and have the courage to go out and do so.
“Georgetown fundamentally allowed me to pivot my own professional journey to go from employee to employer,” Iftimie said.