Rooted Living founder takes the healthy snack business to the next level

Northeastern fourth-year student Rachel Domb was in line at Anthropologie on Newbury Street in Boston recently with her Rooted Living tote bag draped over her shoulder when the cashier spoke.

“Have you tried their granola? It’s so good,” Domb recalled as the cashier said, referring to Rooted Living, a healthy snack company. “And I was like, ‘I have tried their granola.

In her head, says Domb, she was thinking, “I a m the granola.

The cashier said she too had a Rooted Living tote bag and loved the granola snacks. Excited that the saleswoman, a college student from the Northeast, was a fan of Rooted Living, Domb told her she was the company’s founder, and the flattering comments made her happy.

“Moments like these happen frequently on campus now, with three people I didn’t know coming up to me on my first day back in class. It’s a surreal and shocking feeling,” Domb said.

Domb’s desire for healthy snacks turned into a thriving business venture while she was a student at Northeastern. The growing popularity of eco-friendly, plant-based snacks has turned the brand into a marketable commodity.

“The bins have been a really fun way to connect with the Rooted Living community that I don’t see every day. But it’s been a fun way to find out how this brand is slowly spreading. Or, it’s just a really good tote bag,” Domb said with a laugh.

Domb’s startup was born out of her desire for healthy food fuels when she was running the track in high school. She wanted a healthier alternative to the refined sugar-filled snacks in the stores. So she started making her own healthy snacks. And she didn’t want her snacks wrapped in environmentally harmful plastics, so Rooted Living’s wrappers are compostable.

Rooted Living granola snacks have been on the market for a year. The snacks — in flavors of Peanut Butter Crunch and Maple Almond Crunch — are available online and, with the help of a small distributor, now in about 14 stores in the Greater Boston area. .

Sales were “great,” Domb said, but a little bumpy as she juggled a wide range of business obligations with schoolwork and leadership roles in entrepreneur groups.

Determined to scale Rooted Living, Domb set out in the spring to raise funds to provide the resources needed for growth. She has participated in pitch programs and networked with Northeast business people, entrepreneurs and graduates.

“I started the initial stages of fundraising with the sole purpose of being able to scale, to have a team so that all the opportunities that came my way, I could really achieve. And I was able to bring life and build a system that could really scale properly,” said Domb, a sustainable economics student.

After a successful summer, Domb made a major staff increase in October. She added a head of sales, head of operations, head of marketing, chief of staff, head of growth and head of the ambassador program, all part-time positions. Five of the six are students from the North East, she said.

“This great team of people coming from the spirit of the northeast,” Domb said. “So get big and fast.”

Domb credits much of Rooted Living’s success to Northeastern’s entrepreneurial programs and its many mentors, including former Northeastern professor Mark Bernfeld.

Bernfeld, who retired in June as a professor of practice and finance, is an experienced entrepreneur and angel investor. He knows what it takes to grow a startup and considers Domb an outstanding entrepreneur.

“She totally believes in Rooted Living’s missions, which are, number one, healthy eating, healthy delicious food, and number two, sustainability. And I invest in a lot of sustainable businesses,” Bernfeld said.

“She has a passion for both missions and a determination to succeed, not just because she wants to be a successful businesswoman, but because she wants to accomplish these missions,” he said. “She wants to provide healthy, delicious food, and she wants to have a business that’s good for the environment. These missions were more important to her than financial success or ego fame, whatever. And that really impressed me about her.

One of the new hires is Tyler Farley, 26, a 2019 Northeast graduate and current Mosaic Fellow who works as a growth manager.

Farley said developing a product and bringing it to market is a huge feat, and she accomplished it while sticking to her mission.

“Rachel is incredibly passionate and an inspiration to Northeastern students. She is a people-oriented leader who is happy to bring in experienced people to help her grow Rooted Living,” said Farley.

“She inspires everyone around her and makes them feel valued,” Farley said. “Everyone feels like they’re a part of Rachel’s success, and the wins are shared in the community. Northeastern students feel like they’re a part of Rooted Living, as many have been on teams that support her.

Determined to solve this sugary snack problem — and the fact that snack storage store shelves were wrapped in plastic — Domb took her efforts to a new level when she came to Northeastern.

As a sophomore, Domb won first prize in the Husky Startup Challenge for her entrepreneurial efforts with Rooted Living.

Looking back on the release of his first products a year ago, Domb said the feeling was “surreal”.

“Ridiculous. I have a photo and a video of me opening and holding the first bag. It was kind of a weird combination of surreal, but also anti-climactic because it was something I was obsessed with. was prepared, watching on a screen and preparing for this kind of anticipation for years,” she said. “And so I was like, yeah, that was amazing, but that was also kind of like, okay, thank goodness it’s here. I can finally switch to sale mode. I was at that point just ready to launch, ready to go out and eager to take the next step.

Domb joined WISE, the North East Women’s Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Society, and it put her on the startup road. Then she won the Husky Startup Challenge in fall 2020, and the $2,500 prize helped her launch Rooted Living.

“What WISE has done is portray business and entrepreneurship as essentially taking something you’re passionate about and building it while solving a problem. And it really, really is that simple,” she said.

Domb wanted to produce a healthy snack without refined sugar. She didn’t want it wrapped in plastic, but rather in eco-friendly packaging.

“I had something I wanted to build. I had something I was trying to solve. I didn’t really know it was about business or entrepreneurship, but they gave me that initial autonomy,” Domb said. “They believed in me before I believed in myself and that ended a lot of the personal limiting beliefs I had about myself and my success, about learning and achieving things that I never had. done before. It really gave me a lot of confidence and it continues to challenge me because I’m constantly learning things that I don’t know how to do.

In addition to WISE, Domb worked with Scout, a student-run design organization at Northeastern, on Rooted Living’s initial brand. And two years later, Domb is working with them again to do a “little rebranding” and work on the website as the core philosophy of Rooted Living has grown. IDEA, a student-led venture capital accelerator at Northeastern, and the law school’s intellectual property CO-LAB also provided support.

Now, a year after launching its product, Domb continues to introduce Rooted Living and execute on its growth plan.

Farley said he was excited to join Domb’s team and the future of Rooted Living.

“I could imagine Rooted Living being a household name leading the way for brands that reduce plastic consumption. There could be a whole catalog of healthy snacks you can buy at any grocery store and track your own impact as each is doing its part to protect the planet,” Farley said.

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