New cookies, specialty drinks to stock dining halls

White and Wong and Jin and Ja were started by Wharton MBA grads

· September 11, 2013, 5:33 pm   ·  Updated September 11, 2013, 9:11 pm

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After graduating with a business degree, three Wharton graduates have brought their business back to school.

2013 Wharton MBA graduate Josh White and Kim Wong, another 2013 MBA grad, started White Wong Cookies last January, and have been selling the cookies primarily through their website.

It was only at the start of the 2013-2014 school year when they reached out to Bon Appétit and sent in their first order to Penn. They send in “somewhere around 1,000 a week,” according to White.

Though cookies are not an uncommon product, White says their cookies are special. “It’s really the high-quality ingredients we use.”

College sophomore Becca Saionz agreed. “I’ve been hearing a lot about them,” she said. “They definitely taste fresher than the old cookies … it’s a good addition to Houston.”

One way White and Wong managed to make their startup work was through renting part-time kitchen space at the Center for Culinary Enterprises, a Bon Appétit partnership space designed to foster the growth of local food businesses.

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“We’re keeping the money in the city,” said Sky Strouth, director of retail dining operations for the Bon Appétit. He claimed that by using it, food businesses could get rid of “90 percent of their startup costs.”

“You don’t want to commit to a physical space before you’ve baked one cookie,” White added.

White and Wong aren’t the only examples of MBA grads going into the food world and bringing their business back to Penn.

Kalefe Wright, a 2013 Wharton MBA graduate, is the head of business development at the Jin and Ja company — a three-year old food startup that markets an uncommon drink.

“What separates it is the spicy kick,” Wright said. The drink, also called Jin and Ja, is comprised of green tea, lemon, ginger, sugar, mint and cayenne pepper.

The taste is “reminiscent of ginger beer with a spicier kick,” said Engineering sophomore Fabian Toro, who sampled the drink at a tasting event on Monday. Jin and Ja is marketed as a “cleanse” drink, and last year, it won Outstanding Cold Beverage from the Specialty Food Association.

Though the company has been around for a few years, Jin and Ja has only recently arrived on Penn’s campus. It was launched last March after Wright contacted Bon Appétit.

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“It was a pretty soft sell for us,” said Strouth. He pointed out that the drink shows up in gourmet grocery stores in Philadelphia.

Since it came to Penn, it’s been available in 1920 Commons Retail, Joe’s Cafe and Houston Market. “It’s been selling well,” Wright said. “A lot of younger people tend to enjoy it.”

Food is not a very standard career path for Wharton graduates. White himself has a background in finance and previously interned at eBay, but he was once president of the Food Club while at Wharton.

“As far as the MBA students go … anyone who produces a physical product is a rarity. Food is a subset of that,” White said.

Wright, who has more of a background in the food business — he started a food truck after his first year here — agreed. “Food is a rarity,” he said.

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