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Redheart's commitment to using natural ingredients helps to promote awareness regarding food consumption across the region. This clearly goes hand in hand with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically as it relates to the third goal: Good Health and Well-Being.
The rapidly growing company initially offered protein cookies, which progressed into a variety of protein bars. With much success, the founders' efforts transitioned into allowed the company to offer healthy bowls curated with rice, a variety of vegetables, and a choice of tofu or chicken based on customer preferences and dietary restrictions. When creating new menu items, the chefs must consider the cost and budget limitations of companies and restaurants within this industry to bring their innovative ideas to life. Redheart's co-founder, Danny Lee, acknowledges that they faced many restrictions with food cost and packaging. In the meantime, they had to develop a concoction that met all their requirements for macro and micro nutrient balance while satisfying customer demands. Both co-founders, Michael Zhou and Danny Lee, intended to create better quality foods and alternatives for fitness enthusiasts (as well as the average American consumer within the Northeast Ohio region), all while targeting the standard American diet. They aim to bridge the gap between offering great-tasting food to customers while incorporating the right amounts of each nutrient into each meal. Michael and Danny seek to combat the standard American diet by providing consumers with delicious food that doesn't make them feel like they are dieting. These offerings are organized into "brands," which allow their customers to choose how far up the company's seven-tiered health ladder customers would like to aim for.
At the start of their third year at CWRU, Danny's suitemate and best friend, Michael, was pitched the idea by Danny in his room. This close friendship is praiseworthy, as they both prioritized their fitness on campus and offer each other unwavering support, even before the creation of their company. Danny, being a nutritional biochemistry major, and Michael, being a business major, made the perfect pairing to kick off such an endeavor. It was only a matter of time before they combined their minds and developed a rough business model that they have continued to grow over the past year to address an issue that motivated them.
Michael and Danny personally witnessed the impact of unhealthy diets on Americans' health, particularly in the Cleveland area where they attend Case Western Reserve University, as they observed a large number of obese individuals in the area.
The short term impacts of the business related particularly to students' awareness of what they are putting in their bodies. Establishing a ghost kitchen through rented space within a campus restaurant, the Jolly Scholar, they introduced their protein cookies and their rice bowls paired with various proteins of choice to the student body. With much positive feedback still lingering a year after this introduction, Michael and Danny have successfully established a ghost kitchen in Parma, OH.
Long term effects within the industry typically take more than one year of operations to measure out completely, and we continue to be excited to see what the company has in store for the future. Being an SMB in the food industry takes a special tenacity and passion for entrepreneurship, as it goes against larger corporations lobbying for cheaper, less healthy offerings. To combat this, Redheart is still a budding competitor with its numerous offerings starting out with chicken wings on the lower tier of their seven-tiered health ladder, which are still favorable to a number of consumers at varying points in their health journey.
Given each of the two founders' backgrounds, Danny takes a main role in product development while Michael handles the financials. Since inception, the pair has grown to hire a team of roughly 7 or so employees that work within the ghost kitchen to prepare meals and take on the shifts previously split between the founders. Danny's expertise in the kitchen has enabled him to make progress in training and managing staff. With their kitchen almost fully staffed, Danny and Michael are less constrained and can concentrate on potential future projects. The pair are currently working on creating a solid business model that will allow for expansion with less risk. Part of this strategy involves implementing systems to streamline their operations.
Both founders mentioned one of the most rewarding aspects of their roles is seeing the reactions of their customers in the main area. Given that the company is currently operating out of a ghost kitchen, where there is no necessary interaction between those working at the kitchen and the customers, Danny and Michael both observe the reactions of their customers from a distance, as they dive into the company's delectable offerings.
Moving forward, the pair also both noted that diving into this industry in particular is incredibly tough, given that long term impacts will not be truly observable until a little while down the road. While this may be true for the industry/region, they have seen growth in their business as a whole, especially as they diversify their offerings and grow their employee base.
More broadly, Redheart, a company that specializes in healthy meal prep and delivery, can have a significant impact on society by promoting healthier eating habits and combatting the rising obesity rates in America. With their emphasis on nutritious and well-balanced meals, Redheart can educate individuals about the importance of proper nutrition and encourage them to make healthier choices. By providing healthy options that are both convenient and delicious, Redheart can also make it easier for individuals to maintain a healthy diet. As they continue to expand their business and possibly reach more communities, they can provide access to healthy food options for more individuals and contribute to a healthier society overall.
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Danny Lee, Co-Founder
Michael Zhou, Co-Founder
Redheart is a food company founded in 2022 by Danny Lee and Michael Zhou. The company specializes in creating healthy, delicious snacks and meals made from natural ingredients. They offer a variety of products which are free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.