Sant founder Kim LaPaglia didn’t find the inspiration for her company through a family recipe or a favorite restaurant dish. This superfood drink maker found it thousands of miles away from home – in India, to be exact.
She’d wanted to be involved with social work her whole life, Kim said, but also had a serious travel bug – two things that didn’t really mix well together. But she was determined, and finally decided to travel to India a few years ago to work for an organization that supported social enterprises.
Toward the end of her time in India, Kim stumbled upon garcinia indica, a supplement related to garcinia cambogia, which had been featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012 as a weight-loss supplement. Not that Kim bought into that sort of thing.
“I believe in miracles, just not miracle pills,” she said.
But the more research she did, the more incredible she realized the actual garcinia indica superfruit was for your health – from use in moisturizers and soaps to preventing the spread of cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
“I’m using it and loving it…I thought maybe this is my chance to try social enterprise myself,” she said.
So she ditched the clothes from her suitcase, stuffed it full of the superfruit and brought it home. It was an immediate hit with family and friends, and that’s when she knew she was on to something. Her friends helped her build a Kickstarter for the business, and she participated in the 2014 Lean Startup Challenge.
“Their methodology is ‘make hypotheses and then create new iterations off of that,'” Kim said. “Less thinking and more planning and trying.”
Kim and her team tried out various ways of putting garcinia indica into foods like sorbet or a formula to be added to other drinks – but found that people really just liked the taste on its own.
“They say entrepreneurs don’t starve – they drown,” Kim said. “There’s so many different directions, so if you get caught up you run out of money and time.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t use it in unusual ways. Kim’s sister uses it in cocktails as a replacement for cranberry juice in a cranberry vodka – it’s less calories and sugar, and way more antioxidants.
Her mission with the company is to help improve people’s lives, Kim said, through balancing their minds, bodies and communities. That was the inspiration behind the name for the company: “sant” is short for Santulan, a Hindi word meaning balance.
“I want it to be something more about a holistic lifestyle,” Kim said. “The vision is very big.”
Someone wanting to start their own food-based company really has to love it, Kim said. There are a lot of times when you could just walk away and quit.
“If you don’t 150 million percent believe in it, it won’t work,” she said.
It’s sometimes frustrating for her to look back on her journey, Kim said, because there are some mistakes that have been made along the way that were nearly unavoidable. That’s why she recommends that people who want to start their own business begin with something small.
“Your first time out there’s no way you could predict some things,” Kim said. “I don’t care how much research you do.”
Her biggest hope is that people have fun with her product, Kim said. She thinks that playing with the flavor and the way the drink infuses is unique, and she hopes that consumers are intrigued.
“I’m not a culinary expert, but I like making things,” she said. “People come to me with so many ways to use it that I never thought of.”
Starting Sant not only helped Kim find a way to make an impact on the world, but it also helped her personal growth, she said. The stress of making the final calls, dealing with uncertainty – all of it made her who she is today.
“Facing all of that was the best thing I got out of all this,” she said.