MBA Students’ Lunch Idea Wins Berkeley Wal-Mart Competition

A pair of Haas MBA students won the first round of a prestigious national contest sponsored by Wal-Mart with a proposal to deliver healthy lunches to suburban office parks and companies in rural settings.

Minnie Fong and Jane Wong, both MBA 13, were selected from three Berkeley-Haas teams go on to the next stage of the Wal-Mart Better Business Plan Challenge, which will pit them against regional teams in late February at the University of California, Davis. The winners of the regional competition then will fly to Wal-Mart's Arkansas headquarters to compete before company executives in April. The grand prize winners will take home $20,000 to invest in their idea.

“We’re very excited,” Wong says. “This validation comes just at the right time. It gives our project momentum. Our idea is very important to us.”

Fong and Wong are hoping to best the other teams with “Fresh Picks,” a business that would deliver healthy, affordable lunches to offices, even in non-urban settings, at reduced prices after receiving subsidies from employees’ companies. 

Fong actually tested a mini-version of the business at home in the Philippines. Her office mates were always jealous of her homemade lunches that she brought to work, and in short order, she was bringing (and selling) lunches for up to 20 co-workers at a time. “It was a lot of fun,” she says. “I realized I had this passion. And I saw the potential market for this.” 

So, when the Wal-Mart contest came up, she connected with Wong over their lamentations about dismal cafeteria food, and the team was formed.

In 2009, Haas undergraduates Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora won the regional competition and now run a company called BTTR (Back to the Roots) Ventures, which takes used coffee grounds to create grow-it-at-home mushroom kits. “They’re one of our success stories,” says Will Morrison, program manager at the Haas Center for Responsible Business, who hopes for a similar fate for Fresh Picks.