At 15, Jennifer Fang already knows her way around the kitchen.
The founder of Nutssosweet, a new nut butter and granola company, is entering her junior year at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy and at the onset of the coronavirus decided she wanted to do something to provide economic relief to nonprofits that were working overtime to serve families impacted by the pandemic.
Food has always been a family affair in her house, and Fang took interest in cooking about two years ago, just after the family moved to Austin from China. "A huge part of Chinese culture is when we eat food, we have to enjoy the meal together," she says. "It brings the family together."
Fang says her family loves to cook traditional Chinese food, as well as Western dishes, usually with some kind of twist. "Every day we experiment with different types of food," she says. They often have at least one international student living with them, which she says makes the camaraderie in the kitchen even more fun.
About a year ago, Fang took a particular interest in making health-conscious foods, so she started making granola for her family, which they really enjoyed.
That prompted her to start thinking about other grocery staples that she might be able to make at home. She remembers going to Costco with her parents and seeing the giant containers of nut butter that seemed "plain and simple." "I thought, ’What if I could combine different kinds of nuts and make a twist on it?’" she says.
That’s how her obsession with nut butters began, so when the coronavirus pandemic came to Texas earlier this year, that was the first thing she thought she might be able to make and sell.
She came up with a name — Nutssosweet — put together a website, a business plan and a marketing strategy and sold her first jars in April, with 80% of proceeds going to the Austin Disaster Relief Network.
A few months later, she’s refined the process and is now making two kinds of organic nut butter (starting at $9.89 for 8 ounces), a classic version made with pecans, almonds, cashews, flax meal and sweetened with blue agave, and an almond-based chocolate nut butter spread.
She also has three flavors of gluten-free vegan granola, starting at $10.89 for 16 ounces: classic, chocolate and matcha. (All of the products are available for pickup or with free shipping, and you can find out more information at nutssosweet.com.)
This summer, Fang has been taking an online summer course from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, which has been helping her learn about entrepreneurialism while she’s taking her first steps as a business owner.
Fang says that even though Nutssosweet takes up much of her free time on the weekends, she plans to keep the business going during her last two years of high school at least.
She says she wasn’t sure how a nonessential product would sell during such challenging times, but "you never know until you do it," she says. "At first, I had so many doubts, but now I have no regrets. Every single customer says that it's the best thing they've ever had, and that makes me so happy."