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© Nathan Mandell

Kellogg team's "thought for food" earns entrepreneurial honor 

Just weeks into life after his MBA graduation, Ajay Chawan '03 is preparing for the task he outlined in his Kellogg School admissions essay two and a half years ago.

His goal then was — and still remains — to become an entrepreneur. His business idea is a food technology firm that promises to reduce the caloric absorption of carbohydrates by as much as 40 percent. The potential business, Heartland Health Solutions, relies on a technique developed by Chawan's father and a business plan refined with help from fellow students Brian Helm, Cyrus Mozayeni, Enrique Carrizosa and Will Hahn, all '03.

Chawan's father, a food scientist, developed a process to cut the caloric absorption of processed complex carbohydrates in snack foods, breads, pastas and other edibles. Although his father envisioned using the technique to help diabetics control their glucose levels, the younger Chawan's fellow students immediately saw an application for those trying to lose weight.

"It's a way to enjoy the same foods with fewer calories," Chawan says. "When you think about the marketing opportunities, they're enormous."

Chawan began assembling the team of four students for their food marketing, finance, medical and operations know-how during his inaugural quarter at the Kellogg School. The five took the class Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formulation together last fall, where they wrote an initial draft of a business plan.

After a series of refinements, the students entered the plan in the 2003 Carrot Capital Business Plan Challenge, winning third place in the contest entered by 2,600 students. Now the challenge is to find the funding necessary to get the business rolling.

Although Kellogg School professors typically advise new graduates to gain more experience before venturing out on their own, Chawan says he's ready to test his entrepreneurial mettle. He worked in product development for Ford Motor Co. for four years before beginning the Kellogg School's program.

"I applied to business school because I wanted to control my own destiny," he says. "I never really liked the idea of working for a big company. I always wanted to do my own thing."


©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University