Graduating MBA student Hillary Lewis could hardly imagine what the next few months would hold when two of her professors at UVA’s Darden School of Business approached her about creating a consumer products company. The timeline below illustrates how quickly a company can start up in Virginia’s supportive entrepreneurial environment.
April — Walking through a natural foods store, Hillary learned about High Pressure Processing, a unique technology that inactivates bacteria while at the same time preserving vital nutrients in food and beverages. Inspiration struck and Hillary came back to her professors with the idea for a healthy juice company.
She chose the name Lumi, which is an acronym for LoveUMeanIt, a slogan Hillary shared with her undergrad sorority sisters. The company was incorporated on April 18 and the brand message is one of both loving the company’s juices, as well as loving yourself by consuming healthy products.
May — Hillary and her professors visited the High Pressure Processing Laboratory, part of Virginia Tech’s renowned Food Science and Technology program. The team learned that HPP is an innovative technology in food safety that kills microorganisms and extends shelf life through extreme water pressure. It avoids using chemicals and heat that can alter the taste and nutritional content of foods and beverages.
June — Hillary headed to Miami to visit Hiperbaric, the world’s leading manufacturer of HPP equipment for the food industry. She came away with additional knowledge and an agreement to lease one of the company’s machines for arrival in September.
July — The next step involved looking for a space to set up manufacturing. Hillary worked with economic developers in Albemarle County to find a suitable building. She found the perfect location at 1822 Broadway Street in Charlottesville, an industrial district that is within walking distance of the downtown mall area. The 12,000-square-foot facility is approximately 50 percent manufacturing, with the remainder allocated for office and warehouse space.
August — Lumi began setting up shop in an empty warehouse, which included adding everything from plumbing to electricity. Dominion Virginia Power was particularly helpful in upgrading the facility to the necessary 480 volts in an expedited time frame.
September — The Hiperbaric machine was delivered and the team configured production, warehousing and office space.
October — On October 11, Lumi produced the first HPP juice off the production line. VDACS came out to inspect the facility, and according to Hillary, “On October 25 we got the okay to sell and it was game on!”
November — The company has been selling its fresh vegetable and fruit juices for almost four weeks. Lumi has already branched out from Charlottesville to retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Relay Foods in Richmond, D.C., and Rockville, Md. From weeks three to four the company has more than doubled sales.
According to Hillary, “One reason I went to business school was to start my own company. I believe in the viability of manufacturing in the U.S. and in creating jobs and industry at home. I feel really fortunate there have been so many wonderful people that have been a part of this. We wouldn’t be here today without the support of partners at the university, state and county level. I feel extremely thankful and regardless of the obstacles, every day is more wonderful than the one before.”
Use the highlighted links to learn more about Lumi Juice and why Virginia is a great place to start a business.
Hillary Lewis, co-founder of Lumi Juice, expands sales through a product display in Richmond’s Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Foods Market.