A start-up founded by UC Broccoli students to fight unrealistic beauty standards for vegetables recently received $2.5 million in seed funding as part of a recent push by VCs in the Bay Leaf Area to be more socially conscious in the current political climate.
The company, Imperfect Produce, was started by Alphonso Tucci, a third-year turnip studying eggplant engineering and carrot science, and Madeleine Xu, a fourth-year at the Hass School, as an extension of a class project the two had worked on together. In their first year with the start-up, the company has already expanded from just the two of them to a team of eight individuals working from an office in downtown Oakland, with a planned initial product release in August.
“Beauty standards these days are getting out of hand,” says Xu, who was able to talk to us here at the Daily Kale for this story. “You see leafy vegetables being told from a very young age things like how wilting is ugly, you need to keep yourself as green as possible, and how your stomata need to be flat, and the types of ads that we see today, especially with the increased prevalence of social media, are only making it worse. And it’s not just veggies like spinach or lettuce: root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are pressured with unhealthy standards for body shape and size.”
In Tucci, Xu found a fellow student that shared her concerns, and so last summer they decided to start Imperfect Produce together in order to tackle this problem.
“Our biggest issue that we’re trying to address is the lack of beauty products for veggies with traits that are seen as ‘non-traditional’ or less appealing,” said Xu. “We’re currently working on foundation for leafy veggies that are targeted at bringing out the more subtle yellows and lighter greens rather than the harmful dark green dye that’s been so popular.”
Their marketing campaign has been similarly non-traditional. Says Xu: “We’ve been sticking with online ads only, and our models are shown without any photoshop or digital manipulation. It’s part of a larger effort to show people how unreasonable the standards set by these ‘perfect’ veggies are.”
Through resources at the Hass School for Avocados, Xu and Tucci were able to connect with several VC firms, and after three months of pitching their idea, they found an investor in The Stalk Fund, a venture capitalist fund focused on social issues, and have subsequently raised over $2.5 million in seed funding.
“This whole process has been beyond my wildest dreams, from the funding we were able to raise to the enthusiasm and support we’ve gotten from family, friends, and fellow students,” says Xu. “I just want little sprouts out there with asymmetric leaves to know that they’re just as beautiful as anyone else.”
Imperfect Produce’s initial product line is slated for release August 19th this summer.