Popped Water Lily Seeds Go Prime Time

Nadine Habayeb came to Babson as an exchange student from Madrid with an idea. She and her business partner, Priyal Bhartia, wanted to bring popped water lily seeds, a popular Indian snack, to the U.S. market.

“It was growing in popularity around the world, so we knew we had a lot of work to do, and fast,” said Habayeb.

Now, Habayeb and Bhartia have taken their company Bohana® prime time. Habayeb appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show,  broadcast Friday, March 20. She becomes just the latest member of the Babson community to appear on the long-running program.

Habayeb took a deal from Mr. Wonderful, shark Kevin O’Leary. Mr. Wonderful posted about his new partners on Twitter: “I love this deal! I’m picky when it comes to investing in food products, but @bohanalife is an exception…delicious, the numbers are great, and the entrepreneurs are brilliant. Welcome to the #ChefWonderful family!”  (Watch the entire show and don’t miss the bidding war between O’Leary and Barbara Corcoran!)

Bohana Comes to Babson

“I chose Babson for its reputation as a leading college for entrepreneurship in hopes of bringing Bohana to life,” says Habayeb. Little did she realize that her popped water lily seeds would become a reality much sooner than she could have imagined.

“I took a pivotal class called Food Entrepreneurship with Rachel Greenberger MBA’11, founder of Food Sol,” says Habayeb. There, she met some the key players in the Boston food community.

“Nadine came up to me on the first day of my Food Entrepreneurship class and said, ‘I have an idea. I don’t know if it will work, but I think there is an opportunity,’ ” recalls Greenberger. “The upbeat tone and clarity of her vision have not waned since.”

A Seat at Babson’s Community Table

One of Habayeb’s most memorable and business-perspective boosting experiences with Food Sol was participating in the Community Table initiative.

“I came to my first Community Table with a few handmade sample bags of our snack, and a list of questions and things I wanted to learn more about,” says Habayeb.

She remembers the discussion as extraordinarily helpful. “People offered contacts and connections, and lent their experience and advice,” says Habayeb.

The original plan had been to launch Bohana organically by producing through a local kitchen, but thanks to connections and discussions at Community Table, she decided to pivot toward a much more aggressive approach.

Babson’s Quick Service Incubator

Another source of advice and inspiration came during one of Babson’s Quick Service Incubator events.

Participants, who are entrepreneurs in the food industry, have two minutes to pitch a business challenge to an audience and a panel of food-industry experts. The audience then works to come up with actionable ideas for them, which everyone gets to hear.

Crowdsourcing ideas in response to Habayeb’s question were Food Sol Senior Fellows Ed Doyle and Nancy Cushman, alongside students, alumni, and members of the general public.

Their advice helped kick-start Bohana, which launched six months later to rave reviews in Self and The Washington Post.

“Babson gave us the tools to build a food business, opened the doors to an incredible group of professionals in the industry, many of whom became our advisors, and provided so much intangible support,” says Habayeb. “Without that, we would not have brought Bohana to life.”

“It has been a joy and inspiration to watch the seed of Bohana sprout and grow,” said Greenberger.

This story was updated on March 22 to reflect the outcome of Habayeb’s appearance on Shark Tank.


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