An ASU student has founded an overnight oats company with the aim of encouraging students to prioritize breakfast, and has partnered with the University to address food insecurity faced by college students.
Elexia Roberson, a junior majoring in food and nutrition entrepreneurship, founded SMARTY OA+S earlier this month.
Roberson came up with the idea for the company after delivering a speech for her public speaking class about the importance of breakfast. When she mentioned that she makes overnight oats for her own breakfasts, it sparked a lot of interest from her classmates.
"When it was time to get feedback on the speech, that's kind of what everyone had questions about – they just seemed super interested in overnight oats," Roberson said.
After she saw the interest of her classmates she decided to "run with it" and discussed her idea with her boyfriend, Xavier Elletson. Elletson, who founded Elletson Pressure Washing, was able to give educated advice to her using his own experience with starting a business.
"I help out in a few different ways, mainly just giving my opinion. It always helps to have like second thought process behind everything," Elletson said. "I'll let her know if it tastes good, or if anything needs to be added or taken out or anything like that, while she makes sure it's healthy at the same time."
Roberson said she does everything herself for the company, from marketing to creating unique flavors and recipes for the product.
The oats currently come in five flavors – brownie batter, cinnamon apple pie, fruity mix, peanut butter dream and spiced chai – and have vegan, gluten free and non-GMO options.
The discussion also opened Roberson's eyes to the challenges her peers faced with increasing food insecurity, and created an interest in developing an affordable and nutritious option.
Right now, she is teaming up with Pitchfork Pantry, ASU's food bank for students. Bailey Holmes, a sophomore studying chemistry, is the assistant director of Pitchfork Pantry in Tempe.
"Pitchfork Pantry is a student-run food pantry on campus that helps provide food and other necessities to students on campus that might not be able to provide it for themselves," Holmes said.
According to Holmes, Roberson – who is a volunteer for the pantry – approached the organization about the possibility of using her product.
"She's planning on at least once a month bringing around 20 bags of her approved product to be able for us to distribute out to students," Holmes said.
Holmes talked about how this experience with Roberson was something different than when Pitchfork Pantry had previously worked with larger organizations.
"I've never had someone say, 'Hey, I'm starting my own thing, would you be interested?'" Holmes said.
Roberson hopes to see SMARTY OA+S in at least one college in each state and hopes to continue her philanthropy dream.
"I hope that later down the line, I'll be able to donate a certain percent of my proceeds to an organization that helps people fighting food insecurity," she said.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Reagan Priest and Anusha Natarajan.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com and follow @madivega18 on Twitter.
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