WanKu: Bottling the Essence of the Andes
Juan Giraldo MBA ’18 and his co-founder Nicolas Estrella are serial entrepreneurs. In 2016, Giraldo and Estrella took a trip to Ecuador, they met local farmers producing an herbal drink, “the healing water” to provide for their families.
WanKu is a delicious herbal infusion known as, “the healing water” that has been consumed for centuries in the Andes Mounts of Ecuador for its health benefits of soothing the body and helping the digestive system. WanKu sources 100% organic ingredients directly from Andean smallholder farmers at fair trade prices. WanKu is not just a product, but also a way to help create sustainable and thriving business for farmers in Ecuador.
The word Wanku is a quechua word that can be translated to “together.” The name reflects both the relationship with the farmers and the 20 ingredients in the beverage.
When Giraldo and Estrella took their initial trip to Ecuador to meet the farmers they knew they wanted to make a pillar of their business helping these farmers grow their businesses. Through their expertise in supply chain management and fair trade prices they are able to make an impact, but they knew they could do more.
“Our vision for the near future, is to create a foundation with the purpose of helping independent farmers to improve their livelihoods by giving them access to better production resources,” says Giraldo. “These resources are going to include training on the best agricultural practices, guidelines for obtaining certifications for their crops, and every other productive resource that will translate on better yields to them.”
Many of the farmers in rural southern Ecuador are forced to leave their families to go and find better work near the city. Even then many farmers only make $1.25 a day, Giraldo and Estrella needed to find a way to help.
By creating a hybrid organization (for-profit and non-profit company) WanKu will not only be able to create a thriving business but also make a lasting impact on Ecuadorian farmers’ lives.
On their trip to Ecuador Giraldo and Estrella met a farmer named Miguel. He was able to open their eyes to the world of farming in Ecuador. Through their partnership the WanKu team is able to help Miguel’s farm and in return Miguel has provided them with the recipe for his “healing water.” WanKu is developed based on a recipe inspired by Miguel’s.
WanKu is a delicious herbal infusion (a tea-like drink) made up of more than 20 medicinal herbs and aromatic flowers from the Andes Mountains.
It has a fruity and aromatic taste with a hint of lemon, and just the perfect amount of sweetness.
WanKu has the same health benefits of, “the healing water”: it naturally soothes the body and helps the digestive system. The blend of all this medicinal herbs such as chamomile, lemongrass, lemon balm and others support both, wellness and relaxation.
The Babson Impact
Giraldo credits his Babson education with his ability to truly take action on creating WanKu. “Since my first class of the program faculty member and staff are always encouraging students to take action and start something,” says Giraldo.
Babson’s culture of collaboration has been instrumental in WanKu’s success to date. From classmates to faculty members to the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, all of these Babson community members have helped make WanKu a reality.
“I am glad to say that this has been a co creation process with the Babson community. They have been actively collaborating since the idea inception throughout the go to market,” says Giraldo.
This year Giraldo and Estrella will focus on sales in the Boston Area and getting WanKu into natural health stores, restaurants and cafes. Through launching Fundacion WanKu they will continue to push their mission of creating a lasting impact in Ecuadorian farmers.
They will also be launching an open innovation lab, “Wanku Labs,” where through challenges Giraldo and Estrella can create and bring to market new and innovative products that fit with the purpose of the company and respond to customers’ needs.
WanKu has just launched their crowdfunding campaign on PieShell—a crowdfunding platform for food and beverage startups.