When grocery giant Whole Foods allowed Raina Jain ’24 (BUS) the chance to sell her Queen Bee health-support supplement at the grand opening of its new store in Avon, she couldn’t say no—even though it was the first week of classes.
“I absolutely couldn’t pass it by,’’ Jain says. “I drove to my co-packer’s facility four hours away to get product, and then introduced it to shoppers the next day. It’s been very busy and as a result, I haven’t been on campus much yet!’’
Jain, a sophomore engineering major, said she’s very excited to bring her product to market. An avid fan of honey bees, she developed the all-natural beverage by mixing royal jelly, sometimes called “superfood of the Queen Bee,” from beehives with ginger and turmeric. She has been perfecting the recipe for months on end but to watch strangers try and enjoy it, was thrilling, she says.
“It’s so cool to see how this unfolded, and I’m very, very excited,’’ she says. For each bottle sold, her company will plant a pollinator tree.
At UConn, Jain found a team of supporters and a network of experts to help her grow her startup. Last semester she won the School of Business’ Innovation Quest competition, and this summer participated in the Summer Fellowship startup bootcamp sponsored by the School’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
Queen Bee was among five companies selected to participate in the Wolff New Venture Competition this fall, the pinnacle of startup competitions at UConn. The grand prize winner will take home a $20,000 prize.
The entrepreneurship experience at UConn has been phenomenal, Jain says.
“To gain the advice of expert mentors who are in the consumer products industry this summer was incredible. I tried to absorb as much as I could,’’ she says.
“Some of the best advice I received is that people connect with people, not things. Although a product should be great, people are largely influenced by the story behind it as well,’’ she says. “I am still working on incorporating storytelling into the brand, but I’ve realized the importance of this through Summer Fellowship.”
Like any good entrepreneur, Jain has learned patience and perseverance. The first day of launching online and retail, sales were slow. After much work of introducing digital advertising campaigns, along with postcard advertising, sales shot up and she realized the importance of effective marketing. The product is now located in the grab-and-go and refrigerated produce sections of the store.
“To see this crazy idea come to life is one of the most exhilarating experiences. It speaks volumes to the fact that if you just do something every day to move the business forward, the baby steps eventually add up,’’ Jain says. “We are formulating three new products and are expanding our online and retail presence rapidly. I am incredibly excited for all that is to come.”
Queen Bee is one of five startups competing at the Wolff New Venture Competition on Monday, Oct. 25 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The winner will receive $20,000 toward their new venture. To learn more about the competition or to register to watch Queen Bee’s live presentation online, please visit: https://ccei.uconn.edu/wolff-new-venture-competition/