We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaitlin Mogentale and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaitlin, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I was a senior in college at USC, working part-time as a teaching assistant at an urban garden attached to an elementary school in South Los Angeles. Our school was located in a food desert – or a neighborhood where healthy, fresh, affordable food is not widely accessible – and I noticed that many kids were reliant on the school to provide food either through the free breakfast program or lunch, or both. At lunch, pizza sauce and fries were considered vegetable servings. Many kids came into the garden and saw fresh vegetables for the first time – carrots, tomatoes, and more. These experiences made me feel a sense of great privilege – having grown up in a community where fresh food was abundant – and great responsibility to help make healthier food accessible for all. At a friend’s house, I watched as she juiced a bunch of carrots and was shocked to see the handfuls of byproduct pulp produced for such a small amount of juice. The next day I called juiceries up, finding that all of them tossed their byproduct as well. Immediately, I knew I wanted to do something to prevent healthy food resources from going to waste, putting them to better use: providing nutritious alternatives that would make eating healthier more accessible. Fast forward to today, Pulp Pantry turns organic vegetable pulp – the prebiotic-rich fiber leftover after juicing fresh veggies – into nutritious, lower-carb versions of everyone’s favorite junk foods. We call this upcycling: a new way to snack sustainably. By reinventing snacks that people (and kids alike!) love, we hope to make eating better for your body and the planet more accessible (and equally as delicious).
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Pulp Pantry transforms upcycled ingredients — the overlooked, nutritional byproducts of fruit and vegetable processing — into wholesome, better for people & better for the planet pantry staples. Our motto is, Waste Less, Thrive more — because we believe that a thriving humanity is dependent upon a thriving, healthy planet. I started Pulp Pantry because I couldn’t stand seeing valuable resources go to waste. Only one in 10 Americans eats their daily servings of fruits, vegetables and fiber, and yet fruits and vegetables are the top wasted items in the country. Pulp Pantry is reinventing the foods that so many people rely on for taste, accessibility and convenience with better-for-you, better-for-the-planet innovation. Our Pulp Chips are our first product that exemplifies how we innovate to fulfill our mission. Each bag of Pulp Chips provides nearly a full day’s serving of gut-healthy fiber, from upcycled ingredients like organic kale, celery and okara. I was a fresh-out-of-college grad when I started my business. I have made so many mistakes, literally fallen flat on my face with failed products and rejection. That said, I feel grateful for the naivety that helped me learn some hard lessons, quickly, although I realize my pathway to where I am today has been long, winding, and perhaps not every failure would have been necessary had I come into business with a bit more experience under my belt. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For anyone that’s thinking about starting a business, I can’t think of a better way to spend your time growing as a person – whether the business succeeds or fails. It seems like each year brings a new set of challenges. What keeps me going is the community of entrepreneurs around me – especially my female founder peers. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called upon my community to help through the day-to-day challenges trying to get this business off the ground. They’ve inspired me to leap forward with courage by providing the framework, tools, even the right partners for success. I’m proud of myself for finding the strength, courage and resilience to both start my business (it’s not easy to take the leap, I know!), and to continue on when the going gets tough. I still feel like the best is yet to come. But I hope that awestruck feeling I get looking at (or better yet, watching people enjoy!) this physical product that I’ve created never gets old, and that is truly my proudest achievement. The fact that our upcycled product, something quite ahead of its time, exists is something powerful, rebellious, and for that I’m incredibly proud. The product communicates the things I care most deeply about – sustainability and wellness for all. Less than 10% of Americans eat their servings of vegetables or fiber each day, with significant implications for general health and wellbeing: if we were to all eat our servings, we’d save over one hundred thousand lives and billions of dollars in medical costs. So why aren’t we eating our daily servings? For so many Americans, eating vegetables requires preparation, time, and fighting against kids’ eating preferences. Pulp Pantry is here to give people a more convenient, family-friendly snack that provides real nutrition. Our newly launched Pulp Chips are made with fresh vegetables as the first ingredient, contain 5 g of fiber in each serving and keep 38 gallons of water from going to waste with each pound of Pulp upcycled.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m an Echo Park resident, so my ideal Los Angeles itinerary celebrates what makes this part of town so unique. Don’t forget your reusable bag, coffee cup, and some water before you head out. To start, wake up in the morning with a visit to Vanilla Black – a local, woman-owned, black-owned business that makes INSANE lattes like their lavender latte (with oat milk!) named after the owner’s daughter. Next, stop by Stories book store to take a look at the new offerings on shelf, maybe pick up a new book that piques your interest. Take a walk around the neighboring Echo Park lake with your coffee in hand, if you’re lucky, you might even catch the Echo Park farmer’s market to collect some local wares. It’s lunch time – why not stop by Glowing Juices, Lento Market, Besties Vegan Market, Sage or Floré for the best vegan meals in town. After lunch, walk it out by visiting Elysian Park, home to Dodger Stadium! Check out the secret swing at the top of the hill, or Angeles Point for a view of downtown LA. Dinner – go get yourself a legendary Chicago-style pizza (I’m from Chicago!) at Masa (vegan friendly!), or stop by Pho 87 in neighboring Chinatown for the most delicious pho in town. Finish off the meal with a visit of Magpie’s for vegan frozen yogurt – in the most delicious, exotic flavors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shout out to Lindy Huang Werges, my dear friend, mentor, and truly, inspiration. You know those people who seem to be doing just about everything? That’s Lindy! She’s a teammate, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and a mentor to so many young woman like myself. Lindy has helped me to advance my business through sound mentorship and advice, and has helped me build awareness and connections in the community by sharing her network. I am inspired by Lindy’s positivity, energy, and outlook. Her generosity and contributions do not go unnoticed. I hope that every woman has a Lindy in their life.