The “Ben & Jerry’s” of Hummus
Entrepreneurs are usually born out of a spark of inspiration and motivation that sets someone on a no-return adventure of turning a clever idea into a profitable company. For Jesse Wolfe, a 27-year-old student at UCF and founder and CEO of O’Dang Hummus, that “entrepreneurial seizure” came when he was searching for something he could enjoy eating after his wisdom teeth were pulled.
As he told UCF Starters, a group of UCF students who utilize platforms like Blackstone Launchpad, Starter Lab and Venture Accelerator to realize their entrepreneurial dreams, “I never really knew what hummus was until three years ago. I had my wisdom teeth pulled out and my cheeks were all swollen and I got tired of drinking milkshakes and eating soup, so I started eating Sabra…and that’s when it hit me that there’s only four or five flavors of this stuff. So I started going into the kitchen and whipping up my own hummus…just to get through the week.”
He was challenged by Pam Hoelzle, the associate director of Blackstone LaunchPad, to enter a startup contest called “The Joust,” a $75,000 business plan tournament, which is a showcase for student venture proposals. Students from across the spectrum of academic disciplines compete for cash awards and essential business services needed to launch a venture. O’Dang came in third in the competition and took home $4,000 in prize money.
Wolfe started introducing his hummus at local farmers markets in Oviedo, Winter Garden and Lake Eola (which Wolfe considers the Super Bowl of farmers markets). In October, the startup won $15,000 at Blackstone’s first LaunchPad Demo Day in New York City, where he placed second out of 20 competitors.
Now he has set his sights on getting his Bomb-A-Licious Buffalo Hummus, Dillionaire Fresh Dill Hummus and Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Hummus along with the some 40 other flavors he is developing to be offered in chain grocery stores, where he hopes to be the “Ben & Jerry’s” of the hummus market.