By: Lexie Newhouse
Photo by: Deniece Griffin
Nathan Foster (B.B.A. ’18), recent Georgia State graduate and founder of Enrich, shares his startup experiences from seed stage and beyond. Enrich was a startup incubated through the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute under Ken Mathis, ENI’s Entrepreneur in Residence.
“Trying to start a business? You better be a good person.” – Nathan Foster
What type of products or services does Enrich offer?
Enrich Gardening essentially developed two products: a software and a physical product. We paired a mobile application with innovative grow kits to allow anyone to grow their own food within their homes.
What solutions does Enrich provide to consumers?
We approached the “farm to table” market gap that few companies actually deliver on. The issue with hydroponics is that they are so expensive that the average consumer cannot enjoy those “farm to table” benefits, so we set out in creating a technology that was both convenient and affordable.
What was your intended target market?
We targeted those 18 to 35 years old, young professionals, that are confined by limited land access within urban areas, yet still want the ability to grow their own fresh herbs and produce and throw them into a healthy meal.
What inspired the development of Enrich?
After working in politics and handling a lot of tax-related assignments, I met several people within the city of Atlanta that were working on urban agriculture projects. I immediately began asking questions about the market, where I discovered huge pain points within that consumer market. I turned to my co-founder, who had more gardening expertise, with the idea of grow kits for him to confirm that the idea was feasible. I then took the idea, built a team, constructed the product, did three iterations of it, and developed the software on both Apple and Android.
What was the transition into the ENI Incubation program like?
In summer of 2017, I applied to ENI’s Incubation program led by Ken Mathis under the Robinson College of Business. I vividly remember Ken interviewing me over the phone and getting roasted alive. He asked the difficult questions, which ultimately allowed me to escape that “romanticized” mindset when first having a business idea. Thinking “I can take over the world,” “This is a great idea; I’m going to make 10 million dollars,” or “I’m the next Mark Zuckerberg,” isn’t always the case, and Ken did a great job of both supporting and grounding us.
How did the incubation program support you and your startup?
The incubator exceeded my expectations. It catered specifically to our needs as a business, making it such a personalized experience. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Ken was such an amazing resource in knowing how to build a company, attract customers, earn recurring revenue, scale, and structure an exit strategy. He was adamant about taking things day by day, allowing us to remain realistic about our startup. Not only is he a mentor, he has turned into a great friend, along with all of the faculty and staff at ENI.
What experiences did you have with investors?
Most angel investors and more established investors don’t want you working for anyone else; they purely want you working on your startup 90 hours a week. It is intimidating because that’s their investment, their money. I’ve worked extremely crappy jobs, so I know what a dollar is worth. When I see that large of a number, I know that they’ve worked really hard to get that money. That being said, we never took any investments due to that level of pressure.
What challenges did you experience along the way?
From the team aspect, we lost a key co-founder and had ineffective consultants making us less productive as a business. Along with my responsibilities as CEO, I found myself developing the product, dealing with customers, and coding the app. That combined with my responsibilities as student can become very burdensome.
Despite those challenges, what inspired you to keep going?
Seeing those customers that always wanted to grow something regardless of whether they had a “green thumb,” take that leap of faith to purchase our product to then get an email four months later praising our plants and even reorder! That was such a rewarding process.
Want to know what Nathan and the team at Enrich did next? Read part 2 of “To Seed or Sell? The Entrepreneurial Journey of Enrich” to find out!