Natural Foods Merchandiser

Shazi Visram explains the genesis of Happy Baby organic foods

For those who find colorless, heat-processed jarred foods unappetizing (parents and babies alike), Happy Baby provides organic, fresh-frozen foods that preserve the nutrients and color, packaged in individual servings in bisphenol A-free containers, and fortified with DHA for brain health.

Happy Baby has made a business of offering healthy culinary options to the infant set. For those who find colorless, heat-processed jarred foods unappetizing (parents and babies alike), Happy Baby provides organic, fresh-frozen foods that preserve the nutrients and color, packaged in individual servings in bisphenol A-free containers, and fortified with DHA for brain health.

Founder Shazi Visram and her business partner, Jessica Rolph, graduated from business school at about the same time—Visram from Columbia and Rolph from Cornell. Both wanted to offer a healthy, socially responsible product, but at first it wasn't clear what that product would be. Then Visram talked to a friend with a new baby who bemoaned the fact that she didn't have time to make fresh baby food at every meal.

"I thought, there has to be something better than a jar with a three-year shelf life," Visram says. "I looked into the category, and thought how exciting it would be to offer a premium option and also improve the health profile of children in this country."

Visram and Rolph actually met on the phone, through a conference call set up by Odwalla, and they instantly hit it off. Rolph had been working as SPINS account manager for Whole Foods Market, and was ready for an entrepreneurial venture. So Rolph moved from Austin, Texas, to Brooklyn (she has since moved to Idaho, but still works as Happy Baby's COO) to get the business started. They began planning five years ago, and finally launched the product line on Mother's Day 2006.

"We believe in feeding only organic to babies," Visram says, "but that takes education and awareness. It would be great if we could help consumers have more understanding of that."

Shazi Visram, founder/CEO, and Jennifer Rolph, founding partner/COO
Happy Baby
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ages: Visram, 31; Rolph, 33

Rolph would like to see the business grow to the point where Happy Baby can be an affordable choice for all shoppers, natural and mainstream alike. "I believe that every baby deserves to be a happy baby," she says, "so it would be wonderful if we could reach a price point where we could reach the mass market."

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Visram: I love the fact that we not only provide healthy nutrition for American babies, but also use the proceeds to help children in countries where basic nutrition needs are not met. Every box of food purchased also feeds a baby in Malawi, Africa, for a whole day through Project Peanut Butter.

As a little kid, you wanted to grow up to be … Rolph: I wanted to be a ballerina, though I'm probably the most klutzy person you'll ever meet. Visram: I wanted to be a professional lady wrestler, and a ninja and a neurosurgeon. My dream changed every six months.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 38

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