We had a chance to sit down with our tenant Sarah Sturtevant, Founder and CEO of Yusō and learn more about this Japanese-inspired snack!
Who are you?
SaCaR Enterprises llc makes yusō, the Japanese-inspired snack. Yusō is a hearty, healthy snack for grab-and-go retail locations. Made at CI Works, by Steve Boyd, Debra Damren, Terry Marsh and Sarah Sturtevant
What is your business?
Yusō represents a category of snacks called onigiri or musubi which is popular throughout Asia, Europe and Hawaii. Onigiri dates back to 11th century Japan. Our 21st century onigiri is a Global fusion of tastes, with updated nutrition and sustainability. It is made fresh twice a week in our FDA-inspected food production facility. There is a filling (smoked salmon; spicy smoked steelhead; or sesame chickpea (vegan) are the current fillings) surrounded by sticky rice and wrapped in nori in a triangular self-contained rice-ball sandwich.
What problem(s) are you/your business trying to help solve?
Sarah came up with the idea for yusō while on a business trip in Japan. The notion of not having to sacrifice taste or nutrition for convenience was compelling. Yusō was born as a solution for busy American’s who want to eat something that is tasty and healthy for themselves and the planet.
How is your company changing the world?
We are early in the category of fresh (i.e. refrigerated) snacks. Often when people think of snacking – they think of shelf stable (aka junk) foods. Fresh snacking is a fast growing area, bringing convenience and nutrition to snacking. Not only must every ingredient pass a taste and quality test, we are also prioritizing local, organic or sustainably-farmed ingredients.
Why do you like being a part of the bigger CI Works puzzle?
No matter the question, there is someone here who has had some experience with it – from payroll or accounting, legal, sales/marketing, distribution, regulatory issues or vendor relationships – having a peer to talk with about the issue is hugely helpful. I can’t imagine being alone in an office, with no other business owners to bounce ideas off from. Our food scientist, Fred Jewett, recently moved to CI Works and Michelle Miakos at UCSA is our contract Director of Business Development. Joe at Lobster Anywhere helps us out with shipping and Mary at Anchor Hitch Media did our video for us. We view them all as members of our virtual team.
What do you hope your company’s next milestone will be?
We have yet to develop a distribution infrastructure that can transport yusō beyond Boston. Securing a third-party fresh food distribution network is a hope we have for 2017.
What’s cool about your team?
This is a second or third career for all of us. Debra was in biotech for 10+ years, then was a landscape designer and is now in charge of food safety and product development. Steve, our production manager, was a nuclear submarine machinist in the Navy and most recently worked for a large regional PEPSICO distributor. Terry was in the Coast Guard and then in IT support before joining us late last year as an Account Manager. Sarah was an equity and macro analyst at Wellington Management Company in Boston, helping manage $2.4 billion in US Mid Cap Growth assets and $1 billion in Global Small-Cap Portfolios, before starting SaCaR early 2014.
Are there any causes you are passionate about?
Food nutrition and sustainability are a passion we all share at yusō.
What is your biggest fear?
That we are too early is my biggest fear. Ever wonder why there is so much sugar and salt (both natural preservatives), as well as artificial preservatives in the food American’s eat? A primary reason is that the established distribution infrastructure wants a 90+day shelf life. Fresh, perishable, food is not looked upon kindly in the large distributor/food broker world, where “fresh” is defined as a 30-day shelf life. Most consumers wouldn’t consider a 30-day-old product to be “fresh” and certainly not “fresh by natural/healthy means”. So far we have found the legacy food infrastructure disinterested in changing to meet evolving consumer expectations. This has led us to build our own direct distribution capabilities.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
To make a great product, each and every time, is our proudest accomplishment.
What is something most people don’t know about you/your brand?
When not driving a pick-up truck delivering yusō – I’m either riding my Harley Davidson Soft-Tail Deluxe or my Ski-Doo. Being outside, with the wind in my face, is my antidote to new business stress. Also – yusō means “transport” in Japanese. And SaCaR is a Spanish verb “to remove” -- in this case removing obstacles to healthy eating.
Learn more about yusō here!