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Two weeks ago, we started the NVC Series by laying out what you can expect to see. One of the components we want to show is the variety of the businesses involved in the competition — in terms of industry, stage, and management team. To provide a little flavor, throughout the competition we will introduce a few teams from various angles, such as their business ideas, the feelings of the team members during the competition, and lessons learned. We believe it is more interesting and authentic to tell the story with a first person narrative… So here is the first sip of the “juice”: LemonBoxfrom one of the founders, Cindy Nan, ’17.

The original idea of LemonBox was from the summer of 2016 when I was doing my internship in Boston. One day, I received a Wechat picture from my cousin, as she reached out to me for help. In the picture, it was a bottle of Vitamin D & Calcium imported from the U.S. Without any knowledge in English, my cousin could not tell if it was the right product for her 4-year-old son, so she asked me for advice. However, knowing English didn’t make me a qualified advisor to tell whether the nutritional product is the right fit.

When I mentioned this to my boyfriend Derek, a 2016 Booth MBA alumni, he found he had a very similar experience – once in a while, he would be asked to buy supplement products in the U.S. for relatives and friends living in China. They, however, normally had no idea if the products were the right ones to treat their ailments based on their own health conditions. In addition, people in China have very limited resources to seek professional nutrition advice, so tend to follow whatever comes their way.

To prove our point, we conducted extensive interviews and minimum viable product tests among the Chinese community at Booth. It was proven correct, there was an urgent need for professional personalized nutrition advice, brought about by consumption upgrade, growing health consciousness in China’s consumer market, intensified by macro trends of urbanization, aging population, and increasing frustration with food safety and air pollution. “LemonBox” is the solution to the problem.

LemonBox, a data-driven e-platform, aims to provide convenient, credible and customized one-stop nutrition solutions to users, allowing them to assess individual nutrition needs, obtain personalized nutrition and dietary advice, and compare various VDS products available in the market.

To make the personalized service available to a mass market at low cost, we automated the process by employing a data algorithm, developed by nutritionists and data scientists at LemonBox. It started with a user survey on personal lifestyle and health goals, then the data algorithm enables our website to generate nutrition reports instantly, providing personalized nutrition and dietary advice. In the next step, available vitamin and supplement products of high quality and ratings will be selected out according to users’ specific nutrition needs. Users can then compare these products by nutritionists’ commentary, efficacy rating, customer review, and price to make better purchase decisions.

This basic service received incredible positive feedback from 70 beta users after our 1.0 launch in January 2017 (100% found it very useful or somewhat useful, and 0% found it not useful). Many users expressed needs for one-on-one consultation with nutritionist to achieve complicated health goals, for instance, weight loss, prenatal and post-childbirth care, recovery from a surgery, diabetes care, etc. We are currently testing one-on-one consultation service with U.S. Registered Dietitian (“RD”) nutritionists. One case we are currently processing is to advise a vegetarian mother on her breastfeeding. She wants to know if her baby is getting all the nutrients it needs and the way to improve her dietary schedule. This premium service will be included in LemonBox 2.0 to be launched this March.

Great minds think alike. Derek and I feel very lucky to have met several other Boothies who share the same passion. Jerry Jiang, ’14, joined LemonBox as Chief Data Scientist, then Emily Yeh, ‘17, Hao Ning, ’18, and Luying Wang, ’17, joined as the Marketing and Business Development crew, bringing their experience in marketing and finance and deep knowledge in the China market to LemonBox. We also invited Hellen Xu, PhD, RD, to join as Head of Research. In addition, Polsky Center has provided numerous resources for us to grow our business in respect of product design, marketing strategy, and financing advice and so on.

Beyond the Booth community, we’ve also received tremendous support, thanks to the great reputation of the Booth brand worldwide. We are in discussion with a couple of angel investors and venture capitalists, seeking for angel financing in China. They regarded us as forward-looking entrepreneurs, beyond the long-established reputation of Boothies as skillful finance elites. We have also captured wide attention from media. In a recent interview by Entrepreneur China magazine, LemonBox is featured as a data-driven nutrition care start-up founded by Chicago Booth MBAs.

Going forward, we will continue to work on LemonBox 2.0 and implement our go-to-market strategy. LemonBox’s vision is to improve Chinese consumers’ health through offering big-data driven, nutrition research based, personalized wellness solutions.

A fun fact of the team: We have team members across four Booth classes.

– Contributed by Cindy Nan, Chicago Booth Class of 2017

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