Monday December 22, 2014 0 comments
By Steve Porter
BOULDER - About 20 years ago, Karen Frame started a business in Boulder aimed at making shopping in a natural foods market more consumer friendly.
The business, Natural Interactions, used a touch screen kiosk inside the store to help shoppers learn about healthy and sustainable purchases and where they could be found.
But the timing wasn't right, and Frame eventually shut down the business and engaged in other pursuits.
But last year she returned to the original idea aided by something that wasn't available two decades ago - a smartphone app.
Her new business, makeena (a Hawaiian word for abundance and an African-Swahili word for happiness), recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $20,000 to build out a website and get the business moving.
Frame said she's always wanted to "change the world," and makeena is helping her do that by spreading the word about healthier and more sustainable foods and products.
"Makeena allows me to be very passionate about what I'm creating in the world for a healthier you and a better planet," she says.
With the makeena app on their smartphones, consumers can easily search for product offers by brand, category or attribute to find just what they're looking for.
Frame said makeena has signed about 50 brands so far - many based in Colorado - that offer hundreds of food, supplement, natural and recycled products available in natural and mainstream grocery stores.
"We have kind of a mixture of products - anything you would find in a Whole Foods store or the natural products aisle of a Kroger's Supermarket," she says. "And we have a whole bunch of fabulous local brands."
Those local brands include Bhakti Chai, Sun Cups, Goddess Garden, Keen One Quinoa, Olomomo, Outrageous Baking and Boulder Cookie, among many others.
Frame said the featured brands offer discounts and promotions that save shoppers money on their purchases. She said shoppers simply go about their shopping, pay for their items as usual and then take a smartphone photo of their receipt and send it to makeena.
"Then we push cash back into their bank account," she says. "The plan is to get at least an email back to them within 24 hours and receive the cash back within three days.
"There's no cash limit to use the service," Frame adds. "We want to make it as close as possible to a normal shopping experience."
Frame said the participating brands benefit from the service by customer purchases and ongoing loyalty to their products once they've been discovered.
The brands also are able to obtain a rich base of customer data with the makeena app.
"They get to know who their shopper is and connect with them," she says.
Discriminating shopper targeted
Frame said makeena is aimed at the more discriminating shopper.
"Our target is really the person who wants to shop healthy or sustainable for themselves and their families, and our job is to make it easy," she says.
Frame said she doesn't know of any other similar service being offered anywhere at the moment.
"None of our competitors are really focused on healthy and sustainable products," she says. "Our main focus is very different from any other digital platform right now."
Frame said one challenge she hopes makeena can overcome is the perception that shopping for natural products is significantly more expensive than shopping for mainstream products.
Through the discounts and special promotional offers that are available by shopping with makeena, Frame said that price difference can help level the playing field.
Frame said she gained invaluable business experience preparing for makeena's launch by going through the Telluride Venture Accelerator earlier this year.
The accelerator provided business planning and access to more than 75 mentors, including John Shields, former chair of Wild Oats grocery stores.
"He has so much experience in the natural products space," Frame says. "He's super smart about the industry."
Frame said the Apple App Store is now reviewing the makeena app and she expects it will be available for download by early January.
And she's already gotten inquiries from other regions that are interested in licensing the idea.
"This really could go all sorts of great places," she says. "It has a lot of potential. Everybody's really excited about it."