A Budding Bio Entrepreneur Makes Nutritional Gummies for Teens

by Diana Drake

High school students love a good passion project – and often, what begins in the classroom launches into the business world. This month’s Future of the Business World podcast guest is poised to explore the market for her IB school project during her time in Wharton Global Youth’s Essentials of Entrepreneurship program this summer.

Valentina Mariuzza, a high school student from Italy who studies in Barcelona, Spain, created a line of five supplemental gummies with vitamins and minerals to address specific areas of health and wellness for teenagers. In this conversation with Wharton Global Youth, she details the development of her product, from formulation to packaging to regulatory approvals. What’s next? Like any good entrepreneur, she’s ready to learn.

Be sure to click the arrow above to listen to the podcast. An edited transcript of the conversation appears below.

Wharton Global Youth Program: Welcome to Future of the Business World. I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

The process of developing a new product to take to market can be both exciting and exasperating. You begin with the seed of an idea, and then you research, test and test some more. We’ve had some fun conversations with previous future of the business world podcast guests about the innovation around new foods and beverages. I’m remembering Alana Andrews, who began developing a healthier sports drink while she was in high school and spent hours in the kitchen, mixing up prototypes out of organic honey powder and Apple powder that she bought on Amazon. A few months back we spoke with high school entrepreneur Danielle Buchanan, who talked about the challenge of getting her colorful cakepops to stay on their sticks.

Today’s guest has spent hours in prototype testing, and I’m happy to say that Valentina Mariuzza is our shows very first ‘gummy entrepreneur’ and teen innovator from Italy. Valentina, welcome to Future of the Business World!

Valentina Mariuzza.

Valentina Mariuzza: Thank you so much. I’m so interested in talking about my project.

Wharton Global Youth: Excellent. So first, tell us about yourself. Where do you live and go to school?

Valentina: I currently live in Barcelona, [Spain] and study in Agora Sant Cugat International School, surrounded by different cultures from all over the world.

Wharton Global Youth: You are a self-described Hispanic bio entrepreneur formulating nutritional gummy supplements for teens? If that’s not a conversation starter, I don’t know what is. First, how do you describe a bio entrepreneur?

Valentina: A bio entrepreneur is what describes myself. Basically, I’m an entrepreneur who works in the field of biology, technology and chemistry, combining scientific knowledge with business awareness to develop and commercialize products and services based on biological discoveries. It involves identifying opportunities within the biotech or life sciences industry, conducting research and development. And finally, commercializing products or services that have a positive impact on society.

Wharton Global Youth: Your business actually began as a school project. What are these student projects about and meant to achieve?

Valentina: During my final year in the Middle Years Program (MYP), a component of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, all my colleagues and I had to undertake a personal project, which served as a culmination of our learning experience, and it was an opportunity to explore deeper into an area of personal interest. The MYP personal project is structured to encompass three different components: the process, the product, and the reflective report. Through the process, I recommended my ideas, criteria, developments, challenges, research findings and progress reports. This phase allowed me to exercise crucial skills, such as self-management, research, innovation, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. Well, all the ATL [Approaches to Learning] skills. And the product was the tangible result of my efforts. I created a line of five nutritional gummy supplements designed to meet the specific needs of teenagers. And finally, the reflective report, which provided an opportunity for me to evaluate the impact of the project on my learning and personal growth.

Wharton Global Youth: Let’s talk a minute about the product. What inspired you to go down this road of nutritional gummies for teenagers?

Valentina: Well, that’s a really good question actually. In fact, there are many factors that inspired me to start this project, including my personal experience, a keen interest in health and nutrition, and a desire to address a pressing need in teenagers. When deciding the topic of this project, I knew I wanted to interconnect multiple themes. My desire was to bring together vitamins, minerals, supplements and culinary design.

My interest started when I participated in two summer MasterChef camps, where I learned very useful culinary techniques for cooking. As well, being part of an Italian family has significantly contributed to me with valuable insights about gastronomy. Through familiar traditions and practices, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the importance of nutrition, flavors and cultural influences in elaborating the lives of dishes.

In addition, in the biology and chemistry laboratory, through different practical experiments, I learned basic concepts about nutrition and macronutrients, but I wanted to acquire more knowledge in the field of micronutrients. In terms of the design skills, through design classes, I explored marketing tools, website development and restaurant branding that fascinated [me] by the communicative power of the colors, the logos, the icons and the labeling, that conveyed messages to all customers.

As a teenager myself, I became increasingly aware of the importance of nutrition for overall health and well-being. However, I also noticed a gap in the market when it came to nutritional supplements, specifically tailored to the needs and preference of us — teenagers. The concept of gummies appealed to me for the convenience, tastiness and potential to deliver essential nutrients in a format that is both appealing and accessible.

And finally, during the last few years, I discovered through different social media channels, the existence of one app called Yuka, that has captivated my interest since it analyzes food products, and explains by the scanning of their code, the evaluation of each product.

Wharton Global Youth: So, as you worked on your project, let’s get into the kind of details of the product itself. You ultimately started Hearts for Well-being, right, in which you designed five different types of heart-shaped, nutritional gummies to supplement a specific area of adolescent well-being. [Those areas are]: enhancing immune system, reducing anxiety, boosting concentration, minimizing skin alterations, and addressing sleep disorders. As you were developing this product, how did you determine that these five areas were crucial to teen health?

Valentina: In the journey of developing Hearts for Well-being, I meticulously researched and assessed the nutritional needs and common health challenges faced by teenagers by investigating through different sources — libraries, books, scientific reports, interviews, websites, stakeholder feedback, videos, and doing a research plan, among others. After it, I became increasingly aware of the challenges and complexities associated with this stage of development and could identify these five crucial areas as they were the most repetitive issues in this consulted research. As you may know, adolescence is a critical period characterized by rapid growth, hormonal change and new dietary habits that we need to ensure. And I chose specifically these colors, these flavors, and these label-design icons to effectively communicate the purpose of each gummy and show both nutritional value and appeal.

Wharton Global Youth: I’m interested, of course, because it’s something that we ingest or we eat, I want to know about the flavors. How did you create the gummies themselves with the right nutritional balance and the right flavors? Take us into the lab and walk us through your phases of product development.

Valentina: Well, I went through several steps for doing this project. The process began with formulating the recipe for the gummies, focusing on achieving the desired nutritional balance and flavor profile. This involved selecting appropriate ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, gelatin, sugars, and flavorings, to meet the targeted health benefits for each type of gummy. Next, I searched high quality ingredients from reputable suppliers, such as the brand Natural Elements and The Harmonized System of Nomenclature. I contacted them and ensured their compliance with regulatory standards and safety requirements.

In the lab that really was my kitchen, I prepared the gummies according to the formulated recipe. The [process] was crucial, both measurements and mixing of ingredients to achieve a homogeneous mixture. And finally, I conducted a survey among my peers to know the feedback about my final product respecting all the initial achievement criteria, that it was taste, color, volumes, gluten free, and that it had to be without lactose.

Wharton Global Youth: Interesting. Tell me which flavors you ended up using?

Valentina: I ended up using strawberry, blueberry, lemon, watermelon and coconut and pineapple flavor.

Wharton Global Youth: You ultimately learned that taking a product to market can be tricky. What did you run into in terms of regulatory requirements? And did this prompt you to change formulas in hopes of commercializing the product someday?

Valentina: In my investigation, I found that it was a crucial factor that my product required regulatory requirements. Actually, it was the part of the project that I was most keen on. And I created tables for each gummy to calculate precise ingredient quantities, traceability and concentrations, following EU directives as I’m in Spain. And I insured food-grade ingredients and safe-dosage levels for teenagers, meeting nutrient standards. The directives that I used were the 2002 46 and the 90 496. I’ve gained an extensive understanding of micronutrients’ functions, and their required intake for a balanced diet, along with knowledge of food level requirements crucial for legal and ethical food product marketing.

Wharton Global Youth: Can you talk a little bit about the regulatory environment in Spain, just so that we understand it a little more? Basically, what this means is that you have to meet a certain standard with your product, or else it cannot be sold on the market, correct?

Valentina: Yes, you’re correct. In each different country, we have different regulators. But there’s a main one that is the European one, which you need to follow. It provides you with information of what should be legally put in each product level. So, in my product, which includes vitamins and minerals, there’s one section of all the directives [that] includes the nutritional reference value, which was really hard for me to calculate. But I finally ended up with the base mixture, and all the vitamins that I added into it, I calculated the NRV [Net Realizable Value] so I could provide in a safe manner to all the teenagers in society.

Wharton Global Youth: Right, and meet those all-important regulatory requirements for making them. I suspect that this is a really crowded market, and that there are a lot of different nutritional type products out there. How do you hope to differentiate your gummies?

Valentina: After really extensive research from all over the world, I’ve seen that there are many foods with supplements in the market. What will differentiate this business is that it specialized in targeting all the teenagers. I think that it will contribute to my peers for their well-being and to maintain their health.

“As for new ideas for growth, if I wanted to commercialize them, establishing a factory with proper health certifications, a social media presence, and a dedicated website would be essential. Additionally, as a competitive advantage, I could add a QR code to the label directly to an exclusive website for teenagers.” – Valentina Mariuzza

Wharton Global Youth: You’ve not done this alone. It sounds like you solicited customer and nutritionist feedback to advance the development of your gummies. Can you talk a little bit about those interactions, and maybe how they inspired new ideas for growth?

Valentina: Yes, so I’ve considered not only my personnel evaluation, but also the valuable feedback gathered through nutritionist feedback, and my mother, which also inspires me as she is a professional in food technology. I visited the specialist several times, which is a family business [Sol I Lluna] composed mainly by the doctor, Josefina Jimeno.

Regarding the conducted surveys among a variety of teenagers, they provided me mainly with information about the overall recommendation of the product, and the best flavors as well as the worst.

As for new ideas for growth, if I wanted to commercialize them, establishing a factory with proper health certifications, a social media presence, and a dedicated website would be essential. Additionally, as a competitive advantage, I could add a QR code to the label directly to an exclusive website for teenagers. If this product were to be effective in the future, it would be a great challenge to try to make a new version of a sugar-free gummy, for example. Moreover, the conduction of a study would be crucial for knowing the efficiency they have in teenagers’ daily lives after its consumption, which I’m willing to do it.

Potentially, I could enlarge this business into other target markets — for example, special woman needs, athletes, vegetarians and vegans, elderly people, or for individuals suffering from poverty, to help them with high concentration and availability of nutrients addressing their specific deficiencies. To enhance the overall impact of my project, offering the gummies for free could be both empathetic and a solidarity-driving activity. This collaboration might even provide the opportunity to donate the gummies. An interesting consideration for future interactions would involve re-evaluating and revising the formula of the gummy designed for stress reduction and anxiety, as the survey indicated a significant dislike in terms of taste because it had spirulina algae and ashwagandha extract, which had a unique strong smell and taste.

Wharton Global Youth: I’m interested about the family business and about your mom’s involvement as a consultant for you. Can you just talk a little bit more about that family connection?

Valentina: Yes, of course. Since I was little, all my family always has had this interest in the culinary arts. And I always cook with my grandmother and my mom. She has studied for technology. And my mom was a crucial part in this project because she always was motivating me to continue doing this project. And finally, I enjoyed with her because she was seeing that I also enjoyed what she was doing.

Wharton Global Youth: You’re headed to Essentials of Entrepreneurship this summer, which is a Wharton Global Youth program. Do you hope to build this into an actual business? And how do you think our program might help you think about it in a new way?

Valentina: I hope to learn additional techniques to expand my business, such as the best methods for target customer expansion, and methods to scale domestically and internationally. The program will also help me connect with peers and students from different cultures and backgrounds, all of whom will enrich my learning and broaden my perspectives. And I look forward to enhancing my communication skills to build a reliable network of collaborators. I am confident that it will boost my chances of success in my just-beginning business career, also training on marketing tools that can assist me in future personal business ventures. And this project topic has significantly contribute dto my self awareness, and guiding my future professional interest. I’ve been able to explore and consider areas, careers and universities for my future, that are truly passionate to me, like pharmacy, business, marketing and nutrition.

Wharton Global Youth: It has sparked your interest in different areas of business. I love to hear that.

Let us wrap up with our lightning-round questions. Try to answer these as quickly as you can. What is something about you that would surprise us?

Valentina: Okay, so that I was born in Barcelona and I have Italian nationality. And I have an immense mix of languages like Catalan, Spanish, English, Italian, dialects of Italian, German and a basic knowledge of Chinese.

Wharton Global Youth: What has been the hardest part of your entrepreneurship journey? So far?

Valentina: The hardest part is actually now where I must guarantee that my product will be notably different from the rest — finding a differential advantage compared to other nutritional supplements.

Wharton Global Youth: What is your favorite emerging technology?

Valentina: For sure, artificial intelligence, as well as augmented reality and virtual reality.

Wharton Global Youth: What is one work skill you think everyone should have?

Valentina: One essential work skill that I believe everyone should have is effective communication. Regardless of industry or job roles, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and respectfully is invaluable.

Wharton Global Youth: We want to know the last song you downloaded or listened to?

Valentina: Well,I arrived home by train and I was listening to a piano song named Idea 10.

Wharton Global Youth: If you could win an Olympic medal for any sport, real or fake? What would it be?

Valentina: Tennis, for sure.

Wharton Global Youth: You are starting your own business-themed talk show. Who is your first guest, and why?

Valentina: My first guest would be my older sister, Micaela Mariuzza, as she is a fundamental part of my life. She always gives me support and is my role model to follow. Also, she’s really keen on the field of business and odontology (dentistry], which would be [her interests]. [I would also invite my uncle Fabio Terlevich,] who surely would bring interesting business insight.

Wharton Global Youth: Valentina, thank you for joining us on Future of the Business World.

The raw materials, including vitamins and minerals, to create Hearts for Well-being.

Conversation Starters

Valentina says, “In the journey of developing Hearts for Well-being, I meticulously researched and assessed the nutritional needs and common health challenges faced by teenagers.” Do you think she arrived at the correct conclusions with the gummies she formulated? What flavor/nutritional supplement would you add and why? Take away?

Valentina went deep into exploring an area of personal interest for her school assignment. What project have you tackled at school that could or has become a business startup? Tell us your story in the comment section of this article.

What did Valentina learn about the role of government in product development? Did she appreciate this process?

13 comments on “A Budding Bio Entrepreneur Makes Nutritional Gummies for Teens

  1. Valentina Mariuzza’s journey with her “Hearts for Well-being” gummies really inspired me. She nailed the research, and it’s impressive how she dug into what teens really need and came up with these tailored supplements. The whole idea of making them as gummies is just creative, Who wouldn’t choose a tasty gummy over a boring pill?

    If I were to add a flavor or supplement, I’d probably go for something like a caffeine-free energy boost gummy in a flavor like cherry. Lots of us are hesitant with energy dips, and cherry sounds fun and would definitely stand out on the shelf!

    From the article, Valentina really got a crash course in dealing with government rules when making a health product. It sounds super complicated but significant. She has taken it seriously, and realized the assurance of making sure what she’s selling is safe and legit. I think developing an expertise in that field gave her a huge head start as a young entrepreneur.

    I’m just really struck by how she turned a school project into an influential and sustainable action. I was motivated by her story that if you’re really into your idea, and ready to handle things like research and regulations, you will make something pretty cool happen. Totally inspiring!

    • Valentina really did a great job finding out what teens need and turning it into something fun and tasty. Gummies are such a smart idea because they’re way more appealing than pills.

      Your idea for a caffeine-free energy boost gummy in cherry flavor is fantastic! Lots of teens, including me, need a natural way to get through energy slumps, and cherry definitely stands out.

      Valentina’s effort in navigating government rules for health products shows how seriously she takes safety and quality. It’s inspiring to see how she turned a school project into a meaningful business. However, I disagree that dealing with these regulations is just a “crash course.” It’s a significant achievement that showcases her dedication.

      Your thoughts highlight the importance of creativity, compliance, and hard work. It’s a great reminder that with passion and effort, we can turn our ideas into something impactful.

    • After reading Valentina Mariuzza’s article and comments, I was impressed at her groundbreaking ideas and approach to bio entrepreneurship. Utilizing diverse ingredients, she tried to improve the immune system, alleviate anxiety, boost concentration, and sleep disorders, and prevent skin alteration. While her ingredients are still suitable for bioproducts, I believe revising ingredient selection will lead her to succeed in the competitive global market.
      Unlike adults, teenagers have various factors to take care of. For example, teenagers experience significant hormonal changes, increasing bone density, and mental health development. Even Though she made a good target effect for improving teenagers’ health care, targeting various effects for teenagers will optimize her products: bone health, digestive health, vision support, and metabolism support. This type of effect will accurately aim at teenager’s needs.
      According to research on the number of vegan teenagers in the UK, almost 350% number of vegans has risen in the past decades. This means, that to capture a broader market audience, she needs to change her product into vegan-friendly supplements. For instance, replacing sugar with natural sweeteners and gelatin with vegan gel will fulfill these needs. On top of that, she can consider usage for artificial flavorings and colorings. Not only these types of synthetic food products can affect brain health, but they are also able to loss of interest in consumers.
      Bioproducts don’t end with just obtaining ingredients; figuring out the proper ratio of each ingredient will be crucial. For instance, combining calcium and antibiotics will render ineffectiveness for consumers. Hence, if she does not label certain dosages, or exceeds certain dosages could be critical for her business.
      While Valentina created a well-formulated product, she requires some areas for improvement in commercializing. Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean establishing new products. Entrepreneurship shows the necessity of the ability to run a business and to endure the uncertainty of the marketplace. In Valentina’s case, distinguishing her product from the marketplace will be the first step. For example, if she is targeting teenagers, she needs to set the target audience for their parents. Simply shaping her nutritional gummies to be heart-shaped won’t confidently attract parents’ interest. When she ensures the regulations of food products and transparently reveals the production process will assist her in gaining her parents’ interest. Additionally, forging partnerships with academic institutions and local stores and teaching the benefits of gummies through social media can also be the focal point of Valentina’s marketing.
      Valentina Mariuzza’s journey in creating nutritional gummies inspired me as a bio researcher. Her journey in bio entrepreneurship and her brilliant ideas were captivating for me. Valentina’s innovative idea will ensure a bright future for the next bio-entrepreneur generation. If she expands her target effects-improving bone health, digestive health, vision support, and metabolic support -will attract the broader consumers. Making such a correction will lead her to a future bio entrepreneur.

    • Hi Manyi!
      After reading your comments, I agreed with your thoughts about her groundbreaking ideas and approach to bio entrepreneurship. She Utilized diverse ingredients and tried to improve the immune system, alleviate anxiety, boost concentration, and sleep disorders, and prevent skin alteration. However, while her ingredients are still suitable for bioproducts, I believe revising ingredient selection will lead her to succeed in the competitive global market.
      Unlike adults, teenagers have various factors to take care of. For example, teenagers experience significant hormonal changes, increasing bone density, and mental health development. Even Though she made a good target effect for improving teenagers’ health care, targeting various effects for teenagers will optimize her products: bone health, digestive health, vision support, and metabolism support. This type of effect will accurately aim at teenager’s needs.
      According to research on the number of vegan teenagers in the UK, almost 350% number of vegans has risen in the past decades. This means, that to capture a broader market audience, she needs to change her product into vegan-friendly supplements. For instance, replacing sugar with natural sweeteners and gelatin with vegan gel will fulfill these needs. On top of that, she can consider usage for artificial flavorings and colorings. Not only these types of synthetic food products can affect brain health, but they also able to loss of interest in consumers.
      Bioproducts don’t end with just obtaining ingredients; figuring out the proper ratio of each ingredient will be crucial. For instance, combining calcium and antibiotics will render ineffectiveness for consumers. Hence, if she does not label certain dosages, or exceeds certain dosages could be critical for her business.
      While Valentina created a well-formulated product, she requires some areas for improvement in commercializing. Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean establishing new products. Entrepreneurship shows the necessity of the ability to run a business and to endure the uncertainty of the marketplace. In Valentina’s case, distinguishing her product from the marketplace will be the first step. For example, if she is targeting teenagers, she needs to set the target audience for their parents. Simply shaping her nutritional gummies to be heart-shaped won’t confidently attract parents’ interest. When she ensures the regulations of food products and transparently reveals the production process will assist her in gaining her parents’ interest. Additionally, forging partnerships with academic institutions and local stores and teaching the benefits of gummies through social media can also be the focal point of Valentina’s marketing.
      I agree with your comments, If she expands her target to improving bone health, digestive health, vision support, and metabolic support-will attract the broader consumers. If we make such a correction and provide thoughts about her project, it will lead her to be a future bio entrepreneur.

  2. Listening to a podcast on how someone made nutritional gummies in their kitchen was crazy as it was, but listening to someone my age making nutritional gummies blew my mind.

    However, I started to wonder. Why would any 15 year old make a product so complex, especially when these were the most crucial years in school (with the most stress and pressure). That’s when I realised that she’s an IB student. An IB student in the 10th grade, in the amazing year where she will have to go through a high stake IB submission, ie; The Personal Project submission. The personal project consisted of a report which contained information of the journey you took to learn something which was embedded in the form of a product. In Valentina’s case, she probably learned business management/marketing skills and chemical formulation skills for the products which were the gummies. For my personal project, I grew plants via hydroponics (a growing method which doesn’t require soil), which I documented the growth in my youtube channel.

    As an IB student who has just passed 10th grade, I understood why she formulated such gummies for teenagers which helped ‘enhancing immune system, reducing anxiety, boosting concentration, minimising skin alterations, and addressing sleep disorders’. I don’t know whether this is the same story for IB students all over the world or for my peers and I, but we all work late nights due to the tight knit submissions and tests for which we are all super jittery and stressed about. These seem like gummies which would be very beneficial for our wellbeing in the years.

    At the end, it just goes to show that with a little push, we can all learn some life skills in around 7-8 months. For some of us, it was making nutritional gummies; and for some, growing plants.

  3. Reading about Valentina Mariuzza’s journey in creating nutritional gummies for teens inspired me because her story is similar to my own. Valentina turned a school project into a potential business, and I’ve been working on something similar with my school’s dance club. Like Valentina, I am a middle school student who wants to make a positive impact. Growing up, I never saw myself as talented in music-related topics like dance or music. I spent most of my time studying, with some extracurricular activities, but never thought I would have an interest in dance. That changed when I saw Taylor Swift perform.

    Taylor Swift’s charismatic presence on stage and her innovative choreography inspired me. Her journey from a young country artist to a successful pop star showed me that it’s important to try new things and follow your dreams. Inspired by her, I decided to create my school’s dance club, where I could explore this new interest. Valentina’s detailed approach to her project—researching, testing, and refining—reminded me of my own process in the dance club. When I joined, I had no idea how to organize the program for the club. But I was determined to learn. I started by watching videos, attending practice sessions, and getting feedback from my dance instructor and peers. It was challenging at first, but I kept practicing and gradually improved.
    Family and mentor support was crucial, just as it was for Valentina. My parents encouraged me to pursue this new interest, and my dance instructor provided valuable guidance and motivation. Their support helped me stay committed and confident in my abilities.
    Participating in the dance club has taught me the importance of perseverance and teamwork. Learning new routines and improving my skills requires dedication and hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve made great new friends and discovered a new way to express myself through hip-hop and contemporary dance styles.

    That was the first step of me actually dancing with energy and spirit. The more I danced, the more I realized that I also had a way to success rather than academics. Over dance, I found myself enjoying and spending more time on dance and drawing myself into music. Through dance and music, I found a new rhythm in life and this taught me the importance of trying everything and staying positive. In addition, I learned to trust my feelings and just have a try. Taylor Swift inspired me to take a new step and to find a new way. This journey has shown me that it’s possible to develop new talents and passions at any time. Valentina’s story of creating something meaningful from her interests has inspired me to keep pushing myself and exploring new possibilities.

    In conclusion, Valentina’s journey and Taylor Swift’s inspiration have shown me the power of pursuing your passions, whether it’s developing a product or learning to dance. Both experiences have encouraged me to keep exploring new interests and to believe in my ability to make a difference. Just as Valentina aims to help teens with her gummies, I hope my passion for dance can inspire others and bring joy to those around me.

  4. In one of the parts of the podcast, Valentina reports, “The hardest part is actually now where I must guarantee that my product will be notably different from the rest — finding a differential advantage compared to other nutritional supplements”.

    As someone who is deeply interested in the entrepreneurship and business world, I love this comment since it ties so much into what makes a story a success and what ends the story immediately: discipline. Even though Valentina has already reached such a high level of success, this quote depicts how she is not someone who will grow overconfident but still can analyze the parts where her product might be lacking, where in this case its unique value in comparison to her antagonists.

    I, under the guidance of the DECA program at my school, learned firsthand how important separating yourself from the competition is when I saw how one of the companies I was analyzing, Equinox (a high-end exclusive gym) utilized its luxury feel and environment to encroach the market and isolate only the top 5%. This way, there was fewer competition and they were able to use their luxury items to separate themselves from the rest of the “normal” commercial gyms. In any case, I just love how Valentina can recognize the issues that she still has instead of becoming enthralled with her success. Love this story!

  5. Valentina’s gummies, even though I haven’t tried them, are probably a little harder to eat than Gummy Worms. Food is pretty important to someone like me, who justifies his constant snacking because he’s a “growing boy”. Honestly, half the time, I don’t even know what I’m eating. As long as it tastes good, I’m feeling great. But obviously, a healthy diet and nutrition is certainly important towards being healthy. With that being said, hearing Valentina’s stories of meticulous research, and after some quick google searches of my own, it does seem to me that she has arrived at the correct conclusions. These problems are pretty relatable to me after all: I get sick easily, always anxious about something, can lose focus pretty easily (which you probably already knew when reading this comment), have lots of pimples, and I can’t exactly sleep easily. If I could add a new gummy to the mix, it’d probably be green apple-flavored (because it tastes good), and used to enhance energy to fix my laziness. Transitioning to the 2nd part of the prompt, at my school, we compete in a mandatory science fair. This year, I decided to do something interesting, and created a bioplastic out of a different material (a species of seaweed that hadn’t been used yet to the best of my knowledge), and tested it against other conventional bioplastics. The reason why a bioplastic is based on a material like sea-weed is because of the fact that seaweed doesn’t require as many agricultural inputs, and is more rapidly biodegradable. After reading this article, a potential business venture I could start (EcoWrap Solutions), could start selling single-use, eco-friendly plastic wrap to other businesses rather than those businesses using materials that could potentially harm the Earth. No obviously, this is a little too optimistic, as I haven’t researched government requirements on producing these items, nor have I started to manufacture these on a long-term scale. However, I am heavily inspired by Valentina, and I am definitely excited to try a new venture. Addressing the 3rd part of the prompt, Valentina learned a lot about government regulatory practices, like dosages of certain ingredients, and most likely(though not mentioned), some sanitation standards as well. She’s definitely positive about the intervention, as she stated that this was a part of the process that she was very keen on.

  6. When reading this article of trial and error and finding the “sweet” spot of balancing both nutrition and sugar, I thought of my first PRT. For those not familiar with a PRT or personal response to text, it is a style of essay used in the Albertan education system used to assess a student’s proficiency in English. Traditionally this is done through a story a student writes connecting a personal experience to the prompt. I however did not know this and wrote a 5-paragraph essay that was poorly strung through and contained 3 separate stories all in one. I was under the assumption that “if it worked before it’ll work now”, however I was wrong. Furthermore, I got a 55% on my Frankenstein essay and went to tutorials to find out what I did wrong. I asked, “What did I do wrong?”, and my teacher responded with “Where do I even start”. To turn a long story short, I had totally misinterpreted the style of essay I had to do, and now I have to create an actual story. I was dreading it as in middle school I was not the biggest fan of creative writing, however I knew it had to be done. My next PRT went better than before, I had gotten a 75% and was happy with the improvement. However, I was still not satisfied with the result. I went back to my teacher and asked the same question. This time, she had directed me to look at the finer details within my essay. The sentence structure, word choice, use of commas, and tying paragraphs together were some of the things she mentioned. This feedback was invaluable to me and exponentially improved my writing. This experience has helped me not be afraid to ask for help and has helped me persevere through trial and error. I know that the product development phase is one of the most important stages to creating a product, and it can be an arduous and repetitive process. However, it is essential to create a process, and I feel we could take that general outlook on life. Without a struggle or goal, I would think life would be pretty bleak. It’s like a product that hasn’t gone through product development yet.

  7. Dear Valentina Mariuzza,

    The Future of the Business World podcast episode “A Budding Bio Entrepreneur Makes Nutritional Gummies for Teens” blew me away! My world, like yours, is food-centric. As Student Advocate of the Center for Biological Diversity, I’m focused on creating a just food system that protects people, wildlife, and the environment. I co-directed a mini-documentary interviewing cafeteria staff members at my high school, which shared the human struggles and triumphs that go into every serving of Pasta Primavera. I’m also in the middle of trying to land a U.S. distribution deal for the Italian startup Bibogem, owned by a recent college grad, which aims to replace microplastic-laden tea bags with organic dissolvable tea crystals. Seeing your work, I realized that you and I are like peas in a pod (pun intended).

    Your determination to have a net-positive impact on society resembles my own. As an activist, I work hard to influence food policy. While ten million children across America live with food insecurity, our country wastes sixty million tons of food a year—more than any other country in the world. It gets worse…one in four—or 18 out of 75 billion—land animals killed for food each year are not consumed. And, of course, wasted food has a negative impact on the natural environment. We humans need to get our act together! I’m confident that if bold Gen Z bio-entrepreneurs like yourself put their minds to it, these issues can be factored into upcoming business plans. Triple Bottom Lines (economic, social, environmental) need to be the wave of the future. Meanwhile, how about helping me promote composting to keep food scraps out of landfills?

    You conducted spot-on market research about how to reach and appeal to your teenage target clientele. I applaud you! My process was similar when I decided to raise awareness and appreciation among the students at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School regarding the sacrifices made by our hardworking cafeteria crew. One employee walks twenty miles a day to make ends meet. Before the mini-doc aired, students chattered and bustled through the cafeteria line, rarely making eye contact with the workers behind the Bain Marie counters. After watching interviews with individual workers, student-worker exchanges became commonplace. “Hey Ayanna, how is your little sister?” “Chef Ben! Can you please microwave this soap so it looks like bread for Senior Prank Day?” My school community has changed in a small way forever due to the mini-doc, which has improved social interaction between students and staff.

    The overlap between our stories becomes eye-popping when it comes to my U.S. representation of the startup Bibogem. You identified a product that was missing from the market, as did the Italian CEO of Bibogem. I’m currently grappling with the intricacies of regulatory requirements. In fact, I’m all for tightening them—I’ve launched a signature campaign to the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to incorporate sustainability standards into dietary guidelines. The importance of the art of negotiation is also eminently clear to both you and me. When the young Bibogem CEO decided to take a chance on me, I knew I had to deliver. I relentlessly honed my skills on family members. Not to brag, but my elevator pitch got rave reviews from my five-year-old nephew! Although there did seem to be a correlation between his enthusiasm and the sweet I held in my hand. This might be a classic case of social desirability bias, so I think it’s time to move on to bigger fish. Next up are profit-hungry retailers—and the sweet will be the innovative tea crystals I’m selling to them.

    With my activism, filmmaking, and business ventures under my belt, I’m ready to join the ranks of young entrepreneurs who are contributing to a safer, more equitable, and health-conscious world. So, where do I sign up to get these amazing nutritional gummies?

    With appreciation,
    Dmitry Gordeev

  8. The appeal of products targeted toward teenagers is integral to their purpose. Products are designed to attract specific demographics by addressing their needs, values, and aspirations. After all, wouldn’t most teens prefer candy-like gummies over horse-pill-sized capsules?
    I can attest to the allure firsthand after consuming countless soft-chew gummies, as opposed to equally effective tablet-form vitamins and supplements, which seem less appealing to my developing brain. My gummy supplements range from daily vitamins to melatonin and creatine, all of which have non-gummy pills or powdered alternatives that I could have opted to use. I am fascinated by how supplement companies have successfully piqued my interest, and those in my demographic, in a way that does not trade off or compromise the effectiveness of their products.
    This is why I strongly agree with Valentina Mariuzza and how she develops her products to appeal to her target consumers. She writes, “I’m an entrepreneur who works in the field of biology, technology and chemistry, combining scientific knowledge with business awareness to develop and commercialize products and services based on biological discoveries.” Mariuzza’s role as a bio entrepreneur is to seek scientific opportunities using both her expertise in science and business awareness to commercialize products with a positive impact on society.
    Mariuzza also states, “As a teenager myself… I also noticed a gap in the market when it came to nutritional supplements, specifically tailored to the needs and preference of us—teenagers. The concept of gummies appealed to me for the convenience, tastiness and potential to deliver essential nutrients in a format that is both appealing and accessible.” Taking my own experience into account regarding gummy supplements, Mariuzza seems to have discovered the “secret sauce” for making supplements not just obligatory, but actually appealing, to teens.
    Mariuzza’s description of her journey to turn her ideas into products was a valuable lesson for me. She described how she calculated ingredients to meet European dietary regulations and meticulously crafted her marketing toward teenagers to create the kind of positive consumer engagement I have personally experienced with gummy supplements.
    Other supplement companies may try to ride on the coattails of Mariuzza’s success by mimicking her process and marketing strategies. However, brilliant minds who channel creativity, have field-related expertise, and insightful perspectives are pioneers who are able to leapfrog a product or industry, and Valentina Mariuzza is a prime example.
    I must thank Ms. Mariuzza and other like-minded individuals for their contributions to our society and, specifically, for making the effort to address the key tastes and preferences of teenagers.

  9. Valentina’s story is a prime example of how passion and education can go hand and hand to create meaningful change. What started as a school project soon evolved into a business venture. What stood out to me was Valentina’s drive for success. Her story and experiences resonate deeply with me. For me, my high school science project was turned into a small side hustle. Testing the effect of different additives me and my buddies soon had hundreds of cookies sitting around. Faced with this surplus, we saw an opportunity. With creative packaging and competitive prices to make our product standout, we were sold out by the weekend. Although encouraged by this success I knew it wasn’t going to last, the demand would ultimately die down. It did however teach me something I will hold onto for life, if you have the opportunity to try something new, just go for it.

    Towards the end, I noticed a shift in the conversation, as Valentina discusses how she hopes to scale her business to possibly internationally. While I admire her ambition, Valentina may face significant challenges. Large pharmaceutical companies, with their vast funding and extensive resources won’t make it easy. From my own experiences, I understood how daunting it can be to compete with well-established giants in any given industry. Nonetheless, I genuinely hope that Valentina’s dream of scaling her business comes true. Her determination and innovative spirit inspires me to give the cookie business another go.

  10. It is widely acknowledged that entrepreneurship is not an easy path, especially in highly competitive industries. Having myself worked on developing a business proposal, I can definitely relate to the experience that Valentina describes, and I’m truly inspired to see the level of success Hearts for Well-being has managed to achieve.

    Last summer, I participated in Bossgirls, a five week entrepreneurship education program in which we developed a product proposal focused on solving an issue. We chose different goals from OneNYC 2050, a plan for sustainable and equitable developments in NYC, to concentrate and work on in teams to come up with an original solution for. My group focused on the goal of healthy lives and ultimately settled on the solution of an educational video game, with which we sought to offer entertaining and accessible health education​​.

    Like Hearts for Well-being, my group’s process of developing our idea was much more complicated than we initially anticipated. Our original plan involved creating a verification stamp that would be used to identify approved foods and brands, as well as explain the healthy aspects of said food/brand. However, we soon discovered existing apps such as Yuka that scan barcodes of food products and provide evaluations for how healthy they were considered. Companies like Nutrition by Tanya featured a similar concept to ours– approved products with a stamp of the company’s endorsement. Though discouraged, we were not prepared to give up our idea… until we checked in with our project mentor. While she was open to the proposition, she reasoned that we would likely require government approval which certainly wouldn’t be a fast process. Thus, we were compelled to pivot.

    Our next idea was no less ambitious than our first. We sought to create an online shopping brand that would offer products we deemed healthy, with an explanation of their health benefits. We would also collaborate with companies through brand deals to feature their healthy products and create new ones. Alongside the shopping site, we wanted to provide a healthy meal plan delivery component with a target market of busy college students and working parents. Though more feasible than our last plan, we ran into issues regarding the cost-effectiveness of the storage and shipping process for the products. We debated whether to establish the brand as for profit or non-profit but, after careful consideration, we eventually decided to reroute once again.

    After our second change, we were unfortunately faced with the difficulty of two of our five team members’ departures from the program due to unrelated circumstances. Nevertheless, we persisted and began our third and final proposal. This time, we reevaluated our goals and wants, realizing that access to healthy food was our second priority while our first was health education. Consequently, we came up with an educational video game product, which we named “Health Yourself”. Our video game would include multiple different stages that educated the player on different aspects of healthy living. Targeted towards younger kids, we hoped our product would help them develop healthy habits at a young age that would hopefully carry into adulthood. Though we have had to temporarily put a pause on the project, Valentina’s story has encouraged me to look forward to resuming our work down the road.

    The difficulties I encountered on my entrepreneurship journey demonstrate how remarkable of a job Hearts for Well-being has done from just launching alone. Though riddled with hardships and challenges, the process was both extremely valuable and rewarding. My experience in developing the business proposal not only exposed me to the business field, but also left me with plenty of knowledge in both entrepreneurship and the health food industry. Misinformation runs rampant, almost always in the form of misleading brand campaigns and promises. Claims of sugary breakfast cereals being “heart healthy” and “whole grain” or “100% natural” highly processed snack products mislead many parents into believing that they serve as nutritious foods for their children. While many parents remain unaware of these deceptive company tactics, the select few informed ones, such as myself, may grow to distrust store bought products and brands.

    The health supplement market is no different. We have likely all seen countless examples of health supplements marketed towards us, often claiming miracle results, whether it be losing “30 pounds in a week” or helping your child “grow 3 inches more of height”. Many of Hearts for Well-being’s existing competitors are nowhere near as effective as they are advertised, if, even effective at all. In 2024, an NIH analysis of almost 400,000 U.S. adults over 20 years found no association between regularly consuming a multivitamin and lower risk of death. On the other hand, the NIH recommends adopting a healthy lifestyle to decrease the risk of death and developing chronic diseases. In actuality, if these health supplements are to be implemented, they should be used alongside a healthy lifestyle rather than replacing one.

    Therefore, I believe that an effective method for Valentina to separate Hearts for Well-being from the rest of the market would be to promote her gummies as they are, without overstated health benefits and addressing the ambiguity in people’s results. This would allow her brand to gain the trust of skeptical consumers, since, just as Benjamin Franklin said, “honesty is the best policy”.

    The process of turning a concept into reality in the entrepreneurship field is full of complexities yet crucial to bringing innovative solutions to the market. I admire Valentina’s ambition and persistence to expand Hearts for Well-being and reach more hands of those who may benefit. If Hearts for Well-being is able to deliver a legitimately beneficial product with authentic advertising, it is well-positioned to stand out amongst a marketplace of deceitful competitors.

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