Business Spotlight: Powering People with Healthy Vending Machines
FAU Undergraduate is Changing the Foodscape with Nutritious Meals at the Press of a Button
By Paige Russo
During Brandon Feinstein’s first year at college, he developed a business plan to help people, especially college students, lose weight. After many late-night study sessions, Feinstein resorted to picking out unhealthy food options from a vending machine when there were no other alternatives. Which inspired him to create Fit Oven, an intelligent vending machine designed to refrigerate, heat up and dispense nutrient-rich, gourmet healthy meals.
With the mindset of an entrepreneur, Feinstein said, “Let me see what I can do to change the way people perceive vending machines,” and proceeded to found Fit Oven, to help others maintain healthy eating habits, after he himself struggled to lose weight.
Feinstein recently presented Fit Oven, a Tech Runway venture class 9 company, at the Florida Venture Forum’s 11th Annual Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition. This led to a partnership with Steele Meals, a South-Florida based meal preparation company that makes nutrient-rich, healthy gourmet dishes that can be added to vending machines. “I am taking a page out of my dad’s book, who built a company by developing relationships with his vendors and partners. … My goal for my company is to build lasting partnerships, like with Steele Meals, to help our companies grow and succeed,” said Feinstein, adding he plans to partner with food banks and homeless shelters to donate any of the meals that are near expiration.
During the COVID-19-related shut-down, Feinstein started working on his business plan and learned more about FAU’s entrepreneurial resources to help him bring his innovation into commercialization. “I wanted to start taking advantage of the resources that FAU offers, so I started with FAU Wave,” Feinstein said. Through FAU Wave’s program he was awarded grant funding to get Fit Oven started. “The FAU Wave program helped me understand the efficacy of my company and understand on a personal level that I am creating a sustaining business,” he said.
Through the FAU Wave, it opened doors for Feinstein to learn about and apply for other competitions and programs, including the Frank and Ellen Daevler Entrepreneurship program, the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps, University of South Florida’s Jabil Innovation Technology Challenge and FAU Tech Runway’s Venture program.
“Brandon always has a plan and an unwavering determination when discussing his entrepreneurial goals,” said Regina Thompson, strategic and economic initiatives manager and FAU Wave and NSF I-Corps program coordinator. “I believe there is great potential for Fit Oven and I see Brandon’s company expanding into office building lobbies and expanding to airports as a quick and healthy food option while traveling.”
His passion to develop the company grew when Feinstein won $8,000 in the University of South Florida’s 2020 Franklin and Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship program. “That was the time when I thought to myself ‘my God, I can really do this, people see it, I see it,” Feinstein said.
At the start of Tech Runway’s program, Feinstein entered the NSF I-Corps’ program to conduct commercialization research by interviewing prospective customers. “I-Corps was a rude awakening for me on so many levels,” Feinstein said. “I soon realized after interviewing customers that people don’t associate a hot meal with a vending machine, rather a Snickers bar or a Coca-Cola.” Through the I-Corps program, Feinstein said he learned that many people are interested in Fit Oven and that he needed to adjust his marketing strategy to attract more customers and change a consumer’s mindset to view vending machines as a healthy meal option.
Feinstein’s goal for the company in the next year is to build his model for the vending machines and start locating them in various locations, especially in gyms, airports, hospitals, universities and corporate office buildings. He also plans to partner with food banks and homeless shelters in the future to donate any near-expiration food from the vending machines.
“If it wasn’t for Tech Runway, I wouldn’t have been able to launch as quickly as I am doing now,” Feinstein said. “Through them (Tech Runway) I’m able to have access to resources, mentors and capital that allows me to successfully improve my business.”
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