When humanitarian, educator, and newly minted businessman Glenn Simmons moved to Africa 25 years ago to provide aid to the people there, he noticed they were being fed–but weren’t receiving the nutrition they so desperately needed.
“The big thing we did at the refugee camps was provide food, it was low in nutritional value but it kept people from going hungry,” said Simmons. Pap, the corn based food, is similar to the Southern breakfast staple, grits.
Simmons knew that while keeping African refugees fed was important, it was paramount to provide nutrients to malnourished children and mothers in Africa and other underdeveloped nations. Five years ago Simmons met with a group of international scientists to develop a nutrient-dense, natural, and ready to use food for children under the age of five. Thus Invictus Nourishment was born.
The food comes in the form of a cookie and combats malnourishment. “One of the ill effects of malnourishment is a sluggish mind; your cognition is affected and the immune system is weak,” said Simmons. “From my experience at refugee camps the kids were just sick all the time and their bodily growth was stunted.”
Close to 200 million children suffer from stunted growth every year due to malnourishment but the small bite sized cookie produced in Victoria, South Africa has been proven to be beneficial. Made of oats, honey, molasses, and a complex component packed with nutrients, the product is run through a mill, cut, baked and packaged for distribution.
Testing the Product
At 50 cents a package, the Invictus Nourishment Cookie can be a hard sell because many human needs projects have a greater focus on hunger as opposed to nutrition.
“You can feed somebody a packet of flour, rice, or corn for ten cents and it keeps people from being hungry,” said Simmons. “But if we want to fight malnourishment, which the world health organization says is the largest health problem facing the world today, we need something different.”
The wonderful thing about the Invictus Cookie is that it is both filling and nutritious.
“One packet is enough to fill a child under five. We had a doctor come in and test children in the Cape Town area who were in a squatter camp. We measured things such as hair growth, fingernail growth, and attention span recorded by teachers,” said Simmons. “We found that within a month of feeding this packet five days a week we were able to see noticeable results to turn around malnourishment.”
While Simmons and his associates have been working on the project for five years, Invictus Nourishment didn’t become an official LLC until 2012. The for-profit company is currently looking for angel funding and a way to produce the product domestically and prepare it for distribution.
“Our business model is that we will produce it and sell it to people for distribution,” said Simmons. Working with former CEO of Toms Shoes, Candice Kislack, Invictus hopes to pursue a similar business model as the humanitarian shoe company.
“We want to make it a beneficial corporation or B-corp. We would take some of the profits and distribute the cookie at a reduced rate or for free to organizations who we find are struggling, yet share the same philosophy,” said Simmons.
Invictus hopes to provide nutrition not only to children in developing countries but also here in the United States. “1 out of 4 children in Arizona are malnourished; we want to deal with a larger market to distribute the cookie. We have looked at World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and the UN Food Program to distribute the food,” said Simmons.
Invictus is currently working with government contractors to allow the product to be distributed to schools and other government entities. With the help of Kislack, who sits on the board at UNICEF, these hopes could become a reality. “Candice has told us that our product is better than anything else out there,” said Simmons.
Entering a New Role
Simmons has not always had a penchant for business, before starting Invictus Nourishment he spent his time as an academic, a professor and a dean at Wayland Baptist University. After developing Invictus Nourishment into a business and working with the collaborative community, SEED SPOT, Simmons has found the process of being an entrepreneur rewarding.
“One of my favorite things about being an entrepreneur is that I’m a very creative guy and it just stimulates me greatly to get out there, think of ideas and figure out how to solve problems. It’s very rewarding. Plus I think that we have a product that is proven to work and we have changed people’s lives. We’d like to be able to change millions of people’s lives – rather than just the few hundred.”