Story of a Start Up: Mana Nutrition Part 1

Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Entrepreneurship, Featured, Photos, Strategy

Back in December, I came across Mr. Alex Cone, the marketing manager for MANA Nutrition, on twitter. He was tweeting about this organization that will tackle severe acute malnutrition with an innovative social business model producing ready-to-use-therapeutic-food (RUTF). After speaking with Cone about the process of being a start-up organization, I proposed a project to him and MANA’s executives. And, to my joy, they’ve agreed.

For the next four quarters, I will be writing a series of four articles that will track the development of MANA. This is an opportunity for you, the social entrepreneurship audience, to both ask MANA questions as well as apply their learnings to your start-up projects. Mark Moore and Bret Raymond- the co-founders of MANA- are opening their doors and are ready to do this well. And through these articles, you’re invited to join them on the journey.

Setting the Stage

The aim of MANA (an acronym for Mother Administered Nutritive Aid) is to enable mothers to provide for their children. The organization will do this by becoming a completely sustainable, non-profit RUTF producer by 2012. With a fierce focus on women empowerment, they will be producing the enriched peanut butter that serves as a preferred replacement of the RUTF milk powder. According to reports, the peanut butter, commonly known as “plumpy’nut” is over five times more nutrition rich than the powder. Moore added that the milk powder is often difficult to administer for the mothers in the developing world. “The milk powder requires clean water and correct measurements. The lack of access to that water source, precise  measurement tools and education that supports the use of those tools makes it hard for it to be effective,” he said.

Moore and Raymond have both set out to create a model that both produces this peanut butter in the states to serve as a emergency response producer for UNICEF as well as establishes production plants in the developing world. “If we have the opportunity to train people how to produce this product and that training will produce jobs and income, then we don’t need to own that market,” Moore said. He continued by criticizing larger international production companies that “eat up the market” for this product in the developing world rather than choosing to supply them with training and, in essence, opportunity.  “This product is easy to make and we want our partners in Africa to serve their own people. They know how to do it best,” Moore said.

Moore and Raymond have built a solid network within the peanut industry that is helping to lay the groundwork to begin production in the United States.

Own an Authentic Mission Statement: Avoid the Buzz Words

MANA’s mission statement states, “MANA develops and provides solutions to address the root causes of malnutrition and its devastating effects.” When I first looked at the website back in November, it read very differently. Their old mission statement, which promised to “eradicate malnutrition by 2040” is a perfect model for the trap that non-profits (and donors!) fall into on a fairly consistent basis.

Organizations, in effort to have a sense of movement building, use words that are known to win the public. But in an age where the social development world has recognized the absence of a silver bullet, words like “eradicate” should render some skepticism.  Because, as much as an organization (or government body) would like to think it could eradicate poverty, provide education to all children, eliminate infant mortality, and harness all excessive carbon use, it simply cannot. Now, this all may sound a bit fatalistic, but I actually think it gives all of us in the field the chance to refine and perfect what we do- creating goals that are S.M.A.R.T. rather than sexy. It is my firm belief that we should save the campaign promises for politics. It’s our job to actually be on the field, doing the work- and putting ourselves in transparent accountability. Remember that this area of work is powerful- we are serving real people, real environments. Our mission statements should reflect this reality.

And MANA gets this. Because when I challenged Mark to reconsider the mission statement, he was not only receptive, but took immediate action to restructure it- that it would better reflect what MANA is about and how they will answer the very serious need of starving children in Africa.

Your Opportunity to Ask

As I mentioned earlier, this is an opportunity for you to ask questions to shape the next article. What do you want to know about their model? What are some of the key things they should be considering? What are you experiencing as you start your organization?

I’m excited for this journey with MANA as we go deeper into the topic of organizational development and strategy. Stay tuned.


Amy comes from a background of strategic cause marketing, fundraising, event planning, public relations, service provision and program development. With an MPA in Non-Profit Management from Indiana University, she has worked for a variety of humanitarian development organizations and companies including Opportunity International, TOMS, Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, among others. She has successfully led fundraising and marketing initiatives that deploy integrated media, engage and grow special interest group involvement, and support major and planned giving programs. Currently, she works at as an Account Supervisor for a non-profit marketing and fundraising agency.

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