Marcel Salapa was tired of eating egg whites to get the protein he needed to maintain muscle mass for bodybuilding.
This is why Salapa, who graduated from UCLA in 2018, decided to make his own protein pancake mix during his time in college. Salapa created his company, Phoros Nutrition, so that people could still eat pancakes, which he said are a typically caloric and unhealthy breakfast, but eat fewer carbohydrates than in regular pancakes while consuming 31 grams of protein per serving.
“We want to be the premiere breakfast solution for workout enthusiasts,” Salapa said.
This isn’t Salapa’s first business. In high school, he started a clothing brand and designed custom shirts, which he sold to fellow students. Salapa said he didn’t make much money off the project, but he was not discouraged.
In college, Salopa started Nude Cases, in which he ordered manufactured phone cases in bulk and branded them. Even though Salapa eventually sold the company, he said the experience taught him he cannot take it for granted that people will just buy his products.
Salapa started Phoros as a third-year in college by selling his pancake mix at his gym. Over time, Phoros was able to expand to a wider consumer group and Salapa brought on Spencer Smith, his best friend, to be the director of operations at Phoros.
Smith, a UC Santa Barbara alumnus, said he and Salapa used UCLA’s startup accelerator to grow their business. Smith said the accelerator has helped Phoros with marketing and customer acquisition strategies.
“It’s provided us a workspace … and it’s helped us develop our strategy and our network,” Smith said.
The UCLA startup accelerator brings in previous or current entrepreneurs, mostly UCLA alumni, one or two times each week. The visits serve as a way for businesses in the accelerator to learn from other people’s experience and networks. Salapa and Smith were able to connect with some of the mentors and ask for business advice.
Smith said one of the things he and Salapa realized while developing as a company was they were targeting the wrong audience with the Phoros branding. The original packaging was all black with an illustration of a man flexing his bicep.
“A lot of our feedback was from women,” Smith said. “We realized the original packaging was more of a reflection of us at the time of creation – college guys.”
Smith said the way to learn how to run and grow a business is through practice.
“The best way to learn is by starting,” he said. “The growth of a company is directly correlated to the work you put into it.”
Phoros Nutrition will be launching its rebrand the week of Sept. 10.
Several students said they would try the pancakes because of their supposed nutritional value.
Julia Nakamura, a rising third-year psychobiology student and avid runner, currently eats a granola bar for breakfast. Nakamura said she would definitely try the pancakes because they are high in protein.
“The average runner needs 100 grams of protein a day and that is really hard to get,” Nakamura said.
Hannah Feller, a rising second-year public affairs student, eats a variety of foods for breakfast including avocado toast, bagels, yogurt and cereal. Feller said she would try the pancakes because their nutritional value appears superior to her normal breakfasts.
“It’s often difficult to find breakfast food that is tasty and has nutritional value, so having pancakes which taste really great and also have some benefit is a really great combination,” Feller said. “My current breakfasts definitely don’t have that much protein and that few carbs and so this new type of pancake would definitely benefit me nutritionally.”
Smith said he thinks Phoros Nutrition is especially convenient for students who have access to a kitchen because the pancakes are simple to make while being high in nutritional value.
Salapa said his advice to any students wanting to create their own company is to start as early as possible.
“Start earlier and just know you’re probably going to fail a lot,” Salapa said. “The earlier you start making mistakes, the quicker you’ll start learning and growing.”