How B-School Students Boosted A Husband-And-Wife Culinary Venture

Competition judges, left to right: Patrick Libonate, Leanne Maciel, James Soto Scheurer, and Tuba Koc. Courtesy photo

Leanne Maciel and Patrick Libonate are brewing something special. Based in Denver, the wife-and-husband entrepreneur team have embarked on a culinary journey with their recipe for bone broth.

They’re fortunate to live where they do: Denver is a hub for grassroots culinary companies. And they’re also fortunate to have received the help of undergraduate business students at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

FROM AT-HOME RECIPE TO FULL-FLEDGED BUSINESS

Libonate’s interest in bone broth — a rich, nutritious broth traditionally made from boiling chicken or beef bones — stemmed from his wish to make use of leftover bones from cooking. “Making the broth was nostalgic for him,” Maciel says of her husband.

The idea came from a recipe he’d often made, brewing bone broth at home in their crock pot, initially enjoying it as a soup. “He wanted to create a variation of his mom’s chicken soup,” she adds. (Full disclosure: Maciel works in client services for Poets&Quants.)

Libonate noticed a bunch of health benefits after drinking the broth: He wasn’t sick as often, he felt more energetic — and he even had thicker hair. “We decided to see if this idea had legs beyond our kitchen,” he says.

ENTREPRENEURS WEAR ‘SO MANY HATS’

Denver Bone Broth

Amidst the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, Maciel and Libonate decided to turn the at-home recipe into a full-fledged business. They took the time to perfect their recipe, and leveraging their marketing expertise and business backgrounds founded Denver Bone Broth.

“Unlike most bone broths on the market, we make ours to sip and savor, not to use as an ingredient in a recipe,” says Maciel. “So that means a high bone-to-water ratio. It’s not watered down and doesn’t have any off-flavors. We make full-bodied, super savory sipping broths.”

Many who drink bone broth have a daily ritual, like coffee drinkers. Denver Bone Broth offers chicken, beef, and veggie broths, and will soon be launching a buffalo broth. Recently they began shipping their product nationwide.

Maciel and Libonate met while working for Heineken; both have backgrounds in marketing. “When you’re an entrepreneur there are so many hats you have to wear,” says Maciel. The two have many roles managing the business, and a good business should, they were looking for some constructive feedback on what’s working and what can be improved.

CONNECTING THE BUSINESS WITH STUDENT IDEAS

“We were fortunate to have an opportunity for feedback through some networking,” shares Maciel. “It was serendipitous, the way we found the AMA,” says Libonate. He was chatting with Colorado Leeds professor Meg Winter over coffee one day. They had met through the natural food community, and he told her he was in search of marketing interns. To his delight, Winters had an idea where he might find just the right interns for the job. She connected him with her colleague Tuba Koc, who teaches both undergrad and graduates and serves as the advisor for the American Marketing Association.

“Over the past five years, I’ve been working with the AMA to find guest speakers and organize events,” says Koc, “and this year we were looking for a partner for a case competition.” Winters and Koc decided to co-chair the first annual case competition event.

In a win-win situation, Maciel and Libonate presented their company to teams of Leeds School undergraduates. “We put together ten questions and real challenges we had with our business,” Maciel explains, “Then we delivered them to the student teams virtually.”

The competition included three teams of five students, each guided by faculty mentors.

Their final presentations and ideas for the company were in person and judged by a panel of four – Maciel, Libonate, Koc, and an alum she had previously taught, James Soto Scheurer.

“The enthusiasm in all three groups was really great to see, they were all very engaged,” says Libonate. He adds many of the students in the groups were new to the concept of bone broth and had much research to do, which was a great representation of the average consumer awareness for the product.

The winning team. Courtesy photo

DEDICATED AND PROFESSIONAL TEAMS

The teams had two weeks to research and work on their presentations, and they took this role seriously. “The group that really shined in the end had a strong product innovation idea that we really liked,” says Maciel. “They did their research through empathy surveys to get consumer insights, as well as timelines and KPIs.”

“The winning team was full of sophomores, it was a surprise in many ways,” says Koc. “What impressed us, for all the teams, was their level of dedication and professionalism. They really took this seriously and put in the work.”

The winning team will submit their virtual entry in November to compete in the AMA Collegiate Case Competition next year, and if selected in the top ten, they will compete in New Orleans next April.

As their bone broth kicks off to sell nationally, Maciel and Libonate are grateful to the students who supported them at the competition. They continue to grow their business as they stay committed to their mission of sharing the benefits of bone broth with everyone, one sip at a time.

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