This semester, Redheart, a Case Western Reserve University student startup, began offering food to customers at The Jolly Scholar. They expect to expand access to multiple other locations including the Cleveland Institute of Art throughout the semester.
Founders Michael Zhou and Daniel Lee created Redheart in an effort to create easy access to affordable healthy food. Zhou is majoring in economics and Lee is majoring in nutritional biochemistry at Case Western Reserve.
At seventeen years old, Lee realized that there was a problem with access to affordable, healthy food. Passionate about fitness while working as a chef for two-and-a-half years, he started learning about nutrition by reading medical journals and research studies in his free time. By incorporating what he learned into cooking, he was able to develop foods that helped him adhere to a sustainable diet inline with fitness and wellness without compromising taste. Although he knew this was a universal problem, he buried his business idea with the thought that someone else would eventually come up with a solution.
Lee was on the pre-med track and as graduation approached, he was starting to question what was next. In August of 2021, Lee shared his business idea with longtime friend, and now business partner, Zhou. Zhou had always been immersed in his love for business and entrepreneurship since middle school and after hearing Lee’s idea, they realized that both of them shared a deep passion for fitness and had faced similar problems in their journey. Zhou encouraged Lee to follow his dreams in entrepreneurship. A few minutes turned into hours, and by the end of the night, they had a clear business plan for their company, Redheart.
With diet-related diseases being the No. 1 cause of death in America, their goal is to fight the Standard American Diet by providing affordable, healthy food without compromising taste. Zhou and Lee advocate for two major problems:
1. Fast-casual restaurants currently in the market are claiming to be healthy without telling the entire story
2. Healthier options usually consist of unsustainable salads and charge premium prices that decrease accessibility.
With the support of Doug Degirolamo, Julia Ver Voort, and Michael Goldberg from the Veale Institute of Entrepreneurship, they launched their business plan through a pitch competition in Tampa, Florida. After their trip, they consulted Bob Sopko from LaunchNet, who connected them with Matt Vann, owner of The Jolly Scholar, among many crucial mentors in the area.
Partnering with Jolly Scholar was a crucial opportunity to reach the Case Western Reserve community. Through surveying their peers, Zhou and Lee found that students wanted better access to higher quality, healthy options on the meal plan. Speaking with Jason Kimball from Case Western Reserve Dining Services, they also realized that students wanted better vegetarian and vegan accommodations. With this in mind, the motto for their initiative is “healthier together at CWRU.”
Zhou and Lee are working with Vann in hopes to provide all parts of Case Western Reserve’s campus with their healthy bowl alternative. With the highest calorie option being less than 340 calories, the bowl offers over a pound of food with nutrient preservation being the top priority. Redheart focuses on the micro and macronutrient content of their food and offers a modified menu with chicken and tofu options to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free preferences.
Support from Case Western Reserve’s campus community is crucial, as a percentage of Redheart’s and Jolly Scholar’s sales will go towards purchasing a meal for local children in need.
Follow Redheart on Instagram: @redheartbrands
For questions and comments reach out to Zhou and Lee on their Instagram accounts: @mikelzhou @dannyyounglee