Jared Raszewski is the Founder and CEO of DisSolves, a company that make the first edible packaging made from natural ingredients that dissolves in water. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in chemical engineering and minors in chemistry and economics. While at Pitt, he led independent research into the use of edible, bio-polymers in packaging. His research moved from the lab to his kitchen and eventually grew into DisSolves. DisSolves is headquartered in Jared’s hometown of Pittsburgh, and his goal for the company is to produce a sustainable packaging that does not require consumers to compromise on functionality and convenience. Jared led DisSolves though the AlphaLab Gear accelerator, established the supply chain to produce the packaging, and built partnerships with companies to incorporate DisSolves’ packaging into their products. Outside of work, Jared enjoys tending to his collection of cacti and tropical plants and taking long walks outside while listening to audiobooks (Catch-22 is his favorite). You may learn more about Jared and DisSolves at www.dissolves.net.
If you’ve ever awkwardly tried to pour protein powder, baby formula, or flavorings into a water bottle as you’re pulling on a sweatshirt and heading out the door, you’ll understand the struggle of directing trickles of powder into a swishing bottle.
It’s messy to say the least.
Thanks to 26-year-old Jared Raszewski, winner of the Chemical Ventures Conference 2021 pitch competition, there truly is a better way. Raszewski has toiled in the lab to introduce right-sized (think portions) packaging that eliminates the hassle. His product is used by food and beverage brands to sell their dry products in ready-to-use portions, making powdered food products more convenient and eco-friendly. With pre-measured pods of your add-in, you can just drop into your drink (no need to unwrap), shake, and go.
The plant-based and dissolvable DisSolves packet allows powder products to be fully contained and portable, while also being more sustainable than traditional packaging because the material entirely dissolves and there’s nothing left to throw away.
Raszewski, a 2017 chemical engineering graduate from University of Pittsburgh, took what he learned in the University of Pittsburgh’s Blast Furnace, Pitt’s accelerator program, to develop and market the edible/dissolvable packaging material made from natural and vegan ingredients. After graduating, Jared started working on DisSolves fulltime and earned a spot as one of the seven companies chosen for the 6th cohort of AlphaLab Gear, a respected, nationally-ranked accelerator that specializes in physical products. Using natural ingredients was important to Jared because, he says, he cares for people’s health and preserving a healthy environment.
Is there an incident that stands out in your mind that sparked the idea for right-sized dissolvable packaging that would be safe for humans and the planet?
June 24, 2017 was the exact date that I decided I would pursue DisSolves full time because I knew I could make it a reality. At first, I thought the story of DisSolves started during a product design course at the University of Pittsburgh when my group came up with the idea of food pods for a project and, shortly after, I started making prototype films in my kitchen. However, when I was applying to AlphaLab Gear, I had a flashback to presenting a “hot chocolate mix encased in a marshmallow wrapper” during the Invention Convention in kindergarten, so as it turns out, I have been working on DisSolves much longer than I originally thought.
Were there lessons from Blast Furnace that helped you translate your ideas into viable products?
Having gone through three accelerators (the Blast Furnace, Founder Institute, and AlphaLab Gear), the common theme and most valuable lesson I learned was to just go for it and get whatever you have in front of people. It is daunting to start and frightening to share what you have created with people, especially when the product is “not ready.” But putting your idea out there, specifically in front of customers, is one of the best ways to make meaningful progress. It will help you find partners, win customers, and see if the problem you set out to solve is the problem your customers are having.
As the founder and CEO of DisSolves, what has been most challenging for you personally in helping to scale your ideas and grow the company?
Probably the COVID-19 pandemic because it slowed the progress we were making with our customers, broke-up our normal work schedule when we shifted to remote work and necessitated us to find a new manufacturing partner to produce our packaging.
What challenges did you face in presenting your ideas to investors and how did you narrow the field?
My background is in chemical engineering, and in the beginning the biggest challenge I faced was getting too far into the weeds on the technology itself instead of focusing on the value it provides to our customers and the end-users. When asked about presenting, I always recommend a book that an early mentor, Bill Jackson, told me to read, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, because it was a turning point for me in how I approach pitching. The book taught me tools that help me keep audiences emotionally invested in my presentations by focusing on the “Why they should care” versus “How the product works.” Beyond changing my presentation style, it is important to research investors to make sure they share similar goals (sustainability or food focused investors, in our case) because it lets you tailor your messaging and attracts investors within your industry who can support your company in more ways than just funding.
Are there successes and failures you’d like to share?
Four successes stand out most in my head: (1) the first time our contract pod packaging partner said our prototype would work on their machinery because it demonstrated we could make a packaging that will work; (2) the first time we made the packaging on rolls because it proved we could scale our technology; (3) when we were accepted into the AlphaLab Gear accelerator because that showed other people saw the value in our company; and, finally (4) the first time a customer signed a pilot agreement to test our packaging because it validated that customers are willing to pay for our packaging.
What’s next for DisSolves?
DisSolves plans to raise funding to finance the finalization of our pod supply chain and meet the pent-up demand we built for our packaging. Currently, we already have brands signed up to trial the packaging at a commercial level. We’ve completed the necessary R&D with them, and now we are ready to execute the last step of the rollout plans we have in place with these food brands to get podded versions of their products on shelves.
What advice would you give to young chemists/entrepreneurs who think they have a great idea? Where should they start in terms of pitching and networking?
Start however you can and keep trying. When I started pitching/networking, I would look online for local events that catered to the industry we were targeting and to entrepreneurs in general. But considering how virtual events have grown since then, it seems people may be able to branch out even further.
Second, don’t be discouraged if people do not immediately see the value of your invention, especially when you are presenting alongside people who have been working on their ideas for years. It takes time to learn what different audiences are looking for and find the best way to position your product.
What is your favorite part of working on DisSolves?
My favorite part of DisSolves is creating a product that shows sustainability does not mean having to give up ease-of-use and cost. It often feels like more convenient products are automatically more wasteful, or all eco-friendly products require extra work. Or they don’t perform as well because that is the sacrifice that needs to be made to save the planet. My hope is DisSolves sets an example for companies that a product can provide a better user experience while eliminating waste.
How can people learn more about DisSolves?
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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