Published on November 27, 2023

This college student took $3,000 and turned it into a ketchup empire

Published by Joshua Ramos

This college student took $3,000 and turned it into a ketchup empire

This college student took $3,000 and turned it into a ketchup empire, now featured in over 300 retail locations.

In 2015, Evan Lampsa underwent open heart surgery.

This experience led him to think: how can I create healthy food for heart patients?

He examined everyday items that negatively impact health, often without people's realization.

Eventually, he focused on ketchup. Mainstream brands like Heinz and Hunt’s are known to contain at least 20% added sugar, a staple in many diets.

Evan used the $3,000 he had saved to develop new recipes, branding, and to conduct customer surveys.

The outcome was Ketchup Please LLC, an organic, non-GMO ketchup with no added sugar and contains less sodium, carbs, and calories than mainstream ketchup.

Initially, Ketchup Please LLC sold its products at a local farmer’s market, earning $940 on its first day. The company then gained popularity in Evan’s hometown of Wales, Wisconsin, and its growth started to snowball.

At the beginning of this year, Ketchup Please was in around 150 retailers in the Midwest. Now, this number has surpassed 300.

Evan aims to expand to over 1,000 retailers by the end of next year, leveraging new distributor and retailer partnerships.

But how did Ketchup Please LLC achieve this against a household name like Heinz? How is a teenager capturing market share from a 150-year-old conglomerate?

There are two main reasons:

1. Heinz faces a 'Diet Coke dilemma': trying to match the taste of its original product rather than creating a new category.

The Ketchup Please team found that people were not seeking the taste of Heinz but a ketchup that complemented, rather than overpowered, their food.

2. Evan attributed the majority of KP’s success to effective branding. The company has a catchy name and consistent branding, standing out in a field where many CPG brands either suffer from poor branding or fail to leverage newer marketing forms like short-form content.

Evan achieved all this while being a full-time student at the University of Miami, and without VC funding.

Rather than spending $8,000 on three focus groups, he opted for direct customer feedback at farmers' markets and cold-emailed his way to his first clients.

Evan is graduating in the spring of next year and I can not wait to see where Ketchup Please LLC goes when he can really go all-in.