Veneka Chagwedera

Veneka Chagwedera

MBA ’13, Founder, Nouri Inc.



While working for a Southeast Asian nonprofit, Veneka Chagwedera (MBA 13) started making healthy energy bars to keep her going during her field trips to remote areas. When she returned to the United States to begin business school, she continued experimenting with ingredients, with the aim of crafting a satisfying snack bar without preservatives or added chemicals. 

Chagwedera soon realized her "kitchen hobby had business potential." With a grant from the University of Virginia i.Lab Incubator (housed at Darden) and support from Darden alumni and faculty, she launched NOURIBAR as a Second Year student in 2012. Having never run a business before, she relied on several entrepreneurial faculty experts, including Professors Saras Sarasvathy and Jeanne Liedtka.

"Everything I learned at Darden in my classes has been pivotal to helping me grow the business, from operations and finance to marketing, leadership and strategy," said Chagwedera. "Running a business while I was a full-time student helped me integrate my understanding of the classroom material with real-world experience."

Two years later, Chagwedera's startup has received much acclaim. Touted by the likes of Dr. Oz and First Lady Michelle Obama — whose "Let's Move" campaign presented NOURIBAR with the AKA Stamp of Approval award — Chagwedera's business is growing rapidly. By the end of 2015, she hopes to expand the school feeding program to reach children worldwide.

Growing up in Harare, Zimbabwe, Chagwedera witnessed firsthand the indelible ties between food security and education. She watched children drop out of school to find jobs to supplement their families' incomes. This was the impetus for NOURIBAR's social mission. For every bar sold, the company donates a portion of the proceeds to its partner companies, all of which work on the ground in developing countries to source local food for children in need.

In 2014, the company provided more than 89,220 meals to children in need on four continents.