In the early days of Bohana, a snack business, Nadine C. Habayeb roasted popped water lily seeds in her South End apartment oven then seasoned and bagged samples herself. That was 2017. Three years later, she was on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” successfully pitching for a start-up loan. Today, the vegan and low-cal treat comes in various flavors — including Himalayan Pink Salt, White Cheddar, and Soulful Spice (think sriracha) — and is sold in more than 250 markets along the East Coast.
Sometimes dubbed “Indian Popcorn,” the puffed seeds are known as makhana and harvested from water plants grown in northeast India. The seeds are nutrient rich and have been cooked various ways in Asia for thousands of years. Habayeb had never tasted the snack until it was shared by her good friend Priyal Bhartiya.
A popcorn junkie, Habayeb remembers snacking and thinking: “This snack is giving me everything I want and more.” A partnership was launched. Bhartiya works from India, where she sources seeds meeting Bohana’s ethics ethos.
The Boston-based company’s development road was paved with local support, including from the Food Sol incubator program at Babson College, where Habayeb earned an MBA. “The food ecosystem in Boston is the biggest pillar in our business foundation and our growth,” says Habayeb. “If it wasn’t for that ecosystem, Bohana wouldn’t be what it is.”
One adviser, Rachel Greenberger, formerly of Food Sol, says Habayeb had the necessary abilities to launch Bohana, but needed an extra boost. “The entrepreneurial journey can be lonely, especially when things aren’t working, which they never are at the start,” she says. “Collective energy fuels individual resolve.”
Bohana snacks come packaged in six 2-ounce bags inside a box priced $24.99 to $26.99. Available online and at various branches of Roche Bros., DeLuca’s Market, and Big Y.