Kai Soto-Dessen ’23

muun chi, Redondo Beach, CA

This summer, I interned with a probiotic and prebiotic health food company called muun chi. I worked in person with the company’s founder, Manette Jen McDermott, at several farmers markets in Los Angeles where they sell their product. There, I learned a great deal about the positive functions of muun chi’s products, which include a myriad of gut health benefits. I saw McDermott interact with customers and was inspired by her skills at connecting with people on a human level in order to help them using muun chi products. Many of the customers are loyal, in part because they appreciate the personalized shopping experience that is delivered at the farmers markets. The company is in the midst of a transitional period, as they are opening a new store in Redondo Beach. Much of my work had to do with preparing for that.

I was mostly supervised by Bill McCalpin ’79, the company’s CEO, who manages the overall mission of the company, and I worked remotely alongside another intern, Indira Thodiyil ’25. Indira and I had several joint projects. One such project was to figure out the process that muun chi must go through in opening their store to become certified as organic. We also worked together to develop mock-up labels for products at the store, and we collaborated on brainstorming store opening event ideas. I found this creative work to be engaging and fun. Another more logistical research project we took on together was to develop ideas for how best to ship packages of product, such as what materials to use, how best to store them, etc.

On a more individual level, I helped to develop ideas for an educational corner of the upcoming store. I researched children’s books and podcasts for people of all ages, while thinking through details surrounding the design of that section of the store. I also created character flashcards meant to represent different microbial bacteria that are found in muun chi products that help our gut. This was one of my favorite projects to work on, as it had the most room for creativity.

I also researched laboratories that we could potentially partner with to test our products and helped look into details regarding distributors of coconut milk and noodles, necessary ingredients for a couple of our popular products.

I enjoyed being able to learn a great deal at work about my gut health, and I find that I’ve developed a more conscious eating habit with regard to my gut microbiome. I was able to have plenty of time to reflect on the impacts of my work and feel good about the kind of lifestyle the company I spend my time with supports.

I found the internship to be a valuable learning experience, and, although I doubt I will enter a future career in business, I still found it to be professionally interesting. I definitely grew out of the struggle to find creative solutions for the tasks I was asked to work on.