Indira Thodiyil ’25

muun chi, Los Angeles, CA

This summer, I interned at muun chi, a health foods startup in Los Angeles, dedicated to harnessing and sharing the power of functional foods to heal and balance the gut and human body. Founded by Williams alumni Manette McDermott ’79 and Bill McCalpin ’79, the company centers its mission around two primary product line foci, prebiotics and probiotics. muun chi takes a holistic outlook on healing the body while minimizing harm to the environment. They seek out opportunities to upcycle, sourcing ingredients from otherwise unused and unseen resource abundances. Given the small team size, I was able to work closely with my supervisors and take on responsibilities central to the daily operations and growth of the company. In addition to guidance and mentorship from Bill and Manette, I was also fortunate to work alongside another Williams intern, Kai.

I was tasked with a range of projects, the majority of which revolved around the development and preparation for a new store opening in the fall. I facilitated the streamlining of financial and documentation organization, enabling revenue from various points of sale and financial operations to be consolidated into a single methodical system. I created design decks for in-store seating configurations and interactive customer experiences. I identified alternative sources of upcycled ingredients to keep up with rapidly growing product demand. As the company looked into expanding beyond the Los Angeles market, I explored options for manipulating the liquid products for greater ease of nationwide distribution while remaining aligned with their sustainability goals. I also developed resources to continue expansion within Los Angeles, assembling a list of local influencers for potential collaboration, beginning a database of like-minded organizations and companies in the region and conceptualizing events for the store opening. My main project was beginning the process of obtaining USDA organic certification. I connected with a certifying agency and initiated the undertaking of dissecting compliance guidelines and compiling the necessary information for the certification application.

Although I worked remotely, my nine weeks with muun chi were a tremendous learning experience. I grew an understanding of the financial logistics and procedures involved with opening a new store and building out a small business. And while I am unsure that my future plans will fall directly in the health foods industry, I was able to grow upon my client-experience work and gained transferable insight into what it means to share a creative vision with customers in a way that creates an immersive and memorable experience as opposed to a purely transactional feeling. Additionally, the wealth of career experience shared by my supervisors helped me to understand how diverse experiences are critical to succeeding within the inextricably intersectional nature of entrepreneurship. Navigating my projects under Bill and Manette’s guidance was a rewarding experience, as they have fostered an environment that invites great creativity and problem-solving.

I would like to thank the Thomsens for their generosity and everyone at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for providing me with this opportunity to explore my interests and gain invaluable experience.