Carleton students aim to end workplace “hanger”

A company created by two Carleton students is trying to end “hanger,” the feeling of being angry or irritable due to hunger.

Fourth-year computer science student Emil Aite and fourth-year commerce student Eric Kys founded their company, Desk Nibbles, through Carleton’s Lead to Win program, a startup service for students interested in starting their own businesses.

Aite said he began working in office jobs while in university and always forgot to pack a lunch, which caused poor work productivity and low mood. He added he was inspired to create Desk Nibbles after working as an intern at local e-commerce company Shopify, a place known to offer employees food.

“Last summer I started working at Shopify, there they shower the employees with food. There were snacks everywhere,” he said.

He said he learned that getting snacks to employees is a very complicated process for companies, and that many don’t have the resources to make it work.

That’s when Aite got the idea to start a company to fills the gap for businesses that want healthy snacks for their employees, but do not have the resources to get them.

The subscription service delivers snacks to businesses on plans ranging from $50 to $150, according to their website.

“Essentially, either on a weekly or monthly basis, we’ll ship out a large box packed with snacks for the office to nibble away on. That way, employees get free, delicious snacks in each box,” Aite said.

Aite said they were partnered with eight offices as of January, and have been growing rapidly since.

He said Desk Nibbles was helped by Carleton’s Lead to Win program, which offers guidance and services to students starting their own business.

The first step in the program is the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA)’s program Hatch, where students receive guidance and pitch ideas to a panel of judges. If they pass, they get their own office space, among other benefits, according to the Hatch website.

Desk Nibbles has been operating out of Carleton, as well as a basement in Kanata, since mid-November, Aite said. The startup currently has four employees, and two more will be hired this summer.

Aite and Kys partnered with local Ottawa snack makers like Missy’s Bakery and Martin’s Apple Chips to provide the snacks. They offer selections of fruit, pudding, yogurt, granola bars, chips, and drinks.

CUSA uses the service, as well as local businesses such as print shop CanvasPop and real estate company Windmill.

The startup is now working on expanding its company in response to requests for personal boxes, and opening discussions with school boards.

“We have many personal box requests, hopefully we can get some smaller plans very soon. Students especially need snacks,” Aite said.

Second-year social work student Lex Silvermahr said the service, which reminds her of the custom snack box service Nature Box, would be perfect for students in residence.

“I had a subscription to Nature Box in first year. I wanted it because [residence] food options are awful and I wanted something healthy to eat,” she said.

Silvermahr lives beside a grocery store now, but said she would probably use the service if she still lived in residence.

“I would target residence students because campus is far removed from everything. There’s no close grocery stores and food options suck and everything closes early,” she said.

Aite and Kys said they aim to end “hanger” in Ottawa, and are happy doing it.

“I’m so happy knowing I’m solving a problem I used to always dread,” Aite said. “It’s also awesome seeing a whole office get so excited when the snacks come in. We also love including local brands, it gives them an awesome opportunity to be discovered.”

– Photo illustration by Meagan Casalino