Georgetown Students Start French Fries Company

WILLIAM ZHU/THE HOYA Joseph Hwang (MSB ’19), left, and Chas Newman (MSB ’19) launched their french fries company at the year’s first farmers’ market.

WILLIAM ZHU/THE HOYA
Joseph Hwang (MSB ’18), left, and Chas Newman (MSB ’18) launched their french fries company at the year’s first farmers’ market.

Spud Buds, a french fries company started by three Georgetown students, debuted at the Georgetown University Farmers’ Market on March 22. Founded by Matthew Wang (MSB ’18), Joe Hwang (MSB ’18) and Chas Newman (MSB ’18), Spud Buds uses locally sourced ingredients to offer customers five different french fries recipes inspired by cultures from all over the world.

The founders developed the idea for Spud Buds during the course of last summer and won the people’s choice award at this year’s Startup Hoyas Rocket Pitch competition in November. In addition to managing the company, they trained to do all the cooking.

Newman said that the idea first emerged during a casual conversation after they all realized that they shared similar interests.

“It all started late one night in August. We were sitting around the table, and we were talking about if you had a billion dollars and didn’t have to worry about getting a job, what would you do?” Newman said. “We realized that we all really wanted to deal with people and create something on our own, and we all were interested in food.”

Only Wang had prior professional experience in the food industry, having worked at Luke’s Lobster and Boba Guys in the past. According to Newman, they realized Georgetown lacked good french fries options, and a global perspective would attract many customers.

“There was a gap in the market for having good french fries at Georgetown,” Newman said. “We also thought that having a global take on something that is so quintessentially American would offer a differentiating factor that people would value.”

Newman said while most companies and restaurants make their fries very quickly, as if they were only an afterthought, Spud Buds truly cares about making the perfect french fry. This process starts long before the fry even touches oil and involves picking the right potato — Spud Buds uses Russet, No. 2s.

“The idea is that you’re going to get the best fry you’ve ever had but with a different take on it,” Newman said. “The different dishes are meant to compliment each other with different flavor profiles so that way there’s something for everyone.”

According to Hwang, Spud Buds developed the current menu after extensive research and testing.

“In the fall we were just doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of different entrepreneurs and getting feedback on our flavors and our concept,” Hwang said. “We now have five different flavors inspired by five different countries or fusion flavors.”

To illustrate the complexity of the process, Hwang said they spent a long time selecting the best type of potato to use.

“A lot of our initial tests were just about finding the right type of potato even. On our first test, we tested 12 different types of potatoes,” Hwang said.

Hwang said they are currently sticking with one kind of potato so they can perfect the process before integrating other varieties, such as sweet potatoes.

“We haven’t grown into sweet potatoes yet because they require certain variations in frying time and temperature which would stop us from really perfecting our operation in the first run-through,” Hwang said “But those are definitely things we want to develop in the future.”

Both Hwang and Newman described the process of getting into the GU Farmers’ Market as fairly seamless. According to Hwang, the organizers helped them by waiving the fee charged to all participants.

“What’s really nice about the Farmers’ Market is that they reserve some spots for student entrepreneurs like us and waive the fee that’s required,” Hwang said.

According to Newman, Spud Buds hopes to find additional opportunities for catering by participating in the GU Farmers’ Market and reaching out to different bars and farmers markets in the D.C. metro area.

“Being in the Georgetown Farmers’ Market is great exposure, and we’re hoping that that will translate into different catering opportunities for campus events,” Newman said. “This summer we’re working on different opportunities within the city such as popping up in different bars, and we are also in discussions with different farmers’ markets in the D.C. metro area.”

Newman noted, however, that if they feel that something must be corrected before expanding, they would instead focus on improving their product.

“It all depends what the feedback is,” Newman said. “If the response is really good then we’ll keep pushing in this direction, and if we need to tweak some things then we’re going to use this period to test and then go back to the drawing board over the summer.”

Even though the menu will always be fairly small, Spud Buds plans to rotate items to include seasonal ingredients, reinforcing its commitment to local sourcing.

Taylor Weaver (LAW ’17), who has helped Spud Buds with financial and business guidance since Newman reached out to him in January, said he was drawn into the project after seeing the founders’ dedication.

“When they invited me to their Google Doc and I saw how much work and effort these guys had put into the company in such a short amount of time, I was hooked,” Weaver said. “It was also tasting their fries — they’re incredible.”

Weaver said this passion and commitment makes him excited about what the future holds for Spud Buds.

“In venture capital, a lot of times you’re betting on the team as opposed to the product,” Weaver said. “In this case the product is absolutely amazing, but more than that, it’s the team.”

Weaver said that he would like to see the company take off as the next great in the D.C. food scene.

“It would be really cool to see Spud Buds as a pop-up bar or in restaurants,” Weaver said. “Everyone wants to be the next Sweetgreen or some form of food shop that just takes off, so that would be the goal.”

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