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Momints – A Breath of Fresh Air

Anthony Shurman, proprietor of Yosha! Enterprises, Inc. and manufacturer of confectionary products including Momints, a breath mint originally preferred by smokers, led an international life prior to landing in Westfield, New Jersey. Shurman was born in South Africa while his dad was working for Coca Cola, and lived there for six 6 years, during apartheid. Shurman’s parents, appalled by what they saw, tried to bridge the gap by interacting with many different races; his mom even translated a Zulu cookbook into English. From there, the family moved to Atlanta, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and finally, to Miami by the time he was ready for high school. Shurman realizes he was very lucky to have the opportunity to learn to speak five languages.

A semester abroad in Japan while attending Macalester College in St Paul, MN made him think he would make his living overseas, but going home to graduate with a degree in Japan studies in 1992 delayed it a little. Taking some time off before he began his professional career, Shurman moved to Aspen and began working as a ski instructor, but soon realized he wanted more. Shurman went back to Japan and got an internship with Warner-Lambert, a company that makes confectionary products (Trident, Dentyne, and Certs, etc.) in Japan. With his background, he was able to jump rungs on the corporate ladder and by age 24, became a brand manager and launched a brand of chewing gum in Japan.

This experience helped him get into Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, from which he received an MBA in 1998. After graduation, he re-joined Warner-Lambert in a New Jersey based program sponsored by the chairman of the board to groom young candidates for upper-management positions. When Pfizer bought Warner-Lambert and Shurman was offered a promotion to stay, but decided to take a generous severance package, which gave him part of the capital to start his own business.

Shurman came up with an idea for a breath mint product that capitalized upon the heavy cross-usage of smokers and breath mints and chewing gums and started writing a business plan. His unique idea was to create a breath mint convenient for smokers to carry along with their cigarettes. The idea was to design the mint packaging to slide inside the cellophane of the cigarette wrapper. The height of the dispenser allowed smokers to remove mints and cigarettes without separating the packages from each other. This unique package design could increase usage of mints from every 7th cigarette to every 3rd cigarette. Multiply this by the billion cigarettes smoked per day, and you get an idea of the potential market size.

After designing and building prototypes of the dispenser in his basement, Shurman went to work to find a mint that could overcome smoker’s breath. Finding that liquids were more effective than solids, he hit upon the concept of a liquid-filled sphere, a format that was completely unique to the breath mint category. Not wanting to limit the sales potential of the product, Shurman decided to link his product marketing to the sphere and utilize the smoker friendly packaging as an immediate hook. Up and down the avenues of Manhattan he pulled a wagon full of mints, selling to street savvy grocers, deli and newsstand owners.

$200,000, his first round of financing in 2002, took a full year to raise among friends as well as his own nest egg. As the popularity of the product and resulting sales volume increased, second round financing became much easier. Shurman’s much larger second round of financing was over-subscribed in just six weeks. When he inked a deal with 7-11 stores and CVS Pharmacy, structuring deals around production capacity became an issue, but it was clear that Shurman and Momints were on their way.

The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom

Shurman expects to ship 100,000 cases next year and has added new products to his line. His second product is a gum that helps the body process nicotine and his third, a complete about-face, a candy tongue tattoo for children. Rather than building a large organization Shurman is capitalizing on what we see to be an increasing trend in small business, using brokers instead of in-house sales staff, partnering with production companies, and outsourcing specialized jobs. This allows his company to be innovative, test market on a small scale, and move quickly to implement new technologies.

  • Case History: www.momints.com
  • Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Keep overhead low and move quickly within a market.
  • Could This Work For Me? Structuring or restructuring to reduce overhead can help you capitalize on opportunities.

Shurman came up with an idea for a breath mint product that capitalized upon the heavy cross-usage of smokers and breath mints and chewing gums ...