Just passing the one-year mark on her start up, Kristina Vitullio ’10, ’11MBA, is utilizing all of the entrepreneurial skills she gained at Iona to build a recognizable brand in the health food market. As a former recruiter, she spent eight years with a global recruitment firm where she became the youngest female director in their North American business, was recognized as Leader of the Year, won multiple top performance awards, and achieved seven promotions over her tenure.
Her start-up, JAKA JAMU, is a beverage brand that distributes an anti-inflammatory elixir utilizing jamu, an Indonesian herbal medicine. In 2018, she and her good friend of 17 years, Cait Cummins, decided to join forces to create JAKA JAMU in order to fill a void in the jamu market: an easy-to-drink, nutritious, and environmentally conscious beverage.
Cait originally came across jamu while searching for options to help a friend who had an unfortunate kitchen accident and needed something to help heal her skin. Kristina was hooked when she found jamu to be so powerful. She and Cait spent countless nights after work planning for their business. “I was at a stage in my career where I needed a change and a new challenge. It may never feel like the right time but for me with my support system in place, it felt like the exactly right time and opportunity. Fast forward, we are both working on JAKA JAMU full time and loving it,” says Kristina.
Though there are many types of jamu, JAKA JAMU is a turmeric & tamarind functional tonic. It is made locally and created with roots and herbs known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, alongside overall metabolic health. The ingredients used have numerous other benefits associated with them. Of a particular pride point to Kristina is that her flavors are also low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar.
They are currently working on expanding the availability at more retailers, and growing their online presence. At the moment, JAKA JAMU is available in over 75 stores across New York and can be shipped within the continental U.S. As for future plans, they are working on distribution and forming key partnerships with health-focused retailers and fitness centers. Kristina adds, “We want everyone to be able to experience JAKA JAMU because we know first-hand how exceptional this tonic is, and have received such profound testimonials from our loyal customers.”
Kristina recalls Iona being a clear choice because of its strong network and varied options for educational explorations. “What I loved most about Iona was the melting pot of local students and those from afar. While I may not have had the typical ‘live at school’ experience, I can confidently say that I still had a great one. Iona prepared me for both my corporate career and my second entrepreneurial career. My time at Iona gave me the tools needed for business and, most importantly, helped shape me into the person I am today.”
Her advice to students is to “Get as involved as possible, take advantage of career services and internship opportunities, and foster as many relationships as you can. I was one of the lucky ones that fell into a career I loved, but having spent eight years in recruitment, working primarily with recent graduates at the start of my career, I often heard of the uncertainty or lack of direction graduates can have. If you do your homework and utilize the resources around you, you’ll have more confidence as you enter the work force.”