Student-run business offers sustainable snacking options


Rooted Living is a sustainable snack business created by Northeastern student Rachel Domb. The business offers food that encourages healthy eating. Courtesy of Rachel Domb.

Amelia Ballingall, news correspondent

As the necessity and value of sustainability grows in the United States, consumer demand has pushed companies to produce environmentally-friendly options. In just the past five years, internet searches for sustainable goods have increased by 71% and more than 20% of the world’s largest companies have made net zero commitments, meaning they have pledged to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. 

To encourage healthy eating and help the snack industry become more sustainable, third-year psychology major Rachel Domb founded Rooted Living, a plant-based snack company that launched its products on campus in Wollaston’s Market October 2021. The company currently sells two different flavors of granola: maple almond and peanut butter crunch. The snack contains no refined oils or sugars and comes in compostable packaging. 

Domb originally came up with the idea for the business as a high school athlete facing personal health challenges. The then runner decided to turn to a plant-based diet to alleviate the physical stress of her pain points and regain control over her life. 

“Going plant-based really allowed me to eat these foods that made me feel strong and empowered,” Domb said.

As an athlete and a busy high school student, snacks were a big part of Domb’s life. However, she was surprised by the lack of sustainable options on the market.

“There was no option that was a snack that was really both good for me and the planet,”  Domb said. “It was out of that frustration that I founded Rooted Living.”

Although Domb did not come to Northeastern with a formal background in business, she said that she has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. Because of this, she decided to join the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, or WISE. The club, where she is now co-director, provided her with a community that helped her expand a simple interest into something greater.  

“They helped me understand that entrepreneurship is simply taking something that you’re passionate about and growing it with the support and help of others,” Domb said. 

Within WISE, Domb took a WeBuild class. This semester-long program helped Domb to develop problem-solving and design thinking skills with a diverse group of young female entrepreneurs and grow her business concept into something tangible. The program was followed by Domb’s back-to-back co-ops in Northeastern University’s Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education in fall 2021 and spring 2022. The year-long experience has given Domb the opportunity to work full-time on her venture and form a motivated, passionate team of four. She finds the team aspect of her business rewarding, utilizing her delegation and leadership skills to make Rooted Living a diverse yet tight-knit community. 

“Just seeing the amazing perspectives that [the team is] bringing and the work that they’re doing for Rooted Living is definitely the best part [of running the business],” Domb said, attributing much of the business’s success to the overall group effort.

However, one member of the team, Andrew Cataldo, a fifth-year business administration major  and director of operations for Rooted Living, accredits the successes to Domb herself. 

“Rachel has been killing it for two years with this,” Cataldo said. “She definitely has a clear direction for everything that we’re doing and a reason for why we’re doing it.”

Cataldo discovered the company in fall 2021 when Domb became a client for Generate Product Development, the student-led product development studio for entrepreneurial engineering, another student organization where Cataldo is director of operations. Cataldo, along with Rooted Living’s designer Anna Rychlik and director of marketing Ho Yan Ho, was motivated to join the company’s sustainability initiative after seeing Domb’s strong work ethic and passion.

“I really, really like the mission of the company. I really like this brand that they’ve built up, but it more had to do with Rachel herself, just like seeing all the big things she was doing in the entrepreneurship community, seeing how quickly Rooted [Living] was growing,” Cataldo said.

Domb’s dedication to her business is not only recognized by her peers but by everyone who works with her. Ted Johnson, director of the Sherman Center, works with Domb daily and speaks to her skills as an entrepreneur.

“Rachel is someone who has done really wonderful, extraordinary work with Rooted Living, but she’s also an entrepreneur who is willing to really take a very logical look at the world around her,” Johnson said. 

Johnson began working with Domb in July 2021 when she began her “eco-preneurship” co-op in the Sherman Center as a part of Northeastern’s plant shift initiative, an entrepreneurship movement encouraging the development of plant-based businesses. The Sherman Center has seen more than 25 co-ops, but to Johnson, Domb stands out.

“The other co-ops that are currently on with her this cycle are benefitting from her experience,”  Johnson said. “She’s willing to share that information, she’s willing to teach, she’s willing to mentor in her own way. Our co-op program this cycle is better across the board just by having her be a part of it.”

After spending the past year solely focused on her venture, Domb has gained a well-rounded understanding of entrepreneurship. With more entrepreneurial experience than most students, she has a clear view of where her business can go next. 

Rooted Living currently sells its granola in full-sized bags, but the company is developing on-the-go snack bags to keep up with Domb’s vision of eliminating single-use plastic. Single-use plastic pollutes oceans, harms wildlife and emits greenhouse gasses and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, but it is used in much of the packaging seen on grocery store shelves.

“I’m very interested in the impact that humans have on the environment but also that the environment has on humans and how that affects us cognitively,” Domb said. 

Domb conducted user research and interviews in order to understand the way that her product was being used in the real world. As her company works to fill the sustainability gap in the snack market, Domb wants to ensure that her product is fully meeting customer demands while simultaneously avoiding contributing to plastic pollution.

Rooted Living is unique in its snacking sustainability, but what truly makes the company stand out is all the passion behind the scenes. 

“The weight of success comes from internally within the team,” Domb said. 

During the hiring process in December 2021, Domb chose the people that were the most excited about helping Rooted Living grow. She already had a support system in her family, but the motivated team that she has built is working hard to continue the company’s upward trajectory. With products in Wollaston’s Market and online after only receiving funding at the beginning of Domb’s co-op in July 2021, Rooted Living is rapidly growing, and it does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.

“More people are hearing about her product and more people are loving her product and I’m really excited about it,” Johnson said.

As Rooted Living breaks into the snack industry, it gives consumers an option that is environmentally friendly on both the inside and outside. Domb’s company shows that, even at a young age, one can combine their passions and values to positively impact the world around them.

“I think that what I love so much about business is the actual process of doing and building and creating something very applicable to my needs and wants and dreams and seeing that unfold,” Domb said.