Twi-Pod offers a cup of calm

Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

Dr. Kwadwo Owusu-Ofori is a Milwaukee transplant from North Carolina. He came to Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin, but his heart, and inspiration, lies in Ghana. The essence of his parents’ homeland is woven into his mood-boosting beverages, Twi Pods. Twi, pronounced “che-wee” is the language of Ghana, one of the happiest places Owusu-Ofori has ever visited. It is a place so joyful and relaxing that the Doctor of Pharmacology wants to share the spirit of the west African nation with his increasingly anxious American countrymen.

Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the US, and at one time Dr. Owusu-Ofori was one of them.

“I was having panic attacks while in graduate school,” he said. “When I first had them, I didn’t really know what they were. I talked to my friends, and they were going through the same thing. A friend told me they went to the emergency room last summer because they thought they were having a heart attack or something like that, and it turned out it was an anxiety attack.”

Inspired by those personal experiences, the pharmaceutical scientist headed to the lab, in search of a solution.

Surprisingly, the answer is something you are likely already familiar with – magnesium. While in the lab, Owusu-Ofori remembers, “I started whittling things down, and looking at the evidence. It all came down to magnesium. I then found over half of the American population is magnesium deficient. And so with that, I looked at that and the rising anxiety epidemic that’s going on, I saw a trend that seemed to match up so it started with that built around it.”

It turns out, that hunch was right.

After Dr. Owusu-Ofori discovered a combination of vitamins and minerals that worked to combat anxiety, he needed to find a way to deliver the treatment to those who needed it. He found that most people struggling with anxiety did not want to add taking a pill to their daily routine. He thought to himself, “I don’t really like taking pills either. Can we have something that’s a little more fun?”

After experimentation, he struck upon an easy, tasty way to deliver his supplement: a warm beverage infused with his anxiety-relieving concoction. Packaged in a standard k-cup beverage pod, the drink is offered in hot chocolate and mocha flavors. Before the end of the year, Twi Pods will add vanilla and espresso to their flavor line up. The drinks quickly found a market. Twi Pods have had robust online sales and can be found in 60 Illinois grocery stores.

Clinical trials on the beverage have not yet started, but the Twi Pods team has every reason to be optimistic about the mood boosting properties of their drinks. Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Twi Pods founder was able to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the beverage. Qualitative, anecdotal evidence suggests that Twi Pod drinkers experienced both decreased anxiety and increased feelings of well-being after consuming the drink. Owusu-Ofori is confident about Twi Pods’ efficacy, describing his beverages as a “half step between psychotherapy and prescription medication.” The company is currently seeking a grant to fund a round of clinical testing of the product, with an eye on getting FDA approval for the beverage.

Owusu-Ofori has found Wisconsin to be the ideal place for his growing business. He participated in the FaB accelerator, gener8tor, and the Green Bay Packers Mentor-Protege Program, crediting each resource as instrumental in the development of his company. According to him, everything he needs, he has found in the Badger State, including his first investors, ingredient suppliers, and the pod manufacturers, all within a 1 hour drive from his Wauwatosa headquarters.

The proud Ghanaian with a love of science is living his dream in Wisconsin. The doctor’s entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured by his mother. She designed, sewed, and sold African dresses and headwear while Owusu-Ofori was growing up. He’d accompany her to the shops where she sold her garments. Watching her build her business inspired him. He recalls observing, “you can make a living building something on your own. The sky’s the limit.”

The company continues to reach for the sky into 2022. Looking ahead, Twi Pods is seeking investors for a Seed Round, as it increases its retail presence in brick-and-mortar stores. To follow Twi Pod’s market growth, connect with the company on Linkedin.

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