These former Wharton classmates have found their entrepreneurial sweet spot.
When Mike Weber WG’20 and Vedant Saboo WG’20 were seated next to each other during their first week at Wharton, they didn’t think much of it. “I don’t think we spoke to each other at all at first,” Saboo recalls with a laugh.
Over time, though, they each would learn that the other dreamed of founding a start-up. And before they graduated, the two would come together to create Frutero, an ice cream company delivering the tropical fruit flavors of Saboo’s native India to consumers across the United States.
“It was funny,” says Weber. “When we learned that the other person was interested in founding a start-up, we’d just sit around for hours, pitching each other ideas. Most of them were pretty bad, but we were some of the only people that wanted to go into the start-up world, so we stuck together.”
Things began to fall into place in 2019, when Weber took a trip to Delhi, India, and Saboo recommended he try a local specialty: tropical fruit–flavored ice cream.
The ice cream Weber indulged in—rich, creamy, and lavishly tasting of mango, passionfruit, and other tropical specialties—was unlike any he’d had before. Upon returning to the US, Weber was surprised to discover that the fruit-flavored ice cream he’d had in India was hard to find. So Weber and Saboo decided to make their own.
Diving headfirst into starting a new company, the Wharton pals began to scour the globe to find unique and tasty fruits. But they soon discovered they had much to learn. “To sell ice cream, you need a manufacturer, you need packaging, you need to make deliveries, you need distributors—and starting from scratch, we had none of that,” Weber says. Fortunately, Frutero was one of the winners of the 2020 Penn Venture Lab Startup Challenge, earning the company a small cash prize and mentorship from Wharton professors and experienced entrepreneurs, Weber notes. “That was really important to get started.”
Weber and Saboo were also willing to take risks. “When we first started Frutero, we were literally making deliveries out of a car, and just driving to every grocery store and bodega in Philly to pitch our product,” Weber says. In some cases, getting small business owners on board was a cinch—like when they had owners of Indian restaurants sample the mango ice cream. In other cases, pitching Frutero was more difficult. But, as Saboo and Weber have learned, patience, respect, and empathy are the real ingredients that go into forming a solid business partnership. “Sometimes, if we were offering samples to the owners of a Mexican bodega, they’d tell us to come around 3 p.m., because that was when their kids would get home from school, and since neither one of us speaks Spanish, they’d be able to translate between us,” says Weber. “It definitely wasn’t easy—but to be honest, once we gave out our samples, we often had some success.”
What was crucial, Weber adds, was the realization that “for a small business owner, it’s not about what they can do for you: it’s about what you, in offering to have them sell this product, can do for them—because a bodega owner in South Philly doesn’t care if you’re a Wharton MBA, or you go to Penn. They’re trying to make ends meet and serve their communities.”
Weber and Saboo have come a long way from pounding the pavement around Philadelphia and making deliveries out of Weber’s car. According to its own numbers, Frutero has sold more than one million pints since launch, while expanding into 3,000 stores across the US, including Whole Foods, ShopRite, Acme, and Giant.
Weber and Saboo attribute this expansion to Frutero’s broad appeal, particularly across demographics. “We have a very multicultural audience,” Saboo says, “because for anyone that grew up in a tropical region—in India and South Asia, yes, but also in South America, or Southeast Asia—you’re going to have a connection to this food, and you’re going to want to try it.
“But we also have a lot of millennial and Gen Z consumers, who’ve maybe never had passionfruit or guava before, but who are very open to trying it.”
It’s here—at the intersection between cultural nostalgia and new discovery, between a familiar mango from childhood or an unfamiliar flavor like guanabana—that Frutero has found its sweet spot.
—Daphne Glatter C’25