Featured Alumni Entrepreneurs: Nate Contanch ’12 and Ivan Thevaranjan ’12


NateandIvanIMG_9158Nate Cotanch ’12 started Zia Green Chile Company in the Fall of 2014 as one of the companies at Brooklyn’s renowned outdoor food market, Smorgasburg, which has been hailed by the New York Times as “The Woodstock of Eating” and by the Wall Street Journal as having a low acceptance rate that “rivals schools like Brown University, which accepts 9.6 percent of applicants.”

Green chile, a crop harvested once per year in the fall, is famously grown only in Southern New Mexico due to its high altitude, dry climate and rich soil. Known for its flame roasted and smoke-kissed qualities, green chile is mainly used for culinary purposes to bring a spicy and addicting flavor to virtually anything in as intimate a way as desired. It is deeply rooted in the history, culture, economy and cuisine of New Mexico but rarely known (or heard of) outside of the Southwest. Cotanch, whose roots are from a family of 17 children raised north of Santa Fe, is the first to bridge this gap.

Cotanch teamed up with friend and former Whitman classmate, Ivan Thevaranjan ’12, to grow Zia Green Chile Company in 2015. As Zia quickly gained press in Gothamist, attracted a loyal following of New Mexican/Southwestern transplants and New Yorkers, and even partnered with the State of New Mexico’s Tourism Department, Cotanch and Thevaranjan quit their jobs in finance to bring an entirely new flavor palette to New York City.

Since going full-time on the venture, Cotanch, Thevaranjan and the Zia team have built a cost-effective and reliable system to introduce the seasonal crop to the East Coast via distributing freshly picked green chile from farms in Hatch, New Mexico, during harvest time and a consumer product goods (CPG) model consisting of roasted, peeled and diced green chile from each year’s most recent harvest.

Zia also serves authentic quick-serve New Mexican cuisine at Smorgasburg and in private catering. The team is also supplying and partnering with some of New York City’s top restaurants to widen their reach and audience.

Zia’s products, which are free of artificial preservatives, vegan/vegetarian, non-GMO and gluten-free, are available online and are beginning to see shelf space throughout New York City and beyond. In the coming years, Zia envisions becoming a national brand for “New Mexico’s Gold.”

If you reside in the New York City metro area, you can find Nate Cotanch and Ivan Thevaranjan back outdoors every weekend at Smorgasburg starting April 3. Otherwise, you can find Zia Green Chile Company’s products at the following locations, and Zia welcomes you to sign up for the company newsletter to keep track of progress. Use the code WHITMAN505 for 20 percent off any order through Zia’s online store.

Nate Cotanch and Ivan Thevaranjan

Nate Cotanch and Ivan Thevaranjan

Nate Cotanch, a 2012 graduate of the Whitman School with a major in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, is the founder of Zia Green Chile Company. Cotanch Zia was featured in Forbes as “One of 10 Innovators Under 30 Shaking Up The New York Food Scene.” Prior to founding Zia, Cotanch worked in the NYC venture capital scene analyzing early to growth stage ventures across multiple industries. Ivan Thevaranjan graduated from Syracuse University in 2012 with majors in economics, accounting and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. He is currently the co-founder of Zia Green Chile Company. Additionally, he is a CPA and works as a commercial industry auditor for a Big 4 accounting firm.
Nate Cotanch and Ivan Thevaranjan

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