They met in front of a UVA class. Then they started a multimillion-dollar business

But we decided we didn’t need coffee and just chatted at a table outside, Sotelo said. Our first idea was to become partners in the granola industry, but then Griffin and I decided we should do something different. … It was amazing how everything turned out.

They decided to find a place in the crowded protein bar market and began experimenting with different recipes in Sotelos’ kitchen in her Ivy home. This meant that Spolansky, a member of the UVA lacrosse team, had a packed day with classes, internships and culinary arts.

It was crazy, Spolansky said.

But this kind of charged slate suited Spolansky’s character. His relentless pursuit of the goal that inspired Sotelo was evident in the Cavalier lacrosse program when, against high odds, he powered the team to an advantage in 2016 and helped them win the national championship three years later.

There was never a need to hold Griffin’s hand, head lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany said. He was always ready to work. We also liked that he had the spirit of entrepreneurship and constant action. We want our boys to take risks and he was the epitome of that.

When Spolansky hit a wall, he tried to find another way through it. Although he had fun working in the Sotelos kitchen in the early days, frustration began to build as batches of the bars tasted good one day but turned rancid a week later.

Eventually, they connected with a food scientist who pushed them to improve their recipes.

“That was the biggest hurdle and it took us months to find a solution,” said Spolansky, who graduated from UVA in spring 2019 with a degree in economics, another aid to his business tactics.

Mezcla, which means blend in Spanish, was launched in August 2020 and is available online and in various grocery stores and cafes. Its crunchy texture and unique flavors like Japanese Vanilla Matcha, Peruvian Cocoa Peanut Butter and Mexican Hot Chocolate remain a niche for small companies in the saturated protein bar market.

“We really want to provide consumers with a different dining experience,” Spolansky said.

Mezclas’ big break came a few years ago when a Whole Foods shopper spotted Mezcla bars at a juice shop in Austin, Texas and contacted Spolansky to learn more about the product. An organic supermarket chain soon came along and initially rejected Mezclas’s application to be sold.

Mezcla bars have been open since July available at Whole Foods stores nationwide.

The company currently has five employees and works primarily in New York. In addition to being co-founder, Sotelo is Mezclas’ director of corporate and social responsibility, a job she performs remotely from her new home in Crozet.

Sotelo, a mother of three girls, said she cried when she first saw Mezcla bars on a shelf in Richmond. It provided perspective on her 20-year journey to the United States and a visit to a UVA classroom that changed several lives.

“I am very happy that I had the opportunity to talk to UVA students,” she said. Griffin is the best person I have ever known. He’s now a Forbes employee, we have bars all over the country and we’re looking forward to working together.

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