By Zane Moses
For The Diamondback
Three University of Maryland alumni who created Javazen — a coffee and tea hybrid drink — took home $80,000 to put toward their business at the 2016 Cupid's Cup Entrepreneurship Competition on April 7.
Cupid's Cup, a collaborative effort between Kevin Plank and this university, is a competition for student entrepreneurs around the country. Six startups were chosen as finalists, and Javazen won $75,000 for first prize plus an additional $5,000 from the audience choice award.
"We are going into a lot of product development and branding, we want to make it crystal clear what Javazen is and what you do with it," said Ryan Schueler, one of Javazen's founders and chief relationship officer.
Schueler, among the other founders of Javazen — CEO Eric Golman and chief product officer Aaron Wallach — want to use the money to help boost the Javazen name into the world. The company is about two years old, and the trio created it while in college. Golman graduated from this university in 2015, and Schueler and Wallach graduated in 2014.
The company is going to make a stronger push in the online world and in product development, Wallach said. Javazen is currently developing a pumpkin spice blend and Keurig cups. The K-Cups should be available at the end of the month.
The trio first applied to this year's Cupid's Cup in January, and competed against 12 other businesses at the Under Armour headquarters in the semifinals in mid-February.
"It was pretty awesome to be there, seeing something that started at the University of Maryland with Kevin Plank and Under Armour and now we are at this massive headquarters pitching our company," Golman said.
The team wanted to deliver a clear pitch to the judges in the finals to relay what exactly Javazen is and to explain its target audience. The Javazen team just wanted to keep its product description and pitch simple to the judges, Golman said.
"We can talk about the health benefits, or we could talk about the energy it gives, but at the end of the day, what it is is coffee blended with tea and other superfoods," Golman said.
The company began at this university when roommates Golman and Schueler were just trying to get through their classes. Golman made the first blend, Schueler said, and he added that he did not like coffee until he tried the blend Golman made. Their upstairs neighbor, Wallach, loved tea — so they combined all interests to make "the perfect blend."
"One of the special things about our company is that we all started it in college, and we all started it as a group together and we made our decisions together," Wallach said.
The trio tested the product by letting a professor try it, who then told them to give it out to about 100 people to pool the general reactions. So they brought it to Bitcamp, a three-day hackathon in April 2014.
"We put Kegerator backpacks on and went around the hackathon and gave it to a bunch of coders," Wallach said. "They were slamming five or six cups of Javazen all night."
The company continues expanding its brand and did so by attending The Emporiyum food marketplace in Baltimore this past Sunday, where local food artisans can share their product and create a fan base, Wallach said.
Javazen is sold at the Maryland Food Co-op in Stamp Student Union and at Mom's Organic Market in College Park, Schueler said. He added that the product is particularly useful for college students.
"We were college students, and we made it because we needed it — it gave us the energy we needed to do the things we wanted to do," Schueler said.