A coffee startup that emerged through the University of Maryland (UMD) has captured the 2016 Cupid’s Cup Competition.
Javazen, which blends coffee with teas and superfoods for “a healthier caffeine boost,” topped five other entries in the 11th annual competition, established by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank -- in collaboration with his alma mater and founding "university partner," UMD.
The finals took place Thursday, April 7, 2016, at UMD’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Javazen founders and UMD graduates Eric Golman ’15 (economics and environmental science), Ryan Schueler ’14 (marketing), Aaron Wallach ’14 (kinesiology and exercise science) took home the grand prize, which includes $75,000, in-kind services and guidance from top business leaders, and the prestigious Cupid’s Cup title.
Javazen received an additional $5,000 for winning the Audience Choice Award determined by text-voting audience members.
The Javazen co-founders, as UMD students, organized and developed their organic concoction of cocoa, green tea and coffee through Hinman CEOs, a program of UMD’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and A. James Clark School of Engineering. The company subsequently participated in the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s Terp Startup Marketplace in the Robert H. Smith School of Business and sold its products through local farmers’ markets and D.C.-area stores. The brand now appears on store shelves across the country.
“They’ve shown the ability to hustle -- crisscrossing the country and selling themselves effectively at trade shows,” says Dingman Center Managing Director Elana Fine, who discussed strategy for Javazen via this Washington Post Capital Business profile of the startup.
“They demonstrated to Kevin (Plank) and the judges that they well-understand the startup process, especially when it comes to knowing who will buy their product and how to stand out in a crowded marketplace and connect with those consumers,” she adds. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin saw some of himself in them.”
Cupid’s Cup is inspired by Plank’s first entrepreneurial venture, selling roses on campus while a student at the University of Maryland. And, the competition is designed to encourage interest in student entrepreneurship, as it’s open to undergraduate and graduate-level students at accredited colleges and universities as well as recent graduates of these institutions.
Joining Plank as judges this year were Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert, Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington and author Wes Moore, who’s also BridgeEdU’s founder and CEO and host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
They awarded the $20,000 second place prize to Laura D’Asaro and her company Six Foods, a startup that aims to normalize insect foods. The original $10,000 Best Entrepreneur Award was split into two $5,000 awards to recognize both Plova and MyBestBox for “their passion and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Rounding out the field of finalists were: Headbands of Hope of North Carolina State University, a company selling fashionable headbands and giving one additional headband for every purchase to a girl undergoing chemotherapy; and Wolf & Shepherd of University of Notre Dame, designing dress shoes to perform like running shoes by integrating foam technology into the heart of each sole.
- Greg Muraski, Office of Marketing Communications