The Summer of Startups
From bruised apples and two-legged carrots to discolored veggies, where some see ugly fruit, Ann Yang (SFS ’16) and Phil Wong (SFS ’15) see potential. They are the co-founders of Misfit Juicery, which combats food waste by turning cosmetically defective fruits and vegetables into cold-pressed juice.
Misfit Juicery was one of 13 teams in the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s summer launch program. Now in its fifth year, the program is designed specifically for current Georgetown students and recent graduates who want to launch a new venture.
During the eight-week program, nearly two dozen students and alumni received dedicated support from Georgetown faculty, mentors, and other experienced entrepreneurs; work space in the business school’s Rafik B. Hariri Building on the Georgetown campus; and introductions to local investors and entrepreneurs. The students also shared their work with the D.C. community at a showcase event on July 29 at 1776, a global incubator in Washington.
Currently, 20 stores in the D.C. area carry Misfit products, including six new stores just this summer. Yang and Wong hope to grow the brand, become investment-ready, and expand the product line.
“We just have so much gratitude toward the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative,” Yang said. “Our involvement in it has changed the direction of my career. The resources that come through the program have allowed me to pursue this in a real way.”
Not Your Mother’s Coffee
For Jake DeCicco (B’16) and his younger brother, Jordan, a sophomore at Philadelphia University, a morning cup of coffee is more than a daily ritual. The brothers turned their desire for a healthier cuppa joe into Sunniva Caffe, a ready-to-drink organic, all-natural, and high-protein coffee.
The coffee is on the shelves at the Whole Foods Market in Glover Park, with plans to expand to other Whole Foods locations, health foods stores, and all Georgetown University dining locations in the fall.
For DeCicco, the summer incubator program provided time for crucial reflection and planning, with an emphasis on strategy and metrics.
“We’re proud that we’ve been able to slow down and look in the mirror to say, ‘Are we doing this right?’” he said. “In the past it was just ‘Go and let’s hope it works’.”
Jake had summer internship opportunities at hedge funds in New York City, but decided to forgo them in favor of the incubator thanks to the support of the Georgetown entrepreneurship community.
“It was a really tough thing to think about at first,” he said, “But [the launch program] validated in my mind what I was doing. Right now, we are putting all of our eggs in the Sunniva basket to see if we can make it successful. We’re going to go at this thing with as much as we can.”
Pets & Vets
Before she graduated from Georgetown McDonough’s MBA program, Tonja Hardyman (MBA ’15) had an offer on the table for her dream job – a product development position in a creative and innovative office at a Fortune 500 company. She turned down the job to go “all in” with Barkzy, a pet telemedicine platform to connect pet owners with online veterinarians.
“I felt like the only thing I was really losing was time and money,” Hardyman, a Connelly Scholar, said. “I didn’t feel like I was losing education or advancement in my career. And I can bring my dog to work and I’m my own boss!”
Hardyman launched the Barkzy site at the end of the summer launch program and had her first paying customers a few days before the showcase.
“This has been such a learning process,” she said during her presentation, sharing her lessons learned about marketing, customer acquisition, and technology.
Throughout the summer, the 13 teams were divided into cohorts for weekly meetings with mentors.
“One of the mentors gave me two hours of his time just to sketch out a timeline for the business and talk about issues,” Hardyman said. “I can honestly say that entrepreneurship has been the highlight of my academic career at Georgetown.”
From the Hilltop to the World
At the showcase event at 1776, the energy was palpable. Misfit Juicery ran out of business cards. Foodhini, led by Philip Vang (MBA ’16) and Pavi Raj (MBA ’16), had a steady line for samples of their authentic, ethnic cuisine. Several students asked how they could be a part of next year’s launch program.
The space was standing-room-only, with students, alumni, and business leaders clustered around the stage to hear pitches and reflections from seven of the 13 groups.
“This program is about getting students to challenge their assumptions,” Alyssa Lovegrove, associate director of the initiative, told the audience.
At the conclusion of the evening, Altruist Network, led by Zijian Li (MBA ’16) and Vanessa Pan (MBA ’16), received the Engagement Award for their dedication to the learning process.
“Any one of these companies in the summer launch program may become the next sweetgreen, Riide, or Waveborn,” said Jeff Reid, founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative. “For the ones that don’t, the founders have still learned valuable lessons and made crucial connections that will help them in their next entrepreneurial endeavor. We remain committed to helping them succeed however we can.”