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“Zengineering” a Healthier Brew

Hinman alums launch Javazen

By Natalie Koltun

Javazen

While browsing the coffee selection one day at his local cafe, Eric Golman ’15 noticed that every package’s label touted the brand’s “unique” recipe. But the brews, he realized, were just the same few blends with splashes of milk and flavoring—all of which ultimately made him feel lousy.

“I was tired of bad coffee and the jitters and crash that come with drinking it,” Golman says.

In early 2014, he and fellow Terps Ryan Schueler ’14 and Aaron Wallach ’14 set out in their on-campus apartment’s kitchen to concoct a better brew.

The trio experimented with healthier ingredients, including antioxidant-rich teas and super foods like goji berries, lucuma and acai berries. After over a month of tasteless and undrinkable brews, they found their perfect perk, a combination of organic coffee, matcha green tea and raw chocolate cacao.

By merging Golman’s love for coffee, Schueler’s lifelong entrepreneurial spirit and Wallach’s interest in healthy lifestyles, the friends launched Javazen, a company centered on promoting nutrition in the nation’s $30 billion coffee industry.

“Almost everything else had been innovated and made healthy. You can get chips made out of beans and kale these days, so we thought, ‘why not do something crazy with coffee?’” Schueler says.

The three, all members of the Hinman CEOs entrepreneurship program, shared samples from a backpack beverage dispenser with more than 400 exhausted students at Bitcamp, a 36-hour marathon hacking event in Cole Field House. When the backpack was quickly drained, they knew they were onto something.Javazen

Today, the brews are sold through Amazon Prime and in more than 60 stores in the Washington, D.C., area, Philadelphia and Denver, including MOM’s Organic Market, Dawson’s Market and Franklin’s Restaurant and Brewery.

This year, Tech Cocktail named Javazen the “DC Startup of the Year,” and the team won first place at the Green Festival for having the “most exciting brand.”

The alums credit much of the company’s success to the living and learning program and its director, James Green, for mentoring them through the initial process.

“With Javazen, we’re looking at a very crowded market, so finding ways to differentiate themselves from the rest was our biggest challenge at first,” Green says.

After expanding to three blends of coffee-based products—Balance, the original recipe; Boost, a higher-energy combination with yerba mate and acai berries; and Relax, a low-caffeine fusion with rooibos tea and goji berries—the company outgrew the limited manufacturing capacity of the Maryland Food Co-op. The team soon partnered with co-packers in Rockville and Elkridge, Maryland, where the beans are currently roasted and packed by hand.

Just months after launching, the trio began to travel around the country to trade shows, where they introduce coffee connoisseurs to their super brews and mingle with entrepreneurs and potential investors. But as developing the company became more time-consuming, Golman, Schueler and Wallach turned down post-graduation job offers and decided to follow their shared dream of “innovating the coffee space” with Javazen full-time. Soon after, the team hired its first employee, creative director.

“I think I’ve learned more in the past year and a half launching than I ever could have doing something else,” says Schueler. “In reality, it’s given all of us some great experience and knowledge of business—plus it’s just fun!”

The company was accepted into the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s Terp Startup program last summer, which came with a $5,000 grant and access to special workshops and advising. By early 2016, Schueler says, Javazen will be sold in nearly 1,000 stores.

“They’re an overnight success story that’s been two years in the making,” Green says. “The whole team has been entirely committed since day one, and I think that was absolutely crucial.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.