Suffolk Student Launching High Protein Coffee Company
It started with a motorcycle accident.
Two summers ago, James Testa was cut off by a driver on Tremont Street. The driver took off, leaving Testa, unconscious, in the road. Testa woke up in the hospital with broken ribs, bruised lungs, road rash, and a damaged collarbone and shoulder blade. The rest of his summer was spent in recovery, meaning Testa was bound to the couch, his mobility so limited that he said even a walk to the bathroom felt like a mission.
Months later, in November 2015, Testa’s bones had healed enough for him to start exercising again. It was this process of recovery that Testa says inspired his passion for nutrition and fitness.
A year later and Testa, a senior at Suffolk University, is starting his own company, producing a high protein coffee for those who want a fitness boost in their day. Just add a scoop of WarmUp instant coffee to hot or iced water, and you have hot or iced coffee with added proteins to keep you moving.
“Owning a business has been a dream of mine for a while,” said Testa. “Even though I wasn’t majoring in it, that’s always something I’ve known that I’ve had interest in – the being your own boss kind of thing.”
Originally a criminal justice major, Testa didn’t switch to entrepreneurship until last year, when he took his first ENT class.
“Once I took ENT 101 I was like, ‘what am I doing? This is what I’m interested in,’” said Testa.
Now, he’s fully immersed in what it means to be an entrepreneur. Testa is currently in a crowdfunding course taught by professors Jennifer Dinger and Chaim Letwin. These two professors are using their research on Kickstarter, a product-based professional crowdfunding site, to give students the platform and aid they need to start their own company.
“We’re basically just trying to show them all the things that we’ve learned from a statistical standpoint are meaningful to getting funded, and basically designing their campaigns to hit all those things,” said Dinger.
These things include having a quality video, connecting to Facebook (where if you have more than 1000 friends you’re about 70% more likely to get funded, said Dinger), and being aware of word choice in the description. Typos can reduce your chance of getting funded by 11%, but if you reference “geek,” “nerd,” or “Star Wars,” you’re 13% more likely to get funded, said Dinger. Alongside these quirks, Dinger and Letwin provide guidance and support to the students.
“It’s the most real class I’ve ever taken,” said Testa. “I’ve learned more in two months trying to start my own business than I have through my whole four years at Suffolk, because you’re actually going out there. You’re doing the things you would be doing as if you’re already out there in the real world.”
While starting a Kickstarter page, which launches Monday, Testa has been using current connections and rekindling old in order to get the word out about his company. Having grown up in East Boston, Testa didn’t have to go far to reach out to his old high school, who did a write up about him and put him in touch with alumni.
“It’s awesome to see how willing people are to support an alumnus of theirs or someone from the same community. Everybody’s been really helpful,” he said.
It helps that Testa is an easy-going, intelligent, and local guy, with a clear East Boston accent.
“Your personality probably plays a role into it,” said Testa, “trying to do a crowd funding route as supposed to just getting investors, because it’s all about networking. You have to be personable, you have to be friendly.”
For the past two months, the focus has been primarily developing the product, setting up a Kickstarter page, and getting the word out.
“It’s more just me sharing my idea, what I’m doing, my story and hoping people will support me. Just keeping people aware of my project,” said Testa. “You don’t even necessarily have to ask people for money. If you’re doing something good, and something people are interested in, they’ll help you out.”
Professor Dinger noted that Testa didn’t realize how many connections he had until he started reaching out. “He more than anybody else in the class probably has been leveraging people that he knows, even loose ties, like people at the gym,” she said.
“Just tell everybody,” said Testa. “And you’d be surprised how many people are interested and want to support it just because it’s you.”
With funding from Kickstarter, Testa hopes to start packaging his product himself in a certified commercial kitchen. After bulk production is underway, he plans on giving out samples and being up on Amazon.com as soon as possible.
His product is technically a supplement, so it doesn’t need to go through the FDA for approval. To develop the taste, Testa and his professors have been experimenting with different types of instant coffee with different ratios of whey protein.
“I want it to be all natural products, so we’re trying to do whey with no additives. We’re trying to keep ingredients as low as possible, without adding sugar, artificial sweeteners and all that stuff,” said Testa.
With the recipe down, and his Kickstarter page ready to launch, Testa seems ready and excited for what the future has to hold.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” I asked.
Without hesitation, without arrogance, but with a hard-earned smile: “Million-dollar company,” said Testa.
Follow Testa’s company on the follow social media platforms: