by Len Lear
Most college athletes would give their left arm (unless they are left-handed) to be what Jordan DeCicco was. The starting point guard on Philadelphia University’s basketball team in East Falls, Jordan had a very bright future as the team’s star point guard who could shoot, dribble, pass and defend as well as some of the nation’s top collegiate players.
Once Jordan was selected Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference men’s basketball player of the week after averaging 27.5 points per game (ppg) in the week. (Only one Division 1 basketball player in the entire country currently has a higher ppg average this year. That is Trae Young, of the University of Oklahoma, who averages 29 ppg.)
But Jordan had a lot more on his plate (or in his cup) than just basketball. He insists that the daily 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls for basketball practice were so debilitating that he often fell asleep in his afternoon classes. So, like many students and workers who are trying to get by on little sleep, Jordan tried staying awake on coffee and “energy drinks” but gave that up when he realized that “a lot of these products have 40 to 50 grams of sugar … and artificial sweeteners.”
So believe it or not, at age 19 this full-scholarship basketball star decided to try to create his own energy drink without all of the sugar and additives. He experimented with lots of products in his own dorm room and eventually came up with “Sunniva Super Coffee,” organic coffee which this “grounded” young man insists “is never treated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Those are not just distasteful; many are toxic and detrimental to human health. Oh, and they damage the environment and the people who work and live where conventional coffee is grown.”
Jordan, who is now 22, insists that other students who tried the drink loved it, so Jordan dropped out of college and, along with his brothers, Jake and Jimmy, essentially jumped off a cliff and started their Sunniva (“a gift from the sun”) Super Coffee Company. Their coffee product is now available in selected Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Acme, Target and Wawa stores. It retails for $14.99 for a pack of four or $35.99 for a pack of 12.
On Sunday, Feb. 11, of this year, the three DeCicco brothers appeared on the ABC-TV show, “Shark Tank,” seeking a $500,000 investment for a 4.5 percent stake in their company, meaning that they value their company at being worth more than $10 million. They said their Super Coffee is made with organic Colombian coffee beans, maple syrup, coconut oil (a “healthy saturated fat”) and lactose-free milk protein. Flavors include vanilla bean, smooth mocha and maple hazelnut, and the sweetness in the beverage can be attributed to monk fruit and Stevia.
The “sharks” were impressed with the energy and drive of the brothers but not with their valuation of the company. You might say that Barbara Corcoran, a New York real estate mogul, has already “bean” there. “I’ve invested in two beverage companies,” she said, “and I’ve never seen my money go out the door quicker … I love you guys, but I feel like I have to scrape my tongue after drinking this stuff.”
Rohan Oza, the billionaire marketing genius behind Vitamin Water and Vita Coco, said, “I’m looking for the next billion-dollar beverage, but a product has to punch me and make me go ‘Wow.’ The taste has to be there, and it’s not with this product … Beverages need billions of dollars to thrive, and the amount you’re raising is insufficient.” (The brothers claimed that they have sold $600,000 of their product to date and are on target to sell $2.1 million this year.)
Unfortunately, despite the favorable impression they made, the brothers did not get a deal from any of the five sharks, but they did not seem to be dismayed by the sharks “brew-tal” treatment, judging by their comments at the end of the show. “At the end of the day,” said Jimmy, “I’m doing this with my two little brothers. It’s love, it’s trust, it’s hustle, it’s competition. And no coach, no shark, no boss can tell us otherwise.”
For more information, visit www.drinksupercoffee.com.