An entrepreneurship course at University of Richmond has led to the launch of yet another startup.
A group of classmates from the school’s Bench Top Innovations program created TwinTail Brews, a tea-based energy drink company set to go to market in mid-March.
TwinTail hopes to find its niche with an energy drink designed to provide the boon of caffeine but balance out the less desirable effects like jittery and anxious feelings that come from caffeine crashes.
Led by student Brendan Fowler, the founding group shared hectic schedules typical of college students. While they used coffee to stay on top of things, they felt there was potential to launch an alternative type of jolt.
“We wanted to make a healthy drink that tasted good. We really didn’t feel like that existed,” said Fowler, who serves as the company’s CEO. “As young, active students involved in different things, we realized caffeine was the thing getting all of us through our days.”
Fowler said the team discovered Suntheanine as the alternative they were looking for. Suntheanine is the trade name for a form of L-theanine made by ingredient manufacturer Taiyo. L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea that provides a relaxing effect to counteract the come-down from caffeine.
After securing an agreement with Chesapeake-based Nidra Packaging to manufacture the drinks, TwinTail is gearing up for a retail debut on March 16, when it’s expected that its Superberry Power Tea drink will be available on the shelves of local stores such as Ellwood Thompson’s and Libbie Market, among others.
TwinTails suggests a 12-ounce can sell for a little under $4. It’s expected to be available both by the can and in six-packs. The company also plans to sell the drink on its website.
Fowler said the company was able to connect with Nidra by leveraging the professional networks of Bench Top course instructors Joel Mier and Shane Emmett.
Mier is a UR marketing professor who once worked at Genworth, Netflix and Adobe. Emmett founded local health food company Health Warrior and sold it to to Pepsi in 2018.
In the fall semester of the course, Fowler and classmates Grace Clarke, Chris Conte and Sarah Edwards came up with the concept. Their idea beat other classmates’ concepts in a pitch competition late last year, and TwinTail was selected as the concept the class would commercialize as part of the coursework.
Now the entire 16-student class has turned its collective attention to launching and scaling the drink concept in the ongoing spring semester. The costs associated with standing up a company through the program are covered by the university.
That’s the same setup used during the inaugural Bench Top course last year, which spawned trail mix company Absurd Snacks. That startup has since revamped the product after a recent capital raise.
Fowler said the TwinTail group has yet to determine who, if anyone, on the team would be interested in continuing the company post-graduation.
“As of now, we don’t have anything remotely finalized in that sense. The hope is someone on the team would move it forward,” he said in his interview last week. “I don’t think we know exactly who is interested.”
The TwinTail name is a reference to how animals use their tails to stay balanced as well as the drink’s one-two approach of pairing caffeine with Suntheanine. The concept was previously called Lume.
No Sugar! Good for them.