In Spring quarter, several MS in Entrepreneurship students participated in the UW Business Plan Competition (BPC), hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. This multi-stage competition provides students with the real-world experience of being an entrepreneur—and connects them with Seattle’s entrepreneurial community. We asked three MS in Entrepreneurship students to give us a behind the scenes look at what it’s like competing in the BPC*. For our last interview, meet Emileigh Thylin, MS in Entrepreneurship student and CEO of cold brew coffee company, Seattle Strong Coffee.
What if cold brew coffee was drinkable?
Seattle Strong’s story began in the Buerk Center’s Creating a Company class. After being grouped together, Emileigh and her new teammates bonded over their experiences with undrinkable cold brew coffee. Often made with bitter dark roast or filled with additives to improve the taste, the team thought about ways to improve that experience. So they asked themselves “What if we just use a medium roast, made it super easy to drink, and then gave it more caffeine?” Their answer was Seattle Strong, a cold brew coffee made with a sweeter medium roast, water, and 330 mg of caffeine. For a caffeine-strength comparison, a five-hour energy drink has 215 mg of caffeine while a 12oz Red Bull has 110 mg. One month into the class, Emileigh recalls, the team got a deal with Seattle’s Facebook office to the fridge stocked with Seattle Strong. “That’s when we realized, hey, this more than just a class project,” says Emileigh. “This is something that we could do full-time.” Now a year later, the company has broken $100,000 in revenue and made it through to the Sweet Sixteen round of the BPC.
The entrepreneurial spirit
For Emileigh, having the opportunity to learn about the other BPC teams and share Seattle Strong with them has been great. “I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the other teams,” says Emileigh. “The community and the energy around the BPC is really powerful. It’s really inspiring.”
Incorporating the feedback
Getting feedback from the BPC judges has been an interesting, eye-opening, and sometimes challenging experience…especially when the team receives conflicting feedback. However, Emileigh says that Seattle Strong manages this by taking “…it all into account and a making a decision based on that. At the end of the day, getting feedback is valuable and fun.”
Emileigh’s advice for future BPC competitors
1. Utilize your resources: “Take advantage of all of the resources that are out there,” says Emileigh. “Get mentor feedback on your executive summary, business plan, and your one-pagers.”
2. Spend time around the other teams. Get to know them and see what they’re doing: “While it is a competition…the teams are really supportive of one another.”
3. Remember to have a good time: The BPC is “super fun,” says Emileigh.
What’s next for Emileigh and Seattle Strong?
“We’re all about to graduate,” says Emileigh. “Then we’re going to do this full-time.” Emileigh notes that summer is peak cold-brew season and she’s excited to see how everything unfolds. Once Seattle Strong is off and running, she hopes to return to the BPC…in a slightly different capacity “…maybe we’ll be sponsoring the BPC too.”
Seattle Strong went on to win the $2,500 Accenture “Best Consumer Product Idea” prize at the 2018 Business Plan Competition. Read more about the rest of the 2018 BPC winners here.
Learn more about the MS Entrepreneurship program and the Business Plan competition:
- Visit the MS in Entrepreneurship website
- Visit the Business Plan Competition website
- Read more entrepreneurship blog posts
*This interview took place right before the selection of the final four. Read more about the 2018 BPC winners here.