Student Entrepreneur Experiences Crowdfunding Through Suffolk University Course

Suffolk University has introduced one of the nation’s first experiential courses on crowdfunding, where students are launching campaigns to fund their own start-up companies through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

James Testa of East Boston, a Suffolk senior and Entrepreneurship major, is a student in the Sawyer Business School class that launched crowdfunding campaigns on November 14, coinciding with National Entrepreneurship Month.

“While a few other universities are discussing crowdfunding as part of traditional course content, the real-world approach to this course makes it different,” said Management and Entrepreneurship Professor Jenni Dinger. “Suffolk students in this class are learning how to turn their business ideas into action, and they are going after the funding to support those enterprises.”

The course expands on the foundation of knowledge and skills honed throughout the Sawyer Business School curriculum, while fast tracking entrepreneurial activity through startups and the raising of capital.

Testa founded WarmUp Protein Coffee. This venture is targeting its first product, a high-protein coffee, to fitness-focused people on the go. Testa came up with the concept for WarmUp during his recovery from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2015. He had lost a significant amount of muscle mass while recovering and it was important for him to consume large amounts of protein, but he grew tired of the basic whey protein shakes.

“The idea of high-protein coffee was just that, an idea. It wasn’t until this new course was offered that I understood how to actually approach starting the business. Professors Dinger and Letwin have emphasized action and minimum viable product rather than perfecting the business plan,” Testa said.

“I am leveraging all of my connections to make this happen. From the people I met while interning at the East Boston Chamber of Commerce to my high school principal to my classmates at Suffolk. It is amazing how willing people have been to help me out.”

Testa’s Kickstarter campaign has surpassed the $4,000 mark in just a few days, but he still has a long way to go. The goal of $8,000 would allow him to complete the remaining steps of forming a legal company, hiring a food scientist and making the first production run. The WarmUp Protein Coffee campaign can be found athttps://www.kickstarter.com/projects/60705821/warmup-a-high-protein-coffee

The concept for the crowdfunding course came out of conversations between Dinger and Professor Chaim Letwin, a colleague in the Sawyer Business School’s Management and Entrepreneurship department. Dinger and Letwin both study crowdfunding platforms and how campaign components relate to people’s decisions to contribute money to a particular project. The course looks at factors that lead to crowdfunding success, including the idea, the pitch and the prototype.

“Small business and innovation are critical to the health and vibrancy of the economy,” Dinger said. “Experiential courses like this are aimed at accelerating the startup launch process and increasing the rate of startup businesses among our most promising young adults.”

In a cross-disciplinary approach that taps into the wider resources of Suffolk University, students in the class have teamed up with:

  • Suffolk Law School’s Intellectual Property clinic for help with brand trademark applications
  • Graphic designers in Suffolk’s New England School of Art & Design for logo development
  • RamCam Productions in the Suffolk College of Arts & Sciences for campaign video production

Other startup products and services include an almond-based Alfredo sauce, a fishing tackle box/cooler combination and a yoga studio on wheels.

 – -More information on the student startup businesses and crowdfunding campaigns can be found atentrepreneurship.suffolk.edu/crowdfunding.php

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