I teach at Muskingum University. It’s a nice little university in Ohio with a rich liberal arts tradition. Thanks to one of our alumni–CNBC Business News editor-in-chief Nik Deogun–and our administration at the school, a group of our student entrepreneurs traveled to attend Inc. and CNBC’s iConic event in New York City this past June. Luckily, I was asked to attend as well.
Five of those students run a startup called Jennings Java. It has a focus on providing the freshest possible roasted coffee to customers–baristas only roast the beans after a customer orders–as well as being educational about the nuances of roasting, the characteristics and taste of beans, agricultural ethics and sustainability.
The founder, Daniel Jennings, is 20 years old. He’s just starting his junior year of college. He’s a student-athlete–a soccer goalie–and still finds time in his busy schedule to run 100 yards off campus to roast coffee by hand in a friend’s garage. He packages the coffee in his dorm room, where he also manages the company’s logistics.
There was a special program at iConic where aspiring entrepreneurs could sign up for a ten-minute tutorial with an expert on how to “perfect your pitch” to angel investors. One person would be selected at the end of the day to go up on stage, in front of an enormous crowd of businesspeople and entrepreneurs, and discuss with experts the help that they received with their pitch.
After a long day, where dozens of entrepreneurs tried to perfect their pitches, Jennings managed to beat out all the techies, app developers, Stanford grads, and Harvard drop-outs. He spoke for a few moments about his entrepreneurship and aspirations for Jennings Java.
From my backseat perspective, there were three reasons he was chosen:
- He displayed passion for learning about coffee and the coffee industry.
- He has energy and enthusiasm in both his verbal and nonverbal communication. His body language matches what he says, with a high impact and attraction.
- He comes across as the real deal: He’s an athlete, he serves his spiritual beliefs with mission trips each summer, and he has a real competitive nature that is straightforward and ethical.
It was a spectacular learning experience for Jennings. He received great feedback and advice in pitching to investors. In networking, he talked with dozens of professionals about entrepreneurship of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. He even got a few moments to speak with Daymond John about his entrepreneurial pursuits.
But the bigger deal came later. On the college van ride home, Jennings received an email. The message was from a producer of Shark Tank, asking him if he and his team would like to try out for the show.
At the moment, they’re considering it. We’ll have to wait and see what happens–I’m on the edge of my chair right there with you.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.