SAN ANTONIO – A startup kombucha company claimed the top spot in the 2017-2018 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the H-E-B School of Business and Administration.
Signature Artisan Kombucha, entered by senior engineering management major Bret Roberts and senior business management major Samantha Long, took first place and a $2,000 prize.
Roberts started making kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, in his apartment a little over a year ago, and it wasn’t long before his friends began to ask if they could purchase the drink from him. It was then that Roberts thought he might have a viable business on his hands.
After six months of operating Signature on his own, Roberts enlisted the help of Long when the two met in an international business course.
“When he told me about his business and that he was running it alone, I remembered back when I was trying to run my own business. I struggled because I didn’t have anyone helping me. I could tell he needed a partner and I was really intrigued by the idea of creating something that was both delicious and healthy,” Long said.
Signature prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients for its products, even utilizing repurposed red wine bottles for its distribution. The kombucha is created with black, oolong and green teas and is packed with probiotics, live enzymes and healthy B-vitamins.
“That's a product I can really feel good about selling. I believed that if we worked together, we could make this business into something sustainable that could grow,” Long said. “I followed my intuition and we’ve seen nothing but positive results."
This year’s Business Plan Competition benefited from the assistance of more than a dozen mentors from the San Antonio business community – a first for the competition. Forty-five UIW students forming 25 teams began the competition last fall. The teams first met with the mentors at a luncheon in October. Shortly after, the number of teams was narrowed as the best business plans were selected to move forward. The remaining teams were paired with a mentor with whom to work more closely.
Roberts, who placed second in last year’s competition, said the addition of the mentors was vital in Signature’s success throughout the competition.
“We were paired with Dr. John Taboada, who owns both his own law firm and gourmet yogurt company, Jonani’s Just Yogurt, which distributes through a local Whole Foods,” Roberts said. “He discussed marketing and legal concerns with us, and we sampled each other’s fermented products. He was also kind enough to show us around his commercial kitchen and touch on key points of health and safety standards.”
Roberts and Long plan to introduce Signature to the San Antonio market this year by offering the product at a local restaurant. They also plan to file an LLC and acquire a commercial kitchen facility to enhance their production, which already includes 12 kombucha recipes. Their 3-year plan has Signature entering the Austin-area market by 2020."
A trio of international students from Bahrain won second place with their business plan for Fit Innergy – a fitness center to be operated in their home country.
Seniors Mohamed Awaji (accounting), Hasan Alsawad (accounting) and Hasan Al Halwachi (marketing) plan to market their fitness center as a place for inclusion and a home for those willing to put in hard work.
Market research conducted by the team revealed the demand for a 24-hour fitness center that offers group workouts. They plan to incorporate these factors into Fit Innergy.
Awaji, Alsawad and Al Halwachi were awarded $1,000 for their efforts.
The H-E-B School of Business and Administration congratulates the winning teams and all the students who competed in this year’s Business Plan Competition. The school also thanks the San Antonio business leaders who served as mentors.