The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Move over, Yerba Mate. Student-entrepreneurs want to offer you a healthier alternative

<p>From left to right junior Grace Clarke, senior Sarah Edwards, Brendan Fowler and Chris Conte. The Lume co-founders pose with samples of their energizing tea at The Great Bake Off on Nov. 16.</p>

From left to right junior Grace Clarke, senior Sarah Edwards, Brendan Fowler and Chris Conte. The Lume co-founders pose with samples of their energizing tea at The Great Bake Off on Nov. 16.

After a night full of networking, pitches and lots of juice, The Great Bake Off ended with the announcement of the winner of this year’s Benchtop Innovations competition: Lume. 

Lume, a cold-brew black iced tea, was chosen as the winner and will receive funding for further development into next semester.

The competition took place on Nov. 16 at the Queally Center for Admissions and Career Services where groups of students in the Benchtop Innovation Course pitched their drinks to a panel of four judges. 

Junior Grace Clarke described Lume as a cold brew black iced tea with added caffeine and L-Theanine. The flavor on display was Super Berry Blend. 

The Lume team was the first to give a pitch. One of their major points was the usage of L-Theanine, which naturally occurs in plants and would counteract the detrimental side effects of caffeine, like anxiety, jitters and inability to sleep while still leaving consumers with the good effects of caffeine. This ingredient makes it different from the campus favorite Yerba Mate, the team members said.

“On its own, it provides feelings of calm and relaxation, but as it turns out, caffeine and L-Theanine is a match made in heaven,” said senior Chris Conte, one of the Lume creators. 

The expected cost of the drink is $2.75. The group wants Lume to be an accessible daily drink for consumers, senior Brendan Fowler said. 

The year-long CIE Benchtop Innovation course is designed to spark entrepreneurship among students, said Joel Mier, one of the professors of the course. Last year, the winner was Absurd Snacks, a bean-based snack designed for people with primary food allergies in order to supply them with a healthy treat. 

In the first semester of the course, students split to foster ideas, design a product and create a business. In the second semester, one group is chosen to be funded and focused on. Lume, Pulped, I-Oata and Uncannies were the four groups competing for the spot at the second semester focus of the class. 

The judges included Terry Baker, director of Dining Services; Cullen Gilchrist, CEO of Union Kitchen; Laura Markley, CEO and Managing Director of New Richmond Ventures and Scott Ukrop, Managing Director of NRV. 

The event hosted four different tables set up for each business, in addition to a table in the back for Absurd Snacks whose owners, Eli Bank ‘22, and Grace Mittl, ‘22, have made it a thriving product and business

The tables included Uncannies, a non-dairy-based line of beverages that tries to give customers a new experience with familiar flavors that they grew up with, senior Shabob Mahmood said. Next was I-Oata, a dairy-free chocolate milk, powered by superfoods that act as natural sweeteners and add health benefits, senior Megan Salters said. Finally, Pulped was an orange juice and vanilla protein powder beverage with 39 grams of protein per 12-ounce bottle, said senior Amy Smith. 

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When the card was taken out of the envelope and Lume was announced as the winner, the teammates jumped up and hugged each other. The judges chose Lume as the winner because they said it was the product that was the most ready to hit the shelves.

lume team hug-2.jpg

Lume co-founders junior Grace Clarke and seniors Sarah Edwards and Brendan Fowler hug after the judges announced they won the competition on Nov. 16.

Sarah Edwards, a co-creator of Lume, said she hadn’t actually considered applying until a professor recommended it during class. 

“I’m a finance major so I normally don’t do stuff like this and I thought it would be really fun and interesting,” she said. 

Clarke, another co-creator of Lume, said that many parts of the class appealed to her, even if they didn’t specifically apply to her major. 

“I think that there's a big creative aspect to things like this,” she said. “I love working with people, and being creative, and just coming up with different ideas and being in a group. I would definitely love to continue something like this after I graduate.” 

With much more excitement ahead of them, the Lume team is ecstatic to continue their project into the following semester and beyond, Clarke said. 

Contact news writer Rosalie Hinke at rosalie.hinke@richmond.edu.

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