WASHINGTON - Georgetown University football alum Jake DeCicco (B'16) graduated from the Hilltop in GU's career top 10 for both receptions (142) and receiving yards (1,609). Like most Georgetown graduates, DeCicco had a job lined up for after college. However, his plan was to continue to grow the company he had started with his brother in 2015, SUNNIVA Super Coffee.
SUNNIVA is a ready-to-drink coffee made by combining organic Colombian coffee with milk protein and healthy fats from coconut oils. DeCicco's younger brother, Jordan, came up with the idea in his college dorm room as he was looking for a healthier alternative to the energy drinks and other coffees that contained large amounts of sugar. He provided his new drink to his friends and teammates and the business began to take off.
DeCicco joined forces with Jordan, an all-conference basketball player at Philadelphia University, in the spring of his junior year to start SUNNIVA. Jimmy, the eldest DeCicco who played football at Patriot League rival Colgate, came in as the company's CEO at the end of the summer.
"Jordan called me in March 2015, while I was a junior in the MSB at Georgetown, and asked a great question - Do you want to start a coffee company?" DeCicco said. "In May 2015, Jordan and I co-founded our company as 50/50 partners. We launched the company out of the Georgetown University Summer Launch Program and for our first year were based in DC. In 2017, we partnered with WeWork and moved our headquarters to NYC, where my brothers and I live."
With Jimmy joining the company, and Jordan leaving school, the three brothers were able to focus on expanding the company brand. In just over two years, SUNNIVA had grown to a national brand with more than 1,200 accounts including major stores such as Whole Foods, Wegmans and Wawa as well as stocking the cafeterias of power companies like Facebook, Google, Goldman Sachs and Ernst & Young. The company's rapid growth caught the attention of ABC's popular reality series, Shark Tank.
"One of the producers of the show had heard of our brand and reached out through LinkedIn. It was a no brainer for us. We viewed this as the same scale opportunity of having a Super Bowl commercial and would help with our goal to establish a household brand nationally.
"From the moment we signed on, it was very long process - at least three months. There was a lot of paperwork and lots of practice with our production team leading up to our trip to Hollywood in June. We spent five days in Hollywood preparing and then finally got in front of the Sharks."
The brothers pitched SUNNIVA to potential investors Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner and guest Shark Rohan Oza. The episode aired on Sunday, Feb. 11, in the show's ninth season. While no offers were made, DeCicco and his brothers took away a valuable learning experience and ideas of how to further expand SUNNIVA.
"Firstly, it was the best experience ever. My brothers and I are incredibly grateful for the opportunity of a life time and couldn't be more thankful for our production team at ABC. The biggest takeaway was the old saying of control what you can control is very real and it should be one of those quotes to live by. We spent endless hours preparing for Shark Tank without any type of commitment that we would ever get to pitch in front of the sharks, let alone have our episode make it to the air."