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On the Grind

Monday, October 29, 2018
Quick sip coffee and giant cheque

Stumberg $25,000 grand prize a shot of caffeine for Trinity startup Quick Sip coffee

by Jeremy Gerlach

Jacob Hurrell-Zitelman ’20 didn’t come to Trinity to fail.

But before launching his wildly successful specialty coffee startup, Quick Sip—and taking home the $25,000 grand prize at Trinity’s Stumberg Venture Competition this October—that’s exactly what happened to the aspiring entrepreneur.

“Coming to Trinity, I tried starting a clothing company, a marketing company, looked at opening a bar—nothing worked,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “But when you have no answers—and nobody around you has answers—that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. It means you have a chance to create something novel.”

In Quick Sip, Hurrell-Zitelman, a business marketing and management double major from San Antonio, has created a powerhouse. Quick Sip is a specialty cold brew coffee startup with five employees that offers two flavors: Native, an Ethiopian flavor with hints of chocolate and berries; and Texican, a Mexican chiapas bean coffee with nutty cinnamon notes. The team even has their own brewing, manufacturing, and bottling facility, right here in the Alamo City.

“Coffee has strong roots in Ethiopia, but I also wanted us to be proud of the culture here in San Antonio, and from Mexico,” Hurrell-Zitelman says of his products.

Quick Sip Coffee bottles on table

We’ll spare you coffee’s entire origin story here, but let’s look closer into Quick Sip’s bean-to-brew journey.

Hurrell-Zitelman, who was originally headed into NYU to study finance, chose Trinity because “it felt like home.”

“This was the big-city experience I would have gotten in New York, but I really noticed the staff here were way more engaged in students’ success,” Hurrell-Zitelman explains. “That’s not something I saw anywhere else.” In addition to his startup and business-focused academics. Hurrell-Zitelman had the opportunity to play alto saxophone in Trinity’s jazz band, while also launching a competitive athletic career on Trinity’s varsity swim team.

Since the end of high school, Hurrell-Zitelman says he was destined to be an engineer. But after one economics course, he started watching videos on entrepreneurs such as NBA owner Mark Cuban and investor and media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk. Immediately, Hurrell-Zitelman was hooked on the idea of becoming an entrepreneur himself. He dabbled in the clothing industry and social media marketing his freshman year, failing to gain traction in either area.

“I’d never had the experience of not knowing an answer,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “I was told by some pretty important industry people I had no idea what I was doing, and had no right to even try.”

But Hurrell-Zitelman kept looking for inspiration, and he eventually found it. “Mark Cuban’s first business in college was a bar,” Hurrell-Zitelman explains. “I couldn’t start a bar being underage, so I started exploring the idea of creating a coffee bar. I wanted it to be high quality; I had a basic idea of the product I could make, but I was still missing the funding to start it.”

Without funding, Hurrell-Zitelman started with Trinity’s powerful alumni and entrepreneurial network. Trinity Entrepreneurship Director Luis Martinez ’91 introduced the young student to local coffee guru James Mireles, founder and owner of Texas-California powerhouse Pulp Coffee. Mireles, who works out of a space with hydroponic farmer and agripreneur Mitch Hagney ’13, opened Hurrell-Zitelman’s eyes to the challenges—and opportunities—of muscling his way into the coffee scene.

“Had that connection never happened, I would never have become passionate enough about specialty coffee to start a business,” Hurrell-Zitelman says.

Jacob Hurrell-Zitelman and Selena Davila sell coffee

Armed with that passion, Hurrell-Zitelman launched Quick Sip.

He started the business in March 2017, the spring of his first year at Trinity, by teaching himself how to brew and bottle specialty coffee. Hurrell-Zitelman even raised money for production by selling another coffee company’s bottles on Trinity’s campus out of his own backpack. With this small fund, Hurrell-Zitelman started producing 10 gallons of his own brew per week, making his first sales in August 2017.

At Trinity, Quick Sip became a campus sensation. The business garnered a contract with Aramark to sell coffee as an on-campus vendor, and upped its production to 15 gallons a week, then 20. Bottles kept flying off the shelves, word spread, and Hurrell-Zitelman knew he had stopped failing: “Seeing people buy my product every week, that was the moment where I said, ‘I can do this,’” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “People like what I’m making.”

And students weren’t the only ones taking note. Hurrell-Zitelman decided to enter his startup into Trinity’s Stumberg Venture Competition, a multi-stage contest that’s handed out more than $200,000 of seed money to Trinity startups over the past five years.

In March 2018, Quick Sip emerged from the Stumberg prelims as one of the event’s five finalists. This netted the company $5,000 in seed money and a spot in Trinity’s summer accelerator program. This unique program gives five startups free, on-campus housing and 10, 40-hour workweeks of $10/hr pay per employee.

“That’s another thing I love about Trinity—had I not been afforded the summer accelerator stipend to work on my startup, I would have just been another student with an internship,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “Every hour I spent working would have been an hour away from my business.”

With this extra time, Hurrell-Zitelman didn’t just focus on continuing to push out bottles as fast as possible—he strategically explored how his company could grow. “I had to make some tough decisions,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “I took complete ownership of my company, reorganized our staff, and prepared us to expand.”

This staff included Hurrell-Zitelman’s dad, Ronnie Zitelman, who helped the team with facility and equipment management and health regulations; Selena Davila ’21, who’s known Hurrell-Zitelman since their teenage years at Communications Arts High School in San Antonio, sold Quick Sip bottles out of her high school backpack before coming to Trinity. Payton Green ’20 and Connor McClure ’21, both marketing majors, also came on board and started doing “fantastic work” with the company’s social media.

Quick Sip coffee holds giant cheque

With a new team, ramped-up production, and contagious energy that could only come from a startup built around caffeine, Quick Sip blew the judges away at the Stumberg Finals in October, emerging with the $25,000 grand prize.

That shot of investment has already quickened the company’s pulse. Forget 20 gallons per week: Hurrell-Zitelman says Quick Sip has already doubled that to 40. And with the increase in production comes a chance to change the packaging.

Aside from the Quick Sip’s original, iconic “beer-style” bottle, the product now also comes in kegs, as Hurrell-Zitelman has started selling Quick Sip directly to large, commercial offices.

“Not every company wants their employees chugging energy drinks,” Hurrell-Zitelman laughs. “We’re framing Quick Sip as a safer, healthier alternative—and cold brew coffee is the movement behind that.”

Quick Sip also plans to expand operations to bigger retailers in San Antonio, but has eyes on reaching South Texas, and outwards towards “the coffee meccas” of the East and West coasts.

“Coffee is turning into the next ‘craft beer’ market,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “You walk into Central Market and see that wall of beer? That’s the future of coffee: There’s more to it than three or four big brands. And when that wall goes up, Quick Sip’s going to be there.”

Regardless of how far Quick Sip’s bottles travel in the future, Hurrell-Zitelman says he’s always going to value his early stumbles at Trinity.

“You can’t just learn entrepreneurship in the classroom—you have to be out in the field, trying to start your own business,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “In other programs, it can be impossible to fail because they limit how far you take entrepreneurship. But at Trinity, I was able to fail until I got the right answer.”