Inspiring Health in the Coffee World with Javazen’s Ryan Schueler

September 2, 2015

John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Festival edition of Green Is Good here in beautiful Washington, D.C., and we’re so excited to have with us today entrepreneur Ryan Scheuler. He is the co-founder and People Enthusiast of Javazen and you can find him and www.drinkJAVAZEN.com. Ryan, welcome to Green Is Good. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh. Yeah. This is great, and your product is just wonderful. Before we get talking talk a little bit about your journey leading up to co-founding Javazen. What got you excited to be an entrepreneur, an ecopreneur? Ryan Schueler: So I guess it really all started growing up. My dad, he actually started his own business – a wholesale car company. So when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up – in sixth, seventh grade – I would say, “I don’t know, but I want to make something and sell it. I want to share it,” because that’s what we’re doing. We’re actually sharing. We’re not really selling. John Shegerian: Right. Good point. Ryan Schueler: Then that kind of spiraled into me meeting my roommate and co-founder – Eric Golman – and he was studying Environmental Science and Policy and that kind of spiraled me into thinking how we could make a difference. John Shegerian: And where did you guys meet? Ryan Schueler: At an entrepreneurship program at the University of Maryland. John Shegerian: Oh great. Ryan Schueler: All three of us. It’s me, Eric Golman and Aaron Wallach. John Shegerian: You guys are so well represented here. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: We had more Millennials on today’s show from the University of Maryland just totally making a difference but making a cool product or service that people really are digging right now. Ryan Schueler: And it’s actually really cool because the University of Maryland is a hub for entrepreneurship, so we actually have access to a lot of resources that helped us get to where we are today so quickly. I mean, we started this business about a year ago, and here we have a booth at the Green Festival. We’re going to four or five trade shows this year, and we’re starting to share some good stuff with awesome people. John Shegerian: I love it. So talk a little bit about the founding of Javazen, and for people who want to find your great product and learn more about it, they can go to www.drinkJAVAZEN.com. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: When did you found it, and how has it been in the year journey since your founding? Ryan Schueler: In the interim. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: Yeah, so let me just give you our journey. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: So we officially pretty much started last March. John Shegerian: OK. Ryan Schueler: So I graduated from the University of Maryland last May, so I started this while I was in school. I was skipping class, because I found something that I wanted to do. John Shegerian: I love it. Ryan Schueler: So it started out with stock bags and putting stickers on it. I remember I used to have sheets of stickers and putting them on every single bag of Javazen and we’d make it in the commercial kitchen at the university. So they helped us use a commercial space to be completely legitimate. John Shegerian: Yeah. How cool. Ryan Schueler: So then it transferred. We did a design contest online, got our original packaging and we’ve kind of just been tweaking it since then. Since then, we now are manufactured. We have a co-packer in Rockville. Our beans are roasted, packed by hand and now we’re shipping to about 50 stores. John Shegerian: Unbelievable. And you can also buy it online? Ryan Schueler: Yeah. So we have an ecommerce site on our website. We’re also on Amazon Prime, which is awesome. You can get it anywhere in two days. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh, this is great. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: Why don’t we talk a little bit about these three great blends that you have right here. Ryan Schueler: Absolutely. John Shegerian: How did you come up with these blends, and why come up with these blends to start with? Ryan Schueler: Alright. Cool. So I guess we’re going to start with our original blend. This is Javazen Original. This is what made us continue at the company, because originally we had something and people tasted it and they were like, “Oh wow, this is amazing,” after tweaking it and tweaking it and tweaking it. When people told me, “I would buy this in stores,” we were like, “All right. We’re going to have a company.” So we turned down all of our job offers, and were like, “We’re going to share this with everyone we can and we’re going to make this our life’s mission.” Our mission is to inspire health in the coffee industry. John Shegerian: Wow. So this was your first one? Ryan Schueler: Yeah. So this is a blend of coffee, matcha green tea, raw cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. John Shegerian: Wow. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. And I actually have a little bit right here, so why don’t we try our samples? Cheers. John Shegerian: Cheers. Drink up, feel good. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Drink up, feel good. John Shegerian: That is delicious. Ryan Schueler: I know. John Shegerian: I can taste the chocolate in it. Ryan Schueler: Also, this is a cold brew. So we made this overnight for 16 hours,, just kind of steeping it in water and then filtering it. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh. Ryan Schueler: It’s amazing. Also it’s really cool to do at festivals like this because you can make a ton of it and then share it with more people. John Shegerian: How does it taste hot? Ryan Schueler: So cold, more of the coffee and the cacao comes out because it’s a slower process. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: And hot, you get a little bit more of the matcha and the cinnamon, which is really cool. John Shegerian: Really cool. Then what was your next product out of these three? Ryan Schueler: So what’s really cool is our other two products were created directly from customer feedback from in-store demos. We’re sold in a local grocery store in the area – Mom’s Organic Market. They’re actually sponsoring the festival. They were one of the first retailers to pick us up and believe in us. Now we’re in all their locations. Like I was saying, in-store demos. So on a Saturday or Sunday ,we go – mainly me and my buddies – we set up a table and we go and just hand out samples and sell products. And based directly off what people are saying – they’re like, “Oh, I can’t do caffeine” – we made our decaf Relax Blend with goji berries, honeybush, rooibos, lucuma and vanilla. Something sweet. Decaf can be fun. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: And then on the opposite end, there were people who really wanted more energy – they’re like, “I need something that’s more coffee-like” – so we used a dark roast and mixed it with yerba mate Amazonian tea. It’s a hig- caffeine tea. Very high in antioxidants as well. Then we add in acai berry, and it just provides like a nice bold flavor. So we kind of have something for everyone. Personally, I normally drink this one in the morning when I have something important, then I kind of transition into Original, then I end my day on decaf Relax Blend. John Shegerian: Perfect. What a day. I mean, you have something for everyone in these blends. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. All the coffee is out there. They’re all just kind of differently roasted. But we actually have something for a specific purpose. John Shegerian: These are all differently blended. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. They are different blends. John Shegerian: Now what you have done also is you have taken a couple of trend lines, major trends. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: Coffee, which now coffee has scientifically proven to be good for you, but you’ve mixed it with super foods. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: Can you explain what a super food is and how you’ve chosen each of these super foods to be mixed with your coffees? Ryan Schueler: Yeah for sure. So super foods are just particular foods that are nutrient dense compared to their weight. So, for example, like cacao. It’s really good for you. We actually can’t talk about the actual benefits of it on our packaging due to regulations. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: But it makes me feel amazing. All of them are kind of chosen based of off originally trial and error but also research about the individual ingredients. So, for example, when I drink our Original, it’s because there’s been research done on matcha and how it doesn’t give you that jittery and crash feeling. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: So by kind of combining that with the coffee it makes me feel like I have a more complete, balanced energy. John Shegerian: Got you. Ryan Schueler: And then moving to the yerba mate and the high energy blend, those are both high caffeine substances – a dark roast and the yerba mate – so those pair well together. And the decaf. We all use red berries, and it gives it a nice red hue, so we use similar color ingredients as well as just cool super foods. John Shegerian: Ryan, when anyone starts a business, typically, it takes some capital besides real guts, real energy – and obviously you have guts, energy and also a great idea. Where did you and your partners find your seed capital? Ryan Schueler: It has been from a few different sources. Back to the University of Maryland, again, we competed for two $5,000 dollar grants, so we’ve received $10,000 dollars from the University of Maryland through the Citrin Impact Seed Fund. John Shegerian: Unbelievable. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Really cool. John Shegerian: Who knew? I mean, until we covered today’s Green Festival, we have met more great young Millennial entrepreneurs coming out of University of Maryland. You have one of the great entrepreneurial schools in America right now it seems like. Ryan Schueler: We do. Also, are you familiar with South by Southwest? John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: So, we actually just won the RECESS Pitch at Maryland – it’s a music and ideas festival. I was in L.A. last week with my cofounder Aaron, and we won and we were presenting. We made it to the final four in the whole nation for the RECESS Pitch festival. John Shegerian: Wow. So are you going to be at South by Southwest or…? Ryan Schueler: No, I was just using that as a similarity, because most people aren’t familiar with the RECESS competition. John Shegerian: Right. Good for you. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: What a great thing. Ryan Schueler: So back to the University of Maryland, again. They provided us with these amazing tools. We are now active alumni, but my co-founder, Eric, just graduated about two weeks ago. He is currently in Europe having some fun up there. Hey Eric. John Shegerian: So talk about the ingredients. Now you’ve chosen the ingredients, you did the mixing. How do you source the ingredients now to maintain the integrity of your great product? Ryan Schueler: We have 100-percent organic ingredients across everything that we do. We just got our USDA Organic Certification because of our co-packer. John Shegerian: Great. Ryan Schueler: So what is really cool about specifically our coffee is our co-packer brought us down to Honduras and Nicaragua this February. We got to shake hands with our farmers. I actually have WhatsApp. John Shegerian: Come on. Ryan Schueler: I’ve got to show you this. John Shegerian: Show it to me. Ryan Schueler: You know what I left my phone over there. John Shegerian: OK. Ryan Schueler: But I actually WhatsApp my farmer. And my Spanish isn’t that great, but we just send pictures to each other. A really funny part when we were down there. His name is Pedro Romero. John Shegerian: OK. Ryan Schueler: And he is at one of the co-ops in the Capucas Region of Honduras. When we were down there, our videographer – have you ever seen people kind of do the flagpole thing and they kind of hold it? John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: And he was doing it and Pedro was trying to do it. It was really funny. Two weeks later, he practices and he sends me a picture of him doing that, so it’s just like we have this intimate relationship. With not everyone, but being a people enthusiast, a people person, we try to make all our relationships real. John Shegerian: Did you video the trip and stuff of that nature? Ryan Schueler: Yeah, we have a ton of footage. We’re waiting to put out like a documentary style. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: Or maybe release some clips on our social media. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: I could give you some pictures for the show. John Shegerian: I would love some pictures of it for the show when this airs. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Absolutely. John Shegerian: It would be really wonderful. So you’ve actually met your farmer. Ryan Schueler: Some of them. John Shegerian: Some of them. Ryan Schueler: The way that farming works in the places that we get it from is one farmer doesn’t have enough volume, enough capacity to sell their stuff directly. So one of the co-ops that we get our stuff from…. John Shegerian: Ah. Interesting. Ryan Schueler: It’s actually a collection of over 800 farmers. I got to visit the gold standard co-op of organic coffee farming in the western hemisphere. In my opinion, it was amazing. These people have a life outside of what they do. They have passion. For example, when I was there, they were digging lakes for farming salmon and they’re growing food just to eat, not to sell. That’s a life – giving people the opportunity and the desire to do things outside of the work, have their work fuel their passions. That’s what Javazen is about. We want to feel your passion. John Shegerian: So the other products that you put in – the cacao and the goji berries – how do you source those and make sure you get the right products there? Ryan Schueler: So we actually do extensive research through our suppliers. Eric Golman – my co-founder – does all of our operations. I’m our front man. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: But he is ruthless. He’s ruthless. John Shegerian: That’s great. Ryan Schueler: We actually have different co-ops from around. So our cacao – for example – is from the Dominican Republic, currently, and we’re trying to single-source it from the same farm from our coffee, which is cool. John Shegerian: So we were talking off air a little bit. And for our listeners and viewers out there, we’re so excited. We’ve got Ryan Scheuler with us. He is the co-founder, he is the People Enthusiast of Javazen, and you can find them at www.drinkJAVAZEN.com. Where can our listeners and our viewers buy your great coffee products right now? If they don’t live in the D.C. area, how can they go online and find your products? Ryan Schueler: We’ll get it to you in two days – Amazon Prime. John Shegerian: Amazon Prime. Ryan Schueler: They are a godsend. John Shegerian: That’s awesome. Ryan Schueler: But if you are in the area, we are sold in Mom’s Organic Market, Grau’s Market, Yes! Organic Market, Roots, Dawson’s, and we’re in 20 stores in Denver. John Shegerian: In Denver? Ryan Schueler: Yeah. I actually took a red-eye home on Wednesday to be here to set up. I got in at 9:00 a.m. Thursday. John Shegerian: No. Ryan Schueler: Took an hour of sleep and came here to be here at the Green Festival. John Shegerian: Life of an entrepreneur. Ryan Schueler: I actually left early to go to a dinner with David Wolfe in Baltimore last night. John Shegerian: So talk about Denver. How did you break into the Denver market? Ryan Schueler: So imagine this: We had just sold our first store – Mom’s Organic Market – last August, and we’re like, “Hey, we need to get bigger,” so we got a pop-up three-hour booth at the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. John Shegerian: OK. Ryan Schueler: One of the big trade shows for natural foods. We met the Director of Purchasing for Natural Grocers. They’re headquartered out of Denver, so we’re stocked now in about 15 to 20 of their stores, and we’re trying to share this as much as possible. John Shegerian: This is great. This is great news. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. We’re having some fun. John Shegerian: So talk a little bit about coffee; seems to be a very busy segment. Ryan Schueler: Yes. John Shegerian: How do you compete and set yourself apart and continue to grow in that very busy but growing segment? Ryan Schueler: Absolutely. So as you know there is a ton of coffee companies. John Shegerian: Sure. Ryan Schueler: I mean, you see a new one every week. John Shegerian: Yup. Ryan Schueler: But you know what they all are? They’re all just different beans. They’re all just roasted a little bit differently. Some are from different countries, and that’s great, different elevations. But they’re all just different. They’re not really better. We actually took coffee and made it a better experience, healthier. We want to provide health and inspire health to the coffee world. John Shegerian: I love it. Ryan Schueler: So when I drink Javazen in the morning, it, one, tastes great, but, two, it sets an intention. It sets an intention to have a healthy day and be cognizant of what you’re putting into your body. John Shegerian: Who came up with the tagline “drink up, feel good?” I love that. Ryan Schueler: We just played with different ones. John Shegerian: That’s great, though. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. That was actually one of our designers. John Shegerian: Drink up, feel good. What’s the vision? What is you and your partners’ vision of growing this brand? Ryan Schueler: So we want everyone to be drinking Javazen to be aware of health. We want to inspire health and coffee – and Javazen, specifically, is one of the easiest ways to do so. I mean, we’re going to do our mission. The only way we’re not going to complete our mission – it’s never going to be complete – is if we stop, and we’re never going to stop. John Shegerian: How much further can you grow the line of products that you have? Ryan Schueler: So the line, hopefully, will just take over all the coffee shops, but we’re going to be expanding organically, waiting to see which skews are performing well and then kind of adjusting to that. John Shegerian: Sustainability. It’s one thing to be a young entrepreneur, which you get major props for your courage to be an entrepreneur. Ryan Schueler: Absolutely. Been one all my life. John Shegerian: But to be a sustainability entrepreneur how do you take sustainability and weave it into your entrepreneurship? Ryan Schueler: So it’s been in our mission statement really. John Shegerian: From day one. Ryan Schueler: From day one. I mean, we’re going to care about our people; we’re going to care about our farmers; and we’re going to care about how we do what we do. So, for example, these are compostable cups. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: It’s really funny. At all these events, there’s always these three bins, and I give these people cups, and I always see them throw them like they have no idea where to put them. They needed to have single-stream recycling. It’s really funny. John Shegerian: So if I met you on an elevator today, what is your pitch to me? Your mission pitch on the elevator, if I said, “Hey Ryan. You seem like a nice young guy. What do you do for a living?” What’s what you do for a living? Ryan Schueler: “Hey, so my name is Ryan. I run this crazy company called Javazen. We mix coffee, tea and super foods. It started in my dorm room. Now I’m sharing it with the world, with 50 stores. We care about our people, and we want to inspire health in the coffee industry.” John Shegerian: I love it. Why is your generation – especially all your great colleagues from the University of Maryland – why are you guys all excited to start business but start business not only that you can make a great living from – and that is the American Way – but also that are agents for change? Ryan Schueler: Make a difference. John Shegerian: Make a difference. Huge social mission. Ryan Schueler: So I really think one of the major aspects to that is our access to information. It’s by far 10 or 100x greater than many generations in our past. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: I was just talking to my dad about this the other day. If you have more access to information, it’s easier to just do something and just make it happen and fail hard, fail quick. John Shegerian: That’s true. Ryan Schueler: And people aren’t afraid to do anything. For example, at the University of Maryland – and all over universities – they have these things called “hackathons.” They are like a three-day event for tech people, and it was actually where we launched our company, at BIT Camp – it’s the University of Maryland’s hackathon. John Shegerian: OK. Ryan Schueler: So we went there. Really funny. I’ve got to give you this picture. John Shegerian: I want to hear it. Ryan Schueler: So I put on – you know those dispenser backpacks? John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: We put Javazen in it. John Shegerian: No! Ryan Schueler: I was walking around getting people cups and just putting it in. That was the official launch of our company last year. John Shegerian: I love it. Ryan Schueler: And when we had 200, 300 people tell us, “Wow, this is great,” we were like, “All right. We’re doing it fulltime – we’re in, we’re all in.” John Shegerian: Social media. How do you use social media to build a great brand? Ryan Schueler: So social media is very important. Like I said, we’re in the information age. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: So we are full-time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We come out with videos. With social media, it’s really important to create unique content. So, for example, we just put out a video on how to make a cold brew, so if you check out our YouTube – Google “Javazen.” John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: You will see us in our kitchen in our house teaching you on camera how to. John Shegerian: No. That’s great. Ryan Schueler: So if you have a French press, just throw some grind in and full it up with water, let it sit overnight and pour it over ice. That’s cold brew. John Shegerian: Who is curating your social media section all the time? Who is making sure that there is fresh content all the time? Ryan Schueler: That is our social media intern. John Shegerian: That’s awesome. Ryan Schueler: He also does a lot of our creative work. He’s really great. John Shegerian: University of Maryland? Ryan Schueler: Yeah. All Maryland. John Shegerian: You guys are all Maryland. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: That’s great. There are a lot of young people in your age range or younger that want to be the next Ryan Scheuler, that want to create the next JAVAZEN in a different vertical. Ryan Schueler: Absolutely. John Shegerian: What advice now? You’ve been doing it already a year. You’ve had some highs and you’ve had some lows. What advice can you give backwards now to some of the next young people coming up for them to get going and make the world a better place? Ryan Schueler: So just start now. Honestly, just to say what I said before. John Shegerian: Yeah. Ryan Schueler: Fail hard and fail fast. John Shegerian: I love that. Ryan Schueler: I mean, that’s what we’ve always been taught. But, more importantly, you just have to go out and do something. I’ve been in all these entrepreneurship classes, and they all teach you a lot of great theories and things on how it happens, but if you don’t go out and meet people, and if you don’t give it everything you have, its not going to yield that same in return. Why would it? John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: Why would it? John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: So, I mean, going out – our packaging, for example. We went out and got it. We actually crowd-sourced our first bag off www.99designs.com. It was like $500 bucks, and we got to get all these designs and we just made it happen. We would go out and give it out to people just getting customer feedback. For example, if you want to make a widget. You know how many 3D printers there are out there? The University of Maryland has 40 3D printers in our startup shelf. John Shegerian: Wow. Ryan Schueler: That as access to the whole campus. John Shegerian: Holy Toledo. Ryan Schueler: I mean, you can do whatever you want. I know it sounds really hard to embody. John Shegerian: Right. Ryan Schueler: But like. John Shegerian: Nothing to fear. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Nothing to fear. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now. I just graduated college. I don’t have anything to lose. John Shegerian: That’s right. You’re right. By the way, you’re right. Ryan Schueler: The experience that I get from this – people don’t get to do this ‘til they’re like 30 or 40, and they’re like, “OK. Now that I’ve made a little bit of money, let’s go try and do something.” John Shegerian: How did it feel when you first got into your first store? Ryan Schueler: It was great. It was great. John Shegerian: When I talk to you a year from now, and have you back on Green Is Good, how many stores are you going to be in? Ryan Schueler: Over 1,000. John Shegerian: Over 1,000. Ryan Schueler: That’s what I want. That’s my goal. John Shegerian: What does dad say about all this success? Ryan Schueler: It’s funny. People thought it was crazy until about six weeks ago when I started winning this and getting more stores and hearing back from corporate accounts and going to L.A. and going to Denver. Now they’re starting to see my passion. John Shegerian: Dad’s excited. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. Dad and mom. John Shegerian: Dad and mom. They are your inspiration right? Ryan Schueler: They are. They really are. John Shegerian: That’s so nice. Ryan Schueler: They’ve taught me to be what I am. It’s funny. My mom always says, “You know, whenever I talk to people after they’ve talked to you, they’re like, ‘How did you do that he seems like a very upstanding guy’?” I’m like, “I’m just trying to make everyone proud and have a good time for myself.” John Shegerian: That’s awesome. Ryan Schueler: Yeah. John Shegerian: Well I’m so happy for you, Ryan. We’re so thrilled that you came on Green Is Good today. Ryan Schueler: Absolutely. John Shegerian: For our listeners and our viewers out there, to find Ryan Scheuler and his great company Javazen, go to www.drinkJAVAZEN.com. I have been drinking it today, and it is a great product. Support them. This is great stuff. Ryan Scheuler. Ryan Schueler: Cheers. John Shegerian: To you and your partners, thank you for making the world a better place. You guys are truly living proof that Green Is Good. Ryan Schueler: Green is good.