This summer, several undergraduate students have been interning at startups through the Kathryn Stewart Fellowship program. Undergraduate Stewart fellows are awarded a $3,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.
Matt Furda – Javazen
Tell us about Javazen. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?
Javazen is a blend of coffee, tea, and superfoods. You brew Javazen the same way you would brew normal coffee grounds. I like to say that Javazen is mindfulness in a cup. It is a tool to help you feel at your best, and by replacing your daily cup of coffee with Javazen you are being mindful and acknowledging that every little step counts. Javazen’s mission is simply to help people experience each moment with clarity, vitality, and passion.
Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at Javazen
Javazen is run by a small group of incredibly hardworking individuals. Because there is a small team behind everything, I have gotten a glimpse into nearly every aspect of the business. I have helped with everything from demos, content creation, and social media marketing to manufacturing and building our office space. I have demoed Javazen at stores, trade shows, and yoga festivals and would continuously learn about the market first hand by connecting with new Javazen drinkers. I have helped with content writing for blog posts and our weekly “Wednesday Zensday” newsletter. Lately, I have had bags of Javazen with me at all times, and I am always looking for a cool spot to get a great picture to generate content little by little. I love building things so naturally I became the go to build-it guy for various Javazen projects including our warehouse office space, which is nearly completed. Part of the job for an intern is to learn as much as possible, and that is a major part of what I have focused my time on. During meetings I offer my perspective, ideas, and thoughts on new campaigns and strategies. This internship has really been the quintessential startup experience.
What projects are you most looking forward to working on with Javazen?
Halfway through August some of the Javazen Team will be embarking on a month-long RV road trip for the very first Find Your Zen Tour. I will be joining for the first two weeks before classes begin. We will be heading north and stopping at large events, festivals, farmers markets, and, of course, every store that carries Javazen along the way. Our goal is to meet new people across the country and share Javazen with everyone we can. We will also be launching tea bags in August and will be focusing a considerable amount of time on ensuring a smooth and successful launch that will include a lot of fun marketing campaigns.
Beyond the summer I plan to work with Javazen and contribute whatever help I can when I am not busy with schoolwork. I expect that I will have a very busy year, but I am too emotionally invested in Javazen at this point to stop in the fall.
Why did you want an internship with Javazen?
There is a bit of a story leading up to my internship with Javazen. I have always loved to cook and I am very passionate when it comes to food so I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the food industry. Entrepreneurship had been at the back of my mind since working at Uber last summer where I was introduced to an environment fueled by passion, creativity, and unrelenting hustle.
My interest led to me signing up for Mark Wellman’s I-Series Course, How Do Innovators Think?. The course cemented my desire to pursue entrepreneurship and was where I met Javazen Co-founder, Ryan Schueler. During one lecture, UMD alumni who started their own businesses spoke to us about how they created their business, and Ryan was there to talk about Javazen. I was completely blown away as he talked to us about Javazen, its humble beginnings, and where it is now. I was immediately attracted because Javazen was a food product, but even more, the food science behind the different blends excited my love for chemistry.
What do you hope to gain from a summer spent at Javazen?
The “Four H’s” of Javazen are heart, health, hustle, and…having a good time! It may sound a bit corny to some, but at the very least I sincerely hope to have a good time during the rest of my summer at Javazen. I have had an incredible time as of now so I am not too worried.
Have you had any cool startup/networking experiences since you’ve been at Javazen?
So a mayor, a NASA lobbyist, a CEO, and an intern walk into a bar….
But seriously, I somehow found myself at happy hour sitting down with the Mayor of College Park, one of the Associate Administrators for NASA, and Javazen CEO, Eric Golman. I met them at a dinner at Startup Village. Aside from being a great time, I suppose that was a pretty cool networking experience.
As far as Startup experiences go well my first time ever at Startup Shell was when I was offered this internship and on my first day of work I met the team at Startup Village. Every single day is a cool startup experience. There are always new ideas being thrown around at the Village, and the crazy part is they almost always become reality. I feel like I was thrown straight into the core of UMD’s startup community and I am only at the very beginning of my startup career.
What has been the biggest adjustment?
This whole summer has been one big, crazy adjustment. As a chemical engineering student with no business or marketing education, working at a startup company whose current focus is on marketing and brand development was and still is a major adjustment for me. I was also the first team member who was not around during the very early days of Javazen, so I certainly felt like the “new kid” at first.
Possibly the biggest adjustment was getting used to the constant stream of new ideas and potential projects that I have been exposed to as a result of spending time at Startup Village. Never have I had so many things I want to accomplish, yet so little time to do them all. Some days it is easy to get overwhelmed by the feeling that despite having put in a hard day of work, there is always more work to be done. I think motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, put it best when he said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and they underestimate what they can do in two or three decades.” So I try to take everything day by day and it is easy to stay motivated when you are passionate.
Matthew Furda is a chemical engineering student at the University of Maryland. Matthew discovered his passion for entrepreneurship while working in the D.C. Uber office during the summer. At Uber, Matthew fell in love with the fast-paced and innovative startup environment the office provided. Though his interest in entrepreneurship is recent, he has always been a self-starter with a desire to create and experiment. At an early age Matthew taught himself to cook, and it is now a hobby and passion. Cooking combines his desire to experiment with his passion for chemistry in a creative and artistic manner.