Port Washington resident Russell Saks graduated Indiana University this spring with not only a college degree, but also $100,000 in funding for his startup, Campus Protein. The web-based company provides nutritional supplements and fitness information, primarily to college students.
Now Saks, along with business partners Michael Yewdell and Tarun Singh, aim to expand the Port Washington company from four campuses to 14. They also plan to bring on new campus reps, all within the next year.
That's good news for college students on a budget who like to hit the gym.
“Our main market is college students,” said Saks, a graduate. “We provide the top brand-name manufacturers – the same brands you would find at GNC – but for about half the price, making it affordable for college students.”
Right now, the company has locations at Indiana University, Boston University, Lehigh University and University of Georgia. But plans are already in motion to expand to Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University, and the University of Florida, ideally by January. Next, the company aims to open at several New York campuses.
That growth strategy is thanks to the $100,000 cash infusion. Saks and Yewdell – the two attended the Kelly School of Business together – scored the funding through the university’s inaugural Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology, or BEST, competition.
And the competition provided the partners a lot more than seed money.
“The BEST competition has provided my company and team with valuable advice and experience from highly successful investors and entrepreneurs,” Saks said. “The funding along with the lessons learned will allow us to take Campus Protein to the next level.”
Campus Protein was one of 61 competitors vying for funding in the program. After three rounds of judging, the field was narrowed to six finalists, who presented their business plans to a panel of investor judges, including CareerBuilders' CEO Matt Ferguson. The investors created a $1.1 million fund to support the competition, and only four companies were selected.
Now, the investors are working with the winning companies to pinpoint next steps, including selecting a board of directors, identifying space and refining their businesses.
"We have high expectations for the four companies we've selected, and we feel they are positioned for success" investor Mary Delaney, CEO of Luceo Solutions, said in a statement. "It will be fun to watch them grow and change."
For Campus Protein, that includes recruting key personnel and building buzz about the firm.
“Our reps are strategically hired based upon campus involvement, and athletic-fitness interest," Saks said. "We have marketing campaigns in place launching in September for the start of next semester. Each one is customized for that schools market.”
Currently, the company offers "free same-day delivery to customers if we are located on your campus," Saks said.
But you don’t have to be a college student to be a Campus Protein customer.
“Although college students is our target market, our online store CampusProtein.com is still open to the public and anyone can order," Saks said. "They'll just enjoy spending half as much money as they would at their local store.”