By John Lynds
Like many neighborhood children his age growing up in East Boston James Testa attended local schools until going off to Malden Catholic on a scholarship. He played every sport in Eastie from baseball to basketball to Pop Warner and even took a shot at lacrosse.
However, his real passion was business.
“What inspired me to go into business was my ambition to be great and make something of myself,” said Testa who is a senior at Suffolk University.
This year, Suffolk University has introduced one of the nation’s first experiential courses on crowd funding, where students were asked to launch campaigns to fund their own start-up companies through Kick starter and Indiegogo.
Testa, an Entrepreneurship major at the university and a student in the Sawyer Business School class that launched crowd funding campaigns on November 14, was all over the challenge.
Testa founded WarmUp Protein Coffee. Testa explains the venture is targeting its first product, a high-protein coffee, to fitness-focused people on the go.
Testa said he came up with the concept for WarmUp during his recovery from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2015. He had lost a significant amount of muscle mass while recovering and it was important for him to consume large amounts of protein, but he grew tired of the basic whey protein shakes.
“The idea of high-protein coffee was just that, an idea. It wasn’t until this new course was offered that I understood how to actually approach starting the business,” said Testa. “Professors Jenni Dinger and Chiam Letwin have emphasized action and minimum viable product rather than perfecting the business plan.”
Testa said he is leveraging all of his connections to make this happen.
“From the people I met while interning at the East Boston Chamber of Commerce to my high school principal to my classmates at Suffolk,” he said. “It is amazing how willing people have been to help me out.”
Testa’s Kick starter campaign has surpassed the $4,000 mark in just a few days and he is close to his goal of $8,000 that would allow him to complete the remaining steps of forming a legal company, hiring a food scientist and making the first production run. The WarmUp Protein Coffee campaign can be found athttps://www.kickstarter.com/projects/60705821/warmup-a-high-protein-coffee
“There are still eight days in my campaign left if people want to support,” said Testa.
Professor Dinger said that while a few other universities are discussing crowd funding as part of traditional course content, the real-world approach to this course makes it different.
“Suffolk students in this class are learning how to turn their business ideas into action, and they are going after the funding to support those enterprises,” he said.
The course expands on the foundation of knowledge and skills honed throughout the Sawyer Business School curriculum, while fast tracking entrepreneurial activity through startups and the raising of capital.
Dinger and Letwin both study crowd funding platforms and how campaign components relate to people’s decisions to contribute money to a particular project. The course looks at factors that lead to crowd funding success, including the idea, the pitch and the prototype.
“Small business and innovation are critical to the health and vibrancy of the economy,” Dinger said. “Experiential courses like this are aimed at accelerating the startup launch process and increasing the rate of startup businesses among our most promising young adults.”