– Georgetown University football alum Jake DeCicco (B'16) and his two brothers, Jimmy and Jordan, were named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30
list in the Food & Drink category. The three brothers were recognized for the company they started, Kitu Life
(formerly Sunniva), that produces a ready-to-drink super coffee made by combining organic Colombian coffee with milk protein and healthy fats from coconut oils.
Jake, who graduated from the Hilltop in GU's career top 10 for both receptions (142) and receiving yards (1,609), joined forces with Jordan, an all-conference basketball player at Philadelphia University, in the spring of his junior year to start Sunniva. Jimmy, their older brother who played football at Patriot League rival Colgate University, came in as the company's CEO at the end of that summer.
In just over two years, the three brothers expanded the company to a nation-wide brand with more than 1,200 accounts including major stores such as Whole Foods, Wegmans and Wawa, as well as stocking the cafeterias of power companies like Facebook, Google, Goldman Sachs and Ernst & Young. The company's rapid growth caught the attention of ABC's popular reality series, Shark Tank
, and the three brothers pitched their super coffee on the show in February.
GUHoyas.com recently caught up with Jake DeCicco to talk about Kitu Life being named to Forbes 30 Under 30.
While your appearance on Shark Tank did not go how you had hoped, what were you and your brothers able to take away from the experience?
Candidly, Shark Tank couldn't have gone better for us. Our number one goal was to go out there in front of the Sharks and represent our brand in a positive light, tell our story and make sure our episode made it to air. The experience of preparing for Shark Tank truly helped us as young business owners, because it really forced us to be buttoned up for a high stakes sales pitch environment, more dramatic than 95 percent of meetings we have on a daily basis.
What led to re-branding from SUNNIVA to Kitu Life?
Kitu Life (pronounced "key to life") is the future. It is a more all-encompassing brand around which we can build many product lines. SUNNIVA was focused around a coffee concept that we created in my little brother's dorm room.
Have there been any other changes, or new developments, since we last spoke in February?
We recently closed a series-A round of fund raising, in which we raised $13.5 million in funding to fuel our company as we prepare to continue to scale our operations in 2019. We also recently launched our Super Creamer line of protein packed, sugar free coffee creamers. Early in 2019, we will launch our Super Espresso line, which will be hitting shelves in January. It is a 6oz organic espresso beverage, with zero sugar and packed with protein.
Since being named to Forbes 30 Under 30, has there been any noticeable improvements or developments?
Stuff likes Forbes 30 Under 30 and Shark Tank certainly help with brand awareness, but ultimately all of the success and growth comes as a reflection from the amazing people on our team at Kitu who work tirelessly to build a meaningful brand. Plus the incredible contribution from all of our fearless investors who trust the vision that my brothers and I have for where Kitu is going and how we're going to get there.
With that being said, the growth continues to be very exciting and we are just truly grateful that customers are resonating with our products and our story. And we're obviously forever thankful for the awesome people at Forbes and ABC who chose to feature my brothers and myself on their platforms.
What is next for Kitu Life? What are some upcoming goals or what can we expect as the next big news?
Next big news? Hmmm.... Stay tuned. All I know is our team always says "We're just getting started." My older brother Jim said to me the other day, "The way I see it, 2019 is basically our first year truly in business..."
Side note goal is for the 2019 Hoyas to win their first Patriot League Championship. I think Coach Sgarlata has done an incredible job establishing a winning expectation for the program and it is very exciting time to be a part of the Hoya football family.