A team of nearly 20 Slippery Rock University students have introduced an organic coffee company to the sustainable business scene.
The Rock Roast business venture was part of the fourth annual Student Business Plan Competition organized by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and won the Student Choice Video Award for most YouTube views. The business seeks to provide students, faculty, and merchants with high quality, organic, fair trade coffee.
The student entrepreneurs, with advisors within the School of Business and the Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) program, collaborated to bring the idea of sustainable agriculture and business to Slippery Rock University. Recognizing that the vast majority of college students consume coffee on a weekly basis, and that sources of fair trade organically grown coffee are sorely lacking, the students sought to offer an alternative coffee option to the masses.
“We grow markets for fair trade, organic coffees that are sustainably grown and harvested,” according to information from the company’s website, rockroast.org. “In return for market development, we earn a share of the profits from the sale of these quality products. Our revenues fund student trips to study sustainable agriculture and business initiatives in Central and South America and beyond.”
Rock Roast was the first team in Slippery Rock University’s history to secure a spot within the top five finalists.
“The competition is open to all students at the 14 state-owned universities,” Managing Director of the SEA, School of Business faculty member, and advisor for Rock Roast, Dr. John Golden said.
“Students or student teams begin in the fall semester by filling out a simple ‘Intent to Compete,’ usually by the end of November,” Golden said. “They have until mid-February the following year to complete their business plans. The first round of judging narrows the field to about 20 semi-finalists in March. External judges then select finalists and winners in April.”
Rock Roast’s Student Choice Video Award was given to them based on the creativity of their submission of a brief YouTube video. This section of the competition was optional, in addition to the formal business plan requirement. The submitted videos were judged on the number of views on YouTube.
Rock Roast’s main supplier is Golden Valley Farms, a distributor that has over 25 years of experience in sustainable coffee businesses. Golden Valley receives their supplies from Las Lajas Coffee Farm, located in Costa Rica.