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March 29, 2012 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-03-29

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Matthew Tukel and Sawyer Altman, FJA

juniors, started their own energy drink

Young Entrepreneurs

FJA students launch energy drink business with a cause.

Jackie Headapohl
Managing Editor


atthew Tukel and Sawyer
Altman, juniors at Frankel
Jewish Academy in West
Bloomfield, were energized when they
signed up for a new business course being
offered at the school. Now, the pair is ener-
gizing Detroit with their new business:
313Energy, an energy drink for a cause.
The course, one of three in a new entre-
preneurial specialization program at FJA,
is taught by Ryan Landau, 23, co-founder
of PowerVoice, a social media commerce
business. Landau, an FJA 2006 graduate,
ran a catering business with his brother
during high school.
This is the first year of the specializa-
tion, which consists of a statistics, busi-
ness ethics and executive class in which
students launch a business as part of the
In the first class, students were told to
pair up. Tukel, 17, and Altman, 16, decided
to make a team. Both boys have business
running through their blood.
"I've always been an entrepreneur;'
says Tukel, who lives with his parents
Debra and David Tukel in Franklin and
attends Congregation Shaarey Zedek in
Southfield. Tukel has already run a bagel
delivery business and a retro hat business,
although he calls 313Energy his "first seri-
ous business:'
Altman, who lives with parents Jolie and
David Altman in Birmingham and also
attends Shaarey Zedek, has "always been a
businessman" as well. A talented graphic

14 March 29 2012

designer, Altman dabbled in game design
and freelance graphic design.
"I love business. It really allows you to
express creativity in new ways:' Altman
Tukel concurs. "It's about finding a
product, an idea that will make people
happy and want to buy it," he says. "It's
about coming up with an idea no one ever
came up with before."

Getting It Off The Ground
Once they got their idea — an energy
drink for a cause — they rolled up their
sleeves and got to work. Hard work.
"Matt and Sawyer stood out right away
as true entrepreneurs:' Landau says. "They
let nothing stand in their way."
"We spent months on the phone and
emailing to find partners to work with:'
Tukel says.
Eventually, they found a contract manu-
facturer outside of Las Vegas and a flavor-
ing company that helped them develop
their recipes, regular and sugar-free vari-
eties. The drinks contain taurine, vitamin
B and antioxidants, which work to give
consumers a jolt of energy.
Altman designed the product label and
the company website (313energy.com )
Producing the drink didn't come cheap.
"We decided we wanted to do it on our
own, without our parents' help:' Tukel says.
"So we dug into our bank accounts."
Landau says he merely acted as a
sounding board for the boys. "I did a lot of
listening and helped guide their passion
and direction, shared some contacts with

them, and that's it. The rest was them. I
couldn't be prouder."
Their first shipment, which they
received about a month ago, sold out
quickly at Pogo and Sweet Thing in
Birmingham. Half of their second
shipment was bought by Revive in
Birmingham for an event it held at a
March 23 Detroit Pistons basketball game.
"The rest of the shipment we're going to
try and sell in local businesses:' Altman
The pair estimate they spent $4,000-
$5,000 getting their business off the
ground. Once they sell out their current
shipment, they'll have broken even, they
say. They'll begin turning a profit with
their next shipment.
Their next challenge is to build an infra-
structure, says Tukel, who plans to attend
business school after graduating from FJA,
as does Altman. The goal is to keep the
business going for the long haul.

Giving Back
Both Tukel and Altman knew they wanted
a charitable component to their business.
Energized by all the exciting things hap-
pening in Detroit, especially within the
Jewish community, they wanted to be
"We wanted to be a part of Detroit 2.0:'
Altman says. "We wanted to raise aware-
ness of what's going on in the city and get
people informed, and hopefully improve
Detroit's image."
Tukel hit the Internet to look for a
partner and found the Detroit Public
Schools Foundation. "We knew Detroit

schools we're having tough times;' he says.
"Students there don't have the best tech-
nology or supplies."
"We thought if we teamed up with the
DPS Foundation, it would be one group of
students reaching out to another group of
students:' Altman adds.
Chacona Johnson, president and CEO of
the DPS Foundation, took that phone call
from Tukel. "At first, I wasn't sure it would
amount to much:' admits Johnson after
she spoke with him on the phone. Then
she met with both of them. "They were
impressive young men:' she says.
"They told us they found us on the
Internet and liked what they saw:' says
Johnson, who says she will never again
underestimate the power of a website.
"These young entrepreneurs had a great
idea, and we came to an agreement on
how their business could support students
in Detroit."
The DPS Foundation, which supports
value-added programs and activities for
the benefit of the Detroit Public Schools, is
used to working with corporate sponsors,
such as the PNC Foundation or Sodesko.
The partnership with 313Energy is a bit
From every can produced by 313Energy,
which sells for $2.99, 10 cents will be re-
allocated to three initiatives important to
Tukel and Altman: educating future lead-
ers, rebuilding the city and sponsoring
Detroit events. The DPS Foundation was
the first charity they lined up.
Johnson said the money they receive
from 313Energy will go to support student
learning through the fine arts and STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering and
Manufacturing). She plans to report to
Tukel and Altman exactly how their dona-
tions are being spent.
"It makes me excited to see these young
people wanting to give back:' Johnson
says. "I see what they're doing now and
can only imagine what they'll be doing 20
years from now."
Altman and Tukel say they're excited to
team up with the DPS Foundation. "Their
cause is our cause: to help revitalize the
Landau is proud of his students and
happy he has a hand in developing the
next generation of Detroit 2.0 leaders.
"These are the kinds of entrepreneurs we
need to retain in Detroit:' he says. ❑

A shipment of 313Energy arrives.

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