Jordan DeCicco, then a basketball freshman at Philadelphia University, couldn't stay awake in his 8 a.m. accounting class after early morning practice. He went looking for bottled coffee to bring to practice, but he couldn't find any that wasn't packed with sugar and artificial ingredients.
"It was loaded with sugar and cream and milk," said Jordan. "It was a big issue." On Sundays, Jordan brewed his own "super coffee" that traded in sugar with healthy fats, such as coconut oil.
He'd bring his coffee to practice and class. Soon his friends, teammates and classmates were asking for some of his "Super Coffee." Once Jordan realized he had a potential business on his hands, he called the two people he knew shared the same values as him and could take the business to the next level – his two older brothers, Jake and Jimmy.
Now Super Coffee is sold in most college cafeterias and stores such as Wawa, Wegmens and Whole Foods. Business News Daily chatted with Jordan, Jake, and Jimmy about starting a business in a dorm room, and how they make working with family a benefit.
Advantages of working with family
Working with family comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. One major advantage is trusting and really knowing your business partners. Instead of asking his friends or teammates, Jordan, the youngest brother and founder of Kitu Life, decided to ask his brothers for help.
"We are really close in age and have a really good relationship," Jordan told Business News Daily. He knew they all shared the same values and would never risk compromising their values to get ahead.
The brothers came together and started to work toward a common goal – to create better coffee.
"We are about positive energy for a positive life," said Jordan. "We wanted to make something that would make everyone's day a little better while making them a little better."
"The best part [of working together] is that it's a value-based system, and we are committed to the bigger picture," said Jake, the middle brother and COO. "We are able to stay pretty even-keeled and keep our eye on the prize."
Another major plus for the three is that they all live in the same apartment and are continually bouncing ideas off each other and improving their products.
"We live together, and it allows us to work seven days a week," said Jake. "There is no unplugging, and we keep the positive energy flowing."
Disadvantages of working with family and finding work-life balance
One of the biggest challenges for family businesses is managing a working and personal relationship. Individuals who work with family may have problems setting boundaries so the business doesn't take away from family time. The three DeCiccos sometimes struggle with this.
"I think the biggest con for us is never being able to unplug, which is good but definitely a con," Jake told Business News Daily. The brothers recently took their first vacation since starting their company in 2015. While they were in Italy celebrating their dad's 50th birthday, they found themselves talking about coffee and forced themselves to stop.
Jim, the oldest brother and CEO, says he thinks one disadvantage is their lack of business experience. "When it comes to things like organization, communication, we are learning on the go. It's complicated."
Make the most out of every experience
It's important to make the most of every experience. When you're just starting your business, there are likely going to be a lot of bumps in the road. But how you react to the bumps is what dictates your success.
In June 2017, the three brothers went on "Shark Tank" to pitch Kitu Life. While they walked away without a deal, they made the most of the experience.
"We truly believe in creating your own luck," said Jim. "'Shark Tank' is what you make it. We made the most of it, and it worked to tell our story."
When they filmed the episode, some of the sharks didn't like the aftertaste of the coffee. Instead of being frustrated with the lack of a deal, they altered their coffee recipe. "We are always changing it to make it as good as it can be," said Jim.
Now when they introduce their products to new stores, they promote it with "Seen on 'Shark Tank.'" This way, consumers know there is a story behind their product.
Be competitive and take risks
Some of the best business owners are competitive and risk-takers. All three brothers were college athletes, so they're not strangers to competition. While they'd get into arguments on the field growing up, they're on the same team now, and it's less internal competition and more external competition.
They still have some arguments like most business partners and brothers do, but they're productive and are about improving the business. "The most heated conversations we have are subjective, like what should the bottle look like or what should the new products be called," said Jim.
When they decided to focus on the business, they went all in. Jordan quit college, and Jim left his job on Wall Street. When they told their parents about their plan, they weren't happy.
"I had to convince them with my passion and vision," said Jordan.