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Students Brew Up Plan for Sustainable Coffee Maker

Two entrepreneurial students with a knack for sustainability recently took home the gold at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, (JPEC) annual Business Model Competition. Raud Kashef, an avid rock climber and entrepreneurial student, and Calvin Peng-Bulgar, an engineering and entrepreneurial student won $1,500 for their plan for a product that blends sustainability, coffee, and the outdoor experience.

 The product, Backcountry Cafe, is a portable mug and compact coffee maker all-in-one that does not sacrifice taste for ease of use. The product acts as a tiny percolator, which uses water on the bottom to garner pressure into a funnel to brew coffee on its upper half.

 The JPEC Business Model Competition is held annually in the spring, and awards $20,000 in cash prizes. Students present their businesses to a panel of experienced business professionals outside the University for the opportunity to win seed funding for their business.

The competition was held over two days, March 28-29. Day 1 was for early stage companies, or companies who are serious about starting a company but are pre-revenue and are showcasing at their first business model competition. Day 2 is for advanced companies, or companies who have won competitions before and potentially want to qualify for the International Business Model Competition.

 Instead of wearing suits like most competitors, Kashef and Peng-Bulgar donned their hiking attire for their presentation to judges. They hoped at best they would get a small finance award, let alone take first place.

 “Calvin and I always like to try our hardest on everything we do and keep our expectations low,” Kashef said. “So, when I found out we won, it definitely came as a bit of shock.”


raud kashef backcountryKashef and Peng-Bulgar, are hoping to unveil their first working prototype of the product, sometime in the near future.

 “The problem with other coffee makers is that they are one of two things,” Kashef said. “They are either small and brew bad coffee, or they are bulky and brew good coffee.”

 The entrepreneurs will be donating 5 percent of all profits to sustainable causes. Causes that they feel are not properly highlight by most businesses.

 “More people need to make more sustainable business ventures,” Peng-Bulgar said. “We need to inspire others to make their own difference.”

 Kashef iterated further on their connection to sustainability, saying as avid rock climbers and adventurers they have garnered a certain respect for the outdoors.

 “As a rock climber you have a special connection to the outdoors,” Kashef said. “Without it, I don’t know how much I would’ve been involved.”

 Peng-Bulgar quoted the famed Oscar Salazar, co-founder of Uber, about the need for social entrepreneurship in society.

“I don’t believe in social entrepreneurship,” Salazar said. “Every entrepreneur has a responsibility to society.”

 The two entrepreneurs wanted to thank all those who had believed in them and their vision. They know there is still a long and exciting road ahead for their business, and they are ready to face it with backpacks on and coffee mugs at the ready.


By Andrew Potocki

News & Events Climate Narrative Blog

Sustainability at Iowa

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