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FMU students go ‘bananas’, win $5K in start-up funds

5/5/2014, 10:31 a.m.

A group of Florida Memorial University (FMU) students recently won $5,000 in start-up funds at a two-day business plan competition at Florida Atlantic University.

Trendolyn Hopkins, Juan Brown, Michael Baptiste and H.E. Neter Kush Ben Alkebulan earned the prize after winning the People's Choice Award, capping an intense weekend of competition between aspiring entrepreneurs.

Hopkins received a thunderous standing ovation after articulating her presentation to investors and judges.

The students were part of the Fresh Start Beverage Company, a team led by Alkebulan, chief beverage officer, who pitched their business to a panel of judges and investors in Boca Raton. The group competed in the Entrepreneur Track event. They went up against community businesses and seven other aspiring entrepreneurs who were seeking their big break. In addition to cash, the prizes also included legal and business services along with office space at FAU’s Research Park Authority. Winners also earn the chance to advance to state and national competitions for more opportunities to sell their business plans to executives and businessmen.

The event was held April 10 and 11.

Alkebulan and his team participated in the competition as part of the College of Business program at FMU.

Chief Technology Officer, Baptiste says that they will use the prize money for product design and packaging.

Alkebulan and his mother took their ancestors' recipe and created the alternative milk beverage in his aunt’s kitchen in Mobile, Ala.

“Our mission is to make humanity, healthy, happy and strong one refrigerator at a time,” Baptiste said. “We had a really great time and got a lot of great responses.”

The Fresh Start Beverage Company was able to mingle with many people high up in the food and beverage industry.

“We received so much counseling and advice, it’s not finalized yet but we are going to try Please turn to FMU 8D

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and get our beverage in PDQ restaurants — they said they would like to work with us,” Alkebulan said.

Alkebulan and his team are set out to build a presence in the community.

“I knew that there was a need for it because of people like myself, I am lactose intolerant and I like non-diary options,” Alkebulan said. “It is a very viable business for myself and my family [and] for the world.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 78 million adults and about 12.5 million children and adolescents are obese in the U.S.

“Fresh Start Beverage Company clearly sees a void in the universe of the non-dairy beverage market that needs to be filled,” Alkebulan said. “Fortunately nature has coalesced all of the characteristics desired by health conscious consumers into an all-natural non-dairy beverage that healthy holistics call banana milk.”

One of Alkebulan's products, Banana Wave, is a milk made from bananas — the liquid produced from pureed bananas combined with other super-foods that fuse together for one great “yummy taste.”

Banana Wave is an all-natural non-dairy beverage, with heart healthy ingredients, sufficient protein fiber and has more potassium than most alternative milk beverages.