UNF entrepreneur corners energy market

Spinnaker

Advisers say students seeking small businesses will face challenges
By: Katie Gile

In a struggling economy, one UNF entrepreneurial student is taking on the world of energy drinks with energy tablets.

Brian Smith, a UNF marketing junior, invented Fighter Energy tablets to take the place of canned and bottled concoctions such as Red Bull and Monster.

Fighter Energy tablets are an improvement on other products in the market, Smith said.

Each five-calorie tablet contains no sugar, 37.5 milligrams of caffeine and 525 milligrams of taurine. It’s this specific combination, Smith said, that gives the product its unique effectiveness.

“All your body really needs to get going is 25-50 milligrams [of caffeine],” Smith said. “Many energy drinks put in upwards of 250 milligrams. A full-grown male shouldn’t have more than 200 milligrams in a day, and people are drinking more than that in a single shot. The taurine [in Fighter Energy] provides you with that clear, awake feeling without giving you the jitters.”

Smith, a former Naval 2nd Class Petty Officer and search-and-rescue swimmer for the U.S.S. Simpson, came up with the idea for the tablets during a night watch. He and his shipmates drank a lot of energy drinks and shots. But they grew tired of caffeine withdrawals as well as the bulk and inconvenience of cans and bottles.

From this dilemma, Fighter Energy was born.

This type of improvement on existing products can be crucial to successful entrepreneurship, said Rick Roberts, director of UNF Career Services.

“I could start a business making paper airplanes,” Roberts said. “But if nobody’s buying, the business would fall flat. You have to have a market strategy describing how you’re going to market your business and what it’s going to do.”

Starting a business is a vastly different animal from maintaining and growing one, said Jared Bailey, a graduate assistant at the UNF Small Business Development Center.

“A lot of people know how to perform a service or provide a product,” Bailey said. “But they’re not experts at selling, advertising or accounting. But you have a strength. You have to to get an idea off its feet. At the SBDC, we also want to make sure you recognize your weaknesses and strengthen them so you can be your best.”

The SBDC offers free one-on-one counseling for budding entrepreneurs and workshops, available for a fee, that cover multiple aspects of small business creation and management, Bailey said.

Before students dive head first into entrepreneurship, Roberts said they should consider the discipline that self-employment requires.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone,” Roberts said. “It’s not something you can do easily. If you start up your own business, you’re telling yourself what to do. You don’t answer to anyone, but it’s a lot of work.”

A person should be highly motivated, organized, conscientious and a self-starter to make it as an entrepreneur, he said.

Bailey said while it takes a large amount of work and money to upstart a business, starting while in college may make it easier to recover from possible losses without causing problems for dependents.

“When you’re young, you have a little less to worry about because you have more years to make money to fix those losses,” Bailey said.

However, Bailey said, being young and green to the business world can make entrepreneurship even more difficult.

“People are looking for a company with a track record,” he said. “And when you’re really new to the business world, it’s harder to get someone to go for what you’re selling.”

Fighter Energy, founded less than a year ago, runs entirely off of contracted workers. Designed to be mobile, Smith uses his computer and phone to manage most aspects of work. While this is working out successfully so far, Smith said he hopes to be able to hire employees on a permanent basis once the business has grown.

Smith said any student looking to follow in his footsteps should first find what they’d be excited to do every day, then keep at it.

“Our government offers the most amazing incentives and opportunities for small businesses,” Smith said. “There’s no excuse for anybody to say they can’t do it. There are tons of business internships that give so much information. All you have to do is a quick search, and you’re there.”

For more information or to purchase Fighter Energy, visit fighterenergystore.com or amazon.com.