Giving Back, Small Business

Energy drink made in the 313 by high schoolers is a new hit

If you visit any gas station or grocer in the metro Detroit area, you are bound to see a fair share of energy drinks on the shelf. All the popular names you may already know and enjoy for that morning or midday boost. But, there is a relatively new brand making its mark and it just so happens, it was created by two ambitious high school students, with strong ties to Detroit and dreams of bubbly beverage greatness.

Housed in the entrepreneurial hub of the M@dison Building downtown, 313 Energy just celebrated its first anniversary. If you talk to founders Matthew Tukel and Sawyer Altman, it’s easy to see they have no plans to slow down or rest on their laurels. What started out as a project for the entrepreneurial club at Frankel Jewish Academy is now gaining thralls of eager energy drink fans near and far.

The original idea was to bottle Detroit water and ship it around the world. After a little reflection and what Altman calls an “epiphany,” they came up with a point of focus, “Detroit doesn’t need water, it needs energy,” and the brand was born.

For those who already know about 313 Energy, you’ll soon notice a new can design featuring a backdrop of the Detroit skyline (The Renaissance Center). You will also notice something else – a new formula, a new flavor (cherry) with single digit grams of cane sugar. Mix in a whole new attitude about the future and you have a stage set for even broader success than they have already experienced.

“We’ve had to make sure our logistics are perfect, our manufacturing is perfect and at the same time, juggle our high school classes and everything else going on,” says Turkel. “It’s been a challenge, but we’ve done it.”

The two have learned firsthand about the challenges of running a business. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East coast, also impacted 313 Energy. Their bottler is located in New Jersey and was hit pretty hard by the storm. Quick decisions had to be made – calls and reroutes and intensity – all in a day’s work in big business.

313 Energy is a little different from the typical. Beyond giving a jolt to your day, the young entrepreneurs also give back – 11-cents from every sale go back to the city we all love, Detroit. That bit of philanthropy is split three ways – supporting the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, physical construction projects and 313-sponsored events aimed at breathing life into the city.

“If you’re going to revitalize the city, the number one thing you have to do is think about the youth,” says Altman. “Some of these young people are going to be the ones in control one day. We all need to pay special attention to those students and help them however we can.”

Along with the new formula and packaging, the guys are about to launch a new, interactive website, where you’ll be able to talk directly to them, share your love for the drink and buy cool stuff – helping the overall cause and supporting the city at the same time.

“We refuel you and then, we refuel the city of Detroit,” says Altman.

“Detroit used to be a cultural epicenter for the whole country. We thought, as young entrepreneurs, we could do something to make a change,” says Tukel.

Ryan Landau ran the entrepreneurial club at Frankel academy where Matt and Sawyer got their start and he now works in the M@dison, helping others get their ideas off the ground. “At the M@dison, we’re developing the next generation of Detroit 2.0 leaders. This is a launching pad to help startups build and grow their business,” he says.

“There is no greater place to start a business anywhere than Detroit. This city is really going to grow and thrive if we have more young people like Matt and Sawyer making their dreams a reality.”

Like Altman says, “If two high school kids like us can do it, anyone can. This is the place to start something cool – start it here, stay here and work in Detroit.”

To keep up with 313 Energy and support them as they support Detroit, visit them on the web.

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