The man on the left in the photo is Jesse Wolfe. Two years ago, he finished third in the Joust. His company, O’Dang Hummus (@odanghummus) seeks to be the Ben and Jerry’s of hummus. Jesse owns a blender, an unlimited supply of chickpeas, a contagious personality, and a knack for storytelling. What he doesn’t own is ego. Jesse is coachable–he recognizes his weaknesses and is willing to collaborate with others to improve his skills and business plan.
After his third place finish in the Joust, he started selling his 47 flavors of hummus at local Farmers’ Markets. I strongly suspect that his production process is similar to what Penny on the Big Bang Theory used when she invented “Penny Blossoms.” I also know his margins are better than Penny’s. When Jesse isn’t at Farmers’ Markets or in class, I’m pretty sure he lives in the “Upstarts” space in BA-1, getting advice from people like Steve Felkowitz and improving his business plan. Almost every time I go by that space —morning, noon, night, weekends –Jesse is there.
About a month ago, O’Dang Hummus, along with three other UCF student-lead teams, got invited to New York City to compete in the Blackstone Launchpad business plan competition. There he and his partner Ryan Andrew (the guy on the right in the photo) would compete against19 other teams representing 15 universities pitching ideas that ranged from making space travel affordable, to a laundry service on bikes, to selling camel’s milk. Note that UCF had 4 of the 20 teams in this competition–Cameron is rightly very proud.
Our students pitched their ventures on the 18th floor of the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue. Two of our teams made it to the finals, beating contestants from schools like USC, UCLA, Temple, and UM. When it was all done, UCF had the highest placing student run team. Jesse and Ryan’s O’Dang Hummus finished second overall, just behind a three year old company started by a faculty member that already had 30 employees. Jesse and Ryan’s passion grabbed the judges, their plan showed them the numbers worked, and their knowledge convinced potential investors that they could trust Jesse and Andrew to realize the vision. You can read about it all by clicking here. After the event, Blackstone asked Jesse and Ryan to delay their departure home so that they could meet with Blackstone’s catering staff on a special event that would feature their product.
The path that “gets you to the one” often takes you far from your comfort zone (it was the guys first time in NYC), and over difficult terrain (third place finishes). Frequently it requires you to find collaborators along the way (Ryan, Steve) and takes you to a place where passion collides with cold hard data (a business plan competition judged by seasoned investors). But “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” and be the one that lands the big check. Well done guys, well done.