Student Entrepreneurs Prepare to Bring ChugaChaga to Market 

From left: UAlbany student entrepreneurs Marc Iskandar, Adam Kaiser, and Luke Evans.  

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 9, 2016) -- Three University at Albany undergrad entrepreneurs are planning to roll out their product – an iced tea made from chaga, a mushroom that grows off birch trees – sometime in March.

Chaga is a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine, and is considered to be an immune-enhancing substance with more antioxidants than blueberries or pomegranates. It also contains prebiotics, which fertilize the good bacteria in the gut.

The iced tea, called ChugaChaga Tree Tea, will sell for $5 per bottle. Co-founders Luke Evans, Marc Iskandar, and Adam Kaiser will be targeting specialty grocers and health food stores including Honest Weight Co-op, Whole Foods Market, Fresh Market, and Price Chopper’s Market 32.

Their target market is “urban millennials,” those willing to pay a higher price for specialty products like kombucha and cold-pressed juices. Three flavors of Tree Tea will be available, including Classic, Peach, and Zero Sugar.

The entrepreneurs have recently returned to Albany from Brooklyn, where they spent the fall taking part in an international business accelerator program called Food-X, which is helping them market their product. They still commute regularly to New York. On campus, they stay in touch with the Albany Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE), a student group sponsored by the Office for Innovation Development and Commercialization (OIDC) and with OIDC Director Theresa Walker.

What advice do they have for other budding UAlbany entrepreneurs?

“I would tell them to utilize the community and network on campus to develop their idea. Programs like the ACE and BlackStone LaunchPad can really help accelerate, commercialize, and bring ideas to market,” said Evans, the company’s CEO/CFO.

“However, my best advice to any entrepreneur or even just a student with an idea, is follow that dream, vision, or calling,” said Evans. “Protect it. Have faith in the process, believe it is possible, and that you can do it. You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”

ChugaChaga Tree Tea can be pre-ordered through the company’s Kickstarter campaign.   

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.