KENNEWICK, Wash. — A Tri-Cities startup is in the running for a $50,000 grant, and they need the help of the community to pass the finish line.
Bissy is a fair trade energy drink created by Kamiakin High grads James Swinyard and Zach En’Wezoh. It’s made out of natural, plant-based ingredients and comes in a sustainable, glass bottle. The drink’s 160mg of caffeine comes from the kola nut – a fruit grown in Nigeria.
The company recently made it into the top six out of 250-plus applicants for the “Orgain Grants for Greater Good” competition. The program ranked applicants based on three criteria – 50% social mission, 25% innovation and 25% scalability.
“I think as they were reviewing our application and looking at all of the momentum we’ve gotten from Kickstarter and some of the partnerships that we formed in Nigeria with our farmers and processors, I think it was just really good alignment for them and it excited them,” said James.
That partnership has been the main focus of the project from the beginning for James and Zach. They currently support seven Nigerian farmers by buying their product and having it shipped to the U.S.
“We’re excited to be aligned with someone who’s forward-thinking and looking at the world and business as a way to help people,” James said about being nominated for the grant.
The pandemic, however, has slowed down some of their efforts to grow. Along with shipping being affected, Bissy was potentially going to sponsor a large music festival in mid-March. That was postponed due to the coronavirus.
“We’ve just kinda had to pivot a little bit,” said Zach. “But we’ve still stuck to our social mission and stuck to our plan of being able to offer new products in a few months.”
Those new products include carbonated drinks and bags of pure, kola nut powder.
If they win the grant, the money will come at a good time.
“This will be a huge boost to be able to accomplish our fair trade certification, to be able to do a production run with these new products and then be able to even take a trip out to Nigeria and make sure everyone’s taken care of in our supply chain,” said Zach.
In order to earn the $50,000, Bissy must make it into the top three. The two are hoping they can do so with the help of the community, who they say, have supported them from the beginning.
“The response from the Tri-Cities was overwhelming,” said James. “We’re certain that we can count on the Tri-Cities again to help get us over this hurdle.”
Votes can be made here once a day through May 25th.
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