Two RIT Students are Thirsty for Business Success
Sept. 20, 2004
by Marcia Morphy
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Here's a drink to your health: Famous body builder Ernie Taylor blends two cans of tuna fish, a diet Coke, and a banana-and he drinks it twice a day.
Or there's Anatoly Shilman's meal replacement smoothies: Flavors like chocolate and peanut butter that taste like a Reese's candy bar or fruit juice mixed with frozen berries and a fresh banana that resembles a thick and creamy milkshake.
Both are this month's featured favorites at Shaker's Blends, a new juice bar located at Rochester Institute of Technology's new Gordon Field House and Activities Center. Shilman, a fifth year student in RIT's College of applied Science and Technology, adds extra protein to his drinks to make them “as nutritional as Ernie's but they taste a heck of a lot better!”
Shaker's Blends is an entrepreneurial success story for Shilman and his partner, Marc-Anthony Arena, who opened the juice bar on campus three weeks ago. Shilman, a certified personal trainer and former nutrition consultant in New York City, is mainly responsible for the smoothie recipes. Arena-a senior in business management at RIT's College of Business-“is the adventure capitalist who thrives on making things happen,” says Shilman.
Shaker's Blends began as an ambitious project entry in RIT's Undergraduate Business Plan Competition last January. Shilman and Arena, who are close friends and fraternity brothers in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, received a third-prize award of $1,000 for their Shaker's Blends plan.
“But we're number one because we have turned our plan into a real business,” says Shilman. “We couldn't have done it without the support of RIT and the people who believed in us, like Richard DeMartino (assistant professor of management in the College of Business) and Jim Watters (RIT's vice president of finance and administration). Whenever we encountered a problem, they helped us with a solution.”
Shaker's Blends is a sleek, black-boxed square in the second floor entry of the Gordon Field House, garnished with typical and atypical items: orange-yellow lava lamp, protein bars, bodybuilder magazines, hot coffee from Spin Café on Park Avenue, and a signed photograph of Arnold Schwarzeneger.
“I met the governor of California at the Arnold Classic for bodybuilders in Ohio,” says Shilman, “and he gave me a thumbs up. He thought the idea of a juice bar located in an athletic center was the nutrition of the future, a replacement for fast food.”
Since protein shakes are 90 percent of the revenue at Shaker's Blends, Shilman continually devises new recipes.
“Try adding something like lemon ice tea to a chocolate shake-it's fantastic,” explains Shilman. “Although we've used traditional juices like apple and cranberry, I'd like to experiment with mango, pineapple and guava. Every Friday is my laboratory session where I experiment and offer customers free samples. At RIT, there are plenty of guinea pigs,” he says with a grin.
With their business booming, Shilman and Arena hope to sell the idea of Shaker's Blends in athletic centers on campuses across the Northeast.
“I'm an immigrant from Russia who came to the U.S. in 1990, and learned English in about a month because cable TV does wonders,” explains Shilman. “I'm the first of my family to ever graduate from college and always told my parents when I was little that I would make my first million before I was 25,” says Shilman, now 23.
“Maybe with the success of Shaker's Blends, I'll help pay back my family for everything they've sacrificed so I could come to RIT.”