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Lengthy drives flip Greenville software program engineer into sweet entrepreneur > GSA Enterprise

Don Li’s stressed soul saved him on the highway. Quite a bit.

The longtime software program engineer made his residence in Virginia for some time, however he has loved exploring new locations during the last 30 years, residing in 5 states throughout the South, together with two components of South Carolina.

That restlessness saved him behind the wheel for lengthy miles and lengthy hours. To remain alert, he drank espresso—a number of it. The java saved him alert, one thing he anticipated. And it turned him into an entrepreneur, one thing he didn’t.

When inspiration struck, Li left behind his profession as a software program engineer to pursue an thought from the highway—edible espresso, a caffeinated product that does not result in restroom breaks throughout lengthy drives.

“As soon as this concept got here to me, that is like a second of your life that you just wish to soar on,” he stated. Immediately Li is founding father of Greenville-based COG LLC and developer of the corporate’s solely product thus far: Espresso Sweet.

The primary iteration of edible espresso was baked items.

“However brownies are good for right this moment or two days, three days most,” Li stated. “Then I pivoted to espresso sweet, which is nice for six months, 9 months and even longer.”

For now the corporate is a one-person present, with Li contracting out duties akin to internet improvement and packaging design. The sweet is made at Previous Mill Kitchen and Commissary. By means of trial and error he has refined the product to its present type.

“Strive it. You’ll prefer it,” he stated throughout a current style check, and nudged ahead a three-piece bundle of Espresso Sweet. He waited confidently whereas somebody new tried the product. It is chewy however agency, maybe just a little extra so than taffy, with a daring and considerably candy espresso taste.

“It is someplace between laborious and delicate,” he says. “It is actually good, huh? It additionally accommodates some vitamins, however total it provides you a lift.”

There are different coffee-flavored candies however the one one Li has discovered that delivers a caffeine enhance like Espresso Sweet is a tough sweet product from Indonesia, he stated. That firm grew from startup to a billion-dollar enterprise in about 5 years, and Li himself isn’t pondering small.

He stated some large espresso corporations have reached out to him however he has not returned these calls, preferring for now to maintain it native and regional. He has tapped in to native bankers (who additionally turned his first clients) and the experience of NEXT, the Greenville Chamber’s entrepreneurial help group, the place he has discovered mentorship.

He stated his product is scalable and, when sate Agriculture Division approval is in hand, able to develop.

“My objective is to deliver it to the market and down the highway have each espresso lover to turn out to be our clients,” Li stated. “We are going to then go for retail distribution with Walmart, Goal and all that.”

Li stated he believes his product is not going to compete with espresso in its conventional liquid type, however have a spot alongside these merchandise which have grown in reputation. He thinks Espresso Sweet can be significantly helpful for folks like truck drivers, manufacturing unit employees and building crews who do not wish to take the time for a restroom break.

“The important thing factor I imagine is comfort,” he stated. “And we do not image changing folks’s behavior. We’re complementary. Starbucks and all the opposite espresso outlets—they’re all good, proper? We simply wish to deliver to {the marketplace} a espresso product that gives comfort for espresso lovers.”

The product is out there for particular person orders on-line at www.eatcoffee.web and a few clients order instantly from him. Some employers have ordered it by the case for his or her employees and not less than one firm plans so as to add it to the breakroom merchandising machine.

“You simply put it into your mouth and get caffeine however you do not have to go to the restroom,” Li stated, and tapped on a pattern bundle. “As soon as we get going, this man may turn out to be enormous. It tastes good, proper?”

Attain Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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