When he first sipped a sweet Shirley Temple at his aunt’s wedding as a child, junior Jon Allen said he instantly became hooked on the drink. To this day, he said he still loves ordering it at restaurants.
Allen now hopes to take his passion for the beverage even further with the creation of Classic Red, a company he said will bottle and distribute a sustainable, organic version of the cherry soda traditionally made from ginger ale and grenadine.
Classic Red reached a pinnacle on Sunday when it won the eighth annual E3 Expo, where students exhibit their work from the yearlong Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship program. The showcase, which featured 14 other student enterprises, awarded a total of $20,000 in cash, legal assistance, and public relations services to three winning companies, including Allen’s.
All of the founders gave five-minute presentations to an audience of 51 in the Bill Bordy Theater, and set up booths — with business cards, videos, posters, and other marketing materials — along the walls.
Allen’s venture represents the culmination of an idea that he said has been brewing since high school, when he realized that there wasn’t a dominant brand that sold ready-made Shirley Temples.
His fast-paced presentation on Sunday opened with the “Classic Red Girls” — sophomores Claire and Polly Hilton — who sang and danced to jazzy, upbeat promotional jingles.
“One of them kind of symbolizes the original taste of the Shirley Temple,” said Allen, referring to the Hilton sisters, “and the other one’s [the] organic twist.”
Allen said he has found a company, the name of which he did not disclose because negotiations are ongoing, that will manufacture Classic Red. He said the company has already tasted five different formulations. The funding for these prototypes has come from personal and family funds, he said.
He also has secured its first retail location, the Lambert’s Marketplace in City Place.
“The promotion of the drink, and his vision for it, seems to really show that he’s going to go somewhere with it,” said Noah Bennet, the store’s owner.
Over the next few months, Allen said he will be meeting with investors and retailers in hopes of further financing and distributing Classic Red.
“When I graduate, I definitely see myself being an entrepreneur as my profession,” said the marketing communication major. “I’m not taking this as a project; I’m taking this as a business venture.”
The E3 Expo was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was canceled the day before, during the citywide manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. The search forced Emerson to close on Friday, and made the college’s weekend activities uncertain.
“Under the circumstances, it was not a difficult decision to make,” said Karl Baehr, the E3 program’s creator, of the choice to reschedule the event. “The truth of it is, you’re dealing with people’s safety.”
After the event was reinstated, Baehr also invited Nicholas Reynolds, a junior visual and media arts major, and Chris Dobens, a freshman marketing communication major, to exhibit Boston Strong, a T-shirt campaign that they created to raise money for the victims of the marathon bombing.
Allen said that the swift changes forced students to reassemble their exhibits and prepare for their presentations within 24 hours, but that kind of pressure is typical for startups.
“That’s what entrepreneurship’s about: being in the market and changing, and being able to quickly get it together,” he said.
Real Investments, a real estate company that plans to provide upscale but affordable housing for students, came in second, even though its founder, Tana Bramley, didn’t attend. Instead, Baehr gave her presentation.
Bramley said she works at a real estate company, and Sundays, when open houses are often held, are always busy. She said in an interview that working in the industry, and being a tenant herself, has shown her how the rental process could be improved.
“From my own experience, I’ve always had problems with my landlords, so my goal is to provide better customer service and care and reliability and to be able to utilize technology to do online payments and maintenance requests,” said the junior marketing communication major.
Coming in third place was Fume, an online magazine and marketplace for young artists. Siri Winter, its founder, said she came up with the idea after having a summer job at Christie’s, an auction house for fine art.
“I was working there with these Monets and Picassos, and realized that they’re just so ridiculously overpriced,” said Winter, a junior journalism major. “And although they’re very good artists, I’ve seen a lot of art on the street and through my friends that are young artists — and I wanted to capitalize on that and showcase that.”