After spending four years as one of Georgetown football’s most consistent and reliable wide receivers, senior Jake DeCicco will graduate from the McDonough School of Business with far greater a legacy than his athletic and academic accomplishments.
Since February of 2015, DeCicco’s junior year, he has been an integral part of Sunniva Caffe, serving as its chief operating officer. Beginning with a pitch competition, Sunniva went from coffee specially made for DeCicco’s younger brother Jordan at Philadelphia University to a blooming business that will now serve as the senior receiver’s immediate career path.
“We pitched at Georgetown in the StartupHoyas Pitch Competition,” DeCicco said. “We were finalists, and as a result we got into the StartupHoyas summer launch program. Going into the summer, we knew this was something we wanted to develop into a national brand. This [past] summer was a foundation, and it was a transition period.”
The DeCicco brothers brought on their Wall Street-experienced third brother, Jim, and continued to market Sunniva as healthy, delicious bottled coffee that also serves as an energy drink.
Using the summer as a full-time work opportunity, DeCicco and his brothers built Sunniva up and sold it to what is now more than 100 Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic, North Atlantic and Northeast regions.
Sunniva Caffe is also sold at Students of Georgetown, Inc. locations around Georgetown’s campus. With even more plans for expansion over this coming summer, DeCicco now carries the title of StartupHoyas’ Entrepreneur of the Year.
“After graduation … we will be back full time, locally based … Our growth strategy is to grow from D.C. all the way up to Maine,” DeCicco said. “[There are] 103 Whole Foods that we will be moving into and 111 specialty accounts — universities, gyms. … Occupying the Northeast is our summer expansion plan.”
Beyond just the corporate experience, however, Sunniva has taught DeCicco many lessons about life at Georgetown and beyond. He has since widened his perspective, connecting business, athletics and more.
“It definitely let me appreciate my academics. It might sound cliche, but as an athlete, athletics is all of your time. Academics were something that was there, to play athletics,” DeCicco said. “My focus was athletics; academics was a second priority. Entrepreneurship and athletics competed for that head to head. The way I saw my MSB classes and how they affected my business, I became much more engaged in the classroom.”
His engagement in the classroom helped give DeCicco a heightened experience at Georgetown, despite his overstretched schedule. The time commitments of football, academics and Sunniva equated to having three full-time jobs amid the inherently hectic nature of senior year.
“The best piece of advice through this process was from a fellow Hoya, Ann Yang (SFS ’16), who [co-founded] the Misfit Juicery. She said to me, at the beginning of the summer startup launch program, ‘Hey, senior year starts, you need to ask yourself if this is something worth giving up parts of your senior year for. There will be times when you will have to choose not going to senior night [at The Tombs] because you have a meeting Thursday morning,’” DeCicco said.
DeCicco did not stop connecting the different parts of his schedule or let his lives and jobs exist separately. Using the football team’s existing camaraderie, he received feedback and takeaways from the team on his product.
“My teammates were our focus groups. Those were the guys that were testing our stuff, letting us know what tasted good, if it was too sweet, how much protein they wanted,” DeCicco said. “The support that came from that was beyond anything I could expect. It really shows you that all those guys are your brothers and they helped so much.”
Looking back on his time at Georgetown, as an athlete, student and entrepreneur, DeCicco has made an impact beyond the field. And with 1,553 career receiving yards and seven touchdowns to his credit, that truly is a special accomplishment. In his humble words, his work ethic is nothing special, but instead is emblematic of any Georgetown student.
“If you look around, everyone is grinding nonstop so I think being an athlete helped, personally, but this is such a fast-paced environment,” DeCicco said. “The Georgetown mentality is more of a reflection of ‘Get the job done. If you’re not busy, you’re probably just lazy.’ That’s the Georgetown approach.”
Regardless, DeCicco’s accomplishments should not be understated. While juggling football, the rigors of the MSB and a position as COO of a successful startup company, DeCicco has excelled in all three and left a legacy that can be seen almost anywhere on campus.
“Nothing is as exciting as walking through [Lauinger Library] and seeing someone drinking it. I was leaving Lau at 1:30 a.m. after writing a paper, and I saw a group of three girls coming in and they were talking about how they were pulling an all-nighter, and all three of them had a Sunniva,” DeCicco said. “That was one of the times when I thought, ‘This is awesome.’”
Now moving on from Georgetown with a successful and budding business and immediate and concrete goals for the future, DeCicco would not be where he is today without the Georgetown community. As he prepares to graduate on Saturday, he said he remains forever grateful to the place that gave him so much.
“I view Georgetown as the best decision I have ever made,” DeCicco said. “There is something special about this campus, the kids that go here, the community around it. Hoyas helping Hoyas is a real thing, and this is such a special place.”