This story is part of a series highlighting student startups and entrepreneurship in the Syracuse Student Sandbox during the 2013 summer residency.

By: Hailey Temple

The Halo Beverage Company, now a startup at the Syracuse Student Sandbox, was founded with the humblest of beginnings – on the floor of a residence hall at Syracuse University. When Syracuse University student and company founder Austin Miller was a freshman, he found that his mother and many others with dairy or soy allergies needed a milk alternative that tasted good and was nutritious. Determined to find a solution, Miller borrowed goods from his floor mates to produce his first batch of rice milk.

“When I first tried rice milk, it was nasty, watery, and wasn’t really something I would consider replacing milk with in my diet. I thought I could do a better job, so I began making rice milk and asking my floor mates to try it – some more willing than others,” said Miller, now a junior studying international relations and economics at SU's College of Arts and Sciences.

After testing and researching different batches of rice milk, Miller entered his product in several business competitions across the country. Halo Beverage Company’s rice milk boasted a milky consistency and health benefits, including being additive-free and full of nutrients. As Miller continued to develop his business plan, he was a semi-finalist at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization National Elevator Pitch Competition and the Panasci Business Plan Competition, where he was able to focus on his business plan and understand his competition and consumer demographics.

“The iSchool and Whitman have fantastic infrastructures that helped me get what I needed. As I was developing my business plan for the competition, they helped me assess facets of my business that I didn’t look at before. It was a great way to look at a business concept and see if it was really feasible before I began,” said Miller.  

Miller and Steve Pincus, a junior studying management at Syracuse University, continue to research methods to make a more flavorful and nutritious milk substitute than what is offered on the market. The Halo Beverage Company plans to release two beverages: a milk substitute and a bottled fruit juice smoothie. Miller and Pincus will also be studying abroad in Hong Kong during the fall semester, where they hope to learn more about the industry and connect with other companies in Asia.

Since joining the Student Sandbox, The Halo Beverage Company has grown through the help of support and mentorship. With the “real feel” of a business he feels at the Student Sandbox and the company of other student startups, Miller notes that he feels the space allows him to focus on the success of the business and to collaborate with others. The Student Sandbox also helped him connect with the CEO of Cheribundi, a beverage company based in Ithaca, New York, who he can ask for advice about the beverage industry.

Equipped with the resources and knowledge from his peers and mentors at the Student Sandbox, Miller continues to research and develop his company. As for other budding entrepreneurs, he encourages students to reach out to the people available to help at Syracuse University and follow your passion for your business idea. “Syracuse University offers several great startup incubators where students can go and explore their ideas. Don't be afraid to jump in and take the risk. As a college student you really have nothing to lose, and now is the time to give your idea the chance to grow.”