Student Start-Up to Begin Liquor, Beer Delivery in State College
For those 21 and older souls, life is about to get a whole lot better at Penn State. Aqua Vitae, a business created by current Penn State student Suresh Rajan, will begin delivering alcohol right to your door this year.
The company is one of the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. While there are some companies that deliver both groceries and alcohol, as far as Rajan knows, his start-up is the only one in the state that specializes in alcohol. Some other states with different liquor laws offer similar services, but this is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.
As the company’s founder and president, Rajan keeps himself busy as a senior pursuing a double major in Economics and International Politics. He describes himself as “a coffee lover, a drummer, and someone with an irresistible desire to always be doing something.”
Along with the fact that we met up at the HUB Starbucks, a look at his resume proves this to be true: he was a drummer in the Penn State Blue Band, was heavily involved in the entrepreneurship group Innoblue, and directed Lion Launch Pad.
In a college town the size of State College, it’s almost crazy to think that alcohol delivery hasn’t been explored yet. The idea started the summer after sophomore year when Rajan looked at the fraternity system and saw a problem. He realized that fraternities are not allowed to have kegs, which means they end up going to beer distributors and making several trips, which can ultimately take more than an hour for one party. Originally, his plan was to rent a van and serve as a delivery service during the weekend, maybe delivering 300 cases, and then taking a cut.
After a couple of months, he realized how small that market actually is — now the business has evolved to the point where the goal is to serve any individual over the age of 21 who wants alcohol delivered to their front door. The business doesn’t even serve fraternities right now for risks associated with license suspension for underage and excessive drinking.
On that note, Rajan brought up a question he gets asked frequently: “Do you feel you are promoting alcoholism?” As valid as that question is, his answer is even better: “No, I don’t promote alcoholism any more than OrderUp promotes obesity.” Considering the fact that you can have your McDonald’s delivered to your door, this is a pretty fair comparison.
To place an order, customers can visit the website. From there, patrons put in their address, at which point they will tell you what beverages are available and which distributors carry them. In most cases, delivery will be complete in less than an hour. Likewise, super express delivery will be available for an up-charge.
In the past month, Aqua Vitae acquired a license to deliver alcohol, a process which can take months. More than a year later, the start-up now seems to have a sustainable plan.
To assure that his company is not serving anyone under the age of 21, it is utilizing a third party service that can do age verification based on your credit or debit card. Likewise, when the company delivers the order, it will also scan your I.D. and use an app to take a picture of your face when you are signing for it. These measures will work to ensure that the person whose name is on the order is also the person who is picking it up (meaning minors won’t be able to use their parent’s credit card to order from Aqua Vitae).
Likewise, Aqua Vitae won’t deliver or even place advertisements on campus. The only trace people will see walking to class is information about jobs and positions, such as notices that the company is looking for drivers.
Aqua Vitae (which means “the water of life” in Latin) will launch in the coming months, although an exact date has not been set. The company will start out with a soft launch, which should last about a week. After that initial week, they plan to shut down for a few weeks in order to fix any problems that will come up and add new services. At that point, Aqua Vitae will open up for good.
In the weeks prior to the launch, Aqua Vitae is hoping to hold events at Cafe, Pickles, and Skeller, where Rajan will host games and introduce the brand to people over 21. Likewise, Rahan plans to solidify partnerships with local alcohol retailers and distributors. He urges anyone interested in joining the ambassador program for some real marketing experience to tweet it at @AValcohol, post on its Facebook page, or email it at [email protected].
As a start-up owner, Rajan is looking for ways to get into all different segments of the market, as different people consume alcohol in different ways and at different times. Although it is a college town, a goal of the company is to also cater to the adults in State College and create a better experience for them.
One of the things that Rajan is most proud of is the fact that it is a Penn State start-up. What started as a single person’s idea has come to fruition completely through Penn State students and faculty. Rajan says that since he started at Penn State, it has only gotten better. In fact, he thinks that he was, “born too early, because there are so many awesome resources available now.”
Some other Penn State students instrumental to the team: Fiachra “Feek” McDermott, an IST design and development major who worked as the lead developer; Jordan Smith, a mechanical engineering major who worked to develop the business and served as the marketing lead; and Sara Silversmith, a graphic design major who helped with graphic design.
Above all else, Rajan credits his Penn State education; without all the opportunities Penn State offers its students, he says he would have never changed majors, realized his true passion, and brought a resource to State College that students and adults will both enjoy.