Friendship sparks healthy invention
It is common for groups of friends to sit around, eat junk food and talk about eating healthier, but only a special few have the courage to turn the thought into a reality.
Twin brothers Amin and Amir Bahari, Caleb Bluiett and Moody College of Communication graduate Timothy Cole Jr. loved snacking on donuts. They lived above a donut shop, so the easy access was constant temptation. One day, they thought: would it be possible to make a healthier alternative?
And then came a revelation.
“With our team, the resources that we have around us at the university and the connection that we made, we can really make this into something big,” Amin said.
From there, Elite Sweets was formed, and the plan to create a protein-packed, naturally-sweetened donut was put into action.
Amin Bahari is the CEO of Elite Sweets. He majored in sports management with a minor in business and was a student equipment manager for the UT football team. Amir Bahari majored in economics and directs operations. Bluiett was tight end for the UT football team, majored in physical culture and sports and is one of the co-founders.
Cole also played for the UT football team as linebacker and received his bachelor's degree in corporate communication and a master's in advertising. He is the chief marketing officer.
As a student-athlete, Cole's experience with certain protein snacks was less than satisfactory. After meeting Amin through football and bonding over their love of donuts, it was important to him to create a protein product that served its healthy purpose while also tasting delicious.
Cole used his experience from the Moody College to help him apply different marketing tactics and work in teams similar to those in advertising agencies.
“I learned how to really look at a product and its features and learned to convey it to my audience in an eye-catching way,” Cole said.
They got to work and started making and selling their homemade protein donuts to family, friends, local gyms and on campus. When their product started to receive traction, they saw this as an opportunity to create something bigger.
In 2018, Elite Sweets won a $180,000 grant from WeWork to expand their company and extend their product line.
To better their product, Amin brought on Christopher Jackson and Albert Shaver from the College of Pharmacy to consult with the team. Amin and Jackson met through UT's Facebook page, Buy, Sell, Trade, after Jackson bought a few of Amin's Longhorn polos.
“(Amin) thought that my biochemistry background might help them,” Jackson said. “Amin, Amir and Caleb came by a few days later with their original product, and we tried them and agreed there was room for improvement. We completely started from scratch.”
Their donuts consist of common household and all-natural ingredients, such as almond flour, whey protein base, psyllium husk and stevia. They have four flavors: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Sugar.
“I think it was a no-brainer for us to create a protein donut,” Amin said.
The team is working toward expanding to bigger retailers and nutrition shops, as well as reformulating their product to extend shelf life and developing a new line of vegan products.