You may have seen Protein Pints in the news recently. Now available for purchase at Bridge Street Market and Grand Rapids City Gym, Protein Pints are tasty ice cream flavors packed with 45 grams of protein. It’s the perfect post work-out treat and alternative to the chalky bars and shakes you’ll find filling aisles in your local grocery store. What you might not know is the product got its start here at Aquinas College.
Former accounting and finance student Paul Reiss and his best friend Michael Meadows long had entrepreneurial aspirations. Their friendship started on the school bus and carried through the years, even as the two of them entered college. When they were both at home in Grand Rapids one summer, they started spitballing ideas, compiling them into a spreadsheet. Most of them were not exactly winners, but protein ice cream seemed promising.
Like many great ideas, it started with a desire. After a workout, Reiss and Meadows were craving ice cream, but also wanted protein to replace all the energy they’d burned. With all the chocolaty protein products on the market, surely someone was selling protein ice cream in stores.
“We looked all over and couldn't find it,” said Reiss. “Then we did an online search, and what do you know? There's no protein ice cream on the market anywhere in North America.”
With that realization, Reiss and Meadows were on their way to starting a business. They bought an ice cream maker off Amazon and got to work formulating recipes. Now, they needed some feedback from their target market. Luckily, Reiss was on the soccer and eSports teams at Aquinas, and the teams were not about to turn down a little free ice cream.
“The first samplings we ever did were with some of the sports teams at Aquinas,” he said. “They actually really helped us get off the ground.”
After 20 recipes, Reiss and Meadows realized that they might need some professional ice cream advice and started looking at local ice cream shops. They found a perfect partner in Love’s Ice Cream founder Chris McKellar. Very few ice cream shops make their product from scratch, but Love’s Ice Cream does and McKellar loved the idea.
“He’s like an ice cream wizard,” said Reiss.
With a recipe nailed down and samples to distribute, the team started entering pitch competitions, including Start Garden 100, the largest pitch competition in the state of Michigan. That’s where they met Meijer representatives who mentored them right into Bridge Street Market, where Meijer tests local products.
Reiss says it was courses at Aquinas that gave him the skills he needed to craft an effective pitch, particularly his communications professor, Dr. David Weinandy.
“Dr. Weinandy was the best,” said Reiss. “I learned that the more I practice, the better I'm gonna get at public speaking. After that class, I would practice pitch literally hundreds of times before presenting it, and we've just been winning almost every pitch competition.”
He was also deeply thankful for his accounting professors: “(Anthony) Burdick and (Kevin) Cantley taught me the importance of tracking your finances and keeping your books straight. Those classes really prepared me to start a company.”
Reiss loves working with Meadows and McKellar, selling a product that’s not only delicious, but helps people reach their fitness goals. He takes pride in how far the company has come. It’s been a long road from the soccer field at Aquinas to Bridge Street Market, and he took it one step at a time.
“It's basically solving 1000s of problems and answering 1000s of questions,” said Reiss. “Every day you solve like three big problems and maybe five small ones. You just do that every single day. And eventually you have a company.”
Check out the Protein Pints website to learn more and head over to Bridge Street Market or Grand Rapids City Gym to try it yourself.