After seeing the inaccessibility of college campuses for existing food delivery services, Shiva Kittusamy, a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, decided to create his own beverage delivery service specifically for college students and faculty.
“I have always been inspired by Steve Jobs,” Kittusamy said. “I want to create something bigger than myself and leave a lasting impact.”
Kittusamy started his startup, AYCE Delivery Inc in the fall of 2021. Originally a mechanical engineering major with an entrepreneurship minor, Kittusamy switched his major to finance after realizing his goal of working in product design for Apple was no longer what he wanted. He used skills from past work experience and resources from the College of Business to develop his startup.
“Working at the Apple Store taught me about the importance of customer experience,” Kittusamy said. “Eventually, I realized there was no upward mobility there for me. I had learned all I could in that role, and I decided to put all my focus into AYCE.”
Many parts of campus are inaccessible by car, which means customers using other delivery services still have to walk to get their food. With AYCE, beverages are delivered by students, who know how the campus is laid out. AYCE eliminates the necessity of cars, providing employment opportunities to students who do not have cars while also being more environmentally friendly.
“We wanted to make delivery as easy as possible for the consumer,” Kittusamy said. “It defeats the purpose of having to walk somewhere else on campus and pick it up. AYCE allows students to have deliveries brought right to them, no matter where they are.”
AYCE was originally offered as a food delivery service. However, Kittusamy struggled to maintain strong partnerships with local restaurants and felt like he had little control over the customer experience. Frustrated with the lack of progress in growing his startup, he turned to on-campus resources for help.
Kittusamy received advice from Matt Westfield, entrepreneur-in-residence and adjunct professor for the College of Business. He also visited the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship and the Innovation Center to find solutions to help grow AYCE and overcome some of his setbacks.
“I explained my frustrations to a consultant at the Ozmen Center,” Kittusamy said. “They suggested I focus on just beverages, like coffee, instead of food. This gave me more control over the product and the entire experience.”
This summer, AYCE partnered with Buzzed Coffee to create a specialty menu for delivery through the service. All specialty drinks are a flat rate of $8 and non-specialty beverages are $6. These rates include the cost of the beverage as well as the delivery fee. The menu changes every season, so consumers get a new combination of specialty and classic drinks every few months. The specialty menu allows Kittusamy to have complete control of the experience, not just the delivery side of it, and he hopes to continue following this ghost-franchise model for future expansion.
Despite the setbacks he has encountered with AYCE, Kittusamy is confident he can make an impact in Reno and at the University. He hopes to establish headquarters for AYCE in Reno after he graduates next spring and encourages other students to follow their entrepreneurial aspirations.
“It’s okay to fail,” Kittusamy said. “You actually learn the best from failure; it sets you up for succeeding in life.”