Published on 03/29/18

Vegan cupcake startup takes the cake at UGA's 2018 FABricate pitch competition

By Merritt Melancon, Sage Barnard

Three University of Georgia students earned $5,000 to bring their sweet business plan to fruition thanks to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ FABricate entrepreneurship challenge. 

VTasteCakes, a company founded by food industry marketing and administration seniors Jasmyn Reddicks and Tatyana Clark and agricultural communication senior Ayodele Dare won first place in FABricate’s final pitch contest on March 29. All are students in the college.

“This an impressive group of young entrepreneurs,” CAES Dean and Director Sam Pardue told the FABricate spectators. “We are certainly grateful for their ideas. We want to foster creativity and one of the ways we do that is through programs like FABricate.” 

Part of the college’s Food and Agribusiness Entrepreneurial Initiative, the FABricate competition provides students with a platform to expand their business and leadership skills. In the competition, students produce and market new products or services in the agriculture, business, technology or food production sectors. The final presentations were given in the style of “Shark Tank,” the reality TV show in which entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to investors.

This year’s judges included Keith Kelly, owner of Farmview Market in Madison, Georgia; Laura Katz, director of the UGA Small Business Development Center’s Athens, Georgia-area office; and Jim Flannery, an instructor in the UGA Terry College of Business Entrepreneurship Program. 

VTasteCakes’ understanding of the growing market for vegan foods, along with their delicious cupcake recipes, sealed the deal for this year’s FABricate judges. 

Reddicks, the group’s head baker, based her vegan cupcake recipe on one of her grandmother’s cupcake recipes, then tweaked it to increase the vegetable content. They caught the judges’ attention with their products’ rich taste and their health-conscious marketing strategy. They made each cupcake without eggs or dairy products and used vegetable pulp to maintain a moist texture and to add extra nutrients. 

The team plans to use their prize money to expand their product line and to launch a pop-up shop that will serve cupcakes around the Athens community and the UGA campus. 

The competition’s second-place winners, Kona Kola, took home $2,500 to launch their line of cold-pressed and cold-bottled sugarcane juice. John Tarleton, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, teamed up with his sister and brother-in-law, CAES graduate students Alyssa and Lane Flanders, to develop their concept.

They pitched the drink as a natural, fiber-rich alternative to sodas sweetened with refined sugar. 

The third-place team, Wished Trees, founded by CAES agribusiness graduate students Rance Paxton and Mary Kate Bagwell, aimed to connect people who want to plant trees with companies that want to offset their carbon footprints by sponsoring reforestation projects. 

The teams have been honing their concepts since fall. 

“Since October of last year, each team has spent hundreds of hours perfecting their business ideas,” said Hannah Rull, contest coordinator and former contestant.

Teams worked with Four Athens, an Athens-based entrepreneurship resource center, and hosted think-tank seminars with local entrepreneurs to work through their ideas.

The prize money for this year’s competition was contributed by Kelly and Farmview Market; Caroline Bakker Hofland, president and CEO of CBH International; and the Terry College Entrepreneurship Program. 

For more information about the FABricate program, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

Sage Barnard is a student writer for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension.

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