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Branka Vukotic, Demi Kolintzas, and Lindsey Liesenfelt launched their business from IU Northwest classroom

IU Northwest students turn class project into business venture

Contributed By:Erika Rose, IU Northwest Office of Marketing & Communications

Classmates officially launch their online business, Truly Teas, directly from business class

Three women who graduated with their Indiana University Northwest business degrees in 2018 officially launched their online beverage business, Truly Teas, in the presence of their School of Business and Economics (SOBE) peers, mentors, and supporters at an event in August.

While successful entrepreneurs are bred each semester at IU Northwest’s business school, this endeavor is unique, as it is being celebrated as the School’s first exclusively online business launched directly from a class project.

Hearty applause surrounded the women as they ceremoniously clicked the virtual button to officially launch their company website at Truly Teas’ mission is to “provide customers with the best-tasting, all natural, USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified teas for their everyday lives.” The goal is to be as eco-friendly as possible and all packaging is 100 percent recyclable. They sell flavors such as lemon ginger, coconut chai, mint and mango peach, along with sleek tea essentials, like tea infusers and stainless steel bottles.

Demi Kolintzas, 26, of Schererville; Lindsey Liesenfelt, 26, of Cedar Lake; and Branka Vukotic, 33, of Highland, came together as strangers a year ago in Yllka Azemi’s Marketing Strategies class in the fall of 2017. They never imagined their assignment to create a marketing plan would materialize into an actual company just a year later.

As a way to amp up the game and push the students to give their best to the project, Azemi made the final project a class competition, judged by the SOBE faculty. Not surprisingly, the Truly Teas group won first place.

“It started to sink in that we could actually do this while we were in the midst of our class competition,” Liesenfelt said. “All of our professors were watching and they asked us if we were really going to do this, because they thought it was a good idea.”

Azemi said that several days after the semester ended, she received a visit from the young entrepreneurs, who had decided to make their hypothetical tea business a reality.

“I was very excited. We began meeting several times a month if not every other week,” Azemi said. “Everyone from School of Business and Economics came together and helped them with all the pieces that needed to come together. Whether their need was technology, accounting, or communications, the faculty all contributed their individual expertise to help Truly Teas get off the ground.”

For example, the company needed to design a logo, build a website, craft a mission and vision statement, obtain proper certification and more. Because no stone was left unturned for their official launch, the women are already poised for innovation and growth, such as exploring a subscription option.

Vukotic, a full-time mother of three, said that while Azemi’s class competition served as the catalyst, it was truly the culmination of their entire business school education that gave them the tools to launch the venture.

Kolintzas agreed.

“The Marketing Strategies class helped us utilize all the business components in a way that we didn’t realize we could before,” she said. “Through trial and error, we put our ideas together and figured it out for ourselves. This class really allowed us to be creative.”

Helen Harmon, assistant director of graduate and undergraduate programs, praised the women for venturing into territory that is new and somewhat uncharted for new graduates.

“This venture speaks to a generation which is definitely more comfortable with e-shopping and online commerce,” Harmon said. “This is exactly where business is going.”

To learn more, visit Truly Teas on Facebook and Instagram and shop for tea at

Story Posted:08/20/2018

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