Rowan alumni, founders of popular soft drink line, named to Forbes 30-Under-30 list

Rowan alumni, founders of popular soft drink line, named to Forbes 30-Under-30 list


Two graduates of Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business (RCB) enter a new class for 2023: the Forbes 30-under-30.

Entrepreneurs Mike Lombardo ’18 and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh ’19 started healthful beverage company HALFDAY Tonics while still undergraduates and, today, sell their product line in more than 1,500 U.S retailers, including Target and Publix stores.

The company, which emphasizes “low sugar” and “good for your gut” prebiotics across its line of healthful teas, received an early investment of $75,000 from the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund that, Lombardo said in August, “gave us a lot of credibility and made an easier pitch to investors.” The RIVF this summer grew from $5 million to $25 million to support business startups throughout the region.

Ultimately, Lombardo said, he and Jahanbakhsh raised about $1 million in first-round funding for HALFDAY.

“We needed (funding) to get off the ground, to get product in stories, to hire a field team,” Lombardo said. “The biggest thing is having capital. We needed capital to get started and to support it and that includes marketing.”

In joining the Forbes 30-under-30 list this week, Lombardo and Jahanbakhsh become part of a group that, the magazine’s editors wrote, represent “tomorrow’s brightest young leaders (who) are turning to entrepreneurship to solve the world’s biggest problems – on their own terms.”

Jahanbakhsh, a finance major, and Lombardo, who studied marketing at Rowan, pursued their dream well before graduating, taking part in three RCB programs – the Idea Challenge, the New Venture Competition and the Summer Accelerator – all of which help students develop ideas for promising businesses.

“They absolutely put us in a frame of mind for success,” Lombardo said.

In making the 30-under-30 list, the duo join what Forbes calls a group of "up-and-coming superstars from the worlds of restaurants, farming, packaged food, alcohol and recipe development.”

Dr. Eric Liguori, who heads the RCB’s School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, said Rowan embraces entrepreneurship across disciplines.

“Entrepreneurship doesn’t always require a lot of capital to get started,” Liguori said. “Kayvon and Mike weren’t entrepreneurship majors, but they engaged in Rowan’s entrepreneurship community, enabling them to bootstrap the launch of HALFDAY by leveraging resources including non-equity seed funding, competition prize money, alumni connections and equity investment.”

The Princeton Review in 2022 named the RCB’s entrepreneurship program a Top 50 in the U.S. and the program moved up six places in that study for 2023.