Voices and Ideas

ΦΒΚ member Nellie Coffy on Being a Young Entrepreneur

By Martha Delgado  

Nellie Coffy’s initial plans after graduation were to attend law school. However, after the 2016 presidential election, Coffy came to the realization that in order for her to make change in the world, it would be through business. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and a minor in French, she went to work for Google in sales. 

While at Google, Coffy met Jocelyn Stradiotto, and together they would found Sun Chaser. Sun Chaser is an alcohol-free and caffeine-free beverage that creates a “buzz-like feeling,” as described on the product website. Launching in February 2020, the product has also been described as an “alternative to alcohol.” 

“Know the path is unknown and will feel uncomfortable,” Coffy said in regards to navigating entrepreneurship on her own. One of the takeaways Coffy has for aspiring entrepreneurs is to establish good communication with their business partners who have similar goals. In Coffy’s case, her and Stradiotto’s skills complement each other. Their shared excitement over the product also helped them while they searched through various medical journals to find the combination that would become Sun Chaser.

Keeping the big picture in mind becomes a daily ritual for those wanting to remain hopeful. So, Coffy also advises young entrepreneurs to stay positive. “What you are doing is creating something from nothing. You are selling not only yourself but also everyone else,” she explained.

Coffy is passionate about the value of liberal arts. While a degree in business would have been what most entrepreneurs pursued, Coffy remained in international relations, and the abilities she gained through her college studies have continued to assist her on her journey. Through the liberal arts, Coffy learned to be comfortable in the face of uncertainty along with other skills. “Liberal arts taught me how to solve problems in uncertain situations, which I need to know as an entrepreneur,” Coffy said. 

Problem solving has been a skill that aided Coffy on her journey, and it is one that she recommends others work to strengthen. For aspiring entrepreneurs, Coffy suggests to grow your network, be optimistic, and stay resilient.

For Coffy, being a ΦΒΚ member means being part of a community that extends throughout the world and supports those trying to find their path. Being inducted into ΦΒΚ was validation that all her hard work had paid off. “I’m a part of a group of accomplished, high-impact people that I can call on as I build my drive—that is powerful,” Coffy elaborated.

Being part of ΦΒΚ has not only validated her work and accomplishments but also has helped her feel that her mission as an entrepreneur is being supported. “It comes with a level of credibility that really values where you go,” Coffy said. 

For now, Coffy is focused on growing Sun Chaser and possibly creating more products. “My goal is to create products that solve problems . . . and spark joy,” Coffy explained. As a young Black woman, Coffy hopes to become a role model for other women of color. “I want to show girls you don't have to climb the ladder but build your own,” she said.

Martha Delgado earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from UC Riverside, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in May 2019. UC Riverside is home to the Iota of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. 

(Posted on 2/2/2020 )