Dylan Schuett and Joey Stanizzi

‘Underdog’ UNE students develop energy drink tailored for college athletes

Dylan Schuett and Joey Stanizzi both transferred to UNE with a plan to grow their startup business. They found the perfect partner at UNE’s College of Business to do so.

Underdog Energy

Two University of New England student-athletes have developed an energy drink that helps college athletes get an edge and stay within NCAA compliance.

Dylan Schuett (Biological Sciences, ’25) and Joey Stanizzi (Exercise Science, ’25) are the co-founders of Underdog Energy, a beverage that is more of a supplement than the typical energy drink found in gas stations. The two entrepreneurs, both UNE hockey players, saw an opportunity to get into the competitive energy drink market when they noticed many popular brands contain too much caffeine for an athlete to consume and be in compliance with NCAA testing standards.

“For your average 150-pound NCAA athlete, if they were to consume more than 500 milligrams of caffeine in a serving, they would essentially fail the caffeine limit for the NCAA,” said Schuett. “Underdog Energy allows those athletes to consume without worrying about failing a test.”

Stanizzi and Schuett have quickly expanded Underdog’s reach since launching the energy drink in October 2022. However, both went through many successes and failures before making significant life decisions to get to that point.

Their journey began in 2019 while playing junior hockey in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Stanizzi was new to the team that year and met Schuett early one morning during training camp.

Stanizzi had just launched Underdog as an athletic clothing brand with aspirations of eventually getting into the supplement industry, and the two soon bonded over their shared relentless work ethic.

“We both knew what it took to accomplish our goals,” Schuett said. “And I think that’s where we gelled – the work we put in away from the rink. We both understood what it was going to take to get to where we wanted to be.”

Both aspired to play Division 1 college hockey and keep their business dreams alive; however, they went in separate directions for college, which created challenges for Stanizzi to pursue hockey and for Schuett to feel academically challenged.

Joey Stanizzi

Joey Stanizzi is the CEO of Underdog Energy.

Dylan Schuett

Dylan Schuett is the COO of Underdog Energy.

Stanizzi said he needed to find a school where he could equally focus on his business and the game.

“I wanted to find a university that could give me the best of both worlds that is also close to home, so UNE made the most sense. And it provided an opportunity to come back to my hockey career.” Stanizzi said.

Meanwhile, Schuett was living his dream of playing Division 1 hockey but felt he wanted to be more academically challenged. Stanizzi was also lobbying Schuett to join him at UNE.

“It was the right decision to come to UNE and reunite with Joey after hearing what he had to say about the hockey program and the University as a whole,” Schuett said.

Jeremy Pare

Jeremy Pare, Ph.D., is the assistant professor of social innovation at UNE’s College of Business. 

In fall 2023, Schuett enrolled in UNE’s Innovation Through Technology class, which is geared toward entrepreneurship and how to turn ideas into action, taught by Jeremy Pare, Ph.D., assistant professor of social innovation in UNE’s College of Business. Pare even incorporated Underdog into lessons and helped the duo set up a meeting with UNE Dining and Parkhurst to discuss selling the energy drink at the Harold Alfond Forum.

“(Dr. Pare has) been phenomenal in supporting us,” Schuett said.

Currently, the Alfond Forum on UNE’s Biddeford Campus is the only university to offer the drink in person. It can also be purchased at various gyms across the Northeast, on Underdog’s website, and most recently, Amazon.

The two entrepreneurs are now focused on spreading brand awareness.

“UNE has given us that opportunity to expand our college athlete base and bring more awareness that this is a product made for college athletes, and made for serious athletes that want a cleaner alternative to what's out there right now in the market,” Stanizzi said.

Both are quick to point out what makes their product different from the competition.

Underdog Energy

Underdog Energy, founded by UNE students and hockey players Joey Stanizzi and Dylan Schuett, is currently available to purchase at the Harold Alfond Forum on UNE’s Biddeford Campus.

Courtesy: The Underdog Brand

“We worked with a chemist in Los Angeles a couple of years ago to come up with the formula,” Schuett said. “It has everything from a natural green tea extract to a patented slow-release caffeine as well as two forms of nootropics to help with focus and concentration. It’s something no other energy drink does at this point.”

Stanizzi and Schuett are building a launching pad of sorts at UNE to eventually expand their reach. They want to eventually distribute at other universities, starting in the Northeast.

“Right now, it’s important to create that ‘social proof’ that this product is working at the university level,” Stanizzi said. “That way, we can go to other colleges and universities to show that this product, and our business model, work.”

Pare has also helped connect Stanizzi and Schuett with organizations outside UNE, like the Maine Center for Entrepreneurship and its Top Gun program, which is designed to help young entrepreneurs grow their ideas.

Stanizzi said starting a business and finding success has meant sacrificing time in other parts of his life.

“(Success) doesn’t happen overnight, and being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone,” Stanizzi said. “Sometimes you’re going to fall flat on your face. Other times, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. But those are learning experiences that help you grow as a person and as an entrepreneur.”

Echoing that, Schuett adds the experience has kept them humble.

“Find something you’re passionate about, and don’t get discouraged,” Schuett said. “You’re not always going to know the right answer. You figure it out as you go.”

Both stressed the importance of finding a business partner who has the same ambition and dedication to help navigate through the tough times.

With a year and a half left in their undergraduate careers at UNE, the two hope to tap into more resources in the community by establishing a student internship program at Underdog. They envision those interns helping with all aspects of the business, even designing a can for future products.

“We want to be able to give back to the student body because that's ultimately who this is designed for,” Schuett said. “Both Joey and I recognize how much UNE has done to support us, just from a connections and network standpoint. It's been great to have support from people that are really rooting for us.”

Dylan Schuett Joey Stanizzi Jeremy Pare

For Pare, he hopes Schuett and Stanizzi’s stories inspire future students to come up with their own ideas and take that initial chance of starting a new business venture.

“Students from all of UNE's colleges have the ability to be entrepreneurial, and we see our new business college as being the bridge to achieving their dreams, whether within a preexisting business venture or within their own startup,” Pare said. “Underdog Energy and the efforts of Dylan and Joey are one great example of this potential partnership, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this innovative company.”

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