Jerry Rice’s daughter Jaqui Rice Gold and the NFL Hall of Famer share more than being immediate family.

The father-daughter duo is behind energy drink company G.O.A.T. Fuel, a venture founded alongside Jaqui’s husband, Trevion Gold, who serves as chief brand officer. The company distinguishes itself by incorporating adaptogens into beverages, such as the fusion of cordyceps mushrooms. According to WebMD, cordyceps helps improve energy, strength, immunity, and kidney function.

The fungi’s health benefits initially attracted Jaqui to enter the beverage industry while working on a beauty tech startup in 2018. At the time, caffeine became a go-to drink for Jaqui and Trevion. However, its consumption led them to experience the adverse effects of some drinks, like feeling the “jitters” and eventually a decline in energy.

“We just started talking as a family. I called my dad because he was a beverage investor. He had invested in CytoSport and Muscle Milk decades ago. We were telling him what we were experiencing, and we noticed in L.A. [Los Angeles] at the time, there was this growing popularity of adaptogen mushrooms popping up in local coffee shops,” Jerry Rice’s daughter told AFROTECH™. 

She added, “It was fascinating because you could order your latte with adaptogen mushrooms like chaga, reishi, or turkey tail. We became really familiar with mushrooms, and we knew the benefits of them. But the incorporation of the mushrooms and caffeine was utilized to combat all the yucky stuff that you kind of get with the jitters and the crash. And we took that concept. That’s when the light bulb moment went off.”

Besides cordyceps, G.O.A.T. Fuel’s product blend includes “natural caffeine, green tea with EGCG, ginger, amino acids and 10 essential vitamins, zero sugar, and zero preservatives,” according to a press release. The company offers a variety of flavors for its energy drink, like — Blueberry Lemonade, Tropical Berry, Peach Pineapple, Pink Candy, Watermelon Fruit Punch, Gummy Bear, Mango Passion Fruit, and Acai Berry in 12-ounce cans.

“We said, ‘Let’s take a better-for-you energy drink, include adaptogen mushrooms that had never been done before. Let’s give it all the great attributes that my dad could stand behind.’ The vitamins, electrolytes, BCAs, no sugar, natural caffeine, and let’s make people feel great internally with the liquid, but also emotionally just with the greatest of all time mentality,” Jaqui expressed.

G.O.A.T. Fuel launched in January 2020 with a business plan that was backed by a male angel investor who worked as Walmart’s e-commerce chief executive officer. However, the energy drink company’s strategy had to shift during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic amid the loss of a national retailer partnership. 

As a result, the founders opted to transition to online sales, focusing on reaching first responders, students, and athletes. This move paid off as the company sold 3,500 cases of the product within six months.

“We were in this generation of being able to really leverage product on direct-to-consumer (D2C) utilizing social media, marketing, email campaigns, Shopify, all the different types of programs we offered to a first responder program online that supported frontline workers where they could get a discount on G.O.A.T. Fuel and even just students at the time,” Jaqui explained. “So we went all into our D2C strategy knowing that wasn’t really how you build a beverage, but it supported us in building a brand.”

She continued, “We were able to align with different influencers and athletes. My dad leveraged his network. We had a number of NFL rookies that gravitated to G.O.A.T. Fuel. We realized there was a younger demographic that it was almost as if they were waiting for a brand like ours, a beverage that had the healthier kind of value propositions that athletes could trust for the first time.”

The co-founders introduced the product to the wholesale market by 2021. Today, G.O.A.T. Fuel energy drinks can be found at retail chains such as Publix, Target, and Walmart.

“Over 20,000 doors…We’ve got about 70% of the country covered, distribution-wise, and we’re projecting national distribution by the end of the year,” she notes.

The company made it to retail shelves, and G.O.A.T. Fuel secured a major win as the official energy drink of the Los Angeles Lakers. The opportunity fell into alignment following an email from the team’s director of partnerships.

The company attracted the NBA team thanks to its “better for you” positioning and its informed sports certification, which, Informed Sports noted, means the product’s ingredients do not contain banned substances.

What’s more, this marked a first-of-its-kind sponsorship for the sports team, per the news release.

“The Lakers partnership was a dream come true. It allowed for us to solidify our space as being a sports energy drink,” Jaqui said.

The three-year partnership increased the company’s exposure through promotions on the sports team’s social media and mobile appl. G.O.A.T. Fuel also received in-arena signage, among other things. The company is currently in conversation about potentially renegotiating its contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s really helped us from a brand awareness standpoint in a very challenging market, which L.A. is one of the hardest markets to crack. So, the partnership really helped us with that. And I would say it just established proof of concept for what we were building…We were pioneering an energy drink in traditional sports. The Lakers validated that for us, and it opened a number of opportunities… We’re so appreciative of that partnership. It really put us on the map in a major way, and we were such a young brand that we appreciate the chance that they took on us,” Jaqui mentioned.

The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t the only ones who took a chance on the Black-owned sports energy drink company. Since its inception, Jaqui told AFROTECH™ that G.O.A.T. Fuel has raised $12 million in funding through the aid of investors. Jaqui acknowledges that her father, Jerry, who she describes as an active co-founder, has helped open doors for the company. However, she also attests that the capital raised this far is credited to the brand’s stability, team of advisors, and her business acumen.

“My dad, he’s a true co-founder. He really is involved in the business in the sense of making calls to distributors and buyers. He’s very active with investors as well,” Jaqui noted. “So, it definitely has assisted us in opening doors, but nonetheless, you have to sustain a great business, a great brand, great beverage, because we’re venture backed and venture scaled. We had to make sure we were hitting all the right KPIs to attract sophisticated investors that could put in significant amounts of capital and then believe that we had the team to get there. They know my dad’s not running the business. So they’re like, ‘Who’s running it?'”

She concluded, “They had to believe in me and the business, but also in my acumen that I would have the ability to get this done. There aren’t women that look like me, women alone really in this space. Then, to be a Black female founder, despite having a celebrity father or a great brand, there’s always gonna be some headwinds because they’re not used to seeing someone like me, and I haven’t done this before. However, that’s motivated me.”

What’s next for G.O.A.T. Fuel? They plan to take the company to new heights and push to produce new flavors in the future.