Rowan freshman wins first place in New Jersey division of Global Student Entrepreneur Awards with granola bars

Harrison Nastasi and his friend Joey Vella man a Bobica Bars stand in the Business Hall. - Photo / Harrison Nastasi

Juggling school, work and a social life can be tricky for some college students, but Harrison Nastasi, a Rowan freshman, has found a way to juggle it all — while also founding and building his own granola bar business. 

Nastasi recently took home first place at the New Jersey level of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA), a competition that allows college students who own businesses to showcase their companies alongside their peers from all over the state. 

Nastasi entered the competition for his business, Bobica Bars. The granola bars distinguish themselves from others because they are able to accommodate a plethora of dietary restrictions. They have a variety of flavors that are all tree and peanut free, as well as gluten-free, vegetarian-safe, dairy-free and soy-free. They are also made with whole grains and contain superfood benefits. They have 12-month shelf life testing and are cooked by Nastasi himself.

His idea for the business began this past summer of 2022 when he was at the beach with his family. 

“One day I was at the beach and I got Playa Bowls and then it melted. So my mom couldn’t even eat the bowl I got her. And I was, coincidentally enough, I was riding my bike home and eating a granola bar and it just clicked and there was nothing on the market and I just decided to do that while helping people,” said Nastasi. 

Nastasi took his business a step further when he applied for the GSEA this year. He was encouraged by Jessica Vattima, the Rowan Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) assistant director, and was accepted as a finalist. He then competed in the pitch competition where he took home first place.

 “When they said second place that it wasn’t me, I kind of felt discouraged it wasn’t me. I thought I lost and then he said ‘the first-place winner is Harrison Nastasi’ and it really shocked me. My eyes started watering, I hugged my brother and it just shows like — I am good enough. And it really showed like, I can do this for real and it was really encouraging,” said Nastasi.

Nick Nastasi, Harrison’s brother, also attends Rowan University as a senior business management major. He was with Harrison at the competition and is an entrepreneur himself. He is the founder of 4U Medical Designs, a company dedicated to making child-friendly stickers for medical devices. 

“Seeing my younger brother be able to do a 10-minute pitch against various schools and various competitors of all age levels, I mean, I was so proud,” Nick Nastasi said. “But, he also worked hard to develop all the skills and knowledge necessary through being at RCIE. He jumped in really fast in the fall semester and really soaked in all the knowledge and skills possible for him to succeed at that pitch competition.”

The Nastasi brothers have their own separate businesses but are able to remain close to one another and find time to help each other in their busy schedules. 

“My brother, Nick Nastasi man, he’s the biggest inspiration day in and day out. He always texts me, checks up on me. Am I working? Is there anything I could do to help? I mean, he’s the reason where I really am today,” Harrison Nastasi said. 

Nastasi adds that, although owning a business while being in school requires a lot of time management, he has found a way to find success in his work while also being able to balance his personal life. 

“Whenever I’m not studying, I’m cooking and whenever I’m not cooking, I’m studying. I find time on the weekends or at night to go out to dinner with some friends and hang out with my buddies,” Nastasi said.

Despite fears that Nastasi being a young, full-time student, could impact his credibility in the industry, Nastasi states that people are willing to take a chance on a product that they believe in. 

“I go to them and I say look, I have a startup here, I’m a freshman at Rowan University. However, Bobica Bars is this, we’re the only ones doing this… we kind of buy them in, and we bring samples to them and they like them and they do, they give us a shot, and then the next week, they’re calling us back to restock,” said Nastasi.

Bobica Bars are available for purchase in five retail locations at the moment, in addition to their online shop as well. 

“I’m so excited. I mean, I’m only in the beginning of my semester and I feel like I already achieved a lifetime’s worth of achievements so far,” Nastasi said. “So my brain really can’t fathom where I could be in the next three years.”

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