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A local student has found it pays not to be too sweet

A local student has found it pays not to be too sweet.

Hickory High School senior Cynthia Torrence has created a new low-sugar fruit beverage, NIU by Talls, that's already on local store shelves. And this spring it gets a major launch at Giant Eagle's GetGo convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.

"Our entire team is excited for this big step in NIU's future and looking forward to our partnership with GetGo,'' Torrence, the 18-year-old Hermitage resident said.

Starting her enterprise at home with a simple lemonade stand, by 2011 this fresh CEO began crafting her line of drinks with lots of research. NIU's official ribbon cutting was in 2019 at the eCenter in Hermitage.

Arriving at the business incubator was the first 300 cases of NIU FlaMingo, the fruit juice named after the Hawaiian word for coconut. The was produced at MetaBrand, N.J.

Over the past couple of years she her family have been on a marketing blitz with restaurants and retailers. Social media has been a part of the business early on and her product hit Amazon in 2020.

Her name should sound familiar as she's the daughter of Dr. April Torrence, CEO of Zion Education Center in Farrell. NIU is a part of the family’s corporation — TALLS LLC, an acronym for Torrence Avery Logistics Lemonade and Scholastics.

Mom takes care of the finances.

"I don't want to burden her dealing with financial matters now,'' she said with a light laugh. "First she needs to get through high school.''

Torrence was recently recognized by Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania as an "18 under Eighteen." The award recognizes the region's young emerging leaders.

Along the way Torrence has been helped financially with COVID-19 stimulus funds, and money from the Small Business Administration, Hermitage and Mercer County.

But she already is returning dollars back into the community. For the second year Torrence held a NIU Charity Mixer competition pitting four local non-profit organizations against each other. The charities had a 'celebrity' bartender to create a mixed drink using an NIU low-sugar fruit beverage.

Each contestant was filmed as they created a special mixed drink and then the videos were posted on social media. The winner was determined by the most shares and reposts of the video.

"It's my way of giving back,'' Torrence said.

Tom Roberts, executive director of the Hope Center for Arts & Technology in Sharon, won with his NIU Nutcracker mixed drink using the newest NIU beverage flavor Eden.

Torrence recently presented Roberts with a $500 winner's check. The other contestants were awarded $150.

There's more to this than just a donation, Roberts said.

"Our youth arts programming focuses on unlocking creativity to fuel enterprise in life,'' he said. "Cynthia has exemplified this through her work as a teen CEO and it’s wonderful to witness her entrepreneurial spirit expand into philanthropy and give back to her community. It's impressive how much she’s grown her business even before graduating from high school."

Local outlets carrying NIU are: D’Onofrio’s Food Center, Hermitage;LuLu Beans Cafe in Sharon, Muscarella’s Café, Sharpsville; Haitian Sensation, Sharon; Farrell Golden Dawn; Muggsies Coffee House, New Wilmington and Brookfield Drive-In plus United Storage and Freezer in Youngstown for online orders.

Torrence said her immediate plans are to grow her brand through retail outlets throughout the U.S. and grow e-commerce sales. Her long-term goal is to sell a portion of the company and collect royalties on her product. And in mixing business with pleasure, she wants to create an international market for NIU which will allow her to travel overseas.

Of course, turning a profit is a goal for the business.

"But it's not just about the money, she said. "We're thinking bigger than that. I want to travel around the globe and help young women with their initiatives and starting their own businesses.''


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