Honest Tea's Seth Goldman explains how he balances social responsibility and success at his beverage company.
By Inc. staff | Oct 28, 2011
00:07 Seth Goldman: I'm Seth Goldman, President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, and we make and market organic bottled tea and other drinks.
What prompted the idea for Honest Tea?
00:19 Goldman: The idea came to me, actually I was in New York. I was... Had just... I used to work for a mutual fund company, had given a presentation, and I was on a run, and after the run, I was thirsty, and felt like, I went to a cooler and there were hundreds of options, but there just wasn't anything that I wanted, and I realized that despite it is overwhelming amount of choices, there was a whole range of choices that wasn't available.
How is Honest Tea socially responsible?
00:47 Goldman: Well, the first thing is our product itself is, what we do is... We don't use the word socially responsible, mission driven. We have a commitment to health and sustainability so everything we make has less sugar than the prevailing options in the market. Everything we make is certified organic. All the teas we sell are fair-trade certified, so we've really found a way to take it up a notch in everything we make. And then, beyond that, the way we communicate with our consumers, the way we market from our point of view is all... Tries to be consistent with our mission.
Have you made any bad teas?
01:21 Goldman: Well, we learned a good lesson. We had a tea that we brought out, back about ten years ago. It was called Harlem Honeybush. It was an unsweetened organic tea from South Africa and it was one that was... Where the mission was totally baked in the product. It was sourced from a community that had their own co-ops, so it was the total definition of fair trade. It just didn't sell well. We didn't package it the right way. And it was disappointing because I was so excited about the community partnership, I didn't pay enough attention to how do I make it relevant to the consumer? And then we kind of pulled the product from the market, re-crafted it and brought it out at a pomegranate red tea with Goji berry, and now it's one of the top selling teas in the natural food industry.
02:01 Goldman: So, we always... No matter what the mission means to us, we always have to think about, what does this product mean to the consumer. And for a lot of consumers, it has to taste great. It has to be a product that they want to buy again and again, and not just because of the community partnership involved, but because it makes them feel good, it hydrates them, and maybe does some good things for their health. And, for us, that was a good lesson about how to make sure we're doing stuff with consumer in mind.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
02:28 Goldman: I think there's a few things. Certainly one is, make sure you're doing something you believe in from day one, not just as a business idea, but something that speaks to your own personal values that you can feel excited about. Win or lose, the business takes off and succeeds, they'll feel proud of it. If it doesn't work, you say, I did something I believed in. The worst outcome is to create something you don't believe in, and it does well, and you kind of have to [laughter] sleep with yourself every night. So, make sure you believe in it from day one. That's one thing.
02:54 Goldman: I think another one is be careful what you wish for. I've been around a lot of entrepreneurs, who create a business, and then they get to a point where there's an exit, and then they realize, wait a minute, I don't want to... I love what I'm doing. And by selling it, they lose that chance to be part of what they love doing. So don't always look for the exits if it's really what you feel you're doing what you're supposed to be doing.