Episode #34 - Honest Tea: Is it possible to run a mission-driven business once you've sold it to a corporate giant?

Show notes

Last week, I was invited to London, to the home of Coca-Cola Great Britain. And I was asked to moderate a breakfast roundtable with a group of great businesses and NGOs.

The event was hosted by Honest Tea - not a company I’d come across before. But I'm sure many of listeners in the US will know of the business very well. It is an organic, low-calorie bottled drink sold all over the US in very large numbers.

And it began life as a start-up. The founder, Seth Goldman, had a moment when he’d been running in central Park and he was thirsty. But there was nothing really on the market to quench his first. So, he decided to do something about it. And in his kitchen, he, along with Barry Nalebuff, Seth’s teacher at the Yale School of Management, played around with some ingredients and Honest Tea was born.

The good news is, Honest Tea is coming to the UK this week in fact, and will soon be available all over Europe.

And that’s the reason why Seth was in London, to launch his business in the UK.

The breakfast session was titled: Can brands be a force for good? And, of course, there’s a very simple answer: Yes, of course they can, and there are many good examples out there to prove the point.

But there are more nuances involved in answering it. And of course, there are many challenges and obstacles in the way. What does good even mean in this context? What if that being ‘good’ is at odds with what your various stakeholders want you to be and do? What happens when your business morphs and transitions in times of economic or social pressure? Is it possible to hold on to those founding principles – and stay true to your mission?

Creating and running a so-called mission-driven business, is not easy. But it is exciting and there are some serious opportunities, as we’ve been finding out on the show since we launched in February.

But what happens when you sell your mission-driven business to a global corporate beast like Coca-Cola, which is what Seth and Barry did in 2011? Is it possible to maintain your integrity and keep your entrepreneurial spirit alive and well, under the pressure of quarterly reporting and keeping shareholders happy?

Seth’s insight and experiences which he shares with us this week are second to none.

Enjoy.

You can find out more about Honest Tea here.

A selection of Honest Tea products

A selection of Honest Tea products

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, and now Tea-EO of the business

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, and now Tea-EO of the business

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form


This week's news round-up with Vikki Knowles (aka Susty Girl), features:

- Apple's tax avoidance scandal;
- China's new green skyscraper;
- two new start-ups, CarbFix and Tiger Air Ink - sucking carbon out of the air, and putting it to good use; and
- the cost of cleaning up the Notting Hill Carnival