No tea line can be complete without at least one herbal option. Our first herbal offering is brewed with hibiscus flowers and blackberry leaves which imbue a beautiful deep red color (we will be withholding the name and label until our official launch). But the drink is not only visually striking, it’s refreshingly tart and quenching. I have found myself to be increasingly sensitive to caffeine, so I usually go herbal after lunch.
This drink is modeled after one of Honest Tea’s, Black Forest Berry, one of our first 5 varieties when we launched the brand in 1998. While I am waxing nostalgic, I wanted to express gratitude for the former Honest Tea employees who represent more than half of our 12-person team, and who collectively bring more than 100 years of iced tea sales experience to our enterprise.
The core of our team are our sales leaders. First, there’s Melanie Knitzer. (HT co-founder) Barry and I met Melanie at the Fancy Food show in 1998, where she was working with a gourmet food distributor. I was lugging around a duffle bag filled with glass bottles of tea, and Melanie was kind enough to listen to our pitch. A few weeks later she joined the team. She led the natural sales team that made HT the top-selling tea brand in the natural channel. Melanie is joined by Rick Tidrow and Becca Ray. The three of them work together incredibly smoothly. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of tension – I’d be concerned if my sales people weren’t regularly challenging each other – but they keep each other in the loop, celebrate their victories as a team, and always put the best interests of the enterprise ahead of their egos.
I’m also fortunate to be joined by two marketers who worked with Honest Tea over the years. Kelly Cardamone joined Honest Tea back in 2006 as a marketing coordinator, and grew alongside the business. When her husband took a job with the State Department in London, Kelly took on the role of launching Honest Tea with the Coca-Cola system in Europe. Seventeen years after she first joined us, she still has a wonderful enthusiasm and scrappiness that ensures sure stuff gets done – like launching a bottled tea line in less than three months! Kelly works alongside our Marketing Director, Stephanie Riederman, who was managing Honest Kids before she joined us. Stephanie brings the strategic thinking and long-range planning that is often overlooked in start-ups, but can be invaluable.
In addition to sales and marketing, we are fortunate to have an HR leader in Meghan Horn who understands how to hire, manage and build the right culture. And no less important, Kathy Bullman, who started working with me in 2000. Kathy is a master at managing, reconciling and (equally important!) disputing invoices from our distributors. It may not sound like glorious work, but in a slim-margin business, the ability to analyze and make sure we are paid money owed to us is crucial. And last but in no way least, my assistant Courtney Richardson’s emotional intelligence, work ethic and undeniable can-do spirit helps make everything happen.
Though our team has a good deal of experience with the natural food channel and with each other, we also have been adding new faces and talent to ensure fresh thinking and a disruptive mindset. The world has changed a lot since 1998, and we have to make sure we are ready for all that lies ahead.