By John Comberiate
At the Leadership for a Better World – Creating Social Value through Innovation Conference many speakers discussed the ideas around Social Entrepreneurship, how to communicate Social Change, and how large companies need to adapt to survive in a modern business environment. Often lost in this discussion is the low level view of the steps it takes to make this happen. Seth Goldman shared what this path looks like and the challenge of the decisions along the way.
President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, Seth has achieved a level of success producing a healthy line of tea products enjoyed by customers around the world. With Honest Kombucha, a fermented tea, on its path to distribution and the company exploring expansion into a new Healthy Foods product line, Honest Tea is primed to reach even greater levels of success. It wasn’t always this way though.
Creating change often is the result of persistence through many missteps and underwhelming results. Working out of his house and distributing out of his car, Seth started with humble beginnings trying to sell his first line Haarlem Honeybush. He quickly learned that even if the product you sell resonates with you, it also has to resonate with your customers, a problem he fixed with his next tea, Pomegranate Red.
The three C’s
Clawing your way into an industry requires some creativity. In order to get the product line out to new customers, Seth started working with cheese distribution companies. Eventually he garnered the support of Corned Beef distributors and then grabbed a ride with Charcoal distributors. He calls this ‘the three C’s’ which led to a fourth, distributing through CocaCola.
Having reached this greater audience and corporate partnership, Seth has found new ways to keep Honest Tea innovating. From passing out 500 bikes around the Bethesda community to ease worker commutes, arranging an agreement for using the grease from local restaurants to make biodiesel, he is breaking new ground in sustainable Social Change. These efforts have not gone unnoticed and more companies are joining in, donating new office space that is being used to help small companies get started.
The process is never easy, as Seth’s example shows. This is not a deterrent though, just more opportunity to create change and move existing systems to create a better future even when the challenges seem immense. Like one of Seth’s favorite Chinese proverbs says, “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it”, it’s time to get on board.
John Comberiate is a first year MBA student in the Accelerated Part-Time track at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School. Working as a blogger and as member of Toastmasters International, he is developing the skills needed to spread the word about Social Value creation occurring in the world and how people can get involved.