Every month we spotlight an entrepreneur behind a different sustainable business – and every month we are completely floored by the incredible insight and vulnerability that come from these inspiring folks.
Check out all of them on our Brands that Bloom Series Page!
In this month’s installment of our series, we touched base with the Bryon White, the Co-Founder and CEO of Yaupon Brother’s American Tea.
We came across Yaupon Brothers through a product collaboration they did with a really great skincare brand we love, so we knew any friend of theirs would be a friend of ours!
After following Yaupon Brother’s on Instagram for a few months we could see that they were doing some incredible work! We’re thrilled to be able to share this brand with your all.
Interview with Bryon White; CoFounder of Yaupon Brother’s American Tea
What was it that drove you to start Yaupon Brothers?
It really comes from a life-long love of plants and a natural curiosity about nature. Since before I can remember, I’ve always loved plants and gardening, or anything having to do with naturalism.
It was through this idle curiosity that I first encountered the Yaupon Holly, (and this is super nerdy), but I often read up on plants that I see and like in the wild. This was the case with Yaupon. I picked up a book by the late Charles Hudson, called “The Black Drink”, and he went into exquisite detail about the Yaupon’s amazing properties and how indigenous communities revered it and even worshipped it in some cases.
When I found out that Yaupon is the only caffeinated plant species in the US, I was totally stunned that it wasn’t available and no products were being made from it. That’s when I decided to try and found a business around it. That was in 2011, and since then it has evolved into something really amazing with lots of moving parts.
I’m proud of what we’ve been able to create with this wonderful plant species and super thankful for the opportunities that have arisen from it. The company grew enough to convince me it was time to end my 15-year career in public protection, 10 of those years were in law enforcement, EMS, and Ocean Rescue. No regrets!
What is the guiding purpose or story behind your brand? Has anything changed since you launched?
The first iteration of our Yaupon business, (Yaupon Asi Tea), was sort of a flop. I had no idea what I was doing, and some days I still feel like I don’t. We decided to end that business in 2015, and shortly after, Kyle, the other White brother of Yaupon Brothers, his high school mentor, Mark Steele, stepped in to help us start Yaupon Brothers American Tea.
We opened in November of 2015, and it has been 1000x better this go around. I think a lot of that is all the conventional wisdom we picked up along the way and also equal parts having an amazing team and partners who actually care about the vision and help to nurture it to reality.
That said, the architecture of our brand has evolved into something very special. We split it into four things we care about the most:
- Making Great Tea
- Creating sustainable ag jobs and economic opportunities that don’t harm the environment
- Caring for our environment in all things we do
- Respecting indigenous cultures
We have focused intensely at fulfilling those four core tenets of our business, and people have really grown to trust our brand because of it.
We have always tried to be a business that creates economic opportunities AND supports environmental preservation. We believe you can have both, and our customers believe it, too. Those aspects are really the core of who we are as a company and a brand.
What’s been the biggest growth driver for you so far? Any tips and tricks for new entrepreneurs?
I think it’s a new world since the coronavirus appeared, but nimble and adaptive businesses will survive. Like most businesses, we’ve had to pivot substantially to e-commerce, and for us, it has been a mostly positive development. We really value content creation, and we try to align our brand with exciting and engaging content creators and influencers who align with our values. I think so far that has been a winning strategy.
We do most things organically and on a small budget, but we’ve experienced geometric growth with these types of content creation ideas. In the past year, we’ve partnered with Rob Greenfield, Raw Chef Carla, Grilled Cheese Social, Florida Native Plant Society, SipsBy, Made Coffee, Mother Kombucha, Statusphere, Florida Springs Council, and a few others.
My tip would be to really get creative with your content. To me, standard advertising methods are boring and full of scams and landmines. Find good people with great enthusiasm for what you’re doing and let them help you create exciting promotional material.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you started? What do you struggle most with when it comes to growing your following?
Gah – where do I even start. I know most entrepreneurs think they were idiots when first starting out, but I really feel like I was especially clueless. But it has been a humbling learning experience with lots of pain and stress, but also some of the most amazing and rewarding moments of my life. It is truly a crazy experience and I think that entrepreneurs should be braced for that.
For us, Yaupon had a serious awareness deficit and still does, though nothing like it did 5 years ago. The biggest challenge has been the need to educate the consumer on what Yaupon actually is. We’ve come a long way, and other companies are popping up too, but it’s still an uphill battle. I think it will take a while for Yaupon to get really mainstream, but I also am confident that it will happen.
We try to put ourselves in a position such that when consumers decide to try Yaupon for the first time, they come to us for that experience, and come away delighted and return for more.
Anything else you think may important or useful for readers to know about growing a business?
I don’t have much sage advice, but I do think it is really important to stay true to your vision and be confident in your ideas. Personally, I found the entrepreneurial scene to be very intimidating at first. There is a lot of glitz and a-type personalities, but there is a lot of BS, too, and it’s important not to get distracted or discouraged by it.
Have faith in your ideas and your ability to execute them. You’ll get tons of advice from lots of people, and it’s a solid recommendation to take all of that with a grain of salt. People have a lot of insight and experience they will share, but not all of it will be relevant or valuable to what you’re doing. I would say listen to advice but never test the waters with both feet. You’ve got to live the dream!