The Great Things LLC Podcast

Mark Sotomayor, Founder of Treecup Tea, Environmental Impact through Entrepreneurship

October 01, 2020 Mark Sotomayer Season 1 Episode 7
The Great Things LLC Podcast
Mark Sotomayor, Founder of Treecup Tea, Environmental Impact through Entrepreneurship
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The Great Things LLC Podcast
Mark Sotomayor, Founder of Treecup Tea, Environmental Impact through Entrepreneurship
Oct 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 7
Mark Sotomayer

Mark Sotomayor is changing the literally changing the landscape of Haiti, one bottle of tea at a time.  In this podcast, Mark shares his incredible journey from a college sophomore to an environmental minded Entrepreneur.  Since Mark and his Mother founded Treecup Tea in October 2017, the company has planted 18,000 trees in Haiti.

Like many young entrepreneurs, Mark had an unconventional inspiration and path.   He was enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Program at Grove City College, of which we are both alumnae. During an unexpected break, Mark and his Mother, Vitalia, came up with the idea over a pitcher of his Grandmother's Peruvian Chi Tea.  That was the moment had sparked the idea that is making both a local and global impact.

Businesses unfold and grow, sometimes taking their own path.   Mark wanted to make an impact with his business and integrate a social cause with his business.   Ultimately, Mark partnered with Haiti Friends, a Pittsburgh Based non profit.   You can learn more about Haiti Friends at http://www.haitifriends.org/.    The slogan  "Buy a Tea, Plant a Tree"  was born.   For every bottle of tea sold, one tree is planted for a local haitian farmer in the Artibonite Valley.     

Those early days were exciting and growth was happening.   Then, a major set back hit.   Mark's share how he had to reassess the future of the company and ultimately completely rebrand.   That rebranding is the Treecup Tea that exists today.   The company continues to grow and expand its commitment to the environmental stewardship.   Treecup Tea is not sold in reusable, recyclable glass bottles. 

TREECUP TEA MISSION STATEMENT:
Treecup seeks to provide a unique, healthy, and above all – philanthropic experience to tea drinkers. We exist to positively impact the environment and human lives through planting trees in Haiti.

TREECUP TEA CURRENT OFFERINGS

Peruvian Chai - This is the founder's grandmother's recipe. It is a spicy black tea with cinnamon, cloves, and anise. Regions all over the world like Asia and South America drink their own versions of chai. The Peruvian Chai is a simpler blend of chai, which aims to highlight the high quality flavors from the spices, which are fair-trade and ethically sourced. Some people like to mix this tea with milk to create a delicious creamy chai! No preservatives.

Ginsyin & Yang - This tea is named as a play on words with "ginseng" and "Yin & Yang". This tea is inspired by oriental flavors like gunpowder green tea, ginseng, lemon, and spearmint.  People like to sometimes try this unsweetened tea with a dash of honey for a mix of different savory flavors, or umami. No preservatives.

Lumberjack Black - When people finally taste lumberjack black, they can know why it's called that.  It has a woody taste with earthy after-notes of flavor. The base for this delicious concoction is an organic Nilgiri black tea. This tea promotes heart health with the brewed-in properties of the North American Juniper and Cedar trees. Avid black tea drinkers will love this tea.  No preservatives.

Berry Jasmine - Our best seller! With the delicious properties from four different types of berries and rose petals, this tea is wildly refreshing! This tea is only served sweetened, with six grams of organic cane sugar to softly elevate the notes from other ingredients.

Mark has a new Kickstarter project to raise capital to increase production and expand his operations.   You can support Treecup Tea and the Haitian people by purchasing his teas or supporting the Kickstarter campaign.

https://treecuptea.com/
http://www.haitifriends.org/

Show Notes Transcript

Mark Sotomayor is changing the literally changing the landscape of Haiti, one bottle of tea at a time.  In this podcast, Mark shares his incredible journey from a college sophomore to an environmental minded Entrepreneur.  Since Mark and his Mother founded Treecup Tea in October 2017, the company has planted 18,000 trees in Haiti.

Like many young entrepreneurs, Mark had an unconventional inspiration and path.   He was enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Program at Grove City College, of which we are both alumnae. During an unexpected break, Mark and his Mother, Vitalia, came up with the idea over a pitcher of his Grandmother's Peruvian Chi Tea.  That was the moment had sparked the idea that is making both a local and global impact.

Businesses unfold and grow, sometimes taking their own path.   Mark wanted to make an impact with his business and integrate a social cause with his business.   Ultimately, Mark partnered with Haiti Friends, a Pittsburgh Based non profit.   You can learn more about Haiti Friends at http://www.haitifriends.org/.    The slogan  "Buy a Tea, Plant a Tree"  was born.   For every bottle of tea sold, one tree is planted for a local haitian farmer in the Artibonite Valley.     

Those early days were exciting and growth was happening.   Then, a major set back hit.   Mark's share how he had to reassess the future of the company and ultimately completely rebrand.   That rebranding is the Treecup Tea that exists today.   The company continues to grow and expand its commitment to the environmental stewardship.   Treecup Tea is not sold in reusable, recyclable glass bottles. 

TREECUP TEA MISSION STATEMENT:
Treecup seeks to provide a unique, healthy, and above all – philanthropic experience to tea drinkers. We exist to positively impact the environment and human lives through planting trees in Haiti.

TREECUP TEA CURRENT OFFERINGS

Peruvian Chai - This is the founder's grandmother's recipe. It is a spicy black tea with cinnamon, cloves, and anise. Regions all over the world like Asia and South America drink their own versions of chai. The Peruvian Chai is a simpler blend of chai, which aims to highlight the high quality flavors from the spices, which are fair-trade and ethically sourced. Some people like to mix this tea with milk to create a delicious creamy chai! No preservatives.

Ginsyin & Yang - This tea is named as a play on words with "ginseng" and "Yin & Yang". This tea is inspired by oriental flavors like gunpowder green tea, ginseng, lemon, and spearmint.  People like to sometimes try this unsweetened tea with a dash of honey for a mix of different savory flavors, or umami. No preservatives.

Lumberjack Black - When people finally taste lumberjack black, they can know why it's called that.  It has a woody taste with earthy after-notes of flavor. The base for this delicious concoction is an organic Nilgiri black tea. This tea promotes heart health with the brewed-in properties of the North American Juniper and Cedar trees. Avid black tea drinkers will love this tea.  No preservatives.

Berry Jasmine - Our best seller! With the delicious properties from four different types of berries and rose petals, this tea is wildly refreshing! This tea is only served sweetened, with six grams of organic cane sugar to softly elevate the notes from other ingredients.

Mark has a new Kickstarter project to raise capital to increase production and expand his operations.   You can support Treecup Tea and the Haitian people by purchasing his teas or supporting the Kickstarter campaign.

https://treecuptea.com/
http://www.haitifriends.org/

Josh Meeder :

Welcome to the great things LLC podcast. I'm your host, Josh Meeder. In this episode, we're talking with Mark Sotomayor of tree cup tea. All right, listeners, welcome back. It's a great things podcast. It's been a few weeks since I put the last one out. But I am excited to introduce Mark Sotomayor, is you know, and great things podcasts here. We highlight people doing amazing things with good intentions and great feelings. So, Mark is a local gentleman here we've met in the community and we happen to attend the same college at different decades, I'll say, but both went to Grove City College and Mark's here. And Mark has a great story. He started a Tea Company. And it's doing it's not just a Tea Company, but it's it's socially conscious. It's doing some really great economic and environmental development down in Haiti. So, Mark, welcome this morning.

Mark Sotomayor :

I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me, Josh.

Josh Meeder :

Yeah, so let's dive right in. So I first experienced your tea at a local farm market. Here in harmony zillion open, it was fantastic. And at that point, the tea was named kiama. So why don't you give us a little bit of background about who you are, and how this whole tea business came about?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, I was a sophomore studying entrepreneurship at Grove City College. I had just quit my job selling Cutco knives for the past year and a half. I have had enough of that, and had quit that right before the summer before sophomore year, two weeks into that year, on Labor Day weekend happened. We had a day off and I go to my mom's house. She makes me all my favorite foods for a nice Labor Day lunch. She had, you know, steak, potato salad, and sauce, some other salad she makes. And there was a picture of my grandma's Peruvian chai tea recipe there. in one sitting, I literally drank the whole picture. And at the end, I'm like mom, this tea so good. You can literally sell it. And she's like, well, you study entrepreneurship, why don't you and then the proverbial light bulb went off. I got excited something told me I was looking for something I was passionate about for the past couple years being interested in entrepreneurship. And I had this notion that I want to grab, I wanted to graduate into my own company, studying entrepreneurship, I thought it would have been a failure to graduate and get a job and work for someone. I wanted to use those four years as kind of a springboard into what I wanted to do with my own company. So I told her and to make some tea, and show me how to make it after that lunch. And indeed, We emptied out some milk gallon containers filled them up with sweet Peruvian chai tea and unsweetened Peruvian chai tea. I got some big sea cups on my way back to school and I had all the grovers try it out. Tell me what they thought. I sent out like a Google survey with it. And from there, I started tweaking the recipe. So I was thinking I would maybe casually develop this. And we in school we learned about the lean process of ideation and innovation making a business which is just inching along having customers or prospective customers try like incrementally better prototypes of products. So about two weeks after that one month into my sophomore year, I got kicked out of my college for smoking pot. And that sock, I have four months open. When really for the past year and a half. I have been working over time selling knives. And at that time I had a girlfriend we broke up, it's okay. And then I had four months open. I didn't know what to do. I thought I was working to get myself ahead. And then you know one missed that then I was behind and did a whole semester be behind. So I was depressed for probably a week while I was kicked out of school suspended. Oh yeah, by the way, I'd already talked. I hadn't told people this story. But now I love telling this story.

Josh Meeder :

Isn't it funny to how we have events in our life that seem like overwhelmingly oppressive and just like oh my god, I messed up my mic, my career, my college transcripts and you think it's the low point in hindsight, some of those dark times. Really, it's Initiate innovation and creativity.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, indeed, now I look back and I just see God's benevolence and turning a bad situation a misstep. And I felt like I was getting persecuted or whatever back then into probably the greatest blessing in my life of my of my business. So during those four months, I kind of fine tune things. I knew, for the first week, I was like, super depressed. But I got over it. And then all right, well, I got to do something, I'm going to figure out this tea. So I decided I wanted to attach a social call. And I was researching online on my couch every day. I'm reading articles about cause impact. I was researching during the time hurricane Irma was happening. I thought, wouldn't that be cool if a sail into a relief fund for this? And then I heard about all these wells in Africa, how they're digging them in developing clean, purified water wells goes into that, but nothing really stuck perfectly with like the brandi ng. And then serendipity. One of the first times I was selling my tea, actually at the urban city, living dead weekend. Um,

Josh Meeder :

For those of you that don't know what the living dead weekend is in Evin city. It's actually where George Romero shot Night of the Living Dead. So of course, the town celebrates that. And if you're in western Pennsylvania, you're welcome to stop and see little Evan city, the home of the infamous Living Dead show. Movie.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, it was amazing people, more people than I've ever seen in Evin city, on the streets walking around. And people like my tea, I was selling them out of like zombie cups. I got on Alibaba. And it was then that a professor over at Westminster at the time came up to me, it turns out, he was the only entrepreneurship professor, the entrepreneur in residence at that college for the business school. And he asked me where I'm at in the process. And I was telling him, I want to attach a social cause. And he tried to tea he liked the unique taste of cinnamon cloves, and these are infused with a black tea. Back then we would use Lipton tea bags as the base black tea. Now we use listed Indian black tea and stuff. And he started telling me about a Haitian deforestation, about the history of it. Haiti is about 80%, deforested, most impoverished nation on this hemisphere of the Western Hemisphere. And he told me about this nonprofit in Pittsburgh called Haiti friends, founded by the Mellon family. And he was telling me about this really making a good pitch for it. And I thought, trees, I didn't think about that by a tee, planet tree. And that came to my mind, too, on. And then he told me, he sat on the board. And he knew the director personally in the lineage of the melon family. So I said, Great, can you give me his number, I'll shoot him a call. A couple days later, I shoot this dude, Edward Ross and the director of Haiti friends a call. I tell him about my idea, the by t planetree. And he's stoked. He is also an innovative, creative. You know, creatively minded, awesome dude, and visionary. And he loved it. I asked him how much per tree he said, 40 cents. And ever since then we've been paying 40 cents per sale, we get passing it on.

Josh Meeder :

That's great. And I've been, you know, following along, and I mean, you've planted more than a few trees in Haiti at this point. Where are you up to right now?

Mark Sotomayor :

18,000.

Josh Meeder :

That's amazing. Thank you. Yeah. And what type of trees are there? Are they specific to the region? Are they you know, I know they have some benefit with the soil and you maybe dive a little bit about how the trees actually get distributed, and what they're actually doing for the country?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yes, so they specifically reforest the Artibonite Valley, which are extremely deforested hilltops, hundreds of years ago, they were deforested to grow tea and coffee, and in the valleys sugar cane, so they slashed and burned hundreds of years ago. And now rural subsistence farmers live there. Everyone, every farmer has kind of their own size, land plot on quality land plot, but the common thread is that most don't have trees. So we specialize and planting trees directly on their foreign land. And they're mostly hardwoods, the three most common ones, which make up more than half of the trees planet are a Caribbean tree called the kashia Haitian mahogany and Haitian oak. So high quality trees, that actually, once they're grown fully, and if they were to be harvested, they would be sold for the most some lumber wise. So that's one of the plans. And later, you know, 2030 years down the line once the trees are grown, in order to use them sort of like as a monetary bond for these subsistence farmers, which only make like, compared to US dollars, like under two grand a year, per household. And they're just living off of what they're growing on. The ground is really Rocky. And there's, if you look at images of the Artibonite Valley or on our website, you can see that the top soil is not is kind of lifeless, on the color of it. And it's really loose, it's powdery like dust. And amidst that, all these rocks, it's because of the topsoil being eroded. There's nothing to hold down on the soil, and it washes away down towards the valley, making the valleys actually quite fertile. So there's problems between the Haitian farmers at the bottom of the valley reaping all this, you know, just because of the land are generally their ancestors had reaping a better harvest and more money, better, easier life, versus the people whose ancestors have owned, the hillsides were washed away and on so tough circumstances, but we plant trees directly on Haitian farmers farmland. And that way, they can have more permacultural agroforestry What that means is great, kind of like in bio ecosystem, which brings more life worms, birds, richer soil to the area. Um

Josh Meeder :

It's karmically interesting that the land was destroyed 14 and for coffee and then, you know, a century later, T's actually rebuilding the land. Wonderful approach with the overall environmental impact, stop the wind, stop the soil erosion, put the nutrients back in. That's, that's fantastic and 18,000 trees. Now let's jump over or jump forward a little bit. So you've now made the contact and you started start, what's the next step? How did that first evolution of your company come into existence?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, so I reached out, I was looking for bottles. I was looking online, mostly on Alibaba, and different bottle manufacturers in the United States. And they all you know, I didn't have much money, they all wanted me to purchase in large quantities. And now I can purchase some large quantities. But back then I wonder what am I going to do? What am I going to do? And then I'm, the idea came to me, Marburger dairy farm, based out of here in Evin city, and it's right down the road. So I contacted them told them what I was doing. Ask them if they could give me any smaller quantities of their bottles so that I could fill up and yeah, they've been they helped me out for like, actually up until now um, I ran out of bottles recently and I I use the Berry Farm bottles as a substitute. And I fill my own tea with them. So I just buy like

Josh Meeder :

That is amazing because for the local farmer one that you did it locally, which is fantastic. But Marburger dairy also does bottled drinks. So it was essentially a slight bit of competition and for them to step up and help out. help you out on a new startup is fantastic.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, exactly. They they borrow their own teas. So they're amazing for doing that. God bless them. They pumped us every step of the way. And they they transferred it over to us at cost. So cost me you know, a couple cents each bottle and from there I got my own label made on my mom. She had a friend And that was a designer, so I didn't really know any other designers. So I reached out to him and he made our first label, which was the brand name was town, but she was a play on words it means he love and I love you in Spanish. So I thought I was being clever. Um, and yeah, we ran with that then, um, when I was suspended before I went back to school, we had funded 1000 trees, that was my goal. And I hit it. And I had just sold at farmer's market. I've tried my hand son at the Strip District and a couple different fairs are found on the website gay dash vendors calm and yeah, from there we just kind of move forward with getting our own labels made on a you printing a sticker website online, peeling off each sticker wrapping it around while we were on a watching a TV show or something and filling them up manually.

Josh Meeder :

And at that point, because there's a there's a part of your brand and your your intention is also not just the environment for Haiti, but the environment in general. So you stay away from plastic bottles. Were those did you start with the glass bottles or right away? Or is that something you evolved to?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, we had to evolve to it. Um, glass bottles are heavy and expensive. And to get a custom mold is difficult. So I was using plastic bottles from Marburger dairy farm, BPA free, locally. And then I moved to this biodegradable bottle. It biodegrades within five years in the landfills, also BPA free. And that was definitely more expensive than other ones. I got about 10,000 of those. Although that was that took me that took me till my second year to get those in and use those and now they're all sold out. And now we're moving to glass bottles, which can be refilled reuse, recycle. That's wonderful.

Josh Meeder :

So there was a place that, you know, tiamo is the start where you had a little bit of a knock on the door or a letter in the mail for that and move to to the brand of tree cup as it is now you want to share that that little bit of the story that because it's interesting.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah. So I got back in my next semester of school, I came in, I'm making the best of my suspension. All right, my semester expulsion, technically. And then, um, I'm there and I get into this one on campus incubator, and I'm developing the brand and what my marketing would be I make like a commercial, I get into like a dozen local shops. And I thought I was making some good leeway, productivity, and each down focused on this and my classes. And then how to make a decision should I apply for an internship this next summer? Or should I just try to be an entrepreneur and I'm like, you know what, once again, I'm sitting entrepreneurship, this is what I want to do, I'm going to go in. So I, I, you know, work from home on summer, on selling these bottles churning through and we did a couple thousand bottles sold. And then in the middle of that summer, I get a letter in the mail. And it's from a Guatemalan company called town, on their lawyer in Puerto Rico. And it says they have an international trademark, for the name, and that we got to change our name or else they can sue us. And then I reached out to a lawyer friend of mine, and they're like, they can take everything, everything you have so far, if you could find it, but you don't have the money and you want to win and etc, etc. So they're at this point actually, there had already been some names some problems I discovered with a name. First off people, you know, Americans thought it was Timo since it was right next to each other the words and on a Spanish name selling in the United States, but planting trees in Haiti is confusing. And, you know, complexity confuses simplicity cells. This was something I learned in marketing and college. So that was a problem. And I didn't like my design full it wasn't professional or fully professional, or nothing that you could see not going national. But I got this and I was really disheartened. I finished up my first summer doing my own gig, I'm raising about four and a half grand. And then I went into my junior year of college. And I knew I had to either change it, I was wondering whether I should just quit or continue. And having already planted trees made me want to just continue. So it took like months to figure out a new name. The name padwa, which means tree and Haitian was taken, a tea tree was taken. Other ones like that taken, and I put out a name or tea business competition. That whole semester, I was kind of sulking around, kind of focusing on academics and stuff, but trying to think what am I going to do? And then by December the whole semester, you know, that went by quick. By December, I put out a name RT business competition, put out on all my social medias. I'm getting all these names and and then someone submits tree Comm. And I searched it on the trademark database I have learned how to use and I see that it's not taken. And I'm like, Wow, man, it's not taken. That's a great name. And his like, Yeah, I know, I'm an IP attorney. I had checked it. Um, and so yeah, I think the name he won, I have kind of like an image come to my mind of a tree top. Kind of like how Apple's logo is an apple, a tree tops, logos, a tree. So I thought it was cohesive on like, kind of my complex branding previously. So then I chose him as a winner. He actually, his name's Bob, he lives in zelienople. fantastic guy, I ended up doing all my trademark filing for free pro bono. Amazing, um, you know, divine things amazing. And then I, and then I had to look for a designer. And by that point, I had probably been through like a dozen designers talk to them and stuff. Um, none of them did what I wanted them, none, none of them. None of them hit the mark of what I was envisioning. And then by the serendipity, I posted requests for proposals on LinkedIn. And this one dude from London reaches out. And he has a his own design firm called kanko, which focuses on sustainable design for sustainable companies. And he's responded to the request for proposal with some awesome designs. we tweaked it from there, but I ended up getting a dish out of it, you know? Yeah. And it was perfect, it looked modern. So it took him several months. Um, you know, everything takes twice as long quite cost twice as much as you think it's going to be. But by the end of my junior year, so it really took a whole year to finally get a new brand, again, but it was a way better brand. And by that point, I had my trademark starting to get filed. And I had the designer finished with the designs by the time I finished my junior year. On that whole summer, I was still selling out of a Marburger dairy bottles actually. And then I had placed my order with this manufacturer I found in China and Alibaba. And then by that September, um, I got my 10,000 bottles and Oh yeah, my mom invent like, give me a long to get the bottles. And then then yeah, we were off.

Josh Meeder :

That's one thing that I think a lot of people don't realize or don't learn early on in entrepreneurship, is asking for help is reaching out and being vulnerable because I think a lot of people take starting a new business and like, I got to do it. It's my idea. It's all in my head. And they don't take the opportunity to use the community resources, the literally the resources of the world like what you did, putting it out on the LinkedIn and finding these people come out of the woodwork. I found people want to help and when you have a great cause and you have an amazing product, people want to be a part of it.

Mark Sotomayor :

That's been the case for me. I've tried to do it. All myself, it doesn't work as well. Yeah, thank God for the people on that. Yeah, as you said came out of the woodwork seemingly.

Josh Meeder :

So if you're listening out there and you're thinking of starting a business or changing, ask ask for help ask for advice, ask for input asked for feedback, people are willing and able and happy to give it. So okay, so now we're to the point you've got your new brand, you're at the you know, towards the end is school and this brand is growing. So what I'd like to do is kind of shift focus a little bit and actually highlight some of the the 40s that you have right now. And that you mentioned it earlier to me before we got on the call that you have a new one coming on. So want to talk a little bit about each of the Teas, the kind of their flavor profiles, what they mean to you, and then we'll jump into what's next because you have some really big exciting things on the plate right now.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah. So our first tea was the Peruvian chat my grandma's recipe. And this was exclusively what we sold for like two years until we got our on new tree cup bottles the first time and it's got cinnamon, cloves, and Nissan fused with an organic black tea kind of like a simplified, non creamy version of a chai tea. And people really love and mothers. And anyone who likes a child likes it. Our second flavor was the berry Jasmine. I love jasmine tea. Every time I went to like a Chinese or sushi restaurant I asked for Jasmine. And I just knew it to be one of the superior teas like taste wise and I guess subjectively from my opinion. And I went into my loose leaf tea supplier, presto George, which is in the Strip District. And they've been around for a long time near Woolies. And I was looking through and asking the staff, you know, what do you think what goes well together. And I actually before I left the store, I had come up with six different blends of tea. And I had bought a lot of different, you know, small amounts, a couple ounces here a couple ounces there of like 20 different types of teas, herbs and spices. This was when I was rebranding that I took this on to figure out what new flavors I would have. And I knew I wanted to specialize and teas that other brands didn't make so differentiation further. And I was going around the top of the mason jars and like opening the mob and like smelling them and stuff. Now during Corona they wouldn't let me do this but this was back then. And then I smelled this berry mix. I thought the berries would go really well with the Jasmine. And so I put them together. Eventually I found like the proper proportions. And then I made the berry Jasmine. And that's our best seller in Whole Foods and everywhere now where we sell so that was my second flavor and actually introduced that still when we were in town Oh brand labels and bottles. And then I was in Dover a tea house in Pittsburgh and shadyside it really really cute tea house. really expensive keys like a menu of 300 different artisan teas they make on the spot. And then I have this amazing check t called the sterile borsch off. And it was phenomenal. I didn't know what was in it was a simple black iced tea but something was was different about it. I kind of felt to have like a woody taste to it. And so then I typed into Google woody black tea, and I found out this recipe for lumberjack black tea is a perfect name for my brand I'd say because lumberjacks actually are some of the people who plant the most trees although they cut down a lot of trees. They plant trees supposedly and they're supposed to have many trees per each tree they cut down. And so this one has cedar furs, juniper berries, and black tea from India from Sri Lanka called nilgiri. And yeah, definitely a woody aftertaste different so people love black teas and stores. All the ice tea brands are like all black tea mostly. So I knew I wanted a black tea but something different. And this is got a ton of antioxidants in it. Indeed people have never tried anything quite like it. Then on my dorm with all these different blends of tea each day I would try a different blend to figure things out. And so I mixed green tea with lemon peels, Jen sang spearmint one day and I came up with this amazing blend like a tangy, but also minty green tea. I called the gin cnn Yang I made the name up. Um, and yeah, it's kind of got some oriental parts to it. Um, and that sells really well spotted clean green and the punch of caffeine and ginseng in its wake you up. I also came up with a peach tumeric tea, which was that recipe was exactly recommended to me by someone, a staff member in presto George, and then I came up with a Macia, but I wanted it to be different. So I mixed it, I cut it with some gluco Japanese green tea. So two green teas cut together. And those two I've actually taken out on an order for manufacturing efficiencies and stuff on May sold a little bit less well than the rest. And now Yeah, we're uh, we're up to those four. Two of them are sweet two are on sweet.

Josh Meeder :

Okay, which are the two that are sweetened?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, are proven chai tea has six grams of organic cane sugar on the 25 calories worth nothing crazy. Same with the berry Jasmine on the six grams of sugar 25 calories on balance out the flavor. The other two are unsleep.

Josh Meeder :

Okay. And then you we were talking a little bit you have something =sounds really interesting coming up for for the next tee.

Mark Sotomayor :

Yes, um, we're going to launch for the first time ever on our website, and in our in person vendor sales, ancient healing tea blends. I came up with this this summer, although it's not new, you know, tea has empty blends have been used in like oriental medicine for centuries. And nowadays, whenever people are sick, they sometimes go towards pharmaceuticals or stuff like that, when these holistic medicines have existed, but they're hidden to the world, even though they're ancient. I was in the woods for three weeks, between July 23 and August 15. Living in a tent. I thought I was only going to live there for three days, but then on the weekend, but then my mom and sister called me and said, We have Corona. So I quarantined in the woods. And I that was something I wanted to do too. While I was there, some of the people that were also camping there got sick, and I had all my tea blends there. Since I was selling tea, the first three days there at a festival Actually, I decided I'm going to try to heal them with these tea blends, and I had like akinesia on St. John's war, turmeric, um, Hickory Sencha. The list goes on and on. And ginger, orange pills, dehydrated peaches, all sorts of stuff more than that, even just like a box of them. And so I made them these teas. And they indeed were only sick for like, a few days. So I thought maybe I killed them or whatever. And I was also drinking these teas experimenting with new blends. And then when I was doing work and I I actually went on a couple of runs. During this time, I could run farther, I had more stamina, like my breath was more than I had experienced in the past in my mood. And these people felt I had asked him if they were impacted and indeed they said and you know, it helped them a lot. And so then obviously, you know, I thought Wow, well, the Chinese have been doing this for a long time. They live a long, long, healthy lives. That's what I should do. And this kind of epiphany came over me that I can make holistic medicine in a bottle. Not just like refreshing beverage like what everyone else does. But instead of you know a pill or something which is kind of like a fraud. I think about it honestly. I can make them you know something that they can get at their convenience shop. This whole And then just sprung up in my mind of being a totally different Tea Company, that really the tree of life in a tea company that helps the world helps the consumers body and helps to change the greedy capitalistic system heal the business industry.

Josh Meeder :

Yeah, conscientious capitalism. I know capitalism gets a lot of bad press. And you know, that always fires me up there are Is it the greatest system in the world? No, is there's a lot of different things. And we need to meld What's good, but can conscious capitalism, where you're doing it not only for the interest of your company, and yourself, but for the broader for the community, for others, for your employees, and for the planet, is a really good system. And you know, you see it picking up and it's great to see in the press, and in reality, when people are using business to better the the communities in the environments. So right now, speaking of bettering the business, you are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign and going through some expansion plans here. So just kind of give us a wrap up of you know, what you're looking to do next? Where is tree cup going? What do you need? And what will it look like in the next year?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah. So right now we're doing a Kickstarter, we had already hit our first goal, at the time of this recording, have 5000, I think today, we're at like six and a half thousand. And we're trying to reach about 15 grand, anything more than that would be great to scale operations. For the first time ever, we're going to use a warehouse, we would like to use a distributor, so we can focus on production. And we're also entering a slew of new shops, and dependent shops and hip, cool Pittsburgh based stores. And addition, I'm also really looking for some hires, some like sales reps for the next summer. And in order to do that, I have to invest in new vendor pop ups and all that. So really just growing the business, and we're taking on Amazon. And so we're going to be listing on there on seeing how that does and collecting some positive reviews until we have more capacity on and one of the biggest things is importation costs. Terrorists are big right now. So this will also help cover that and ensure that we get in a good position for growing the business and to this next summer.

Josh Meeder :

People, if they're interested in your teas, as it's coming on Amazon and if they're outside the Pittsburgh or western Pennsylvania region, can they get your teas online? Can we do you ship?

Mark Sotomayor :

Yeah, we ship. The website is treat cup t.com. Um, we have a great emailing list there at the bottom, you can sign up where you'll be able to see whenever we get on Amazon as well if you're a free plan on that or you do prime or something. But other than that, we're also going to reopen stores, like Whole Foods. Three Pittsburgh Whole Foods will be resurfacing them and supplying them by the end of October.

Josh Meeder :

Okay, so if you're in the area, look at Whole Foods, keep your eyes out at some of the local farmers markets. If you're not in the area, definitely check out the website I'll put in all the links to your website and how to contact mark in also the Kickstarter campaign. So if you've really been moved by Mark story and want to help support, support the efforts that tree cup, go on, throw a couple bucks that way. Mark, it's been a fantastic afternoon. I really enjoy getting the depth and the the kind of the story behind the story. I love what you're doing and wish you the best success. Is there anything else that you'd like to close with before we sign off here?

Mark Sotomayor :

I'm writing a book. It's called The Chronicles of Jorge colon gap here. The idea in the plot has been coming to me throughout the year. And now I'm actually going to do it. It's about a Mexican American kid, kind of with insecurities. naivete innocence. He decides he doesn't want to start college because he doesn't want to know what he wants to do. So he goes on this epic adventure. He lives in Texas from conservative hometown in Texas to California. California, New Mexico, Mexico to Morocco, Africa, then he's gonna ride his bike from Morocco to the promised land Israel. So that'll be done at some point. And I'm going to add that into my entrepreneurial toolbox. So look out for that, I guess.