Seth Goldman first got the idea to work with the Crow tribe of Montana when he received peppermint tea samples from I'tchik Herb, a woman-owned company on the Crow reservation. Goldman, president and "TeaEO" of all-natural tea manufacturer Honest Tea Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland, wanted to work with I'tchik, but I'tchik was hesitant to enter a relationship with a company that was interested only in commercializing Native American culture.
Goldman, 35, set about the long process of finding a way to bring the tea to market that would make I'tchik and the Crow Nation full partners. With the approval of Crow Tribal elders, Honest Tea started a CRM program that includes buying peppermint from I'tchik and getting the Crow Nation's input on marketing. (The label is a photo of a Crow chief from the 1880s.) Honest Tea pays I'tchik a 75 percent royalty for First Nation tea sales, and a 25 percent royalty goes to the Pretty Shield Foundation, a nonprofit in Montana that helps Native American homeless and foster children. Honest Tea has bought $35,000 in peppermint so far and has sent back $1,500 in sales royalties to Pretty Shield and $3,500 to I'tchik.
Why does Goldman work to incorporate CRM into his company? "Given our name, our brand image and our core market of natural foods, our customers expect us to do more than just sell tea," explains Goldman, whose 1999 sales reached $1.1 million. "Bringing First Nation to market has truly been a labor of love for us. There were times when it looked like it wasn't going to happen. But it finally has, and we are delighted with the results."
Honest Tea Inc., (800) 865-4736, www.honesttea.com.
Kimbrell & Co., 200 Gate Five Rd., #204, Sausalito, CA 94965, (415) 331-1334.