as soon as David Karr's buddy Alex Pryor introduced him to yerba maté in 1996, he was hooked on the vitamin-, mineral- and antioxidant-packed South American tea. It wasn't long before Karr--with Pryor's help--abandoned his computer startup to launch Guayaki, a Sebastopol, California, yerba maté company dedicated to restoring South America's rain forests, where maté is grown, by using responsible growing practices. Bringing maté to North America was simple; convincing the public to try it, however, took perseverance.
The duo, both 36 now, tackled the problem by serving up maté from a VW bus at festivals, sporting events and natural food stores on the West Coast. "People would come back 15 minutes later saying, 'What is this stuff? How come I feel so good?'" says Karr. Even with 2007 projected sales of $9 million, Guayaki's still taking a grass-roots approach: A biodiesel van travels cross-country to spread the word.