WHY THE CAT SPRING TEA SISTERS VALUE HERITAGE, MENTORSHIP, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
I don’t think most mission-driven innovators grow up thinking, “Someday, I’d like to be a social entrepreneur.” Rather, the initial thought is more like, “I can’t believe my morning cup of coffee is a result of slave labor.” Or, “Two million Syrian refugees living in Turkey?” The next thoughts are, “What needs to be done about this? And, “What can I personally do about this? How can I raise money and rally my networks?” Dreams turn into impact-driven business models as an emergent social entrepreneur resolves to find a solution.
This tenacity drives the story of sisters JennaDee Detro and Abianne Falla, co-founders of Cat Spring Tea and members of Social Venture Network’s Innovation (SVN) Entrepreneurs Program, which “focuses on identifying women entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color who are leveraging business for the greater good.” For Detro and Falla, Cat Spring Tea celebrates family values, cultural heritage, and the catalyst by which to economically empower their neighbors.
Like many people in Cat Spring, Texas, Detro and Falla grew up believing yaupon, a native plant closely related to the holly shrub, to be just that—shrubbery. After research and testing, Detro and Falla discovered the rich history and energy-boosting health benefits of yaupon. But Cat Spring Tea is more than a yaupon tea company that sells “sunshine and rainwater in a glass,” as they put it. Their priority is to respect the land and American craftsmanship of farming while simultaneously supporting the people in their community.
“Once we realized that scaling production of yaupon would require a variety of labor needs, we knew we wanted to use this as a platform for fresh start employment opportunities for those in our community who, like yaupon, are also undervalued,” says Detro.
What their team members say matters—so much so that Detro and Falla have adapted Cat Spring Tea’s operations based on feedback from their staff. They want to offer real, human-first solutions by building a team and solving production and personnel problems cooperatively.
“One member of our team says she tells new hires, ‘This is a place where you don’t have to make up a reason for not being able to come to work.’ An appointment or car problems are legitimate reasons here,” says Falla.
Detro and Falla give full credit to their grandparents who valued the Texas soil, and to their parents for helping to improve harvesting and developing employment initiatives. Participation in the B Corp and SVN communities has expanded their view of social entrepreneurship and provided rich mentorship.
“Sustainability and responsible employment practices are important to us as founders and thus important to our business. We want to build in accountability to these priorities as we grow and we also appreciate the support and expertise available in the B-Corp network,” says Detro.
SVN’s Innovation Entrepreneurs Program has been a “gift” to Detro and Falla, particularly the thirty-minute mentor meetings and the supportive community.
“The mindset that an SVN attendee has toward the Innovation Entrepreneurs takes the cake, many conversations include the following: “You should talk to so and so...? Have you thought about…? This reminds me of such and such …? Let me send an intro.” SVN is such an inspiring organization and the caliber of the people we have met has been incredible. The generosity of time and experienced wisdom has been humbling and encouraging,” says Detro.