Interview with Dan MacCombie from Runa
“My business partner and I studied sustainable agriculture at Brown University. We had a passion for Latin America. After a trip to Ecuador we knew we wanted to make a difference in that community.” – Dan McCombie, Co-Founder and Executive VP of Runa
Runa produces and markets beverages made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the Amazonian guayusa (gwhy-you-suh) tree. They offer a highly attractive and differentiated line of organic and fairly traded tea and ready-to-drink beverage products to eco-friendly and health-conscious consumers. The WJF’s Conrad Cheeks talked with Dan MacCombie, Co-Founder and Executive VP of Runa, to ask him about his business.
Are you in business, or still planning?
In Business, and now selling our products in ~2000 stores.
What problem is Runa trying to solve?
We are trying to develop sustainable livelihoods and generate income for indigenous farmers in Ecuador’s Amazon region. We also are working to build a line of healthy and energizing products that support creativity and healthy lives here in the US.
How did you become interested in this problem?
My business partner and I studied conservation and communications/ethnolinguistics, respectively, at Brown University. We had a passion for Latin America. After a trip to Ecuador on my part, and shamanic exchanges throughout Latin America on his, we knew we wanted to make a difference in that community.
What is your solution to the problem?
Who are your customers?
We sell and market the Amazonian tree leaf called guayusa. Through Guayusa, we support sustainable livelihoods, reforestation, education, and economic development in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
“Many, many grocery stores”; to give you an estimate, our customers are about 2,000 stores. To name a few: Giant, Stop N Shop, Vitamin Shoppe, Whole Foods in (NY, New England, and CO), Vitamin Cottage, Earth Fare, Fresh Market, David's Tea, Stash Tea Co., and many independents.
What are your annual revenues?
$100,000 - $1 million
How many people do you employ?
Runa has 10 employees in the U.S. and 35 Ecuador.
Where are you located?
Has the William James Foundation competition and mentoring program helped you on your way?
The number of connections that I made through the William James Foundation did help me, as well as the generous prizes and support through the competition.
What other resources have you found that are particularly useful for social entrepreneurs?
Online magazines and reviews
Networking events such as SVN
Most importantly, making connections, and having conversations
For readers who want to know more about what you’re up to, where can we send them?
Reach us at our web site: http://www.runa.org/ and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drinkruna