Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa, has a new book, Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life.
Tyler Gage was first introduced to Guayusa in his college years, during a soul-searching trip to the Amazon.
“I was struggling with anxiety and depression,” he explains. Gage experienced “existential anxiety,” even after achieving his life-long goal of being recruited to play soccer at Brown University.
Feeling lost, out of place and like there were deeper parts of himself that he could not understand, Gage embarked on an adventure to the Peruvian forest. He spent time with indigenous elders. He participated in fasting rituals and studied their beliefs.
“I felt like it cracked me open – fully cracked me open – and fully gave me strength, insight, and courage that I never experienced in my life,” says Gage.
Gage says the “insight, strength and connection” he unearthed in his time spent with the indigenous people, ultimately empowered him with the emotional tools to be a successful entrepreneur.
“Hardship is very eminent in every facet of life. I think being a vulnerable, open human, you reach those edges,” says Gage. “The traditions of the Amazon, I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”
The indigenous community also introduced Gage to Guayusa tea.
“Every morning they get up and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa, and it’s really the lifeblood of their people.”
After returning to the US, Gage participated in a class where he and a team wrote a business plan for utilizing Guayusa to create livelihoods for native peoples.
Shortly after graduating, Gage and co-founder Dan MacCombie went to Ecuador to pursue their Guayusa-inspired company.
Neither of the graduates had business experience. Consequently, they solely relied on exhaustive community research, the advice of mentors experienced in the industry and their ability to foster relationships with partners and farmers.
In the end, they created a beverage company that utilizes the caffeinated leaves of the Guayusa tree. The company is called Runa.
Today, almost a decade after Gage and MacCombie initiated their startup; the social enterprise supports over 3,000 indigenous Quichua farming families across Ecuador. The US-based company sources all its Guayusa directly from the native farmers at fair trade prices.
When brewed, Guayusa leaves make an organic tea that’s high in antioxidants and offers a steady and invigorating release of caffeine. By utilizing the energizing properties of Guayusa, Runa offers the US market a range of revitalizing teas and natural, clean alternatives to energy drinks.
As a need for Runa’s products increase, so does the need for a flourishing rainforest, as Guayusa trees naturally thrive under the Amazon’s canopy of hardwood trees.
“These communities really struggle with one foot in both worlds,” says Cage.
The name Runa means “fully alive” in the Quichua language. The word embodies the Quichua people’s connection to their forest and their ancestors; “an embracing of the fullness of how they can live as human beings.”
“When they see pictures of wholesale shelves with cans of Runa, it’s a very exciting opportunity for them to see part their culture being shared.”
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Tyler Gage:
“If you had a choice between cutting down a tree and not having to send your child to school, what kind of choice would you make?’”
“Every morning they get up, and the whole tribe sits around the fire and drinks Guayusa.”
“The traditions of the Amazon I feel like, value what can be learned, and power that can come from touching those edges.”
“I absolutely never would have started the business if it weren’t for the support and the tools that I learned down there.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Tyler Gage: http://tylergage.com
- Book: Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life: http://amzn.to/2fH833y
- Runa: http://runa.org
- Runa on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/drinkRUNA
- Runa on Twitter: https://twitter.com/drinkRUNA
- Runa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drinkruna
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: https://tonyloyd.com/book