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Fizzy Energy: A Passion with a Prize

Sarah Nichols is the Founder and CEO of RSVTea,  She is a powerful, poised and passionate Minnesota entrepreneur on a mission to revive the power of celebration where everyone is invited. She took an idea with fizzy energy to a full fledged business.  In celebration of Women’s History Month we had the opportunity to ask Sarah about her success so far.   

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

My business is RSVTea, a startup beverage company that makes fizzy energy teas! I started brewing the company concept when I was a Junior at Macalester College and studying abroad in Vienna, planning for a career in international relations. I was prepping for the LSATs and tired of drinking too much coffee. I needed a pick-me-up, but I wanted something healthier than energy drinks and more exciting than flat iced tea. So I decided to make caffeinated tea bubbly and better for me with natural sugar substitutes. I prototyped recipes and had so much fun sharing them with my friends, that tea became my focus, and by the end of my study abroad program, I had a recipe, the start of a business plan, and a very dusty LSAT prep book. I left that book in Vienna and returned the U.S. excited to brew and bring a new kind of tea to town.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?
I am a young founder. Although I just turned 23, my age combined with my entrepreneurial spirit gives me a dynamic energy that propelled the launch RSVTea. I graduated in May 2016 and began incubating the company in the Mac Startups summer program, and now have a strong board of directors, a strong brand, a product ready for distribution, and swelling momentum. We’re on a mission to revive the power of celebration, and we’re ready to bring a new type of tea party to the Twin Cities.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My big brother, Taylor. He was born with severe disabilities and has been nonverbal his whole life. Although he can’t speak, Taylor has taught me more about this world than anyone else. More importantly, he showed me how I want to make a lasting, positive impact on this planet. The motto for RSVTea, “everyone’s invited” stems from my childhood with Taylor. I grew up seeing him intentionally and unintentionally excluded- but excluded nonetheless, and I wanted to change that with an inclusivity initiative. I wanted to bring people together to celebrate ourselves for what we are and not what we aren’t. So, this is a toast to Taylor for being my inspiration to change the world, the best hugger when I’m scared I may fail, and my biggest reminder that I am a powerful, poised, and positive force in this world.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem by being a young woman professional who is engaged with her community and building a resilient, local brand. I am an example that regardless of generation, the Twin Cities are a fertile place to start a successful company. I want to make opportunities like mine more accessible and dynamic for new and emerging entrepreneurs. I am especially focused for new graduates or current college students. I am still very involved with entrepreneurship at Macalester, and I am a firm believer that linking the Twin Cities institutions of academia with entrepreneurship initiatives is a paramount addition to the Business Ecosystem.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
My biggest hurdle and success as of now was starting RSVTea. The odds were certainly stacked against me. I was young, a solo founder, a first-time CEO, inexperienced in the beverage industry, staring down the barrel of student debt, little accumulated wealth, and a woman. I faced the odds, took a bet on myself, and dove all in. There was no time for me to fear failure. Fear is crippling, but failure is something one can get up from. I certainly stumbled and fell over the past 10 months, but I persevered because I was not afraid to take the bet on myself, even with all odds considered.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Start something for the sake of passion and not the sake of prize. Stories of Silicon Valley and Shark Tank deals give a luster and allure to entrepreneurship. But, there are times when it is not so glamorous or thrilling. There are times when things are rough, unstable, and in severe need of capital. But, if you really care about the problem you are solving, that flicker of passion will keep you navigating the dark and depressing scenarios all startups inevitably face.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I grew up on a farm in southern Missouri and came to Minnesota for college. Missouri is very similar to parts of rural Minnesota, but I fell in love with the Twin Cities. They are alive with countless new experiences, a swelling economy, and a cool patchwork of Midwesterners, East/West-coasters and newcomers. I consider Minnesota my home now, and I’m proud to be a T.C. Entrepreneur!

Sarah presented RSVTea at 1 Million Cups in 2016.  For more information on 1 Million Cups or to present your start up at the James J. Hill Center please visit jjhill.org or apply now

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