A Boat Party on 10th Street
Moving a boat on wheels across a busy street can be quite the chore. But a co-founder of Menno Tea, Hans Weaver, was up to the task. He needed to be, to bring his beverage to eager prospective Goshen College students.
Menno Tea, produced by two Goshen College students, Weaver and Niles Graber Miller, made its debut earlier this month in Goshen, Ind. But the business itself began months ago when the two of them pitched the idea to business faculty and received a $5,000 entrepreneurship grant.
The pair met at a Mennonite Economic Development Associates conference in 2010 and realized that they had a lot in common.
“Hans had made soda at Eastern Mennonite University before, and it had done really well,” said Graber Miller. Graber Miller said that they knew the market for tea was good, and neither of them wanted to do soda again. So tea it was.
The tea is based on a recipe for meadow tea passed down through Weaver’s Mennonite family. That tradition inspired the name.
Goshen College purchased 1,100 bottles of Menno Tea prior to the convention and has been giving coupons to high school students, which they could redeem for a bottle of their own on Tuesday afternoon.
Although Graber Miller and Weaver are not allowed to sell their product inside the convention center, Menno Tea is available for purchase in limited quantities at convenience stores nearby.
“We hope to spread the word about Menno Tea and the Goshen College Business Department,” said Weaver, “We couldn’t have done this without their $5,000 grant and support from family, friends and faculty.”
Graber Miller and Weaver knew they’d need something eye-catching to help distribute their beverage at convention. Weaver said the two of them were discussing options at Graber Miller’s house, which is located next to the Goshen dam pond.
The young entrepreneurs looked outside and noticed an abandoned boat on the shore. Neither of them knew how it got there, but they decided that it would work perfectly. After attaching wheels and painting it with multiple Menno Tea logos, it was good to go.
It was in this boat, parked on the sidewalk of 10th street, that Menno Tea was given out to coupon carriers Tuesday, with Bob Marley playing in the background.
Looking into the future, Weaver said they hope to sell their product around the Midwest.
They are currently in talks with distributers to help them begin regional and national sales. The students would eventually like to include other employees in their business and produce a few new flavors.
According to Graber Miller and Weaver, adding teas from other cultures is an option. “Our next flavor will be an unsweetened version,” said Weaver, “and then we’ll look into multiple possibilities.”