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Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently - And Succeeding

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In an incredibly fun and accessible two-color graphic-book format, the cofounders of Honest Tea tell the engaging story of how they created and built a mission-driven business, offering a wealth of insights and advice to entrepreneurs, would-be entrepreneurs, and millions of Honest Tea drinkers about the challenges and hurdles of creating a successful business--and the imp In an incredibly fun and accessible two-color graphic-book format, the cofounders of Honest Tea tell the engaging story of how they created and built a mission-driven business, offering a wealth of insights and advice to entrepreneurs, would-be entrepreneurs, and millions of Honest Tea drinkers about the challenges and hurdles of creating a successful business--and the importance of perseverance and creative problem-solving. Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff began Honest Tea fifteen years ago with little more than a tea leaf of an idea and a passion to offer organic, freshly brewed, lightly sweetened bottled tea. Today Honest Tea is a rapidly expanding national brand sold in more than 100,0000 grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and drugstores across the country. The brand has flourished as American consumers move toward healthier and greener lifestyles.


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In an incredibly fun and accessible two-color graphic-book format, the cofounders of Honest Tea tell the engaging story of how they created and built a mission-driven business, offering a wealth of insights and advice to entrepreneurs, would-be entrepreneurs, and millions of Honest Tea drinkers about the challenges and hurdles of creating a successful business--and the imp In an incredibly fun and accessible two-color graphic-book format, the cofounders of Honest Tea tell the engaging story of how they created and built a mission-driven business, offering a wealth of insights and advice to entrepreneurs, would-be entrepreneurs, and millions of Honest Tea drinkers about the challenges and hurdles of creating a successful business--and the importance of perseverance and creative problem-solving. Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff began Honest Tea fifteen years ago with little more than a tea leaf of an idea and a passion to offer organic, freshly brewed, lightly sweetened bottled tea. Today Honest Tea is a rapidly expanding national brand sold in more than 100,0000 grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and drugstores across the country. The brand has flourished as American consumers move toward healthier and greener lifestyles.

30 review for Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently - And Succeeding

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diego

    Very enlightening. I found myself empathizing with the authors, appreciating their efforts and their mission to change the world through a small drink business. Proving that consumers care about quality. While reading I was learning from their mistakes and mentally taking notes about their strengths and ideals. I found the graphic novel format to be a much more approachable format to tell their story. The art was well-done, and used to enhance the story with visuals, but not in any way distracti Very enlightening. I found myself empathizing with the authors, appreciating their efforts and their mission to change the world through a small drink business. Proving that consumers care about quality. While reading I was learning from their mistakes and mentally taking notes about their strengths and ideals. I found the graphic novel format to be a much more approachable format to tell their story. The art was well-done, and used to enhance the story with visuals, but not in any way distracting. This is not the type of book I normally read, but due to its uniqueness compared to other business books I was intrigued. This book has helped me understand the day-to-day struggles of being an entrepreneur, and the rewards that go to the ones who can overcome them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fernando

    I would stop short of calling this book a "guide" - at best, the "rules" and "tips" offered are too generic to be useful, or too narrow to be relevant. The artwork is really beautiful and makes it for easy reading, since many times you don't need to read about the environment or the character's reactions, you just need to infer from the drawings. It was a breeze to read. I was about to give two stars but bumped it up to three by the end when the authors clearly recognize that their story had a st I would stop short of calling this book a "guide" - at best, the "rules" and "tips" offered are too generic to be useful, or too narrow to be relevant. The artwork is really beautiful and makes it for easy reading, since many times you don't need to read about the environment or the character's reactions, you just need to infer from the drawings. It was a breeze to read. I was about to give two stars but bumped it up to three by the end when the authors clearly recognize that their story had a strong element of luck, something they haven't admitted from the beginning but became clear that they don't ignore. As they say, for every Honest Tea that succeeds, 10,000 others fail, and luck plays a big part of that equation. Business sense is also important, but I'm hard-pressed to think that Seth is considerably smarter than the rest of the folks at Yale SOM. My biggest problem with the book is not a problem with the book, but a problem with Seth and Barry's philosophy - they say they want to change the American diet, and the way they do that is by selling a sugary drink. They say they want to help the environment, yet their work generates millions of bottles that probably end up in landfills every year. They argue they try to reduce the impact of their kid pouches by partnering with Terracycle and then making dresses for pianists - really? Most of that seems moot to me, seems like "how can we do business as usual, but incrementally better, so we ensure we can still be successful entrepreneurs, cash a fat check once we're bought by Coke, but having to sacrifice none of the consumerist comforts we've grew accustomed to since World War II"? And maybe I'm being unfair to what they've accomplished, but I would be more impressed if their business model moved away from bottled beverages altogether, helping Americans (and everyone, actually) to have access to fresh and natural beverages that are cultivated, harvested, and sold locally, avoiding millions of truck-miles of transportation, avoiding the need for disposable containers, etc. If you're gonna dream, dream big - change the game, not one of the sidelines. The one point that is indisputably good is the way they treat their suppliers - it's great to see their commitment to respecting their legacies (even though that can be confused into cultural appropriation, tricky line to walk), favoring ecological sound planting principles, and empowering communities that have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised. The scale that Coke provides will hopefully magnify the positive effect on those communities.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erica Metcalf

    This was such a fun read! I cruised through it in just two short sittings. So needless to say, I really enjoyed it! Not only did I have SO much fun reading this book, it also convinced me to go out and try Honest Tea, embarrassingly, for the first time. And I warn you... if you haven't tried the teas yet...you're going to want to! They are DELICIOUS. Seth and Barry's story is so inspirational. I love that the book started at the very beginning so we were able to see how things transformed over t This was such a fun read! I cruised through it in just two short sittings. So needless to say, I really enjoyed it! Not only did I have SO much fun reading this book, it also convinced me to go out and try Honest Tea, embarrassingly, for the first time. And I warn you... if you haven't tried the teas yet...you're going to want to! They are DELICIOUS. Seth and Barry's story is so inspirational. I love that the book started at the very beginning so we were able to see how things transformed over time! I will admit that some of the more technical things were a bit dry to me, like the math behind their pricing and such things. But overall, I was hooked. I couldn't stop reading because I just had to know what happened next! The artwork was lovely! It was so simple, but so intriguing. I really enjoyed the element of humor that was in both the text and the art. For example, when Barry was talking to his class about there being a hole in the market, the artwork showed him in a whirlpool, sinking. Then in the next panel, he's asking the class about bubbles, and he's floating in the air on a bubble! Next, they're talking about packaging and he's swimming in a large pile of bottles! My favorite passage: As a game theorist, I encourage people to truly understand the other party's perspective. When you put yourself in their position, it isn't what you would do wearing their shoes, it's what they would do wearing their shoes. No surprise, but that's much easier said than done, especially when their shoes don't fit you feet or your worldview. Honest Tea has helped me appreciate that consumers make decisions every day that can tilt the world a little closer to the one we want, rather than the one we live in.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Earl Lee

    Very fun and honest read. Surprisingly, I think many of the lessons imparted by Seth & Barry from building their bottled tea company carries over to businesses of any type including software companies. Things such as dealing with investors with varied interest, potential investors who want unfavorable terms and shady motives, hustling & doing the grunt work, etc. Very fun and honest read. Surprisingly, I think many of the lessons imparted by Seth & Barry from building their bottled tea company carries over to businesses of any type including software companies. Things such as dealing with investors with varied interest, potential investors who want unfavorable terms and shady motives, hustling & doing the grunt work, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Honest Tea is part advertisement, part underdog story, and part business advice book. The graphic novel explains how a Yale business grad and favorite professor started an iced tea company that sells tea not loaded with sugar. As I never took a business class, I was fascinated by the logistics of their tea business. Though they were bringing in millions, they were struggling to make a profit. Their experiments, not only with tea flavors, but with packaging, labeling, and distribution, were sprin Honest Tea is part advertisement, part underdog story, and part business advice book. The graphic novel explains how a Yale business grad and favorite professor started an iced tea company that sells tea not loaded with sugar. As I never took a business class, I was fascinated by the logistics of their tea business. Though they were bringing in millions, they were struggling to make a profit. Their experiments, not only with tea flavors, but with packaging, labeling, and distribution, were sprinkled through the human side of the story. I related to these two entrepreneurs, and I was thankful, for once, to read a business story that didn't gloss over the difficulties. I grew somewhat tired of the continuous advertising; how delicious the tea is, how virtuous the brewers are, etc. There is also a sanctimonious kid (the son of one of the businessmen) who pops up for a few pages and basically criticizes all of the adults for not being saintly and environmental enough. I had fun imagining what my parents would have said if I'd have pulled that nonsense with them. They certainly wouldn't have been as sweet and gentle as the dad in this book! However, the sanctimonious kid serves as a stand-in for the numerous sanctimonious customers of Honest Tea, who were irate when the company sold to Coca-Cola. The authors address a lot of the criticism they'd received over the years, and I enjoyed their complex, entertaining take on the course of their business. The advertising worked, too; I think I'd like to drink their tea. I am grossed out by the sugary tea I find most places, so if I see a bottle of theirs, I'll give it a shot.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Gertler

    I read a lot of startup books -- some good, some really bad -- before I found this. It contains ~40 stories of what it is like to be an entrepreneur. It's probably the most honest startup book I've seen; you learn about personal crisis, thieving suppliers, employee betrayal, undeserved good luck, and just about everything else that can happen to new companies no matter how great their products are. This is the first book I would recommend to any person who wants to start a company. There are two I read a lot of startup books -- some good, some really bad -- before I found this. It contains ~40 stories of what it is like to be an entrepreneur. It's probably the most honest startup book I've seen; you learn about personal crisis, thieving suppliers, employee betrayal, undeserved good luck, and just about everything else that can happen to new companies no matter how great their products are. This is the first book I would recommend to any person who wants to start a company. There are two others: The Lean Startup and Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You've Got. * * * * * Note: Some people seem annoyed by the graphic-novel format. I liked it. It helped the founders turn 80-90 pages of material into a full-size book, and it gave each story time to sink in while still allowing the book to be read in two hours. I'd much rather read a 200-page graphic novel than plow through 80 pages of text about moving bottles around.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    A quick but insightful read for the entrepreneur at heart. Doesn't hurt that I am fan of the product, either. Didn't think I would be a fan of the comic book-layout but it was a nice departure from your normal read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shahrukh

    An overview of the challenges in beverage industry. An easy book for aspiring entrepreneurs. This book is not giving (like any other book) a checklist to start a successful business. It's a kind of memoir of the founders and their company. we

  9. 4 out of 5

    Teresita

    Just had to read this for my Innovation Tech & Strategy class and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Normally I don't read graphic novels and I've only been trying to get into reading business books lately so the combination of the two made me skeptical. The graphics kept me engaged and entertained and the entrepreneur/business aspects were right up my alley through my newfound knowledge from my grad program. Seth and Barry showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting a business and t Just had to read this for my Innovation Tech & Strategy class and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Normally I don't read graphic novels and I've only been trying to get into reading business books lately so the combination of the two made me skeptical. The graphics kept me engaged and entertained and the entrepreneur/business aspects were right up my alley through my newfound knowledge from my grad program. Seth and Barry showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting a business and took readers on their journey with them every step of the way. It's always awesome for me to get to see and hear about tangible start-up ventures outside of the bubble of my program and reading about the harder parts was definitely important for me. 10x better than if I'd just had to read the case study-even if it took longer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sara Komo

    2020: A simple, fast read about the ups and downs of starting a business. I really enjoyed that Goldman & Nalebuff spoke about a lot of their failures as a business, as well as all of their successes. I mean, I’d expect nothing less from a company with “Honest” in the name, but it was still nice to see. This story is told through a graphic novel format, which worked for me, and helped to make the more complex business jargon very accessible. Would highly recommend for anyone not familiar with th 2020: A simple, fast read about the ups and downs of starting a business. I really enjoyed that Goldman & Nalebuff spoke about a lot of their failures as a business, as well as all of their successes. I mean, I’d expect nothing less from a company with “Honest” in the name, but it was still nice to see. This story is told through a graphic novel format, which worked for me, and helped to make the more complex business jargon very accessible. Would highly recommend for anyone not familiar with the world of start ups and MBAs. It also really made me crave some iced tea.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kwang Wei Long

    Comic story telling of Honest Tea background and journey. Filled with nuggets of wisdom about entrepreneurship. Some advise are pretty common such as being radically different, as per given by Peter Thiel. Book also focuses on how they strive to be honest to their name and created a new kind of standard of doing business that focuses on sustainability. Overall, a good and easy read. Recommended for entrepreneurs into sustainability business.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jose Vitela

    Not since “Let my people go surfing” have I read a book as inspirational and practical about building an enduring mission-driven business. Also, the format was incredibly unifique - it was like reading a comic book or story. There’s wit, and wisdom, and incredibly practical advice for entrepreneurs. If you’re at all interested in ESG investing, social enterprises, and/or good natured CEOs definitely read this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This is a fun way to learn about the process of birthing a business. It makes the subject very accessible to anyone, teaching some basic business operations lessons without reading like a textbook. There is a fair amount on small business ethics and decision making as well. All from a delightfully crunchy hippie perspective. Overall, I'd recommend it to anyone who is considering starting a business, or is curious about the tea they buy at the store.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Interesting and engaging concept; a cross between a comic book and a business book co-authored by the two founders on Honest Tea, one of which is one of the foremost authorities on game theory and business strategy in the world. Highly effective.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ttjiptad

    Great honest seriously insightful business (comic) book! I highly, highly recommended this book for people who are passionate in building good business for better world. And those who just like to read good comics! :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Alcazaren

    A fantastic look at starting a mission driven company. Really enjoyed the comic book style as well. Must read for budding entrepreneurs. Loved seeing how Seth and Barry did some really innovative financing here.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shan Walker

    This was my first graphic adult novel, and it was excellent; I enjoyed reading about how a small business can grow and be successful. I've recommended this book as a guide to others considering starting their own business.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Very fun (my first graphic) read about a company that started across the street from where I attended church. I remember the first time I saw it in local stores and how much I LOVED the taste. I liked the “story” and was afraid I was a sucker... cool stuff.

  19. 5 out of 5

    yamiyoghurt

    Chronological, not particularly insightful. Not my favorite read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    LuAnn

    How Honest Tea got its start.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Asis

    Joins the likes of Let My People Go Surfing

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Pechin

    In a sentence: Building a company will be hard, but stay true to your mission and if you're not laughing regularly, re-calibrate.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Pyne

    Thank you for sharing your story! What a great read and what a fun and engaging way to read it. Thank you for sharing your story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Irene Minkina

    I have no inherent interest in business, so any guide to business is a hard sell for me. I read this for a professional book club, and I am so glad I did. The graphic novel format worked incredibly well, and there was so much more to the story here than technical advice on running a business. This book has a ton of heart and is an honest look at the ups and downs of a startup. I loved seeing Seth and Barry’s business and personal relationship develop and thrive, even as they dealt with innumerab I have no inherent interest in business, so any guide to business is a hard sell for me. I read this for a professional book club, and I am so glad I did. The graphic novel format worked incredibly well, and there was so much more to the story here than technical advice on running a business. This book has a ton of heart and is an honest look at the ups and downs of a startup. I loved seeing Seth and Barry’s business and personal relationship develop and thrive, even as they dealt with innumerable setbacks and failures. I loved how dedicated they both were to their mission of running an ethical business. It made me want to support Honest Tea (I even ordered a case mid-read). Even for those of us who will never contemplate starting a business venture, this is an excellent read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Would have much preferred a more traditional text retelling. Another "story behind the brand" book, except this time it's behind Honest Tea, a drink you may have seen in your local store, convenience shop, etc. But this is different! Why? Because it's in graphic novel form!   Eh. I have absolutely nothing against graphic novels (not a buyer but I've read various DC, Marvel ones, etc. Even read 'The Walking Dead', although I was then afraid to sleep that night). But with stories like this, I think Would have much preferred a more traditional text retelling. Another "story behind the brand" book, except this time it's behind Honest Tea, a drink you may have seen in your local store, convenience shop, etc. But this is different! Why? Because it's in graphic novel form!   Eh. I have absolutely nothing against graphic novels (not a buyer but I've read various DC, Marvel ones, etc. Even read 'The Walking Dead', although I was then afraid to sleep that night). But with stories like this, I think I would have just preferred something where it is a traditional retelling with text for the ability to go into detail. Unless these pictures are actual recreations of the scenes and conversations, I'm not that interested.   It wasn't something that really held my interest, although I'd skim here and there. There are occasional breaks where it's mostly text about various lessons they've learned, tips they want to share, summaries of the story so far, etc. Again, could have been done in a text format.   Some might like the style of this, but for me I just wasn't interested. Perhaps because it's a non-fiction story I just felt the comic form just wasn't appropriate. It also ends with the sale to Coca-Cola. I understand the reasons for the sale, but I still found it depressing that this is where their stories end, although in its own way that does make sense.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This book started with two surprises. 1) I didn't realize it was written in graphic novel form. 2) This is actually the second book co-authored by Barry Nalebuff that I've read (The Art of Strategy was assigned in a business course - I had no idea he was a co-founder). I briefly hesitated at the format, wondering if I had accidentally picked up a children's book. But I'm glad I continued reading it, because Goldman and Nalebuff have done a great job at providing an entertaining look at the reali This book started with two surprises. 1) I didn't realize it was written in graphic novel form. 2) This is actually the second book co-authored by Barry Nalebuff that I've read (The Art of Strategy was assigned in a business course - I had no idea he was a co-founder). I briefly hesitated at the format, wondering if I had accidentally picked up a children's book. But I'm glad I continued reading it, because Goldman and Nalebuff have done a great job at providing an entertaining look at the realities of entrepreneurship, specifically in the beverage industry. The illustrations carry you from the business school environment that hatched the Honest Tea idea to the trials of finding investors, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, more investors, and on and on. Occasionally the book skims over some of the challenging parts of the industry (signing the first customer can be a formidable challenge) as the graphic novel format lends itself to short, punchy story lines with a tidy ending or lesson learned. Despite this, it overall does a good job of helping the reader appreciate that launching a company like Honest Tea requires a great idea, timing, resources, support, and a whole lot of luck.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Barry Nalebuff and Seth Goldman, who are the cofounders of Honest Tea, tell how they created their bottled tea business and grew it into something more. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with telling their business story in a graphic novel format but it didn't work for me. Graphic novels are great platforms to tell stories with a lot of action, colorful figures, and fantastic backgrounds. The story of founding a business, any business, seems to take place mostly in rooms with a bun Barry Nalebuff and Seth Goldman, who are the cofounders of Honest Tea, tell how they created their bottled tea business and grew it into something more. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with telling their business story in a graphic novel format but it didn't work for me. Graphic novels are great platforms to tell stories with a lot of action, colorful figures, and fantastic backgrounds. The story of founding a business, any business, seems to take place mostly in rooms with a bunch of people in business attire. The creation of a mission statement is mainly words on a page with little to show, action-wise. That doesn't make it less important, but simply less exciting than a superhero comic. Even the tense moments of Mission in a Bottle, like the time when a guy thought he found a piece of a male body part in one of the brands that they were renting their bottling facility out to, just didn't translate in a meaningful way to a cartoon format. Overall, I enjoyed the business story and found it inspiring. I wish Goldman and Nalebuff had written it as a traditional book rather than a graphic novel.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    An enjoyable read on how Honest Tea went from start-up to a division of Coke in about 10 years. Telling the story in a graphic format was somewhat unique for a business book - I've read two others that were Japanese imports. I liked the format mostly in that it defined the way the story was told. Instead of a long narrative, this is broken into a number of anecdotes of from one to ten pages. This was a great way to get the story of the company, showing highlights as well as giving a taste of day An enjoyable read on how Honest Tea went from start-up to a division of Coke in about 10 years. Telling the story in a graphic format was somewhat unique for a business book - I've read two others that were Japanese imports. I liked the format mostly in that it defined the way the story was told. Instead of a long narrative, this is broken into a number of anecdotes of from one to ten pages. This was a great way to get the story of the company, showing highlights as well as giving a taste of day-in-the-life of the founders. It felt like a series of columns from Inc. magazine but in comic format. And they made sure that there weren't just dozens of frames with conference rooms -- that was appreciated! I feel I learned quite a bit about how Honest Tea operated. My quibbles with content are that the story in effect stops with Coke's investment in 2008, with some updates in text. My quibbles with the media are in those text sections. They are handwritten but a bit hard to read. I received the uncorrected proof of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jack Cheng

    I really enjoyed the story of Honest Tea, even as I understood it as partly an advertisement for the brand. This is the story of a start up, one with a commitment to social values like Fair Trade, organic ingredients, lower sugar content -- and that is now owned by Coke. The authors and founders of the company are an idealistic family man and a Yale School of Management prof. They do a great job of laying out the issues involved Ina beverage startup, clear about the mistakes they made and also i I really enjoyed the story of Honest Tea, even as I understood it as partly an advertisement for the brand. This is the story of a start up, one with a commitment to social values like Fair Trade, organic ingredients, lower sugar content -- and that is now owned by Coke. The authors and founders of the company are an idealistic family man and a Yale School of Management prof. They do a great job of laying out the issues involved Ina beverage startup, clear about the mistakes they made and also include a lot of business theory. One bit that I was surprised by was the prof saying that most academics were becoming hyper specific whereas business school is a generalist field where students are expected to learn a wide range of skills and subjects. The sale to Coke asks a great question: will Coke subvert the mission or can Honest Tea help Coke change? that remains to be seen. The book is told as a graphic novel and I admit I would not have read it otherwise. The art is clean and illustrative and not boring -- a feat for a book that's mostly about people talking.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emilia P

    I was kind of iffy about deciding to read this book but then I was like holy crap how can finagling reliable distributors be so darn fascinating and engrossing! It was like that over and over again with this -- like a really good holistic case study of how to start a reasonably socially conscious business and also the ins and outs of the beverage industry. Do you care about Honest Tea? Do you care about bizness? No? Well! You should still read this book! It is funny, and informative, and spelled I was kind of iffy about deciding to read this book but then I was like holy crap how can finagling reliable distributors be so darn fascinating and engrossing! It was like that over and over again with this -- like a really good holistic case study of how to start a reasonably socially conscious business and also the ins and outs of the beverage industry. Do you care about Honest Tea? Do you care about bizness? No? Well! You should still read this book! It is funny, and informative, and spelled out in plain English, but not dumbed down, and really makes you think about how much you take for granted in the way our gleefully capitalist country works and the illustrations are on point and effective and funny in their own right. And no one paid me to say this! For serious! Go read it! *fin* And uhhh then go watch some Shark Tank. And see it through the lens of this book. Fascinating stuff.

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