Interview with Entrepreneur - Mitch Jacobsen - Cofounder and CEO of Rviita Energy Tea
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
We had the pleasure of speaking to Mitch Jacobsen, the Cofounder and CEO of Rviita Energy Tea, a low calorie, naturally caffeinated and revitalising beverage, that fuels productivity.
Mitch is an entrepreneur and a Petroleum Engineer by trade. He and his co-founders created the innovative energy drink called Rviita Energy Tea.
In our interview he talks about his entrepreneurial journey and the origin story behind Rviita Energy Tea.
Hello Mitch. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background and initial career aspirations?
Mitch: Thank you so much for having me, it is truly an honour and I really appreciate all you do for entrepreneurs! I grew up obsessed with Lego and building things, so I always knew I was going to go into engineering. My father is an engineer, and as a kid I would watch him come home with design drawings he was working on. I saw the fulfilment and excitement my parents had from working in the industry, so it always appealed to me.
What I didn't realize at the time, is that, my passions didn't lie in engineering so much as they did in building an entity or a business that could really make a difference in people's lives.
While I always had an entrepreneurial itch, I went to university out of high school and graduated with a degree in Petroleum Engineering with aspirations of one day starting my own company in oil and gas. I got a job right out of school as a Water Strategist and Water Sustainability Engineer for an oil and gas company. My role was to find more sustainable and efficient ways to source water for oil and gas operations, and I was involved in some of the first mass-recycling water projects for oil and gas in Canada. It was an incredibly rewarding career and I learned so much about finding innovative ways to make operations more environmentally responsible, which still helps me today.
6 years into my career, I could no longer shake off my entrepreneurial desires.
People thought I was insane to walk away from a promising and lucrative career in the energy industry, to go and sell energy tea, but it has become the most exhilarating and fulfilling experience of my life!
What’s the origin story behind you transitioning from a career in Petroleum Engineering, to becoming the Cofounder of Rviita Energy Tea?
Mitch: Great question! In my early twenties a really good friend of mine ended up having a heart attack partially attributed to energy drinks. Fortunately he is okay now, but I remember being with him at the hospital wondering what was in these drinks, and why there wasn't a healthy alternative. A few years later I found myself drinking a lot of energy drinks, and really started seeing the adverse effects of its sugar and chemicals on my own health.
My light bulb moment however, came on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a long day driving around in the field for work. I used to have to drive to northern Alberta, to the bush for work, which I didn't enjoy doing at the time.
I remember pulling over and having a break down. It was my 11th hour of driving and I was exhausted, using multiple energy drinks to stay awake, and I was headed back to a life that just wasn't fulfilling me. Have you ever had that feeling were you just feel like you are off-course, not living the life you are supposed to live?
That was my epiphany in that moment; I knew I was letting my entrepreneurial dreams die and it was time for me to take action. I thought back to my friend having that heart attack and figured that a healthy energy beverage was a problem I could take on. Two years later I quit my job, and the rest is history.
What is unique and innovative about “Rviita Energy Tea” as a product, and why should people buy it?
Mitch: What makes Rviita different is our clean, natural blend of ingredients that is going to leave you feeling amazing without the crash, so you have the energy to be productive when it matters most.
Rviita is made with a refreshing blend of tea, organic honey, fruit juice and vitamins, providing delicious energy with no artificial sweeteners, colours, or preservatives.
What we discovered early on in our research is that tea naturally contains tannins and other amino acids that have been shown to combine with the caffeine molecule, prolonging its effects and reducing the crash you might get from coffees or sugary energy drinks.
We also created an industrial-design protected flexible package that is not only low in carbon-footprint and recyclable, but it can be reused as an icepack and is extremely functional on the go.
Does Rviita Energy Tea have a specific target market, and what is your marketing strategy to reach them?
Mitch: When we first launched Rviita we assumed our target market was going to be 25-40 year old professionals who were active and cared about their health - basically, your typical Whole Foods shopper. What has fascinated us though is that our target market is so much wider than we originally assumed. It turns out finding a healthy source of energy is a universal problem. We supply Rviita to everyone from junior hockey teams to retirement homes, and everyone in between.
As for a marketing strategy, we are very engaged on social media, especially on Instagram. We are out sampling or sponsor some kind of event with free product multiple times per week, and we focus on creating exceptional customer experiences on our website and with our retailers. We've yet to send out a single online order without a thank you card or a phone call. Building relationships and really caring about people has been the key to our early success.
Still on marketing strategy, how have you grown your brand awareness and brand credibility?
Mitch: To grow our brand awareness, we really went back to basics and focused on our customers, and on truly trying to help people and make an impact. We've primarily grown organically through word of mouth by genuinely creating relationships with our customers, asking them what we can do better to serve them, so they stand behind our products.
You'll see on our website we have a 110% money back guarantee! We also hosted group events such as group hikes, we engage with our customers online every day, and we make a point of developing genuine relationships with our customers via phone calls and email.
In an internet-dominated world, I believe consumers crave brands that truly care and engage with them, and we strive to fill that need.
What is Rviita Energy Tea‘s geographical reach and expansion plans?
Mitch: Rviita is currently carried in over 700 stores across Canada, and sold online via our website in both Canada and the USA. The majority of our following and retail presence is in Western Canada, and we are really working to expand the brand to Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces. Once Canada is fully looked after, we have plans to take Rviita south of the border and start helping as many people as we can in the USA, and then in the UK.
I see us starting our USA expansion in the Pacific Northwest. We're currently shipping online orders all across North America.
What are the key challenges you have faced in your career as an entrepreneur, and how have you manage them?
Mitch: I've faced more challenges in our first two years of business than I ever could have imagined. We've had severe supply chain issues that almost put us out of business multiple times. I've dealt with very unforeseen personal challenges, and Covid has thrown a major wrench in many of our plans. Everything from an entire container load of defective packages, to juice shortages, to unexpected funerals has hit us this last year. But... like the saying goes, I believe adversity happens for you, not to you.
Everything we have dealt with has made us stronger, more resilient, and forced us to think outside the box, which will ultimately make us succeed. As far as managing challenges, I am a huge believer in developing mental toughness and controlling what you can control. It starts with what you put in your body, your exercise routine, and your daily habits.
I've found that if I can control my daily routines and look after my health, any challenge that comes my way is more manageable.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Mitch: My most influential mentors have definitely been my parents. They've supported me from day one, and are still at the office on weekends helping us pack boxes.
I watched my father almost lose his life to a rare lung tumour in his early 40s, and then go on to found and build a 100-person engineering firm less than a decade later, with my mom by his side. That's over 100 families that have food on the table because of my parent's perseverance, which has inspired me in ways I can't express in words. Andy Frisella, while I have not met him yet, has been a tremendous influence as well. His podcast, RealAF, has been an incredible influence in how we are building our business and treating customers like family. What advice do your have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to launch/grow their business?
Mitch: Start now! Stop making excuses and just get started.
You'll never have the perfect plan and the timing will never be perfect. So, stop wasting time and just get on with whatever it is you want to do with your life or with your business.
This is what I would tell myself if I could go back in time and talk to my younger self. I could have started Rviita 5 years earlier than I did and be way further ahead, but I always thought I needed the perfect plan or the perfect idea to start a business. In reality, everyone who has built something incredible did so through action and persistence, and they figured it out as they went. Action over everything!
Before we conclude the Q&A session we would like to know if the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on your company, and how you managed this?
Mitch: Covid-19 had a significant effect on our business, especially in the beginning months. Almost half of our retail accounts were shut down for a significant period of time. Our primary marketing tool, sampling, has also been restricted for the last 18 months. This was a massive initial blow, but it forced us to think outside of the box and find creative ways to make up the revenue losses and find other ways to market our product. Instead of sampling, we started shipping free cases to the frontline health care workers. To make up for retail sales, we started digitally advertising and got our products listed on Amazon. We also used this pandemic as an opportunity to give back by supporting nurses and other frontline workers, raising money for charities, or supplying free product to initiatives that supported the relief efforts. As hard as this last year has been, there have been so many blessings that have come out of the adversity.
Thank you Mitch for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you and Rviita Energy Tea all the best?
Mitch: Thank you so much! I can't begin to tell you what an honour it is to be a part of the Business Anecdote! You have an incredible platform and I am so grateful for the opportunity.