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Gay-owned tea company set to go national
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

This article shared 7782 times since Wed Feb 29, 2012
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Talbott Teas is set to explode worldwide, even more than when the specialty tea from gay Chicago partners Shane Talbott and Steven Nakisher landed on Oprah Winfrey's "Favorite Things" episode in 2010.

Talbott Teas was purchased by California-based Jamba Juice Company, it was announced in February. Terms of the deal were not announced.

"After Oprah, we were inundated with opportunities," Talbott said. "Oprah gave us a chance of a lifetime to put our business out to the world but, over time, we were realizing that we didn't have the capital to build the inventory and build the business the way we wanted to."

Jamba Juice has about 750 locations in 26 states, including 440 sites that now offer hot tea. The current Jamba tea brand will be replaced with Talbott Teas, said Janice Duis, senior director of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Jamba Juice Company.

"We're very excited about that and what the future holds in the tea category," Duis said. "We see [tea] as an area of opportunity that we haven't fully exploited, and with the Talbott Tea team joining us, we think we can take even greater advantage of that emerging trend."

Talbott came to Jamba through an appearance on the ABC show Shark Tank that aired Feb. 17, although it was filmed last July.

"We were invited to go on Shark Tank, which was our opportunity to tell our story and, potentially, go with some of these high-profile investors to help us bring our business to a different level," Talbott said. "After the show [was filmed,] one of the sharks, Daymond John, actually brought us to Jamba Juice, thinking that there was a real opportunity and a real synergy between Talbott Teas and Jamba Juice.

"Yes, it certainly did seem like an amazing synergy, an amazing opportunity.

"The first time we met Jamba Juice [executives], we kind of fell in love. We felt like it was an amazing company with such strong leaders, a fantastic vision. We thought that we shared so much in common around the idea of leading a healthy lifestyle and healthy lifestyle products."

Nakisher added, "We now will be able to get our brand message out there a lot easier. We're really excited to reach a bigger audience."

The exact date when Talbott Teas will be offered at Jamba Juice is still to be determined, but it will be soon. "Our hope is that it rolls out and is available in the stores before this summer—hopefully, within the next 60 or 90 days," he said.

Talbott, who will join Jamba Juice as vice president of innovation, will focus on creating new blends and remain based in Chicago. Nakisher will be on Talbott Teas' board of directors. Talbott Teas will remain a standalone brand.

"This is huge for us, personally," Nakisher said. "For us to have poured so much of our passion, our time, our money [into Talbott Teas], I think we feel so validated, so appreciated. We could not be more grateful. We are so happy."

Talbott, who launched the business in 2003, added, "This is a dream come true for us. We started this business in the worst economy in U.S. history. So, to be able to create a business, grow it, and then have it acquired by such an amazing company like Jamba Juice, it really is a dream come true. We couldn't ask for anything better.

"This is a true testament to truly following your passion. It's been a tough rough, a tough economy, but, if you follow your passion, it's going to pay off."

Both said it's still "very hard to believe" that Talbott Teas soon will become a global brand. There are Jamba locations in Canada, Korea and the Philippines.

"Since we've been a small boutique brand, it's been hard to reach the customer, tough to get customers to come to our website to buy from us directly. Now, customers can easily buy Talbott Teas," Talbott said.

Jamba Juice was founded in April 1990 by Kirk Perron, who is also gay.

However, Jamba's strong support of diversity did not completely play into Talbott's decision to align with the company. "What impacted our decision was [that] Jamba is a very progressive company and they are committed to diversity and they are committed to individuality, of living your best life and a healthy lifestyle. That was an important fit for us," Talbott said.

James D. White, chairman, president and CEO of Jamba Juice Company, said in a statement: "Talbott Teas is part of our strategy for growth through the acquisition of lifestyle specialty brands that fit well with the Jamba brand and our positioning as a leading health and wellness company. Jamba shares Shane's commitment to using the finest quality ingredients to create premium tea blends that are flavorful and healthful, but designed with a flair that only a visionary trendsetter could achieve. I welcome his creativity on our team."

This article shared 7782 times since Wed Feb 29, 2012
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