While working with indigenous communities in Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, Runa co-founders Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie saw firsthand the tradeoff they face: while they want to preserve their cultural heritage, they must earn money and feed their families in an increasingly globalized economy. After discovering the commercial potential of guayusa – a naturally caffeinated leaf from the Amazon tree of the same name – as an export product, Tyler and co-founder Dan MacCombie created Runa, a Fair Trade business, to share guayusa with the world. They aimed to pioneer a proactive and culturally valuable way for the Kichwa people of Ecuador to achieve sustainable incomes, with Ecuadorian immigrants as their sales force in the United States.
Runa produces and markets ready to drink bottled teas, specialty bagged teas, and wholesale guayusa. It is the first company to bring guayusa products to the United States. In addition to creating an economic base for the Kichwa people, Runa is creating jobs for people living in the U.S. who are of Ecuadorian descent as sales representatives and facility managers. Runa will build its organic tea factory in Brooklyn –New York has one of the largest populations of Ecuadorians in the world."
The company also supports indigenous farmers and reforestation in the Amazon rainforest. In less than one year of operations, Runa has partnered with over 800 farming families to plant more than 100,000 trees on their lands, and paid over $6,000 of supplementary income for guayusa leaves harvested from existing guayusa trees.« Back to full Class of 2011