Home Archives February 2009 Tea founder brews more startups

Tea founder brews more startups

| Print |  Email
Sunday, February 01, 2009
She’s no longer CEO of Oregon Chai, the company she founded in 1994 in her mother’s kitchen that grew to more than $35 million in sales and sold for $75 million in 2004.

Heather Howitt’s got a much less official-sounding title these days: VP of trail running for Portland venture capital firm The Meriwether Group.

“Though it should be president,” she says, digging at her husband, David, who founded the firm and bestowed the title on her.

The 40-year-old mother of two definitely likes her runs through Forest Park, but she’s been up to more than that since selling her renowned tea company to the Kerry Group almost five years ago. She’s been a partner at The Meriwether Group since its founding, and about four years ago she became intrigued by a small Canadian startup now called Living Harvest Conscious Nutrition, which promotes the nutritional benefits of hemp seed.

With her background in natural foods and aseptic packaging — the sort of “drink box” packaging that helped boost Oregon Chai — Howitt saw huge opportunities for hemp milk.

“I became so impressed and excited,” she says. “It was just like Oregon Chai.”

In addition to an investment from The Meriwether Group, Howitt put some of her own money into the company, which then moved to Portland. Last June, Living Harvest raised a couple million dollars from a group of Hollywood investors, including Cindy Crawford and Ed Norton, hired a CEO and kicked into high gear. Last year’s sales were projected to be $6 million.

“We’re jamming,” says Howitt, who holds a seat on what she calls the company’s “very hyperactive” board.

She also says she can see Living Harvest becoming an even bigger company than Oregon Chai.

Howitt says she’s wiser these days when it comes to business, but she still thrives off the buzz of small startups, just as she did when she brewed her Oregon Chai as a 20-something in search of a drink she’d stumbled on during a Himalayan trek.

“I just love that startup passion, the energy and that enthusiasm,” she says. “I’m still that entrepreneurial freak, and now I get to be totally involved but I don’t have to do the 60-hour weeks.”

She’d like to be with Living Harvest throughout its growth, but she also knows that other opportunities in the natural food realm may come calling in the future.

“I can’t see myself not being involved in the natural food business,” she says. “Although I could run eight hours a day.”                         

JON BELL



Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

More Articles

Fork & Bottle

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

National media can’t get enough of Oregon’s pinot noir, artisan-food purveyors and lively, independent film scene.


Read more...

What I'm Reading

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nick Herinckx, CEO of Obility, and Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID, share what they've been reading.


Read more...

Buyer's Remorse

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents and students paying for college today are like homeowners who bought a house just before the housing bubble burst.


Read more...

Fast Food Slows Down

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

The ubiquitous fast-food restaurant may be on the decline.


Read more...

The Backstory

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

In our cover story this month, Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, discuss their rapidly growing businesses and Portland’s red hot food scene. The conversation provides an interesting lens through which to explore trends in the grocery store and restaurant sectors.


Read more...

Downtime

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How State Representative Julie Parrish (House District 37) balances life between work and play.


Read more...

Revenge Forestry

November/December 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

A flare-up in the Elliott Forest raises questions about détente in Oregon’s timber wars.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS