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

6 chiefs of staff dish on their bosses

The Latest
Thursday, February 05, 2015
legilistiblog-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask chiefs of staff for the scoop on Oregon legislators.


Read more...

LEED for weed

Linda Baker
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
012815-potcarbon-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions?


Read more...

5 schools helping students crack code

The Latest
Thursday, January 29, 2015
codeduthumbnailBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

As the costs of college mount, and as employer demand for software developers soars, coding schools and classes are popping up everywhere.


Read more...

Where do Portland demographics rank among the largest 50 cities in the US?

The Latest
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
thumbpdxinperspectiveBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Portland in Perspective study, done by the City Budget Office, was released Tuesday.


Read more...

Everything old is new again: How the EEOC is reinventing itself

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
BY TAMSEN LEACHMAN | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

It is important to understand the EEOC’s priorities, and ensure that your leadership understands the shifting expectations of regulators and the heightened standards to which you (and they) may be held.


Read more...

Game On

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The big news at Oregon Business is we’re getting a ping pong table. After reading the descriptions of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, a disproportionate number of which feature table tennis in the office, I decided it was time to bring our own workplace into the 21st century. It was a tough call, but it’s lonely at the top, and someone has to make the hard decisions.


Read more...

Nuclear fingerprints

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

At Oregon State University, a 21st century version of the bad dream — nuclear terrorism — is alive and well. This winter, the Department of Nuclear Physics and Radiation Health Physics created a new interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics, a Sherlock Holmes-sounding program that aims to identify how and where confiscated nuclear and radiological materials were created.


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