Why Ratan Tata Is Backing This New Brand That Fuses Tech And Tea Estates

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Kaushal Dugar left an office job to modernize a stagnant, colonial era industry. Tea growing regions in eastern India have conducted business in the same way for the last 200 years. While there are notable premium tea brands, such as Twinings, there isn’t a single Indian one. Dugar raised $6 million to change that.

His startup Teabox combines technology with tea to create India’s first global premium tea brand. Much like other subscription box enterprises, Dugar developed a monthly service that caters to a customer’s palate. Each month, customers are sent an assortment of teas. They provide feedback after each box. And after the first three boxes, the company has developed an understanding of what their customer prefers.

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“We use technology and algorithms in a smart way to solve the discovery journey,” he says from his Siliguri headquarters.  The online storefront sells over 250 varieties of teas — all sourced from different regions of India, several offered in organic varieties.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

YouTuber Niomi Smart Builds An Online Career And A Startup On Wellness and Conscious Living

This YouTuber has amassed 1.6 million subscribers by building a lifestyle that’s balanced, empathetic, and wellness-driven. On a platform that sells quantity over quality, Niomi Smart’s unique brand is as much about giving back as it is about herself.

This month, she released her first book, Eat Smart, a guide to eating well and being fit. Within minutes of the announcement, the book climbed the ranks, becoming #1 on Amazon. (Though it’s only available in the UK and select countries currently).

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Photo Courtesy of Harper Collins UK.

The 24-year-old Brighton-born author tests natural beauty products, shares healthful recipes, runs for charity, and endorses causes on her YouTube channel.  Her most recent video highlighted StandUp Cancer, a UK-based charity, working on cancer research and prevention.  More than just a photo op, Smart’s involvement is seemingly genuine and stems from life experience.  When a friend passed away from skin cancer, Smart was shocked and saddened; she transformed her routine, plunging into a plant-based lifestyle and putting her health first after a few indulgent years at university, snacking on cakes and biscuits.
Read the full story at Forbes.com.

How One Self-Funded Home Decor Brand Is Challenging Big Box Retailers With Their Supply Chain

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Last month, Target decided to pull all the bedsheets, manufactured by one supplier in India, Welspun Inc. Could this be the beginning of a transparency revolution at big box retailers?

“I’m surprised that Target was surprised about their bedsheets not being Egyptian cotton,” says Scott Tannen, CEO and co-founder of Boll and Branch, an organic cotton home essentials brand. “There isn’t enough Egyptian cotton being produced for global demand and that’s pretty well known in the industry.”

Egyptian cotton, once highly-regarded for their long fibers, is rarely produced in Egypt any more.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, less than 1% of the world’s cotton supply comes directly from Egypt. It’s largely marketing, says Tannen, when companies tout their bedsheets as the highest-quality Egyptian cotton. “It sounds nicer to think of it as cotton, growing in small farms on the banks of the river Nile. In reality, it’s a company-owned 4,000 acre farm in China.”

Turns out, Target wasn’t the only one in the dark. Walmart and Bed, Bath, & Beyond also sourced their “Egyptian cotton” sheets from Welspun India. Both retailers are now questioning, and rethinking, their business with the manufacturer. For Welspun, which reportedly brought in nearly $1 billion sales from American retailers last year, this is could be crippling for the business.

Read the full story at Forbes.com

Why Hemp Is Still Controversial In America And A Challenge For Entrepreneurs

When this entrepreneur quit his day job to sell hemp products online, he ran into trouble with Facebook, Shopify, and more.

Why?

Hemp, though not marijuana, is often associated with it. While it originates from the same plant, cannabis sativa, hemp does not have significant levels of THC, the ingredient that gives you a high. In fact, hemp has less than .3% of THC; marijuana has anywhere from 10 to 30%.

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Yet, the plant is nutrient-rich, contributes to the health of the soil, and grows in drought climates well.  The fibers of hemp have been used for centuries to produce weaves, suitable for clothing or home decor items. Elements of hemp are healthy for the body as well, making it a popular health food and an essential ingredient in soaps and lotions.

Despite its eco-friendly nature, hemp is still not allowed for widespread cultivation in the US; rather only small-scale pilots are allowed in a few states around the country.

Gunhee Park founded Ministry of Hemp, an online marketplace of hemp brands, using his own funds, to promote hemp-based products products such as clothes toiletries and food. “Our vision is to popularize this plant and its applications among the mainstream,” he says.

Read the story at Forbes.com

The Naked Truth Behind Denim: How One Swedish Brand Is Cleaning Up Its Supply Chain

This Swedish company is showing that ethical supply chains and commercial viability can go hand in hand even in the fast-paced fashion world. Nudie Jeans, the Gothenburg-based brand, is basically the Patagonia of jeans.

Though the company now sells t-shirts, jackets, and other apparel, they started with jeans. That is organic cotton types of denim, which come in dry, salvaged, and washed varieties in unisex designs. However, the brand has evolved in the last 10 years from just manufacturing jeans to one that rallies for fair labor practices, organic farming, and toxic-free dyes.

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While in the last three years a new crop of fashion brands have been talking about restructuring supply chains in textiles, Nudie Jeans began venturing down this path in 2006 — a decade ago, when the company shifted to using only organic materials. At that point, Nudie was only 20 percent organic. The founder Maria Erixon invited their suppliers to a meeting in Gothenburg where they broke the news: they were going in a different direction. Even though they lost some of their suppliers who didn’t want to adopt the organic cotton practices, Nudie continued. Four years ago, the company announced that they had become 100 percent organic.

When asked if fashion brands can be mindful and profitable, CEO Palle Stenberg says confidently, “Yes, of course, everybody can.”

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

Is The Future Of Non-Profits In For-Profit Models?

Ubuntu Made from Kenya is betting on business and tech, not charity.

Zane Wilemon describes himself as the “white guy from Texas who bought himself a one-way ticket to Kenya” in search of something bigger than himself. He spent the next 15 years, building a friendship and a business with a Kenyan minister, Jeremiah Kuria, in Maai Mahiu, a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi.

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Ubuntu founder says that business has to be the answer to creating long-term fruitful change in the communities.  Photo Credit: Georgina Goodwin.

Their friendship helped give rise to a cafe, an organic farm, free clinics and medical testing, a school for special needs kids, and a sustainable accessories line.

Ubuntu Made line is available online and in select retailers such as Whole Foods. Photo Courtesy of Subject.

Ubuntu Made is available online and in select retailers such as Whole Foods. Photo Courtesy of Subject.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

How To Start A Business With No Contacts And Little Money: American Lawyer Launches Shoe Brand

A former California lawyer and television host, Michael Paratore started a shoe business with no supply chain, no formal funding, and no contacts in the business. That too, sourcing from the villages of India.

Paratore’s story is movie material. In 2012, after having worked at a law firm for nearly two years, post a career in television at Current TV, Paratore was ready for something else. “It was now or never,” he says.

With no children at the time and a supportive wife (who had a full-time salary), he began on a journey to turn a beloved leather sandal, made by artisans in villages on the outskirts of Kolhapur, into a business.

Read the full story at Forbes.com