Ryan Crane, ’15, stood in his kitchen with a wristwatch in each hand, carefully observing bubbling pots of loose-leaf teas and breathing in spices such as ginger and turmeric. Crane was trying to make a new tea blend that would energize him without the inevitable post-buzz crash.
A couple of hours later, he stood with a chilled glass of sparkling tea in his hands. After months of experimentation, stained pots, and pleading conversations with a stubborn SodaStream machine, he had landed on a blend that felt perfect. That was the moment that Tempo became real.
Creating a line of healthy sparkling teas was an idea that had been brewing for a while. After Booth, I was working long hours in finance, not getting a lot of sleep, and fueling myself with sugary sodas, high-octane energy drinks, or coffees that made me feel too jittery to be productive. After repeatedly pushing my body to its limit, I finally decided that I was tired of being tired, and that I wasn’t satisfied with the same old ready-to-drink beverage options on the shelves.
My cofounder, Austin Gallagher, and I wanted to craft a product that was energizing, vibrant, and clean—and free from all the junk. We experimented with organic whole-leaf teas and revitalizing ingredients such as ginger and turmeric, and we mixed it all together in a SodaStream. The best blends were the ones that perked us up but weren’t overly sweet, and we decided to run with that theme.
When we were first launching Tempo, I had these “now or never” conversations with Austin and my wife—if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly, and if we were going to do it properly, we had to do it 100 percent.
When we finally took that leap, I discovered how truly powerful the Booth network is, for both students and alumni. Melissa Harris, ’16 (XP-85), an executive-in-residence at the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, helped connect us to advisors and investors that proved to be extremely valuable to our brand development. Meanwhile, Nicole Doucet, ’17, a student I had coached in LEAD who founded an amazing sustainable bottled water company called Green Sheep Water, became somewhat of a mentor and therapist for me.
Nicole also helped us to tell our sustainability story more effectively. The beverage space has historically been unkind to our oceans. We wanted to flip the script and be a positive model for change, and we felt that we could utilize Austin’s expertise to do that the right way.
Austin is founder and CEO of Beneath the Waves, a nonprofit that does cutting-edge scientific research on sharks in an effort to inform environmental policy and educate the public. We formed a partnership with them that enables us to financially support and actively participate in their research. This past October, we tagged sharks off the coast of Miami and took tissue samples that are now being used for innovative new research.
I took several entrepreneurship courses at Booth, but my most valuable entrepreneurial lessons came from my time as a LEAD facilitator. LEAD tied my whole Booth education together. It felt like Booth was giving me and the other facilitators the keys to the kingdom—we were entrusted with a program that becomes the first real impression of Booth for all new students. Booth let us build the LEAD curriculum, figure out the best way to present it, and ultimately be responsible for the new students’ experience.
LEAD was the first real figure-it-out-yourself type of experience that I had at Booth. But more importantly, it was a consequence-free opportunity to fail. Whenever I screwed something up, I had a team of supporters to help get me back on track. I learned from my mistakes, rather than let myself be paralyzed by fear of failure. That whole experience ultimately gave me the confidence to pursue my own entrepreneurial passions, despite the uncertainty and challenges that lie ahead. I’ll probably make thousands more mistakes along the road, but I feel confident that I can adapt and figure it out.
When this started, there was a lot of fear of the unknown, but the experiences I had at Booth helped give me the confidence to make the jump. Thanks to that confidence and the unwavering support of friends and family, Tempo is a reality.
Learn more about Tempo's organic, sparkling teas at tempobev.com.
—As Told To Leah Rachel von Essen