A conversation with Chief Matcha Officer, Hannah Habes, Founder of MATCHAFUL.
Photography: courtesy of MATCHAFUL
WORDS: Hannah Habes, Nazz Ebrahimi
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
Growing up, I was always very entrepreneurial. I had always dreamed of starting a business while I worked in the consumer packaged foods industry, but I was never passionate enough about any type of food. That is, until I first tasted matcha. It was love at first sip. This creamy green tea powder changed my life. It improved my health and mindfulness, and all of the sudden I felt inspired to share matcha with everyone in my community. I remember telling my family ~5-6 years ago that I needed to quit my job to start a matcha company. At the time, I had a full-time job that paid well, with great work-life balance. My mom said to me “Hannah, don’t quit your day job until you know you can make a career out of this.” It was some of the best advice I had received. For the first year of Matchaful, it was my side hustle. I didn’t quit my day job until I had ~15 customers and enough revenue to make a very small living.
One of the main reasons I drink matcha every day because of the way it makes me feel. When brainstorming names for the company, I wrote down every word to describe the way matcha made me feel. “Healthful, mindful, powerful, peaceful,” were top words that came to mind. Thus “Matchaful” was born.
You recently opened a pop-up in DUMBO in partnership with Brooklyn Roasting Company! What was that process like?
It’s been an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. I’ve always wanted to open a matcha cafe to provide healthy, organic matcha drinks to people. This pop-up opportunity was the perfect way to test a cafe, get feedback, and build brand awareness, without having to sign a 10-year lease.
How can future business owners create a business that ''gives back’’ both to our earth, and philanthropically.
It’s important for business owners to understand every element of their business - from the manufacturing procedures to the packaging components. Once you feel like you have a pulse on this, it becomes easier to find ways to decrease your footprint. For us, we wanted to improve our sourcing right off the bat. We decided to work with farms that were not only growing organically, but also using sustainable business practices. We felt it was important to support farms that were supporting the planet. As a small business, you don’t always have the resources or time to develop your own environmental giving program. Last year, we joined 1% to the Planet, an international organization that provides smart giving to environmental non-profits.
How did you find the right tea farm to work with in Japan, and how can future entrepreneurs go about creating those relationships?
We found our current farm through passion and determination. After growing tired of the large matcha tea makers controlling all of the supply in the US, we started going to industry tea expos, Japanese tea fairs, connected with brokers, etc. to find a farm that aligned with our values. We now have a direct-trade relationship with this farm which feels like a huge accomplishment! I recommend future entrepreneurs to attend industry expos and trade shows as much as possible! There’s likely someone there who can be a great resource or help answer questions.
What are the challenges and rewards of being a CEO?
Biggest challenges right now are lack of time and money. I have continued to bootstrap the company so every dollar we spend is critical to growing the business. While each day brings challenges, and it completely consumes your personal life, I’ve never felt more fulfilled. I truly love what I do. And the people on my team are constantly inspiring me. I absolutely love having a team of badass women that work super hard to grow this business every day.
"I absolutely love having a team of badass women that work super hard to grow this business every day."
-Hannah Habes, Founder Matchaful
Can you name a few CEOs and brands in your industry you're a fan of/admire?
I’m a big fan of Scott Linde founder of Sun Potion brand and Elizabeth Stein founder of Purely Elizabeth. They’ve both been able to build wildly passionate communities, and they’re committed to improving our health and wellness.
Fear can stop us from achieving necessary goals for growth. How have you managed to take risks in your life as well as business, that allowed you to overcome the fear of failure?
To be honest, failure isn’t an option for me. I don’t let fear of failure creep into my mindset because it only creates self-doubt. In my opinion, not taking risks is the riskiest thing you can do as an entrepreneur. Being able to take risks is one of the most defining traits of successful entrepreneurs.
What's next for MATCHAFUL?
More pop-ups, more direct-trade farms, and more sustainability! Follow us at @matchaful to be apart of our journey!
HAPPY EARTH DAY 2018!