For the three years that I have known Mark Sotomayor, I have known him as the guy who runs his own iced tea business. His passion for his tea is less an attribute about him and more a part of who he is. You can see it in his excitement to share his products with the student body around campus. You can see it in his unwavering drive and determination to take his business to the next level. And you can see it in the warmth of his smile when he talks about how Treecup, LLC came to be.
“Kind of my whole life, there was an iced tea pitcher around.” Sotomayor recalled, nostalgically.
Growing up, he used to drink his family’s iced Peruvian tea on a daily basis, preferring it to any store-bought tea. The homemade beverage is a family recipe that was passed down by Sotomayor’s grandmother. The summer after his senior year of high school, he lived in Peru with her, where his grandmother would brew the tea fresh every morning, completely locally sourced.
The idea to turn the family recipe into a business didn’t come along until 2017, though. Sotomayor, then a freshman at Grove City College, was having lunch with his mother when he mentioned how their iced tea was “so good you could sell it”.
“My mom just said, ‘You’re the entrepreneurship major, why don’t you?'” Sotomayor smiles as he says this: his mother is now the co-founder of Treecup. Vitalia Sotomayor can be found arm-in-arm with her son, in a photo on the Treecup website, Machu Picchu sloping away in the background.
For four semesters and three summers now, Sotomayor has been working tirelessly to grow Treecup, with a long-term goal of expanding to the national market. He has been pursuing business plan competitions in hopes to acquire additional funding, but most of the progress he’s made was the result of pure hard work.
On a weekly basis, Sotomayor spends about 10 hours working on Treecup, often with an additional sales event over the weekend. That time commitment more than triples over the summer, when the business becomes a full time job, requiring 40 to 50 hours a week from Sotomayor. While he’s at school, Vitalia Sotomayor brews the tea back home, which is the most time-consuming part of the process.
“Things take about twice as long as you plan.” Sotomayor commented. “My vision is to just hit marketing hard [over the next few years] and show the reforestation day to day.”
Sotomayor went into detail about the humanitarian mission he and his mother have in mind for Treecup. Ten percent of the purchase price of each bottle of Treecup tea goes to a non-profit that replants trees in areas around the world. This was the initial inspiration for the name “Treecup” and every detail of the product is built around it, from ingredients to design.
The clear bottles are meant to show the company’s strong commitment to transparency. The bottles are low-cost plastic (rather than glass), recyclable, and bio-degradable, which promotes Treecup’s passion for sustainability. There is even a QR code on the side of the bottle that customers can scan to watch a video of a tree being replanted, helping to show the impact they are making each time they drink Treecup. On top of that, the tea is all still locally-sourced, just as Sotomayor’s gradmother made it.
As Sotomayor moves into his last semester at Grove City College, he has begun to take his business even more seriously, and reflect on how far it has already come.
“I gauge my sales outside of the school. Most people are thinking within the school and thinking small scale but I can’t think that way.” Sotomayor remarked, solemnly. “What I need to think about is how to create something in the real world.”
Sotomayor’s outlook on business and his appreciation for Treecup are both humbling and inspiring. He has faced numerous road bumps and mistakes with the business, and still continues to, and explained how much he has appreciated those experiences.
Four years ago, Sotomayor began his journey at Grove City College hoping to learn about business. Now, nearing the dusk of his senior year, he is at the forefront of a mature, ethical, and vibrantly inspiring company.
“The best thing you can do is, when you know you’ve gonna have an up, maximize it, because the fall will come. You can’t really mitigate the fall, you just have to take advantage of the peak.”
Help Mark take Treecup to the next level by trying one of their six awesome teas today, 20% off with code “GROVER” at http://www.treecuptea.com!