We had the good fortune of connecting with Lopa van der Mersch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lopa, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
A few years ago, I had what I now like to call “my own personal 2020.” It was a dramatically stressful year—I had realized I was in a cult (and left it), had an emergency back surgery while pregnant, moved across the country a few days later, had a death in the family, had my baby via traumatic emergency Cesarean, and then a massive falling out with my family of origin.
And of course now had this sweet little baby to keep me awake at night, and give me a reason to keep going and not crumble into a heap of CPTSD.
I was exhausted and beaten down. I tried coffee to help me energize, but it only resulted in panic attacks, sky-high irritability, jitters, and terrible sleep. Hard nope.
I tried all the coffee alternatives out there, but none of them ticked all my boxes. I wanted energizing…but also nourishing. I wanted delicious, really freakin delicious. I needed it to be gluten free (my babe was sensitive), and I’m not a fan of “natural flavors” which are really just an FDA loophole for companies to hide all sorts of things that ***no one*** would consider natural.
As my quest for the perfect coffee alternative kept coming up empty, I found myself thinking deeply about our culture’s unquestioned addiction to coffee. Here’s a substance that causes a cortisol spike, taxes the central nervous system and adrenals, impacts sleep and moods, and causes physical dependency…and we don’t even *question* if someone says “I need two cups of coffee to be able to talk to you in the morning.”
**What if I said to you, “I need two glasses of wine to be able to talk to you in the morning?” You’d likely say, “Um, you have a problem.”**
Not only that, people so often use coffee to override their body’s “tired” signals to keep being productive and go beyond our natural, healthful limits.
It’s ***extractive energy.*** We extract too much from our bodies just like we extract too much from the earth.
I started to wonder what our culture could look like if people were energizing in a healthier way. **What if our daily cup gave *back* to our bodies, while also helping us do all the things?** What if, instead of blindly choosing coffee, people tuned into their real energy needs and chose whatever truly served them best (even if that includes coffee sometimes?) What if people began to cultivate energy intelligence, and saw coffee as the drug that it is? Drugs can be fun—just not all the time!
Inspiration: struck. This was my golden thread, and I held on tight.
Having been a long-time herb enthusiast, I knew that herbs could achieve that goal and more. I also wasn’t an expert, and know enough to know that it’s actually not cool to “just combine some trendy herbs and sell it.” So I partnered with an experienced herbalist.
Together, we created Rasa, the first adaptogenic coffee alternative. And what started with a strung-out mom (it me!) blending herbs elbow-deep in her kitchen has now become an energy movement that has served over 100,000 customers worldwide—with a now-much-more-relaxed mama at the helm. 😌
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We have a level of integrity and heart that is unusual in business. I feel like this excerpt written the other day by our Editorial Director, Viv, well encapsulates much of what I’m most proud of:
– *We are fucking singular. Lopa is singular. Our team/branding/marketing/messaging is radical: we have heart, warmth, hilarity, realness.*
– *We are disruptive: our concepts of energy, our herbal formulations, and our baseline philosophy is bleeding-edge. We are a female-led brand that endeavors to operate on a Holocratic system. We are out with the old paradigms of extraction over nourishment, replenishment & rest over hustle culture, shared power & power-from-within instead of power-over. We don’t talk down to consumers and we do everything with a level of integrity/uniqueness that would be impossible to replicate.*
– *We stand for things that aren’t easy to stand for: Lopa is an outspoken anti-capitalist. We haven’t take the easy route and it’s cost us time and expenses (aka, our herbs are top notch) but it’s earned us a kind of trust and brand loyalty that other companies dream about. People regularly write us about how touching, hilarious, and down-to-earth our messaging is. They feel SEEN by our brand.*
– *We all work our asses off because we believe in this product and in each other. We run on inspiration and heart (not uncommon with startups)—but this is coupled with the intention to nourish our team and the world (Uncommon.).*
– *We’ve done a whole lot from comparatively little ($$$ wise).*
– *Our internal culture is intense but radical: we are honest, we are loving, our team works with a symbiosis and level of emotional intelligence that’s rarely seen in the business world.”*
It has NOT been easy. Good God no. It has at times felt Sisyphean—from at times working 16 hour days while mothering 2 kids under 4 and dealing with CPTSD & postpartum mental health issues; to changing packaging 7 times in 2 years in our quest for compostable; to frivolous legal bullshit; and so, so much more.
Some key lessons along the way:
1. Don’t over-invest in untested assets: so many times, we had a “once we launch this thing, everything is going to suddenly be better!”, and we’d way over-index on that thing, whatever it was—a landing page, an ad, a funnel, a website. Start by testing small changes and use the learnings & success from those changes to inform the next iteration. Don’t invest months of time into something that you’re not sure is going to work!
2. Pick your innovations carefully: we over-innovated—on product format, on supply chain, on compostable packaging, on messaging, on brand, on company culture, and so much more. Every innovation requires extra work to overcome the intertia of the status quo. Choose your innovations carefully, and…
3. Parallel-path risky innovations when possible: we decided from the start that we would only do compostable packaging. If I had known at the start that that was a 6-figure investment that would cause undue stress and be financially unsustainable for a small young business, I would have parallel-pathed recyclable packaging so we could still be selling product while sorting out our ultimate, final, best solution for compostable packaging.
4. Self-care is non-negotiable: as a founder, my energy ripples throughout the entire business. If I am stressed and overwhelmed, you’d better believe my business is, too. Conversely, when I take care of myself, prioritize sleep, give myself time to think and meditate on the business….the quality of my decisions and the way I am able to lead is profoundly better, and my team is generally more relaxed, too. It’s WORTH IT to take that time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Boulder, so a trip to Denver is already an adventure!
I’d have us stay at The Ramble; visit The Archipelago for some breathwork and/or networking; dance our asses off (multiple times) courtesy of the folks at Invisible City; eat at Central Market, Sushi Den, Beatrice & Woodsley, City o City, and Super Mega Bien; laugh our asses off at Comedy Works; and do a graffiti tour of RiNo.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow, so many. I’m just going to rattle off a bunch, because the kindness of MANY is what I’m standing upon! I could not have done this without my husband, Stephan van der Mersch. And I want to also thank Rasa’s original co-founder, Jamie Mantey; my generous and hilarious coach Jagatjoti Khalsa; my “won’t-take-my-bullshit-for-an-answer coach Lisa Fabrega; my husband’s & my relationship coach Michael Boyle of the Relating Renaissance; the teachers who have inspired me to go beyond the limits of “normal” human experience; my entire team without whom Rasa would not be possible; our fabulous, kind-hearted, wonderful customers; and also all the naysayers and trolls who helped us learn, grow, and be a better product and brand because of their feedback.
Other: Customer Care: firstname.lastname@example.org