Lisa Govro knew of many intuitive food products aimed at making people feel better on a daily basis, but she said all of them targeted consumers who already were deeply invested in health-and-fitness lifestyles.
Intuitive eating is an approach used by people who are seeking to heal from the side effects of chronic dieting and make food choices without experiencing guilt or ethical dilemmas. Govro wanted to provide a product of real quality for people who were looking to do just that.
So, Govro began selling her loose leaf tea and tea bags in 2012 out of a 1969 camper fashioned into a mobile shop, using the name ReTrailer. Five years later, she dissolved ReTrailer and rebranded as Big Heart Tea Co. in an effort to renew her company with a national focus and a more polished look.
Her primary goal, however, remained constant. She still seeks to provide an avenue that enables people to access culinary medicine — using food to restore and maintain health — in an approachable way. The company works with emerging food and beverage companies to source all-natural, high-quality ingredients directly from small farms around the world. Today, Big Heart teas are sold in many locations throughout Missouri, as well as in more than 40 other states and Washington, D.C.
“So I use tea as a vehicle for people to explore herbal or food healing,” Govro said. “Because most herbal healing tea brands are targeting a certain demographic of folks that already interact with herbs in a healing way . . . , our approach is a little more approachable [so] we attract a more lay customer. We stoke curiosity to explore a path of herbal healing. “
Health claims associated with Big Heart teas have not been evaluated by the FDA, Govro states on her website. Her teas are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Still, Govro said she believes tea is a great access point to introduce people to herbal and food wellness. Drinking herbal tea is a simple thing anyone can do every day to improve well-being, she said.
Govro, Big Heart Tea Co.’s founder and CEO, runs the company in St. Louis with Kunthearath Nhek-Morrissey, its vice president of operation & sustainability.
In her first year as Big Heart Tea, Govro employed two full-time employees and two part-time employees. The woman-owned company now has three full-time employees and four part-time employees.
In 2018, the company was among the recipients selected by Arch Grants, which awards $50,000 in equity-free cash grants and support services to startups located in St. Louis for at least one year. Govro said Nhek-Morrissey was a reviewer in the Arch Grant process, and they later began working together when Nhek-Morrissey took a personal interest in the company.
Before launching Big Heart Tea and focusing on product development, Govro said she had to secure a line of credit. Winning the Arch Grant has accelerated the company’s growth and fundraising abilities, she said.
‘Cup of Sunshine’
Big Heart Tea’s sales are mostly through business-to-business transactions — think hotels, cafes, restaurants and the like.
“I was raised in a family where we were really conscious of what we were putting into our bodies . . . and I guess one of the main reasons I started the company was because I realized there were so many intuitive ways for people to feel better on a daily basis,” Govro said.
Her flagship tisane is a turmeric blend she calls “Cup of Sunshine” and sells in a 1.8-ounce box for $8.99. Her clever product names don’t end there, though. If turmeric isn’t your thing there are plenty of other teas in Govro’s collection to sip: Fake Coffee, Royal Treatmint, Edith Gray and Sunshine Dust among them.
In addition to restaurants, cafes and stores, Big Heart Tea can be found on Anthropologie store shelves nationwide and can be ordered online directly through the company’s website or through Amazon.
Even so, she said her largest revenue stream continues to come from supplying Missouri food-service companies. Govro and her small team assemble and package their products in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in south St. Louis, just off Cherokee Street.
To ensure the quality of her products, Govro vets every farm from which she sources ingredients, she said. Her company’s mission statement promises “. . . to ethically source the highest-quality ingredients [and] produce the best tasting teas, herbs and blends to improve the health and well-being of those we serve.”
And as part of its commitment to sustainability, the company also uses tea bags made from biodegradable, plant-based mesh that contain no plastic.
Govro said she’s had to adapt and learn things along the way.
“You know, like any founder, it’s lack of expertise and business acumen (that can be a challenge),” she said. “I had to learn all of my business skills on the fly, and as we grow larger and larger, I get further away from the product and the essence of why I got into the industry. That’s also been hard; it’s just an adjustment to being in a leadership role versus getting my hands dirty every day.”