Runa tea was founded on respecting cultural traditions, supporting small farmers to build a sustainable supply chain for their tea leaves. Runa buys tea leaves from over 2,300 farming families in an area where logging is an enticing way for those living in the Amazon rainforest to pay for education and medicine. Runa’s goal is to provide high quality, fair-trade, organic guayusa tea that is responsibly and sustainably sourced by communities in the Amazon. The founders of Runa and the Runa Foundation seek to create sustained value for tropical rainforests, and further to ensure that local communities benefit from this value.
For my internship, I work closely with Runa’s head of marketing in the Northwest and California, Andrew Gage. The first stage of my internship involved primarily learning about the history and complexities of the company, and then meeting different grocery managers of stores around the Seattle area that Runa already has strong accounts. By working closely with Andrew in the first couple weeks, I was able to start to learn the complexities of marketing, distribution and sales of a multinational beverage company.
Aside from learning the ins and outs of Runa, one of my primary responsibilities as an intern are to grow Runa’s distribution in current accounts by gaining increased placements and adding a greater skew of tea types and flavors. As a relatively small company without the marketing or distribution power of our competitors, it is important for the release of new products and monthly sales that I am able to work efficiently with grocery managers around Seattle to make sure our product is on sale and at desirable price points. Learning to navigate the differences in operation of large chain stores in comparison to family owned grocery stores or co-ops is incredibly important to be effective in my internship. For example, the grocery manager at a co-op on Capitol Hill has a lot more say on how their store functions and has the power to set up displays, organize sales and manipulate placements in the store. On the other hand, at a major chain like Safeway, the grocery manager has much less leeway in terms of function of their store because operations are much more streamlined and placements are based on stringent schematics.
Without the distribution power of other beverage companies, one of my larger responsibilities is working on opening new accounts in stores in the Seattle area that don’t currently carry Runa. The difficulty of this task varies greatly by establishment, but usually entails a sales pitch or sorts and a case or two of samples for the grocery manager and their staff. On top of opening new grocery accounts, Andrew and I have been marketing our product to business campuses around the area. I’m looking forward to the last few weeks working for Runa and hope to continue on the foundation I’ve started this summer.
Experiences like Andrew’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff