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Book Review: Mission in a Bottle

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Mission-In-A-BottleMission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently--and Succeeding is the story of the start up and building of Honest Tea, authorized by co-founders Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. This is an entrepreneurial story with a happy financial ending, when the company was sold to Coca Cola. While you have read your share of entrepreneurial autobiographies—this is unique, simply because of its comic-book presentation. The format engages the reader in a fascinating way.

Nalebuff is a professor at Yale School of Management and Goldman is a graduate of the school. In addition to his business school degree, Goldman is motivated by a sense of social mission. As implied by the book's subtitle, Goldman had a drive to "change the world," and concluded "you don't have to change your ideals" to succeed. Nalebuff brings in the systematic approach of the business. The strength of the book is the combination of describing all the steps, the challenges, and the ups and downs of a new beverage brand company with the market and management analysis and discipline.

The basis for creating Honest Tea was the discovery that the existing bottled teas and fruit beverages contained large amounts of sugar, that "everything is way to sweet or has artificial ingredients." Nalebuff did a case study of the Tata Tea Co., and in looking at the proposed new product, he asked "Where is the hole? What's missing?" The answer was "different sweetness levels." As a result, Honest Tea was created to contain far less sugar than its competitors, and to use organic ingredients. In addition, the founders set out "to create a national brand that becomes a model for change." And, while this was happening in a very competitive industry with large, powerful competitors, Honest Tea had the benefit of being connected with "the healthy food movement."

The book is divided into three sections: 1. Start-Up: 1997-1999, 2. Growing Pains: 1999-2004, 3. A Brand Emerges: 2004-2008. Each section has a concluding "Lessons Learned." The reader gets a real feeling for the nitty gritty hands-on details of a business startup, with the lessons the founders learned from each part of the process. Mission In A Bottle is highly recommended for those looking at an entrepreneurial opportunity or career path, or looking to invest in business startups. The reader will get a realistic, informed picture of what is involved.

–Bill Hayes

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