Educating the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow

The potential of business to change society for the better isn’t taught in schools.

Mar 21, 2014 at 9:00AM

Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff founded Honest Tea in 1998. In the recently released Mission in a Bottle, the co-founders tell -- in comic book form -- the story of building a successful mission-driven business. Goldman, now President and "TeaEO" of Honest Tea, joins Tom Gardner to discuss sustainability, entrepreneurship, and what it means for a socially responsible, health-oriented business to be bought by Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) .

In this video segment, Goldman discusses business education and its tendency to be dry or uninteresting; part of the reason he and Professor Nalebuff decided to tell their story in such an accessible format.

A full transcript follows the video.

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David Gardner: Seth, in a line that is misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi -- and it's there in any number of TEDTalks and other things -- "Be the change that you want to see in the world." It's still a great line.

Seth Goldman: Yes. Who said it?

David Gardner: David Gardner, Google it!

No, somebody more obscure than Mahatma Gandhi. Part of your story I know -- Tom didn't tease it out of you tonight, and I don't know if you want to talk a little bit about it -- is that you were maybe more oriented toward thinking that the political world might be a place that you made the change in the world.

But instead, you started a business and you helped to reshape the world by doing that. I'm always telling my kids -- I realize that we're in the Washington, D.C. area, and I hope this isn't offending anyone; but I guess we're also across the river from Washington, D.C.

I always wish that my kids' schools talked about companies like Apple, Tesla, NetflixAmazon.comGoogle. The list, fortunately, goes on, of companies -- Honest Tea -- that truly change and shape the world around them. That's a great way to make an impact in this world. Do you think our schools do a good job conveying that? How did that light bulb ... how did you get switched on?

Goldman: Well, you're absolutely right. Obviously, for us, one of the ideas of the book is, "Let's make this accessible to people who don't think about it."

There was an interesting commentary on Slate.com by David Plotz. In this case, he called out liberals and said liberals don't do a good job of ... not just teaching their kids how the economy works, but thinking that this kind of work can be meaningful, and capitalism can have a great impact on society.

I think education, our approach to business, is dry. You can read a textbook and you can see supply/demand curves or cost of goods. What it totally misses, and what we hope to capture here, is the creativity and the fun. I've shared my pain points, but this has been such a wild ride, and so much fun.

The other thing that we get is this interaction with consumers. I still read all the emails we get -- and it's dozens a day now -- but we really are playing a transformational role in people's lives. That's just a wonderfully gratifying feeling and I don't think any of that really gets communicated in school.

Frankly, there just aren't books about entrepreneurship for kids, either. We did a little survey. I think there's a book about Facebook sort of targeted to kids, but it's really more about how to write a logarithm.

Tom Gardner: It's funny. I actually have to laugh about this, but I think it would be a great animated film. I really do!

When you all buy and read the book, you will see that the visual elements tell aspects of the story that you can't get. As you said, seeing the design of the bottle, seeing the original bottle that you wanted and how it was not going to work economically, and what it changed to, and why, is all demonstrated in the book in a beautiful way.

David Gardner owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. Tom Gardner owns shares of Facebook and Google. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, and Netflix and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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