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What Makes Honest Tea's Seth Goldman Smile?

By Motley Fool Staff and Tom Gardner - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:00AM

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Seth Goldman shares his views on happiness and simple living.

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 Motley Fool CEO Tom Gardner to discuss sustainability, entrepreneurship, and what it means for a socially responsible, health-oriented business to be bought by Coca-Cola ( KO -0.38% ) .

In this video segment, Goldman says he was happy before the Coke deal, and is still happy today. Describing himself as a natural optimist, he explains his own happiness "equation." He also discusses the origins of Mission in a Bottle and why he and Professor Nalebuff settled on the graphic novel format.

A full transcript follows the video.

Audience member: First, I want to say you have a great smile!

Seth Goldman: Thank you.

Tom Gardner: Thank you! Oh, it was Seth? You were talking to Seth? OK. OK.

Audience member: I'm curious if that smile came before or after Coke's acquisition?

Gardner: That's awesome!

Goldman: I will say there's an optimism that you need as an entrepreneur, and I was born with that. One of the things that's important; we certainly lived simply before the Coke deal, and we continue to live simply. I think, to understand what makes you happy can be a real gift.

Gardner: Not having any personal guarantees for loans makes you happy.

Goldman: I slept better with no personal guarantees!

But I was happy before the Coke deal, and I was happy after the Coke deal. I have my own little equation. Happiness is the greater than, so what you have is greater than what you want.

Most people think having more makes you happy. But wanting less, and really understanding what makes you happy -- and for me, I've had an incredible, wonderful family and health ...

Audience member: I have to say it's probably the "no compromising." It goes a long way.

Goldman: That's right, too.

Audience member: Actually, my real question is that you chose an interesting form to communicate your story, which is a graphic novel. I'm curious why you chose a graphic novel over a standard approach.

Goldman: That son -- the one who was in India criticizing the computers -- is a very alternative thinker. He's dyslexic as well, so he's always seeing the world very visually. He was in his senior [year] of high school and was getting into senior slump, which means he wasn't doing his homework. He was reading comic books.

My wife would send me upstairs and say, "You better make sure he's doing his homework, because if he doesn't keep up his grades, he's going to lose his acceptance to college." I'd go up there and try to talk to him about doing homework and I'd see these comic books laid out, and they were so absorbing.

At the same time, I was trying to read these business books. One book in particular was just so...

Gardner: Give us the title. I'm sorry! You don't have to do it.

Goldman: It was a green business book.

I felt like I was doing the homework. I said, "We've got to find a way to tell the story, and make it more engaging, to make it come alive," and the comic book form just worked. Whether it's the visual elements -- showing how we designed the label, or the tea garden, or the bottling plant -- and the kind of people we'll be able to attract is so different. It's really fun.

Gardner: I think it has to become an animated film. If you've read the book, it will be an awesome Pixar movie.

Goldman: I will say that my wife is not happy with all of the fashion choices made on her behalf.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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