Business development / Food and drink / Startups

This tea startup just ditched Philly for Baltimore. Meet Zest Tea

Founder James Fayal already has a network here, and sees big potential in Baltimore for consumer products.

James Fayal at Zest Tea's new offices. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

James Fayal started Zest Tea in Philly. Now he wants to grow the company in Baltimore.
The University of Maryland alum moved to Baltimore on July 1. He’s currently running the company out of 1100 Wicomico, an eight-story building in the Carroll/Camden Building (or, a few blocks from M&T Bank Stadium). During a quick tour, Fayal pointed to loading docks and storage spaces.
That’s where he’s planning to receive new shipments of Zest Tea, a naturally caffeinated tea drink. Coming in four varieties, the tea is marketed as alternative to coffee — with more caffeine to boot. Fayal, who is a Venture for America alum (and recipient of VFA investment), started selling the tea in 2014 after raising $10,000 through crowdfunding.

I think Baltimore, as Under Armour has identified, has a real opportunity to be a consumer product hub.

Fayal said the company is focusing mostly on direct internet sales to consumers and selling to corporate offices. The company has clients in Philly and New York. In Maryland, the product is at edtech company 2U’s offices in Landover.
“We do very little retail,” he said, explaining that selling to stores is more competitive, and doesn’t provide the same feedback as direct clients and customers.
Now that he’s made the move, Fayal said he’s likely to begin hiring. He said the company has had 50 percent growth each quarter, but he’s now maxed out his own capabilities.
In Baltimore, Fayal said he already has existing personal and professional networks from his University of Maryland days, and beyond. He also said it was easy to set up meetings with people like ETC President Deb Tillett, TEDCO President Rob Rosenbaum and the Baltimore Development Corporation.
“I was always pleasantly surprised with how accessible the Baltimore government was,” he said, referring to the entrepreneurship leaders.
For Zest Tea’s growth, he thinks the company can also benefit from being close to Under Armour, which is constantly growing and plans to further expand its footprint (and influence) in the city with the recent purchase of Port Covington.
“I think Baltimore, as Under Armour has identified, has a real opportunity to be a consumer product hub,” Fayal said.

Companies: Venture for America

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