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Baltimore tea startup makes Entrepreneur 360 list

Since moving to Baltimore last year, Zest Tea has grown to four employees and is looking at more expansion.

Zest Tea founder James Fayal. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

James Fayal was the only employee of Zest Tea for two years. Now the company that makes a naturally caffeinated tea drink is up to four workers and has plans to move into new sales areas.
The growth merited recognition from the Entrepreneur 360 list from Entrepreneur Magazine. The national list looks at companies — those that apply, that is — in four areas: innovation, growth, leadership and impact.
Fayal founded the company in Philly and received a $45,000 investment from Venture for America, which brought him to Philly as a fellow. Last year, he moved to Baltimore, and based the company out of the Carroll-Camden neighborhood.
The University of Maryland alum talks of Baltimore’s potential for consumer products, given the large amount of commercial space waiting to be filled, its port and the influence of another certain Terp. He’s not the only one, given the city’s explosion of new makerspaces and efforts to showcase stuff that’s Made in Baltimore.
“Baltimore and Under Armour have recognized the city’s unique characteristics that position it well for physical product entrepreneurship and they are doing everything they can to support it,” Fayal said via email. “I am confident the consumer product ecosystem will continue to grow and everyone in the local industry will benefit from the increasing concentration of skilled employees and domain-specific knowledge.”
With initial focus on selling direct-to-consumer and some office locations (like Landover-based 2U), Fayal said he was able to reinvest revenue toward hiring.
“We have also benefitted from an extremely vocal fanbase, which led to strong growth via word of mouth and almost no need for paid marketing channels,” Fayal said.
Growing the team had a purpose. Getting the product into retail stores requires more people, with samples and the work that makes it stand out from other items next to it on the shelf.
“On top of scaling the team to support the product and our sales partners, we are supporting our retail placement with a highly targeted but large scale sampling campaign using subscription boxes and various other means of getting product directly into customers’ hands,” Fayal said.


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