Every now and then – usually as she dangles from a rock face or climbing wall – 27-year-old Tatiana Birgisson stops thinking about how she’s going to take MATI, the energy drink company she founded, to the next level. These moments are fleeting. For someone whose company motto is “Do More. Be Better.”, Tatiana relentlessly pushes herself to improve.
That kind of drive has taken MATI from a dorm room hobby to a best-selling energy drink in the Southeast. Tatiana started brewing tea as a student at Duke University, as she struggled to find her passion amidst a bout of depression. When she started selling that concoction to local business Shoeboxed, employees preferred her unique blend of highly caffeinated guayusa leaf tea and lightly carbonated fruit juices to Red Bull.
“I’m offering consumers a healthy option when there truly aren’t healthy options for them,” Tatiana says.
Selected to compete at Google’s Demo Day in 2015, MATI was the surprise non-tech victor, taking home $100,000 in funding along with new notoriety. MATI grew by more than 131% last year, and Tatiana took her team from five people to 20.
Tatiana also received support from Duke, which continues to house MATI in a university-funded space in American Underground @Main. She gives back by mentoring student entrepreneurs. “I can’t say I want Durham to become a great entrepreneurship hub without being a change agent and a driver of that myself,” she says.
And she continues to constantly push herself and her company. “Trying isn’t just putting in effort,” Tatiana says, “It’s sacrifice.”
MATI is now sold in about 500 stores in seven Southern states, possibly growing to 1,500 outlets in 2017. Sales of MATI in North Carolina almost tripled, and e-commerce sales quintupled from 2015 numbers. MATI also opened a 30,000 sq. ft. manufacturing and warehouse facility in Clayton.
Tatiana’s Favorite MATI Flavor
Tropical. MATI is currently available in three flavors (cherry, tropical and citrus) with more being tested.
Amount of Caffeine in Each Can
115 mg, the equivalent of one-and-a-half cups of coffee. Guayusa leaves are the second-most caffeinated plant in the world.
Cans of MATI Sold
About 750,000. Citrus is the best-selling flavor.
Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
Be connected to the problem, not the solution.
Everyone who reports to Tatiana has relocated for the opportunity. As someone who never had a boss before she started her company, she says she tries to put herself in her employees’ shoes and relies on the team to uphold shared values.
MATI’s fast-paced growth means Tatiana has to hire people who will be the best for the job – and for whatever that job looks like in a few months.