Honest Tea Co-founder Seth Goldman ’95 Urges Students to Find Their Passions

Speaking at Yale SOM’s annual orientation, Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman ’95 encouraged new students to explore their options, question their assumptions, and pursue their passions.

“There is never going to be another point in your life when your opportunities are so open,” said Goldman, TeaEO emeritus of Honest Tea and executive chairman of Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein company. “This is the pivot point in your career where everything is possible. And if you don’t believe that, you are either underestimating yourself or the value of the Yale SOM education you are about to receive.”

Speaking in Zhang Auditorium on August 15, Goldman addressed incoming students in Yale SOM’s full-time MBA and Master of Advanced Management programs, as well as the inaugural class of students in the school’s Master of Management Studies in Systemic Risk program.

Goldman, one of Yale SOM’s most celebrated alumni entrepreneurs, shared a few lessons he learned from his late father—the value of a life partner, doing work you believe in, and being committed to your community—before giving students a brief overview of Honest Tea, the company he co-founded with Barry Nalebuff, Yale SOM’s Milton Steinbach Professor of Management.

Goldman recapped the mission-driven venture’s story, from its founding in 1998 to Coca-Cola’s purchase of the company in 2011 and its continued growth as a pioneering organic and fair-trade brand. Goldman also described how his new company, Beyond Meat, is poised to expand the market for non-meat protein.

At Yale SOM, Goldman said that he first realized how business can be used to pursue public goals, sometimes more effectively than governmental agencies. “I’m an activist in an entrepreneur’s body,” he said. “Business is absolutely a tool for change.”

The skills and knowledge he acquired in accounting and finance courses were essential in his entrepreneurial role, as was an understanding of marketing and the critical ability to manage people, he said: “If you can’t bring together the right people and have them understand the broader context of the work…all the other things just don’t matter.

Goldman encouraged students to see their classmates and professors as sources of inspiration and a network, both professional and personal, that will last a lifetime. He underscored the value of sales skills, especially for entrepreneurs, and the importance of choosing the right career.

“You always do best when you do something you’re excited about, something you believe in,” he said. “Don’t just take the thing that comes to you; find something you really are excited about.”