Hannah Mendoza Co-Founder and CEO at Clevr Blends Thinks Adaptogenic Drinks Are the Next Big Thing
August 2, 2023
Clevr Blends is the Meghan Markle-backed, Oprah-approved functional coffee and tea brand.Co-founders Hannah Mendoza and Roger Coppola traveled the world blending up adaptogenic elixirs. They gained a following from fans who loved how the drinks made them feel, and wanted to recreate them at home. Seeking to make these powerful ingredients more accessible, Hannah and Roger founded Clevr

How were you able to spot the adaptogenic trend potential?

During college, I was lucky to fall into a community that was deeply rooted in ‘alternative’ healing modalities. At a time when in the US, adaptogens were still very fringe, this group was wild harvesting chaga mushrooms and blending up 20 ingredient adaptogenic drinks each morning. I’d grown up in London, where black tea and cigarettes were modern cultural medicine, so their perspective was life-changing for me. I started incorporating herbal medicine and adaptogens into my lifestyle, and saw profound shifts in my mental and physical well being.

When we launched the Clevr Coffee Bar in 2017, we focused on adaptogens because of the nervous system and stress support they provide—it’s like nature’s antidote for a chronically anxious, overwhelmed society. When people reflected back to us that they felt the same shifts I had personally, the lightbulb turned on.

In the West, we pedestalize being on the bleeding edge of progress—but when it comes to herbs and adaptogens, we’re thousands of years behind. The adaptogen ‘trend’ is us catching up to what East Asian, South Asian, and many other native communities have known for millennia.

You have spoken about the investing landscape giving you a thick skin. Do you still face the same struggles to toughen up that you did in 2020?

We just completed a fundraise during an incredibly tough environment—I feel adequately thick!

My perspective has shifted around hearing ‘no’ since then—instead of lamenting it, it’s been helpful to see the hidden blessing. With investment specifically, you’re about to embark on a multi-year rollercoaster ride with this person: you need whole-hearted conviction in your vision, or you’ll only ever feel comfortable calling them on your best days, not your worst.

I’ve also learned that ‘toughness’ doesn’t mean foregoing vulnerability—they’re not mutually exclusive, and are both critical for strong leadership. The maxim ‘strong back, soft front’ from Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax describes this perfectly.

You secured relationships with Meghan Markle and Oprah. What did you learn that might benefit other founders looking to connect with celebrity investors?

Meghan has served just as much as a mentor to me as an investor and advisor. As a first-time entrepreneur, her confidence in what we’re building has been instrumental. Partnerships like this are only as good as the strength of your relationship. With celebrity investments becoming more ubiquitous, I think people can instinctively tell if a relationship is purely transactional. My advice is to ensure there’s a genuine connection to the product, that you share a common mission and vision for the brand, and that you get on well as people, outside of a business context.

Do you ever miss the days of driving around and selling from your van?

Of course! It was a simple, joyful time that was very developmentally appropriate for being 22. But for now, I have energy and drive that wants to be directed to something bigger. Building a business is a personal growth crash course unlike anything I may ever experience again: caretaking a team, self-educating on new skills, and training myself to think big has its own kind of freedom, so I’m where I’m supposed to be.

What’s next for your business?

Growing our team, expanding into retail, and trying to choose between 100 different new product ideas competing for space in my R&D room!

I still make all of our formulas myself, and product development is something I’ll spend more time on in the next year. As an entrepreneur, you’re inherently in love with the process of creation—I’m learning to balance the constant drive to innovate and make something new, with the discipline of ensuring I’m perfecting what already exists.

Who is one woman you admire today?

There are so many incredible women I look up to in our industry—Sana Javeri Kadri from Diaspora Co, Julia Marsh from Sway, Kim and Vanessa Pham from OmSom, Ashley Thompson from Mush… I could go on.

What is one thing you can’t live without?

Surfing. It’s my mental health anchor, and antidote to screen time. It hits all the happiness notes for me: childlike play, physical challenge, and a flow state that’s unreplicable.

What is one trend you see coming in 2023/2024?

I think we’re going to see regenerative agriculture go mainstream, becoming the new ‘Organic’. Consumers will challenge brands to go beyond the status quo, and address their impact on the larger ecosystems surrounding their supply chains, like soil health, carbon capture, and biodiversity.



/*video overlay play button*/