Rasa Founder & CEO: Lopa van der Mersch

Lopa van der Mersch built the alternative to coffee company Rasa with a personal mission to transform the way people energize.

Photo courtesy of Rasa.

One of Rasa’s core values is the Kahlil Gibran quote: “Work is love made visible.” Having recently restructured as a Public Benefit Corporation, Lopa van der Mersch emphasizes that impact is coded into her business DNA. In other words, what sets her business apart is the fact that she cares (really cares) about her employees, customers, investors, partners, local farmers, and of course, the planet. All this goodness goes without saying.

Rasa’s products are functional, delicious, high quality, high value, and high integrity, which lends to its mission of continuing to source sustainable herbs from traditional growing regions—and promote quality herbal education for all.

How did your coffee alternative business come to fruition?
“Rasa was born out of both necessity and stress. I had a traumatically stressful year in 2015, and then had my first baby. I needed energy, but the few times I tried coffee it messed with my sleep, gave me anxiety, and made me irritable. I tried all the coffee alternatives out there and was surprised there were none that energized without caffeine (and had no gluten, grains or so-called ‘natural’ flavors). So, I decided to partner with an herbalist—and what started with me elbow- deep blending herbs in my kitchen, has now served over 100,000 customers seeking a healthier way to energize.”

Describe a typical day at work.
“No day is typical, really, which is one of the things I love about being Founder and CEO, but I find myself in lots of meetings—from 1:1’s to creative collaborations to strategic meetings. I also am our Chief Storyteller, so I write a lot—emails and ads, primarily, and then my team turns that into other bits of copy. I spend a lot of my day executing in the weeds and other parts seeing the forest for the trees on vision, strategy, creative direction, org structure, hiring, and more.”

Photo courtesy of Rasa.

What is the inspiration behind Rasa?
“When I found coffee to be too much for my nervous system, I started wondering why coffee goes so culturally unquestioned, even though it comes with addiction and side effects. Coffee energizes by stimulating your central nervous system and causing a cortisol and adrenaline spike… and we often use it to override our tiredness, instead of resting or nourishing ourselves. The adaptogens in Rasa nourish adrenals and reduce the impacts of stress while they energize. Whether you continue to drink coffee or not, adding Rasa to your days changes the quality of your energy—which flows out into the quality of your life.”

What is your professional background?
“I have a storied background that includes dropping out of college to caretake a wildlife refuge in Costa Rica, co-founding two sustainable energy startups (with one exit), being a Senior Advisor to Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, and speaking at TEDx- Berkeley to 1400 people. I also worked at a crematory for a spell, actually burning dead bodies—a job I loved, I saw myself as their last blessing. Inner cultivation is very important to me and I’ve spent thousands of hours studying and practicing ancient and indigenous wisdom across many (mostly South Asian) traditions.”

What makes Boulder the perfect place to run your business?
“I moved to Colorado in high school, so my family has been here for over 20 years,… so almost native, I guess? I love operating Rasa in Boulder because the natural foods and startup communities here are thriving and full of generous people that want to help businesses like mine succeed. And the proximity to nature is good for my mental health, which is especially important for founders.”

What’s on the horizon for you?
“Haha, if I told you I’d have to kill you. I’m kidding (sort of). We’ve just launched our crowdfunding, making the move to become a community-owned business, which is super exciting for us, our customers, and our growth (if you’re reading this, follow our campaign on WeFunder!) Also, product innovation is one of the most exciting parts of our business and we have eight launches planned for next year, including a mushroom-focused blend, a hilarious Ultra Limited Edition blend for April Fools, and other ways to brew Rasa… plus some delicious, nourishing additions to your brew.”