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Caroline MacDougall: “When in doubt, go with gratitude”

When in doubt, go with gratitude. Become a gratitude generator and you’ll find life opens itself up to you. Everyone will want to be around you too. Gratitude keeps your heart open and brings out the very best of everyone. It’s so easy to find reasons to be grateful; just make it an all-day-long practice! […]

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When in doubt, go with gratitude. Become a gratitude generator and you’ll find life opens itself up to you. Everyone will want to be around you too. Gratitude keeps your heart open and brings out the very best of everyone. It’s so easy to find reasons to be grateful; just make it an all-day-long practice!


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline MacDougall.

Caroline MacDougall is the founder, creator, and CEO of Teeccino, America’s top selling coffee alternative. With over 30 years’ experience in the herbal products industry, Caroline has designed numerous award-winning herbal beverages for top tea and natural products companies including The Republic of Tea, Yogi Tea Company, Uncle Lee’s Tea, and Organic India. She had a compelling vision to create a delicious, bold tasting, organic brew from roasted herbs and wellness ingredients. Propelled by her own sensitivity to caffeine and acidity, Caroline designed Teeccino to provide a natural energy boost from nutrients, not stimulants like caffeine, to satisfy both coffee and tea drinkers alike.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I was fortunate that I was so passionate about health at a young age when the natural foods movement first began in the late ’60s. It was a time when hippies were devoted to selling whole grains in bulk out of big barrels. Revolutionary articles like How to Cook Brown Rice made the front page of the LA Free Press because no one had ever cooked anything other than Uncle Ben’s white rice. I took a summer job at New Age Natural Foods in Palo Alto, the first ‘big’ natural food store of the time, and ran the room where we had to keep the taxable items because cash registers couldn’t handle both non-taxed food and taxable books and vitamins. I read every book I could about how to achieve optimal health. When Mo Siegel came to the store with hand-sewn bags of tea blends with fun names like Red Zinger and Sleepytime, I got to know him and his fledgling company, Celestial Seasonings. A little while later, I became Celestial’s first sales associate on the road in a gaily painted VW bus with thunderbolts hitting teacups and roosters crowing at sunrise. From there, I began traveling for Celestial buying herbs around the world to import for our teas. At the time, only US pharmaceutical companies imported a small selection of herbs, so I had the opportunity to develop our international sources for more than 100 herbs. Celestial’s mission was to bring the health benefits of herbs to Americans where no one had ever had an herbal beverage before. I am still on that mission over 40 years later, and now with my own company, Teeccino.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I have so many, but there is one that threads its way through my career. When I started buying herbs for Celestial, we had no database of contacts or existing relationships. I had to write letters to embassies to see if they would be able to tell me who harvested and exported herbs from their countries. On top of that, I had to travel to those foreign countries in a time when there were no credit cards, international telephone calls were prohibited, and women weren’t able to travel alone. On top of that, we had no idea how much of any herb we would need because we were a fast-growing, young company. If I over-bought, it might have had dire consequences to the fledgling company. Thus, I truly had to rely on my intuition and ingenuity by listening to my inner voice. I also learned to be discerning about who to trust and how to safely navigate a male-dominated world. Following your intuition can save you from many pitfalls, which I’ve had to learn the hard way at times. Yet success also requires balancing the intuitive side with a strong sense of determination. Risk-taking is the essence of being an entrepreneur, but knowing which risks to take and when to take them is key!

To illustrate how strongly I believe in my intuition, I created and subsequently launched Teeccino after having a dream one night. I awoke to hear myself say, “The next product I’m going to create is a caffeine-free cappuccino and the name of the product is Teeccino!”. I remember thinking at the time, “I wonder if I can get herbs to brew in an espresso machine?” It took me several months, but I managed to create Teeccino to brew in any kind of coffee maker. I’ve been following the inspiration from that dream for 25 years to I guess you could say determination certainly has played a big part in the success of my company too!

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started my company, Teeccino, I hired many friends. It did make it fun, but in the end, I learned the importance of constructing an experienced team. I thought that I couldn’t afford the cream of the crop staff, so I made do for too long with people who weren’t as passionate about the success of the company. I’ve learned that looking at your company as a team unit and letting go of those who don’t continue to move the company forward is extremely important when finding success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I wouldn’t have become involved with herbs if I hadn’t been inspired by reading books written by a nomadic herbalist named Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She traveled around the world studying herbal lore with native people while bringing along her children and a menagerie of animals including Afghan hounds and owls. I thought if she can live like that, so can I. I tracked her down and studied with Juliette on several islands in the Mediterranean. She deepened my love of plants, taught me how to use them in the simplest ways to improve my health, and she set me on my lifelong quest to bring delicious herbal beverages to consumers within the United States. She taught me the power of infusing herbal wellness into water. We’d go out picking herbs, bring them back to her primitive cabin and brew, taste, and discuss their many health benefits. Although I took a very different path in life by becoming a businesswoman, my love of herbs was ignited by Juliette.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Teeccino’s mission from the very beginning has been to provide superior foods and beverages that support the pursuit of optimal health and to inspire and educate our customers to adopt a balanced, healthy lifestyle by avoiding stimulants like sugar and caffeine. I founded Teeccino at a time when I was working to preserve rainforests in Central America by finding non-timber forest products for North American companies that would give economic value to standing trees. Teeccino gave me a way to use such ingredients, like the ramón seed from The Maya Biosphere Reserve, which was a traditional roasted beverage of the Maya. We have created new trade by pioneering their harvest from the upper canopy ramón tree and bringing income opportunities to impoverished communities while preserving the rainforest.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  • Get off of stimulants. Sugar and caffeine consumed addictively — i.e. every day — age your body and drive it towards exhaustion. Consider energy as a bank account and stimulants as putting your account into overdraft. Instead, conserve your bank account and you’ll always have plenty of energy. Ok, a little dark chocolate here and there is permissible!
  • When in doubt, go with gratitude. Become a gratitude generator and you’ll find life opens itself up to you. Everyone will want to be around you too. Gratitude keeps your heart open and brings out the very best of everyone. It’s so easy to find reasons to be grateful; just make it an all-day-long practice!
  • Allow yourself to become bored. Getting bored is the first step towards discovering what you’re passionate about and passion begets purpose. People with a sense of purpose are the healthiest. Let your mind drift when weeding your garden, doing your dishes, or hiking a trail. The act of doing repetitive things can open up your imagination. My best product inspirations come when I give myself some time to just think.
  • Work is love in action. It may sound impossible, but it makes a difference if you pour love into everything you do. So many people think of work as something they have to do, not something they love to do. Doing your work, no matter how menial a task, with love, affects not only the outcome but also everyone and everything around you. Attitude makes a huge difference and there’s no better way to adjust one’s attitude than to feel love.
  • Sleep deep and remember your dreams. I was inspired to create Teeccino in a dream and I regularly solve business problems in my dreams. If you aren’t sleeping deeply, you won’t wake up fully rested… which brings me back to caffeine. Don’t use caffeine addictively, but rather occasionally. One of the reasons is that it keeps you from going into a deep sleep where inspiration and rejuvenation can be found.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would urge consumers to adopt a lifestyle without sugar or caffeine. If I could opt for another, it would be to move more and eat less. We need to eat far fewer calories than we consume now and we need to move daily far more than our computer-driven culture allows for. That would bring about optimal health for everyone!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  • It might take you much longer than you think to achieve your goals. I never imagined I’d still be creating new Teeccino beverages 25 years from when I started, much less that I’d still be loving doing so. So be sure to tune in to how much passion you have for what you’re about to begin to make sure it can last you for the duration of your career.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail, but make sure you learn from each failure. Great success is born from failure like the phoenix from the ashes of a bonfire. If you beat yourself up for failure, you may miss the opportunities that failures always bring.
  • Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of sacrifices. Your focus has to be on your business and thus you might miss out on some life events along the way. So be willing to focus intensely while weaving in family life and your most important friends. Let go of the rest for this era knowing that time will bring another era when you can open up again.
  • Risk is inherent so be ready for the entrepreneurial rollercoaster ride. Don’t let one bump throw you. There are bigger bumps guaranteed ahead. Keep your equanimity and remember that with each hurdle, you become stronger.
  • Hold the vision. If you want excellence along with success, you have to get very good at holding out for what you envision. Lots of people including investors along the way will try to talk you out of your vision, your values, your mission — all the things that made you start your business in the first place. Hold onto your vision and don’t let it go even when you have to pivot in your business plan to approach your goals from a different angle. Your vision will become even clearer!

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Regenerative agriculture brings me hope in this challenging time of global warming. It’s hard not to feel like the human race is heading towards extinction. Transforming our farms and ranches into producers of rich, thick topsoil that is sequestering carbon is the best way to start reversing climate change and improving our health by consuming healthy plants from mineral-rich soil teeming with microbial life.

The same goes for the ocean. Regenerative agriculture there looks like huge kelp beds and open ocean farming for all kinds of seaweed which can sequester carbon faster than even planting trees. I’m a big fan of regenerating forests too, but we need faster solutions and that comes from drawing down carbon into our soil and our ocean’s plants.

We need a revolution inside the USDA to support regenerative agriculture. By buying from farmers and ranchers who practice regenerative agriculture via cover crops and no-till planting, we can pressure big agriculture to transform from being the problem to being the solution.

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