Ray DeRosa, the Founder and CEO of Lion Tea, stopped by ForceBrands’ New York City headquarters on Thursday for a Meet the Maker event to tell the story behind the tea with Lion Tea’s Marketing Director Kristin Campbell.

Along with sharing the product, DeRosa talked about what makes Lion Tea unique, how he got started, and more. Read on to catch up with DeRosa and to learn more about Lion Tea in this exclusive interview.

ForceBrands: What inspired you to start Lion Tea?
Ray DeRosa: The story starts the day after my 21st birthday. I woke up with really blurry vision and thought it was a bad hangover but it was actually a rare eye disease called Leber’s. My mom, who also has the eye condition, is super Greek and according to her, dandelion is the cure for everything. Three days later, after drinking the tea, my vision was 20/20. I was in college at the time when I started introducing dandelion tea to people on campus. We discovered it was not only good for hangovers, but it’s also highly medicinal and has other healing properties. I entered a business plan competition at Temple University and won. So at 22 years old, I packed my car, and set out for LA to start the company. I left LA broken and defeated but I kept paying for the trademarks and pitching the product to investment groups. About eight months ago, I joined forces with three entrepreneurial friends and were lucky to meet the formulator behind WTRMLN WTR who helped us get underway.

FB: Let’s talk challenges. Why did you leave LA ‘broken and defeated?’
RD: You need a ton of money to start anything. And at the time, it was just me doing everything. People loved the product but I couldn’t do it all.

FB: Tell us more about Lion Tea. Do you have any competitors? What makes the product unique?
RD: We use the whole plant of the dandelion. The roots are heavy in prebiotics, which are a fiber that feed your probiotics. The flower is an anti-inflammatory and the leaf is a great detox. We’ve found that people who want the functionality of Kombucha enjoy Lion Tea. It’s a very detoxing beverage that’s loaded with vitamins, calcium, antioxidants, and more.

FB: Where do the dandelions come from? And do you have trouble sourcing them?
RD: Dandelions will grow everywhere if you let them. We reached out to farmers across the country who offered not to cut the weeds before they flowered, and send them to us instead. We found amazing Amish women in Montana who currently pick all of our dandelions.

FB: What’s the shelf life?
RD: One year. All of our tea contains dandelions, fruit, and honey. And people have been noticing that. It contains all natural ingredients with no additives or preservatives.

FB: Looking ahead, do you have any plans to expand into other products?
RD: Dandelions have a ton of healing properties. We’d love to see what that looks like beyond tea.

FB: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of starting your own company?
RD: I love that we’re resonating with people. I enjoy field marketing and being part of the whole food movement. We want to be one of those companies that’s making a positive, healthy impact in people’s lives. And it’s fun to introduce this ancient medicinal plant to people who may not be familiar with its healing properties. We’ll know we’ve made it when people take a sip and say, ‘This is really good,’ instead of, ‘This is actually really good.’

FB: It seems you are already well on your way to making it as our team is a huge fan of Lion Tea. Is there any secret to success?
RD: We’re learning everything as we go.

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