Yaupon is seen as a nuisance in Texas. The hardy plant is often in the way and is even burned to make room for cattle. In 2011, a drought in Texas left millions of trees dead, but one plant, yaupon, survived. Sisters Abianne Falla and JennaDee Detro noticed the plant was thriving and wanted to know more. The sisters discovered that yaupon was the only naturally caffeinated plant known to be native to North America. Yaupon was used by Native Americans for centuries, but the tradition was halted by displacement and colonization. The sisters strived to restore the plant’s legacy and find out what else it offered.
The sisters found studies from Texas A&M and the University of Florida that explained the plant’s health benefits. They learned that the plant contained caffeine, antioxidants, and theobromine, which can be found in dark chocolate. This makes the tea have a caffeine boost without the crash that comes with other highly caffeinated drinks. The sisters decided to try to make tea with the plant. After a multitude of different techniques and a lot of trial and error, they created CatSpring Yaupon tea. They harvest the plant wildly so “there’s nothing touching these plants but sunshine and rainwater.”
While the sisters have worked hard to restore the legacy of yaupon and practice sustainability, they’ve also learned that “it’s about the people, too.” The sisters created the CatSpring People First Employment Program. Through this program, they offer jobs to individuals exiting the criminal justice system, including human trafficking survivors. The sisters work with probation officers in their community to find people who want to change their future. The goal is to offer jobs to individuals that have a lack of resources (especially in rural areas), so that they can eventually transfer into other meaningful employment. In their packaging facility, they also work with women who have experienced generational poverty.
Abianne stated, “We know the criminal justice system is broken, and our aim is to take a stand against the inequities the system creates. While we can’t single-handedly fix the inequities, we hope to do our part in our community.”
Because of their hard work and community efforts, CatSpring has received multiple awards, including being awarded $180,000 as the 2017 Regional Winner at the WeWork Creator Awards.
Overall, CatSpring Yaupon proves that small businesses can make a big impact.