The last time I saw Tatiana Birgisson, founder and CEO of MATI Energy, she was cutting the yellow ribbon in her new production facility with an oversize pair of novelty scissors. The facility—the first of its kind in the United States—was chock-full of the sparkling, caffeinated tea for which the twenty-seven-year-old Duke grad has become known. It came in the form of bubbly MATI cocktails, a sheet cake decorated with the brand’s logo, and gift baskets galore. Even the modular furniture matched the bright primary colors of MATI’s aluminum bullet cans.
Birgisson opened the thirty-thousand-square-foot facility in Clayton last March using a $100,000 investment from AOL cofounder Steve Case. That investment marked the first time a non-tech company took the grand prize at Google Demo Day, an annual event where budding entrepreneurs pitch to top investors. And the accolades keep coming.
Last week, Forbes magazine selected Birgisson for its prestigious 30 Under 30 list, which highlights twenty young entrepreneurs in thirty industries who are challenging the status quo. With her healthy take on energy drinks, Birgisson scored in both the Food & Drink category and the Dorm Room Founders list. (Fun fact: According to Forbes, the editors receive more than 15,000 nominations for 600 spots. That makes a slot on the list more exclusive than an acceptance letter to Stanford or Harvard.)
It was Lisa Fetterman—another female entrepreneur and a 2015 list alum—who encouraged Birgisson to apply for the award. Birgisson also credits a smart network of female supporters as one of her driving factors, and she’s taken care to pass that inspiration along. More than half of MATI’s employees are women, including the vice president of manufacturing operations and vice president of sales and marketing.
MATI has come a long way since Birgisson began tweaking the recipe in her Duke dorm room in 2012. Last March, the CEO was thrilled to sign a contract with Kroger. MATI is also available regionally at Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Lowes Foods, Handee Hugo’s, and Sam’s Club.
By the end of 2017, Birgisson plans for MATI to grow from its current 500 locations to more than 1,600 nationwide. At that rate, Birgisson might want to keep those novelty scissors handy.