Tatiana Birgisson ’12 decided she wanted to become an entrepreneur when she was 7 years old, helping her uncle drive jetskis for his tourism business in the Caribbean.

“I thought it was the coolest job in the world to be your own boss,” she said, adding that she also admired her uncle for driving revenue and tourism to his hometown and taking ownership of what he brought to the market.

Birgisson started her own company, MATI Energy, while living in Duke’s entrepreneurial community, The Cube, during her senior year. What she first brewed as a healthy drink to help her through her own exhaustion and depression has become a rapidly growing business that put up 130 percent year-over-year growth in 2016 and earned Birgisson a place on Forbes’ 2017 30 Under 30 list in the Food and Drink category.

“I was really shocked and pleasantly surprised,” Birgisson said of the recognition. “It came on the tail of having a huge 2016. Everyone had worked really hard, putting in 12 to 14 hour days, and we ended up exceeding our goal. The award came at the perfect time as a little reward.”

The past year was a big one for MATI – the Durham-based company grew from five to 20 employees, built and moved into a 30,000-square foot production facility in Clayton, North Carolina, and became available at five chains in addition to its first chain, Whole Foods.

In 2017, Birgisson plans to grow the brand from 500 locations nationwide to more than 1,600 – which will include expansion into Florida, Texas and Virginia.

All this is huge growth for a company that Birgisson started in her dorm room and expanded with the help of Duke resources, including the Duke Startup Challenge, which she won.

“I wanted to create an energy drink that was healthy from the ground up,” she said. “And to me, that meant no compromise. Nothing fake, nothing that I wouldn’t want to consume every day and multiple times a day.”

MATI is made with just tea and juices and has no added sugar.

Although she’s now changing the energy drink landscape, Birgisson initially didn’t even have an idea for a company, until one of her peers in The Cube suggested she start selling her tea.

“Follow the things that peak your interest and make you excited, the things that make you want to stay up all night working,” she said. “Let that drive your direction. And once you find the opportunity in the market, go at it full force.”

To learn more about Birgisson and MATI, watch a video from our Duke Entrepreneurs series or visit MATI’s website.

To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.

 

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