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Runa co-founder on combining purpose and business in the Amazon

Finding purpose in the Amazon
Runa co-founder on finding purpose in the Amazon 03:56

A man's life-changing journey to the Amazon inspired a business that's helping the rain forest thrive.  

Tyler Gage took a two-year break from college to learn about indigenous tribes in South America. After graduating in 2009, Gage gave up a Fulbright grant to move to Ecuador.

"I studied literary arts and my business partner studied marine biology. So we're not really business experts or anything close to it. So when we got to Ecuador we decided to lean into what we knew how to do which was act like students," Gage said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." He asked lots of questions, he said, and found that some communities struggled to "figure out the relationship between the modern world and their cultural heritage."


So they started the company Runa, which produces teas and energy drinks in the U.S. The company partners with farmers in the Amazon to grow caffeinated guayusa leaves and provide income to the local community. It's a journey Gage chronicles in his new book, "Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life" (published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a division of CBS). 

Gage saw Runa as a bridge between the people he met in South America and caffeine lovers in the U.S. He even ended up gaining celebrity investors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Olivia Wilde and Channing Tatum.  

"So one of the things I share a lot in the book is that when you're doing something authentic, that for whatever reason the universe tends to attract resources and support," Gage said. "Probably the most bizarre story was Channing Tatum, who had been a big Runa consumer, and when friends tried to connect us he thought it was a joke because his character's name in the movie 'Step Up,' his breakout movie, was Tyler Gage, my exact name, which was strange, but yeah."

Through his experiences, Gage said he learned how to navigate difficult situations.

"For me it was the Amazon, but we all live in difficult situations and chaotic environments and it's really about how to dig deeper to find more meaning and purpose," he said.

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