Lopa van der Mersch

Everyone has a valid point of view that is worth hearing. Listening to an “opponent’s” perspective begins to heal the divide and allow for the possibility of compromise and even collaboration.


Lopa is a lifelong health seeker and founder & CEO of Rasa Koffee, the first coffee alternative to offer functional health benefits through adaptogenic herbs. She is also a mother of two children under 3, and credits her ability to do All of The Things in large part to the help of adaptogens, herbs that help your body adapt under stress.

Lopa has lived a storied life. She spent years studying esoteric spiritual practices (& was in two cults!); has had a whole slew of health challenges that have had her seeking alternative therapies from Ayurveda to Functional Medicine to Shamanism for over a decade; and before her life in CPG with Rasa, was dubbed the “Biochar Queen” for her work in stewarding biochar, a biomass-charcoal added to soil to drastically improve soil quality and sequester carbon.

Lopa co-founded Rasa Koffee two years ago, and spent much of that time shoring up the complicated logistics and operations back-end, before fully launching Rasa to a wider audience. Rasa is founded on the belief that by bringing life-giving adaptogenic herbs into your morning beverage ritual, you can actually transform your days; and this effect has been seen time and again as customers relay how Rasa has genuinely changed their lives.

Lopa is also inspired by the 15 Commitments to Conscious Leadership and strives to run Rasa Koffee in alignment with these principles.

Where did the idea for Rasa Koffee come from?

After I had my first son, I found myself seeking something dark, rich, and roasty in the mornings, but didn’t want to caffeinate my little guy. I started experimenting with different coffee alternatives, using herbs I’d become familiar with from my experience with Ayurveda. In the meantime, a dear friend and I had creativity brewing between us. She was a passionate herbalist who had also been experimenting with coffee alternatives, and with her herbal prowess and my entrepreneurial hutzpah, Rasa Koffee was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I just had my second son two months ago, so my typical day is a relative sh•tshow as of right now! I work in the hours between nursing and getting the littlest to sleep, and always try to make time for a nourishing lunch.

I do feel that mothering has actually been a huge factor in making my days more productive—aside from all the ways it makes work harder, it actually makes me far more focused and efficient, because there’s just no time for anything else!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Reality Check + Learn + Persevere. Ideating is fun and rapid, I have wonderful, actionable ideas all day long. Actually bringing them to life includes a reality check about whether or not its an idea that deserves that much time and attention—will it help our business? Will it help our customers? Will it be profitable? Is it timely? And if it does, then it’s about learning + perseverance. You’ll almost certainly have to learn in order to bring the idea to life (if you don’t, I question whether it’s truly a great idea!). And then, you’re guaranteed to hit obstacles, particularly ones you couldn’t foresee. And you just. have. to. keep. going.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m particularly excited about the adaptogen trend, because I see that the benefits that adaptogens can bestow to our bodies—most simply, increasing the time to a stress response and reducing the time it takes to return to normal, while improving overall stress resilience and adaptability—are a necessary antidote to the modern lifestyle.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Well, ha—see above, adaptogens really do help me to be more productive! Especially eleuthero and rhodiola, god I love those herbs!

Aside from that…this may sound a bit sideways, but having integrity really helps me to be productive. If I am proud and fully standing behind all of my decisions in the business, and I am executing in the business in accordance with my values, then I don’t have energy, thought, and money tied up in feeling like I didn’t quite do the right thing. Having a strong compass of values helps me to make decisions faster and choose *which* decisions to make more quickly, as well.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I really, really wish my younger self had read (and lived) this quote:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask, act! Action will delineate and define you.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Everyone has a valid point of view that is worth hearing. Even if they’re far down the other end of the political spectrum than you, they have needs, values, and desires, just like you, and all of those are valid from their frame of reference. Listening to an “opponent’s” perspective begins to heal the divide and allow for the possibility of compromise and even collaboration.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’m honest. Embarrassingly honest. Never without compassion, for myself or others (ok, maybe not “never,” but I try!) And this means that we can cut to the chase in a conversation. It means that I’m already taking responsibility for how I may have contributed to an unsavory situation. It means we’re not wasting time keeping up appearances.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We are a relationship-focused business. We have a very high-touch on customer service, and because of this we’ve built a brand based on intimacy and trust. We see every single interaction with a customer or potential customer as an opportunity to learn about the people we’re serving, and we relate to them as real people, not as customer service robots. If they give us a detail about their experience, we are sure to relate to that experience in our own response. It’s contrary to what I see done i most businesses and has made all the difference in our culture.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I spent over a year in conversations with different manufacturing partners, each of whom I was 100% certain were going to be the partner that manufactured our product, but we just had some kinks to work out…and each time the deal fell through for some reason or another, and there I was, back at square one four months later with nothing to show for it. (This literally happened 3 times). My failure? Assuming the deal was done before it was done…and then repeating that mistake! I could have been out scouting for different partners the whole way!

Fourth time’s a charm…I got 3 different co-packers in conversation at once until finally, the deal WAS done with one of them. And am now looking for a back-up just in case!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Diarrhea wipes. Not glamorous, but hear me out. I contracted a nasty virus a couple years ago that had me going to the bathroom up to 30 times a day. I came to have a distinct appreciation for how much normal toilet paper isn’t kind to those with a disease, and how if you are afflicted, you’ll gladly pay almost anything for something that works!

This business would be beautifully paired with a one-for-one model where one purchase buys a package for someone with cholera (for example).

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A nice safety razor. So much better for the environment than most razor blades, and much better for my sensitive skin, too!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Slack! Really valuable for getting our team to communicate and generating ideas from all parties…and keeping tabs on all areas of the business. Work-life balance is important to us, though, and we are very explicit about not expecting responses from someone outside their normal working hours.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,” because it brings deep personal development work into business in a practical, achievable way—thus making the office a place where people can actually grow and evolve themselves.

What is your favorite quote?

Work is love made visible.

– Khalil Gibran

Key learnings:

  • Have a great idea? First give it a reality check. Will it serve others, your business, you, your bottom line? If yes, then prepare to learn. If you don’t need to learn to make it happen, it might not be such a good idea after all! Lastly, persevere, persevere, persevere. you’re guaranteed to hit obstacles, particularly ones you couldn’t foresee. And you just. have. to. keep. going.
  • See every single interaction with a customer or potential customer as an opportunity to learn about the people you’re serving. Build real, direct relationships with as many people in your customer base as possible.
  • Consider adding adaptogens—a class of herbs that help your body adapt to stress—to your daily health regimen.
  • Having a strong compass of integrity with your values helps you to make decisions faster. Does it align with your values? No? Move on. Yes? Decision made.


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