Uncommon Business
Uncommon Business
Episode #4 - Darren Marshall, CEO of Smith Teamaker

Episode #4 - Darren Marshall, CEO of Smith Teamaker

Darren Marshall is the CEO of Smith Teamaker, an artisanal beverage company that grown quickly through hustle and innovation under Darren's leadership.

Hey everyone -

Peter and Keeley here. It’s been a minute!

We’ve been helping companies with ownership transitions, streamlining and improving operations, and capital finance.

Now we’re coming up for air to bring you a new episode of Uncommon Business, our show about unique businesses and leaders who do things differently. 

Our guest is Darren Marshall. Darren is the CEO of Smith Teamaker. Prior to Smith, Darren worked in high level roles at iconic companies such as Coca Cola and Steinway.

You can listen to the episode right here in Substack (scroll up), on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or in the podcast player of your choice.

People have been drinking tea for centuries.

It is one of the oldest consumer products in the world.

Because tea has been around forever, the category as a whole is relatively sleepy.

The tea industry has only experienced low single digit growth on average over the past decade. But Smith Teamaker has bucked this slow growth trend by growing dramatically over the past five years under Darren’s leadership.

We have talked to founders on this podcast before. But the reason we wanted to talk to Darren was the opposite. He is not the founder of Smith Teamaker. He joined the company as CEO in 2018 and has overseen a period of transformation, growth, and adaptability, even through COVID.

Succeeding a founder as CEO can be challenging. It’s not easy to step into a founder-led business and keep excitement and momentum going. Yet that is exactly what Darren has done, and much more. Today the business is much healthier and growing more quickly than ever before.

This was a fun and informative conversation. Darren discusses many lessons and frameworks that are applicable to a wide range of businesses and leaders.


A screenshot from our interview.

Topics Discussed:

  • Introduction from Peter and Keeley

  • The founding story of Smith Tea (interview starts at 00:02:52)

  • Succeeding a founder and how to navigate it and how Darren approached his first few months on the job

  • Best and worst parts of working at Coca Cola

  • Darren’s time at Steinway and the ins and outs of the luxury piano market

  • How the company is growing through agility, innovation, and culture

  • Maintaining a business in central Portland despite the property crime

  • The ownership of the company and the outlook for the future

  • Tip on effectively managing upward (i.e. to a board)

  • Hiring practices

  • Leadership

  • Darren’s favorite cities

  • Classical music recommendations

  • Book recommendation

  • Darren’s current tea order

  • Debrief on the interview from Keeley and Peter (debrief starts at 01:04:51)

Please help this interview reach more people by rating it on Spotify and Apple or by sharing it with others.

We would love your feedback, comments, and questions. Please leave a comment directly on the post or email us at hello@lumogroup.co.

Thank you!

Peter & Keeley
Partners, Lumo Group