Peter Martino – Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer
Peter is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Georgetown Law School, a former nuclear submarine officer, and a successful serial entrepreneur. He built his first company, XRT, Inc., a financial software firm, to $10 million in sales before selling it to a public company in late 1998. A passionate tea enthusiast, Peter co-founded Capital Teas in mid-2007 just after completing law school. During the company's first 3 years, Peter served as both a lawyer at one of the nation's leading litigation firms and as our CEO, but by September 2010, put his legal career aside to spend full time at Capital Teas. Peter drives our company's strategic growth and revenue generation, recruits and leads the management team, directs new initiatives, site selection, media relations, and (most importantly) tea selection. He has become recognized as a leading tea expert and in 2015 was nominated by World Tea Media as one of the nation’s top tea educators. Peter's multifaceted career prior to founding Capital Teas has also included a tenure as Presidential appointee to the federal government's Senior Executive Service at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as a real-estate developer and broker, and as a business consultant. Peter is a recognized business and community leader in Maryland. His favorite teas are Milk Oolong, Oriental Beauty, and Tong Mu Phoenix Lapsang Souchong (organic).
Blaga Dzhordzheva – Chief Operating Officer
Blaga Dzhordzheva joined Capital Teas in November 2015 as the Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining Capital Teas, she had a successful twelve-year career at Teavana, Inc., most recently as Director of Business Operations and Sales, and previously as Director of Management Development and Training. Prior to those positions, Ms. Dzhordzheva proved her worth in the field as one of the highest performing Store Managers. Hailing originally from Bulgaria, where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Sofia University, Blaga later attended The University of Georgia to earn her Master's in Business Administration. Fluent in five languages, Ms. Dzhordzheva brings a unique and impressive skill set to the diverse Capital Teas Senior Management Team. Blaga's favorite tea is Gyokuro (organic). Gyokuro (organic).
Adam Levin-Epstein – V.P., Marketing & Administration
Adam, a graduate of the University of Arizona, joined Capital Teas in January 2011. Hired to manage the Capital Teas website and run the Company's social media outlets, his role has continually expanded at Capital Teas while growing Capital Teas’ web sales by nearly twenty-fold in three years. He presently directs our online operations and supports our retail and wholesale operations with marketing production efforts. Prior to working at Capital Teas, Adam was the Social Media Coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at The University of Arizona. Adam's favorite tea is Gyokuro (organic).
Craig Kershaw – Chief Financial Officer
Craig has over 20 years of experience at the CFO and Controller level in the transportation, construction and service industries. He has worked with medium size businesses up to Fortune 500 companies and has had the full range of financial management responsibilities – financing, treasury, accounting, risk management, and information technology. Craig has been involved in start up operations, arranging financing, real estate lease negotiations, and complex multi million dollar insurance transactions. Craig has experience with all levels of financial and accounting software, from QuickBooks to custom systems used in multi billion dollar operations. He has been involved in numerous system conversion projects and upgrades. He is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Craigs's favorite tea is Bao Zhong.
Matt Herring – Director of Information Technology
As Director of Information Technology, Matt Herring is responsible for managing all Capital Teas IT resources, guiding our staff on their use, and supporting our computer, Point-of-Sale (POS), and telephony systems. His tasks include research, design, and acquisition of technology solutions that are aligned with our business goals, as well as providing store-level support for implementation and training. Matt joined our team in June 2015 from POSitive Technology, the vendor for the Microsoft POS system that he helped implement at Capital Teas, and brings over 25 years of IT experience. Matt has provided technology vision and leadership to a wide range of technology teams in a variety of roles from Project Management, Systems Design Lead, Support Manager and Sales Engineer, positions he held at Omron Systems, Avnet Convergent Technologies and POSitive Technology. Matt started his professional career in the U.S. Army, serving for 5 years as a Communications expert. His favorite tea is Chesapeake Sunrise (organic).
Naizgi Haile – Director of Supply Chain Operations
Naizgi has over 10 years experience in the retail, product certification and marketing management. After joining Capital Teas in 2014, he has served in different capacities before his current role as the Director of Supply Chain Operations. In this role, he is responsible for all supply chain related matters including inventory management and visibility, logistics and carrier selection, direct sourcing and buying, supplier relationship management, and other internal and external operational support. Naizgi received his Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado and his Master of Science in International Commerce and Policy from the University of Valparaiso in Indiana. His favorite tea is Himalayan Golden Monkey (organic).
Outside Board Directors
Peter Luckhurst – Chairman of the Board
Peter Luckhurst joined our Board in August 2015 as an accomplished leader in the specialty tea sector and in North American retail operations. He also serves as a consultant to Capital Teas’ CEO to use his wealth of knowledge and experience to help guide the Company further to develop a national retail presence. Peter Luckhurst most recently served for seven years at Teavana, rising to the level of Executive Vice President, Operations. At Teavana, he was instrumental in building the company’s brand and retail presence, helping lead the company through an IPO, then through the acquisition of a Canadian competitor, and finally through the company’s sale to Starbucks Corporation. Previous to his senior role at Teavana, Peter served at HMV North America for 15 years, rising to become their President - North America. He is a graduate of the University of Aston in Birmingham (United Kingdom) where he received a B.Sc. in Behavioral Science. Peter is active in his home community of Atlanta, GA and is a volunteer with SCORE as a counselor to small businesses. His favorite tea is Lapsang Souchong (organic).
Manelle Martino – Co-Founder & Vice Chairman
Manelle is a graduate of Columbia University, a former advertising and sales associate for top media companies including DoubleClick, an accomplished singer, and now a fifth-generation fine tea merchant. The daughter of successful immigrants from Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic, Manelle traces her family lineage in the tea trade back to the 1870s when her great-great grandfather, Francis Van Reyk, emigrated to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to plant and oversee some of the first major tea estates there. In 2007, Manelle co-founded Capital Teas with our CEO, Peter Martino. As Vice Chairman of the Board, she helps guide the strategic direction to imbue her five-generation family tradition of excellence in the tea trade. Manelle lives in Annapolis, Maryland and is recognized as a community leader. She previously studied classical voice at the Julliard School of Music in New York City and is fluent in four languages. Manelle’s favorite teas are Chai Masala, Yoga Tea, and Madame Butterfly Jasmine.
Michael Smith – Board Member
Michael Smith joined our Board and was elected Chairman in April 2015 after serving as a consultant to the CEO for one year. He is a proven brand builder with a dedication to the customer and development of the organization. He was one of the Founders of the White House Black Market, helping build the business to a 107-store chain prior to its sale to Chico's FAS, Inc. Michael then moved on to oversee the investor relations and community affairs for all brands at Chicos FAS. He has experience as both an entrepreneur and a corporate executive and understands the priority of creativity, product and people, while also being able to set strategic and operational priorities, processes and procedures. Prior to White House Black Market, Michael worked in the advertising and marketing field in Washington, D.C. helping set marketing strategies for regional and national clients. He is very active in his hometown community of Annapolis, Maryland, sitting on many local boards. For the past eighteen months, Michael has actively consulted with Capital Teas’ CEO to help develop and grow the Company’s strategic mission, establish efficiencies, set priorities, and drive corporate growth. He also sits on the Company’s Site Selection Committee. Michael's favorite tea is Thai Lemongrass Oolong.
Ed Straw – Board Member
Admiral Straw was our first outside Board Member, and has now served with us in that capacity for over three years. He has brought to Capital Teas many years of executive leadership, business development and operational planning. As President of Global Operations for Estée Lauder, he led manufacturing, R&D, package engineering, quality assurance and global supply chain areas, supporting all 20 brands of the Estée Lauder Companies. Prior to joining Estée Lauder, he served as Senior Vice President, Global Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management at Compaq Computer Corporation and prior to that, President of Miami-based Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc. Admiral Straw had a distinguished U.S. Navy career, retiring as a three-star admiral in 1996. During his service, he was Chief Executive of the Defense Logistics Agency, the largest military logistics command, and reported directly to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Straw holds an MBA from George Washington University, a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy, and is a graduate of the National War College. He resides in New York City with his wife Christine. Ed's favorite tea is Navy Blue & Gold.