Dan Klein and Lucas Frye have been named to the 2018 Crain’s Chicago Business 20 In Their 20s.
Dan Klein remembers the day he decided to start a company: Feb. 24, 2009. Sitting in a teahouse in Prague, Klein—then a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—couldn’t understand why the fruity, flavor-packed loose-leaf varietal he was sipping wasn’t widely available in the U.S.
Klein and co-founder Patrick Tannous—pals since their preschool days in Arlington Heights—got to work on Tiesta Tea the next year. “We knew from the beginning that we could be successful with 20-somethings if we could demystify high-quality, loose-leaf tea,” he says of Tiesta’s millennial-friendly blends. “Instead of a Chinese green tea, we do a ‘Fruity Pebbles Slenderizer’ tea.”
By labeling each tea according to its purported benefit—”Slenderizer,” “Energizer” and “Relaxer,” for example—Tiesta Tea has won over a young, health-obsessed market interested in the Chicago-based company’s green, fruit and herbal offerings.
Lucas Frye carries a nearly 2-inch-long plastic pellet in his jacket pocket. It contains a tiny battery, computer chip, sensors, antenna, and his future. The device was created by his startup, Amber Agriculture. Frye—the sixth generation of a farming family in Havana, Ill., some 200 miles southwest of the Loop—says it will help farmers monitor a pernicious problem: moisture, which can cause mold in grain.
Toss the pellet into an avalanche of grain, whether in a storage bin or on a barge, and it tracks moisture levels. When necessary, it triggers fans for aeration. “The whole ag value chain is based on moisture and information,” Frye says, noting that agriculture often lags other industries in adopting information technology.
“(Lucas) was able to take his experiences from growing up in a small town in a farm family and see an opportunity that others would not,” says Laura Frerichs, director of the University of Illinois Research Park and director of economic development at the U of I’s Urbana-Champaign campus. Frye earned an ag economics degree and an MBA from the university. In 2014, he was elected the student member of the U of I’s board of trustees.