Carrying on a family legacy that her grandparents began in 1946, Tricia Wallwork is leading Milo’s Tea Company with heart and homegrown flavors. With early childhood memories of playing in the back of their family-owned Birmingham restaurant, Tricia’s curiosity was sparked at a young age. Today, she’s CEO of the multi-million-dollar company, continuing its philosophy of high quality, natural ingredients, devotion to sustainable practices, and community outreach. Get to know this inspiring FACE of the South!
Tell me a bit about your younger years growing up with your grandparents. Were you aware of the tea legacy they were building? Did it always interest you?
My grandparents were focused on serving delicious, high-quality food and beverages made with love from ingredients and listening to their customers. That’s what we still do today. My earliest memories were of playing in the back of the restaurant in North Birmingham, Alabama, and being curious about the many people who waited in long lines to get their Milo’s.
Today, the thing that really drives me and our “TEAm” is the realization that my grandparents were People First before that phrase ever existed. Back in 1946, in Alabama, not everybody could legally sit down together in restaurants. So, Grandaddy Milo closed the restaurant, pulled out the tables and chairs, and opened a walk-up window where everyone could stand in line together.
When you took over the reins at Milo’s, what did you strive to keep the same, and what did you change?
I’ll start with what I didn’t change — our founding values of responsibility to the community and people, using only real ingredients, and never sacrificing our delicious taste. This means 77 years later, we still use the same real ingredients that my grandparents used back in 1946 — freshly brewed tea leaves, pure cane sugar, and filtered water. It means we are a certified Zero Waste Manufacturer who diverted 18,000 tons of waste from the landfill just last quarter. It means that today, we have a 1% profit pledge to give back to the communities we serve. But a lot has changed in who we are as a company.
I’ve had the honor, along with tons of remarkable TEAmmates, of leading our local tea brand to become the number one refrigerated tea and fastest-growing lemonade in America. We’ve done this quietly over the past decade by staying true to our core values but also running the business with a scrappy, “can do” start-up mentality.
How does your Southern locale influence your flavors and sourcing?
We love to eat and drink in the South, and we expect delicious. We also love to gather with family and friends around the shared experience of good food and drinks made with real ingredients that you have in your kitchen, like Milo’s Tea.
If you could plop a pitcher of Milo’s into any scenario in the world, what or where would that be?
Milo’s Moments can happen anywhere and everywhere across America (or the world!). These are moments of delicious joy where we are invited to our fans’ tables and homes. But they can also be moments of growth and development for our 700-plus associates. This week, we had our corporate Town Hall, and one of our TEAmmates at our facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shared that, because of his job at Milo’s, he was able to buy his first house. That’s a Milo’s Moment to me and our TEAm. This is why we exist today — to deliver these moments of joy, not just with our delicious drinks but also with all the stakeholders in our ecosystem. It’s our goal to plop down Milo’s Moments into every scenario we can!
What’s something that people are often surprised to learn about you?
I have been to 49 states and more than 40 countries. I’ve slept in tents across the world, from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Masa Mara in Kenya to riding a camel in the Sahara Desert to our traditional Berber Tent. I love an adventure!
Where can we find you on your days off?
When I have time away from work, my happy place is at the beach with my family. If I can see water, I feel more at peace. Even on normal work days, I’m diligent in making sure I find time to sweat, read, and find solitude — usually at 5 a.m. since it’s the only time I’m alone.
Who’s inspiring you right now and why?
Marjorie Merriweather Post. She was a trailblazer in virtually everything she did. Entrepreneur, art collector, diplomat, builder, business visionary, philanthropist, mother, wife, and community leader. I just read The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki, so Mrs. Post is on my mind. But I can honestly say that I get inspiration from everyone I encounter, even if that inspiration is who I do not want to be. There is always something to learn from every person in your life!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?
My husband, Troy, has taught me to let go of the stuff I can’t control. That’s not easy to do, so I read Ryan Holiday’s great books about stoicism like The Obstacle is the Way (and subscribe to his daily email, The Daily Stoic) and Mark Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*&^. It’s very freeing to admit that we cannot control much of what happens around us, but we can (or should) control how we think, act, and feel.
Besides faith, family, and friends, name three things you couldn’t live without.
Books, exercise, and Milo’s Famous Unsweet Tea.
Current favorite Milo’s product: Milo’s Famous Unsweet Tea is so refreshing in the summer and has no calories!
Favorite hidden gem in Alabama or the Southeast in general: The Birmingham Museum of Art, which is one of the best regional museums in America.
Last vacation: I just got back from a trip of a lifetime to East Africa with my family … trekking gorillas in Africa, safari in Tanzania, and sitting on a beach in Zanzibar.
What’s on your bedside table: A huge stack of books. I read a lot because I can’t live long enough to learn it all myself or go everywhere, so I like to avail myself of the wisdom of others and learn about people and places that I do not yet understand. I just finished Grow by Jim Stengel and am starting Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
Favorite gift to give: I always bring Milo’s Tea for the party and bubbly Veuve Clicquot as the gift.
For more stories of inspirational women, visit our FACES archives!