Five years ago, Wes Hurt struggled with addictions to cocaine, opiates and alcohol. Today, he runs a company that helps others recovering from addiction.
In 2014, Hurt founded CLEAN Cause, an Austin-based yerba mate tea company, to help people recovering from addiction by allocating 50% of profits to sober-living scholarships. He said he not only wanted to be an entrepreneur but also have an impact.
“I wanted to do something with my newfound freedom,” Hurt said. “So it was a natural fit to create something that could impact something I had experienced, which was recovery.”
Hurt said his addiction started in high school, when he began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. In the span of 20 years, Hurt went to six rehabilitation centers and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. After realizing he was truly hooked, Hurt said he continued postponing the recovery process like a New Year’s resolution.
“That was one of my more difficult realizations about my life,” Hurt said. “I knew there was going to be a long battle back.”
It wasn’t until Hurt was dismissed from his former company, had no money left and lived in a warehouse after his wife kicked him out that he realized he wanted to change.
“CLEAN is the product of that extremism in a healthier way,” Hurt said. “It speaks to something bigger, which was an explicit purpose in life that gave my actions reasons (to fight) for recovery.”
Within a week, Hurt developed the idea of sober-living scholarships as a practical and simple way to help consumers. He started CLEAN using profits from his former business Hey Cupcake!
Hurt said he decided to sell yerba mate after his dependency on coffee and energy drinks increased his anxiety.
CLEAN scholarships help people access high-accountability homes, find job opportunities and establish a recovery support system. When need outweighs supply, Hurt said they choose recipients based on their willingness to recover.
As of 2019, CLEAN has granted over 540 scholarships, representing more than $270,000 in donations. One of those scholarship recipients is Robert Golston, a CLEAN sales representative who struggled with a methamphetamine addiction and lived on the streets as he moved around multiple sober-living homes.
After receiving two $500 scholarships within the past three years, Golston said he used the money to remain in his sober-living household. Through this, he found a job and a supportive community.
“Before the scholarship, I was on the edge of being evicted because I didn’t have a job,” Golston said. “When I got the scholarship, everything started to turn around for me.”
Golston’s mother, Teresa Moore, said he’s more responsible now and involved with sobriety.
“(The scholarship had that effect) because someone believed in him and gave him one more chance,” Moore said. “We can never give up on sobriety.”
Hurt hopes that through the lives CLEAN impacts, he can keep the cause at the forefront rather than profitability, a conflict that develops alongside company growth.
“We all have something we’re contributing to that’s bigger than the dollar bill,” Hurt said. “It has to do with impact. We’re not the solution. We’re just trying to support them on their next step of their journey.”