He is the founder of one of the 10th largest specialty tea brands in the world and hotelier with several resorts and growing, the epitome of a man born to wealth and privilege, with all the advantages and connections. No, the story of Merril J. Fernando is not about a man born into wealth, privilege or connections, but the story of a man with a dream, good motives, a love of tea and his country, and the intense passion to share the wealth with his workers and countrymen.
In 1988, then in his 50’s, a former tea taster in the world of big corporate tea, Mr. Fernando founded Dilmah Tea in an attempt to right some of the inequities being done to his countrymen by big multinationals taking advantage of tea farmers and pickers in Sri Lanka. Fueled by passion, hard work, and perseverance, Dilmah Tea grew steadily and, as it began to sell Ceylonese tea throughout the world, overseas customers wanted to experience first-hand the land where such clear, bright, delicious tea was grown.
What a perfect business opportunity: Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the perfect place for a relaxing vacation and an education in situ on tea at the same time. The Fernando family now owns a growing number of resorts, some on tea plantations, and the latest simply in a gorgeous setting, all of which showcase his beloved country and Ceylonese tea.
Tea Trails/Resplendent Ceylon is run by one of his sons while his other son concentrates on Dilmah Tea. Now in his 80’s, Mr. Fernando is a true ambassador for Ceylonese tea throughout the industry and the world. The companies’ successes are not his only reward. In recognition of his business, philanthropic, and moral achievements, Merrill J. Fernando was recently honored with the Oslo Business for Peace Award.
A beautiful thing about right motives and sharing is that they sometimes open doors the founder never dreamed of nor could have planned for. I am in awe of people like Mr. Fernando and they inspire me to want to do better, both in life and in business.