Almost every single tea enthusiast, at some point in their life will think of starting a tea business themselves. That’s not strange at all, as you should follow your feelings and do what you love right? While this definitely is true, you need to consider more factors to find out if this is really something for you (or NOT).
+Lisa Lin: During my career I have advised many customers who are growing their tea start-ups as well as friends & family who manage their tea stores. Each and every business is unique, but over time I recognize that tea business actually face very similar issues in the beginning phase. With this article I want to help tea lovers, who consider running their own business, make the right decisions by reducing the gap between expectations and reality.
Tea entrepreneurs are dreamers, and you probably will picture the future of your tea room to become the Starbucks of tea. Though starting a tea business gets romanticized a lot, especially if you love tea, the reality isn’t that glamorous. Basically, it’s simply going to be a lot of hard work. With a lack of resources you are going to take care of tasks such as sourcing, packaging, doing sales & promotions, with the possibly of facing founder’s depression.
Let’s be honest, though there is a lot of tea business opportunities out there, starting your own is extremely hard and you have to be able to endure lots of stress. It’s like growing your own tea plant with lots of care, like a farmer does.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s so stressful to start a business. Whether you want to start a tea room, tea shop, or online tea business, the main reason is that you simply have a lot of responsibility. It’s natural to have fear of failure, but when you are a founder do not only have to face your own fears, but also that of your family, as the family’s income is going to depend on your success. And if you have employees, there career are also affected by the success of the company.
So be ready to manage your own psychology. If you are confident about this, the changes of success goes up enormously as long as you listen to your customers and adapt your business accordingly to make it work.
To be your own boss, is the number one worst reason to start-up. If you have watched the movie Horrible Bosses, you know what I mean. If the reason for you is to just be a boss, then you are on the wrong track. Most tea founders I have talked to at some point realized that in practice the real bosses are everyone else around them – investors, employees, customers, or even the local newspaper that could give you lots of exposure. You’re basically working really hard to make everyone happy, before they work hard for you.
So don’t go for it, if you just want to be a boss, because you are tired of working for another. If it’s just power or authority that you are looking for, then go into military or politics. Do not become a founder.
There are a few reasons that are really good. And with good I mean that if they apply to you, it will greatly improve your chances of success.
Super passionate: This is important, because you need the passion to get through the hard parts of starting up in the beginning. At a later stage, this is also important for recruiting and facing customers, as you need to let your passion about tea shine through when talking to potential employee. Inspire them to bet their career on the tea industry & profession.
Note: Passion is great, but only passion isn’t enough. What you could happen is the possibility that you’ll turn something you really love into something you hate by being forced to deal with all the business aspects. There’s a big difference between doing things you love (with no deadlines). Dealing with things such as marketing, accounting, employees, and debt management comes with deadlines and is different from just being involved in something you love to do as a hobby. (Many thanks to Rochester Glassworks on G+ for this input)
Don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams. Just be very clear and thoughtful about the entirety of the difference between doing something you love as a hobby without the need to make money at it and being forced to do things you may not like or want in order to run your business.
The world needs you: Very related to passion is that you strongly believe that you have something better to offer, whether it is better packaging, a more practical tea bag or a more healthy tea blend. If you believe you have good tea business ideas that a particular group of tea lovers will like, then you are on the right track. TIP: Do validate your ideas with other tea friends. You must ask them for a honest and critical opinion (otherwise they won’t) to make sure your tea business plan is well validated before you head off.
Relevant skills: Once you believe you have a good idea, ask yourself, if you have a part of the required skill set to make it work. For instance, if you have design skills, than you have the advantage of being able to design the your store/website and tea packaging. If you are a photographer than you are able to take great pictures for your online store or hard-copy catalog. Don’t worry, if you don’t have all the skills, as you can hire employees with those skills or outsource it to a company for a one time project fee. Your skills set is also an important factor in deciding whether to start online or offline first.
The more skills you have the better. If you don’t feel confident enough. Start slow by for instance obtaining skills through national tea certification for tea professionals or to actually visit tea regions to become more knowledgeable about tea.
Industry trends: Tea is the new coffee. So you don’t have to worry about the trend of the industry as a whole. But this doesn’t mean the demand of all types of teas will increase. For example, conventional tea bags are becoming less and less popular. So more focused research, if you plan to sell loose tea blends, then only research this part of the industry. When you open a tea room or tea shop, also research the neighborhood in which you want to settle. Are there competing sellers in the area? Do you think the demographics of this area suits the type of tea that you want to sell?
Figured out whether you want to go for it? If so, then continue read our article series about How To Start A Tea Business Guide