5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Tea Business
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Dear amazing reader!
Are you thinking about taking the dive to starting your own business? If so, congrats! You are about to embark on a journey of unlimited potential, opportunity and excitement. If it is your first time venturing out on your own, you are also about to jump into the unknown, the untapped, and many challenges.
When my husband Daniel & I started our tea company T By Daniel nearly 8 years ago, we were 22 years old, newly married, and had no training in business, or tea for that matter.
You can say we got our training from the good old school of hard knocks. We made a ton of mistakes, spent a ton of money, and at times, worked ourselves to tears by underestimating the importance of the sound advice we were given by our peers and mentors.
What can I say?
When you're really young and lack experience, it's easy to be hard-headed and believe you know a better and easier way. My hope with this blog is to let you know, whether you are young or old, if you don't have the experience there is a high chance that your way is the hard way.
Here are some valuable lessons that I wish I would have known or listened to when I started my tea business.
1. Have a plan. Abide by the plan
Sound like basic advice?
But you would be surprised at how many people (myself included) jump into the unknown without having a clue of what they are doing. There is a reason why banks require you to have a business plan before they approve you for a loan. Sheer passion and excitement to embark on the journey of starting your own business will not be enough to sustain you in the long run. I'm not trying to downplay spontaneity. As an entrepreneur you need to be ok with the unpredictable and the unplanned. But that does not omit the fact that YOU need a plan, you need that plan to be reasonable, and you need to adhere to that plan.
I promise you, if you skip this step, you will go around in circles.
Think of it this way. Have you ever driven to New York City?
Starting a business without a plan is like driving from Toronto to New York City without a map. You may eventually stumble into New York, if you're lucky.
But I wouldn't place my bet on luck.
Be daring. But don't be random.
2. Define your difference. Define your target market.
Again does this sound like basic advice?
When we started our tea business and someone asked us "What makes you different" we always came up with some mediocre answer because in all transparency, we didn't totally know what made us different.
We knew we were different in the tea industry.
We knew that no one was really doing tea the way we were. But we didn't know how to put that difference into simple words.
If you asked me today, T By Daniel is a tea company that is committed to changing the way people see the world, using tea as the tool. Now want to hear something surprising. We just figured that out...THIS YEAR! Do not start your business no knowing what sets you apart. Understand from the start what it is that makes you different, and go forward with that clarity.
Once you know that, the next thing you need to know is your target market.
Again, when someone asked us " Who is your target market" our answer was always..
"Everyone who drinks tea."
This is answer NOT a good enough if you are planning to start a viable, thriving business.
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Millions of cups are consumed daily.
It is impossible to build a brand targeting every tea drinker.
Envision your ideal customer.
What does he or she do for a career? Do they have children? Are they into sports? What kind of shows do they like? The more specific you can get, the more you will be able to curate products/services and content for this person, and the higher your chances for success!
3. Have a mentor, and then, listen to that mentor.
You cannot put a price on the value of a great mentor. Great mentors are people who are genuinely interested in your well-being and want to see you flourish.
Don't just run to any person who calls themself a mentor. Measure the person who you are going to go to for advice. What experience do they have? Why have they chosen to become a mentor?
How many clients do they have? When you meet with them do they throw knowledge at you, or do they share knowledge and expereinces in a way that benefits where you are at? Are they a good listener? These are vital proponents to a quality mentor.
Sometimes the best mentor is right beside you. A loving spouse or parent, a close friend who's been there done that. It is not necessarily someone that you have to pay. Just someone who is a little older, a little wiser and a little more experienced then you.
If you are opting to hire a mentor, remember this.
Don't cower to a mentor because they know a little more than you.
Meet for a consultation.
Pay attention to how they listen.
Pay attention to how they talk.
See if they are a person who has the capacity to truly care about you and what you are doing, and hire them based on that.
Once you find a mentor, the next step is to actually listen to them. It's great to get advice. But taking advice is a totally different story.
Keep this in mind: Experience triumphs over ideas. If your mentor tells you to wait, or pivot, or go, chances are there are good enough reasons for them to confidently give you that advice.
4. Price your product or service properly.
In order to build a lasting and sustainable business, you need to make sure that you are pricing your products or services according to the lifestyle you are hoping to live. In the beginning you may need to do some freebies here and there, and that's ok, and can open up great opportunites for you.
Just make sure that you don't get used to just doing things for free.
Understand that many of you may be considering or working towards leaving a steady income for an uncertain one. There is a transitional period, but if you price your products and services according to your needs, and taking into consideration the market standards, you will have a better chance at attracting and keeping your target market, and building a lasting business that will benefit you and your family.
5. Hire an accountant.
Of all investments you should make when starting out, this one will be the most important, especially if you are weak at numbers.
Sure it sounds easy to say
"I can do my own bookkeeping and accounting, I'll just download quickbooks and keep track of everything myself."
Please... don't do this to yourself!
In order for you as the founder of your business to grow at a healthy pace, you have to let go of tasks like accounting and bookkeeping and leave it to a pro. Not only will it eventually frustrate you and take away your time, eventually you will begin to forget to log expenses or keep receipts and at the end of the year you will be left with one huge, numerical headache.
It will cost you more money to have an accountant fix your mess, then to start off on the right foot. Understand your role as founder, and do your best to delegate time consuming tasks from the start so you can do your job and keep your business moving forward.
The hardest part to starting a business, is starting it. So if you are going to go through all the trouble of diving into this side of the working world, make sure you carve out a path that has a higher chance at success in the long run. Planning, organization, delegation and understanding your finances at the start, will spare you from many problems in the future!
Trust a person who's been there and done that!
6. Do not compare your business with anyone else's
Want to fail before you begin? Model your business off someone else's or measure your growth by another person successes.
We live in a competitive society.
Many of our daily lives include submerging ourselves in a digital world that presents perfection as the standard.
Please hear me out- this is NOT real life.
Starting your own business requires you to work10 times harder than you ever did before in your life. Sometimes you'll find yourself serving The Prince of Wales, and sometimes you'll find yourself scrubbing toilets #truestory.
The true philosophy that you should apply to your business and it's growth is:
Slow and steady wins the race.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?
Just because something looks fast, or easy, or glamorous or better does not mean that it is.
Live your own life.
Write your own story.
Stay genuine to yourself and your mission and why you are starting.
Remember tip number 2? You know what makes you difference. You know who you are targeting. Don't lose your identity trying to copy someone else's. Your business will stand out when you stay true to your heart.
Don't be a shadow! Be the REAL DEAL!
Did you learn any nuggets reading this blog? Please comment below, or share them on social media and tag me @teawithren