Starting your own tea business


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Starting your own tea business

Postby Charles » Jun 14th, '10, 10:01

I'd love to hear more about your plans for starting a tea business, including the successes and struggles you've had along the way.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby capheind » Jun 14th, '10, 20:08

A friend and I are actually just starting down that road. She loves tea, I have a borderline insane love of tea, I have some ideas she likes, she has some money I like, match made in heaven really. We're in the very early stages, i'm working on the skeleton of a business plan and we're taking some scouting trips along the coast to decide exactly where we'd like to situate it.

Its going to be more of a tea bar, with a few light meal/snack items but the focus would be on tea. Kind of going for a more relaxed lounge/pub atmosphere.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby 2lumpsplease » Jun 18th, '10, 05:39

I've been pursuing my dream for a few years now, all through investing my own personal funds. My dream was to have a quaint little tea shop that served the most fabulous savories and desserts, all the while entertaining my quests with inspirational stories. A little boutique beside would be just lovely! Reality sunk in very quickly. I can't do all this, I'm only one person!
So I have for the past year and a half taken my business to tea retailing. I created my own web site and through trying to promote my business, I have attended many local artisan/craft shows. I distribute brochures, and have tea sampling shows. I have had a passion and love for the tea industry and have gained a world of knowledge through researching and drinking. I was invited to share what I know about tea with a group of women and by word of mouth my name spread like wildfire. I have been requested for tea presentations around our area and after each one my creative passion just keeps burning. So it seems my dream of owning a shop and serving tea is far from reality, at least for now. I will share my love of tea with my web based business and through the inspirational story presentation way. One day my dream will surprise me.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby Charles » Jun 18th, '10, 09:16

2lumpsplease,

Great story. It's all too common, especially in this economy. Just make sure people know what your dream is and you may find an angel investor looking to participate in the process with you.

Feel free to share your URL with us.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby tobeylenae » Jun 25th, '10, 06:34

Hello Charles,

We started our business late last year with the idea of opening a small "tea cafe" - we found the perfect location except after we stepped back and actually looked at the foot traffic realized it wasn't so perfect just pretty. I began reading your posts (thank you so much). You have helped me to realize that it is all good to have 1000 great ideas but it is important to reign them in and get realistic. We have decided to open a retail store not a cafe - we will carry about 200 loose teas and about 50 types of ware and accessories.

Our goal was originally to open this past spring has changed (obviously) to opening this fall. We have found 3 excellent locations, two much like your location in Naperville. In order to create a bit of a following we have been doing tastings with friends, family, and co-workers the response has been incredible. In July we will be attending some street fairs in two of the three areas we are looking to open our store, this will assist us in determining how our products are received by strangers and to continue promoting ourselves.

We are having all of the problems I guess we should expect: timing, money, patience, fear, lack of sleep. It's amazing how often I go to sleep thinking about the business and wake up thinking about the business. I think this is the scariest thing I've ever done and I wouldn't trade this journey for anything.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby Charles » Jun 25th, '10, 10:33

That's a great story! Very excited for you.

Whatever you do... don't be afraid of the rent! The location will be 25% (or less) of your cost structure and 75% (or more) of your success. Unless it's a "bad deal", anything under $150 per foot should be easy to cover with a tea shop.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby karenj.merchant » Jul 19th, '10, 13:05

Hi Charles --

I just discovered your website -- by far the best information out there on the tea business!

I first got interested in tea while I was living in Hong Kong as an expat with my husband who was on assignment. Prior to going to Hong Kong, I had a long and successful career in financial services -- first as a banker and then as a management consultant. After returning to the US however, I have struggled with figuring out what to do with the rest of my life!

I have always had an entrepreneurial streak and have dabbled in a few things but never found anything that really excited me enough to dive into. However, I am now on my own again and really need to do something to support myself. I have thought about trying to resurrect my financial services career, but that is proving to be difficult given my time away and quite frankly, doesn't excite me anymore. I am at a stage in my life where I want to have more control over it and to focus on things I can really get excited about. That's when another friend from HK suggested we go into the tea business.

We are only in our early stages -- doing research about what the right model is and what it would take to get established. Originally, we talked about opening a traditional tea room but we both quickly agreed that wasn't the right approach. We are both very attracted to the model of TWG -- www.twgtea.com -- which is both a retailer and a restaurant. Your cautions about this approach have given me pause -- but we still wonder if there isn't a limited food service model that would reach a large customer segment in our suburban setting -- Bergen County NJ.

Although my partner has a greater knowledge of tea and grew up in a family of retailers, neither of us has any experience running a retail tea store or a cafe. Consequently, we are both applying for part-time work at Teavanna and Argo tea. We are also looking into a TeaGrschwendner franchise as a way of obtaining the prerequisite experience we need to be successful.

Do you have any other suggestions about testing our proposed model or are we better off going with what appears to be the safer, retail focused model?

Thanks in advance and I look forward to continuing to watch you and Adiago Tea grow!
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby teacupslover » Jul 22nd, '10, 15:12

Dear Friends,

I am so glad to have found this website, I'm a true and a crazy tea lover and I can't explain how much I love tea, and I have to say that I am drinking tea right now as I am trying to focus on this. My interests are mostly English afternoon teas, with different sweets, sandwiches and unique decorations with old antique English China. I have been collecting beautiful English tea cups, tea pots, and plates for a while and now it is time to add some 3 and 2 tier cake plates to my collection.

I have been thinking about having my own business for a while but it is taking some time since I want to finish buying my items and then start my business.I am thinking about having a cute tea house decorated with antique pieces so when you enter you feel different from the outside world.I live in Los Angeles,CA and I am actually looking for a partner who is as passionate as I am so we can help each other and make ends meet. If anyone is interested please post here and we have plan a lunch and talk about these.

I would like to know if there are other people from the LA area or around LA on this website. I would love to invite them to my tea club once a month and we can talk about afternoon teas, and everything about it.


Thanks for your interest.

Arpineh
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby Charles » Jul 23rd, '10, 21:26

Karen,

There is no question that you can open a successful, profitable and rewarding tea-based restaurant with a retail section. My caution is that the way to execute this successfully may or may not match your romantic vision.

If you're serious about this, make the investment and visit the three locations of the Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. While there talk to Jessie, the founder and owner. Get a look at the kitchen and behind the scenes of the operation. Samovar IS successful. Tea retail is a very small fraction of their business. They are a very cool, eclectic restaurant with a STRONG and compelling tea theme.

Also, visit Queen Mary's Tea Room in Seattle and talk to Mary, the owner. This is another very successful tea restaurant that takes a much more traditional approach. Again, she is in the restaurant business and has a tea theme.

Here is, in a nutshell, what I've tried to communicate to people who want to combine tea and food. A restaurant is a restaurant and the keys to success are the same. A Chinese restaurant, Japanese sushi bar, American steakhouse, Spanish tapas restaurant and Brazilian steakhouse are all VERY different from the perspective of the customer. They are incredibly similar behind the scenes. The life of the proprietor, chef, server and host at each of these establishments is nearly identical. There is nothing wrong with a tea themed restaurant, but you need to understand what it means to open a restaurant. (Same goes for bistros, cafes, or whatever else you want to try and call it.)

Good luck, and hit me with any more questions you have!
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby karenj.merchant » Jul 26th, '10, 16:42

Thanks for the insight and suggestions Charles -- I've looked at both Samovar's and Queen Mary's websites -- they do indeed look fabulous! I am originally from San Francisco and can readily understand why Samovar's is doing well -- the menus and branding seem ideal for the area. I plan on going to SF in the next couple of months to visit old friends and family and will definitely add Samovar's to my itinerary.

Not sure that either Samovars or Queen Mary would do well in Bergen County NJ -- this is the home of the Desperate Housewives of NJ --an unfortunate but perhaps more than slightly accurate portrayal of a large segment of the population that shops and eats here. There is a big group of ladies who do nothing but shop, go to salons and spas, take yoga classes and eat lunch out. These gals like luxury and pampering and have the money to buy it. That's not to say that there are no tea devotees here or those that aspire to be, but they are going to be in the minority. That said, we think there is a growing interest in tea for health, relaxation, culture, history reasons that, when combined the right way with luxury will appeal to the DH crowd and beyond. That's why we've been thinking something like TWG would work well here.

If we were to take that on, I would want the tearoom/seating area to be separate from the retail store for the reasons that you have explained. We think we would manage them separately also -- me taking on day-to-day operations of the tearoom and my partner taking on day-to-day operations of the retail store. However, it is a matter of determining if the numbers support what we are thinking about doing. The bottom line is that we are only going to do something that we have a high degree of confidence in our ability to execute AND make a profit at. We love tea but we are going into business to make money! Thanks again for so much helpful info and advice. There is nothing like learning from somebody who's been there and tried that!

BTW, I do have some other questions for you -- I read your POS aritcle and was wondering if the system you chose for Adiago's stores is integrated into your website and/or if the cost of hosting that (and developing the site for that matter) was/is a separate expense and if so, how much it costs to get a good one up and running. Thanks Charles -- I hope you won't mind if I ask others as they come up!

Best,

Karen
karenj.merchant@gmail.com
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby Charles » Jul 26th, '10, 23:05

Always glad to field questions. Please post the POS question on that thread so others can participate and learn. :)
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby sanamionline » Sep 19th, '10, 00:15

Some very good stories here. So I thought I would make my contribution. I have been interested in medicinal plants since very young but the thought of opening anything with the word "medicinal" is a touchy subject in the eyes of both consumers, government and customs control. However, there is nothing wrong with tea. I am particularity interested in liangcha or cooling herbal tea but I am not interested in tea or herbal tea as a health product, losing weight, and especially spirituality as the west seems to like I am interested in promoting it as a "way-of-life". It is interesting to note how the west has taken herbal tea for it's spirituality but in the east it is more a way of life. I don't like people who come to me and start talking about it as a health product, losing weight and spirituality. Part 1 of my marketing is I want to be able to provide visitors to my site interesting facts and information about an herbal tea and how it can help them and where it can be found all for free. This will lead to part 2 which will include handcrafted tea pots and cups made by me that people can buy. Tea, learning, earning are all part of of the cycle of work as play play as work continuum.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby tea.enthusiast » Oct 13th, '10, 18:01

Hey Charles

I have been following your tea retail website for the past couple of days and looking at all the blogs and discussions. I love different teas and have been drinking tea regularly. I would love to open a tea retail business. I have been looking on the adagio tea website and saw wholesaling opportunities. Is adagio creating a franchising business model for interested entrepreneurs?
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby sanamionline » Nov 4th, '10, 08:10

I have been wanting to do this for many years now. something like tea/gallery/internet and offer some other graphics/web design services. but the work/time/cost involved not including the legalization is just too much.
Right now I am working on phase 1 of 2 phases of an online website about liangcha/herbal tea.
Phase 1 - Free educational info and recipes about liangcha
Phase 2 - Sell specialized/hand made teapots/sets made by me
With possibility of doing offline/online workshops etc.
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Re: Starting your own tea business

Postby yinwenqian » Jun 15th, '11, 05:32

good idea
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