A Few Things I've Learned

I’m in the process of starting a loose leaf tea company called Handmade Tea. This is a business I’m working on in my night and weekends.  Tea is such a huge love of mine that starting a business around it just felt natural.  Although it felt natural to start a tea business, Handmade Tea is my first official business.  That is to say it’s my first LLC with a credit card and taxes to pay and all of that business-y stuff.  So what I wanted to do was write a little article on my progress thus far, something that would have helped me if I had read this on day 1.  Hopefully it will encourage other folks to get into the tea business.

I should quickly catch anyone unfamiliar with Handmade Tea up to speed. Essentially as a tea lover and a bit of a ‘foodie’ I found myself very disappointed with the selection of tea blends out there.  Many blends were very uninspired and came from faceless companies with bad design and artificial ingredients.  What I’m setting out to create is beautiful, artisan loose leaf tea blends with all natural ingredients and thought put into why the ingredients are being blended together in the first place.

In the last few months of getting Handmade Tea off the ground, I’ve probably worked with over 25 different businesses.  I’ve contacted folks selling tea, herbs, shipping boxes, tins, paper and envelopes, and plenty more.  Of course these businesses are looking to make a profit, but they’re also probably very likely to want to help you out.  By being honest and excited about your new venture, it’s very likely you’ll get some great deals, especially on samples.  I’ve received free samples, free shipping and even had companies make exceptions and send me samples of things they usually don’t give samples of (like larger tea storage tins.)  You should never expect anything for free, but it’s very likely you could be talking directly to the founder of a successful small or medium sized business and they want to see other entrepreneurs succeed.

Another thing I’ve found important to remind myself of while building a business is to never forget that this business is being built from a hobby of mine that I absolutely love.  There are a lot of unavoidable tasks in starting a company that are less than enjoyable. Remaining in love with your hobby and product even though the stresses of starting something like this and not letting that get to you is very important.  For myself I do this by minimizing the amount of digital ‘project management’ tools I use to keep the business on track.  Most of the ideas, to-do lists, and tea notes are written by hand in my notebook.  It makes the entire process feel more grounded and less like an office task.

Never forget that you’re the original customer.  You’re starting the company because no one else is offering exactly the product you’re looking for.  So while looking for inspiration in companies that inspire you in the given field is very helpful, it’s equally important to sit down alone in a quiet room with some pen and paper and sketch out the product that would excite you if showed up on your doorstep.  One of the things I’m doing with Handmade Tea that I’m really proud of is working with artists to create unique artwork for each of the blend labels.  I tell the artist a little about myself, the company, and the individual ingredients in the given blend.  The artist has full artistic freedom of the label.  I did this because I think that good tea is an art and it should be encased in equally beautiful artwork.  That’s something that excites me, something that I want from a tea but other companies aren’t providing for me.

I hope this was helpful; I plan to continue mixing in a few behind the scenes posts.  As always feel free to comment or send me an email: caleb@handmadetea.com and if you’re interested in my tea, it would mean a lot to me if you signed up for more info at http://HandmadeTea.com.