A short time ago, I received my final K-1 on a business a female partner and I incorporated in 2004. The business plan was tight, the recipes I’d worked on for years were like nothing out there using tea back then..lattes, blended drinks, favorite vendors secured… the whole 9 yards. The company eventually opened a total of three stores under the name The Tea & Coffee Exchange; the concept store in Lake Arrowhead, and two others in Manhattan Beach and Big Bear.
I won’t go into all the details, suffice it to say that it didn’t turn out to be the dream we had on paper that followed for me. It was ten years of pain, emotionally and financially.
With the company recently sold, I can look back and either dwell on the pain, or I can look at all the practical lessons learned about business and life in general and move forward, which is what I chose to do from Day One when things ‘turned’ in the co-ownership relationship, when a third party entered the mix, and I gave up 30% of my 50% co-ownership to prevent prolonged wrangling.
What my husband and I did, my having refused to sign a non-compete, was decide to immediately move on and open another retail business in tea, which kept us ‘in the flow’ and honed our skills in all areas of the tea niche. We also began to think about what we saw as ‘missing’ in the industry, which was a way to brew loose tea quickly but even better than the thousands-year-old method still being used in most tea and coffee stores, hotels and restaurants, and wherever tea is offered, including fast food places like McDonald’s, which are now offering full-fledged specialty beverages due to high demand for this wonderful Camellia Sinensis plant and its many benefits.
During the ensuing years, we saw a number of quick-brew inventions hit the commercial market, but none like what we were working on. We are planning to introduce our commercial one min. by the cup/multi-cup brewer for licensing to an equipment manufacturer or others who see the potential of an industry-disruptive technology which has been thoroughly taste and utility tested. It is difficult to hold back until you are absolutely sure of what you are bringing to market, and not to worry about ‘missing the timing’, but it is also essential to do so. I’m not a patient person by nature and this has been a long journey.
Why am I writing this article? I believe it is cathartic, with the selling of the company bringing an end of some sort to this chapter of my business life. I’m not sure during all those years that people in the industry even knew I was a co-founder or involved in any way because my name was never mentioned when interviews were given to industry trade magazines, that I saw, and I had given up any part in decision-making or managing the business. In fact, I read about things in those publications that I had done, with someone else taking the credit for my hard work.
But the main focus and purpose of this article is to encourage others who have dealt with or are dealing with what seems to be a devastating business/life experience that the best thing to do is ‘keep moving’ if you can, emotionally and physically, stay active in your niche, think positively and proactively and long-term, keep a right attitude, and let hard and painful situations make you better, not bitter!
Check out Diane’s new tea shop, California Tea and Herbal, here.