Why do you want to start a tea business?

So you’ve often thought of starting a tea business. Right? It looks so easy and fun. Then you’ll get all the best teas for wholesale and lots of free samples. All your friends will come to your place and it will be like having a tea party every day. And you can travel the world, visit tea plantations, and write it off your taxes. You return with suitcases full of tea below the wholesale price and charm your customers with photos and videos of you in the fields picking the actual tea.

Easy, right?

Wrong! There’s probably not a single person who has ever worked in specialty tea who will tell you that it’s easy. I’ve never met one. And yet, almost everyone loves it. Some rewards offset the challenges. Like your customers celebrating parties in your afternoon tearoom. Like travel. And, like having access to rare teas and drinking your most exotic favorites for less than full retail. But there’s also getting into a niche industry that’s growing and being among people who are likely to become friends. Tea people are a bit like a family. (The good and bad aspects.) And, as someone who has worked in specialty tea for more than twenty years, I completely understand the allure.

World tea expo bootcamp

The Tea Business Bootcamp . . . now Tea Business Incubator

Tea retail is a challenging business and, because it’s still a fairly young industry, there are limited resources to learn the trade. Most of us who started twenty years ago are self-taught. We learned from our mistakes. And, about ten years ago, George Jage, founder of World Tea Expo created the Tea Business Bootcamp. The full-day program preceded the annual trade show and educational conference. Mentors with six different areas of expertise in starting a tea business presented their startup how-to tips. And then, additional classes in the conference and face-to-face meetings with tea distributors created a valuable package.

This program continues, even though WTE is under new ownership and the name has changed. The old “Bootcamp” is now the “Tea Business Incubator”. But the same commitment to mentorship remains exactly the same. With the benefit of some straight-shooting advice from those who have been there before, you can decide if owning a tea business is what you want for your future.

Who is the Tea Business Incubator for?

  • If you’re seriously considering starting a tea business.
  • If you’ve decided to start a tea business but are trying to hone your business plan and get off to a strong start. 
  • If you’ve started a business in the last year and need to meet with experienced mentors to ask you questions. 
  • If you want to meet others starting tea businesses and want to create your own support network.

Disclaimer: I’ve been part of the Bootcamp team since it began, first as a board member serving on the WTE educational committee, then as a speaker, and eventually as one of the moderators. This year I am serving as moderator and as a speaker. My topic this year is “50 Ways To Attract and Keep Loyal Customers”.

This Year’s Speakers and Their Topics

  • The Big Picture a ‘Reality Check’ – by Chris MacNitt
  • 50 Ways to Attract and Keep Loyal Customersby Babette Donaldson
  • The Must-Haves to Start Your BusinessSharyn Johnston
  • Nitty-gritty operations stuff that can make or break your business: Packing, Shipping, and Unboxing! Nishchal Banskota
  • Breaking Even Instead of Breaking BadDon Ho
  • Why a Business Plan?Sherolyn Sellers
  • Group Question & Answer SessionSpeakers from the day

Preparing to Start a Tea Business

One of the most valuable resources you can find are people who have walked the same path before you and are suppoertive of your dream. Each of these presenters brings a weath of experience and all will generously share what they’ve learned from their various tea business experience in their topics and by being available to answer your most pressing questions.

As a teaser, I can give you an overview of my own presentation, “50 Ways to Attract and Keep Loyal Customers”.

I’ve divided a presentation into 5 segments – like a timeline to-do list. 

    • Ground Zero – Your idea takes flight. 
    • Put Yourself out there – How do you become a Tea Person? 
    • Local Alternatives – Who are the tea people in your neighborhood?
    • Online Store – This is a must!!!!!
    • Brick & Mortar – Welcome to your new home-away-from-home.

In each of these sections, I’ll be speeding through 10+ items for your to-do list. So you will end up with more than fifty options to help you grow a dedicated list of customers who get to know you and trust you as a source for favorite teas and teaware. After that, we will shift focus to keeping your customer contact list strong with repeat orders. That will add more tools to your marketing toolbox.

Do You Need to do Everything to Start a Tea Business?

No. But the more you do, the better. And the sooner you begin, the more you will be able to do before you find yourself deep in the challenging days of dealing with live customers. While we won’t have time to do a deep dive into every option, you will walk out with notes to be able to follow up on what seems to be the best fit for you. And, because I organized it in a timeline that could span over several years, you can plot your own course. 

Tea retail really is a creative process. Success depends largely on how you differentiate yourself from others vs. following a cookie cutter plan. More importantly, how will you serve the needs of your customer community and inspire confidence and deliver satisfaction. 

Remember, the golden rule of any kind of business is, “Find a need and fill it.” So, if you want to start a tea business, my best advice is to consider who your customers will be, what are their needs for tea, and how will you serve them in a unique and memorable way?

I recorded a short video to introduce the Tea Business Incubator, 2022.