Almost every day I talk with someone who has a dream of creating their own tea business. And having served as a consultant to new tea entrepreneurs for about 20 years, I’ve watched the tea business dreams that have become part of our U.S. specialty tea industry history. Many tea businesses began as a second job, a side gig. Some grew into large brands with global reach and others remained small community-based ventures. These small businesses have been vitally important as sources of additional income for many people.
The creativity and the need of these devoted tea people inspired me to create a class “Is There A Tea Business In Your Future”. Along with other tea industry professionals, we woiuld like to create a supportive and informative environment to nurture new businesses.
Importance of Multiple Streams of Income
Having multiple streams of income does not refer only to the need to have a second job out of necessity to meet your basic financial needs. Having a side gig can be a rewarding way to enjoy your hobby or passion – like your love of tea. Using specialty tea as an example, there are many ways that you can create a home-based business with a low investment in inventory and does not necessitate hiring employees or renting a storefront.
Creative Financial Stability
There are many different choice for side gigs these days. Everything from using your vehicle for one of the car services to selling makeup and kitchen ware at home parties to selling your homegrown produce. So you can choose something that fits your lifestyle and resources. But specialty tea gives you many different and very creative options. And success is almost always dependent on giving your idea a creative spin that attracts customers. But many of the skills are ones that we all experienced from childhood and learned from family traditions of hospitality. Serving a memorable meal. Putting your own spin on an old recipe. Hosting an amazing party.
Not only do many new tea entrepreneurs come with a personal tea history, they sometimes come with inherited family collections. I’ve worked with several new startup tea party caterers who began with the question of what to do with their grandmother’s teacup collection. And display cabinets filled with generations of wedding china. And family recipes and traditions.
Others transition from hobby to business when they inventory their personal tea closets and realize that many of their friends would like to join them for private tea tastings. One of the most common reasons I hear for starting a tea businesses are to be able to order wholesale quantities and also travel to countries of origin (and then be able to legally write it off their taxes).
Tea Businesses for All Ages. All Genders.
Specialty Tea businesses lend themselves to tea lovers who are looking for extra income in college to those who are approaching retirement. Themes for tea businesses range from traditional afternoon tea to tea humor like the branding created by TeaBook or special blends by The Dragon’s Treasure that appeal to lovers of Anime and Tea. What the last 20 years of consulting with new tea businesses is that there is no limit to unique approaches to making tea more meaningful.
Working From Home – A Family Business
One unique characteristic on the specialty tea industry is how many businesses are multi-generational family businesses that began around the kitchen table. One of the most famous family tea brands is Bigelow Tea. Matriarch, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, created Constant Comment in 1945 as one of the first flavored teas. Driving store-to-store, she delivered product in person and developed her own shoe leather marketing campaign.
There are many other family tea business stories. Your dream of tea as a home-based side gig can be meaningful and satisfying on a small scale. You can easily scale your start-up, second job tea business to meet your needs and that fits well withing your personal resources.
An example of a younger brand with a home-based startup story is Chico Chai. Enjoying the benefits of marketing and sales that were not available to Ruth Bigelow or John Harney or other legends in the tea industry, small brands can now introduce products at farmers markets, arts shows, cultural events, small private clubs, adult educational classes, in partnerships with other businesses and – of course – enjoy sales by creating online stores. Tea Festivals in the U.S. now offer a robust new opportunity for people with entrepreneural dreams. This year there will be seven with new ones being planned for 2024.
Kinds of Home-Based Tea Businesses
There is no single model for starting your own tea business. Here are a few ideas.
- In Your Home Tea Parties
- In Your Home Tea Tastings
- Traveling Tea Parties – Personal Catering
- Traveling Tea Parties – Corporate Catering
- Teaching Adult Education Courses
- Private Speaking for local schools and clubs
- Selling Tea at Farmer’s Markets & Festivals
- Parterning with Other Businesses
It All Begins With Your Story – Your WHY!
One of your most important assets is your personal story. Along with that is being being able to share it authentically. It is one of the most frequently asked questions your customers will ask. So, even as you’re just musing about the possibility of having a future in the tea industry, realize that you’re in the process of creating that story.
One of the pre-festival workshops that we’ve pre-recorded for our students is called “Origin Stories: What inspired tea entrepreneurs to start their first business?” Here’s a sample of those stories and some of the diverse personalities in the tea industries. Attendees at the Tea Business Seminar at this year’s Midwest Tea Festival see it all. (Tickets)
Education, Resources & Mentors
Here in the U.S., there isn’t a single program for tea education that, as of this writing, will work for everyone. Additionally, unlike many other professions, there is no clearly defined path to expertise or credential programs that will help you get a job. We even struggle with what terms to use on our resumes. Expert. Master. Sommelier. Enthusiast. It’s important to realize that no matter what you decide to call yourself, most people won’t know what it means.
These are some of the challenges and some of the opportunities for tea professionals. The industry here in the U.S. is still young, the wild-wild-west of tea. It makes the specialty tea industry a more creative opportunity but also a greater risk.
This is one of the reasons I created the “Is There A Tea Business In Your Future?” for the 2023 Midwest Tea Festival. It’s located at a venue conveniently located in the center of the country and for an affordable price tag – $199.
It will be the first tea training program to focus on the decision-making process when tea lovers are deciding if they want to turn their hobby and passion into a livelihood – or side gig.