Special mention to David for mastering barcodes this week. After around a week of our tea having been in Semley Village Stores it was suggested that barcodes would make life for the shop staff much easier. It was a good spur to get us thinking about our labelling, which up until now had been inside the packets and not very useful in a shop scenario where the customer cannot see what is written. Labels include the tea description, ingredients, weight, best before dates etc.
After some initial research we discovered, shock horror, that you have to pay for barcodes. (Levels of naivety clearly reaching an all time heights). So we bought some – a thousand to be precise, and David very patiently set about the monumental task of creating an InDesign template to hold all of the them (for each weight of each tea – we now have 10g sample packs, 50g bags and 100g bags). For simplicity, since we are printing and sticking ourselves just now, they are all the same size, and very low tech we are, for the moment, using guillotined address labels from WHSmiths!
I was sitting in the office the other morning and plucking up the courage to make my first tea sales call. At the top of the initial list of shops, cafes and local businesses to approach was Semley Village Stores. Tea HQ is after all based in Semley. Feeling very reluctant, (I am not a sales person and suffer from phone-phobia), I spoke to Anne, the manager and we agreed a date to go round and chat. And thanks to Anne and the team our tea is now looking beautiful right at the front of the shop for all to see as they enter.
We spent Saturday morning at the shop making samples for everyone who came by. It was a good response and people were keen to find out more about is and the business. It will of course be interesting to see how things pan out in the forthcoming weeks. The lesson we took from Bath Christmas Market and Saturday, is that tea is really easy to sell when you are standing talking to your customers and able to actually relay the story behind each tea – where it came from, who produced it, it’s characteristics etc. So we have two full shelves. And the artwork on each packet is looking really good lined up like this.
Our first tea consignment arrived this morning!
David shows off our first tea delivery!
Today we made our very first order for some of the core teas we’re going to be taking to Bath Christmas Market. Let’s hope it arrives in time for Walk in the Dark at Win Green near Shaftesbury.
As David said – it is a momentous occasion!
It’s official – after twelve months of contemplating world domination we finished our full time jobs at the BBC last friday. From now until Christmas we’ll be clocking two days a week for the beeb leaving the rest of each week for TEA! Things are starting to get very exciting and so we celebrated with a trip to Fortnum’s for afternoon tea.
An interesting scenario has developed regarding the name of our business. Having tried to incorporate under the name of “Leaf Tea Company” we received an objection and had to quickly go back to the drawing board.
After almost 12 months of thinking of ourselves as “Leaf Tea Company” it felt odd to have to reinvent ourselves. But more to the point, finding available company names is a difficult process. I would say that it is, so far, one of the most challenging things we have had to overcome.
We need a name that is available with Companies House, available as as a .com and .co.uk domain and also something that checks safely with the IPO – the UK’s trademark office.
David arranged a meeting with the Intellectual Property Office located at the British Library. A very helpful and knowledgeable lady talked us through the things to be aware of – all of which very obvious and confirmed that we really did need to have a totally unique name.
Days of searching thousands of word combinations uncovered “Tea Traders”. We thought we had struck gold – nice alliteration – and in our rush to get the incorporation process complete, decided to go with it. But this also proved to be problematic. The .com was already owned by a chap in the USA but we contacted him in the hope that he might sell us the domain. He wasn’t interested and his best offer came in at $100K, which was slightly over our budget.
Did we really need a .com as well as a .co.uk? The short answer of course is yes if we want to have a global online presence so it was back to the drawing board again to come up with another name.
The number of parked domain names that are sitting waiting for people like us to get desperate enough to consider paying thousands of pounds to secure something appropriate is a real bone of contention for me. Unlike with trademarks there was never any governance set up over domain ownership and so the hundreds of great potential names that we could have had sit dormant and unusable.
However, we are now “The Tea Studio”. I think it works well and actually probably suits our business better than either of the two previous options, encompassing our business model of tea and art very neatly.
Since David and I are creatives it may seem crazy to some that we have opted to work with a third party to come up with the brand concept for this venture. But I think it makes perfect sense. Our brand will be key to our success and we need the objectivity derived from others’ input to find a really elegant solution. Not to mention leaving it to the professionals – our initial forays into logos and business cards have been hampered by a) our poor Illustrator skills and b) our lack of time. And crucially there’s so much more that we need to get to grips with like learning about tea.
After trawling the web for potentially interesting design studios I stumbled upon here. Their portfolio stood a mile out from the crowd and looking through their client list I have to admit that I didn’t think they would be interested in working with us (my initial lack of business confidence: too small, no capital etc). But I was immediately proved wrong. A project like ours offers here a blank slate with almost total creative freedom.
We’ve had a couple of meetings already to spec out requirements. For me, as an artist, pouring over idea boards and following this design process through to see our initial ideas transformed into something tangible is hugely exciting. It’s really important to us to stand out and to look different from our competitors. We want our brand to set new standards in packaging design, we want to be featured in Wallpaper magazine and we’d love to be stocked by every café in Broadway Market by May.
We’ve hired an office with share of an adjoining warehouse space at Chaldicott Barns, Semley. It’s going to be such a pleasure to go to work with 10 acres of private woodland to enjoy as well as a fantastic view out across the fields from my desk. The train to London passes every hour – how nice not to be on it!
It doesn’t take long to find Jane Pettigrew’s name once you start researching tea. She is tea connoisseur extraordinaire – the authority on all things tea having worked in the industry for thirty years as a tea specialist, historian, writer and consultant.
Having contacted a variety of suppliers we very quickly decided that help would most definitely be required to select from the teas they were due to send and there was no doubt in either my or David’s minds that Jane was the only lady for the job. We met Jane for an introductory meeting to explain what we were trying to achieve and she agreed to help us with some business guidance and the selection of an initial product offering.
I am sure it must have been slightly challenging when David and I turned up for our tasting day with a box of nearly 100 samples, but all credit to Jane, we ploughed through the box over eight hours one Saturday, lining up each variety like for like – a marathon taste off. The tea samples we have found come from a mixture of growers that we have met on our tea travels as well as some wholesalers.
Of course the vast majority of samples were quickly discarded but a handful stood out, a couple of which even gained wow factor status. But most interesting was learning what to look for in each variety and listening to Jane’s wonderful descriptions. It was exhausting but we had an amazing day so thank you Jane for sharing your knowledge and for making it such a brilliantly fun day.
More details about Jane and her consultancy can be found on her website: www.janepettigrew.com
Today we decided to start our own tea company. What could possibly go wrong?