Esther Thompson: Small business in a tea cup
Posted: Fri 24th Jan 2014
Esther Thompson had been drinking herbal tea for 15 years and was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the products on the market.
"Often the tea smelt delicious but the taste didn't deliver. Over the years I noticed that other countries took tea-drinking much more seriously than the British, which didn't seem right to me. I became convinced there was a gap in the market for a high-quality herbal tea range that was packed full of flavour."
After this, Esther - formerly head of communications at the BBC's commercial unit - spent a year researching and planning.
"Fortunately I have a few friends who have launched very successful businesses so I used them as a sounding board. When my business plan was in decent shape I managed to speak to some experts in the industry who helped me refine my ideas and strengthen the proposition. I went through so many different versions of the business plan, but each time it became stronger and stronger."
The business, Tea Huggers, was officially launched in December 2013, when Esther hired a master tea- blender who helped design the tea range and source the ingredients.
"For the packaging I used a local website to track down a designer. Four people pitched for the work and luckily I found a highly experienced packaging designer with experience in the tea industry who lived in my neighbourhood. It's amazing the contacts you can find through your local online community!"
When it came to sales, Esther opted again to keep it local. She visited local food stores and supermarkets to talk them through her product and ideas.
"This helped me refine the product with advice from people who would ultimately be my customers, so when I had the finished product I had the confidence to walk into any shop, big or small, and pitch my products. I've been blown away by the positive reaction."
Online sales currently make up the bulk of company revenue, but Esther is working towards selling more of her tea range through stockists. She's also planning a stand at a trade fair to help generate leads with key stockists, whilst maintaining online promotion to attract new site visitors - and keep existing ones coming back.
ï¿¼ï¿¼ï¿¼ï¿¼ï¿¼ï¿¼ï¿¼"With all my online orders I've put in a little luggage label with a message asking people to take a picture of the tea they've bought with the luggage label. People have posted them on Facebook and it's really helped create a buzz around the brand."
As for what the future brings, Esther is keen to secure more routes to market and to look at elements of the business that can be outsourced so this hardworking mum of two can make the time she spends on Tea Huggers as efficient as possible.
After that, she'll most certainly be needing a nice cup of herbal tea!
Find out more about Esther's business at www.teahuggers.co.uk @teahuggers