World Tea Expo session emphasizes how to create “communi-tea”
Fairbanks, Alaska is likely not top-of-mind as a tea hot spot; but that didn’t deter Sipping Streams Tea Company founder Jenny Tse, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Fairbanks. Her vision for the tea house began in the summer of 2004 when she “began to notice how tea brought different people together.” Traveling to different tea farms in China encouraged her to teach about tea in her local community, and she is a certified tea specialist with the Specialty Tea Institute.
Her educational session at the World Tea Expo: “Grow Your Brand and Your Business with CommuniTea” revealed Tse’s multiple approaches for success, but many centered on one idea for creating brand identity: “Don’t wait for people to come to you — go to them.”
This could include sponsoring community events, not necessarily with monetary donations, but with in-kind contributions. It could include creating a special blend for the event. “The media often covers these events, which means free publicity,” she pointed out.
Her own classic example of this was when she approached the organizers of the local dog mushing races and offered to create a blend especially for the races. At first, the committed coffee drinkers were skeptical. “All we want is a lot of caffeine,” they told her. Eventually, they agreed to try it, and Tse brought them a highly caffeinated blend that almost instantly won over the grizzled mushers. She has been making it every year since, and now makes a tidy profit.
“Use strategical thinking,” she urged retailers. If you donate a gift basket to an auction or fundraiser, “your presence is also needed,” she said, for community members to connect a face with the generosity of the donation.
Holiday shows offer vendor opportunities, giving your business community visibility while also providing revenue, she noted.
Tse is also exceptionally active in her “virtual community.” She repurposes photos and videos on multiple platforms, including both private and public Facebook pages, a YouTube channel, Twitter and Instagram. “I often have an employee film an event, such as a free workshop, for Facebook Live,” she said, describing this as “a teaser to build community before the viewer commits to coming into the store.” At this point, Tse has many non-Alaskan customers who order online — but who make a point of visiting Sipping Streams when they do visit the state, including, she chuckled, Penn, of famous magician duo Penn & Teller, who continues to order from her.
Early on, Tse paid for a self-hosted, five-minute spot on a local radio station, and found that her outgoing personality led to requests to guest on other shows, causing locals to stop her on the street, complimenting her on the show and Sipping Streams.
Tse’s newly released book, The Essence of Tea: The Transformational Journey of a Tea Connoisseur, while aimed primarily at consumers, is of value to retailers and industry professionals as well, she said, because it discusses vision and purpose, the implications of being an entrepreneur, avoiding burnout, and, most of all, the inestimable value of making your business a “community catalyst.”
Source: Sipping Streams Tea Company