By Daniel Lewis, T By Daniel
As expected, the adventure and excitement of starting a tea business has caught on to many, as we are now seeing a huge surge of new tea companies popping up all over the world. As daunting as this may sound to anyone still on the fence about getting started in the tea industry (from a competitive point of view at least), there is still much opportunity to be explored and various creative angles to be leveraged. As the types of teas, blends and brewing methods are almost innumerable, so are the ways of creating a unique and impactful tea business if one dares to infuse a little personality into their business venture.
As a certified tea sommelier and an active contributor to this exciting industry over the last 10 years, both my personal and business tea journey have been a rollercoaster of events, challenges and the occasional hiccoughs included. Having absolutely no prior experience nor advanced interest in tea upon considering to start a tea company, I – as many often do – considered how in the world was I going to build a tea company that one would classify as interesting, innovative or different. I thought perhaps I could source my teas from a small, remote tea garden in a China or Japan and present it to the Western world as a rare product! Unfortunately, I was a couple hundred years late as everyone had already been doing this.
Fear not! I’m typically never short of ideas…
I thought, perhaps I could search out some of the most exotic spices from India and differentiate myself by blending some of the most delicious Indian chai’s! Nope. That wouldn’t do it either. Though all of these weren’t necessarily bad ideas, they did not make me anymore confident about entering an already saturated market, as I had nothing new to bring to the table and I feared that this would come with many setbacks as a startup business. Unfortunately, I was right. Three months after registering my new tea business – which was called “T” (How innovative right?) – I was saddened to find out from a respectable source in the industry that there was already an existing tea business in another province that had the same name. (Sigh.)
The future at this point was not looking bright for me. I contemplated naming a product “Bleek Tea” rather than black tea, as it meshed well with how I was feeling during that time. Ok, that wasn’t true, but I thought it was quite clever and couldn’t resist adding it to this article.
Nevertheless, I went home that day after learning about this other “T” company and had a conversation with my dad about the fact that I had to make some urgent changes to my business name, and I just didn’t know where to start or how to go about it. After throwing a few un-inspiring ideas out there, my dad suggested, “Why not simply add your name into it? … Instead of T, it can be T By Daniel…”
Something immediately clicked.
I loved the sound of that, “T By Daniel,” as it reminded me of a designer French perfume or fragrance. I said it a few more times, T… By Daniel. Aha! The energy-efficient light bulb above my head began to shine bright. I thanked my dad and rushed to my room to grab my little green book, which I used to jot down all my crazy ideas, and voila! My entire tea company began to unfold in my head. Not only was I going to add my name into the business, I was going to add my personality into the business. T By Daniel would be a direct reflection of me, Daniel, the person behind the business. My personality was the best way I could offer authenticity, uniqueness and an experience unlike anything I saw in the marketplace. It would also be very easy to detect if someone was trying to replicate…me! (Chuckles.)
At last, I had finally figured out a unique way to enter the tea industry, which was very natural for me, infusing my personality into the business. I started tapping into all my personality traits, characteristics, likes, passions, preferences, hobbies and incorporating these attributes into everything from the logo, to the packaging design, tea names and descriptions to eventually my first little tea shop in downtown Brampton (a small city outside of Toronto, Canada), which was jam packed with personality! Over the years, customers began to gravitate and appreciate my willingness to share a piece of who I am, with them. Not to toot my own horn, but some customers even became fans! (Blushing.) What I had done without even knowing it was build a personal brand and not just a company.
So what does this mean for you the reader, or the individual who is either pondering the ins and outs of starting a tea business, or simply looking for a creative way to rebrand and give a new face to your existing tea business? Personality might just be the answer that you’re looking for!
Businesses that incorporate personality into their brand are typically more favored by consumers than those that don’t. The other amazing fact about personality is that it doesn’t only come in one shape or size or type, it’s as diverse as we are and can be expressed in many different ways. I chose to use my personality to create a personal brand. Because of this, I have been able to invite my customers along my personal journey into tea over the years. This meant that as my knowledge, experience and taste for tea changed, it was reflected in our products, our marketing and our overall brand. Customers who enjoyed this kind of transparency and ever-evolving journey have really enjoyed the ride and continue to do so. However, this approach may not suit everyone. Luckily, I’ve seen other amazing tea companies infuse personality into their brand through other avenues, like creating actual personalities for the teas, using graphics, descriptions and building storylines for associated products. Some incorporate personality in the very décor or setup of their teashops and tea houses, social media channels, etc.
The point is, there are endless ways that one can use personality to tap into a niche in the market, while also expressing their love and adoration for this wonderful beverage known as tea. You’ve just got to start by looking inside and identifying the characteristics about you that make you… you… and what you’re comfortable sharing with the world. (It’s a tongue twisting truth, I promise you.)
I look forward to discovering all the unique personalities and expressions that will grace the tea industry in years to come. Remember, “The secret to succeeding in business is in the first two letters of business…BU!”
Happy Sipping to all.
Daniel M. Lewis is a certified tea sommelier, tea master, author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. He’s the proud founder of the award-winning tea company, T By Daniel. His people-focused outlook on entrepreneurship and his experiential business tactics have garnered him and his company nationwide recognition and many awards and honors, such as a 2016 Business Excellence Award and a 2017 Top 40 Under 40 Entrepreneurs. Lewis’ success with his retail tea brand have even landed him an opportunity to serve HRH The Prince of Wales during his 2017 Royal Tour in Canada. With his official public speaking platform, he touches on his non-traditional approaches to retail, marketing, customer service, sales and the world of entrepreneurship with audiences all across Canada and abroad.