Around these parts, we like to learn about and from people who are running their own businesses – business we love and admire, and the women who are running shit behind the scenes. This week’s interview is with Lisa of Tealee, a loose-leaf tea store (and more!). In this interview she talks about how she got started, how she maintains her business while running a full-time job, and what exactly a tea sommelier is.
Mind your Business: What made you decide to start your own company?
Lisa: We actually started the company as a joke. My boyfriend, Sami, builds websites for a living. We had just moved in together and he thought I had way too large of a tea collection. I went away for a weekend and when I came back, he had built a website with all of my tea as products. I thought it was a great idea, so I decided to give it a try with teas that I sourced from a few different companies.
MyB: Why tea?
Lisa: It’s something I’ve been passionate about since my first cup. I had a desire to try as many different kinds of tea as I could. From there, it kind of bordered on obsession. The farther I went down the rabbit hole, the more I’ve fallen in love with the tea world.
MyB: What kind of preparation did you do for the business side?
Lisa: Both Sami and I have backgrounds in business – he in marketing, and me in human resources -so research and preparation was pretty minimal. We kind of dove in feet first and hoped for the best, and thus far, it’s been amazing! I decided to expand my tea knowledge by signing up for the tea sommelier courses offered by the Tea Association of Canada. This taught me a lot about the history of tea, the various types of tea, what foods pair best with each type, and the different tea producing regions in the world.
MyB: What inspires your blends?
Lisa: Generally I get inspiration from my customers, friends, family, and my own taste buds. They’ll often tell me they want a specific combination, and if it’s something that sounds good, I’ll give it a try. If it turns out to be something that is tasty enough, I put it up as one of our blends. I also sometimes make blends for specific purposes, like our Mother Nature’s Medley – I made that blend specifically as a post-dinner tea to help with digestion and blood circulation.
MyB: What’s the most challenging part of running your own business?
Lisa: Work-life balance is difficult, especially since it’s a side business. Working full time, while running the business on the side, and trying to balance a social life is definitely a challenge. It’s a fun challenge, but it definitely puts a strain on some aspects of a normal day-to-day routine. My passion for tea and sharing it with others is what keeps me going.
MyB: How do you promote your work?
Lisa: I try to use social media and word of mouth as much as possible. We truly believe that our blends are unique, delicious, and healthy. Because of that, spreading the word about our blends is fairly easy.
MyB: Can you give us any insight into your community partnerships with other artisans in Ottawa and area?
Lisa: We partner with as many other local vendors as possible, because it’s a great way to spread the word, and also to support other local businesses. Almost all aspects of our business have some type of partnership. We use spices from Cardamom and Cloves; we have some of our tea in soaps made by Zoe’s Corner; and to make sure that people are enjoying our blends the right way, we’ve partnered with Marketa’s Creations to offer one of a kind pottery to drink our tea out of.
MyB: What advice would you give someone who is looking to start a business?
Lisa: Follow your passion. Some people ask me how I find time for all the blending, and markets, and social media, and everything else. The simple answer is that it isn’t work to me. It’s something I love doing, and I look forward to doing every day. When you have that kind of passion behind a business, you’ll always be successful, even if your idea of success changes.