February 2004 Issue
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More Than Just a Paper Anniversary

by Adagio Teas

Ten Good Ways to Fail in Tea Business
Speak Up! Your Customers are Listening
"To Go" or Not
Select Your Suppliers Carefully
Starbucks: Learning from the Enemy

Missed any of these stories? All are available online, easily reviewed day or night.

Needless to say, we are proud of our accomplishments. But in the words of Al Gore, "we are still not satisfied." Most troubling is the fact that our discourse, thus far, has been a monologue. By virtue of our daily conversations with many of you, we are privy to some amazing industry insight. But only so much can be accomplished in a one-way exchange.

In Year Two we propose to inaugurate a forum which can establish an open exchange of ideas. We will still be available as a reliable source of valuable insights and timely advice. However, we will encourage you to take an active role in the discourse. If we touch upon any idea that you feel deserves further development, please contribute your insight. If you disagree with anything we have said, let us know. Or if you have a topic in mind that has yet to grace our pages, we'd be happy to hear it.

More importantly, we invite you to share your thoughts and insight with other tearoom owners across the country. We invite you to share your secrets of success. Why would anyone want to do this? The answer is simple: Good karma is good business. By inviting others to benefit from your knowledge, you permit yourself to be privy to their discoveries. With each participant contributing an endowment of brilliance, everyone walks away more enlightened.

The possibilities are abundant. Unlike the fierce rivalry of Coke and Pepsi, who famously fight over tiny movement in a nearly saturated market, a tea entrepreneur is faced with a landscape that remains virtually untapped. The gourmet tea industry is still in its infancy. So it would be foolish to now adopt the cola-war mentality that a competitor's gain may only come at your own expense. The US market is big enough for us all. Our greatest competition, it turns out, is not each other. But the lack of knowledge on a large part of the US population that the product we care so much about even exists.

Should we foolishly adopt the each-teapot-for-himself stance, then we resign ourselves to fighting over the scraps of a tiny market destined to languish in obscurity. Through pooling our resources and sharing our insight, we can see this project to fruition: to educate the US public about the great taste and many health benefits of gourmet tea. Once the market is saturated, you can take a page out of Coke's playbook. But until then, let's all do our best to pull for a common cause.

How do we propose we do that?. A simple way to start is with the "submit feedback" buttons found alongside our online postings, a chance to reflect on a topic covered in one of our articles. This is also an excellent opportunity to develop and share your thoughts with other people who share your passion.

In addition to sharing ideas, we also recommend pooling your resources. From our conversations with many of you, we have found that the limits of storage space often preclude large-scale purchases that would allow you to reap economies of scale and greatly reduce purchasing costs. These savings are within reach with a bit of collaboration.

For example, the high cost of paper cup supplies can be easily be resolved. Significant cost-savings are available on an order of 50,000 cups or more. Not only would you not want to tie up your capital in so large a purchase, but you would be loath to find the required storage space.

We would offer to purchase and store these cups on your behalf, and distribute them, at cost, to any who would be interested. Savings would likely be about 50%. Why would Adagio Teas do this? In return for cheaper cups, we would ask that each be printed with our name. The benefits are two-fold: you are alerting your customers to the high quality of your products, simulanteously providing substantial savings.

Another consideration is collective purchase of teas. It's no secret that buying tea by the chest offers significant savings to purchasing the same quantity a few pounds at a time. We encourage you to coordinate your orders with other tea establishments in the area. Although this may not be feasible for tea cafes located in the rural settings, those with an urban address may find this proposition worthwhile. The cost savings would surely justify the added inconveniences involved. Plus, this may provide the impetus you need to widen communication with other tea establishments in your neighborhood.

How does it benefit us to be urging this? Do we not make more money handling each account individually? Of course we do! Growing disheartened by the trickle of Tea Smart mailings returned to us undelivered every month, marked "business closed," we want to take action. Each new issue brings news of about a half-dozen tea businesses that have gone belly-up. All were around to collect the prior issue, but have now closed their doors. In most cases, forever.

The unfortunate truth is that the rate of failure for first-year food establishments is approximately half. For anyone looking to try to sell tea in our coffee-obsessed nation, the odds are even more perilous. All advice is offered in the aim of increasing your chances of success. Even if you are not an Adagio Teas customer (a stance we strongly urge you reconsider, given our unique practice of bringing teas direct from origin!), this longevity and growth we strive to offer will permit more people to come in contact with gourmet tea: to discover first-hand its amazing taste and numerous health benefits. This is unquestionably good for all of us.

What are your thoughts so far? We hope you accept our invitation to let us know. Please post your comments online at www.teasmart.com. Or communicate with us directly at wholesale@adagio.com. Either way, we want to hear from you. A fruitful dialogue awaits...