June 2008 Issue
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Recommendation

Connections and Cooperation

by Cynthia Fazekas

Taking Flight

The Specialty Tea Industry in the U.S. is clearly growing but as industries go it is still a very youthful one. Continued growth is dependent upon many things such as economic climate, availability of product and the approach taken by the participants, especially the business owners.

While at the recent World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, the growth was obvious. There were more vendors, more products and attendees who are less about tea as a novelty business and more interested in the Serious Business of Tea. In a lackluster economy this is truly encouraging. For those of us who have been in the industry for some time this is a welcome progression. Watching it go from a hatchling to a fledgling beginning to take wing is exciting and a relief. We are really getting somewhere! How we proceed at this point makes a difference for the future.

When a competitor succeeds it is our cue to work harder (or smarter), try to improve and look eagerly toward the next chance to test our progress. In doing so the whole industry lifts and grows, stronger with increased endurance and maturity.

A specific way to build and work connections is to find a complimentary business in your area and work cooperatively with them. A good example of this is when a teashop teams up with a high-end bakery. Barter some of your labeled products for some of theirs and offer them in your respective shops. You will both reap benefits from each other's client base.

Caring for Our Consumer

Every time someone provides accurate, truthful information about tea to the media it elevates us all trying to promote our product. Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the health benefits of tea but it did bring a lot of attention. The next step is to highlight the enjoyment of tea. This complex, sophisticated beverage is right at home next to a fine meal at a five star restaurant and should be enjoyed like a carefully selected wine. One may justify indulging in a glass of wine because, "My doctor said it is good for my heart," but they are really drinking it because they enjoy it! If customers come in seeking tea for health benefits, make sure it is also something they will enjoy. Medicine has never had a fun connotation. Except for laughter being the best, of course!

If another tea business provides something you do not, would you direct your client there if they asked for your help? This could be a hard thing to do but the client will remember your truthfulness, helpfulness and will keep a positive association with your business. It is okay to say, "Sorry, but we don't have that. Those guys do have it, but if you need ____, please keep us in mind." A little customer service goes a long way these days. Looking out for your client or potential client on a level beyond just making a sale really hits home with people. They appreciate when they are treated like a friend instead of a walking wallet.

In keeping connected we know how to provide the best for the tea consumer, how to best educate them and what products are needed to keep fine tea a part of their daily life. In doing so, we will all surely find success!