This week’s Behind The Biz interview is for all the tea lovers out there. If you’re new around here, Behind The Biz is an interview series where I discover small and growing businesses, the people behind them and their business journey.
Today’s interview is with James Dawson, the co-founder of t plus drinks.
Please tell us about your business.
t plus drinks are a new business that is on a mission to make the world of tea a little smarter! We make an all new range of super teas, created by blending functional herbs, green tea, natural fruit flavours and 9 daily essential vitamins. Every tea bag gives 50% RDA in C and B vitamins, as well as functional botanicals and antioxidant packed green tea, all crammed into one smart little teabag!
Where did the inspiration for t plus drinks come from?
t plus came about around 2013 when my wife, Jade and I were trying to get in our annual health kick and got to talking about healthy hot drinks, and tea in particular. Tea was something we always struggled with. Green, herbal and fruit teas all had their advantages but compromised on something else, either health or taste or function. We saw the innovation in coffee and wanted to drag the humble cuppa into the 21st century and so set off on an 18 month mission to Sri Lanka, Germany and Dubai to learn all we could from tea blenders, nutritionists and manufacturers with the aim of creating something better.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
We always wanted to fundimentaly make tea better tasting, healthier and just plain better. Thats why we came up with t plus. All our drinks start with a nutritious base of green tea (thats the t) and then add a nutritious, functional and great tasting blend on top (that bit’s the plus!). We’ve got four teas right now, t + boost, t + detox, t + immunitea and t + multea.
What did you do before starting t plus drinks?
We couldnt have been in a less relevant industry. I was working for a big IT company and Jade was in the financial services sector. We had zero experience, contact and know how on how to even register a business so it was a pretty daunting start. However we figured we had a pretty decent plan and you only live once so decided to hand our notice in and jump into the world of FMCG head first.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
Personally, I did yes. I loved my previous job but always had a desire to make my own decisions and build something new from nothing so have had a nagging desire to start a business since the moment I left University.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
Trying to create something new, that hadn’t been done before and just getting off the ground was the biggest hurdle. Trying to get a tea company to mix in vitamin supplements in what is a pretty traditional industry did result in some strange looks! However, perseverance and a belief in what we were trying to do kept us going until we finally met a partner that believed in what we were doing and helped us create the product.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There have been so many. For all the low’s in starting a business there are so many little and big highs. Winning nationwide startup awards and great taste product awards, as well as winning listings with nationwide retailers are all great highs. However seeing someone drinking our tea and getting positive feedback is something that will always win for me.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Social media is super important for us. On top of creating a unique product, we want to create a unique and relevant brand. Social media gives us the platform to talk directly to our customers and share the startup journey directly.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The key word I was given on starting out was ‘perspective’. Running a startup is hard, especially in the early days and there can be some big obstacles and heavy hits that come your way. Keeping a level head and seeing the opportunity in everything, good or bad, helps you get through the tough times.
Where do you hope to take your business in 2017?
We have some exciting listings coming up in early 2017 and can’t wait to take our super green teas to the whole of the UK. We want to keep innovating and creating exciting products so stay tuned for a few of these coming this year too!
Thank you so much to James for taking the time to be a part of Behind The Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about the t plus business journey. It must have been fantastic to visit Sri Lanka, Germany and Dubai – all in the name of research.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the interview and don’t forget to support t plus on their social channels and make sure you give their teas a try. I’ve been lucky to try a few of their teas already and I can confirm that they’re lovely. I’ll be sharing a full review with you soon.
If you fancy getting involved with Behind The Biz please leave a comment below, send me an email or drop me a message over on Twitter.