An Interview With Kim Havelaar, Founder Of Roqberry

Today I’m sharing a new Behind the Biz story. If you haven’t come across my weekly interview series before then you can find out more about it over on my podcast. I simply chat to the founders of new and exciting businesses and share their stories.

Today I’m chatting with Kim Havelaar the founder of Roqberry – a new brand of tea for foodies. Flavours include fresh expressions of classic blends, such as smooth and sunny Citrus Grey, as well as new fusions like savoury Sushi & Spice.

Kim Havelaar, Roqberry

Where did the inspiration for Roqberry come from?

Being a foodie who also loves to travel, I’m always exploring new and exciting flavours from around the world. Back at home it became clear to me that while a massive flavour evolution has taken place in the UK across food, alcohol and coffee, tea was lagging behind. I thought that was a real shame as tea lends itself so well to mix with a range of herbs, spices, fruit and flowers. As a beverage, it also fits in really well with the increased focus on health and natural foods. So, I decided to bring some big flavour to tea and create high quality blends inspired by global cuisine… aimed at foodies like myself!

How did you decide upon the name of your brand?

The more I learned about tea, the more interested I became. I, like most people, had seriously underestimated the complexity of the tea plant (camilia sinensis). Similar to wine grapes, everything about the plant impacts its flavour; the environment it grows in (the weather, the elevation, the humidity, the season), how well it’s looked after, and the way it is handled after picking.

One of the things that stuck with me is that almost as a rule, the more the tea plant struggles, the more tasty the tea leaf becomes (provided it survives of course). There are many examples of this: tea that grows in strong winds, frost, or survives insect attacks, and even tea that grows on bare rocks. That is where the idea of rock (roq) came from, with berry as a hint to the fact that we mix this tasty tea with other ingredients like fruit and spice.

What did you do before starting Roqberry?

I worked in the corporate world, mainly in roles across commercial operations and strategy. I travelled a fair bit and lived in 4 different countries for several years each; the Netherlands, Spain, the USA and the UK. It was during the time I spent abroad that I grew passionate about food and drink. I love its shared importance in all cultures, while each has its own unique differences and dishes.

Did you always plan to be self-employed?

Plan is too big a word. When I started out my career, I loved the international opportunities a big company gave me. I also worked with some really great teams and made many friends along the way. Somewhere in the back of my mind though I guess I’ve always had a drive for independence. I used to think of some of my old roles as “stretch assignments”, now I know I have never been more stretched, or learned more, than as being an entrepreneur.

Please share a business high and low with us.

The highs for me are customer feedback, especially in person. It’s that person at the foodie event who tells me they “don’t like any green tea”. Only for them to try our tea (Paradise Punch in this case) and go both hands in the air “oh my god this is delicious”, then buying five boxes on the spot.

The lows are dealing with the reality of being a small business sometimes. Not having enough cash or enough resource to execute all ideas to the scale we would like. It’s all part of the growth path but it can be very frustrating at times.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the food industry?

It’s a highly competitive industry. While being passionate about your product is really important (and I would encourage you to do something you enjoy), it certainly is not enough. Be prepared before you launch and make sure you understand your customer and the industry, distribution channels and decision makers. You need to have a clear strategy of who you’ll sell to and how you’ll get to market. Then base your decisions around that.

Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?

Onwards and upwards! Being a young company some very exciting opportunities lie ahead – we’re looking forward to it and are getting ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign to further fuel our growth.

Buy Roqberry tea and support the business on Twitter, Facebook and RoqberryTea.

Thank you so much to Kim for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about her business journey and learning all about Roqberry.

I wish Kim the best of luck with her business and can’t wait to see Roqberry continue to grow.