In short, Behind the Biz is a weekly interview series where I chat to the founders of exciting businesses and share their stories.
In today’s interview I’m chatting with Erin Young, the founder of Zen Green Tea.
Please tell us about Zen Green Tea, how did it all begin?
I first founded Zen Green Matcha Tea in 2012 when I discovered that there was no high-quality Japanese matcha available in Australia. I had always loved green tea and when I first tried matcha I was hooked on the smooth, non-bitter taste and the health benefits.
I grew my business organically through word of mouth and focusing on delivering a high-quality product with great customer service. Over time my business and the matcha trend grew. Three years into running the business I was approached by a wonderful distributor who has since put my tea brand into hundreds of health food stores.
How did you find your first supplier?
I hopped onto Google and read everything I could on matcha. I then searched for tea farms in the regions which produced the best matcha and organised to receive samples. After months of tasting hundreds of matcha blends, I decided which blend I wanted to sell and began importing small quantities.
How did you approach your first stockist?
When I first wanted to sell my tea to stores I approached them in person. It was so challenging because sales are very much out of my comfort zone. I got many “no’s” which was so disheartening. As a result, I decided to focus purely online and choose to work fulltime while running my business on the side. Two years later the matcha trend really hit Australia and a big health food distributor contacted me to sell my brand to stores. I was very lucky and my tea was stocked in over 700 retail stores.
What did you do before setting up Zen Green Tea?
I was a graduate hotel manager before I set up Zen Green Tea, and while running the business I got a job as a Strategy Consultant and then an Operations Manager for a hospitality group. I really loved my corporate jobs and I think it was the ideal choice for me to run my business on the side for so many years. It made the journey much less stressful as I was not worried about how to pay my next bill.
Was the world of self-employment always in your plans?
“Financial freedom” has always been in my plans since I read the “4 Hour Work Week” when I was 21. I loved the idea of my life being directed by my passions rather than a need to pay the bills. Travel has also always been a huge influence on me so I loved the idea of being geographically free to live where I want. For these things to happen I saw that being my own boss was important.
Please share a business high and low with us.
A business low is the anxiety I first felt when running Zen Green Tea. I was not making any money and I was isolated at home every day. It felt terrifying to have to create structure for myself and try and navigate what was the next step I should take in my business. It was this anxiety that made me get another job which was the right decision for me.
A business high is being able to hire a team of women who work with me on my businesses. They are all remote and I do my best to understand what their professional and personal goals are and try to help them achieve them.
Please tell us more about your newly launched business mastermind.
I am really passionate about helping female founders push past the million dollar mark in their businesses. I have recently just finished a free 12 Week Mastermind I ran teaching 5 female founders how to scale their businesses. It was awesome and they got a lot of value from it. It also taught me what kind of entrepreneurs I like to work with and can offer the most value to. I am using all their feedback currently to decide what kind of program I’d like to offer in the future.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
1. Be really clear on who your customer is, what value you are offering them and how you will tell them about that value. The businesses that do the best are really clear on these three elements.
3. Get your productivity in order. Ensure that you plan your work ahead of time and you are always focusing on the one thing that will move the needle on your business.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
I would love to grow a totally remote women run team. For me, I’d love to help more women achieve their dreams through the businesses I run and also through coaching more aspiring entrepreneurs.
For me this looks like building great communities around my businesses, employing women and developing a coaching program.
Thank you so much to Erin for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about her business journey and learning all about the story behind Zen Green Tea.