How To Start An Online Tea Business
So,you want to start an online business
Good choice, seeing as tea is the most popular beverage in the world after water..
You know you're onto something when the closest competitor to your product is the literal elixir of life itself.
Tea has been around for centuries and has become an important part of cultures around the world. We use tea for its health benefits, as a social lubricant, as part of our ceremonies, etc. There are so many ways we as humans consume tea that it's almost impossible not to find a willing audience of tea drinkers to patronize your business.
But before we get excited about your new role as a renowned tea seller and all the sweet profits that come with that, let's focus on the basics of starting your online tea business.
Learn all you can about tea
The world of tea is large, if you want to make your fortune in it you need to become an expert. you need to learn everything you can about tea.
Here's a brief overview to get you started:
All teas are made from the Camellia Sinensis plant (yes all of them). This plant is indigenous to India and China and enjoys a humid, warm climate with frequent rainfall. The difference in taste and color of the types of tea comes from how the tea leaves are processed after plucking.
Tea leaves picked on the farm are sent to processing factories where they are turned into various types of teas. About 30-35 kg of plucked leaves can produce about 7.5-9kg of tea. The most popular kind of tea is black tea with over 80% of tea drunk worldwide being black.We recommend doing further research on the Camellia Sinensis and learning all you can about this wonderful plant.
Decide what type of tea you want to sell
Finding a niche of tea to sell in is the fastest way to creating a profitable tea business, you get to focus and master one style of tea and become an industry expert and goto brand for that tea.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your tea niche:
- Are you selling organic teas, caffeinated teas, iced teas, sleep aids etc?
- Will your teas be loose-leaf, tea bags or canned?
- Will you only sell green teas, black teas, white etc?
Don't get spooked by the amount of options you have, this just means the opportunities for choosing a niche you can dominate are much higher than in other industries.
You could start a:
- Caffeinated tea brand that only sells ready to drink canned teas
- Loose-leaf, organic tea brand that specializes in green teas
- Ice tea business selling both bagged and canned teas
Don't worry about choosing right now, this decision will affect the direction of your entire business and shouldn't be rushed.
Get familiar with all you can about the tea industry, then take an evening to decide on which format works best now that you're armed with all this relevant information.
Direct selling involves you being responsible for the entire process of selling the tea from sourcing to final delivery.
You first get in contact with a tea seller, choose what type of tea you want and purchase your inventory up-front. You'll need cash on hand to load up on inventory. You're not going to get any suppliers giving you inventory on credit until you build a solid relationship with them.
You are responsible for packaging your teas into their individual containers, using direct selling means you have full control over the packaging process so you can guarantee hygiene, volume and quality of the tea going out to your customers.
Try to use a supplier who delivers your teas in plain boxes so you can easily put on your own stickers on the bags. A better but costlier alternative is to have custom packaging made and then fill them with your inventory.
P.S. If you purchase loose-leaf tea, you need to take into account the extra time and effort needed to pour the tea leaves into their packages. Depending on the scale of your business, this could turn into a massive operation that eats into your profits.
Selling and delivery
In both methods, you're responsible for selling the tea yourself but in direct selling, you also have to guarantee delivery of your products to your customers. This means coordinating with delivery and shipping companies or if you're selling locally, hiring a delivery driver or driving out to deliver to customers yourself.
All these extra costs have to be considered and added in when choosing the price of your tea.
Direct selling is a hands-on approach to business and requires a lot of capital upfront but if done right will produce the most amount of cash for every gram of tea you sell.
This business model also gives you complete control over the flavors of teas you offer, you can mix teas from different suppliers and put your own twist on these teas to create exclusive flavors and blends for your customers to fall in love with.
Pros of direct selling
Cons of direct selling
Understand your laws and regulations
Being a consumable and perishable product, tea is subject to some of the strictest laws and regulations out there.
Your major concern with this is all about what you can and cannot pass through the borders of your home country and borders of the country you want to focus the majority of your selling efforts in.
Call up your local governing bodies and ask around for what you can and cannot do when shipping your tea. They will have all the info you need, clearances and other documents you need to get and general info on how to handle the shipping process.
Beyond shipping them in, there are numerous hoops to jump through before you my be able to register your tea business and start selling within your country.
You could find yourself having to completely restructure your business if you findout about strict laws around the distribution of tea in your country.
A final word on this, there are way too many small businesses ignoring these rules thinking they are too small to be noticed and their operations can ‘slip through the cracks’. Yes you are a small time player for now but do you intend to be forever?
The major reason to not play fast and loose with these regulations is that because you're small, chances are you won't be able to survive the fallout of any actions the regulatory bodies take against you. Is it really worth losing it all to save money in import and registration fees?
Setup your online store
Now that we have our product and we've decided on the way we're going to be delivering them, it's time to build an online store.
There are numerous hosting companies, website builders, rules, certifications and a plethora of things to get done before your store is legit enough to handle online commerce.
What you want to do is take the path of absolute least resistance.
You're starting a new business and you're going to have a lot of things on your plate. The last thing you need to be worried about is whether that button works properly or how to integrate payment platforms onto your site. This is one time where being ‘lazy’ is the smartest option.
Build your website on Shopify or Wix.
Sign up to their basic plan and take advantage of all their features to get your online store up and running as quickly as possible. They also have features that help you handle your inventory, calculate tax, offer various shipping methods, and track all your orders and payments.
Most importantly if you're new to website building, they have customer support.
Market your online store and grow your brand
Everything you need to get your business going is done, now it's time to make some noise and drum up the buzz for your tea.
You're going to have to do a lot of social media posting, SEO, blog articles and a host of other digital marketing activities to help get your business the exposure it needs to succeed.
Creating articles and social media posts that educate, entertain and excite people about tea culture and optimize your website to rank these articles on google. This is a great way of getting visitors to your website and increasing the number of leads you can market your business to.
When posting content, be sure to toe the line between selling and informing. Too much selling and you'll put people off but too little and you won't get the sales you need.
Time to get started
We’ve been through everything you need to have in place to start your online tea business. The most important parts are the quality of your tea and your interactions with your customers, nail these two and you've got a far greater chance of success than your other competitors.
Be sure to evaluate your niche and go for the business model that best suits your personality.