On the up · 25 September 2015

Bluebird Tea: Reinventing a British staple

Co-founders Mike Turner and Krisi Smith
Co-founders Mike Turner and Krisi Smith

The co-founder of tea mixology company Bluebird Tea Co. sat down with Business Advice to discuss how he’s transforming a British favourite and the difficulty in juggling everything from financing to web design.

After meeting while studying politics at university, Mike Turner and Krisi Smith decided to start a business together. Smith had worked in the tea industry for ten years and having studied mixology in Canada, wanted to bring innovative tea mixology to the UK. With help from a Start Up Loan they set up a tea mixology business – Bluebird Tea Co. – with a shop in Brighton and a second store opening in Tunbridge Wells.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Mike and my partner Krisi and I created Bluebird Tea Co.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We’ve been trading for just over two years now.

(3) How do you make money?

We create unique and exciting blends of loose leaf tea and retail these directly to customers through our stores and online.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We’re reinventing a British staple, using it as a way of inserting a little bit of happiness in to our customers lives.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Everything!  We did everything ourselves for a long time so the difficult thing was quickly having to get a grip on such a range of tasks, from branding to sourcing, operations, financing, pricing to web design, management and marketing etc.

Tea

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Opening our flagship store in Brighton and creating jobs where people really love coming to work are things I’m really proud of.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Hundreds of little problems, from websites going down to the store flooding the first weekend we had both been away, key people being ill right when we’re at our busiest and legal problems with properties…  But solving these setbacks is what makes the journey fun (even if it doesn’t feel it at the time!).

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Creating more roles where people feel genuinely enthusiastic and valued whilst making more customers happy with our tea.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Just do it. The biggest thing holding you back is yourself and excuses, once you commit, you realise all these little things can be overcome with a little bit of work.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

I have hundreds. I really love what Mark Constantine and Liz Weir have done at Lush – I’ve never met an employee who doesn’t love the brand and customers are so excited to visit the stores.  The way people like Sheryl Sandberg have used success to inspire is amazing.  But mostly Krisi – my partner who inspires me on a daily basis and comes up with 90 per cent of the creative ideas that make Bluebird Tea such an amazing thing to be building.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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