Could a single listing change your fortunes as a new food and drinks brand?
Business Advice caught up with the co-founders behind health-conscious tea brand T Plus Drinks to find out how they navigated the tough early days as food sector newbies, and why a loyal customer base is so important.
Who are you and what is your business?
James Dawson, founder of T Plus Drinks, which my wife Jade and I launched in 2016. We’re a Yorkshire based, startup company on a mission to make the world of tea a little smarter. Our teas combine the best bits of herbal, fruit and green teas with 50% RDA in 9 daily essential vitamins.
Where did the concept come from?
I saw the UK and worldwide tea markets as huge, but stagnant and ripe for innovation. I wanted to create a something that resonated with a new generation of health-conscious consumer and evolved the tea sector to make a product that was truly unique.
The world of health supplements has also grown hugely in the UK over the last few years, so it seemed like a natural pairing to combine the two.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?
I think for me the biggest challenges starting out were my lack of experience and lack of a network within FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). Getting up to speed on the industry and learning the ropes quickly was imperative to being able to build the business, so on launching, I immersed myself in every event, exhibition and workshop I possibly could to build a network.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Our first nationwide listing with Holland & Barrett was probably the biggest. We’ve always been confident in our product, but having a national retailer get behind us just confirmed for me that we were going in the right direction. It was the first big leap in our distribution and such an amazing achieving for a small company.
What marketing strategies have you used?
We’ve taken the grassroots approach with a lot of low-cost, digital and direct to consumer marketing. Building social media was key to us and we’ve managed to build up a loyal base of fans. We’ve always been very content driven and want to provide as much value to our customers as possible.
Targeting our consumer directly has been key for us, both online and offline. In the early days, we spent a lot of time at vegan festivals, yoga shows and running events across the country so we could sample directly to our market.
In five years’ time, I’ll be…
Continuing to bring some innovation into the tea category. T Plus will be widely available throughout the UK and internationally. We’ll have a hefty product portfolio, ranging through tea and other categories and new product development will be going strong.
In the next 12 months alone, we’re looking at launching new products and new formats and are already in discussions with some large retailers. So the four years after that should only build on that!
Who are your business heroes and why?
Richard Reed, Sam Walton, Barbara Cassani. The people who looked at an existing industry and instead of just replicating a product, decided to revolutionise the whole thing instead. They each took a product category or an industry as a whole and turned it on its head and redefined the rules.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Perspective is key. Make sure that throughout the journey you maintain your perspective. Starting a business is, for lack of a better term, a rollercoaster ride. There will be incredibly points of progress and big wins, but there will also be some extreme lows and periods of concern.
You need to understand that both of these are just parts of the journey and will pass as you move on to the next phase. Keep your perspective and have the confidence to continue on with the business plan.
Last series you binge-watched?
What three things can’t you live without?
My phone, my beloved Leeds United and t+ Boost.
What app do you use the most?
What song is always on your playlist?
Anything by Jay Z.
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