Fancy a cup? Behind the Business with Tease Tea CEO Sheena Brady
In the world of hot beverages, coffee gets the lion’s share of the fame, even though her more refined cousin wins the popularity sweepstakes. Worldwide, tea is consumed roughly 3 cups to 1 of coffee and while people talk about needing the java to get through the day, it’s a cup of tea that we turn to for true pleasure.
Tease Tea is a young company that aims to introduce pleasure drinkers to the amazing range of teas available around the world, and to show that tea is more versatile, flavourful and interesting than even tea-lovers might’ve thought. We interviewed Tease Tea founder and CEO Sheena Brady and spoke about her love for the world’s favourite beverage and life as a tea merchant.
So, tell us about Tease Tea. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Tease Tea is an online Tea Boutique that creates unique and modern tea blends for your every desire and goal. Our customers range, though they’re mainly women focused on improving their health and wellness goals.
How did you decide to put your efforts into tea?
I had worked in hospitality as a Hotel/Restaurant Manager and Wine Sommelier. It led me to work for a hotel with an extensive tea program I was asked to build. I took my knowledge of terroir and her trained palate and dove head first into the world of tea. After all, both tea and wine are heavily influenced by the changes in weather, the ground they’re grown in and the hours of sunshine they receive. I’ve always been fascinated by the way everything comes together to create different types of teas all from just one plant. Fate had me moving to Toronto to manage the city’s largest luxury hotel tea program, a library featuring over 75 premium teas sourced around the globe while working with the Tea Association of Canada which led me on an eight month journey to become a tea sommelier. Shortly after, Tease Tea was born as an outlet to offer consumers unique blends.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate – why do you love what you do?
I agree with this heavily. I absolutely love what I do, and it’s a good thing because once you start a business, only 10% of it actually involves that part “you love” and the rest is just… well a lot of work! If I didn’t have that solid 10% that I love, I would have folded a long time ago. It’s the only motivation that keeps me going, and makes wearing “so many hats” bearable.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
It’s never been smooth sailing. Every day there are new challenges, new struggles, new opportunities to chase. Some days are definitely better than others, though there are rarely any easy days.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
I once was asked to implement a Tease Tea program for the Four Seasons Hotel in Silicon Valley. I’d been preparing product training, presentations, and organizing an event for months to launch this program. I flew to California from Ottawa, only to have every piece of inventory become delayed at customs. The tea lady basically showed up without the tea. The program almost didn’t launch! It was literally delivered, two hours before the event after countless calls and pleading with customs/USPS.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I have a family cottage in Gracefield, Quebec. It is really the only place I can fully disconnect as we have no wifi and really bad cell service! I spend my days piling firewood or canoeing and it’s actually quite magical to be honest.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is so important. We use it for customer service, engagement, giveaways, brand awareness, everything. It’s pretty much a full time job within itself. To make it work, I automate whenever possible by scheduling posts, though also carving specific time in my day to engage personally with people so that our brand interacts authentically with others.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I am very passionate about modern feminism and celebrating the goals and achievements of women. On a local level, each month we raise awareness and financially support alocal women’s group, and we also curate a monthly newsletter called Five Fierce Female Feats celebrating women’s achievements around the world from celebrities and politicians to individuals creating social change.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
It’s always a bit blurry, though ideally I’d love to have a flagship store here in Ottawa and continue to do high profile popups in NYC, LA, etc. (We currently have a pop up in the Gansevoort Market in NYC) Ultimately though, our primary goal is to become the #1 online destination for the modern tea drinker.
Why did you realize that you were going to embrace ecommerce?
I love entrepreneurship, social media, relationships and technology. Ecommerce seems to be the best way to combine all of those passions into one amazing world.
How did you find Shopify and why did you decide to try them out?
In 2013 someone had suggested it was the most user friendly platform. With zero knowledge in code, it was a match made in heaven.
What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
My favourite thing about Shopify is that it grows with me, as a business owner. The platform is always changing, evolving, and keeping up with commerce trends. It takes the hardest part about being an entrepreneur a bit more manageable. Shopify is never status quo, it’s always working to help take your shop and goals to the next level.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Get started! It’s literally the hardest part. Get started on those package designs, accounting reports, media pitches, reaching out to retailers, etc. When you’re a business owner, the never ending to do list can literally be paralyzing. The only way around that, in my experience anyway, is to simply just start. The rest becomes more manageable and attainable once you’ve at least started.