What makes your tea so different?
NOVELTEA is a premium alcoholic beverage (11% abv.), which differentiates from traditional alcoholic beverages by a sophisticated and distinctive tea taste achieved by unique cold-brewing, infusion and blending processes. Thus, NOVELTEA offers an exclusive alcoholic tea experience by combining regional tea blends with a matching spirit. Each product communicates a tale based on its cultural heritage.
Thus, ‘The Tale of Earl Grey’ is representing the British tea tradition through the history of Earl Grey tea, a specific blend of botanicals and typical British gin. In contrast, ‘The Tale of Tangier’ is capturing the Moroccan tea tradition heritage. Therefore, based on green tea, mint, lemon grass and infused with white rum.
NOVELTEA is launched in April with those mentioned novel and exceptional alcoholic tea blends, which come in two sizes: 250ml and 700ml. With every new ‘Tale’ we plan to introduce, we will look to uncover some of the hidden and forgotten stories of tea culture and heritage.
How did you develop the different tastes?
We conducted a lot of research (focus groups, sampling, etc.) on flavour profiles and created more than 250 different samples per ‘Tale’. However, product development is expensive and it was the Newcastle University’s ‘Foundership’ programme that enabled us to pursue our product idea. Their ‘Rise Up’ business advisors and entrepreneurial guidance was invaluable. The support they provide continues beyond graduation and provides workspace, business coaching, networking as well as financial support. If you are interested in starting your own business, it’s definitely worth researching what your university offers in terms of support.
So after you developed a range of teas, what happens next?
We validated all our assumptions by conducting comprehensive market research (surveys, focus groups, talks to industry experts, sampling, market reports, etc.) to create a solid business model. Closely with the Foundership Programme, we worked on our product costs, cash flow and sales forecast. Thus in December 2016, we decided to further pursue NOVELTEA. Therefore, we finalised the product development and conducted shelf life tests in order to get ready to launch. We can’t stress how important it is to get the product right before you even think about taking your product to market. Furthermore, it was important for us to put an organisation structure in place that allows scaling up, so it will save us a massive headache in the near future.
What are your plans sales and distribution?
Our route to market was very clear from the beginning: First producing 1,000 litre per product. Secondly, promoting and selling NOVELTEA through speciality retailer (Delis, Farm Shops, Wine Merchants, etc.) and high-end department stores with focus on the North East. Most likely, NOVELTEA´s market launch will be with the Fenwick´s Food Hall in Newcastle in April. Before the market launch we exhibit at IFE (The International Food and Drink Event) in March 2017, at the ExCel London. By exhibiting at those events we intend to increase the brand recognition in the industry and to build our network for future growth.
Before you started your Masters you worked in the project management and management consultancy industry, what convinced you to then start your own business?
We both had not studied full-time before, so studying in England gave us the opportunity to do our Masters in just one year and to have a break from work as well. When I met Lukas at Newcastle and we explored the history and tradition of tea in the UK, we felt there was an opportunity. This opportunity intrigued us and it was a chance we were prepared to take. Why not, right?
How have you managed the financial strain of starting a business?
As mentioned, the University´s stipend has supported us financially for 6 months. For the time after the Foundership Programme, we are both taking personal unsecured loans to help us get to the next step. During this time it is essential that we have a very close eye on our expenses to increase our ‘runway’ and therefore raise the chance of success.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Test every assumption you have when it comes to your business. What I mean is, if you believe that your product is really great, go out there and prove it as quickly as you can. Knock on every door, in every industry but be careful how much information you share. Go to as many events as you can, it need not be a chore, and it is essential. Going out and talking to people is inspiring and gives you the impulse to think differently and achieve more. It is your business at the end of the day, so dedicate the time to make it work!