- Inspiring Startups
Krisi Smith, co-founder of Bluebird Tea Co, spreading happiness one cupful at a time
Back in 2013, Krisi Smith and Mike Turner started Bluebird Tea Co, a tea mixology company, from their back room and in just 3 short years have grown to more than 30 employees, opened multiple retail stores in the UK as well as a global online shop.
Krisi Smith and Mike Turner met whilst studying politics at Durham University. Mike has a background in hospitality as well as working as a ski instructor in the Canadian Rockies. Krisi has a background in tea and recently authored The World Atlas of Tea, published in 2016 by Hachette.
So let's hear more about Bluebird Tea Co story and get some valuable startup insights from co-founder Krisi Smith.
What's special about Bluebird Tea Co ?
Bluebird Tea Co. is a happiness spreading, independent, award winning, Tea Mixology Company on a mission to make people happy with tea! We are leading the way in innovative tea blending in the UK with a fresh approach on fun and flavour first. We are the only place on the high street where you can get decent flavours of tea and fantastic service.
Why did you start Bluebird Tea Co?
We had a real desire to prove that there was a better way of doing business, where people are just as important as profits. Plus, neither of us could keep down a job - because we kept being disruptive, always asking 'why'?
Where did you get the name Bluebird?
Our name comes from the skiing term ‘Bluebird Day’ which is a day with perfect blue skies - it is a day when everything is possible and life is for living. The motto for the company is ‘spreading happiness, one cupful at a time.’ and we wanted to choose a company name that reminded us of this every single day.
How did you start Bluebird Tea? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur? Were you still working at another job?
We came up with the idea in Canada so although we gave up jobs to move home and start Bluebird it wasn't quite as scary as we didn't have careers or mortgages. We started off packing tea in our back bedroom and attending markets, building Bluebird from scratch from the ground up. We now have an awesome team, multiple retail stores and a thriving international online store.
How was it like, selling tea from your back bedroom?
In many ways it was really tough but in other ways it was very exciting and rewarding. I often look back now and remember when it was just the two of us, sleeping on the sofa, walking our three parcels to the post office each day!
How did you know you had a good idea and that it was going to be successful?
We kept getting such amazing customer feedback and people kept on buying, that was a pretty clear indicator really.
How did you finance your project?
To start with, we used 6k savings, then were smart and frugal with our takings. We never splashed out on anything fancy - like an office! until we really needed it. We took out a start up loan to open the Brighton store.
How did you market and promote Bluebird Tea Co when you started?
Word of mouth - we didn't spend a penny on marketing until 2016! People are amazed when I tell them that. We just worked hard to create lasting customer relationships and asked our fans to spread the word for us - and they did!
What do you like most being an entrepreneur?
I like being the master of my own destiny, I like the variety and I like being able to give others opportunities that they just wouldn't get elsewhere.
What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
Learning how to manage people within my own business has been really really hard. I had management experience coming into Bluebird but asking people to do things for your own company is a whole different ball game and I really struggled to start with.
What are your next business goals with Bluebird?
Our goals for this year were to double the turnover of our business, which we are just about on track to achieve. We just opened two new stores this month and are set for a bumper Christmas so I can’t wait to look back in January with pride.
What's your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You need to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, work hard, get your hands dirty. Put in the long hours and keep the bigger goal in mind all the time. Surround yourself with entrepreneurial people that will support and inspire you. Don’t take things personally and learn quickly from your mistakes. There is a positive solution in every single challenging situation, it’s all about how you look at it.
What's your favourite quote?
If your dreams don't scare you they just aren't big enough.
It's inspiring to see how Bluebird Tea Co has been bootstrapped from Krisi and Mike's back room with little startup capital but has been successful with a lot of passion, hard work while keeping their values of doing business in a different way. It's also a story that demonstrates that you can start small and grow quite fast in a fairly short amount of time.
So what are you waiting to plant the seeds of your startup?
You can learn more about Bluebird Tea Co and order their unique tea blends at their website at www.bluebirdteaco.com
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