Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Krisi Smith, Co-Founder of Bird & Blend Tea Co., located in Brighton, East Sussex, England.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I founded and run a tea company called Bird & Blend Tea Co. which is an independent, award-winning tea company on a mission to spread happiness & reimagine tea! My customers are tea lovers who are hugely passionate about the blend flavours (we have 100 blends, custom blends, and limited edition blends) that we create and always want more. We create seasonal and collection blends alongside our main tea wall blends; once they are sold out, they are no longer available. Our true fans are always asking us to bring back past blends! We create experiences that customers come back to time and time again and love to tell their friends about. Our customer 'How did you hear about us?' data reveals that the vast majority of our customers find us through a personal recommendation or after visiting us at one of our 14 stores around the UK. We also have a thriving international e-commerce shop, so we have customers all over the world too.
Tell us about yourself
I am Co-founder & Creative Director and wear many hats within my business. My alternative job title is Chief Tea Mixologist, and I am the visionary behind the Bird & Blend incredible tea innovation. I started working on my business idea when I was out in Canada, working as a ski instructor with my business partner Mike. Not wanting to return to 9 to 5 jobs, we decided to create our own business with our own rules and with a mission to be as ethical and eco-conscious as we could. I had a background in the tea industry, so we decided to take that and run with it to challenge the UK tea industry by creating fun and imaginative blends!
I am motivated every day by our mission to Spread Happiness, Reimagine Tea and introduce customers to our magical world of tea! Our customers love our tea blend innovation, and we combine this with a number of values-led campaigns and initiatives to grow awareness, delight our customers and do good in the world.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm really proud to have gone from packing tea in our back bedroom and building Bird & Blend from scratch to now having 14 stores, especially because of the challenges that Brexit and COVID have brought. Our reputation for great customer service is another big achievement – it proves that we have a good product and provide a great experience. Our motto is '5-star service is not enough! We always ensure that our customers' journeys and experiences are at the heart of our business and everything we do. Whether you interact with customers every day in-store & on customer service channels or work in the back of the house, marketing or finance, every team member is empowered to ensure that every customer has the best experience. Everyone is encouraged to surprise and delight them with random acts of kindness.
Ways we have delighted & supported customers include sending surprise care packages to customers who mention they are having a tough time on social media, providing tea to key workers, and fulfilling just about any request a customer makes in their order notes...from drawing a picture to telling a joke! Our team will go out of their way to make every customer's day.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As Creative Director, product and branding is my bread and butter, but I'm also the co-founder of the business and handle other areas such as strategy, KPIs, P&L, having a handle on the analytics, and helping out with projects that need to go over the line. I love creating new blends – it's a job that really tests my creativity – and I'm very passionate about the physical side of retail. Being able to create consumer products that promote an engaging retail experience, such as specially blended tea, is a joy. I also get involved with our ChariTEA and communiTEA programmes and initiatives, which I absolutely love and champion. One of our key pillars for Bird & Blend is the feeling of community. So I think one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is being able to balance the day-to-day work tasks with leadership and undertaking founder activities such as networking and speaking.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make a start! It might feel scary and feel like a mountain ahead of you at the beginning, but if you start climbing bit by bit, you start to achieve things you never thought you could.
- I would also say never to underestimate the impact people can have on your business success – getting the right people around you is the key to everything you do.
- The 3rd tip is to not give up. Don't give up, even when you think it can't get any worse, especially in today's climate; just don't give up! Stay open-minded about new ideas, embrace creativity in your approach, and you're sure to succeed.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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