Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ratan Mondal, founder of Tea2you, located in London, UK.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
At Tea2You, I am a specialist purveyor of fine teas. We are proud to bring you the finest Darjeeling varieties direct from the best tea gardens of the Indian sub-continent. All of our teas are ethically grown and sustainably sourced from gardens in Darjeeling and packed with utmost care to deliver the perfect tea drinking experience. Each of our teas have been sampled and carefully selected and tasted methodically by me, as an experienced tea taster, to ensure that only the best crop is procured in the UK and sent over to other countries. I travel to the plantations to source the teas in order to maintain traceability and to ascertain authenticity. I work with a plethora of small/medium tea farmers to promote sustainability. Based in Borough Market, in the heart of the British capital, my customers are all end-users and sometimes retailers from all around the world.
Tell us about yourself
Coming from the foothills of the Himalayas, born in Kolkata, India, when I came to the UK, I was well surprised to see the gap in the British market over the availability of good loose-leaf tea despite they being the discoverer of tea and planting them in India. I started Tea2you with the motivation to address this gap. It took me good long years to establish myself as the best loose leaf tea seller in the UK. I always consider the contains (tea) and not the containers. I am passionate about all my teas, and I sell by giving education. That said, I am often surprised and am always learning new things about how people enjoy tea across the globe. I completely enjoy what I do.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
With my motto- "let's live in harmony with tea" for the last thirteen years or more, I have been selling the finest teas to global consumers getting constant repeat orders. This has given me a good sense of what people's palettes are suited to so that I can make sensible suggestions to help them buy the perfect tea. I take pride in giving our customers a well-rounded experience by providing them with tea-tasting knowledge, including education on the fascinating history of the tea trade, as well as on the production processes. It is my biggest accomplishment that my customers come back with a smile on their faces and order me-"give me that same tea." Under the current climate crisis, I feel that at Tea2you, we are keen to see our customers using their tea economically by using only the little amount required and reinfusing the leaves three times, saving resources and reducing wastes.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Indeed under the current climate like the pandemic, financial stability is the hardest. Given that I have to not only provide wages to my staff here in the UK and pay for all fixed costs but also have to keep a steady procurement to support my local farmers in India who completely depend on the business given by Tea2you. Furthermore, tea being a crop, quality assurance is a challenge that I overcome by constantly tasting hundreds of teas and consulting/counseling my farmers about what tea is needed by my global customers (changing palate). Consistently keeping the inventory control of 70 plus teas, importing from India is a challenge in itself. Lastly, the changes in government policies like Brexit in the UK or the introduction of taxes in India has to be dealt with methodically.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Passion for your products and enjoying what you do.
- Transparency and honesty.
- Teamwork and appropriate leadership with proper respect for everyone.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Tea2you supports St Mary’s School in Darjeeling by selling tote bags in the store. All proceeds go to supporting the school so that it can continue to provide education for the children of tea garden workers in Darjeeling. We cater a ‘suspended tea’ system where a cup of tea may be paid for in advance by one customer and can then be collected or redeemed by another, who may not be able to get a hot drink themselves. We also donate 100g of Assam tea once a week to SOAS University to go towards their newly established free meals program. We support many charitable organisations, including HERA (Her Equal Rights and Autonomy), which “works with women survivors of trafficking, conflict and other forms of violence and young women vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, to pursue their aspirations and ambitions for a better life.” We constantly educate and create awareness on the health and climate benefits of tea. We encourage people to use their infused tea leaves for compost and promote sustainability while addressing the 3Rs-reduce, reuse and recycle.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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