Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Susannah Lee, Owner of Thistle & Sprig Tea Co., located in Atlanta, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Thistle & Sprig Tea Co. is a gourmet loose leaf tea business based in Atlanta, GA. We take an ethical approach to tea, meaning that everything from our tea ingredients to our packaging to our everyday operations tries to do no harm and hopefully do some good.
Our customers are goodhearted people who enjoy a quality cup of tea! We offer a select line of flavorful, inventive blends and only use clean, plant-based ingredients, either certified organic or sourced from family-run farms. That’s something that seems to resonate with people for both health and environmental reasons.
Tell us about yourself
Well, I love tea, first of all. I try not to drink 4 to 5 cups a day, but that’s usually where I end up. I started Thistle & Sprig Tea Co. to offer more choices to local tea drinkers in Atlanta, but at this point, we also have a national customer base. I want people to be able to drink craft-quality tea that they enjoy and feel good about drinking. At the beginning and end of each day, it all comes back to the customers.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Sticking to our ethos of being eco-friendly. It’s cheaper and faster to participate in a throw-away society, but it’s antithetical to the mission of our company. Sourcing environmentally friendly packaging is easier than it used to be, but it’s still more complicated than it should be. We focus on reusable, recyclable, or compostable materials for our loose teas and our teaware. Materials we use include tin, stainless steel, cardboard, glass, bamboo, and backyard-compostable plant-based bags.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Being a business owner means there isn’t a set path laid out for you. There’s a temptation to want to do it all, take on all the opportunities, and try to do it all yourself. Sometimes I struggle with prioritizing what to take on and what to hold off on, when to say yes and when to say no. But ultimately, I’m grateful to be able to make those decisions myself. So when the decision-making feels difficult, I take a breath and step back. Then I look for paths with the greatest opportunity and the least amount of friction.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a well-researched business plan. I did have a business plan when I launched my business but looking back, it was underdeveloped. It never hurts to have more knowledge. Study the industry and your potential market, research your costs and profit margins, and develop a sales strategy and a growth plan.
- Don’t be afraid to deviate from the said business plan. A business plan is supposed to change and grow along with your business. The best thing about having it all written down is you can refer back to it. Sometimes you course-correct, and sometimes you realize the plan needs updating.
- Find ways to refill your well and stay inspired. It helps to do what you love, but even when you’ve got passion, there’s still hard work to be done. There are still highs and lows, wins and losses, and the only way through it all is to keep yourself motivated. Finding a community, listening to podcasts, connecting with customers, and focusing on the “why” of why you run your business are all great ways to keep the inspiration flowing.
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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