When you first meet Ted and James, the two co-founders of DiversiTea, you can easily mistake them for two regular Sheffield students. And that couldn’t be closer to the truth, but with a twist: they are two recent graduates from both Universities that decided to start up their own business.
Ted studied Law at The University of Sheffield. He is a beverage enthusiast. He used to woras a bartender and has a barista certificate. He’s more of the creative, strategy and operations person. James studied Network Management at Sheffield Hallam University. He’s more of the IT, software developer and the person responsible of the accounts. They complement each other well.
They first met in Start Up Weekend, an event organised by The University of Sheffield Enterprise Zone, where they came up with different interesting business ideas, including a gyro cup (that wouldn’t spill) and an ice tea company. This connection and similarity in thinking gave them the opportunity to reflect on tea culture in the UK.
“There has been a 17% drop in tea consumption in the UK market. However, price per tea has increased. There are 30,000 types of teas in the world and only black teas are mainly consumed in the U.K. market. British culture is notoriously known for drinking tea, and yet nobody seems to fully grasp how diverse tea is. This needed to change. The tea market needed innovation, it needed a fresh brand and it needed diversity. So, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve put diversity in DiversiTea.” – Ted, co-founder.
They recruited an extra person – a marketer. And with only three employees in total, with limited resources and with an average price per tea box of £20 (around 30 cups of tea in each box), they’ve launched their business and sold their first box in June 2017. Slowly, but surely, they’ve also expanded to a global customer base. Nowadays, they ship their products to countries such as Korea, Australia France, Germany, USA, and, of course, UK.
‘We don’t have a great deal of customers yet, but all of our customers are returning, loyalty levels are high, which is fantastic’. – Ted.
Ted and James like to think of themselves as “tea curators”. They outsource the tea internationally and they are investigating to import the ingredients needed that are not existent on the UK market. They truly invest time in creating their monthly themes. The theme of a month determines which type of blends or teas go into the gift boxes. Some examples of themes are: January – After Party Detox (teas included winter star rooibos, tangawizi lemon, winter earl grey with cinnamon cloves), February – Very Green Lunar New Year (only green teas), March – Japanese Sakura ( cherry flavoured teas), April – Spring Wake Up Call (energising tea mints, chamomile,myorba mate with orange tea).
They have sold over their website, they have gone to different food markets, they’re looking at exploring more festivals options’ presence and they’re looking forward to shouting more about their vision and about their online platform: diversitea.co
Their journey had its struggles too: Ted was an international student (South Korean) so he had to go through a specific application process for a Tier 1 Entrepreneurship Visa, also because of that they had certain restrictions about what they could sell, it took them a year to get everything sorted and be recognised as an official limited company, but they did it and today they’re just grateful they never got sidetracked from their vision.
“We value experience more than price, we want to maximise that experience. We value diversity and we value learning”, hence DiversiTea aims to show the world in each cuppa. It’s experiencing the uniqueness of each different taste via a very common cultural aspect: tea drinking. It’s a great experience at a valuable price. After all, the regular breakfast tea in a coffee shops costs more per tea bag than the box of diverse blends from Diversitea. I haven’t tried their product yet, but after talking with Ted and James and learning more about their start-ups vision, I’ll definitely give it a try.