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A Day in the Life

Greetings tea friends! After taking a break from blogging, I'm happy to share that I'm back! I want to kick off my fall blog posts by giving you a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a growing tea business! Running a tea business may seem romantic on the surface. In reality it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, determination, patience, courage, trust, and learning to accept that sometimes I just have to take a deep breath, pour a cup of tea and make a series of to-do lists to break things down to more manageable tasks: an immediate-to-do list, a sometime-this-week to-do list, and a before-the-end-of-the-month list!

September 30th is the fiscal year end for Lady Baker's Tea Trolley. That means assessment! Each month I prepare a folder for my bookkeeper, Margot who is amazingly patient with me. She says I am a dream client because I hand her the file with notes and paper clips and dividers and sticky notes. If she could only see that folder before I get it organized! There are wholesale sales, retail sales and online sales. I love sales and feel proud of just how far and wide this business has taken me. There are debit expenses, credit expenses, cash payments and IOUs, government fees, payroll dues and invoicing. Whenever I feel I am in way over my head (which happens on a daily basis), I muse "all I wanted to do was comfort people with a cup of tea!" And that's when so often, dear friends and family keep me focused on the task at hand and the next step I need to take to reach my goal. As a business owner I have to have the courage to make decisions and lead my team forward, but no business ever succeeded without help. My family, my friends, my suppliers and my customers are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to me.

[caption id="attachment_2533" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Part of my beautiful family Part of my beautiful family[/caption]

From mid June to mid October the Farmer's Market is open Wednesdays in addition to the usual (year-round) Saturday market day. Tuesdays and Fridays are my market packing day. I have a permanent booth at the market. The day before market day I replenish the supply of 50g and 100g packaged teas; I mix milk for our lattes, make gallons of iced tea, the flavours of which are decided upon in a meeting with my tea team in "the cave" every Friday morning. I love my team. We throw out lots of ideas, brainstorm for our social media announcements which are so creatively communicated on our Facebook page and Twitter feed by our Social Media Manager Ariana.

[caption id="attachment_2534" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Wednesday Farmers' Market in Charlottetown Wednesday Farmers' Market in Charlottetown[/caption]

I recently heard about a Trade Show in Alberta, so I put together an application for financial assistance to help cover my expenses to get there. Since starting my business in 2007, I have written many applications for assistance either with hiring or with show expenses. Sometimes it is with disappointment I receive news that a grant is not available, but sometimes I receive good news that my request for funding has been granted! There are also application forms I have to fill out every year to apply for a business student to join my team for the summer. It is well worth the work--I have had some truly amazing young students add their expertise and thoughts to the mix over the last few years. How blessed I have been!

[caption id="attachment_2536" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Tingting -- one of my talented summer students Tingting -- one of my talented summer students[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2537" align="aligncenter" width="432"]Chelsy--a summer student who inspired our new packaging Chelsy--a summer student who inspired our new packaging[/caption]

Preparing for a trade show or craft fair is a bit perplexing because I always like to introduce at least one new product, and cannot be too sure if it will be a seller. I don't like to keep too much unused inventory so I am constantly conducting research to see what's going on in tea retail elsewhere. I always have teas that are tried and tested best sellers in my basic inventory, but it is important to always have something a little different to showcase.

[caption id="attachment_2544" align="aligncenter" width="576"]At the recent Nutters Trade Show in Medicine Hat, Alberta At the recent Nutters Trade Show in Medicine Hat, Alberta[/caption]

Since trade shows and craft fairs are often quite expensive to book, I have to be pretty sure that any product I take with me is appealing and salable. Research takes a lot of time. This year I am adding the Tea Travel Tote and the Tea Musketeers to my inventory.

[caption id="attachment_2543" align="aligncenter" width="600"]The Tea Muskateers The Tea Muskateers[/caption]

Deciding on the packaging is another time-consuming task, but fortunately, thanks to my loyal tea team, not all the decision making is left entirely up to me!

[caption id="attachment_2538" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Lady Baker, Ariana and Jen of the Tea Team Lady Baker, Ariana and Jen of the Tea Team[/caption]

I have been so lucky to have a full-time assistant since last January in Jen, an amazing kindred spirit, willing to tackle almost anything. She has now become, as of October 1, my Wholesale Manager. She will take on the wholesale orders, develop the sell sheets for food service, retail stores, B & Bs and keep the necessary files up to date. Together we do the mundane of measuring tea ingredients for my signature blends, packaging 1kg, 500g, 250g, 100g and 50g bags, labeling and heat sealing. We fill post-tea packages after extensive collaboration with a graphic designer to get the design just right. In order to make labels cost effective we have to order larger quantities, and we have to make sure they are just right before sending off our final version to the printer.

[caption id="attachment_2542" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Our new colourful packaging Our new colourful packaging[/caption]

It is lots of fun, and it is a never-ending source of joy, but running my tea business fills every minute of every day. It is a labour of love.

[caption id="attachment_2539" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Jen and Lady Baker Jen and Lady Baker[/caption]

All this said, it is no wonder that last spring, I finally accepted the reality that I could no longer work out of my apartment. Every closet and corner was stacked and overflowing with boxes of supplies, and I felt like I was drowning in tea! After considerable searching I finally found a great location in the basement of the downtown Confederation Court Mall. Unit 11 is now our production area which we have humorously nicknamed 'The Cave" because it is located deep in the bowels of the mall, and to get there you have to weave your way through a rather confusing maze of hallways! The benefit of our new location is that we get far fewer interruptions as very few people are ever "passing by", and those who do make the effort to wind their way through the convoluted passages to find us usually mean business! After just a short time in our new digs, we already love the new workspace, and it's just a short walk to work for me in the morning through the quiet streets of Charlottetown.

[caption id="attachment_2540" align="aligncenter" width="576"]Taking inventory in "The Cave" Taking inventory in "The Cave"[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2541" align="aligncenter" width="576"]The maze to "The Cave" The maze to "The Cave"[/caption]

At the end of a long day Jen and I tidy up and re-emerge from "the cave" into the crisp evening air. Our days are full -- of work and joy -- I wouldn't have it any other way! One of the best parts of my job is the community that I get to interact with every day. Tea lovers are just wonderful people to have around me!

[caption id="attachment_2547" align="aligncenter" width="451"]One of the youngest members of my communitea! One of the youngest members of my communitea![/caption]

If you have any questions about my tea company leave a comment below this post. Or join our conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

Happy Thanksgiving friends! And thank you for being part of my communitea!

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