[So, this huge long post probably looks intimidating, but please read it.]
A Moment of Clarity
For those of you who don’t know, my dad passed away unexpectedly on December 15th. I’m not telling you this to evoke sympathy or anything, I just want you to know that my radical departure from business as usual might have been, at least in part, the result of this tragic event. Tragedies like this have a weird way of making us re-examine what we are doing with our lives, at least for me, it certainly did. It made me take a long hard look at my business and where it was going, and I came to the following conclusions.
- I am spinning too many plates. Producing a new loose (hot) tea blend every week AND a new bagged (iced) tea blend every week is a bit insane. Obviously I can do it, and I am doing it, but to give those teas the time and attention they deserve and still have time to do the marketing and other duties associated with the business is a bit insane. More than that, I was beginning to get the feeling that some of our customers were looking at us like we were more of a three-ring-circus than a business devoted to creating high quality teas.
- My passion for iced teas is greater than my passion for hot teas. I am an iced tea drinker. I’ve never really cared for hot beverages. I started this business believing that what makes a good iced tea would make a good hot tea. This has served me well, but as the market for teas gets more crowded, I am faced with the fact that there are others who love hot tea the way I love iced tea that are perhaps better suited to meeting the needs of the increasingly demanding hot tea market.
- My business has languished in a state of squeaking by for far too long. I started my business eight years ago, with the dream of having a bohemian tea bar with poetry readings and philosophical conversations. It evolved into an online business and expanded into my true passion of iced tea. But in all of this, I have had exhilarating periods of triumph where I thought I had finally made it (whatever that means) followed by crushing periods of defeat where I didn’t know how I was going to make ends meet. Businesses are not supposed to admit this kind of thing, and in fact I was taken to task on Steepster about this recently because at the end of my rope financially last month, I made a plea for some sales to keep my head above water, and this didn’t sit well with everyone. Whether my actions were right, wrong or indifferent, the fact remains: I cannot continue to bounce between bounty and dearth. I need to create a sustainable business model or give it up in defeat.
What I have decided to do about it
Realizing the need to take radical action, I’ve made the following decisions:
- March of this year will be my last month of producing 52teas. I have produced a new tea for every week of the year for over five years now. I have explored a huge number of flavor combinations and possibilities, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but it’s time to focus on my true passion of iced teas. And it’s time to attempt to pass the torch of 52teas to someone who I know is as passionate about hot teas as I am about iced teas.
- Beginning in April, Anne Downen will take up the mantle of 52teas and make it even better than ever, IF she can raise the funds she needs to acquire the equipment and supplies she needs. Anne (better known to some as “LiberTEAs”) has been a long time customer and fan of 52teas who previously blended teas for her own small tea business. She currently runs the very prolific and thoughtful tea review blog “SororiTEA Sisters“. Anne and I have corresponded for years about teas and I’ve confided a lot of details about the business in her. She is every bit as passionate about hot tea as I am about iced teas, and I cannot think of another soul on earth that I would trust to take over the mission of my baby, 52teas. If she can’t do it, I would just as soon let it die on the vine. Anne and I have come to an agreement that for a small percentage of the Kickstarter campaign she is currently running, I will give her the 52teas.com domain, all of the teas and other supplies that I won’t need to continue the iced tea line, my recipes for past 52teas blends and support in continuing 52teas. I have enormous faith that Anne will do a stunning job.
- I need to follow my passion and expand my production of amazing iced teas. When I started offering bagged (iced) teas, they were so labor intensive and expensive for me to produce that I thought no one would ever be willing to pay what I would need to charge to sell more than maybe one teabag at a time. So I chose to market the teas as a special treat and package them individually. But having enjoyed some enormous success and thanks to our supporters on Kickstarter, I managed to acquire some equipment that greatly expedited the process and reduced the cost of producing the iced teas. It wasn’t until last month that I actually sat down and crunched some numbers, taking into account my new production capabilities. I was shocked to see that my production costs had fallen significantly enough that I could start offering more consumer-friendly quantities at a reasonable price. Armed with this new information and new determination to make 2015 the year of Southern Boy Teas, I’ve launched a new Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so I can: retool our packaging and label stock to offer more teabags per package, redesign our southernboyteas.com website and add a shopping cart there, and exhibit our teas at the World Tea Expo this May. This is our most ambitious Kickstarter campaign yet, and I have serious fears that I may have been a bit over-ambitious, but I have to try. I just KNOW in my bones that I’m on the right path here, and I hope that you will help us get there.
What you can do to help
Please, consider supporting these two Kickstarter campaigns, with your pledges and by sharing them with everyone you can. Neither of these campaigns are asking for handouts. You will get some great rewards from me, or Anne, or both.
This weekend is your last chance to take advantage of our Inventory Reduction Blowout. Take 20% off any order of $25 or more, or 40% off any order of $50 or more with coupon codes 20off25 and 40off50 on zoomdweebies.com
Edited to add: I finally succumbed to my concerns about reaching our goal on Kickstarter and launched a new crowdfunding effort on Indiegogo.