Sunday, June 29, 2014

Next Steps

So here we are!  Back where we started!  Adventures in Tealand with Certified Tea Sommelier Rita Fong!

Only everything is different now!  I have a much better idea of where I might fit into the whole business world as it relates to tea and me but for obvious reasons, I'm going to have to put starting my business on the back burner until after the baby is born and I'm settled.

For those of you who've come along for the ride, thank you for your patience while I shared my experiences from taking the Entrepreneurship course and tried to incorporate my own spin on the whole thing.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you have a clear idea of a business opportunity you see for me, feel free to let me know!

Just kidding.  I have a business plan, and as mentioned previously I just can't go off spreading the ideas openly yet, until I have my model ready for action and my body is too!  

No surprise, I'm obviously interested in celebrating quality tea and tea products and uniting my desire to see a sustainable business practice joined to my love of travel, photography and positive people.

Part of being an entrepreneur is developing an eye for seeing a problem as an opportunity.  As I prep for my upcoming nuptials (Working on the wedding favours, which of course will consist of tea!), I can totally see why my instructor suggested a "last minute wedding planner" business might be a good idea. I had a month to prep my wedding, and if I didn't have my "team" to help me, I could definitely use the services of such a business. I can also see why brides are planning their weddings a year in advance!  

The next course in the University of Toronto Continuing School of Studies Certificate of Entrepreneurship is Market Discovery and Intelligence.  The course outline describes what the prospective student will gain:

Define their target customer and the different stages of their customers’ buying process
• Determine whether the customer problem/need is a valid one they are willing to pay to solve
• Utilize various available market analysis frameworks and market research techniques for early stage companies
• Collect and analyze primary and secondary research on their market to incorporate into their overall business strategy

The next course for me, however, will be focused on the business of a wedding, then setting up a nursery and supporting my partner in making a stable and safe home for our little one.  

I will also take great delight in using him as a guinea pig for trying things I can't indulge in for a while.  Stay tuned to follow what we get into next!

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Travel, tea, photography and me!

Incorporating business ideas into a personal blog about tea and adventure isn't that big a stretch after all.   Nothing compared to my belly at the moment!

From my entrepreneurship course, we learned that the experts agree passion is a big part of succeeding in any business and my blog captures many of the things I love: travel, people, and fine tea.

But not just any tea.  It must taste good, be paired with delicious things, be served in artful surroundings and originate from sustainable sources, fair to the growers and good for the environment.
Chickens hanging out in the tea bushes in China

            Photo: Raymonde Drolet
Being a naturally bookish researcher type, I like to look things up but I'm also keen to see things for myself.  I relish good food and drinks.  I've trained myself with a variety of courses and sought out experiences to recognize quality products.  While I don't fret if I'm unable to procure the finest at any particular time, I truly appreciate good things when I can.

Part of my business model requires informing as many people as possible about the pitfalls that occur while exploring the world of tea.  To that end I've written about steeping techniques, do's and don't's, and shared pictures of the many places I've sampled fine teas(and some not so fine), as well as where they're grown, how they're dried, shipped, etc.  I've met a great many people who are already in the tea business.  That's why I think I could really enjoy the challenge.

Our world has many traditions, some better than others.  The tea world is no different.  I savour taking the time to enjoy a good cup, and as I learn more, to appreciate a good pot of transcendent tea. It's something I see as not just a personal choice(affording me peace of mind and pleasure to be sure), but as something to learn about and share and now even convert into a viable business.
Photo: Raymonde Drolet

I'm keen to pass on my lessons as I learn and do good business, ensuring people are getting value for their money and also that the values I cherish are shared as well.

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Winding Down

Nearly tea time!  As my Entrepreneurship course draws to an end, I'm glad it's over and I learned so much.  I'm challenged by the increased demands on my time and resources.  I still have to write two more blog entries after this one!

As if working five days a week and expecting a child aren't enough, on top of doing a course on entrepreneurship, I've added all the excitement and responsibility of organizing a wedding as well!

Fortunately, the father of the child is a great help.  If you haven't put two and two together by now, it's Drew whom I mentioned in the previous post.  Yes, aside from swaying him to try different teas with me, we've decided to tie the knot.

Among his many skills, he's a writer and a trained photographer so I've gained from his insights and occasionally he helps me crop or edit a photo I'm having a problem with.  As every entrepreneur knows, forming strong partnerships and finding key resources are important to any start up, so too in life.    

Another good example of collaboration and teamwork could be seen when a tea company (in this case, Sloane Tea) teamed up with a chocolate artist (Laura Slack) to create some delicious tea infused chocolates for Valentine's Day last year.
A pair of Chaucer's Hearts
Mmm, perfect harmony

This week, as we've been planning where to get married and what and who to include, Drew's designing the invites and inviting his family, while also pushing me to interview people and get feedback on my business value proposition for my homework assignment.  What a slave driver!  I was glad for the push though.

As we learned in class, our terrific instructor Keri Damen explained that the Value Proposition statement should contain the following components:
- What you are offering
- The specific value associated with your offering
- Who are you creating value for
- And why is your product different from everything else on the market.

Value Proposition is not:
- A tagline or ad
- An elevator pitch
- A mission statement

I won't go into too much detail about mine here, because while I am the unique individual who puts together the elements required for my business idea, that's not to say someone else might not pick up on it and find the resources to give me competition before I even get started.

I do look forward to the time after the baby comes when I'll be able to kick back and enjoy a fine pot of quality tea.  I know while I do, Drew will have his hands full(of diapers and dishes).  

Discovering the strengths I bring to a business and identifying the weaknesses I need to work on has been an eye-opener to be sure.  With hormones flashing and baby kicking, I'm finding I need all the support I can get to stay focused these days.

I'm grateful to the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies for the opportunity to apply my writing and photography to this purpose, and I'm keen to begin this next chapter of my life armed with new tools for the tasks ahead.

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Smart Networking: to a Tea!

Entrepreneurship is not a lone pursuit.  It's important for an entrepreneur to network to create a powerful assembly of advisors, suppliers, and customers, etc.   

When a budding entrepreneur hears this they may think ok, I'll sign up for all the major networking events in my industry, have a bunch of business cards to pass out and grab as many business cards as I can, the more cards the better, that's the ticket to successful networking!  Or I will get LinkedIn and Follow every big player in my industry!  

Whoa, not necessarily... when you network, like everything else, you need to set goals so you know what your desired target will be from the start or you'll end up wasting time.  You want to create real relationships.  Social networking does not replace good old face to face networking in creating lasting and useful relationships. But it's not a bad place to start.

Your goals need to be "SMART" ones too.  You know, as in Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  

If I'm going to represent a product it has to be a good one and if I'm going to have someone mentor me, they have to be someone I can respect for the way they do what I'd like to be doing.   And networking and meeting industry people can be great fun!

Last summer when my fiance (Drew) and I made plans for a road trip to Washington State from Vancouver, I plotted a course to check out a new tea shop that I had spotted on one of my social media connections that would be along the way.  A Facebook tea friend, Jeffrey McIntosh had started sharing posts about Smacha Tea Company on Facebook.  Jeff had lived in China and studied tea, especially puerh teas.  

Tea Master Jason Chen's Smacha Tea Shop is an amazing place where one can learn about and enjoy exquisite fine teas.  Integrity doesn't get much more complete.  Drew commented on the unity of the shop and the staff.  Everyone who works there is inspired by the product and really knows their stuff.
Drew went from indifferent coffee drinker to avid tea aficionado when he was served so graciously by Master Chen.  (ok, maybe not quite avid but I'm working on him...)
Tea Master Jason Chen serving us a few of his many beautiful teas using his signature teaware designed to avoid over steeping.
I was struck by the quality of the tea and service.  As it turned out, the tea was from one of Master Chen's own plantations.
Beautiful large oolong tea leaf. 
On site roasting and packaging! Wow!
Photo: Drew Taylor
Master Chen has written two books, one of which I'd already bought before I visited his store.
Me, Jeffrey McIntosh and Master Chen (Photo: Drew Taylor)
After purchasing some fine tea we were given a pretty pink iced tea - Taiwanese herbal was slightly sweet, floral and full flavoured, perfect for a hot day!

So let's recap:  I planned a great road trip with a tea shop I'd heard about through a social media contact, found a mentor I respect and got to know him building a solid connection for further communication.  Two to three hours was a smart amount of time for the visit.  (We still took in the local chocolate factory afterwards...had to keep Drew happy).

I made some purchases (tea products and the second book), and received an unexpected gift in the delicious iced tea.

Whether I decide to import some of his quality teas, or emulate his book writing model, I'm inspired and I know I can learn greatly from his 32  years in the business.

As I learn more about entrepreneurship, I realize I have many of the skills necessary to have a successful business.  I'm excited that I can do things I enjoy (meet people online then in person, write and take pictures, and drink tea!), and look forward to building a business as well!

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.