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.

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