So you used to be a Starbucks junkie but you’ve weaned yourself off…or at least, you’re working on it. Maybe it’s because you hate the post-caf energy crash, or maybe it’s the high calorie, high sugar content that you’re avoiding; either way, Tiesta Tea has arrived to cure your ills.
The brainchild of Finance/Entrepreneurship major Daniel Klein and Communications major Patrick Tannous, Tiesta Tea strives to provide high quality loose-leaf tea to a young, health conscious, globally conscious generation. As part of the Illinois Launch program, the company will be based in Champaign for the summer 2010 season; Tiesta Tea’s office is located in Research Park and the startup is participating weekly in the Urbana Farmer’s Market.
“In spring 2009, Patrick and I spent a semester studying abroad in Milan and we were inspired by the booming tea culture in Eastern Europe and Prague,” Klein said. “We spent our time in Prague in and out of tea houses and we came back inspired by the untapped potential of tea in the US.”
Klein and Tannous met in November in Champaign to do some initial research and realized that the tea market was growing quickly; the pair spent the spring semester researching and planning, and in March of 2010 Tiesta Tea was launched.
The young entrepreneurs attribute much of their startup initiative to a phone conversation with George Jage, president of the World Tea Expo.
“George is my good friend’s cousin, and he encouraged us to start the company,” Klein said. “We took his advice to heart because he is an expert in the tea industry. He believes there is tons of potential in the tea industry, specifically with our young target market.”
Klein and Tannous also received a great deal of help from the Illinois Launch, a prestigious program through the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership designed to launch university startups.
“Without the Illinois Launch program, this business would have been much more difficult to launch, due to lack of funds and mentors,” Klein said. “Outside help is crucial for any student start-up, due to the lack of team experience.”
Currently, it is just the two Illinois students running the company; Klein is the acting Chief Executive Officer and Tannous is the Chief Operating Officer. They have also hired a freelance designer to help with design work.
“I handle all the strategic planning, press, the books and financial decisions,” Klein said, “in addition to making the executive decisions. Patrick handles all the day-to-day operations, maintains the relationships with our suppliers, and has a hand in planning and final decisions.”
The most difficult part of running a business, Klein said, is maintaining focus and actively reaching milestones.
“There is no manual for running a business in a particular sector, so we must use our best judgment when deciding where to move next,” he added. “We have learned that it is important to have a specific focus rather than trying to conquer the world in a day.”
Klein advises up-and-coming entrepreneurs to ensure that they are truly passionate about what product their business is selling or what service it is offering.
“If you are only in it for the money, you will most certainly fail,” he said.
Tiesta Tea’s founders are currently developing its menu, product design, and branding strategy with the hope of launching an E-Commerce website within a month. The company has completed deals with high-end businesses to provide them with Tiesta teas and accessories.
Once those two revenue streams are established, Klein and Tannous plan to open a tea retailer in Chicago that sells merchandise and cups of tea to-go.
To learn more about Tiesta Tea, watch their YouTube channel or visit their website