Student’s passion for tea inspires business venture
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09
Sophomore Kyle Ryan said he was not challenged enough by his first year as a full-time student, so he decided to start his own online tea company, called Epi Tea.
Ryan said the tea itself comes in four different flavor blends, each made from organic and fair-trade ingredients like elderberries and lavender flowers.
“I’ve always had a liking for tea, and I think that you shouldn’t let your passions be just a weekend hobby,” Ryan said. “You should make your passion the focus of your life. That’s why I started a business around it.”
Ryan said he thought college was the perfect time to start a business, because he does not have to support himself financially yet. Expenses like rent and groceries make it more difficult to launch a small business like Epi Tea, he said.
He said he faced some difficulties during the start up of his company in August. Epi Tea was named after the word epicure, meaning refined taste. He said the company was originally called Teavacity, but after a few weeks, he received a phone call from the Vice President of Teavana, an American tea company.
“He told me to change the name or they were going to sue us,” Ryan said. “It cost a few hundred dollars to fix, but I think Epi Tea is a better name.”
According to Ryan, the market for tea is expected to increase exponentially in the next five years and even compete with coffee for popularity.
Business administration professor Dan Freeman said he thinks Epi Tea will have a much larger market online than it would as a store.
“With a retail storefront, you’re limited by your geographic reach,” Freeman said. “Online you can reach a national and potentially international market.”
According to Freeman, an online business is also much cheaper. A physical storefront comes with an enormous startup cost, from renting the space itself, to making it aesthetically appealing and trustworthy.
“The disadvantage is that you need to get the word out there,” he said. “Establishing your brand presence can be more challenging when you don’t have a built-in audience walking by a store.”
He also said it is important to have a strong online presence when marketing a unique product like tea.
Freeman said tea shoppers like to see a broad array of the products and browsing through them on the Internet is a convenient way to do it.
“Consumers are seeking a lot of variety with a product like tea, and it’s easy to show variety in a digital place,” he said. “People are time-crunched and don’t have time to go to the store.”
Senior Jessica Nimmerichter said she often shops online because it is more convenient than having to find products in stores.
“It’s easier because it gets delivered right to you,” Nimmerichter said. “I trust online stores. I have faith that it’s protected when you buy things.”