Written by Tina Chen (Full-Time MBA 2018) founder/Chief Tea Officer at myTEA is Mighty.

At myTEA, we real-brew wholesome, plant-based tea lattes with Fairtrade, organic ingredients. We also follow a triple bottom line business model, supporting physical and mental well-being initiatives, utilising sustainable packaging, and promoting upcycling and circular economy techniques.

Today, I’m spilling the tea, and I want to share with you my journey of starting myTEA is Mighty, and my top three tips to get you up and running your own mighty business!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. LinkedIn is your new best friend.  Go ahead and ask away!

Prior to studying for my MBA at Imperial College Business School, I worked as an IT consultant at Accenture. I possessed no prior beverage industry experience or knowledge. During my MBA, I focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social impact modules. Participating in the WE Innovate Programme run by the Imperial Enterprise Lab allowed me to experience the entrepreneurial world in a safe setting. I decided that entrepreneurship was the path I wanted to follow after completing my degree.

I wanted to start a business that brought both positive social and environmental impact. Through utilising my connections at Imperial and the Enterprise Lab, I was able to receive the support and business advice needed to launch my drinks company, myTEA is Mighty.

The Enterprise Lab offers an array of useful resources for Imperial students, ranging from business coaching, entrepreneurial speaker series, experts-in-residence sessions, and pitching and networking events. It’s a great space to receive support and meet fellow entrepreneurs. I ran my first tea tasting and feedback session at the Enterprise Lab, which provided valuable feedback on the taste, flavours, and visuals and really helped me refine the recipes.

As an alumna of Imperial College Business School, I reached out to Imperial’s catering team about stocking myTEA Lattes at the brand new vegan café Plantworks. The Imperial community is strong, and you should make use of it when reaching out for advice and feedback. Everyone you meet during your time at Imperial from fellow classmates to professors are forever a part of your Imperial family.  My marketing professor at the Business School provided me with sound advice on marketing techniques as well as moral support.

Maintain a strong mission and value for your business. Understand clearly what your company stands for.  Solve a problem with your business and fill a gap in the market.  Passion is key

Also, networking is key to building a community of people who share your interests and values. I attended numerous relevant events run by food and drink communities like Bread & Jam, Young Foodies, and YFood. For entrepreneurial startup support, I would recommend the Virgin StartUp StepUp programme, a two-day bootcamp that allows you to learn the fundamentals of sales and funding. And just as important, you should connect with people you meet on LinkedIn or exchange business cards in order to stay in touch.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I reached out to founders of successful drink companies via LinkedIn.  Through a concise LinkedIn message, I was able to set up calls and in-person meetings with numerous founders, who generously offered their time to talk and meet with me and share their valuable experiences. This gave me insight to the steps I needed to take to develop a product and brand and start giving out samples to gather feedback.

I also attended many food and drink trade shows and conferences, like Food Matters Live, IFE, and London Coffee Festival where I met other founders, who have kindly shared with me their routes to market and knowledge on manufacturing and supply chain. And although asking for help is important, I think it is also equally important to give back your time as well, so I’m happy to help others.

Maintain a strong mission and value for your business. Understand clearly what your company stands for and filla gap in the market

At myTEA, we not only real-brew tasty, naturally energising vegan tea lattes, but we also aim to empower you through our “me time, tea time, any time” values.

I started myTEA because I was frustrated by the lack of true tea beverages in the ready-to-drink sector. Through market research and analysis, I found out that one of the main causes of obesity is due to sugary soft drinks. On top of this, 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from stress due to work, so taking a tea break can really help one find mindfulness! That’s why myTEA lattes are made with agave nectar instead of normal sugar and is less than 50 calories per bottle.

We also support physical and mental well-being initiatives as well as promote circular economy by cleaning and reusing the bottles when customers return them to us and donating the cost of the bottles to support these type of initiatives – a kind of social deposit instead of a typical bottle deposit. We use Fairtrade, organic, and plant-based ingredients and sustainable glass packaging because ethical sourcing and eco-friendly design is at the heart of our business.

As a Taiwanese-American living in London, I was inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea concept and British tea drinking culture to create a healthy, well-balanced tea latte that is as tasty as it is naturally energising.  myTEA contains no preservatives, additives, emulsifiers, or artificial flavours and uses actual tea instead of tea concentrate or powder unlike most RTD tea beverages on the market; now, that’s one MIGHTY tea!

Organise your time wisely! Set actionable goals, stay positive, and be proactive and persistent

When you start a business, and especially if you’re a sole founder like myself, one of the things you will lack the most is time! So, it is very important to lay out a timeline for yourself and set actionable goals. I started working full-time on my business idea in October 2018 and decided to incorporate the business on 5 December 2018. Incorporating the business allowed me to gain more credibility when communicating with other companies, like manufacturers and branding agencies. Also, I was able to join the London Agri-Food Innovation Clinic, which supports young food and drink startups with useful workshops and other EU-funded programmes like Advance London, which helps businesses effectively implement circular economy.

I set goals for myself to start selling by spring, and I was able to reach my target and began trading in March. Since then we’ve held pop-ups all around London and sold at farmers’ markets, including specialised vegan markets. Earlier this year we started selling our myTEA Lattes at Plantworks on campus. And in May, we showcased at YFood London Food Tech Week and traded during Borough Market’s Innovation Week. Next steps include getting in to more retail environments, like Selfridges, Planet Organic, and Whole Foods. We are also exploring business catering opportunities.

It is so important to remain positive. Of course, there will be both ups and downs when starting a business, like low margins or legal issues, but just stay positive and you will come out winning at the end! Moreover, remaining proactive and persistent will allow you to stay on track to hit your actionable goals. For example, if you’re trying to gain new leads and send an email to a potential customer, then you may need to send 3-4 emails or even follow up with a call until the person notices or finds time to talk with you. After all, if you don’t ask, then you don’t get. Now, go out there, and start your mighty business!

Find out more about myTEA is Mighty via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well as Tina’s Women4Climate profile.