43: Luxury Tea – Interview with Samir Balwani from Turvani

Today we feature Samir from Turvani who runs a tea business.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Sure, my name is Samir Balwani, I’m the founder of Turvani and all around tea lover. Turvani is a luxury tea brand that elevates the tea experience. I started Turvani because of my background and my passion for tea. I’ve been working as a marketer and programmer for years, and have experience in the world of luxury branding and design. I knew it would be a long and difficult journey to get started, but I felt confident in my experiences and the help I could get from friends I’ve made among the way.

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it?

We officially launched Turvani in early 2016, but we’ve been working on it since 2014. Turvani is a luxury tea brand that sells premium quality tea and elegant teaware. We focus on the experience that is drinking tea. We’re all extremely busy, we’re double booked and always on our email. We never have time for ourselves. Yet, when we make ourselves a cup of tea, we suddenly afford ourselves time to enjoy, time where we can relax and energize. The process of making tea and the tea itself, gives us an opportunity to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Our mission is to change the world to be a happier place, by helping more people enjoy quality tea.

What inspired you to start this business?

It all started because of my passion for tea and the experience. I knew how great I felt after having a cup of tea, I wanted to spread that message and share it with the world. As I told people, their excitement fueled my drive. I’m forever inspired by each cup of tea I have, each new tea I try, and the people I share the experience with.

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

The first thing I would say is “just get started”. As soon as you take that first step, you’ll suddenly have the wind in your sails and you’ll have momentum to push you towards your goal. Know what you’re trying to accomplish, be as bold as possible. You have to be a leader, not only of your team (if you have one), but also of your customers. People have to trust you and your mission before they’ll buy from you or work with you – so know exactly why they should. As soon as you get started, as soon as you take that first step, things will start to fall into place. Be tenacious, be gritty, be persistent and every day will get you closer to success.

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What would you say is the hardest part about running a business?

Surprisingly, I’ve found the hardest part about running a business to be all the little things. It’s making sure our accounting is up to date, our paperwork is organized, that we’re legally covered, and are in line with our compliance needs. It’s the little things that start to take a lot of time, and they can definitely be confusing and annoying. We’ve found tools to help us reduce the amount of effort it takes, but even then you’re stuck giving it a lot of thought and energy.

What is your single best non-obvious tip for running a business?

It might be obvious to some people, but my number one tip is to ask for help. Don’t hesitate to ask people to help you, give you their advice, or share their thoughts. Find a mentor and meet with them regularly. Without an outside point of view, you can quickly fall into a rut where you can’t see beyond your own preconceived notions.

What should you take into account when starting a business?

It’s hard work: it takes time, it takes a lot of energy, a lot of sleepless nights, and has as many downs as it does ups. It’s not always clear what tomorrow will bring, that’s why passion is so important. It’s the driver and motivation; it’s what will help you move forward even when you feel like it just doesn’t matter. If you have a passion you want to share with the world and can convince people to buy into that passion, you should start a business.

How do you stay productive and not get distracted?

I use Todoist, a simple to do tracking application that I can add what needs to get done. We make sure to prioritize each action based on the impact it’ll have on the business and the amount of time it’ll take to complete. Once we have our priorities we just start executing. One of the most important things we do is make sure we never overload anyone. As long as what we’re working on is manageable, we can keep things moving forward, stress free, and sometimes even fun.

What are your future plans for the company?

Our immediate plans are to continue to grow. We’re doing a great job of reaching consumers, but I really want to start to expand our wholesale business. We have a handful of channels we need to tap into, and we’ll be planning to prioritize them over the next few months. We’ll also be expanding our tea collection, adding a number of herbals and blends. Lastly, we’ve been working with some amazing teaware manufacturers and will be adding a series of elegant and modern teaware items. We’re really excited about 2016, there’s a lot of opportunity for us to grow and we plan on taking full advantage of it.

Outside of business what do you enjoy doing? How do you recharge your batteries?

The best part of being part of a tea brand that focuses on the experience of tea, with the hope of helping people slow down and relax, is that it recharges my battery. We really try to make sure that we’re never overly stressed out or overwhelmed. There’s stuff we need get done, we’re still trying to do exceptional things, and achieve ambitious goals, but we want to make sure we don’t burn out.

Outside of the fun of trying new tea and sharing the experience with my friends, I also make sure to set time aside to work out and travel. I try to run every other day. It’s a great way to just burn some energy and keep fit. Staying healthy is really important to me. We also try to take a big trip every 6 months. Travel gives us the opportunity to learn something new from different cultures, to try new experiences, and expand our horizons. We always come back fully refreshed, bustling with new ideas, and ready to tackle the world.

What are the pros and cons of running your own business?

There’s nothing like owning your own business. You’re suddenly given so much freedom, to make the decisions – you’re the boss. It’s a great feeling to follow your passion and start making your dreams a reality. While it may seem like all positives, the truth is you’re not in charge. Your decisions will impact your business and other people’s livelihood. Your mistakes could kill your business, could you kill your dream. It’s a difficult road, filled with obstacles. Yet even with all the hardships I know I’ll have to overcome, I would never give up the chance to start my own business. I know we’ll be successful, it’s just a matter of time.

For more information please visit Turvani.com.

1: Interview with Brandon Schoessler from Sportland Tea Co

Our first interview is with Brandon Schoessler from Sportland Tea Co. He runs a tea company and was the first person whom I asked for an interview for this new blog. He was kind enough to agree. So please enjoy the very first interview!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Brandon Schoessler, I am the founder of Sportland Tea Co.

What kind of business do you run?

We make performance-enhancing tea blends for active people. All of our blends are organic, mostly matcha tea-based (at the moment, but we have several new blends coming out this year), and have been designed to aid in physical energy production and post activity recovery.

What inspired you to start this business?

Well, to be honest, I was really out of shape. I had a desk job that required me to be sitting for extended periods of time, and I was growing wider and weaker every day. A few friends wanted to start running at lunchtime to get back in shape and I joined in. I was a big coffee drinker back then, and after a morning of a few cups going out running resulted in sour stomach and depleted energy reserves. It has been proven multiple times that caffeine is great for athletic endurance, but the delivery system wasn’t working for me. I was drinking green tea one day (good for losing weight), went running, and realized I didn’t have the same sour stomach. It just clicked. I made up a blend of mint and ginger to help settle my stomach, discovered that matcha (powdered green tea) had almost the same level of caffeine as coffee, mixed in a few other athletically-beneficial herbs, and I had a great tasting energy drink that gave me the boost I needed. And I felt fantastic!

Our goal is to help people. If we can provide a product that is healthy, good for you, tastes good, and helps you be more active, then we are doing something right. If you move more, you feel better…you’re happier and more productive. That can all start with a cup of tea.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

Early morning we fulfill the orders from the previous day. Then I spend about 30 minutes on social media and email, ship out the orders, and then head into the business part of the day. It’s mostly research, sales calls, and meetings. I try to not schedule more than 2 hours of meetings a day to make sure that I can focus on building the business through alternate channels. The Sales and Social teams can focus on their jobs while I do more conceptual work.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

The best is when a customer contacts you and lets you know that your product helped them achieve a goal. Or if one of our ambassadors used the product in an event and kicked ass. It makes us feel like we have a product that is helping people…which it does.

The worst part is spending late nights generating content…but that’s not really that bad, honestly. It’s kind of fun to stay up late and write, or illustrate, or design. I guess there really isn’t a ‘worst’ part. If there was, I’m not sure that I would continue to push forward.

Does your business generate enough money to support you?

It’s getting there. I still have a day job, but I think that I can get to full financial support by the end of the year with some effort.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

I am a big fan of Reddit (r/entrepreneur). I’ve learned a lot of things by lurking in different business subs.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

Shopify for online sales, Shippo for shipping labels, Quickbooks for bookkeeping, Google Drive for documents and team communication. We are investigating using Slack, for a more fluid communication tool.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

It’s fun! We have a great team of people. And we get to make a product that people like and helps them. There’s no better job in the world than being able to help people.

How important do you think is talent when starting a business?

Very. You should build a team that supports your plan, and those members should have specialized skills that you don’t have. That said, I believe that talent can be cultivated and grown. Personality can go a long way, and if there is someone you really like you can help them become an expert in nearly anything.

How much time do you spend running your business per day/week?

About 12 hours. I’m looking to streamline my effort and automate several tasks to allow me to spend more time doing the social aspects of the business, as well as new product development. Those are the really fun things, so when I can spend more time on those I’m pretty happy.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

It might be cliché, but I got a lot of inspiration from 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I’m not sure a lot his techniques are applicable today, but there are some great insights into process and automation. Skewing those to my advantage has been really valuable. I get more inspiration from books outside the ‘business’ category, honestly. I’m a sucker for philosophy books.

What would you say is the hardest part about running a business?

Mostly the fact that you can’t go from zero to infinity fast enough. You have to put in the work. And you make these granular advancements every day. Suddenly you look back and you have a foundation to build on.

What is your single best non-obvious tip for running a business?

Make a goal, and figure out the steps to make it happen. This may sound really simple, but you can’t get somewhere unless you know where you want to be. Say your goal is to sell 500,000 units. That’s the goal. Now figure out the steps to make that happen. It might seem like there is only one step…sell the units. Get microscopic about it and back out the process. You might have to expand sales in X region to get to 500,000 units, so what are the steps to expand? Who do you contact? Where are the demographics that are going to support the entry into the new region? You have to back out and analyze every single step to make that goal happen. Now you have an itemized checklist that you can just stroll right through to get those units sold.

What should you take into account when starting a business?

You can start a business with $100. It’s easy. But if you want it to be a real thing, you need to spend nights and weekends making it happen. It’s not going to build itself. There’s a quote I remind myself of regularly, and I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s “Whatever you focus on grows.”. If you pay attention to growing the business, it grows. If you focus on the negatives, they grow. So do the work to make it grow and watch it happen. The more you put in, the more you get back.

What was your experience setting up your company website?

Pretty straightforward. I used to do a fair amount of web development a long time ago, so I was able to get up and running pretty fast. And then moving to Shopify was even easier. I would just start there next time. It’s so easy.

Do you have a Unique Selling Point?

I think it’s our attitude toward tea. Most brands are talking about the flavor and the mythology around tea. The fact is, and I can argue this for days, is that tea is the healthiest drink on the planet. All the hydration of water, and you add all the polyphenols, antioxidants, and compounds that are in tea and you just leapfrogged ahead of water. We make teas that help the body perform, and does it in the most natural way possible. We’re all science and flavor, that’s what makes us different.

Please visit Brandon’s company at sportlandtea.com for more information.

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