Hey there, how has your 2021 been?
Ours has been absolutely crazy and has blown our minds, in the best way possible.
We launched Amico Tea in January of 2020 with the goal of sharing high-quality, Chinese tea experiences with the world.
And while we found some success at first, we found that while we were confident in our product and customers LOVED it after trying it, reaching new customers is HARD when selling tea online.
Selling Tea Online Is HARD - Here's Why:
- You have to “try it to get it” - it’s hard to distinguish high-quality vs. low-quality tea online visually.
- Tea is the oldest and most common drink in the world - there’s an ABUNDANCE of companies competing in the space, making it hard for a small start-up like us to find our footing.
- Everyone already has their favorite tea brands - why risk trying a new brand they’re unfamiliar with when they’re already satisfied with what they’ve been drinking for 5...15...or 20+ years?
We tried everything, with little traction to show for it through most of 2020.
At times, we questioned whether it was even feasible to sell high-quality tea online as a small startup with no outside funding.
But we knew that what we were bringing to the world was valuable, because of all of the customers who had tried our tea, and loved it, for several reasons.
If you’ve ever been to China, or have had a tea session with a Chinese friend, you may know how different the experience is compared to drinking tea from Teavana (mass-produced), or at a dim-sum restaurant (compliments the food/cleanses palate vs. being the primary focus).
Chinese Tea Culture
There is SO much culture and history behind premium Chinese tea that we could talk for hours about it, but to give you a short summary of some of the key differences…
- Premium loose leaf Chinese tea is PACKED with antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients - this is due to the process by which artisanal farmers harvest and process their tea spending significantly more time and care doing so than mass-produced tea receives.
- Chinese tea sessions - often known as the “Gong Fu” tea ceremony, is essentially an artform where practitioners maximize the taste of premium tea through tea set selection and presentation. In China, tea is consumed in this way for HOURS, and is a great way for friends, family, or co-workers to relax with one another and share in a heightened experience.
- Healthy coffee alternative - many people in the west consume coffee as their primary choice of energy, and oftentimes, that’s because they’ve never experienced premium loose leaf tea! When drinking the right type of tea, you can receive the same energy boost that coffee provides you with in a much healthier manner (and arguably, better taste).
We struggled throughout 2020, but our belief in our product and mission pushed us to continue for just a bit longer, month by month.
That brings us to 2021.
We had been hearing a lot about Tiktok, so we thought, “why not give it a shot and see if that would change anything?”.
We had no idea how the platform worked, but we began posting - anything and everything that we thought people might find interesting.
And that’s when it happened…
At first, we noticed a few videos getting a few hundred views, then it became a few thousand, and out of nowhere, one of our videos hit 50,000 views!
For a small business that has never reached more than a few hundred people with any post prior to 2021, that was INSANE.
We kept going, and our VERY NEXT VIDEO reached 150,000 people on Tiktok.
After that happened, we noticed that hundreds, and then thousands of people visited our site.
Annnnnnnd we sold out.
Shipping Struggles, Working Overtime, And Solutions
While we had some inventory on hand at the start of 2021, we did not expect the amount of interest that we have received since starting on Tiktok.
This meant that we sold out of inventory much faster than expected.
Since we noticed interest in our tea infusers began to increase, we had placed an order for 200 additional bottles set to arrive on February 6th.
After selling out around January 24th, we had to switch to taking pre-orders thinking, “that’s alright! We’ll receive additional bottles within the next 1-2 weeks!”.
Because we always work to underpromise and overdeliver, we mentioned that shipments would go out around February 15th, juuuust to be safe.
And then February 6th arrived, and the bottles were nowhere in sight.
Another week passed, and still no bottles.
It turns out, COVID shipping delays struck again.
If you’ve purchased anything online in this past year, you might’ve experienced delayed orders due to the increased volume of shipped products while COVID has gone on.
And it’s been the same experience for businesses when ordering from suppliers, as well.
In fact, the LA ports have set a new record for number of vessels stuck, unable to offload their containers of inventory.
We didn’t end up receiving all 200 infusers until around the 3rd week of February.
But we even hired some extra help to speed up the packaging process, and were able to ship all 200 infusers we had received, as of the end of February.
Here’s a photo of some of the craziness that went on trying to get everything packed as quickly as possible and shipped out!
What We've Learned
First, COVID shipping delays are NO joke.
As customers who have purchased products from other brands, we've experienced it.
And we're sure you've had the "opportunity" as well throughout the past year.
On the business side, it can be even worse.
While we might normally expect a shipment anywhere from 3-6 weeks after placing our inventory order, these delays can add an additional 3-6 weeks on top of that in a bad situation.
That means that we need to implement new procedures to help properly forecast inventory ordering in the future.
Because we've never had so much demand in the past, this was a new issue that we've never had to deal with before as a young business.
Second, we need to work on building out our fulfillment team so that Danny doesn't have to stay up until 3 AM trying to get shipments out on time multiple nights in a row!
This wasn't easy on him but we all agreed was an important one time thing to make sure we could ship to you, our end customers, as soon as we could.
That means we're going to be looking into working with either a fulfillment center or potentially hiring a dedicated logistics specialist to help ensure the shipping process is smooth for you and ourselves.
Lastly, people LOVE what we have to offer!
This might not make the most sense when you take it at face value, but for most of 2020, we questioned whether what we were providing was valuable because it was SO hard to gain traction online.
This win really helped to cement the idea that this business is one that can workout long term, and that we should continue to push forward providing easier access to high-quality, single origin Chinese tea and educating about how different but exciting eastern tea culture can be.
That's all for now, but thank you SO much for being a participant and supporter of Amico Tea.
We have a lot in the works, and can't wait to share more with you.
If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback you'd like to share with us, we're ALWAYS available at hello@amicotea, or you can reach Danny personally at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks again, and hope to talk to you soon!