Follow these three steps to create a consumer business in crowded categories around the united states.
James Fayal has always liked caffeine. But he didn’t love coffee or the chance of chugging sugary sodas all day long. So he and his roommate, Rickey Ishida (who been a biomedical engineer), began tinkering with high-caffeine tea blends to get charged up for the workday back 2013. They crowdfunded $10,000 and in 2014 Zest Tea was created.
Now, almost 3 years later, Zest Tea has hit retail shelves and is going to break the million-dollar sales mark. It won Best New Product at the 2015 World Tea Expo and enjoys a loyal customer base, as evidenced by its a huge selection of 5-Star reviews on Amazon. How James got here carries lessons for entrepreneurs building consumer businesses in crowded categories around the united states.
Tea is big business — $11.5 billion in sales in 2015 alone in the U.S. In that big market it’s hard to learn where to start. James started small. He gave samples to local companies in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He sold online, running targeted Internet campaigns. He did live demos at tradeshows and personally delivered the merchandise to buyers. He took any possibility to get Zest Tea into people’s hands because he figured they’d love the flavors and the sustained energy of the merchandise and tell their friends.
Today, though Zest has customers around the united states, it includes a devoted following particularly around the Mid-Atlantic region where in fact the company is based. Creating a customer base in a single place is easier than trying to build it everywhere, even for a company doing the majority of its business on the web.
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In early stages, investors asked James why there wasn’t a ready-to-drink version of Zest Tea available. They figured if there is any market where people would want a different method of getting caffeine, it will be in coolers in convenience stores.
James realized that engaging in stores would need a large amount of costly branding and distribution. It could have already been a mammoth risk for a company. He figured they’d be better off creating a strong following among early adopters — the hardcore tea community and startup employees — instead of pursue casual buyers to get.
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The largest way that Zest centered on hardcore fans was in its flavor selections. Zest let its early adopters vote for what flavors they wanted and followed suit with Pomegranate Mojito Green, Blue Lady Black, Earl Grey Black and Cinnamon Apple Black. No English Breakfast or Chamomile nonetheless.
Cultivating a devoted group of fans has paid. Zest Tea estimates that over half of its sales result from referrals. Now, the business is entering stores with people clamoring to allow them to arrive and fans they are able to direct to particular retailers — driving up their appeal in new channels.
Zest Tea as a brand had a couple of things choosing it. Its essence is approximately energy and enthusiasm. James and the team were themselves twenty-somethings trying to rev up a fresh category.
They figured that they might double-down on what their company naturally stood for. They marketed to start-ups. They sponsored hackathons. They emphasized medical great things about tea to young professionals. Not to mention they adopted robust social media to spotlight and reward fans.
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James thinks that their brand is a huge driver of their reorder rate of 50 percent, which is a lot more than 3 x the industry average. “Our customers don’t just drink our product since it tastes much better than other teas. Our customers love our product since it gives them energy and fulfills a need our competitors don’t even recognize.”
Appears like a recipe for success that may keep Zest Tea growing for a long time to c