The Business Owner: Daren Spence, We Are Tea
The award winning entrepreneur gives his tips on exporting, and talks about the importance of 'growing organically' via word of mouth
Company: We Are Tea
Founders: Daren Spence
Location: Holland Park, London
Proposition: Whole-leaf tea made simple
Size: 5 to 10 employees
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
We follow a simple philosophy – we ethically source fantastic whole leaf tea and hand-pack it right here in the UK.
Whether this is vastly different from what other brands are doing is a moot point. It is what we do and we do it well.
We have grown exponentially off the back of this focus and attention to detail so try not to get too distracted by what the competition is doing.
How did you finance your business?
A combination of cash flow, invoice financing, and an overdraft.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Cash flow – most businesses do not fail because they wake up one morning and find that they have no customers. They fail because they run out of cash to manage day-to-day operations.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Managing cash flow for reasons highlighted above.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
Our business has growing organically based on word-of-mouth and hard work. In my experience, there is no marketing magic bullet or jack-and-the-beanstalk route to success.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
I think export is important for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
My tip would be not to get too caught up in an export strategy other than highlighting primary and secondary overseas targets along with an appropriate route to market. Focus on quick wins and accentuate your positives.
British businesses hold a lot of cache overseas – use this and fly the flag.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Confident. Ambitious. Creative.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
Stop with the spouting of headline-grabbing slogans and focus on the three ‘Cs’:
Confidence – creating a stable environment for small businesses to grow.
Capital – access to suitable funding at all stages of the business journey.
Contacts – creating a suitable network of mentors to support the business journey.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I think the Innocent boys did a good job and have spawned a multitude of copycats – imitation the sincerest form of flattery etc.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
I would like We Are Tea to be responsible for upgrading 100m cups of tea per annum.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Try to ensure that payment terms from your suppliers are longer than those offered to your customers. This should help with cash flow.