Tell us about your business and the type of products you sell?
I set up HotTea Mama with my friend, Kate, over 2 years ago. We are coming up to our second birthday of website launch, but it took us over 9 months to develop our products.
We make a range of teas and mugs, specially designed for pregnancy and motherhood. We work closely with our tea producers to develop blends – it takes a lot of slurping tea and editing blends to get them just right. Then we also had to ensure they were based on traditional use and scientific research, to genuinely try to help women. They aren’t drugs, but each has a lot of reasons that they can help. I have a degree in Tea Science which is extremely useful for this!
Our major sales come from online but we are starting to expand into stores now, and we have partnerships with Amazon Prime and Mothercare (about to launch!) which are fantastic. We work with a few incredible distributors in the UK to help us grow our business, as we work around children and freelance jobs, so the juggle is truly real! But everything else we manage ourselves, with the help of a wonderful all female warehouse team who fulfil all our orders.
How did you come up with the idea and what motivated you to go for it?
The business was Kate’s brain child, as she had 2 babies within 18 months, and had got very fed up with her restricted diet. I have been a tea taster and blender since I left uni, so when she suggested to me that we needed to make a range of teas that could help women with different aspects of pregnancy, I immediately got inspired!
What is your best selling product?
The Final Push and Milk’s Up are our best sellers.
The Final Push is a blend of raspberry leaf and whole peppermint. The raspberry leaf helps to strengthen your uteran muscles and softens your cervix. This is amazing in birth preparation, and has been shown to lead to shorter second stage labour and less complications in birth. And the peppermint eases digestion and heart burn which can be terrible in the final trimester.
The blend even helps with post-birth recovery, as your uterus contracts back after labour – the strengthening effects can make this quicker and less painful. Milk’s Up is a blend of herbal ‘galactagogues’ which have been used for millenia to boost milk supply. There’s fenugreek, fennel, anise, nettle…they’re hard to find in the rest of your diet but in tea they are a delicious way to support breastfeeding.
What do you love about running your own business and what do you find hard?
I love the sense of satisfaction – there’s nothing like seeing an order go out and knowing that you achieved it. Similarly, when customers write to say how much the tea helped them, and how they love it, I regularly cry! I find it hard working alone – Kate recently moved back to Australia where she is from, and whilst facetime and email is great, working alone in my house can feel a bit lonely.
What kind of BossMum are you and how do you manage the juggle?
I need lists. Days where I haven’t pre-written a to-do list are a nightmare for me. I always go off script as things come up that need to be dealt with, but I do need the structure. I also get far too excited about ticking things off lists…it’s very satisfying!
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
That no one is finding it as easy as you think. Our first production run of tea, our box manufacturer didn’t put a layer of varnish on the box which meant they scratched extremely easily. I only found out after shipping them.
It meant that they had to reproduce, and I had to hand re-pack 3000 tea boxes, writing on the best before and batch info myself. I was regularly up until 1am and was utterly miserable.
Now when I tell people this, they always have a similar story of a disaster that they got through. It’s good to know, and to remind myself when other small issues come up – you can get over anything, and you’re never alone in trying to conquer disasters on a daily basis!
Do you have a favourite app or work tool you think everyone should know about?
Xero is the best book keeping app ever, and I also love Hubspot – it’s brilliant for organising work flows.
How do you define success?
Happiness. Being happy every day, not just on the weekends. That’s success.
What is a normal day in your life like?
Mondays and Fridays I work from home on HotTea Mama, juggling half a day of nursery plus a long afternoon nap for my littlest, with a full school day for my oldest. It works but is quite broken up!
Tuesday – Thursday I manage kids drop off and pick up but work for a local charitable trust rather than on HotTea Mama. My evenings are where I pick up all the extra work that has come in on the business. My partner helps a lot with kids bedtime, dinner and prep for the next day, or I’d go mad!
We don’t have family near by, so we flex a lot. When I have events in London or meetings, Jake steps in to take over the child care timings. We’re really lucky that we can do this, as he’s an academic so has more ability to flex his hours than many others.
What has been a particular highlight for you since starting your business?
There have been quite a few! I’d say, winning a Bizzie Baby Award for our Morning Rescue tea, plus seeing the tea on a shop shelf for the first time…that was really satisfying!
What’s next for your business?
We’re about to launch subscriptions, and a new tea blend (it’s under wraps as I’ve not perfected it yet!), but these will be really exciting to see go live.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Nothing comes out of nothing, but something always comes out of something. Basically, get on and try it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking about setting up their own business?
Prepare, but don’t over think it.
I’m a terrible over-analyser, and Kate basically set up HotTea Mama in its entirety, while I just made tea blends. I would probably have over analysed everything and not done it. I’m forever grateful that she did, and we are where we are.
What is your favourite Social Media platform and how has it helped in your success?
Instagram. It’s our only marketing tool. We don’t pay for ads, but I post every day and we collaborate with other brands on giveaways. It’s basically been integral to getting us where we are now.
We take the approach of do one platform well. Facebook and Twitter are ace, but I can’t concentrate on both equally, so they take a back seat. One day they’ll get equal amounts of love!
Who inspires you?
What was your dream job growing up?
Tell us 3 facts about you…
- I can speak, read and write Chinese. I have lived there for over 3 years.
- I was the first foreigner to get a degree in Tea Science from the Agricultural and Forestry University of Fujian, China.
- I was incredibly accident prone as a child and was kept overnight in hospital on 6 different occasions before I turned 10.
What do you enjoy most about being a part of Mama Tribe?
Thanks for giving us an insight into life behind Hot Team Mama Bethan, we love having you as a Member of the Tribe.