Have you ever thought of starting your own business?
Driven young entrepreneur Katie Hammond might only be 25 but she has single-handedly turned a university assignment into a viable business.
Her company, KTea, sells organic fair trade tea she imports from Sri Lanka and blends by hand at a commercial kitchen near her Upper Hutt home.
It is sold at specialist fine foods retailers Moore Wilson's, Commonsense Organics and Urban Harvest and in several Wellington cafes. They love that the tea is blended locally.
Hammond created a business plan for a hypothetical tea company as an assignment for her bachelor of business studies at Massey University and then made it a reality.
KTea uses Fairtrade black and green teas direct from the first certified organic tea garden in the world in Sri Lanka, with South Island herbs mixed in to make creative flavour combinations.
The BeauTea flavour is green with pink rose petals while green-based DelectabiliTea has rosehips and hibiscus flowers. The black VelveTea Vanilla is her favourite to warm away winter chills, with vanilla pod.
Tea first tickled her fancy after she discovered specialist loose leaf teas that “smelled amazing" at Dunedin farmers' markets. She always wanted to run her own business with a Fairtrade angle after becoming interested in social entrepreneurship at university.
“One of the biggest challenges was finding a fair trade and organic supplier, it took me quite a while. At the beginning I was going through a supplier similar to TradeAid in Australia because I was buying smaller quantities but . . . [now] I've been able to directly import it from Sri Lanka.”
She started out selling at the City Market and Underground Craft Market in late 2010. After taking a break to travel last year, she launched into the business fulltime. A monthly subscription service will soon deliver different flavours in small batches.
Dealing with importing processes was also a learning curve. The tea comes by boat to Auckland and is processed by customs, going through biosecurity checks.
“There are customs fees as well, that's just something I didn't quite realise at the beginning - I thought once you'd paid for the tea it would arrive on your doorstep but there was that extra charge.”
She is keen to visit the tea garden in Sri Lanka that provides the raw materials, to see for herself the difference the Fairtrade business model can make.
“The Fairtrade is so important . . . what the business is basically based on is those values. I want a product that you will enjoy that is good for you and also those who produce it, knowing that [workers] are getting fairly paid and have good working conditions.”
The cafe culture is often coffee focused but “I want tea to be the new coffee".
- © Fairfax NZ News