Dee has been educating us on tea and the art of drinking tea for the last couple of months, through her monthly #teawithdee contributions. We thought it was about time we got to know “The Tea Lady” better!
I’m Ditshego Sedikela, known to many as Dee. “Dee, the Tea Lady”, many have called me. I’m a daughter, sister, wife and recently a mom. I am also a young entrepreneur and owner of five The Tea Merchant stores.
The Tea Merchant was founded in 2010 by a fellow tea enthusiast. I was accustomed to collecting different teas on my travels and when I saw a Tea Merchant store in Bryanston Shopping Centre in 2014, I knew that I had to be part of this business. I opened my first store on the 26th May 2014, in Clearwater Mall, while still serving my notice at JP Morgan Chase. I had been in the corporate world for 6 years before taking this giant leap into retail.
At the Tea Merchant we love tea and everything about it. We specialise in sourcing and selling a wide range of loose leaf teas, teapots and accessories. We have over 100 blends of different teas in our stores.
Starting out in business was the scariest thing for me because I came from a corporate background and knew nothing about retail. All I had was my love for tea and a willingness to grow through whatever would come my way.
The Tea Merchant business model is made up of equal partnership between the founder and the partners. Being in a partnership with an experienced businessman has been a blessing. It cushions one from the hardships that start up entrepreneurs have to contend with in the first few months, if not years, of starting a business. I’ve been active in the tea business for two years.
When dealing with customers it’s important to always have a wide range of product at the right price and at a location that is accessible to your customers. Listen to your customers, there is value in what they have to say.
When choosing tea, customers should look for quality. We sell the finest loose leaf tea available in the tea market. Our tea is sourced from origin: India, Sri Lanka, Germany, China, Japan and I get rooibos from South Africa.
Our extensive range of teapots, cups, infusers, strainers and canisters are made of a wide variety of different materials like glass, Pyrex, cast iron, porcelain, clay and stainless steel.
Stepping into a The Tea Merchant store, is like stepping into tea heaven. We don’t just sell tea; we sell the ultimate tea experience.
We definitely have plans to grow the brand. Everyone has tea in their homes already, now we just need that tea to be from The Tea Merchant.
My three most important business tips, which I would like to share with other aspiring female entrepreneurs are as follows:
Things take time and not all things happen when you think they will. So plan, plan, plan and have lots of patience. In your planning also manage your finances accordingly because it’s possible to go a year without profit. So plan what would happen to the business and your personal situation should the business not generate profit for months. How many months can the business run without generating a profit. These time frames need to accounted for in your plans.
All fine prints, contracts, market research papers to do with the industry you are in. I’m constantly on tea websites, reading tea articles and retail research papers. I make a conscious effort to know everything about tea and the retail business, not only in South Africa but worldwide. So know your market.
“Love what you do, do what you love” … There are no truer words that have been spoken than the above. Remember why you started because times will get tough and its your passion that will get you through.
Two years into the business and I have learnt so much. I learn something new every day. Customers are always sharing what they want and how they want it packaged. We are constantly trying to improve what we do, so there is always room for improvement and ways to do things differently, but the timing has to be right as well.
Word of mouth is by far our most effective marketing tool; hence we focus so much on in-store customer experience. We want our customers to walk out feeling like they just had the ultimate tea experience. We are active on social media as well.
I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by strong independent women who I draw inspiration from. My mum & sister are both business owners and I get a lot of support from them. I also have female friends who are thriving entrepreneurs and we draw so much from each other.
I think as entrepreneurs we are all affected by the same issues and its not necessarily gender specific. Funding remains the biggest issue because we can all do with additional funding in our businesses.
I have 5 retail stores across Gauteng namely; Clearwater Mall, Cresta Shopping centre, Dainfern Square, Fourways Mall and Woodlands Boulevard in Pretoria East.
Come into one of our stores for the ultimate tea experience!