This month we are back + getting social with Tea Zaanti, one of our fabulous sponsors from our SLC workshop. Brian, the owner + founder of Tea Zaanti, supplied our Socialites with amazing, organic tea in their goodie bags and we are so thrilled to share more about his wonderful business and his connection to the SLC community.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about how Tea Zaanti and how the company came to be?
It all started with a trip to Thailand. A good friend of mine has mulberry farms there and makes a mulberry leaf tea. I offered to help her import the tea to the US and once I got home I started my research. As luck would have it, I came across the World Tea Expo, which is this huge gathering of people in the industry, from growers to importers, to tea drinkers - and everything in between. They offered an intensive tea boot camp, like a crash course in all things tea. I signed up for the camp, and it was amazing; during the course of it, I met the most amazing people and really fell in love with the whole industry. And here we are, eight years later.
2. “Zaanti” means “peace”, can you tell us about why you chose that name and how it influences your business?
It was really pure inspiration. During the trip, my friend had gifted me with a copy of “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortensen, and it really resonated with me - his passion for helping others, particularly improving education in impoverished areas. I literally woke up from a sound sleep one morning at 2:00 am with the name Tea Zaanti. My Thai friend said ‘zaanti’ loosely translates to peace, with a touch of serenity. I felt tea could be a path to help others, whether it be the farmers making a better wage and living, or the end user benefitting from tea’s health benefits and mindfulness. I started with that goal and have carried it forward to my new tea house, which I describe as “a restful retreat serving tasteful tea and the community.”
3. What is your favorite part of being a part of the SLC small business community?
I really like the sense of “togetherness”. It’s tough being a small retail business these days - especially in light of the proliferation of online mega-retailers - but organizations like Local First Utah have really helped raise awareness, and I’ve heard from many customers how they really try to buy from and support local businesses.
I also really enjoy being a part of the community as a whole. We sponsor several local artists, who display their work throughout our shop. We also sponsor backyard concerts of local musical talent, and they’ve been well-received by our customers and the neighborhood.
4. You sponsored our SLC workshop + gifted our Socialites some delicious tea blends. Where are you currently sourcing your products from?
I source my teas from many places. When at all possible, I prefer to know and deal as directly as possible with the growers/tea gardens. I’ve attended the annual World Tea Expo for the past nine years, and it’s given me the opportunity to make many of these and other connections. Ideally, one day, I will have the opportunity to personally visit every one of these estates.
5. How has social media had an influence on your business?
This isn’t going to be what you want to hear, but I personally don’t like or use social media. For a business, though, it’s essential. We started years ago with Facebook and Twitter, and added Instagram recently (Pinterest coming, too). It’s been a challenge to come up with ideas for posts, but I’m always pleasantly surprised to hear someone call or come into the shop and say, “I want that tea you put on Instagram yesterday. It looked amazing!” So, to answer your question, it does add another layer of responsibility and challenge, but it definitely pays off in increased visibility and customer interactions (and sales, of course).
6. What is your favorite way to connect with your audience through social media? Are there any platforms you love more than others for your business?
We seem to use Facebook the most often to connect with our audience, but if I had to pick one platform, it would be Instagram. I really like the visual aspect of it.
7. Is there anything that surprised along the way you as you grew your business that you weren’t expecting?
I think the biggest surprise has been how quickly everything is changing. When I first started the business it was online, and things were pretty complex and time-consuming, requiring designers and coders, etc., but once it was set up, there weren’t a lot of changes needed, other than adding new products and updating prices. Today, it’s fairly simple for most anyone to quickly put up a good, functioning website, but now it’s about SEO and keywords, and search rankings, and the list goes on - all of which are constantly changing. With more competition and the ever-growing presence of Amazon, the biggest challenge is reaching people and keeping them interested in (and loyal to) the brand.
8. If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before launching your business, what would it be?
Do more market research in order to better know your target customer.
9. Any exciting plans coming up for Tea Zaanti that you can share with us?
We’ll be celebrating our two-year anniversary at the tea shop in the next couple weeks, so that’s pretty exciting! There are a few other big things in the works, but I’m not at liberty to say more at this time. Of course, we’ll always be changing our tea menu to keep things fresh and interesting - so like us, follow us, friend us, whatever, and keep up to date on our latest news.
Connect with Tea Zaanti