The founder of an innovative tea brand says acknowledging the importance of cashflow has allowed her to build a sustainable, thriving business.

Photo of Tina Chen

Tina Chen, founder of social enterprise HumaniTea, believes her thoughtful, passionate approach will help her start-up continue to prosper.

HumaniTea, formerly myTEA is Mighty, produces and sells the UK’s first chilled ready-to-drink plant-based tea lattes. It hopes to enhance mindfulness and tackle obesity through its healthy, low-sugar drinks.

Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, Tina sold her products at Borough Market and Imperial College London, where she completed her MBA degree. She also sold her tea lattes online and through UberEats and Deliveroo, but travel restrictions have meant that she can no longer brew at Karma Kitchen – the people behind Karma Cans, who received a Start Up Loan from Virgin Start Up.

Unable to produce her products suddenly, Tina chose to use the lockdown as an opportunity to raise vital funds, refine the brand and packaging design, and plan for future production and distribution, with the cashflow of the organisation taking priority.

Tina said: “Cashflow has always been important to us. I am very careful with where we invest our money – which has both its pluses and minuses. Some founders possess the capital to spend on professional branding and contract manufacturing early on and begin selling to large retailers straight away, but I’ve decided to follow a steadier growth trajectory instead.

“I desired to properly plan and acquire a better understanding of our target market and customer base. Over the past 12 months, I have gathered feedback from people through sampling and selling at markets and pop-up events and have effectively validated my business idea and improved the recipes. I’m proud of our achievements so far.

“I recognise the value of money and its transient nature. Money is not an infinite resource, so making unsound business decisions can cause a company’s cash reserve to dry up very quickly.

“I believe passion is essential for running a successful business. Managing your own company with limited capital can be daunting and stressful at times. But if you love what you are accomplishing with your start-up, then you will overcome obstacles and tackle challenges with more ease. If you’re not waking up excited to work on your business, then you could explore other options that truly bring you joy.”

Photo of Tina Chen

In early April 2020, HumaniTea’s funds were boosted by over £12,000, after Tina won an additional £5,000 on the NatWest Back Her Business crowdfunding competition for ranking in the top five teams out of more than 300 others.

Tina incorporated the social enterprise in December 2018 after her MBA journey inspired her to set up a sustainable business with a social impact. Five months later, she participated in the Virgin StartUp StepUp programme – a jam-packed two-day course aimed at helping motivated founders scale up their new businesses.

“The StepUp programme is excellent! I gained so much knowledge on branding, sales, investment and pitching,” Tina said. “I received the unique opportunity to meet many wonderful entrepreneurs, and we still keep in touch and maintain an active WhatsApp group to this day.

“The programme, designed for early stage founders, is perfect for entrepreneurs who can only spare a few hours out of their busy lives.”

With a positive outlook, Tina looks forward to coming out of lockdown, getting back to brewing, and showing people how a quality cup of tea can truly benefit their lives.

She added: “Just a five-minute tea break can really help you find mindfulness! Taking regular breaks from the hustle and bustle of work is key to maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.”

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