Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tea Business Spotlight 5 - Dandelion Communitea Cafe

Dandelion Communitea Cafe
Orlando, Florida

Welcome to the fifth of our Tea Business Spotlights, in which we allow tea people to share insights on running their business. If you're a tea business owner and you'd like to take part in an upcoming spotlight, please contact us.

How long have you been in business?
Five years next month

What is the size/scope of your business?
1000 sq ft operation in a renovated bungalow house with front and back patio dining areas. We have one location and think small is beautiful. We have an extensive organic, vegetarian and gluten free food menu which we are well known for.

Why tea?
Co-proprietor Julie Norris has been having tea parties since she was a young girl. Her mom had a large collection of teapots and she's never been a fan of coffee. She also loves the healing properties of herbs and half our extensive tea menu is
actual herbal tisanes.

How did you get the ball rolling on your venture?
We started at the farmers market and had a loyal fan base from our blogging adventures during the construction phase that has grown into a real community of folks. Dandelion is a very special place, filled with all kinds of enchantment and a really diverse cross section of people. Our focus has always been on fostering connections with and between all kinds of people in our community

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your business?
Our energy, We have a very positive, healthy, holistic approach that comes through with out food, tea and atmosphere.

What were/are the biggest challenges of getting into/being in the tea business?
The construction phase was pretty challenging but trying to wear too many hats is a recipe for disaster. Find a good partner or two that compliments your skills and can maintain their cool when the going gets tough so that you can share the workload, encourage one another when things get scary, and brainstorm together about how best to approach things. The business does not slow down for life events like new babies and broken legs, so it's important to be able to shift the weight of responsibility around so that important relationships and life events can be given their proper care.

What would you do differently, if anything?
Hired a local consultant for the construction phase and an attorney to negotiate rent.

How's business?
Booming. It was very scary when the economy went down two years ago right at the same time that co-owner and then ops manager had a baby. Chris Blanc, the other owner stepped in as ops manager a year after Julie gave birth and the business has seen tremendous growth since then. Being able to focus fully on the business, especially someone who has fresh eyes and ideas with an ownership mentality, combined with a much better economy will do wonders for any business. We were just kind of limping along with Julie dividing her attention between the cafe and the requirements of being a single first-time mom. Groupon brought in a lot of new customers and old ones who hadn't been in in awhile and we introduced $5 Giddy-Up Mondays (our best selling menu item) as a value option and our worst day of the week turned into our busiest overnight. Facebook has also proved to be one of the most effective marketing tools of all social media applications.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be in the tea business?
Talk to other coffee house, tea house, cafe owners in your area. Most of them will probably offer really helpful advice as they don't want anyone to make the same mistakes they did. Make friends & know that the spirit of cooperation and NOT competition is what it takes when you are a small business owner. Most business books are geared towards large-scale, dominate and control type of business. Mom and pops are small scale and must by their very nature be woven into the fabric of community where cooperation and pride in your product are the norm.

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