Monday, June 10, 2013

World Tea Expo: New Business Boot Camp

The spouse and I drove up to Las Vegas Tuesday after she got off work. We got there late, and crashed at a friend's house. There was a strict 'no photos or recordings' policy, which is why I have none to go with the post. The boot camp started bright and early, with a check-in at 7 AM.

 We did get a light breakfast, including some good tea from one of the sponsors. There was the inevitable welcome lecture. They had everyone in the boot camp stand up and say a little about themselves and why they were there. This did let us find some other people from the San Diego area to network with.

The first session was titled Tea 101 - The basics of Tea Business. This was a useful class, discussing financing options, pros and cons of specialization vs. diversification, to compete or not against other businesses, and top five mistakes and five keys to success.

The next session was Basic Legal for Tea Room Owners. Another useful class, touching on financing, taxes, contracts, partnership agreements, government filings, permits, licenses, and insurance. Way too much to go into great detail in class, but included a thick workbook to go through at home.

The third session was titled Marketing and Capturing Customers. This was less on actually marketing, and more on how to establish and use a searchable database of customers, and market to those. As part of the exercise, we were broken into groups, and had to design a direct mail post card to sell the product they gave us. Our group was given an apricot, and we came up with a postcard selling an apricot honey iced tea. The spouse did most of the drawing, and another woman in the group most of the writing, while everyone contributed ideas. We were one of three winning teams, and everyone on the team got a cold tea travel bottle from the instructor, later on the exhibit floor.

At this point we the fed us a very nice lunch. We got to chat with other attendees, and it was very informative. It's nice to be in a group of strangers with a passion in common. It makes starting a conversation a lot easier.

The first session after lunch was probably the most directly practical. It was titled Accepting Credit/Debit Cards. It went over all the hidden ways that banks and credit card companies turn a low nominal rate into a high actual rate. It then went over Square, which allows you to use an iPhone or android for point of sale, and charges a relatively low per swipe fee with no other fees or charges.

The second session after lunch was What do I Charge? This was one we were looking forward to. It didn't answer the question directly. The session covered how to do a break even analysis. Figuring out what how to break even was the first step. once you can do that, you can look at profits. If you can't even break even, profits are a moot point.

The third session was Intro to the World Tasting Tour. Jane Pettigrew gave us a quick and dirty intro to tea. Explaining what exactly the various types were. Teas are divided into categories by style of manufacture. The categories are white, yellow, green, oolong, black, dark (puerh), and flavored. This was a fascinating lecture, and Ms. Pettigrew is an engaging and lively speaker. I'd never really understood the differences before.

The final session was the Business Plan Round table. This was one that I had high hopes for, but was the least inspirational session of the day. I'd really hoped for a practical approach, maybe show some good examples. I figured a round table meant a number of experts all commenting. No, in this case it meant one guy taking questions, with no presentation or handout. He didn't keep on topic, was all over the place, and was out of date on information. This was made clear when it became obvious that not only did he not know what crowd sourcing was, but that he didn't know he didn't know what crowd sourcing was.

Still, only one disappointing session out of the day isn't bad. We then had a reception, with some good heavy duty noshes, and a chance to chat with more people getting into the business. Not only were there people from all over the US, but we spoke to people from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Israel, Lebanon, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

We checked into a hotel and got a good night's sleep to prepare for the tasting tour on Thursday.

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