Good morning, sippers! If you haven't heard, this week marks the two year anniversary of Susan owning Good Life Tea! Go Susan! We are all so proud of all that she has done for this business and so incredibly happy that she has kept our favorite teas and tea ware available for sipping! To celebrate, we have been releasing a "2 themed" deal for you all each day this week, and today we will be interviewing Susan on her experiences with owning the business and what her plans are for the future of Good Life Tea. Read it all below!
1. For our newer sippers (Welcome to the Good Life 😉☕💚), how did you come to be with Good Life Tea to start with? Tell us about your journey with the business and how you have come to own it now.
"Nine years ago, I stumbled into GLT on a snowy day after grabbing a sample of Hot Cinnamon Spice from the airpot outside the door of the store. Are you familiar with tasting something and being immediately reminded of a place or moment in time? Well, that taste brought up memories of my years in Minneapolis when,on a daily basis, I brought a cup of Hot Cinnamon Spice to my art gallery. With snow in my hair, I walked into GLT, introduced myself to Rob OBrien and told him of the connection between the tea and my recollections of Minnesota. Rob and I had a great conversation and during that visit he offered me a job at his new business, Good Life Tea."
2. What motivated you most to become a business owner, and of Good Life Tea specifically?
"Previously, I had my own wholesale art business, and later ran a wine tasting room. In both those roles, I learned to sell something that was subjective in nature. Tea is very much the same. Listening to what a customer likes and applying that to what is in stock is key to being successful. I love finding just the right tea for a customer and having them return over and over because they enjoy it or would like something similar to it."
3. Looking back, what have been some of the most challenging moments you've faced in your first two years of business ownership, and how did you overcome them?
"Rob and I had very different ideas of how to run the business. I’m more analytical and systematic. Because I had worked here for so long, I knew the challenges and had given thought to solutions. For example, in the past two years, I have pursued finding the “sweet spot” for the variety of teas and tea ware in our inventory. I also have been challenged by the demands of Social Media and creating and maintaining a website. Thankfully, the very talented Katie “Kaytea” Panara has developed a blog series that has been educational as well as amusing to our clients. Arising Media has created two websites in these 2 short years. Because of this, our client base has extended around the world. I don’t know if that was even imagined when the shop was opened almost 10 years ago."
4. What have been some of your biggest accomplishments and proudest moments as a business owner thus far?
"There have been small special moments that stand out. One was when a quiet young man said to me upon checking out, “You know the best conversations occur when a person drinks tea.” Another was when a very pregnant woman dropped in to purchase Raspberry Leaves in order to make a tea that would soften her cervix in preparation for childbirth. Not long after she returned with a beautiful tiny daughter."
5. What have been some of the most surprising aspects of owning a tea business that you did not anticipate before starting out?
"COVID created unanticipated problems that required quick solutions. We fulfilled orders and placed them outside our front door for pickup without personal interaction. We laid out the store so there was lots of space in a very small area. We avoided catching COVID somehow. Now that was an accomplishment!"
6. What role has customer feedback played in shaping your business strategy, and how do you ensure that you meet the needs and preferences of your customers?
"We watch our sales numbers and evaluate what is selling and what is not. Just this week we added 5 carefully selected teas to our inventory. We listen to our customers and respond. The inclusion of Matcha and Mate in our lineup was directly due to customer input."
7. What is your philosophy on entrepreneurship and running a successful business, and how do you apply it to your tea business? Has this philosophy changed or evolved in the past two years?
"Flexibility is key to success in a small business. I am constantly defining and redefining needs and roles for activities at GLT."
8. What are some of the current most popular tea varieties and blends that your customers love, and why do you think they are so popular?
"Not surprisingly, Hot Cinnamon Spice remains the top seller at GLT for “a very good reason” as I say. Cream of Earl Grey has developed as a favorite too, perhaps because it is a twist on a classic. This black tea has bergamot (a citrus) and just the right amount of Madagascar Vanilla."
9. Do you have a favorite tea or teas? Has this changed over the years, specifically in the past two years as the owner?
"My answer to this often asked question is that I have a favorite in every category (black, white, green, rooibos etc) and that favorite changes fairly often. I don’t want to sway a person as they discover what they like."
10. How do you maintain the quality and consistency of your tea blends, and what steps do you take to ensure that they meet your high standards?
"In the ten years GLT has existed, we have developed close relationships with less than a half dozen vendors. All have specialties and are entirely reputable. With the international political climate being so turbulent, I am concerned about the continued availability of certain teas. This week, for example, I’m wondering how much longer we will be able to get Hibiscus from Sudan."
11. How do you balance the demands of running a business with your personal life and well-being, and what strategies do you use to avoid burnout? Have you faced any challenges in doing so?
"Well, if I’m entirely honest, I never thought I would be consistently working 6 days a week and, yes, that has led to a certain amount of burnout. Loving what I do is the answer to that conundrum. Then again, I really miss my granddaughters, children and old friends."
12. What advice would you give to aspiring business owners or to those who are starting their own business?
"Find something you love to do, find good people to work with, celebrate the victories and don’t dwell on the disappointments."
13. What have been some of the most valuable lessons you've learned from your nine years of experience working in the tea industry, and how have they informed your approach to business ownership?
"Approach each day with curiosity and an opportunity to learn something new."
14. What is your vision for the future of Good Life Tea?
"There are lots of people who encourage me to take GLT to “the next level”. I’m not sure I want to. I want to maintain good relationships with loyal customers while growing the business but not growing it too big to lose sight of the personal touch."
15. Lastly, what message would you like to share with your customers and the Canandaigua community on the occasion of your second anniversary as a business owner?
"To local customers I would like to say that I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve this community, the place where I spent summers in my childhood on the lake and later studied at William Smith College. To visitors to the shop and to those who we have connected with online, thank you to you as well. Each of you provide a dynamic to this little venture. My notes to each of you close with the words “Sip on!” which is my toast to you. May we all continue to acknowledge each other, celebrate each other's accomplishments, and wish each other well!"
Kaytea: "Wow, Susan, thank you. Thank you so much for all that you have done and continue to do for us all. I truly cannot believe that it has been two years already. I am so fortunate to get to work alongside you each day and watch as you make this business the success that it is. I can’t wait to continue with you and see what else you have in store for us. Let’s keep living the Good Life and “sipping on”, as you would say! To our sippers, please join me in congratulating Susan on her two year anniversary of owning the business! Toast your teas to Susan this week!"
P.S. For today's deal of the day, we are offering 20% off of Susan's all time favorite tea, her Autumn Sunset! Susan has this in her refrigerator year round in her Mist pitcher and it has long been a favorite of hers! It is a beautiful blend of apple pieces, raspberry leaves, lemon balm, rose hips, peppermint leaves, hibiscus, natural passionfruit flavor, cranberries, safflower, and blue cornflowers. The fruity notes that you taste initially are perfectly complemented with the cool, minty, and refreshing follow up that is provided by the peppermint leaves. There will be no better time to give this a try than now!