Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the best learning experiences are not usually found in classrooms. Experience is by far a better teacher than any textbook, but books and classrooms can make us better prepared to make the most of our experience. Among the best learning experiences that I have had in my adult life are the conversations that I have enjoyed with other business people and professionals. Indeed, I have not yet experienced a discussion with an enthusiastic entrepreneur that did not teach me something useful and that I could apply to my own businesses.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I very much enjoy Tavalon Tea. One of the perks of writing this column is that I can be very bold in approaching business owners in the hope that they might actually want to talk to me. When I can approach a business that I make a part of my daily routine, the perk is even more exciting so it was a great pleasure to be able to spend some time chatting with John-Paul Lee, Tavalon’s founder.
John-Paul explained his vision for Tavalon with a passion that is quite inspiring. As he told me: “Tavalon is focused on revitalizing the image of tea in the domestic market and catering it to the newer generations, younger generations, & the young-at-heart. We are attempting to make tea more accessible to the mass public and create a quality brand within the world of tea. I left my job as a management consultant in 2005 to pursue my dreams as an entrepreneur. I entertained the idea of working with venture capitalists to raise capital but then came across a seasoned entrepreneur who told me that ‘the closest a man ever gets to experiencing motherhood is when he starts his own company.’ I truly subscribe to this theory and I wasn’t about to give up my baby for adoption so I sold my car, my house, pulled out 7 credit cards, liquidated my stock options and 401K to bring Tavalon Tea to life.”
Clearly, John-Paul was inspired to create something special and he was willing to make significant sacrifices to do so. As a customer, I can attest that I think those sacrifices have paid off! Now that John-Paul has transformed from entrepreneur to successful entrepreneur, I am sure that we can all learn from his experience. What follows is the rest of my interview with him.
[DGM] What is the greatest hurdle that you had to clear in starting a tea business and how did you clear it?
[JPL] The lack of capital. We started with a shoe string budget for what we were looking to accomplish. Creativity, hard work, and persistence helped us overcome the hardships.
[DGM] What is the most important characteristic in an entrepreneur?
[JPL] Vision and the determination/persistence to execute the vision.
[DGM] As a successful entrepreneur, what are the signs that you look for early in a venture that help you to identify the good ideas from the bad?
[JPL] The most important thing in identifying a good business is to know the people behind it. I would much rather invest in a poor idea with a strong management team than a great idea with poor management.
[DGM] What is the importance of social media in your marketing plan?
[JPL] Very important and we place a heavy emphasis on social media. You have to move with the times and social media is an effective and efficient way to market businesses.
[DGM] What is the best advice you have ever received?
[JPL] Walk away when work feels like work.
[DGM] What is the best advice that you can give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
[JPL] Make sure you budget for the worst, plan to execute, aim for success.
[DGM] So basically, work hard, build a good team, be prepared for the worst, expect the best and have fun while you are doing it?
[JPL] Absolutely! You only live once, might as well be happy doing whatever it is that you are doing.
Do you have a vision for something great? Are you ready to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve your business goals? What are your goals? And while you are thinking about your next professional objective, visit Tavalon Tea and explore a better quality tea leaf than you will find in any grocery store I know. And for the month of April, if you use coupon code SavingAdvice.com at Tavalon Tea you will enjoy 20% off of your order! Thank you, John-Paul!