If you think that tea has to come in tea bags, you’re missing out on a whole world of flavor and experience. Simple Loose Leaf is a tea subscription service that specializes in loose leaf tea, offering subscriptions that the customer is able to fully customize. According to the company, they believe in changing the way loose leaf tea subscriptions are sold and think that every tea lover should have the opportunity to create the perfect tea time experience for themselves and those they love. I recently had the opportunity to ask one of the founders, Andrew Flocks, more about the company.
What’s special about Simple Loose Leaf?
In a word: Choice. There is no other tea subscription service that offers the ability to customize a tea subscription. The other element that makes Simple Loose Leaf different, and perhaps special, is that we do not offer traditional retail services. We sell subscriptions. All non-subscription services, i.e. our Samples, are designed to drive customers to our subscriptions. We do not offer our teas for sales out side of the subscriptions and the samples. We are a subscription service above all else.
Where’d the idea come from?
About 2 years ago we, my brother and I, were looking at different websites to start. One of the concepts that was on the table was a specialty tea-ware website that would feature handmade designer tea pots, tea cups, saucers etc. But it got tabled due to difficulty finding reliable suppliers and the fact that we would enter a market, tea, that was filled with some real heavy hitters. i.e. Teavana and Adagio and David’s Tea, and countless smaller boutique websites that are amazing. So we decided that we could not bring any measurable value into the retail tea market.
Move forward to the start of 2013 and we came back to the idea of tea and added the idea of tea subscriptions. We decided to focus on the part of the tea market that we felt we could bring the most value. And that was the subscription side. From there we looked at what the tea subscription market had to offer and saw that nobody offered a custom tea subscription service.
How does it compare to it’s competition?
All other subscription services offer what is called a Tea of the Month Club. In this club you pay between $10 and $20 per month and the company sends you a tea or teas. Some companies offer great value with these clubs and others offer very sub par value. But none offer the ability to build your own subscription. We currently offer 126 different teas to choose from and offer subscriptions up to 6 months in length.
Who really needs it?
Who needs Simple Loose Leaf? Every tea drinker that loves to explore and expand their love of tea. With the huge selection we offer, you can go for over 10 years and not repeat a single tea.
Anyone already using it in any interesting ways?
Yes, we have a customer that has started a 12 month, a 2x 6 month, subscription for her mother-in-law. She is an avid tea drinker and wants to introduce her mother-in-law to new teas. So she is doing a “12 Months of Tea” for her mother-in-law’s birthday.
Where do you see it in five years?
I sat here for 15 minutes trying to figure out an answer to this question. And to be honest in five years we want to have an efficient company that is nimble and energetic. In the next 2 years? We want to have a steadily growing customer base that expands by 10% every month. In the coming year we want to be THE subscription website that everyone sends their fellow tea lovers to. We want to be known for customer service, second to none, and a selection of teas that will make the most stoic of tea connoisseur tear up.
Who’s behind it? (Tell us more about you.)
There are three siblings behind Simple Loose Leaf. I handle most of the day to day operations of Simple Loose Leaf. My name is Andrew Flocks, I attended the University of Arkansas where I received a degree in Economics/Finance. Simple Loose Leaf is my 4th e-commerce store. I also currently own a specialty sandblasting company that specializes in traveling to cemeteries and doing engraving on monuments. (I am not great it talking about myself. If you would like more info let me know.)
Can you describe a typical working day?
The typical day at Simple Loose Leaf can be broken into two different types of days. The days that are close to the end of the month and the days that are not close to the end of the month. The days that are not close to the end of the month are filled with marketing efforts and doing polishing work on the website (A/B Testing and Google Analytics) The days that are close to the end of the month are filled with order fulfillment, inventory management, labeling, mailing and a little bit of sleep in there somewhere.
What’s your background?
My background is Sales and Entrepreneurship. Out of college I started working for an HR outsourcing company doing business development and sales. I left that to take over the sandblasting business. During the end of college and starting at the HR company I tried my hand at online monument, tombstone, sales and then pivoted into pet memorials. (Note: Both of those businesses are not very much fun.)
What motivates you to keep going?
Every step I have taken up to this point has been easier. My very first website was rubbish. My next website, for pet memorials, was a diamond in the rough. But I started to get it. My next website, designed to sell high end men’s accessories, was a good website but a bad business. Simple Loose Leaf was an immense amount of work to set up, but it has come together how we originally envisioned it. That is the first time that has happened. Motivation? It is far easier to take the next step than it is to go back.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Maybe start Simple Loose Leaf sooner, but the process so far has been going good. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is awesome.
Please tell us a secret…
I do not like tea in the morning. I wake up with coffee and go to sleep with tea.
Anything else you think I should know or ask you about?
Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Seek criticism. The power of an entrepreneur is the power to convince, convince others you are doing something amazing. And more dangerously, to convince yourself that you are perfect. Find the people that do not love you and get them to tell you what you are doing wrong. Your friends, for the most part, are not good at criticizing you so you have to look else where. And if you don’t know where to find criticism, go to Reddit. Redditors will tell you precisely what they think. You have to take their thoughts, filter them, and then improve yourself.
I need a banana after that, I have some hand cramps.