What every business can learn from David’s Tea

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They may not have replaced Starbucks yet, but those teal David’s Tea cups are dotting communities across North America. Call it a true Tea Party, where the main winner is a humble Montreal company that has grown to become a Canadian success story. A story that every firm can learn from, no matter their vertical.

David’s Tea specializes in offering more than 150 varieties of tea, available as both an in-store/takeout cup or loose leaf packages. Hundreds of locations have appeared across the U.S. and Canada, and in 2013 David’s Tea won a prized endorsement: Oprah Winfrey declared her love for the company’s Red Velvet Cake tea earlier in the year.

The company’s tea isn’t available wholesale, only via their stylish stores. Customers can also buy tea accessories to make their product at home, thus encouraging them to make repeat visits to bring home a selection of teas year-round.

So what can you learn from this seven-year-old company? Below are some of the most valuable lessons David’s Tea has taught us in its short lifespan so far:

Find a market niche…that’s huge

More than 10 million cups of tea are consumed by Canadians each year – roughly 300 per person – according to Statistics Canada. And that number is expected to rise. Tea is one of those beverages that people associated with relaxation, as opposed to coffee and energy-boosting caffeine. David’s Tea essentially became the Starbucks of tea, specializing in unique varieties that were far from  your grandma’s tea. The company could tailor a tea to your mood: if you want something a bit more coffee-like, try Jungle Ju-Ju which has the most caffeine out of all its teas. Jonesing for something sweet without having to add honey? David’s Tea staffers would likely recommend the popular chocolate mint herbal tea.

Canada, with its British legacy and influx of immigrants from tea-favouring regions, is a ripe country to start an empire of specialty tea. David’s Tea knew that if they conquered Canada, the U.S. would likely follow. And the American invasion has just begun.

What’s your brand personality?

Every firm needs a distinct voice. Red Bull is thrill-seeking athletic. Apple is cool and hip. David’s Tea established its brand personality from the first year, creating stylish stories with bright pops of colour and youthful staff knowledgeable about the product. The stores are airy, open and welcoming. Customers can enjoy their tea at tables, or sit on patios at select stories during summer months. Every time I went to a David’s Tea store, I was offered free samples of a featured tea, without being pushed to purchase it. David’s Tea tells us to relax, have a cup, no need to hurry you out the door.

Also, on social media, David’s Tea seems to respond to almost every criticism or question via its Twitter account, answering queries within 20 minutes at times. That kind of customer service gets noticed.

Creating such an endearing vibe is no easy feat, but David’s Tea makes it look effortless. Savvy brands can learn from David’s Tea on how to train staff to be friendly and knowledgeable without being saccharine, coordinating brand identity across every location, and hiring around-the-clock social media teams to never miss a tweet.

Don’t compete outside your specialty

David’s Tea knows one beverage and knows it extremely well. You won’t see hot chocolate or coffee or Ovaltine or soda at their stores, unlike other well-known cafes. It must have been a conscious decision to ignore other products popular with young professionals, even if adding more bevvies could increase the bottom line. David’s has established itself as a source you can trust. The focus is solely on tea and customers appreciate how the store is designed to keep away any other clutter. I always admire a company who doesn’t have to play me-too when they see competitors reach into other niches.

Expand your internal team

Finally, any firm of any size can learn from how David’s Tea grew its managerial team. While it started as a small group of entrepreneurs, David’s Tea has now brought in a private equity group out of Boston, a board of directors,  a professional management team. It was a key decision for the company, according to David Segal, c0-founder of the firm: “Over time, every entrepreneur has a decision to make whether they have a small company where they control everything or a very large company with a lot of very talented people around the table. We chose the latter and I think that David’s Tea is going to be a very successful company because of it.”

What else did you learn about David’s Tea? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @b2bnewsnetwork

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.
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