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Running whilst running a business

As I progress on my business journey I find myself encountering more and more difficult challenges and higher and higher obstacles.

As a runner and a rower I find myself drawing strength and motivation from all the miles spent on the road or the river and visualizing the hard work, determination and team work that has always pulled me through.  Continue reading

Brains V’s Capital – What does it take to be an Entrepreneur?

During a recent interview I was asked ‘How have you funded yourself so far’ and part of my answer was:

“We both strongly believe that you can achieve a hell of a lot without having to spend a huge amount of money – it just takes a bit of creative thinking and patience.” 

I received an email recently from a gentleman who had read my answer and said:

‘I’d really like to expand on that idea. There is a recent movement in Germany amongst young entrepreneurs and new startup companies that was initially set into motion by Guenter Faltin’s book “Brains versus Capital” called concept-creative entrepreneurship. Continue reading

Smarta

Disruptive business awards

The award ceremony for the Smarta 100 – to celebrate the 100 most disruptive, innovative and remarkable new businesses in the UK, was a brilliant night out.

As well as being named one of the Smarta 100, Bluebird was also nominated for an award on the night – Micro Business of the Year, which celebrates big things in business achieved by small teams like ours. Continue reading

Video

Apples or (Extra Value) Pears?

Seen the cringey homemade video we made to enter Confessions of a Start Up?

Bluebird's video

One of the diary entries tells the story of us searching for the location of our flagship store.

Which got me thinking about the place the high street will play in our lives going forward and the nature of retail businesses because of it.  Continue reading

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It’s not just the clocks that have changed at The Nest this past month, there seems to be change everywhere.

Royal Mail Postage Increase
The Royal Mail postage change (which is outrageous and probably going to sink many small online businesses) has forced us to change our packaging. We are making massive changes preparing for opening our first shop. We’re putting some of our loose leaf teas into silk bags for the first time(!) We did our first training session with a gorgeous place in Melbourne that started serving our teas last week. We are moving home and office soon also.

It is all change.

One thing that can always be relied upon to stay constant however, are the dinner table debates that go on in our household every time we get together. Easter was no exception.  Continue reading

Dragon Incubation

Apologies must be made for the lateness of this post. It has been MANIC! But that is no excuse for my poor attendance record and I hope you can all find it in your heart to forgive my blogging laziness.

But wait until you hear what we have been up to.

Actually we haven’t been up to much so far in 2013. Not in terms of getting in front of people and making tasty teas for lots of lovely Teabirds, which has made me a bit sad.

Not the Camden Market, Bartons, BeestonWe have only been ticking over with our regular markets and the online stuff – which is starting to see a boost from all the people who found some Bluebird tea in their Christmas stocking and are coming back for more, which makes me happy.

We have a new newsletter called ‘The Bluebird Daily’ which you can take a peak at here if you so wish, and subscribe to it too if you so wish… if you’re a customer you have probably already had it but it seems to be going to some peoples junk boxes! Pesky technology!

Anyway, what else have we been doing? Well we have been ‘incubating’ (please excuse the ridiculous terminology here) and it has been an insightful but stressful time indeed.

Penguin incubationFor anyone who doesn’t know about incubating it’s just posh business jargon for taking a time out. Usually in a glamorous boardroom with industry experts and mentors to figure out what you are trying to achieve and how to achieve it going forward.

I guess it’s like an intensive health check for your business and you are supposed to come out with a full fitness plan for the next year or however long.

There are loads of companies that offer this service at a quite hefty price tag but we did it classic Bluebird style and rented a room in a rundown office block in a rundown area and locked ourselves in with nothing but a kettle, a small electric heater and huge floor to ceiling whiteboards on each wall.

It hasn’t been quite idyllic, partly because of the barbwire and double metal shutters, partly because there is a local street fighting club who train in the car park outside our window so every day at 12pm we are serenaded by shouts and grunts to the effect of: ‘Your not done yet lad, get yourself off the floor and pump that iron’, or my favourite is ‘pain is only temporary, quitting lasts a lifetime’.

We have been into the very depths of our souls searching for answers to questions that we weren’t expecting to have to answer so soon and it has been a little overwhelming at times.

Why?We have been trying to further define the ‘why’ behind our ‘what’ and make sure that it speaks clearly to our customers. We have been trying to drill down into the assumptions we base our decisions upon and how reliable the evidence is that we use to support those assumptions and decisions. We have been trying to analyse and predict trends and customer behaviour as well as their wants and needs.

I warned you about the head hurt.

After all we started off just giving people good tea to try and spread some happiness.

It sort of feels like we started off pushing a steam train along a track with our own bare hands and that it has recently started running away full steam while we chase along behind trying to jump on board!

The really exciting thing to share with you is our experience with Dragon’s Den Nottingham. Now before you get carried away we didn’t meet Theo and we didn’t get onto the TV! But we did enter the local Nottingham version and we did get shortlisted.

So two weeks ago we went along to a very posh boardroom and pitched to 6 Nottingham business dragons. We prepared our Strawberry Lemonade iced tea which went down a storm and within 5 minutes the planned pitch had gone out of the window as we frantically tried to answer questions being fired from all over the room!
Iced Tea | Bluebird Tea Co.

We walked out with 3 offers of mentoring and an offer for investment as well as being told we stood a good chance of winning the prize grant money.

It was an excellent experience, if a little daunting and the enthusiasm we received has only fuelled our passion and determination further.

Dragons Den

In the end we did win a lovely novelty cheque (and a smaller real one!) and went back to visit The Nottingham who hosted and sponsored the event to serve up teas to their lovely staff.

We are now planning what to do with our grant monies but on the list is an application to The Great Taste Awards to try and get our amazing teas some much deserved awards too, a replacement for good old Edward (our midi van) who is falling apart at the seams, a bit of professional tweaking to the website and some product promotional photography to use on the website and to try and get us  some press attention.

New Blend Tasting

All in all it has been a good 2013 so far, but it is flying by super-fast! Spring is already on its way .. yippee.. which reminds me we have already developed over 20 new teas set to be launched at various times this year. There are some absolute beauTEAs (!) that I can’t wait to get on sale for you Teabirds.. the Spring Collection will be on sale towards the end of March but a sneak peak just for you is below:

Spring Collection Loose Leaf Tea

Love + Tea

ThatBluebirdGirl

xXx

www.bluebirdteaco.com

Guest Blog from ThatBluebirdBoy

Hello!

MikeSelling I should probably introduce myself…. I’m the other half of Bluebird Tea Co..  I guess you could say I’m ThatBluebirdBoy.

I’ve been pestering ThatBluebirdGirl to update her blog for the last couple of days and finally she snapped and suggested I do it (those weren’t her exact words!).  So for this edition you guys are lucky enough to get a guest blogger!

As I don’t usually write the blog and with Bluebird I often focus on the less interesting bits, I struggled to think about what to write.  I had a suspicion people wouldn’t be interested in reading the reasons why we are considering changing the legal structure of our company or which free accounting program seems the best for us.

So I thought I would just write about what we are, and how we got here.  We touch upon this on our website, but not very deeply.  We explain what our philosophies are, but not so much why they are and I think that it’s important to understand why people think the way they do in order to really understand what they think. You would never guess I studied philosophy!the-bluebird-way

Hopefully by explaining why we say that Bluebird’s world is responsible, our people are fulfilled, our customers are exceptional and our tea is happy you will see that this isn’t just the normal marketing spin.  So many companies say this now that we have become desensitized to it.  But to us it’s more than a marketing gimmick.  It’s how we try to live and it’s how we want our company to thrive.

As kids, everyone wants to change the world.  Over time we saw and understood the different ways we could make a difference.  We could work for a charity, as teachers, we could become politicians.Little Boy Thinking With Glasses

As we worked in various different unsatisfying jobs we realised the capacity companies have to change the world.  We realised that they don’t have to play politics or beg for money.  They have the power to change the world a little bit straight away.  Just by helping to make sure team members are happy and fulfilled they can immediately improve lives.  By improving one person’s life you improve the lives of everyone around them.  Happiness spreads, and a person’s place of work has a huge impact on how happy they are.

We started to realise that businesses aren’t these evil profit machines, they are communities of individuals.  These communities have an amazing power to do good.  It’s just a case of giving them direction.

They can do good in themselves too, by creating new things or helping people enjoy their lives more.  As neither of us are clever enough to invent a cure for cancer, and both of us are customer service obsessed we decided we wanted to give people happy experiences.  We wanted to give people bluebird days!

canary_wharf_at_night_london

I have always been passionate about the environment, I drive my family mad by following them around turning things off.  But it seems pointless when every computer and every light is left on in so many offices around the world every night.  And that’s before you even start thinking about all the other places for savings.
So we knew what we wanted to do, just not how to do it.  We knew that we needed a vehicle through which to make people happy (customers and team members) and to generally improve the world.  In lots of ways the vehicle itself was the least important thing. By a company taking small decisions to think about these impacts, they can have a far bigger effect than any individuals could on themselves.  Just think how much of a difference all those lights turning off would be!

Tea MixologyHopefully if you are reading this, you know that we developed an idea of ‘tea mixology’, we decided to take a staple product and have fun with it.  Take it from something comforting and make it something fun in itself.  Make people happy with it!

So we get to what we are creating now, a company where everything is focussed on making sure our customers are happy.  We don’t have a team yet, but if we are lucky enough to grow we want them to be happy.   We care about the world and we think about it when we make decisions.

30761_516525955043226_321977047_nWe know that when you buy one of our iced teas (if you have been lucky enough to track us down in person!), your cup won’t end up in a bush forever or filling a landfill because they are all biodegradable.   At the moment that might not be saving a huge amount when compared to some of the big players, but over time it will make a massive difference.

How much of a difference would it make if Starbucks took the same decision?

People are surprised when we say that we run a business.  In a lot of ways we’re the opposite of what you expect.  We didn’t make our first millions in the school playground.  People even call us hippies because we love to go to new places, and meet new people.  Every year we work at Glastonbury as members of CND with all the other hippies!

I thought I should include a pic of my Bluebird day!

My Bluebird day!

Not quite the image of ‘business people’ you sometimes get from the newspapers, but actually the more ‘business people’ we meet the less I think we’re unusual!  Hopefully it’s something that will work and let us leave the world a little better than we found it.  Isn’t that everyone’s real goal?