Firstly, apologies Teabirds…
I intended to start this up quite a few months back, in the spring when we were still in Canada, but I seem to have found myself in Autumn already and only just getting around to it! Although it has been manically busy and it’s a shame to have not been able to write this in real time alongside our crazy summer adventures, I shouldn’t complain as it has been because of the huge success of Bluebird. It has exploded into our lives in a way we hadn’t truly appreciated until we started that ball rolling. It is still rolling, well hurtling out of control down a very steep hill while we cling on for dear life might be a more appropriate description, but let’s not argue over the small details.
So if it’s alright with you Teabirds, I will start where we find ourselves now on this beautiful autumn day and tell you all about our exciting Christmas plans (sorry to use the C word mum!) and then over the next few blog entries I will back track and tell you about our summer as we have been on quite an interesting journey and I’m sure you will be greatly entertained by it too.
Before we start, my english teacher always drilled into us the importance of laying out the key points in the introduction to excite and interest before expanding later, so I might just bullet point some of the points to follow in the later blogs. English teachers are always right after all. Although, she also used to scrall in red pen ‘stop waffling, get to the point.’ Hmmm. Also my grammar and spelling is awful (are awful?!), so perhaps I haven’t learnt as much as I thought.
At least if I set out now what is to follow you have something to hold me to and I won’t be able to get distracted by a cheese flavoured tea blend, meetings with various London hobnobs, erecting marquees or stamping endless supplies of brown paper bags.
To look forward to then:
– The beginning – Canada, the Bluebird idea, moving in with the parents, working together while sleeping together, setting up, designing, tea creating, website building, our first show!
– Market stalling – the highs and the lows! High’s – winning a pitch in the Carfest ‘Best of British’ Pavillion to hold the top 100 small food and drinks producers in the UK. The Low’s – losing money sitting in a wet, empty marquee having to listen to X factor ‘celebrities’ perform to an equally empty and wet field.
– Popping Up- Our experience during our two week stint in Richmond, taking Bluebird to the high street through the StartUp Britain campaign. Including the interesting tale of Edward (our unique and much loved van) and his incident with a parked car.
– The big one – Stratford Food Festival, that we worked up to all summer and the first time we trialled our ‘tea bar’ alongside selling our packets of tea. All our family and friends volunteering to help us test the model for market research to add to the master business plan!
I guess it will end up as a bit of a chronicle of how we decided to build a business and literally how we went about doing it. I’m hoping it will become an inspiring testament to the attitude that hard work and passion, dedication and sheer determination can get you anywhere you want to be.
But first, let’s talk about now. October, which (that!?) was supposed to be ‘blocked out’ in the diary for nothing but revising the business plan and making plans for a shop in the new year. However, we have found it difficult to turn down any opportunities we are offered which means our diaries are always double booked. Recently some success seems to be starting to form out of the chaos.
So here I am sat on a bench outside a marquee with wafts of pork pies, olives and cheese, at the Beckett’s Farm Autumn Food Fair, with my ever trusty brick of a laptop (complete with loose wiring hanging out) trying to make a start on this blog. I often wonder what we would do if anyone decided to steal this brick that contains the whole of Bluebird, but we are blessed that, like our van, it is so old and worthless that nobody would want to nick it!
It’s not that I had forgotten about the blog. I do occasionally forget things… like today, I forgot the Bluebird banner, and last week I forgot the flyers. Forgetfulness you may call it, but I’m sure it’s because so much is going into my head on an hourly basis that some things are bound to fall out: ‘Bonfire Toffee out of stock, Ring Susan back about the tea boxes, Reply to Tess about the Tea cocktail evening, Remind Mike to book into the Bakewell Christmas fair, Design some new flyers, Send the Christmas postcards to the printers, Add an ‘I brought this’ Facebook widget to the website.’ Arrrrgh.
This is why we write to do lists. Everywhere. On the white board, in our diaries, on little pieces of paper that go into wallets and the cash box, on sticky notes that go onto the van dashboard. This blog has been on many to do lists for many months. I have been beating myself up about not getting it done all summer. But as my frozen fingers are typing this and I think back over what we have achieved this summer, and I can hear the occasional ‘Yeah it’s got chilli, lime and papaya, would you like to try some?’ from Mike inside, I am so proud of where we are today.
And it’s autumn, my favourite season; the leaves are red and the sky is blue, so all round the 2am late stint last night packing 100 bags of tea was worth it, as will the many others be.
I’m happy with where I am and even happier with where Bluebird is. This is something that it often overlooked and undervalued. To be happy in the moment is a difficult thing to balance and something I have rarely experienced. Especially not in any of my many previous jobs. (28 so far – I have counted!) And something I feel truly grateful for when I hear my friend’s woes, trying to move upwards to success and happiness in such a miserable time for jobs and careers. They are excellent at what they do but there is just nothing out there. So while we did have to move back in with the parents and I have some serious frown lines developing at just 24 and have no pennies going towards that student overdraft, at least we are in a job that is valuable and fulfilling.
I guess Bluebird isn’t really a job. Well it is, but it is so much more. It is my passion, my creative outlet, my life, my hobby, my fun, my business, my livelihood, my pride, my joy, my family, my friends, it is everything. And it’s so special because we created it all ourselves. With our own two hands. (Well ok four hands if we factor Mike into the equation, again let’s not argue over the little things!)
It must be said that although it took a little while for Mike to get that green tea doesn’t take milk and that fruit teas don’t actually contain any tea, he is now an amazing tea snob, I mean buff, and an excellent tea sales person to boot. He just talks honestly and fairly and people love him. Especially the middle ages ladies. He’s also surprisingly photogenic. As my mum told me after seeing some of our press shots… ‘Wow that photographer has really done a brilliant job with Mike’ How rude!
The truth is that Bluebird wouldn’t be where it was today without the creative ideas and attention to detail, stringent financial planning and intricate stock spreadsheets, strategy planning and tea blending that comes from us working together. For those who know us I will let you decide which of the above are each of our strengths. Sure it’s difficult working long hours. Very long hours. All day, everyday with your partner but we have been pleasantly surprised to find that our different personalities and outlook have made us dynamic and successful business partners.
So, I had started with promises of what’s to come for Bluebird over the next few months. We have had some secret projects in the pipe line and of course big Christmas plans. Mike probably won’t approve of me sharing with you but we hope to have made back our investment by the new year, which for a 6 month old company is fairly impressive. And leaves us in a brilliant position to tackle the big plans for the shop space in the new year.
Drum roll please:
Secret Project No.1: We have been developing our limited edition autumn teas, which arguably we have left a little late – I refer you to the above to do list dilemma.
But our Spiced Pumpkin Pie is now up for pre-order on the website. I have to say it is possibly my new favorite (Excellent as a latte, sprinkled with cinnamon or nutmeg!)
We have decided to launch limited edition ranges each season going forward with any real favorites being added to the Bluebird range full time.
The Christmas teas have been on a pre launch preview this weekend at Becketts but won’t be for sale on the website until at least November. Sorry to disappoint but I refuse to join the premature ejaculation of all things festive that seems to be a problem for most shops on the high street. I have compromised and allowed November to be the date, previously the C word has been banned until after my birthday (15th November if you want to send a gift!) but this was more to avoid a diversion of attention from my day than genuine moral outrage at the commercialism of Christmas.
So all I can tell you now is that they are possibly our best yet and I am VERY excited about our Christmas gift packs which, as well as our three Christmas teas, will also contain a hand crafted Bluebird tree decoration made by the lovely and talented Teabird, Bunny Bosworth, especially for us.
Ok while I’m on the subject I could also tell you Christmas Cake not only smells exactly like what is says on the tin but also containing real spruce Christmas tree and candy snowflakes that when dissolved make your tea sparkle like icicles. Amaze-ball-balls I think you will agree! Already I have said too much. This paragraph will self destruct in five seconds.
I really didn’t follow Miss Pritchard’s advice about highlighting the most interesting and exciting points in the first paragraph did I? Also about the waffling. Well at least it is a reward for those truly dedicated Teabirds who have stuck out, through the rambling to the end.
[Mike just fetched me some hot chocolate from the chocolate man – this is something I will touch upon in the market blog, how we have become the ‘tea people’ and everyone refers to each other by what they sell. We are good friends with both the ‘pie lady’ and the ‘beer guys’ but not so much with the ‘Jam’ man.
He also fetched some gloves, which was a kind gesture, however typing has become difficult and the annoying touch pad mouse can no longer sense my finger movements so I have resorted to bending over and moving it with my nose! Needless to say I am getting some strange looks. He also told me that a lady who said she would come back later actually did and brought 6 bags too, so his faith in humanity has been restored.]
Second drum roll please…
Secret Project No.2 : For those of you who have been following our antics you will know we were shortlisted alongside 50 other young entrepreneurs and business people for the chance to pitch to space holders in London (businesses and people with space to give) for a chance to win a years free space for Bluebird.
A blog entry will follow, but the basics are that after a 1 minute elevator pitch during which a lady threw one of our Strawberry Lemonades over herself (very distracting indeed), we were selected by not just one but three space holders! So we are off on Tuesday to meet with the businesses and discuss terms in order to make a decision! Very exciting times.
Secret Project No.3: We are in talks with the wonderful and inspiring Bartons Plc– ‘bus people’ after their own very successful summer about potentially setting up a Bluebird Teabar as part of a Christmas pop up special at their beautiful venue. This would finally give all of you a chance to come into a warm and dry space to sit and enjoy Bluebird drinks as part of the teabar concept that we are developing. A Bluebird Teabar sooner than we thought on a high street near you!
Secret Project No.4: Well that was this blog. So there you have it. Much more to follow as it develops over the next few weeks! Keep those peepers peeled Teabirds.
See you next week.
Keep finding those Bluebird days.