An interview with Let’s Do Tea CEO, Meredith Tieszen
1. How long has your company been in business?
We incorporated in 2003, had our soft launch in early 2004, and officially opened in the summer of 2004.
2. What types of products or services do you sell?
We sell loose leaf tea, teapots, and teaware.
3. In how many states do you currently have independent reps?
4. How is your home party experience different from others?
We focus on the health benefits of tea, the tea itself, and having a lot of fun. At our parties, people do a lot of sampling. We sell over 100 loose leaf teas and usually sample 20-35 teas at every party. This is a fun way to get everyone involved and get to try different things.
5. What words of advice do you give to new independent representatives of your company?
Relax and have fun with it and let the tea sell itself.
6. If you were to travel back in time to the point when you decided to create a direct selling company, and you could give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
I wish I would have known a little bit more about direct sales. I did not know anything about the DSA (the Direct Selling Association). I wish I had researched direct sales, found mentors earlier, and lined myself up with good people so that I could have learned from their mistakes. Since then, I have done so, but the first few years were rough. I had no clue as to what I was doing.
7. Why do you think you are successful in this economy?
It is because of our product. It is a necessity for people, just like coffee. Tea is a small luxury they can afford and justify as a daily ritual. They will spend a dollar more than at the grocery store to receive our products, because of the quality of our teas.
8. Have you noticed any recent changes in recruiting?
I have noticed that our recruiting numbers are up a bit, which is great. People who are recruiting have increased their recruiting numbers over the last year. A year ago, one girl, for example, recruited 3 people, and this year she recruited 20 people. 45-50% of our consultants recruit at least one person, usually in the first 90 days. Because of the economy, people are looking to generate more income, and that’s what we provide.
9. Have you seen any recent changes in sales volumes?
Yes, sales are up! We have seen an increase in average party sales to $375 – $380, while last year the average was around $318. The average guest purchase is $55, and last year it was about $32 to $36.
10. How do you keep your consultants motivated?
Oh, that has been a tough one lately. We try to do a lot of different incentives throughout the year. We are giving away prepaid gas cards, prepaid iTunes cards, and anything that might be a little something people need or want. We are a small company, just me and one other employee, supporting about 460 active consultants each month. Anytime the phone rings, there is a 50/50 chance they will reach me on the phone. I am very accessible to our consultants. We do conference calls every month, two for everybody and one for Directors and up, newsletters, and more to help support them.
11. What makes you stand out as a direct selling company?
I think our product (tea) is phenomenal. Our mission is to spread hospitality while reconnecting and revisiting a tradition that our ancestors brought into this country also makes us stand out as a company.
12. Who do you admire in the direct selling community? Why?
Gosh, I have so many. I truly admire Primerica and John Addison. His passion for his company and his field are amazing. I really look up to him and admire what he has done. Also, Mary Kay Ash. While I did not have the opportunity to meet her personally, what she did for our industry is great, too, especially for women.
13. Did you or do you have a mentor?
Yes, I have several. One is Richard Brooke, of Oxyfresh. He has been a great mentor, giving good advice when I’ve had issues arise. I had an issue with a supplier who was not following up with my concerns and I felt it was due to the size of my company. He made a couple of calls and within 48 hours, I received a phone call from the CEO of the company who resolved my issues. B.K. Boreyko and Chris Domhoff have also offered me good advice on field issues.
14. How do you encourage positive thinking in your company and your sales force?
I lead by example and that is my biggest encouragement. I am constantly telling our consultants about books I’ve read and CDs I’ve listened to. If they are having a hard time with something, I encourage them to come to me to talk with me about it. If I hear that somebody is having a hard time, then I call them to help turn it around. I believe in leading by example and teaching this to our field, too.
15. Do you think your products are luxury items?
Yes and no. Our tea is a luxury because it is high-quality tea, but tea has become a necessity in the cupboard. Also, most of our teas cost only 18 to 33 cents a cup. So, I might call it a “necessary luxury.”
16. Why do you think direct sales do so well in this economy as compared to retail?
I think it does well because people need $100 or $400 a month to make it in this economy. $400 a month can help prevent 80% of foreclosures. People are more willing to ask anybody to have parties, to purchase products, because of the crunch they are in.
17. What are you glad you did to prepare for this economy?
One of the things we did was to call our consultants and asked them what they would be able to do without, with the economy in reverse. They told us that they would be open to having more simplistic, less extravagant incentives, to help prevent the company and the consultants from getting hurt. Most families can’t afford to take the time off work for trips. Our incentive trip last year was 7 days; this year it was cut to 4 days. Last year, we offered Coach purses and Tiffany jewelry but this year we’re using prepaid gas cards and iTunes cards because of feedback from the field.
18. What are your greatest 3 challenges today?
That is a good question…. One of them would probably be keeping the morale up across the field in today’s economy. That is a huge challenge. Another would be communication. Even though we do so much to communicate, it is hard to get everybody on the same page because we don’t have two-way communication with every consultant each month. While it’s not a challenge, the biggest thing for me is making a difference, touching a person’s life when they are down, and giving them the support they need and the voice to be a stronger, better person overall.
19. What would you like your company to look like 5 years from now?
I would hope that we would be bigger and stronger, but more importantly, I’d like us to have a great pulse in the US market. We would absolutely have more employees, with 5,000 to 6,000 consultants, but we’ll still be a “specialty teas” company.
Thank you, Meredith.