Women are on a mission to not only establish themselves as equals but to mark their place in the business industry.
This weeks company on the rise is Erin Wildmen’s Caravan Tea. For all the non-coffee drinkers or plain ol’ tea lovers, Caravan Tea is bringing their boxes to a home near you. Read on for our exclusive interview with the woman behind the brand.
Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your company.
I have wanted to run a business since I was very young, barely double digits. My mother runs her own business as a real estate attorney, so I grew up in a build-it-yourself environment. After graduating college and working in marketing for finance professionals for a few years, I knew it was time to try to get out of the corporate environment and career path.
It was actually my time in corporate that brought me to tea. Finding an idea for a business that you are super passionate about and interested in at the level you need to commit yourself to the roller coaster of entrepreneurship is actually really tough. Not every idea or interest is a winner and not every passion comes with a handy dandy profit margin. Fortunately, I had been drinking tea for years, first from teabags, then flavored loose blends, then I fell in love with loose leaf tea around the time I went away to college. When I was back from school and had been work for a couple of years I happened to attend the Los Angeles International Tea Festival, took some tea-based classes, and met with other tea lovers. That’s when I knew I could make this idea into a journey worth taking.
Caravan Tea is named after my first favorite loose leaf tea, Russian Caravan, that I stumbled on back when I went to college in Boston. It’s usually a blend of malty and brisk Assam, smokey Lapsang Souchong, and savory Keemun black teas. After all these years it’s still one of my favorites.
The caravan portion of the name also represents the journey that a business takes and all the people involved. I like to say my customers and colleagues are part of the Caravan Crew. We may not all be on the same rig but we’re all here and we’re going together.
What are some of the most challenging things you’ve faced in your business and how have you overcome those hurdles?
Top three for me are confidence, action, and time management.
Confidence is a major challenge I’ve had to build and try to get better at. I come from a professional service background and have no problem selling myself but selling product has been a very different challenge for me. I spend a lot of hours sourcing and tastings and seeking out amazing product, some that I hand make myself, but sometimes I fail to be able to bring all those benefits to the forefront when I’m actively selling.
I’ve been working on having a set of scripts I’m very confident in telling others about my products and that has helped immensely.
Taking consistent action is another thing I’ve been climbing uphill on. I am a strategic planner by trade which means I overthink on a regular basis. That’s a terrible trap to be in if you have clients you need to meet up with, sales emails that need to go out, and a host of other action oriented items to deal with on a rapid day-to-day basis.
For me, setting up automated systems to help me handle the bulk of the communications and orders was a huge help. Stepping back and trying to delegate things to systems or suppliers is a must for solo entrepreneurs especially.
This is where time management slips into the mix. Time management is very different when you’re handling all parts of the business simultaneously, versus one aspect of a business. When you have about five to six main tasks total you can do every day from a cognitive perspective it’s dangerous to get too caught up with one or two, or even worse, actively avoid a task you need to get done. Also, remembering that you need to eat at some point during all of this constant movement and thought can be overwhelming.
To help with this I try to plan out all my major tasks the afternoon before so I can skip the thinking and go straight to the doing in the early morning. It helps me accomplish more on a consistent basis. Efficiency and choosing the right tasks are challenges in and of themselves. Sadly, I have not yet conquered consistently remembering to eat.
What’s one piece of advice you can give to our readers that are maybe thinking of starting their own business?
Prepare. Know who you are and what your business is really about (i.e. what you like and dislike, how you react to situations with others when things don’t go your way, how committed you are to making this business a reality). For instance, Caravan sells tea but it’s really about being on a journey together, being in the present with others or even just yourself, and celebrating the moment. What we sell are ways to get there.
Also know that you and your business will have to adapt to all the things you can’t prepare for or didn’t know about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with change, it’s just emotionally difficult. So have a support system for these moments.
What’s your favorite tea flavor?
I can honestly say this changes all the time but my favorite tea is definitely still a hearty Russian Caravan. Right now, Caravan is focused on single origin teas, kind of to get the lay of the land so to speak with all the amazing flavors and terroir that exist in tea right now. Going forward I am super excited to incorporate blends that play off of each other and maybe even create a new favorite flavor profile.
What gives you the confidence to take on all of life’s challenges?
I’m not really sure that I do have the confidence to take on all of life’s challenges, I just know that I have very little choice in the matter. I do, however, try to set myself up for success. I have an amazing support system of family and friends, especially my wife, Chelsey, who helps me up from all the breakdowns. Having a community around you is priceless.