By Kate Marsden
Just A Card is about supporting small, independent businesses – not just artists and designer makers… This week we’re heading to Sheffield for something a little different – a nice cup of tea with Angie Young…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I love tea, I have been obsessed with it for years, and once I started drinking loose leaf it went to a whole other level. At the time, I found it very difficult to buy, and the ones I could find often smelled great but didn’t taste anywhere near as good, so I started experimenting and creating my own. Initially I was entirely self-taught, I played around with different flavour combinations, and found some really great blends. Since then I have completed various tea blending workshops and training courses, but have found that I’ve learnt the most by just doing what I love, drinking lots and lots of tea, trying new ideas and discovering what flavours work well together.
Then last year I had the option to take redundancy, and coming from a long background in retail management, I had always wanted to set up on my own and the obvious direction had to be tea, so Craft Tea Company was born. I initially started selling locally at fairs and festivals, as well as online and the response so far has been fantastic.
My first collection was inspired by cocktails using my husband’s background as a Bar Academy trainer. The aim is to create some really unique blends that look and smell just as good as they taste, and by using all natural ingredients, without the need for additional flavourings, making sure they are full of all good stuff.
What does a typical day involve?
I try to get all the business and computer stuff out of the way first thing, and work out my plan for the day. At the moment, I do most things myself - social media, web design, photos etc. so lists help to keep me focused. I like to get everything written down and try to only spend short periods of time throughout the day online, as it can be so easy to get distracted.
I find I’m at my most creative in the afternoon, so try to do all my blending then. I have so many ideas for new combinations I want to try. I’ve a book that I keep them all in and am trying to work through it, but the list just keeps getting longer! Because I don’t use flavourings in any of my blends, some can be trickier than others - not all the ingredients I want to use can produce a strong enough taste, it’s about finding the right balance.
Where do you work? What is your workspace like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
At the moment I work from home, doing all my blending in the kitchen, however tea is slowly taking over, and so it’s looking like I will need to expand in the very near future.
Otherwise, I like to work from the table in my dining room, looking out over the garden, and usually trying to work around one of my cats who likes to lay right across my computer.
I try to get out for a run at lunch time, so I can get some fresh air and blow the cobwebs out. Where I live in Sheffield, the scenery is beautiful, and I’m planning on running my first half marathon later in the year.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small independent businesses at the moment?
I think it can sometimes be very hard to have the confidence in yourself, and believe in your own ideas and capabilities. But taking that leap of faith is absolutely worth it, as there is nothing so satisfying as seeing your own business ideas and products succeeding.
Also, the lack of awareness in the value of handmade items. There are so many cheap, mass made alternatives available, it can be very difficult for customers to appreciate the time that goes into designing and producing them, along with juggling everything else that’s involved in running your own business.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
My dream is to eventually have a little shop and café where I can get even more creative with my blending, and ways of serving my teas, as well as holding events and workshops - really making the most of the Tea Cocktails idea.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Love what you do, do what you love and be prepared to work hard, but enjoy it! Plan your time well as it can be easy to get side tracked, and have a really clear idea of the direction you want your business to go in. But most of all don’t give up if something didn’t work out, learn from your mistakes, not everything is a success first time.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
It’s so difficult to choose just a few, I have met so many amazing people over this last year but here are some of my favourites:
Upsy Daisy Craft - makes fabulous handmade ceramic jewellery and gifts
Fizzy Pigg – fun, quirky quotes on prints, cards and embroidery hoops
Maxwell Harrison Jewellery – creates beautiful handmade silver jewellery
Dandelion Cocoa – sells the yummiest handmade chocolates
Birds Yard – a lovely independent shop in the centre of Sheffield, with an eclectic collection of local designers and makers
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
Yes, I don’t think people really appreciate how much small businesses value every sale no matter how small, to be honest I don’t really think I did before I started my own business, now I try to support as many as I can.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Very important; many of my sales, especially at fairs, can come from lots and lots of small tea purchases which really makes you value every single sale.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I also have the logo on my website, which links back to your page and I always include it in my newsletters explaining what the campaign is all about.
I mainly tend to focus on Instagram and Facebook posts, and think the more we can share the campaign across all social media the further the message will be spread, and the more well known it will become.