How does a young entrepreneur come up with a product, manufacture it, distribute it, and sell it all on her own? Just ask Evy Chen, founder of EvyTea, a premium cold brewed tea company based out of Boston that's transitioned from startup to scaling up in just 2 years. For Evy, it took a great deal of perseverance and passion but it's finally paying off. Find out how Evy perfected her product, found a following, and continues to grow her business.
Starting with an education
Evy was attending Emerson College in downtown Boston when she realized there weren't many tea options for a serious tea drinker. At the time, many cold tea beverages were made with added sugar, flavoring, and preservatives, and she thought, where can I find a quick glass of good tea? That's when Evy started thinking maybe she could make it herself—but how?
She brought her idea to the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) program at Emerson College in Boston. There, while attending college, Evy had a yearlong opportunity to hatch her business plan under the expert supervision of experienced professionals. At an end of the year expo, all the students presented their business plans and a winner was chosen. Evy won it.
After the E3 Expo, she took her project to Kickstarter. From there, Evy's idea gained greater traction and she was able to raise $8,300. "When I started Kickstarter, I really didn't know what to expect from it. I got a lot of support from people who—I had no idea who they were but—have become my supporters until today and they follow every step of my company on Facebook and Twitter," says Evy.
Those early supporters became her core customer base and long-term fans. They cheer on and take pride in the company's successes. According to Evy, "Not everybody has the opportunity to just give up everything and start something out of the blue, but everyone has that dream—whether it's a coffee shop or a cupcake store or whatever." She believes that because her customers are inspired by her goal, they are committed to seeing it succeed, whether that means following her progress online, in-person, or both.
Grow a following
"As a consumer brand, we had an interesting dilemma. We were trying to build a brand; yet we didn't really have a presence. It's not like a coffee shop, where people will walk through your front door everyday… when you're a product that's not in many stores, you basically don't have a presence so it's difficult to convert that face-to-face interaction into social media."
As a solution, Evy is now doing demos at various Whole Foods Markets, where her tea is sold. The goal is to increase brand awareness and create those personal connections that compel customers to engage via social media. Today, Evy Tea is sold at more than 60 retail locations in the Boston area, and every day she receives messages inquiring about when it will be sold elsewhere throughout the country.
Teach it forward
Evy's advice to young entrepreneurs: "trust your instinct." That, and find a mentor who gets entrepreneurship and can guide you along the way. Evy, for one, is excited about supporting future beverage entrepreneurs and helping them get over that first hurdle of establishing themselves and figuring out what they need in order to be compliant in the industry.
"It's about community. It's about giving back to people who have supported you and I'm really excited about that," says Evy. "If I'm lucky enough to continue going and growing, I can help other people get there too. If that's the case, then I've done something good. It's not just selling—I want to build a brand that means something to people."
Small start, big purpose
From the online community that came together because of Kickstarter to the daily inquiries she gets from supporters throughout the country, Evy is well on her way to building a brand that means something to people—whether it's guiding aspiring entrepreneurs or creating a premium beverage product that customers seek out and enjoy. The key is finding something you're passionate about, sticking to your guns, and trusting that a community of like-minded followers will support your rise.