A creative couple with a love of tea have grown a £2m business – after starting to sell concoctions from their bedroom.
Kristina Smith, 30, and Mike Turner, 30, built the Bird & Blend Tea Co, formerly Bluebird Tea Co, from scratch in 2012 after spotting a growing demand for alternative tea blends.
Now with seven retail stores, including a flagship store in Church Street, Northern Quarter, and a thriving international online store, the business is leading the way in tea innovation in the UK.
And the budding company has marked six years in business with more than £2m in revenues.
Rather than straight teas such as green tea or chamomile tea, the company creates new flavours by mixing them with a range of blending ingredients including herbs, flowers, fruits, caramel and chocolate. The range features more than 70 blends of tea.
The couple – who describe themselves as “tea mixologists” – decided to set up the business after meeting at university and deciding that they wanted greater flexibility over their working hours. At the time Mike was a ski instructor and Kristina worked in a tea blending company.
Although they had a business idea in mind, they lacked the capital to kick-start their venture. They approached the government-backed Start Up Loans Company and each received £12,500 in low-interest funding.
Kristina and Mike used the funding to kit out their flagship store in Manchester, as well as purchasing the lease on the property.
In Spring last year, the couple decided to crowdfund additional finance to expand their network across the country. The business now has more than 300 shareholders owning £50 and above.
As the business continues to go from strength to strength, the couple now employ 75 people across the country.
Kristina Smith, founder of Bird and Blend Tea Co, said: “Although I’ve worked for a tea blend company previously, Mike and I wanted more flexibility over our working hours and knew that starting our own business would allow us to do this.
“We noticed a growing demand for alternative tea blends, but spotted a gap in the market for tea mixologist boutiques in the Brighton area. Once we established our Manchester flagship store, we decided to expand our network across the country.
“To do this, we needed extra support to raise the necessary capital to grow the business. We used the Start Up Loans Company and crowdfunding to help us achieve this.
“As we celebrate our sixth birthday this month, we’re really proud of our journey so far and we’re looking forward to what’s in store for the future.”
Joanna Hill, managing director of the Start Up Loans Company added: “It’s fantastic to see the amount of progress Bird and Blend Tea Co. has made within the past six years.
“Generating £2million in turnover is an impressive achievement for any start-up, and it’s tantamount to the hard work and commitment Mike and Kristina have for their business.
“By using alternative finance options, Mike and Kristina have managed to create a successful network of tea boutiques across the country. We wish them every success for the future.”
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