So it begins, my first serious business venture, and it is in the world of tea. I first began appreciating tea as a JET ALT in Nankoku, Japan, in 2007. I was looking for a Japanese cultural activity to do, and I thought studying Japanese tea ceremony would be cool.
Added to this was my regular reading on NYT and following of then Mayor Bloomberg. In trying to understand why he could do what he did, I realized his power laid in the money his businesses created for him. He took no campaign donations bc he could bank roll his own political campaigns; thus, he had more freedom to serve his follower New Yorkers in the manner he felt correct. Thus, I figured in order to enter local politics (L.A.), I would need to step my biz game up, or more accurately, create a biz game plan. (Note: I’m not a New Yorker, so I understand many people, including friends, did not like Mayor Bloomberg.)
Upon returning home to lovely L.A. after 8 years abroad, I tried to open my mind to various biz opportunities, by seeing what the needs of my fellow Angelenos were. Urban gardening seemed like a likely option, so I pursued that avenue through community gardening work, backyard gardening, gardening classes and Internet research. So, I decided on a “tea garden and bike rental” shop (combining my joy of urban biking that I developed while living in lovely Seoul). I even took a biz class via the great City of L.A. (although my biz consultant never gave me feedback on my biz tea/bike proposal that I created.)
But like most things, big dollars are needed to do big things in L.A., really even little things cost dough. So when the Yachay job in Ecuador popped up, I saw an opportunity to save money for my tea & bike spot as well as be part of a social solution to help Ecuadorians help themselves. But life cannot be predicted nor planned and here I sit preparing to make a deposit on the proper door installation for “Cool Cali: A Californian Tea House.”
On Saturday, I was supposed to ask a security guard on campus to call a taxi and take it to catch the first bus from Urcuqui to Ibarra, where I would take a bus across the border to Colombia. (Yeah, a bus day trip to Colombia. I have come a long way from only flying within Colombia and being weary of bus trips within Colombia.) It was supposed to be a “no problem” situation. But I wasn’t able to get a taxi, so I wasn’t able to take the bus to Ibarra, so I didn’t go to Colombia.
My friend/coworker, Rebekah, invited me to check out Caranqui, a place featured in tourist books for Inca Ruins. So being down for checking out new places and making life work, I went with her. And I was so thrilled to see a quaint town that was clean and cute.
We passed a new building with a for rent sign in a window. Without missing a beat, Rebekah told me to take down the number for it would be a good spot for a tea shop. (Previously Rebekah told me to try to sell my chai at the store on campus.)
“What?” I said. Caranqui is about 1 hour from Urcuqui, the pueblo near Yachay. But as I looked around the street I thought, “maybe” and snapped a photo of the ad in the window.
As we walked around the town, I could see the potential. In Russell Simmon’s books and a book by the co-creator of Linked-In, these business men said you have to be flexible with your business plans.You have to bend with life and not be so stuck on an idea that you miss an opportunity to grow your business plan. Thus, I was able to see a tea house in Caranqui, with an American and art theme, for suburban Ecuadorian to enjoy. (My original idea was to have a Moroccan theme tea bar. And ojala that I can have a second shop in Urcuqui for the college students and tourists of Yachay.)
On Sunday morning, I asked a security guard on campus to call the Caranqui number (you know, so I wouldn’t get the gringo price straight up.) Sunday afternoon I went to look at the place and the landlord was surprised because they had just placed the ad in the window. We negotiated a price (because the security guards told me $300/month was too much for shop and apt.) She told me she would call me on Monday about installing a sink in the shop. I called her Wednesday and she said she hadn’t heard from the construction worker; but I told her I would take the place and put a deposit down on Friday. She called back in 20 minutes and said someone else was interested, so I said tomorrow morning I would come with a deposit. And Thursday, I put down a deposit and officially became a businesswoman. Crazy!
I’m not 100% sure what I am doing, but I have a vision for a cool tea house with international teas (indian chai, thai ice tea, korean ginseng/honey tea, japanese matcha/matcha latte, ecuadorian horchata, tawainese milk tea w/o bubbles, southern sweet tea, etc.), tea cocktails, and desserts/cookies. I also want to feature monthly art exhibits, live music, book/writing clubs– you know, all the things I like to do at tea/coffee houses. And since there are not any like this kind of tea/coffee houses, I think I can go far with this idea. I just need a strong start upon which to build my foundation for Californian Tea Houses.