Chandran recently sat down with TC to discuss the process of starting a company from scratch, her involvement with the collective WomenMadeLA, and her choice cup of tea.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the origin story behind Tea Drops.
I am very passionate about tea and making the tea drinking experience more accessible to others. Growing up in a tea-enriched household (Mother is Chinese/Father is Sri Lankan), I have always seen tea as a beverage of comfort and a vehicle for self-introspection -- it brings people together in soulful conversation, providing a sense of community. I’ve always wanted others to have this same relationship with tea and Tea Drops has become my vehicle to do just that!
During my first corporate career, I realized that making loose leaf tea at my work desk was very cumbersome -- you needed a lot of tools and time to brew a high quality cup. This was my first point of inspiration, that making loose leaf tea should be simplified and more accessible for the modern day drinker.
2. Tea Drops is now a multi-million dollar business that has received praise from the likes of Tory Burch and Michelle Obama. When did you realize that you had “made it”?
Thanks for the kind words, but I never look at us as having "made it." Our mission is to foster community and connection through tea; and truly be the household tea brand of the millennial generation. We have a long ways to go before "making it." I think a lot of these points of validation -- from winning the Tory Burch Foundation grant to praise from Michelle Obama has kept us motivated in our mission and even more hungry.
3. What were some of the challenges you faced as a new entrepreneur?
I didn't have experience in consumer packaged goods or building a food brand; I came from digital marketing/market research. Learning about a completely new industry while building a company presented a big learning curve.
*Photo Credit - Cassie Osterman
4. What is a typical workday like?
No day is the same, and that is what I love about entrepreneurship. Some days I am conducting customer focus groups or calls, the next I am presenting to our investor board group. Most days I spend supporting my team and driving sales.
5. Describe your involvement with WomenMadeLA.
WomenMadeLA is a supportive collective -- consisting of three other women entrepreneurs running food consumer brands all in the Los Angeles area. Tea Drops represents one of the brands in the collective. We provide a supportive network, including collaboration and shared resources for one another to thrive. We plan to expand WomenMadeLA to more woman owned brands in the future. It's an awesome resource to have as we all scale and grow -- it has also provided immense emotional support which is important as an entrepreneur.
6. Who are some of your entrepreneur inspirations?
I would say my parents were the first entrepreneurs I ever knew and definitely inspired me. My parents came to America as immigrants and while they both obtained graduate degrees and had corporate jobs, they always had side hustles. My mom would run a swap meet crystal store on the weekends -- featuring fine crystal vases, and my dad would invest in real estate rental properties -- rehabbing them and then renting them out. I watched them from toddler age, and was always exposed to their hard work ethic and creative outlets.
7. What is your favourite tea?
There is nothing like a good chai. Our Cardamom Spice Tea Drop is the best representation of that. I love adding it to a cup of boiling milk.
Check out Tea Drops at the link below:
*Photo credit (main picture) - Roadtrip Nation.