Your Friday Entrepreneur Fix this week features Maryanne Shearer, founder of T2 and the entrepreneur responsible for turning a nation of coffee-drinkers into tea lovers.
Maryanne Shearer introduced a new generation to tea when she opened the first T2 store in Fitzroy in 1996, using her product development and visual merchandising skills to create a retail experience Australians hadn’t seen before.
Competing with a strong coffee culture and facing a market accustomed to supermarket tea bags, Shearer knew it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing, but she felt confident the market was ready for a new retail experience in the category – one that allowed them to smell, touch, taste and learn about teas.
She was spot on, and business took off.
Now, just 15 years on, Shearer’s teas enjoy cult-status amongst connoisseurs and modern drinkers alike, and she’s built a booming retail business at a time when many are folding. T2 has 29 stores, employs 300 staff and supplies tea to many leading cafes, restaurants and hotels.
What are the ingredients for well-brewed business? Shearer shares her insight with Dynamic Business.
Q. Can you tell me where the idea for T2 came from?
T2 was born from a passion for great design and love of experiential retail and of course a long-standing passion for tea!
Q. You must travel a lot when sourcing new teas, do you have any secrets for balancing work with family life and time for yourself when you’re on the road?
I find travelling a great time to devote myself to my business. I enjoy rummaging through stores, neighbourhoods, bookshops and so on – it’s endless! I love to discover newness, whether it’s a thing, taste or an experience.
My family love hearing about my travels and as a result they know a lot about the world and the incredible cultures they will one day experience for themselves.
Q. What’s been the hardest part about establishing T2? How have you managed this difficulty?
In the beginning it was convincing everyone that a retail tea concept was a viable business idea, then once we were trading and the idea took off it was understanding the importance of a healthy business and finding the balance between left and right brain priorities.
Finding an amazing group of people with different skills to my own has also been a huge challenge.
Q. What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love watching ideas come to life…it’s addictive!
Q. Looking back 10 years, is there anything you know now about business you wish you had back then?
I know now that you should never come to work for the money, you need to come to work for the experiences it brings.
Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Follow your passion. If you don’t have any, you need to find some!
Innovation and passion are the essential ingredients to make an idea become reality.
Dynamic Business would like to wish Shearer good luck in the upcoming Veuve Clicquot Business Woman awards, with the winner to be announced on 8 March.