It’s a tea story

Posted on May 4, 2013

Tea has always been the foundation of the business idea; and, after recognising the fast-paced world that we live in, I thought to myself: Why not try take-away tea?

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first started, the market was not quite ready for what I had to offer. Now, a couple of years later, without having spent a stitch on advertising, and  simply riding the social media wave, I have been on countless media platforms. And AirFrance named Lady Bonin as one of the top-ten things to see when travelling to Cape Town!


I first started selling tea out of a caravan. It was a practical solution to the problem of limited funds. I originally wanted to open a cafe, but unfortunately I didn’t have the kind of money that was required, and I didn’t want to acquire any form of debt. So I took my savings, and looked at what I could afford.


The caravan served two purposes: one, I could afford it and two, it allowed me to go to the markets, and create a market. Originally the City of Cape Town wasn’t an amiable prospect because they could only accommodate me if I went the mainstream route. But what I serve is tea. It’s a difficult sell. I cannot hide the product up an alley: it won’t work!


Often, I have the occasional potential customer who looks at me, and says: “I just don’t get it; it’s tea!” But once they see the space (which is almost like this magical world of serenity) and actually taste the tea, their original sentiments change completely, and often I hear: “This is the best tea I have ever had.”


After the food-truck business began to trend in South Africa, everything really began to kick-off. The plan was to have a shop around 2013/4, and given the growth of the business I began looking at places to operate from, other than my home, because the space was becoming too small. I heard about Woodstock Exchange round about the time whilst they were still building. They approached me, saying: “This is the rent, would you be interested in having a shop front?” I agreed, given that it would have been the same cost had I opened a workspace. But what captured me is what the space is about: it is a collective for startups – a space for those of us who could otherwise not afford a shop front.


And so here I am; I really don’t have a set formula. I have allowed my business to grow organically, which I feel is the most important thing, as it ensures that the foundations are secured. The business grows at the pace that it can handle, or in the directions that are suitable for it. So I have learnt to listen to my business all the time, because it tells me where I need to go. And if I don’t listen to it, something will collapse. Almost like taking on too many opportunities that it cannot handle at that time, or that it is not ready for.


I’ve always been ahead of the market: I started the idea of take-away tea, and that of food trucks in South Africa. And now, let me be one of the first to be a part of this trend.


I am Jess Bonin. I am youngpreneur.