Friday, September 12, 2008
Founder and CEO, Samovar Tea Lounge
HQ: San Francisco.
2007 revenue: $1.8 million.
Number of employees: 40.
Year founded: 2001.
Source of startup capital: $300,000 in loans from the SBA, family and friends.
Background: Born in Brookline, Mass., raised in a commune and graduated with a bachelor’s in international relations from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Taught English in Denmark and Japan. Founded a web startup in Boston before driving to California for the tech boom. After the dot-com bust in 2001, founded Samovar.
Residence: San Francisco.
Web site: www.samovartea.com.
What it does: Tea shop
Reason for starting business: I wanted to create peace. Tea is the perfect vehicle for creating peace.
Most difficult part of decision: Risking everything — money, family, friends and free time.
Biggest plus of ownership: Doing exactly what you love. Watching an idea turn into physical reality.
Biggest drawback: There is no “clocking out” and going home for the weekend. Ever.
Biggest misconception: Getting rich quick and defining your own schedule.
Biggest business strength: Our model is a tea experience to make people feel good, like going to China or visiting a spa.
Biggest business weakness: Trying to be a sustainable business in San Francisco is really expensive.
Biggest risk: Putting more money and time into the business. We finally turned a profit last year.
Biggest mistake: We were undercapitalized and didn’t do things professionally at the start.
Smartest move: Hiring staff looking to grow with the company and having “open-book” accounting, where the dishwashers knew the gross profit and understood how breaking a dish impacted the bottom line.
Biggest worry: Growing too fast, and not delivering the same Samovar experience, mission and culture.
Top source of inspiration: Dalai Lama.
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]