February 2, 2009
Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Jesse Jacobs, founder of specialty tea company, Samovar Tea Lounge, answers our questions:
Name: Jesse Jacobs
Business: Samovar Tea Lounge
Industry: Specialty Teas
Location: San Francisco
Year founded: 2002
Number of employees: 75
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
We only represent small-scale artisan farmers. Tea makers come to us because we offer them access to tens of thousands of retail and wholesale customers. And customers come to us to gain access to hard-to-find artisanal teas such as Hawaii’s Mauka High Mountain Oolong tea and Makai Sea Level Black Tea, as well as the Dali Lama’s own blend.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I see business as a truly effective way for creating positive social change. Not only do I help create fulfilling jobs, but I also offer a place for customers to feel good about themselves and the world around them. Especially in this day of turbulent social, political and economic times, providing an outlet for peaceful living is both exciting and rewarding at the same time.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
It never stops. Even when the day ends, business scenarios continue to run through my mind, day and night. It can be extremely draining. Also, managing so many personalities and adjusting my communication style to effectively connect with staff, vendors and customers is extremely challenging.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Helping to create a market for specialty, whole leaf tea and educating customers about why such a premium is attached to these types of teas. This took four years to accomplish — and losing money every year has taken patience, perseverance and resilience.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I wish I would have had the confidence to become an entrepreneur sooner. Instead of wasting five years working in corporate America, I could have spent that time running the business. Today, we’d be much further along.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Listening and being open to everything will help you latch onto opportunities and avoid roadblocks.
Jesse Cutler, Samovar: (415) 655-3431 / [email protected]