Subscribe on your favorite listening app!

In this episode of eCommerce in the Trenches, JD interviews Sheena Brady, Owner of Tease Tea and a certified tea sommelier. Sheena tells JD about how quitting her job in hospitality and starting Tease Tea launched her into the world of ecommerce and Shopify, where she currently works as a Merchant Success Manager Lead – working with other retailers and ensuring their success everyday. Sheena tells JD about how she had to make a shift in her branding to attract, convert, and retain the customers she was looking for, and now uses her business to empower women. JD and Sheena discuss the various ways Tease Tea markets to their customers, from pop up shops to online marketing and promotions.

JD: Hello and welcome back to eCommerce In The Trenches. This is JD Crouse and today I’m super excited to have on, the podcast with me Sheena Brady, of Tease Tea. She actually has another role that, I’m gonna tease a little bit about what Sheena does day in and day out in addition to being an entrepreneur. Hey Sheena how’s it going?

Sheena: I’m great JD. How are you doing?

JD: I’m doing great. Where are you at physically right now?

Sheena: [inaudible 00:00:30] in my dining room table in Ottawa Ontario Canada sipping a cup of tea.

JD: Nice.

Sheena: Yeah.

JD: No doubt it is a tea that you have probably had your hand in, blending and making come to life. Is that accurate?

Sheena: Yes that’s definitely accurate. I’m drinking one of my favorite afternoon pick me ups. It’s called To The Finish Lime. It’s great to just give you that energy and focus that you need to get you throughout the day. It’s made with Yerba Mate which is a pretty cool plant from South America that actually a lot of entrepreneurs and CEOs swear by to help, improve their creativity their focus and all that good stuff. I can’t get enough

JD: That’s awesome. Tell me the name of it again, the actual blend. Then tell me the name of the, one ingredient.

Sheena: Yeah absolutely. It’s To The Finish Lime. It’s a play on words so L-I-M-E, instead of To The Finish Line obviously. It’s made with Yerba Maté which is a plant from South America and it contains naturally plant based caffeine. But we do is we infuse and blend it with hints of lemon and lime to give it more of some citrus undertones the balance out, the earthiness of the plant itself.

JD: That’s awesome.

Sheena: Yeah.

JD: Well, today on our show, I wanna talk about the real deal. The behind-the-scenes of what’s going on in Tease Tea, and, your journey. Could you quickly just, bring us into, the background of how you launched your business and, when that was? That’ll just kick us off.

Sheena: Yeah absolutely. Prior to starting a business I actually come from a decade in, hospitality. [inaudible 00:02:09] a service leader at different, hotels and restaurants that sort of thing as a professional Wine Sommelier as well. I had the opportunity to open this beautiful hotel in Toronto. I was excited to get my hands on their wine list and I, got pumped the brakes on a little bit and I was told, “No we don’t want you to do the wine list. We have a Master Wine Sommelier who’s going to do that.”

I felt a bit defeated, and the short of the story is I asked my boss at the time, “Well what would you like me to do? Like, how can I leave my mark on this beautiful hotel?” They said, “We want you to create the tea menu.” I laughed because I thought it was a bit condescending at the time because I probably read too much into it and I thought, “Well what is this as complicated as picking you know, three or four blends and calling it a day?” The chain of this hotels actually called Shangri La Hotels I don’t know if you’re familiar with that brand.

JD: I am yes vaguely.

Sheena: Yeah. They are basically considered the Four Seasons of Asia. What my boss explained to me at that time is that, “Tea was a very important part of their DNA and their culture. And appreciating tea from around the world from various cultures and tea ceremonies” and that sort of thing. He said, “No we don’t want four or five teas. We want the biggest tea program in all of Toronto and we want you to learn tea ceremonies and train the staff on how to perform tea ceremonies.” At the time, I didn’t even drink tea to be quite honest. When you work in, hotels and restaurants you’re fueled by lattes and espresso basically to get you through those ten to fifteen hour shifts. I definitely had my, challenge in front of me. I knew that if I was going to, talk the talk I needed to walk the walk and I needed to educate myself.

With that I found the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, and learned that they have a Tea Sommelier program. I like to share that because some of these people don’t believe that it’s a real thing when I say I’m a Tea Sommelier. It’s an actual education that’s taught at colleges believe it or not. I took this Tea Sommelier Program and it taught me everything I needed to know about the entire industry of tea, from Bush to cup. I more so just wanted to, impress my boss at the time and really create a great menu. But what ended up happening is I developed this incredible passion for tea, totally unexpectedly because, all the reasons I love wine translated to a world of tea. When we talk about, wine you have red grapes and white grapes. There are tons of different varietals of wine like your cabernet and pinot and, all that. With tea is the exact same thing.

A lot of people don’t realize that it comes from the same plant. How you get those different types of teas is, the climate the soil conditions how it’s harvested, how it all effects that final product. That got me pretty excited and I, decided to, start a tea company shortly after. That’s where, interestingly enough at that time this company was a little bit concerned about me having a side hustle while also having a job because it was very demanding.

JD: Right.

Sheena: I basically, I don’t wanna put anybody down but in not so many words I was told to pick one or the other. That’s when I had two choices. I could, stay in this very demanding but, fulfilling role of hospitality. I thought it was my destiny to own a restaurant. That’s what I thought I was born to do I just love the service industry so much. Or I could actually take a leap of faith and start this tea company and give it a full chance. I quit my job and it was a pretty good job well-paying job to be honest and, decided to become an entrepreneur.

The first time you start your business you just have this crazy naivety of how, not necessarily how easy it’s going to be but that you can just figure it out. I thought I could be this, entrepreneur overnight and make enough money to keep the lights on that sort of thing at minimum. I didn’t expect to make a lot of money at first, but at least enough to keep the lights on and pay the bills. Oh my gosh JD I couldn’t have been more wrong. I left behind my career started this tea company and three months in I was just totally out of money and really no idea what I was doing [inaudible 00:06:29] and everything for the first time. That’s how Tease Tea started basically in 2014.

JD: Wow, that’s awesome. What I tease to you at, we’re gonna be using that word. It’s gonna jump out at me. My reticular activators gonna be firing tease throughout this whole conversation. I just know that, which kudos to you on naming your company because it’s such a neat play on words. But, what I did refer to at the beginning of the show was that, you have a full-time gig in addition to Tease Tea. You have been our Shopify Merchant Success Manager and now you are a team lead. You lead a lot of MSN’s. Talk to me about where that fit into you being an entrepreneur and leaving hospitality, because I don’t know that story.

I’ve just known you as my MSN and my go to person which of I love at Shopify. You’ve helped us through so many, interesting challenges and things, and bring opportunities to us. Then of course we, we got behind you in the very beginning when you are launching Tease Tea. Or, what I thought was the beginning and maybe it wasn’t. But, talk to me about how Shopify and your role there has … Tie it from a timing standpoint. When did you start working at Shopify?

Sheena: Yeah. Basically going into how everything ties in with the Shopify, three months into being an entrepreneur I realized, “Wow, this is, this is way more challenging than I thought.” I was debt-free and investor free and I didn’t have additional funding for the company. Honestly I didn’t even have a validated product yet. It wasn’t even like, I had that opportunity to do that if I wanted to. Basically I needed a job. Now I couldn’t go back to hospitality as much I considered it because, again anybody who’s worked in that industry, it’s very time-consuming. I knew my business wouldn’t get a fair chance if I, went back to that industry.

I was on a bit if a breaking point because I’d realized I put all my eggs in one basket being in hospitality. I didn’t really have any other, transferable skills. Even my education is in hospitality. But the one thing I did have was a Shopify store. I built that store myself and I figured out how to do that on my own and I thought, “Okay. Well, maybe I can get a job at Shopify.” I reached out to the company and I don’t know if your awareness of this, but I actually ended up being hired as a guru, at first.

JD: Okay.

Sheena: I was basically, technical support. That’s more of their, entry-level position as far as the company’s concerned. It was a bit of a pay decrease from my former career of course but for me, it just meant the world that, “Okay I’m making a little bit of money that’s gonna help pay the bills. Shopify is just gonna help pay for my business. I’ll stick around for six months or a year and, then I’ll move on.” Here we are three years later and I’ve since, grown with the company exponentially and have actually, joined pretty much the founding team of Shopify Plus. I’ve gone from Guru to Merchant Success Manager to now Merchant Success Manager Lead.
The crazy thing about all that is I’ve had these tough moments where I thought, “Well, you know, will my business be sacrificed because I have this full-time job?” But I created this beautiful ecosystem where I get to, work with entrepreneurs everything single day, when I wake up. To me that’s so motivating, and so rewarding and challenging and that only helps my business. As a result, my business just continues an awesome upward trajectory where, in our early days, like I said maybe we were doing honestly maybe, $100, $200 a week in sales. I’m proud to share that we’re actually on target this year to hit our first million in all time revenue.

JD: Wow, congratulations. That is so awesome, so awesome.

Sheena: Thank you.

JD: Good. Let’s get into some of the meet with Tease Tea. I’m sure your role at Shopify will, add value as we go. I wanna talk about attracting customers. What are some of the things that you’ve done successfully? What are some of the things that just have, flat failed? I know that you launched a pop-up shop, at some point in time a few years ago in New York. Talk to me about that. Let’s focus in on attracting customers. How do you do that? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked?

Sheena: Yeah. I’m so stubborn and if there’s anything I’ve learned the hard way over the years it’s, you really gotta listen to the people around you. You don’t know it all even if you think you’ve got the best intention. My ego has taken a little bit of a backseat in recent years and that’s a good thing because it’s help my business. Trust me. What I mean by that is early on when I started Tease Tea, keep in mind that every shopping mall basically has a Tea Manner or a David’s Tea or what have you. Tea is a very very competitive space, especially if you’re not a retailer and you’re exclusively online, which I was at the time. I knew I needed to have, a different brand. What no one was doing was having a brand that was more, modern and playful and very feminine. I thought, “Okay this is what I’m gonna work with. And our branding colors are gonna be, pink and white. And it’s just going to be different from every other different tea company and, I’m gonna make tea sexy. Because, nobody’s making tea sexy.”

JD: Nice.

Sheena: Hence the name Tease and what have you. Our names early on had these slightly, provocative names. They’re a little more cheesy and playful now versus provocative. I worked so hard to drive across that branding and messaging to attract customers but, it took me so long to realize that women don’t want their tea to be sexy. They don’t care about that. In fact it wasn’t what, women were looking for at all. Women have their own goals and desires, and to try and make my spin on tea being sexy it was just, falling on deaf ears. It’s not what anybody wanted. That’s when I had to pivot the brand, dramatically after about a year, because it just wasn’t working.

It wasn’t attracting customers and it wasn’t attracting the right customers either even the ones that we were attracting to be honest. We changed our whole strategy to something that’s actually more, deeply rooted in my own personal values and that’s supporting the empowerment of women. I come from very humble beginnings, my mom had me at 17 as a single mom. I watched her struggle and raise two girls. Women’s empowerment has just been always something really top of mine for me. I’d like to think that, despite your circumstance or environment you have an opportunity to really try and overcome any adversities if you really put your heart and desire and goals to it. That’s where Tease Tea took a huge shift in brand, and we focus on the empowerment of women. So, the names of our teas were more so focused on that. Again To The Finish Lime is a great example we were talking about earlier.

That’s about reaching your goals, getting to the finish line. We changed our position from being a sexy tea company to, how are you feeling? Where are your goals? We have a tea for that. That’s been our messaging and we also added our Cherry Tea program about two years ago. Which is, basically proceeds from every single order at support the, empowerment of women. From, female, let’s say shelters or, non-for-profits to female violence startups. We pick a different organization every month. That’s actually, helped us to drive, the great customers loyal customers, and actually create a tribe and a following, to support our message and what we do.

JD: That is awesome. It all starts with messaging. You’ve gotta figure out the message that resonates with a specific market, with a specific subset of the marketplace that is out there. You’ve obviously pivoted and done that, greatly. When you are attracting them, you now have the message you have your avatar. What are you doing to get in front of that market? Are you, running paid ads? Are you on, social media running paid ads? Are you, doing SCO? What are the actual tactical things that you’re doing to attract people?

Sheena: Oh my goodness, so many things. I feel like we’re grinding away just really trying to drive home our messaging and our mission. I guess from day one, one of the big things that’s always worked for us is, celebrating and talking about what we stand for first and then diving into the product secondly. That’s not just from the angle of female empowerment but I’m also a huge advocate of tea education and the lifestyle behind tea. I would basically do so much media early on because I didn’t have money for Facebook advertising I didn’t have money for Google AdWords none of that. I had to get really creative and I would basically put my good Internet stalking skills on and go on LinkedIn and find the producers of local shows, even local community shows where maybe five people watch that show.

But then all of a sudden you’ve got this collateral that you can share with a slightly bigger show. I’d say, this is how I am on-air. This is what I talk about, and so it creates this domino effect. That’s how we got started. I basically was on air, on Rogers TV which is a very small community network here in Ottawa and I kept those video reels. Then I would share them to the citywide shows. Then, I was going up through the providentially wide shows and then, next thing you know Tease Tea’s been on national TV here in Canada oh gosh it was seven or eight times now. That’s because we’ve always devoted to, focusing on the lifestyle of tea first and then we just happen to make great tea as well.

JD: That is awesome. That is such a gorilla tactic but, there’s a lot of investment. A, you have to be a Tea Sommelier, and really know your stuff. B, you’ve gotta be passionate about it it’s not just all head knowledge. C, then you’ve gotta get in stock and hustle and get those producers to, give you a shot on-air. I love it. I love the gorilla nature. This should be encouraging-

Sheena: Yeah and people are always like, “Wow you’re so lucky that you’ve had all these media appearances.” I just go off at them, I’m like, “Luck, let me tell you has nothing to do with. Nobody is knocking on my door, trust me.” I look at it like, you know we talk about the conversion rate and e-commerce all the time. We talk about, the conversion rate at checkout, 2%, 3% that’s great or, whatever it might vary by industry. I literally have my own theory of conversion rate when, reaching out to people like cold calling cold emails. I’ll reach out to 100 people, I’m not even joking and hope to God that maybe two to three will get back to me.

JD: That’s right.

Sheena: You just can’t keep up, you just have to keep going after people and, I’ve been probably a bit, going after things almost to a fault sometimes. I’ve gotten myself blacklisted from one show to be honest [inaudible 00:18:02]. Both times it goes the other way and I’m still trying to figure out the right balance. But, now that our company is in more of a healthier cash flow state, only in the last honestly six to eight months we’ve started to, really dabble more into, Facebook advertising and things like that, and more paid marketing.

JD: Right, right. Wow, that’s awesome. We didn’t talk about the pop-up shop. Can you tell me about your experience with that and the good bad and the ugly. Because a lot of people, Shopify frankly promotes doing pop-up shops and they’re very popular across the country. To see whether or not a particular market would, appeal to your specific product, product set and brand messaging.

Sheena: Definitely, that was really interesting opportunity and another example of how I just seem to dive into things without really thinking about them. Which can work out but you can fall flat on your face sometimes and you just have to be prepared for that. I maintained a relationship with a contact, and this contact reached out to me in, gosh when was it?

August 2015 and was like, “Hey, you know I’m part of this team that’s opening up this beautiful market in a meatpacking district called the Gansevoort Market. And we have, you know, some of New York City’s best but we’re also bringing in some like international people as well. And so, we wanna have like an exceptional pizza guy and gelato guy and flower girl and what have you then. And we’ve been following you on social media. We love your messaging we love what you do. We want you to be the exclusive, tea girl for this market. And so you can do a pop up here basically and this is what it would cost.”
They laid it all out. It’s funny he basically … it seemed like an opportunity to at least consider. It seemed a bit outlandish for a small Canadian tea company, who still at this time hadn’t had a lot of sales yet to just dive into, an American market and just open up a pop up. I had two choices I could either say yes or no. I just said, “Yes”. The crazy thing about it JD is that I had six weeks to actually open once I said yes.

JD: Oh my.

Sheena: Because they were on a tight deadline to actually open this place. I not only had to say yes I had to say yes and move in in six weeks and be open. I looked at that … One of my favorite quotes from Richard Brandson which is basically, “If somebody offers you an incredible opportunity say yes and figure out later how to do it.” That’s basically, what happened. I didn’t have the money to open this pop up for the operating cost or the starting so, I launched a Crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Which you’re aware of and thank you and Amy for supporting that it means so much. I know you’re still supporting it to this day because you’re still subscribed to our tea.

JD: Yeah we are.

Sheena: You must have so much tea you don’t even know what to do with it at this point.

JD: Yeah, we do have a lot of tea. We share it with our friends.

Sheena: Yeah exactly. It makes easy gifts, right?

JD: Absolutely.

Sheena: We launched this Kickstarter campaign with an aggressive goal of $23,000 in 30 days. Oh my gosh, I’ve never worked harder in my life to actually talk about that like love conversion that I have that theory. I have never texted LinkedIn emailed, called, slacks literally everybody and their dog, to say, “This is what I’m doing. We’re a small tea company, help us get to the big city.” The main reason why I wanted to do this is because by New York City Center there’s actually quite a reasonable deal for rent to be honest. But that was first of all, pretty awesome but the second thing, is that it’s very low risk in the sense that if we can actually afford to open, we weren’t gonna be forced into any crazy ten-year lease or five-year lease or anything like that. It was basically, a yearly lease with, the opportunity to break it if necessary under certain conditions or what have you. But it seemed low risk but most of all it was in a high traffic tourist destination.

That was, really the most attractive to me because, one of Tease Tea’s primary goals is to become the best online tea company for women around the world. If there’s anywhere that you can actually get in front of people, it’s in New York City in a high tourist area. Our whole strategy was, “Let’s not be concerned about, making a profit here because we probably won’t.” That’s a heck of a lot of tea to break a profit even in a location at a reasonable cost. We only had 80 square feet, so not a lot of room to begin with. “But let’s just focus on creating an exceptional experience for every single customer and if they like our tea they know that when they go back home whether it’s Germany, Australia, Dubai they can simply order it from and have it shipped to their doorstep.”

JD: Wonderful. What were the results?

Sheena: Definitely did not turn a profit. That’s really important to know. In fact, oh gosh because we did two pop-ups in two years in New York City, two separate locations basically. The first one, got us at a break even and maybe minimal losses during most months. But the, customer acquisition was huge for us and, we were collecting data on our website like, “How did you hear about us.” We had an exponential amount of new customers saying, “Oh you know I stop by the Gansevoort Market in New York City.” That was great, I chalked that up to a marketing expense at the end of the day even though we didn’t turn a profit.

The second pop up however, we did not anticipate just how bad it was gonna be at that location and perhaps didn’t do enough research or due diligence on our end. But, there were points where we were running out of money and I was using my Shopify pay check to cover expenses. Because I still have yet to take a paycheck from my own company, from Tease Tea. We’re a team of about, three now and my focus has been, I’m very grateful that I get to wake up every day to a job that, is supportive of what I do. My part in Tease Tea is basically investing in other people in terms of, from a conversation standpoint. Yeah. When that market was failing and I still had people to pay I was using my, paycheck at Shopify to pay for that.

JD: Wow.

Sheena: Yeah.

JD: Looking back, and we’ll get off of acquisition here in a little. But looking back, do you knowing what you know today, would you do it all again? Would you do the pop-ups again knowing what you know today? Or would you just pick the first one and nix the second one?

Sheena: Good question. My fiancé would hate me for saying this but I would do it all over in a heartbeat. It is crazy how much stress that pop up put in my life because, I was flying to New York every few weeks to check on things. I don’t live in New York. There was that, there was that time, there’s the cost associated with that. There would be these things like, I would get these emails from the people running the store, from my employees being like, “Hey just so you know Christmas is in a couple weeks. Like let’s talk about a budget to like dress up the windows for Christmas and get festive.” I’m like, “I don’t have the mental bandwidth to think about Christmas decorations right now. I’m not interested. They’re not part of this.”

All these things, they’re some other challenges that you think of, “Oh, the French press brakes. Or the sanibar for the hot water breaks.” You’re constantly fixing equipment and paying to fix equipment all the time. Then, just even dealing with, working employees who obviously naturally things happen they’re gonna be but then, I didn’t have adequate backup plans to replace them. The type of uncalculated stress that I brought on myself was absolutely crazy. Because obviously the challenge of having a bricks and mortar versus an online store are very very different. But I would still do it all over again in a second.

JD: You know what I love is, you’re a true entrepreneur. I’m just sitting over here listening to you chuckling to myself because, it’s the nature of an entrepreneur a risk taker to go, “It sucked. It was so bad at times. I don’t care just go make … Just make … Decorate the dang window. Right? Just make it look good. I really don’t care that’s why I hired you. Make a decision.”

Sheena: Exactly.

JD: All of this financial stress and, time and energy and all of that and you’re just like, “I would do it all again.”

Sheena: I know it’s crazy. You have to be a little bit, insane in all the right ways to be an entrepreneur. I actually I really acquired my hospitality background because, that industry really gave me the backbone to roll with the punches. There’s few other industries were literally, you’re subjecting yourself, in front of strangers every single day on the job and bending over backwards to make them happy, all with a smile. And creating an incredible experience within that first interaction, no pressure. I feel like that really helped give me the backbone to drive myself as an entrepreneur to date for sure, and the work ethic.

JD: That’s very cool. Once you’ve attracted somebody and you, do it through just flat out hustle, reaching out on radio and television and doing all of that and making sure that you really know your stuff. Obviously you have a great product and I think that will come into play in the retention piece. Because people just won’t come back and buy if they have a bad experience of if your tea just really isn’t that good at all. No matter how connected they are to your brand message. But, converting somebody, once they get to your site talk to me … Give me some tools. Give me, your philosophy behind a subscription model versus a one-off sale. Talk to me about the way that you think about conversions and, what you have seen work on Tease Tea and, maybe bring in some of your experiences from working with other merchants like us, that you’ve actually been able to adopt and implement in your store. Which I know happens all the time. You’re looking for the best practices and being like, “Will this apply?”

Sheena: Always. Definitely to go on a subscription model it’s actually a smaller part of what we do right now but we’re really trying to get better at. It’s been successful for us but it doesn’t make up for the bulk of our revenue right now.

JD: What percentage is subscriptions for you?

Sheena: Honestly about 15%.

JD: Okay.

Sheena: Of our website sales are subscription. It’s been great it’s steadily increasing but, it’s interesting because I feel like because we’ve been trying … We launched on Amazon in June and that … We’ll go into that later. That’s created a bit of a beast and burden for us, in a good way and a bad way. We even just trying to like, not drown in keeping up with our Amazon side of the business that, I have not been giving the attention for these subscriptions to continue to thrive and grow to the next level. But, in terms of what we do for repeat customers on the website and even on Amazon because we have seen it. We do things that actually, and I think again this goes back to my hospitality background is, creating that perfect first experience is so important to me. That has actually been really important to our customers and they notice it and they tell us this. We’ve done that in many different ways creating that first experience. You brought up things that I’ve suggested to Shopify merchants that I’ve leveraged on my own. Kit is an incredible app. Are you familiar with Kit?

JD: I am. I’ve looked at it several times I haven’t used it personally in our business but I am familiar with it. Tell me what you love about it.

Sheena: I use Kit on such a basic level and I probably really under utilize the full power of it. But I use it for one primary core thing, Kit basically sends every single customer that buys from our website a thank you email from me. It doesn’t look like some mail chimp or caveola thing with an unsubscribe button at the bottom or whatever. It literally looks like an email from me it’s as white glove as it gets. There’s nothing folly or fancy. It looks like it could’ve been sent from my iPhone, after dinner.

JD: Nice, nice.

Sheena: It basically is a thank you, on behalf of myself the CEO of the company. It basically says, it’s personalized to their first name of course and it will say, “Hi JD. Thank you so much for your first-time purchase. As a small business your trust in my store really means so much. If you have any, feedback let me know. Happy sipping, Sheena.” Then it also recognizes a repeat customer, the second time and it’ll say, “Hi JD. Thank you so much for your, second purchase in our store. Your loyalty means so much to us.” It’s just very personal and I swear I would never hear for my customers if I didn’t have that app. I’ve actually had people reply back to that. Again it just looks like it goes straight to me

The customers will say, “Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to personally reach out. I just wanna let you know I’m obsessed with this tea and this is why. Or this is how I found you or, your mission to empower women mean so much to me because …” I’ve literally had women say that they come from, unfortunately battered circumstances in previous relationships and stuff like that. The fact that they are supporting a business that is empowering women in those situations, really strikes a personal chord with them. I get the most personal messages back from my customers and, that’s huge. Talk about the first experience they haven’t even gotten our product yet at this point.

JD: Right. That is amazing. Are you using videos on your site? Have you seen an impact of anything specifically to, if you were to get into the conversion specifics. What is your site convert at as a percentage and have you seen different things work better than others, like video or promotion? Get a little granular with me.

Sheena: Yeah for sure. We have pretty reasonable … We have pretty high repeat customer rate, it’s set around 40%. We’re working, obviously to continue to improve that. Our conversions rate tend to bounce between 4% to 5% which is pretty good which we’re pretty happy about. Especially, it used to be a bit higher but we’ve diluted that conversion because, now we’re using Facebook ads and were driving all this new traffic that didn’t exist before. It’s diluted that a little bit. But yeah, a lot of our products on the website actually have testimonials from customers drinking our tea. We try not to focus on what we think about it and why we think it’s so great we just want our customers to tell you. I really try to go out of my way to do influence or marketing on a personal level through the website.
I’ll ask customers … I’ll reach out to them directly personally and just say, “Hey, do you have time to take a 30 second video of what you thought of our Berry me in Kisses blend or To The Finish Lime or what have you. I’ll try and entice them with a gift card and I know that that’s meaningful to them because they’re already repeat buyers. They’ll give me this video and then I’ll put it in the product description. Now people have an opportunity to see what other people think about it. It’s not just reviews, general reviews, it’s an actual, human it’s a face you’re putting a connection to the product and its perceived quality and value. Again that goes to, trying to create the best experience possible for that first impression.

Try to humanize the experience, that’s really the most important thing because, that’s our biggest roadblock as e-commerce owners is. how do you create a personal connection with your customers online? It’s really hard. That Kit “Thank you email” is a great example of personalizing the experience from the moment they make a purchase. Then also, putting those videos embedded into the actual product description, also humanizes the browsing and shopping experience.

JD: Absolutely. I am on, one of your products right now. It is the Tongue Thai’d.

Sheena: Tongue Thai’d. Yeah

JD: Tongue Thai’d which is so genius. You have a little gift down there that, is that … I’m so bad with my Disney Princess characters. Is that Cinderella or who is that?

Sheena: I think it’s Snow White.

JD: Snow White okay. That’s genius, I literally can’t even.

Sheena: She’s speechless, she’s tongue-tied.

JD: She is tongue-tied, yeah. I think that that’s awesome.

Sheena: Thank you. We don’t put videos at every single one. In fact that’s a very new initiative that we’re trying to do. We only have maybe about 30% that actually have videos but then, we try to compensate for the ones that don’t have videos yet with gifts that make you smile and chuckle a bit. It’s called Tongue Thai’d for you listeners, T-H-A-I’D because it’s made with thai and lemongrass, so it’s a play on words. Then you have this Snow White gift who’s running away from the Disney Forest like, “I’m so speechless I really really can’t even.” It’s just a mean and a gift. People identify with those today so if you identify with that on a personal level then, that’s great.

JD: Yeah, yeah. You’ve gotta do more of that I think it’s brilliant. Your product photos, do you do those in house or do you outsource those because, I don’t know very much about tea but their beautiful. It shows the uniqueness of every single blend, every flavor.

Sheena: Thank you that’s actually one of my favorite hacks is the mod photographer. I don’t even have a nice camera but what I do is I put those … I’ll take my tea blends and I’ll lay them out on a white background. I’ll position them in a way so that you can see some of the key ingredients at first glance. Then I use this app called … Not this app but, this service called Pixelz P-I-X-E-L-Z. If you can go to you can upload any photo, and I’m not even kidding for I think it’s two dollars a photo.

They have a professional turn your iPhone photo into a gorgeous product ready photo. They’ll Photoshop in a little shadow on the white background, they’ll brighten the resolution a little bit. I’m not really sure what they do they’re wizards in my opinion. But if I showed you these before and afters of what the photo looks like when I take it, to the time I uploaded to them and for two dollars and in 24 hour turnaround time I get a beautiful product photo it’s a great hack. And I didn’t have to hire a photographer for those photos.

JD: That is amazing. I’m going to be using that very soon. I’m gonna be using that. Do you have, Phomo? Is that what’s running? Or do you have a different-

Sheena: Yes.

JD: Okay. Tell me about Phomo for those of you who don’t know what that is out there listening.

Sheena: Yeah, I have Phomo and it’s so funny again this is how my position at Shopify really keeps my ears tuned in to trying all these different things. But, it’s actually Dylan at BBXL who’s a Shopify Plus partner he basically said to me, “This is a very easy app that you can install. It’s like minimal effort and, but you can have create such a maximum impact with that app.” Basically what happens is, you install this app from the Shopify App Store, in the bottom left corner, whatever you prefer it shows every time somebody’s made a purchase. Then it recycles them if it’s not a particularly busy day. But what it does is it creates an urgency to buy. It’s like a puzzle, the psychological buying behavior of the prospective customer they see this urgency. It’s like, people want what other people are having. Right?

JD: Absolutely.

Sheena: They’re like, “Oh wow, so that person’s getting that, I wanna get that too.” And, “Oh wow, this one keeps popping up like crazy it’s a popular seller, definitely gonna add that to my cart.” Yeah. I’ve literally had people say to me, seeing that Phomo app come up has actually helped, push them to making that conversion.

JD: Nice yeah. We all want social proof, even though we all admit that … Or we think that we don’t wanna do what everybody else does, it totally hooks us it’s a psychological hack. You also have Wheeleo, installed. Did you have a way to capture opt-in email addresses before you installed Wheeleo? If you did, can you tell me the difference in your conversions? Have you seen it improve or …

Sheena: Yeah. I used to have a standard pop-up box to enter email back in the day so two years ago. Then I just started to experiment with not using them. It’s a personal choice for every business owner but I try to put myself in the position of the consumer. I personally just don’t like them when I go to other stores online. They get in my way they’re distracting and, it’s funny it’s actually driven me to sometimes leave the store on certain occasions. Especially if I’m just browsing and I’m not fully committed to a sale. If I’m totally committed to the sale, then having a discount code pop-up as icing on the cake that’s great but if I’m not it’s just annoying. I had nothing for the longest time. I had a basic subscribe option at the bottom I think it’s still there in our photo. You can join our email list.

But then I saw Wheeleo, and again I’m trying to think about, “How can I make a really cool first impression for a customer?” When I saw Wheeleo I was like, “This is it. This gamefies that experience with minimal offering.” What Wheeleo does is again you install it onto your store it doesn’t take a lot of effort and, you can customize, it’s like a spin and win concept. You can customize, what your customer is going to win. They enter their email address and in return, they get something. They get something right away. They don’t get updates on their latest products they get, an opportunity to roll the dice and see what happens. We all have that curiosity so why not? Let’s see what we get. Our options are everything from free shipping to 5% up to 20% off and then some free products or, different variations. You can actually set as the owner, what percentage of things you want people to land on.

JD: Yeah.

Sheena: Which is great too so you don’t have to worry about those high value items making you bankrupt or whatever because people just happen to keep stumbling on them. There’s that and that actually helped too. In the first three weeks alone, I’m a smaller business probably in comparison to yours and other people who were on Shopify Plus specifically but, it gave me 400 new email addresses within the first two weeks and that was just incredible for me.

JD: Wow that’s awesome. What I love about setting it up, is we had it on our site for a little while and we took it off because we’re, doing some different promotions and things and I didn’t wanna confuse people. But, what I love about it it’s almost like being the owner of a casino and you get to set the rules for the roulette wheel. It’s like it gives you this control but it also is neat because, for the consumer it’s a game of chance that gamefies which we all know is huge and only going to get bigger. I’m about out of time to talk about conversions but I have never seen the little, “How did you hear about us?” The Little Lucky Orange App, I’ve never seen that ever. Talk to me about the feedback that you get from this. How long you’ve had it running, what your experiences is, positive possibly negative?

Sheena: Yeah I’ve had that running for a year and a half and that’s now called Lucky Orange like you mentioned. Again like Kit I probably under utilize this app. This app is so cool JD. It actually can give you heat maps of your customers. It records where their mouse is fulling over, where their eyes are possibly looking, at what point they’re dropping off a page, how long their spending on a page, before they give up. Yeah. It’s a really cool app and, all these recordings are available from in the database and I honestly rarely look at them. I really need to set up a time but, I use it for the most simple feature and that’s that poll. What I do with that poll is I think it says, “How’d you hear about us?” The options are, friends, TV segment, other and there’s the pop-up in NYC. Which I should probably update that because we actually closed our second pop up in February so thank you for pointing that out. It’s like a never ending laundry list of an entrepreneur.

JD: I know, I know.

Sheena: Yeah. I installed it about a year and a half ago and again that was important for me because, I didn’t have the budget at the time to pay for advertising. If I was successfully capturing new customers and repeat customers I wanted to know where the heck they were coming from and so that was a good way to do that without spending a lot of money. Yeah. Our biggest one usually is, Blue Rads it’s the segments on TV. That’s because, we don’t just use those TV segments as a flash in the pan even if it’s something like, it has a small viewership if it happens to be a local one. We take those videos and we embed them on our website we embed them on our blogs we embed them in our newsletters we, upload them to YouTube and it’s just easy content to spread across multiple platforms from Twitter to Facebook, and everything around the lifestyle content of tea. That lifestyle content is like really been a huge driving factor of why people are curious about us.

JD: That’s amazing. As a percentage of traffic, how many people actually will select one of the poll radio buttons? Do you have any rough … I know that you probably could get on the dashboard.

Sheena: Yeah. I actually have stats on that. I can try and pull it up super quick but it’ll say how many times people basically dismiss that altogether. Let me pull it up here, I’m in my Shopify admin right now. Just take one moment.

JD: Yeah I’m just curious about that because, I would bet that if you got 10% of your traffic of visitors, unique to engage in that in some fashion, that would be just wonderful. I’ll be anxious to see if it’s even that high.

Sheena: Yeah. No, I’ll take a look. So you know that little doorbell you just heard tells me that somebody’s also looking at my store at the same time which is great. It shows all your visitors at the same time, what country they’re from, how many times they visited your page, it just shows you so much. Now I will say this about the poll, is for a while with the specific theme that I’m using is called Parallax I used a cart slide feature, that I toggled on.

What that means is that when somebody would add something to their cart, the little pop-up slider of their cart would show and they could hit check out right away. When that happened it would bypass this poll altogether, which I completely didn’t even realize for some time until about a month ago. This poll wasn’t capturing data for a couple months as a result of that slide cart feature that we used to have. But yes, I’m taking a look. Yeah so currently it’s showing our stats for the last, 30 days and so it’s had 3,000 views and 1,000 responses. That’s pretty good it means one third of people who are looking at this are actually, taking the time to answer it.

JD: That’s amazing a third wow.

Sheena: Yeah, that’s pretty high actually.

JD: That’s great. Do you have the ability to turn it off and fire it on a specific page? Like on the thank you page or, does it have to be …

Sheena: Yeah. You can embed it on any page you want, and so I chose the cart page because, my thought process at the time was, “Well everybody lands on the cart page at some point.” That’s before, I had the option to do sliding cart to automatically go to check out.

JD: Nice, nice. Well this has been so awesome. I love, I love your story. I love your heart. Your fiancé, is he helping you in the business now is that right?

Sheena: Yeah. That’s actually a quick story on that. Basically back in June, my partner, my spouse, my fiancé whatever you wanna call him. He had the idea to, put us on Amazon. I said, “You know what?” Again I don’t even have the bandwidth to think about Christmas decorations for the pop-up. I can’t even think about Amazon. This is a whole other beast for me that I don’t understand, totally unchartered territory. He’s like, “Let me just experiment with two scoops of your 30 with North of the Lawn our two best sellers. I said, “Okay.” He did that JD and it’s actually crazy maybe it’s a whole other separate conversation but, currently Amazon makes up for 80% of Tease Tea’s overall revenue.

JD: Wow.

Sheena: Yeah. Since then he’s quit his job. He quit his job last summer because we came to this breaking point again this crossroads. It’s like, this business is thriving I need to hire people just to keep up. I feel guilty that I have this, full-time job that I love but at the same time I can’t give my business all the attention it deserves because it’s just exploding right now. It’s a lot. I’m putting in 15 hour days like back in the hospitality days. My fiancé was like, “You know what? I’m gonna quit my job.” I was just shocked for a minute, and I said, “But why?” He’s actually a Civil Engineer for the National Research Council here in Ottawa that’s his gig.

Time and, really worked hard in his career to get where he was and he’s like, “You know what? I like my job. I don’t love it but I like it.” And he said, “At the end of the day if forgive my French, but if shit hits the fan I’m still a Civil Engineer and I can go back and get another job in that field and I will try to.” He said, “You love your job it benefits your world with Tease Tea in so many profound ways and, you get so much fulfillment out of helping other entrepreneurs which is no big part of your own personally and efficiently let me just do this.” Yeah, as of last summer has been with our company full-time and that’s just really been so helpful because, I know he has our company’s best interest.

JD: Absolutely.

Sheena: And it helps me sleep better at night.

JD: That’s awesome. If you didn’t know that he was your guy, he was the man for you-

Sheena: I don’t know what I knew. The guy was willing to quit his job as a Civil Engineer to pack tea for a living, and take a huge pay cut, in the process. I don’t really know if there’s any other defining way to find a keeper.

JD: That’s right. That’s so good. Well I think the last part in attract convert and retain, really has already been answered Sheena. I would like to give my perspective on your business, as it pertains to how you have been successful in retaining 40% of your customers which is amazing.

Sheena: Thank you.

JD: The stat that you showed earlier it’s basically, you really know tea. You interject personality. You make it easy for people to purchase, and you are connecting with them at a much deeper level around this women’s empowerment and, raising yourself up from the ashes as it were. No matter what circumstance you come from you can do it. Encouraging people to be more than, what maybe their circumstances are showing them that they are. It’s just a very natural extension of you doing a great job in creating a really great brand that, I believe has a great chance of being the largest, the best worldwide tea company online. I just wanna congratulate you. It’s just so awesome.

Sheena: Thank you so much JD you’ve got me blushing over here it really means so much, and I think you would agree with this, as entrepreneurs don’t we always forget to, sit back and reflect on our successes even the small ones?

JD: Yes.

Sheena: I really appreciate that thank you. We don’t really get those words enough as entrepreneurs owning our own business because we’re so in the trenches. We’re in the trenches every day but our heads are in the clouds at the same time and, it can be yeah, it can be such a tough journeys so I really do appreciate those kind words. They mean so much because trust me, I don’t hear them enough. I’m in my own little world and, somebody reminded me, we opened our office our very first office in March and someone said go celebrate that. I said, “Well why? We really just needed a place because we outgrew our basement.” That’s a whole other thing and they’re like, “No an office is a big deal.” He’s like, “If you’re not celebrating these milestones what the hell are you even doing operating a business? What’s the point?”

JD: Right right. Well this concept of, delayed gratification I think that you have embraced wholly. The fact that you’re still working at Shopify speaks the fact that you’re a lifelong learner and that you love helping people. One thing that I love that you shared with me that I hope it’s okay to share is that, you’ve become known for being able to diffuse really unhappy merchant. That when Shopify released some changes out into the wild, that you actually got called on, on multiple occasions because you had become known for this, to deal with irate customers. You had … What did you tell me 70 some conversations with people who were pretty ticked off?

Sheena: Yes.

JD: Yeah?

Sheena: We had 70 conversations and yeah I basically, have a reputation. The nice way of putting it is being called the merchant whisperer but really my team calls me like, “If shit hits the fan talk to Sheena.”

JD: Exactly, Sheena help. Obviously you’ve been gifted in what you do there and you’re taking the long approach. You are, taking a long approach to Tease Tea and there’s gonna be a very natural, I don’t know that I’m prophetic in this but, it just feels like there’s gonna be a very natural, time in the future where, the demands and also the rewards from Tease Tea and the effort and the energy and the team that you’ve built, will get to the point where, it just is a natural transition for you to go to Tease Tea. I know that that will be, an exciting but probably hard decision to make at the time as well.

Sheena: Definitely.

JD: But, yeah I just wish we could talk for another hour.

Sheena: I know. I could talk shop all day.

JD: I know.

Sheena: I really appreciate the opportunity it’s really been, such a pleasure.

JD: Yeah. Well thank you Sheena. For anybody out there who hasn’t tried Tease Tea I would just, encourage you to check out Sheena’s website it’s She’ll take great care of you, her and her team and, make sure and get an extra little, what do you call it? The little thing that you put the tea in?

Sheena: Tea infuser.

JD: The tea infuser, be sure to get a extra couple of those because Amy and I are always fighting over the best infuser. Go ahead and spend a little bit of extra money and get a nicer one. Honestly, you’ll enjoy your tea so much more, wouldn’t you agree Sheena?

Sheena: Yeah absolutely. Our infusers are great, really gives an opportunity to let the leaves expand and grow and release their flavors.

JD: Yeah. All right, well again thank you Sheena on for being on our show eCommerce In The Trenches. This is JD Crouse and until next time, go out there and kill it in your store and if you haven’t started one, go to Shopify and open up a new store. Focus on attracting converting and retaining your customers building a great brand injecting, a great story and we wish you the very best Sheena and, we’ll talk to you again soon.

Sheena: Thanks JD take care.

JD: Okay bye-bye.