Monday, October 3, 2011

Tea, Opening Days & How to make a Million

Wow, I've been away for while, haven't I?

Oh, well...let's pick back up, shall we...

So, I'm reading this book called The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. I usually read sci-fi and fantasy but I was drawn into this book because the main character moves from 19th Century London to America and starts a tea shop. I'm in love with starting new businesses (I've started 4 myself). I was also intrigued by the historical backdrop (Jack the Ripper makes a cameo).

Yesterday I finished a chapter about the opening day of Fiona's (the main character) shop. She actually started her tea venture by reopening her drunk uncle's grocery store. It was a huge success and she attracted the eye of a millionaire named William McClane who gives her advice one night about growing her business:
"You know sweet pastries sell, so now try savories. Meat pies…chicken pies…those sorts of things. It’s a risk – you may not sell them – but it’s a calculated one. Odds are you will. Try a selection of good candy. If people are buying biscuits, chances are they’ll buy chocolate. What else? The asparagus sold out, right? I had the most delicious braised lettuces at Rector’s the other night. They were new, not full-grown. Maybe people who like fresh vegetables would buy those, too. Maybe not, but you should investigate every possibility. Anticipate every need. Be the first to give your customers what they want, even if they don’t yet know they want it."
 I have a feeling this might be the best business advice ever given. You know how I loath self help and what I loath even more is self help disguised as teaching someone how to start a business. Actually, it's not even billed as teaching you how to start a business. It's usually billed as "How to make a million dollars". But William's speech is the meat and potatoes of how to start a business. I've never met Carnegie or Rockefeller but I would stake the rest of my savings (granted it's not much) on the fact that they both would agree with the above business plan.

Most of my business skills I have learned in the most unsuspecting places. I've learned that sometimes it's best to just use your first idea and get it done than it is to stay up all night finding the "perfect" idea. I learned that from the kids I teach at my after-school program, Entrepreneur Teens Rock. And from watching Mad Men, I've learned that advertising is more about what you are supposed to feel about a product than what a product really does or is. This makes a great show (my husband and I just finished a Mad Men marathon to catch up to the next season) but it doesn't really make for a feasible marketing plan for most small businesses. And from a card in the store I learned that you must "Bloom where you are planted".

That last quote, "Bloom where you are planted", pretty much sums up the passage from The Tea Rose. William McClane summed it up like this: "Use what you know to grow." It's really as simple as that. It's hard to come to terms with but really the only way to learn anything or to grow a business or finish a complex project is start with what you know. The same goes for writing a book or blogging. Part of the reason why I haven't been writing is because I didn't feel like I had a right to. I'm not well-known, I don't excel at anything, I haven't taken writing classes and more to the point I couldn't figure out how to get to my blogging goal, which is essentially to get more readers. Through the confusion I didn't realize that I can string words together into coherent sentences and I do know how to think. Those two skills are really all you need to start blogging. Then from there you use what you know and learn to grow and get you closer to your goal.

That's all for now. I'm working on turning the passage from The Tea Rose into a tool to help me and hopefully you figure out how to grow your business, project, or blogging or whatever you are working on, really.

See you tomorrow!


  1. Great advice! I'm trying that with my crocheting, going with what I know! Why not keep it simple right?
    Too funny re: Mad Men.....I'm watching it on Netflix ;)

  2. Thanks Nonmom,

    I think I've repeated "Use what you know to grow" about 1,000 times in my head since I read that. It's such simple, great advice because it's actually how humans learn.

    I mean our ancestors didn't have experts or gurus to listen to so they had to figure things out on their own and take what they already knew of the world and just add to it. Guess what!? Human brains STILL work like that!

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