The last article I wrote for this site (though publication schedules won’t necessarily reflect it) was a profile of Thomas Twining, the man responsible for creating the company that became Twinings of London. It’s company that’s survived and thrived for more than three hundred years now, a considerable feat given the whopping number of businesses that have failed over the course of those same centuries.
Jump to the present day and examine the case of one Steven Smith, a tea merchant who has been behind not one and no, not two, but a total of three successful tea companies, at least for now. At the Web site for his current venture, Steven Smith Teamaker, Smith claims that his mother referred to him as “a born teamaker” and it could well be that Mrs. Smith was on to something.
Smith’s tea making and tea selling activities got underway in 1972, when he was the manager of a natural foods store in Portland, Oregon and he and two partners founded a company known as Stash Tea. The company thrived (and still does to this day) but in 1993 it was acquired by a Japanese tea company and Smith moved on to his next tea venture.
That was Tazo Tea, a brand which got underway in the kitchen of Smith’s home and grew to the point where, in 1999, it was acquired by another company based in the Pacific Northwest, a little coffee chain known as Starbucks. Smith hung around for a while after the acquisition to run the show at Tazo, finally leaving the company in 2006 and spending a couple years in France.
When the many charms of Europe began to pale Smith moved back to his old stomping grounds in Portland and started his third and current tea company. Steven Smith Teamaker is something of a departure from his previous ventures, which, though they started out in a modest way, eventually grew to become fairly sizable players in the mass merchandising of tea. As noted in a press release announcing the creation of the company, in 2009, “Steven Smith Teamaker is a family-owned business focused on producing small batch, whole leaf tea crafted at the hands (literally) of passionate tea pioneer Steve Smith.”
For more on Smith, take a look at this recent profile in the Wall Street Journal.
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