E169: Krisi Smith and Mike Turner

Sustainability, Success and The Story of Bird and Blend Tea

black and white image of krisi and mike from bird and blend tea

eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

Creating a business that is responsible for over 180 staff from an idea in the bedroom sounds like a Netflix documentary. 

But, this is how SO many businesses come together. And that’s exactly the origin story of Bird and Blend Tea. 

They aren’t just the PG Tips of the world. They host flavours that tickle the taste buds such as MojiTEA, Strawberry Lemonade and our favourite, Morning Kick! 

Delicious flavours with health benefits, a business with purpose with sustainability and people at their core and ambitious Business Owners, this podcast covers a whole host of topics. Listen now!

eCom@One Presents:

Krisi Smith and Mike Turner 

In this episode Krisi Smith and Mike Turner, Founders of Bird and Blend Tea, share their mission as a purpose-driven company that focuses on sustainability and making an impact.They are a B Corp Certified, independent, award winning company that have a goal of spreading happiness around the world with their selection of delicious teas. 

They have built their multi-million pound company from the ground up, starting from their bedroom to selling their product at markets to operating an online store, 180+ staff and 17 stores (and counting!). Krisi and Mike keep people and the planet at the forefront of their decision making, which is why Bird and Blend is leading the way in tea innovation! 

Mike and Krisi join Richard on the podcast to discuss the rollercoaster journey of building their business from an idea to a thriving omnichannel store, how they navigate the constant challenges in the world of eCommerce and why they became B Corp Certified. 

With over 100 specialist teas, they give you an insight into their product offering and how they keep things fresh and tasting fruity. Are you wondering if a subscription based model is for you? Listen to their experience so you can make informed decisions on this pricing method. 

Find out how they approach customer segmentation, marketing and the immersive in-store experiences to keep customers coming back, From sustainability to business ownership, Krisi and Mike play to their strengths to keep this business thriving. A real story of a product and business with purpose. No greenwashing, just pure heart. 

Topics Covered

00:07 – The journey of Bird and Blend Tea 

05:22 – Their partnership over the past 15 years 

08:59 – Achieving B Corp Certified Status & Sustainability efforts 

14:16 – Monitoring customer retention and feedback for improvement

18:02 – Early self-taught, now specialist-led omnichannel ecommerce expansion

22:23 – Focusing on segmentation, scalability, and personalised marketing

24:12 – Rapid growth in marketing team and strategy

28:05 – Creating an immersive in-store experience

31:57 – Emphasise USP, attract customers and offer subscriptions

33:42 – Online subscription requires strong brand connection and marketing

37:14 – Challenges with subscription businesses and customer retention

40:37 – Navigating the US and UK market and the disruption of lockdown 

42:57 – eCommerce growth led to operational challenges.

48:46 – Book recommendation

Richard Hill [00:00:04]:

Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eComOne. Welcome to episode 169. In this episode, I speak with Mike Turner and Krisi Smith, founders of Bird and Blend, a brand that Here at the agency, we are pretty familiar with, and we just had to get them on the show. You know, a very engaging story that's driven by sustainability and mission. I hosted both, Mike and Chrissy on the show. We stepped through them overcoming some quite, interesting obstacles over the Many, many years they've been in business and integrating nearly 20 stores into a very mission led journey. And of course, so much more in this episode.

Richard Hill [00:00:43]:

If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe or follow wherever you are listening to this podcast now. Let's head over to this fantastic episode. Hi, guys. How you doing?

Krisi Smith [00:00:54]:

Not bad. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mike Turner [00:00:56]:

Good. How are you?

Richard Hill [00:00:57]:

I'm really good, actually. I'm sitting here having a sip of my, gingerbread chai, which I thought would be, quite apt for this episode.

Krisi Smith [00:01:04]:

And that's the truth as well. Right? It's not, it's not fake product Placement, you actually are

Richard Hill [00:01:10]:

actually, this is this wasn't bought yesterday. This has been on the shelf for for many months. We're ready for a refill almost. So looking forward to having a good chat. So I couldn't decide between the Ilkay crema or the, the Gingerbread Chai, but Gingerbread Chai seems to still be, up there me. So I think it'd be

Krisi Smith [00:01:27]:

here, I think, because it's, feel everyone's feeling all warm, aren't they? Or trying to keep warm and cozy.

Richard Hill [00:01:34]:

That time of year. I would imagine you've got a little spike on that sort of, those sort of tones at the moment. Absolutely.

Mike Turner [00:01:41]:

Well, Well,

Richard Hill [00:01:42]:

thanks for coming on the show. I think it'd be great to kick off, if if you kick off Chrissy and sort of introduce yourself to our listeners and how you got into the world of tea and ecommerce.

Krisi Smith [00:01:51]:

Yeah. For sure. So, my name's Chrissy Smith, and I am a cofounder of a company called Bird and Blend Tea. And Michael introduced himself, but he's my other cofounder. And we started the business together 11 years ago now, which in in some ways, feels like a long time ago, but in some ways doesn't feel that that long ago at all. And we specialize in creating really unique blends of tea, so using ingredients from all over the world, and our kind of, I guess reason in biz in business and the things we're passionate about are are creating really great experiences either for our customers or for our for our team and, making a really positive impact on both the communities around us, but also the, the people that we employ. And I guess that leads a little bit into why We started the business 11 years ago. You know, personally, I didn't know what I wanted to do, as a 20 something and was I was kinda bumming around a little bit, tried out a lot of different jobs, and got a feel for what I didn't want to do in in my career and perhaps work for some businesses thought didn't do things in the right way and, was was led into tea via that route.

Krisi Smith [00:03:06]:

I think we think we're a little bit different because we didn't get into tea because Either of us were mad tea fans or, you know, trained in the tea industry. In fact, neither of us have any qualification had any qualifications in tea or business At that time, all ecommerce. Yeah. We've got that really classic, startup story. You know, just the 2 of us Had to learn any everything in the early days about marketing and ecommerce and coding and employment and P and Ls and all the things you need to learn, you know, packed tea in our back bedroom, that sort of, like, classic start up story. But 11 not quite where we are now 11 years later. But, yeah, that was a that was a whistle stop stop tour, I think, is the kind of the why and the the start of Off bed and bland?

Richard Hill [00:03:55]:

Yeah. It's a good it's just there's a lot of things I think will come back to you there. I love the sort of, you know, the Starting in the bedroom, you know, sending that 1st order, obviously deciding what to sell, you know, that, oh, did it work? Did it work? And then, obviously, yeah, is it 11 years plus into the journey? Obviously, knowing that you've got, you know, I think 17, 18 retail stores, later, and obviously, you know, huge ecommerce, platform as well. Mike, do you wanna jump in?

Mike Turner [00:04:21]:

Yeah. Sure. So as Chrissy said, I'm I'm the other cofounder, of Bird and Blenty, and I think Chrissy's Chrissy's given a an intro into who we are and what we're about, I guess in terms of what the 2 of us do. Chrissy's tended to focus on she had the vision ready for the company and built out the the brand and what we do and has taken a lead on the on the digital side, which is perhaps more the the the side which is mostly interesting to your listeners where I've tended to focus on kind of the operations of a retailer And the the financial side of it. So that's kind of how we've worked together over the years.

Richard Hill [00:04:58]:

Yeah. Yeah. I think that's always, We find that quite a lot when we're talking to, you know, co owners or business partners in businesses. You know, you've usually got these quite different, characteristics that work very well. And, I'm sure not without the odd, heated moment every now and then. Maybe maybe in the early days, obviously, you probably know each other very, very, very, very well now. So, Yeah. I think, you know, I've got sort of the chat of the words for me in this business.

Richard Hill [00:05:22]:

Been with me sort of 15, 16 years today. He's he's used to my madness and Some ideas and whatnot. But I guess, before we get into some of the q and a more so, so 11 years ago, You've mentioned that, you know, you were sort of trying a few different things, you know, you've been I know before we jumped on the call, you know, we talked about, very briefly, you know, backpacking and traveling, you know, and that type of thing. And then, yeah, I know we we do have quite a lot of, aspiring ecommerce. You know? I've got 2 older teenagers that are, in in in the trenches trying to make money online and whatnot. And and and and one of my my son yesterday said to me, right, I'm gonna take a year off after my a levels. I was like, oh, okay. Are you? Is that what all of a sudden? Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:06:04]:

But I thought, okay. You know, let let him do what he wants to do within reason. But obviously, back then, you know, 11 years ago, you know, what would you say, was one of the sort of defining moments, that sort of really sort of steered the ship in the tea and and and and in the direction that it is in now.

Mike Turner [00:06:21]:

Well, because I I think tea wasn't the starting point for us. So So the the 2 of us had had worked various crappy jobs. I think it comes to the kind of realization that Work is such a big part of your life. You spend so many of your hours of a week focused on on what your role is. That actually was a real potential to have an impact on people's lives by trying to make That bit as good as possible. I think it's fair to say for slightly for both of us before that kind of realization came. We weren't necessarily thinking that we would be going into businesses. We were kind of interested in both of us.

Mike Turner [00:07:01]:

We've met doing politics. We're kind of both interested in that sort of area. Maybe he might have ended up thinking about NGOs or charities or something like that. But I think it was that realization that that actually work can provide opportunity to people and and can have a really big impact on people's lives within the business as well as people on the other side of the country, our customers, wider society. So that was the kind of realization. Tea always came next, but we looked around and we had, I don't know, Chrissy, 20 different business ideas probably, probably 3 or 4 of them which Went anywhere, 2 maybe, which made any actual I mean, not actual money, but a couple of quid. And and and then before we fell onto T, as one which we thought was a real opportunity to fit in with that, Why we wanted to exist, we could kinda align the product with that.

Richard Hill [00:07:54]:

Yeah. So it wasn't tea. It was the driver. It was, The type of business and the type of, you know, sort of community and the way you run a business and the way you treat your people and the way that you, You know, your day to day operate, creating something that you wanna be very much, you know, passionate about, enjoy. And then tea came a few A few idea a few a few maybe found ideas later or a few yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We've all been there.

Richard Hill [00:08:16]:

And and

Mike Turner [00:08:16]:

and Tea became the the the tool that we use to to skip that journey, and that That, you know, that's kind of stayed at the very heart of it, and that doesn't mean that the the tiers are you know, we're not focused on the quality and that sort of thing. Huge amount of

Richard Hill [00:08:29]:

effort put in to make sure the quality, our excitement, everything's there, then that's because that's part of the story. Yeah. So, obviously, as you said, you know, that sort of piece around the sustainability, specifically as well. It's sort of the top of your list right from the beginning. And, you know, stepping forward, you know, 11 years, you know, How important has that been? You know, obviously, that was a key driver at the beginning, but obviously, step forward now, stepping back and looking at that, you know, how key has that been to your success, do you think?

Krisi Smith [00:08:59]:

Yeah. I think I think it's an interesting one because although we had written down at the beginning the things that were really important to us and sustainability was on the top of the list, We weren't able to actually implement, produce products and and kind of implement our sustainability goals or even set sustainability to goals that we felt were good enough until years into the business. And that was quite difficult to kind of acknowledge that in the early years of business or when you're Wanting to scale a business, you do have to sometimes sacrifice some of the things that you, you know, you can't you can't run really quick until you've got, You know, reach and money in the bank and etcetera. So although we always tried in the early days to, make sustainable choices, I think we did business in a In a sustainable way as possible for a business our size, but it's only really been over the last 4 years where we've where we've been able to really Explore that, and we've had the money and the the reach and the the resources to really double down on that and not be just Doing the best we can, but actually pushing the boundaries of of being a sustainable company and being a company that others would look up to and and try trying to change the industry and packaging and things to have a wider impact. So, yeah, so, I mean, we just got our B Corp a couple of years ago, which which was an amazing achievement. And I think nowadays, thankfully, it's not seen as, You know, a marketing ploy or you know, for us, we both personally were they were that that was a value that was personal to us, but there were lots of businesses starting at that time where that sustainability wasn't coming into any conversations. And then now I I think we went through a few years of where, Like, in all marketing agencies and and on on e on websites and stuff, it became, like, the right marketing thing to do, to put something on your green credentials because people were looking for those in order to make their, you know, buying decision. And I actually think now it's It's come even further than that in that we've actually taken a step not to reduce the The the use or the information of our sustainable, credentials across, say, our website and our marketing, we have not, like, reduced it, but we we use it we don't use it as, like, a A trick to to cause conversion.

Krisi Smith [00:11:16]:

You know, we we go into more detail about what we're doing, and we, you know, we we really think that through. And I think It's not seen as a marketing ploy anymore. It's like, well, obviously, the business is a business is going to be doing some of these things, and the consumer wants to learn a bit more about it. So I think if there are brands out now out there now that are still thinking it's okay Just kind of say we recycle our office waste or whatever on their website. Like, it's just not it's just not enough anymore because the consumers are way more savvy, and And I thought that's a really good thing.

Richard Hill [00:11:50]:

So it the it's it's sort of deeply ingrained, and it just comes across naturally as opposed to a forced marketing message, you You know, that you're pushing all of you know, and push push push. It's just so well, you know, if you go to your website and and spend some time on there and then potentially become a customer, You'll see as a customer that it's not a forced thing. You know? It's a natural thing and then start getting different communications from you about, you know, the background and the And the sort of the the ideas behind the brand, the teas, the, you know, the the people, the places, the, you know, the, locations that you have in yeah. Yeah. It comes across. Yeah. It's it's it's true, isn't it? Rather than as you maybe touched on, you know, just sort of ticking a box, we're a b corp. Let's go.

Richard Hill [00:12:34]:

Let's let's just we're b corp. There's b corp. We're The amount of companies that seem to sort of change their actual, you know, name on LinkedIn, for example, then then add the b corp to the end. It's like, well, is that really necessary? You know, Sort of forcing it forcing it. Yeah. So living and breathing it. Yeah. It's good.

Richard Hill [00:12:49]:

So, obviously, as a customer, the sort of, the touch points that I've had with your brand, you know, have been have been fantastic, you know, and I refer to some of the things that, you know, that you guys do when when deliveries arrive and things like that. But how do you evaluate that sort of customer experience to, you know, to obviously it's a lot of it's about retention, isn't it? I think and and making sure that customers ultimately are, you know, become, you know, almost obsessed with the brand, the and and they have come back again and again and recommend, etcetera. But that goes without saying, you know, but in terms of evaluating that customer experience, you know, how do you do how do you guys do that? I think

Mike Turner [00:13:29]:

it's a really interesting question. Ultimately, the the biggest way we evaluate it, because we would say that that customer experience is what we're all about, would be in the top line revenue that we believe that the growth in the business has ultimately come from us providing great experiences to our customers. They then go and tell people about it as well as coming back. Clearly, we'll try and delve into data as much as we can. But I would say that experience is such a difficult one to measure, but it's quite easy to get pulled off track. And sometimes We'll find team members kind of almost getting lost in the detail of that and need to pull them back to if we're growing. You know? It it tends to be all of the KPIs moving in the right direction. But the the ones that you would look at, mister Crow, retention.

Mike Turner [00:14:16]:

If our retention's dropping, if we're not getting 2nd, 3rd orders, then we've probably got something wrong, in what we're doing at the start. We do do surveys. We do do NPS, for the on the online side, and so we'll do that. Of course, there's customer feedback. We'll track how many tickets we're getting into customer service on a weekly that's reported on a weekly basis as a percentage of how many orders that we've done, which again will tend to, it will tend to trigger if we've got a problem, I would say, Rather than necessarily indicating that we're being great, and those are 2 different things which I think sometimes people mix up a little bit. Reviews are a little bit more of a of a reliable one, particularly because we don't massively push people to do reviews. We allow people just to do them if they want to do them. We do

Richard Hill [00:15:09]:

we do request them though in their in the way after they've purchased after so many days, weeks, you request

Mike Turner [00:15:15]:

We'll request project reviews. I don't think at the moment we do jump around what we request at different times, so I could be wrong at the moment, but I don't think at the moment we'll request Trustpilot and that sort of thing. So I always think, well, how often do you get such good service from a company that you think I'm gonna go to Trustpilot? Look them up. Go on and say, this was brilliant. It has to be really good. It's one thing clicking a link from an email saying, yeah, it was good. It's another thing doing that. In the stores, we we likewise would do similar things, but we add on there's a little bit of mystery shopping and that sort of thing.

Mike Turner [00:15:48]:

We'll we'll add in there, but I know your your listeners are more focused on the Ecom Ciderite.

Richard Hill [00:15:52]:

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Richard Hill [00:16:47]:

I guess something I'm intrigued by, hopefully, might be able to give me some insight is They're knowing, you know, a little bit about the brand and that type your type of industry. You know, I've got quite a few subscriptions with different companies in a in similar you know, I'm not gonna which is the brand names, but, you know, we're we're a big coffee and tea fans at home in the office. You know, we've got 20 plus people here and, Obviously, a family back ad. So we've got quite a few subscriptions coming and going. And and, obviously, lifetime value, you know, and then some of the subscriptions I've had for 5 years, so, you know, bimonthly, you know, so times what's that? 30, 6 times 5. Can't do the maths. 30 orders as opposed to, you know, 20 quid order. Twenty quid order is now 30 times 20 quid.

Richard Hill [00:17:28]:

So lifetime value obviously is massive. I think that's a given. But is there any sort of, Insights or tips you could give our listeners around sort of deeper segmentation with your list. I think you guys use Klaviyo, I think. That's a bit of a guesstimate because I was just looking at the tech stack on your website. But is there anything around sort of deeper segmentation? You talked about MPS and segmenting. Are you doing sort of, you know, some real deep segmentation that could give our listeners some insights into sort of potential ideas that they could look at?

Krisi Smith [00:18:02]:

I think to be honest with you, over the years, we've kind of just when I said, you know, in the early days, literally did the, You know, the classic Google courses on how to learn about the, you know, Mailchimp or whatever in the early days. And we just did the basics, You know, the the basic segmentation well, the found let's not let's not say basics. Foundational segmentation, that That I believe every ecommerce business should be doing, which I'm sure you everyone listening would know what those were. And And then it's only really been in the last couple of years that we've got to the the the size where we've been able to, recruit and employ kind of specialists in those areas, you know, pre COVID, so 2019, 2020, it was still you know, our ecom team was was also our brand team, which was also our product team, and it was And now we have a, an ecommerce department with a head of digital and a specialist on Klaviyo and a specialist, You know, an an analyst and things like that. And I think I mean, my opinion of it is that what we what I try to do is is just remind Remind people when we're we're talking about or discussing as a because we are very omnichannel. Like, we've got the retail, across our stores, we've also are in other people's stores as well, and and digital and very active Cross non sales channels as well, like social media, in, you know, events events in other people's places, corporate events, all that sort of thing. So there's a lot of Subscription, there's a lot of, strings to our bow. And because we're such a creative company, people are we're always discussing kind of new things we want to try, Whether that's product development, certain offers, you know, different things.

Krisi Smith [00:19:44]:

I think the main thing I would say is a tip. It's just every time you And it's difficult when you're trying to grow and and and and everything's going fast. But every time you do something, make sure that there is a way for you to segment the the The group of people that are doing that so that you can what they're doing over time. And my second tip would be don't just look at The Klaviyo data, like, see if you can look at it across the other platforms that you use. So I'm a big fan of actually reading what people say. So don't just The data points, like, pull out a few of the customer profiles that you've managed to tag as part of the wider segment and go and read some of the things that they've maybe set. Have they left a review? Have they emailed your customer service team? Can you pick up the phone and ask them a question? So combining both the It's quantitative and qualitative. Is that right? I don't know.

Krisi Smith [00:20:34]:

My jargon's rubbish. Do you know what I mean? Don't just don't just read the numbers because it

Richard Hill [00:20:39]:

Yeah. It's

Krisi Smith [00:20:40]:

quite difficult to to get a bigger picture on that.

Richard Hill [00:20:42]:

Yeah. That's great advice. Yeah. Sort of ears on the ground, like, listening to what's happening rather than, you know, in pure numbers. Yeah. That's great. That's the that's yeah. Totally.

Richard Hill [00:20:52]:

Speaking to the customers, listening to the customers, getting ideas, just a few tweaks, Potentially whether that's, you know, a flavor tweak, a change, an idea, or I didn't realize that, whatever was said in that review, oh, we can add that in. It's almost like creating a series of FAQs that you can then add back in potentially to, you know, the website, into the flow, different flows, campaigns. Yeah. Yeah?

Krisi Smith [00:21:15]:

Yeah. I mean, the worst thing is it the worst thing that can happen is if you've you've done something, you've tested something, or ran something a year before, and then you're coming into planning for the next year and you want To put some budget behind it, and you can't make a case for, well, how did how did it go, other than you can see that it brought in revenue. Like, I would want to know more, You know, more than just bringing in revenue and a percent new and returning customers before signing off a larger amount of spend on on it. So as you're getting to bigger and bigger spending numbers, I think sometimes it can be and bigger and bigger budgets, it can be tempting to just kind of Be less vigilant. Like, oh, well, we've got money in the bank and, you know, we've got more people and we're more detached from it and you know? But, actually, You can fall into the habit of of not fully checking if something is worth the time.

Richard Hill [00:22:04]:

Yeah. Getting quite comfortable. Oh, wait. We're not quite sure maybe why, but let's just keep doing that thing. Well, hang on. If we start and pause and put some time into it and, you know, and and and go deeper on that thing. Yeah. No.

Richard Hill [00:22:16]:

I think that's great advice. So, jumping into the tea for a minute. Obviously, I've got a few Sorry, Mike. Did you wanna jump in there?

Mike Turner [00:22:23]:

I think I'd add another one in in terms of the segmentation, which is that there's obviously so much focus on it at the moment, and there's so many clever things you can do and a real kind of trend to trying to move to this, you know, groups of 1 and then Everything totally personalized that you can, again, get quite lost in that. I think it's quite important that, yeah, it's important to use as much as you can But to scale that with the needs of the business and you meet some people who, absolutely, their businesses isn't turning over huge amount. Their mailing list isn't that that huge And yet they're running, you know, 40 different segments of their database. So they're putting in the time or they're or worse, they're paying an agency to to be Doing all of the stuff with all of those different groups, and you're thinking, well, you might be getting, you know, great data on each of those groups. But if you Step back and factor in the amount of time and effort that's being put into that. Yeah. This isn't work you know, start off just with 1. Yeah.

Mike Turner [00:23:23]:

Over time, split it out. And I think getting that gradient right of of adding in more personalization, listen till AI comes along and does it all for us, of course. But at the moment where it's still you know, you need to pay humans to do it, I

Richard Hill [00:23:36]:

think you wanna get that that conflict right. Yeah. Spending the right amount of time on the problem is, Yeah. I think, that's the, curse of a a business owner potentially or, you know, when you close to the coal face spending, you know, a day on a £10 an hour problem. If you're not careful, you know, there's a 10 grand an hour problem somewhere else you should be working on probably. Yeah. That's the problem, especially in marketing, isn't it? There's about 15 hats you can you need to wear. But, yeah, I thought I thought stepping back to what you said previously, you know, as, You know, I know all this all this is a resonate where, yeah, he quite often starts out with a 1 man, 2 man band, you know, with an idea.

Richard Hill [00:24:12]:

Then all of a sudden, fast forward however many years, and then you maybe get your 1st hire dedicated to marketing, and then and then we have a some sort of tailwind off some whether that's whatever it may be. And then all of a sudden, you've got 4 or 5 people in marketing. Obviously, you can, in those stages, start to go a lot deeper, you know, whereas you might have had 1 person, but then the AdWords expert, the Facebook ads, Facebook ads, the the Klaviyo, and so on and so on and so on and, obviously, Everything else, but then you start diving in when you've got you know, however, if you got a 1,000 people on your list or a 1000000 people on the list. Obviously, a 1000000 people on your list. You've got you know, you can do some magic with your email quite easily. You know, it's just so surprising, isn't it, how sort of out of the box? You you're I'm I'm assuming you all have had this journey where, you know, you're you're 1, the liable will have gone on. Oh, we haven't even got an abandoned car set up We're, like, 5 years ago, you you you click a button, set that up, and you've just added 10% or whatever it is. You're like, oh my god.

Richard Hill [00:25:09]:

And, like, all of a sudden, you're like, oh, I think we buy a vested email, then you An abandoned SMS starts coming in, another 5%, and they're obviously easy ones, aren't they? And then, you know but then it gets a little bit trickier once you've sort of maybe done the first ten, sort of, flows that, you know, Klaviyo or other campaigns. But, yeah, they're an interesting one. So Tea flavors. Obviously, you've got some crazy interesting flavors. I think I've tried about 7 or 8 now. I'm looking at a pink grapefruit on my desk now. There's On there, pink grapefruit. We got the gingerbread shine.

Richard Hill [00:25:43]:

I think that's all the way out. So we've got we've got the tea from the hood. I do like that. We're not too far from Sherwood Forest sat here right now. But how do you come up With these ideas, you know, how do you sort of come up with the different flavors? Have you got there like a is there like an official person that is, the tea creator, or is that Are you guys, sitting around on a on a Friday afternoon, or how does that work?

Krisi Smith [00:26:06]:

Yeah. Well, it's always been me typically. Well, this year, I'm working with a a bigger product development team, but, yeah, that's been me, mostly. Some of the blends have been, through, like, fun things like customer competitions or team members of names, maybe. So yeah. But but on the whole, yeah, it's it's Me that creates the blends. And I think from the start, we we we pretty quickly, zoomed in on the fact that we wanted our US USP to be that we had a range of teas and that the teas were all gonna be really fun, vibrant, taste great, smell great, use unusual ingredients. And that was the the the the angle that we went for.

Krisi Smith [00:26:48]:

You know, there's a lot of companies out there that are doing really high quality, single origin teas and coffees. There's people that, work directly with the growers and perhaps launch a bra a brand with the with an estate. There are loads of tea companies that do it health, And that was that's all being done really well. So I very much thought, let's let's see if there's There's a there's room in the market for a company that focus on flavor first, really. And, they're all really colorful. And and and the thing that we've We're we in our store, if you come into one of our stores, we've got our tea wall. So there's a 100 flavors on the wall at any time, big doors. Just a bit like being in a sweet shop, and you get to come explore the range.

Krisi Smith [00:27:29]:

And there's decaffeinated version caffeine free teas and oolongs and Fruits and howeballs and and all sorts as well as your more classic, teas. So if you come into one of the stores, you get that experience. Team member will help kind of you find a couple for you. One of the things I like the most that I I overhear quite a lot is that people say things like, Oh, you're the tea company for people that don't think they like tea?

Richard Hill [00:27:56]:

Because you've got everything. You've got every imaginable

Krisi Smith [00:27:59]:


Richard Hill [00:27:59]:

Exactly. I hate tea, but I like, oh, well, no. We've got a flavor of tea that is very similar to that. Yeah. Yeah.

Krisi Smith [00:28:05]:

Yeah. And you can end up it's just so versed out because, You know, come into the store, you can get you could end up with an iced strawberry lemonade, which is no caffeine and no sugar and tastes like a a a fruity, you know, almost like a, a pop or something, a soda. Or you could end up with a a chai latte or a matcha latte, you know, Or you could be traditional and and and have an English breakfast. So we cover all the bases. But on that topic, the the the trickiest thing the 2 come as a fallout from choosing that as our USP. Both of them are to do with, marketing growth, ecom, all that side of things. The first one is that it's actually really, really hard to replicate the service and the experience you get in a physical store online because In store, you have a human guiding you. It's fun.

Krisi Smith [00:28:55]:

You hang out there. You get the experience. It's it's magical as a 100 tins. Online, it's a nuisance. So that's been first problem that we've not yet managed to solve, but it is. And the second problem is that Because we focused in on, this fun flavor element, we call it Teamixology. We basically created a segment in the market that didn't exist. So So when it came to trying to build out paid media mark a paid media marketing, that sort of thing, even customer profiling to some extent You know, there's nobody googling Rhubarb and Christa Tea.

Krisi Smith [00:29:29]:

You know? Or you know, it's just it it didn't exist. So we had to Take a step back and and be confident that we could sell a new, proposition first Through Ecom, yes. But through other customer touch points so that the world of tea got opened up a bit more.

Mike Turner [00:29:49]:

So are

Richard Hill [00:29:50]:

you testing those flavors maybe in the stores first before you then go all in on the ecom side?

Krisi Smith [00:29:56]:

No. Everything goes online, but I think what meant more was We knew that, you know, up until about 6, 7 years ago, all the shopping through or most of our ecom was a A customer that had already had touchpoint with us somewhere else. Sorry. A user. Not necessarily a customer, but they'd they were brand. They knew the they knew the brand in some way. And so when we've come to try and grow and and this is is key to, you know, really scaling the business As as we have to the last couple of years and and want to do into the next 4, 5, 6, 7 years is we have to build up that new digital Customer base and so finding the ways to go out digitally and and and attract New customers that do not know the brand, never heard of a strawberry lemonade tea, really confused, don't think they're interested is Is yeah. It's really tricky.

Richard Hill [00:30:53]:

Mhmm. Yep. It's like cold teas. You know, that's, you know, that's not something That I don't think, like, a lot of people don't know as well. People I'm sort of involved with and my sort of ecosphere, you know, cold teas It's not something that I think, is very well known, you know, and and but when you talk about a 100 different teas and and, yeah, they all Spending time all the time developing these different areas to give you that USP. I think for our listeners, you know, that's it's absolute gold you know, gold dust to be thinking like that because It's the your massive differentiator. It's the brand. You're known for this, you know, tenacious sort of, exploration and tea and and Trying bigs to create have you seen the new yeah.

Richard Hill [00:31:34]:

I can just imagine I haven't been into one of your stores, you know, but but I can imagine walking into that hundred, You know? Wow. You know? It's like a kid in the candy shop if you're a tea person, you know, and then if you're not, it's like, oh, you're gonna find one that you like. So it's not like it's it's a no go. It's, oh, I'll try. Oh, oh, behind me. Yeah. That's surprising. And and to try a different one, Obviously, translating that to the ecommerce side, more challenging.

Richard Hill [00:31:57]:

But I think in terms of our listeners, you know, they should be thinking, like, That USP for them, their brand, because, you know, obviously, most markets are very, very crowded. Having that differentiator, having that USP is absolutely key around the brand, And I think it's obviously something you guys do so well, you know, with me having though that, you know, I've got a strawberry lemonade, a morning kick, and Earl Grey Cram. I know the was it a builder's See, I think I haven't got that one, but I saw that one. I think that's quite a popular one, isn't it? You know, that you know, no matter what you're interested in or what you what flavors or The sort of things that you're into, you're probably gonna resonate to something and try that, and then become, you know, a a customer. And then you've got the subscription there ready to, I'd like to jump in the subs into the subscription a little bit if that's if that's okay. So, any sort of tips To our listeners around, sort of adding subscription if they've maybe not got subscription in the business.

Krisi Smith [00:32:53]:

I think Mike and I might have different opinions on that. So we could give you both of them maybe.

Richard Hill [00:32:57]:

Yeah. Please.

Krisi Smith [00:32:59]:

I I think, so speaking, like, you know, with my My opinion, so not on behalf behalf of Burnham Blend. I I think subscriptions are really interesting. I think they get talked about a lot. It's a lot of buzzwords. And I think 3 or 4 years ago, especially with companies wanting to scale, get investment, you know, PE investment, that sort The thing, it was always, are you a subscription company? You know, be for the obvious reasons. So I can see why that business model It's super valuable, and and some people do it really, really well. But I feel like it's just become it has become a bit of a buzzword in terms of Every business needs to think about having a subscription if they want to grow and if they want to have a good econ site. And I don't think that's necessarily the case.

Krisi Smith [00:33:42]:

I know that a lot I mean, if we're talking about a recurring delivery of something, I do appreciate that that whole Way that a customer started using, the Internet to have a recurring delivery is is booming. But The it take it still takes a lot of brand connection, marketing effort to get an individual To not go to the big, you know, Amazon or whatever and and be bothered, I to get everything else on subscription from there and then come and find us on the Internet And set up a subscription with us. So, actually, I may still think that, you know, unless you're gonna be on one of those big platforms offering it that way, if you're gonna have a subscription on your own site, you still need to back it up because you still need to get your customers to to fall in love so much that they're willing To get that set up, I mean, it's completely different with, you know, some of the amazing, box deliveries. You know, like, we do a tea we call it tea club. So it's a curated box every month. And they're really interesting. Obviously, great gifting potential, and Some really cool brands doing that. But at Burdenblend, it's tricky because we had a we had an interesting conversation about 6 months ago when we were looking at our subscription statistics.

Krisi Smith [00:34:58]:

And I can remember saying, they'd gone up, I think, or they'd gone down, 1 or the other. And I can remember saying, like, is this is this actually A good is this a good thing or a bad thing? Because at Burnham Blend, people will check out with 10, 12, 13, Twenty different tea blends in their basket and spend 50 quid, wanna try all these different teas. And then they might do that 3 or 4 more times in a year. And then they might go, oh, I love you so much. I want your curated box. So we need to know whether or not We want that action to happen before we celebrate it. Would it actually be better for the customer and for us for that to continue to shop in individual purchases? Do they spend less if they're on subscription with us? Do we want to push people to be on a subscription box immediately? Is it actually reducing their ATV and their experience of the brand, be on a subscription. So I think it's it it it yeah.

Krisi Smith [00:35:55]:

That that's my opinion on it, but my Might have a will probably have a different angle or look at it a different

Mike Turner [00:36:01]:

way. No. No. I think I'd agree. I think it's it's an area which has been overhyped, And we'd kind of jumped into it before it got overhyped, and it and it works really well for us. I think the Result of the overhyped is that a lot of people have to have lost what subscriptions are really good for. What subscriptions are really good for? They're really good for Replenishing stuff which you can't be bothered to stay on top of. Right? So I have a subscription like dog food, which actually illustrates the point of overall drinks.

Mike Turner [00:36:31]:

I have 2 bags of dog food Feeding my very limpsie next to me, and, supplements because I know I'm just gonna need those the whole time. They might as well they might as well come. So for a certain customer group and for us, you know, you referenced the builders brand earlier, but certain customers, you're drinking out builders brand every day. They just want that to turn up. But I think what then happens was was this movement driven by it becoming Very trendy. People talking about it a lot. In particular, a lot of the sources of funding talking about it a lot and say, hey. Well, you know, if you're an ecom business, If you wanna raise some cash to invest in fundamentally buying customers, you need to be showing recurring revenue.

Mike Turner [00:37:14]:

And you get those businesses which aren't Necessarily perfect subscription businesses kind of back filling it in, which worked at a time, But now we have customers who are over tight on money, they're not just gonna leave, you know, clothes subscription. Shen, you know, I ended up thinking, wife there called the guys who Stitch Fix have now exited the UK market. You know, how many people were leaving that that on? Again, talking from personal experience, I quite like those, you know, the various different recipe boxes around. Well, actually, I won't lie every week because my diary's all over the place. Funnily enough, that's why they had time to go to the supermarket and it's a bit annoying every week. I need to go in and skip whatever. I just wanna go in and say what I want to it and choose what I want, you know? And and I I think that, actually, that can pull you away. And does it bounce out? I don't I don't I don't know.

Richard Hill [00:38:07]:

Yeah. There's a few bits there, isn't it? It's not straightforward. You know, if you get if it's if it's if it's a simple right. The same thing every month. That's the that's the in its simplest form. But, you know, with a 100 blends, You know, you're I say potentially hindering the fact that they're not trying other things, you know, whereas previously they were doing 3 big orders, trying 10, 15 blends, Bigger orders, and now we've gone on a subscription for £15 a month or whatever. You know? I was trying to get that balance. And

Mike Turner [00:38:32]:

And, of course, with with Ecom, Bigger orders are so much more profitable. So by splitting out, you know, somebody who, if they're doing it manually, might order 4 times a year in bulk Okay. That's a lot more It's more than paying shipping 12 times out to them.

Richard Hill [00:38:46]:

So you're an advocate of subscription, if this is right, but, obviously, in the right way, you've gotta be careful. It's not it's not just Yeah. We want everyone on subscription because it's not that simple. You know, that that's then in that in that example, you know, that's maybe stopping the or reducing the average order value in certain segments because they're coming in buying the 10, 15 blends at 50, 60, 70 pound orders as opposed to the 15, £20 subscription.

Mike Turner [00:39:09]:

Yeah. I I think what we agree on is we're we're advocates for the right channel, the right customer.

Richard Hill [00:39:14]:

Yeah. Yeah. No. Great stuff. So 11 years in, it can't have been, plain sailing, you know, month in, month out. I think that's the reality of any business Said that regardless of industry, regardless of the economy, regardless of, you know, 2 founders working together and getting on every day, I'm sure there's been some challenges, along the on the along the way. You know, maybe is there a time where things were really tough? You know, back was really against the wall, that you could maybe step through if you don't mind and how you got through that period or that situation, a specific thing.

Mike Turner [00:39:50]:

Yeah. I mean, there's there's certainly been, I guess you asked 2 different questions. You you talked about founder founder dynamics. And there's certainly a a journey there, on the journey of us us Building, bird, and blend. The 2 of us have got married and divorced, so there's certainly some extra Extra stuff there. But on the on the other side, you're kind of the the I think the main bit of your question around time when Buck Spin the gates of wall. The the particular one which which resonates with me was was the, Yeah. The start of COVID, when you had that period over a few weeks, where you really didn't know what was going on.

Mike Turner [00:40:37]:

I was actually out in the US at the time. I was working from the US, so I was ending up having daily calls at 3 or 4 AM, my time with Chrissie on what was going on in the UK, with me saying, it's all fine. Out here, everything's fine. I think just people from the UK get worried about nothing, This probably wasn't the most usual thing to hear every day. Then came back and we had a situation because the bulk of our team are out in our stores And we had a period of, you know, discomfort with teams being in, Trying to balance that with actually paying wages, followed by the government pushing people not to go out but not actually announcing a lockdown, so seeing revenue drop followed by lockdown, so revenue on that channel, which at the time was 60% of our business, just cut out completely, but with nothing yet in terms of support. And, Matt, it was probably about 5 day period where it became clear that we were going to be having a significant hit on revenue coming in. I think it was a question mark on whether we do all of our fulfillment and that sort of thing ourselves. So there was a question mark on whether we could continue to operate our websites, but at that point, we were still taking revenue from a website, but no support yet announced.

Mike Turner [00:42:03]:

And I think that was the biggest one in terms of stress for me. It backseats the wall of, you know, what we actually ended up doing was emailing our team slightly before the lockdown Saying when you lock the doors tonight, close down the store in a way that you're not sure when you're gonna be going back into it because we've decided we're gonna shut up. We, you know, you will be paid this month. However, to be blunt, we're hoping that by next month, we will stick it out to plan, and we will keep you up, Hayden.

Richard Hill [00:42:31]:

Yeah. We're not sure. Yeah. Really. Yeah.

Mike Turner [00:42:34]:

And and that period, of course, then, furlough was announced and and and It used to the pressure somewhat. It took away that immediate, how the hell are we gonna make sure our team can keep having food on their tables Question. So that's the that's the biggest one in terms of backseat and the wall for me.

Richard Hill [00:42:49]:

Yeah. Tough times. But then, I guess, in the Ecom then went stratospheric almost. That's probably quite an extreme word, but

Mike Turner [00:42:57]:

Well, it it then led to different changes. So, yeah, our our Ecom picked up. We were we were well placed for it because we'd made the decision, sometime before, but we didn't want to be majority stores. We wanted to have a balance between the two, so we'd actually had just started investing. We'd just started recruiting into that team. We'd actually just signed up a new website, which We built over the COVID period, but it meant we were already in building stuff when everybody else was starting the project, so I had a bit of a head start. But we we kind of went through a a journey of different challenges. So the next challenge, yeah, there was an uptick online, and we had Chrissie kind of madly we're still on Magento that point, wouldn't we, Chrissie? So madly trying to, make sure it didn't go down as Magento likes it to, And then myself and and and the team who I work a little more closely with, tried to deal with, operationally, how we were gonna do it.

Mike Turner [00:43:54]:

Global supply chains crashed. We had stock levels in our warehouse for what our usual online was. Yeah. We had stock out in our stores, which was Just I mean, luckily, we had a long shelf life, but was, you know, moving moving to, you know, wrong right right stock, wrong places. Did you sort

Richard Hill [00:44:12]:

of redistribute that back into the ecommerce then? Did you sort of go and get grab a lot of that store stock and moved it into your sort of ecommerce moment?

Mike Turner [00:44:19]:

I I rented a van, and I drove all

Richard Hill [00:44:22]:

around the

Mike Turner [00:44:22]:

all around the southeast collecting collecting store.

Richard Hill [00:44:25]:

Store by store, I just drove.

Mike Turner [00:44:28]:

Because that was a time when we couldn't ask someone else to do it. It felt unreasonable to say to someone, can you drive up to London and visit 3 stores? So so, yeah, I I went and did that, But also how, you know, we we were in a small location doing our fulfillment. Some team members were desperate to work. Some didn't want to come to work. It it wasn't COVID secure. That's a phrase which we've all forgotten about, but, you know, we, again, we shut down our warehouse for one day. Actually, our team were just fantastic. We closed all operations.

Mike Turner [00:44:58]:

The 3 kind of we call it back ops, but the the nonretail operational managers who run our production, our warehouse, and our fulfillment came in, and they said, we don't wanna shut. So why don't, the 3 of us, our ops director, and me spend a full day re rejigging this whole workspace to make it safe for people to come in, and we then shifted to having Two shifts a day, different setups physically to try and allow people to be spaced out, and then trying to pull as many team members as we Good. Here we are, Brighton retail teams, to to work in in fulfillment so that we had enough people capacity Let's keep up with it.

Richard Hill [00:45:36]:

Mhmm. Crazy time. Obviously, day taking each day by day each day at a time, but obviously, some fairly bold Decisions having to be made. And in the moment, you're not sure what's gonna is it all gonna open up tomorrow, or are we gonna get you know, government gonna announce x amount of funding or no funding? Yeah. A lot of, very, very uncertain times, but, obviously, managing the people, firstly, you know, and and and then, obviously, the commercials of the business, we have how many tens of 1,000 or 100 of 1,000 sitting in stock. But But so you had the so was it more sort of the timing was that you'd already got the new website in the background? Well, that just happened to be around the sort of when COVID kicked Seeing the new the bit the move from Magento to Shopify, that was already in play, was it?

Krisi Smith [00:46:21]:

Yeah. I mean, we had the contract all signed off and and everything. We used, an agency to help us. So that that had been done. But the actual getting the site the new site fit for purpose and all the Everything just had a deal. They've on their end as well. So I you know, we ended up just 3 or 4 of us ended up kind of literally manually well, It's sorting through every single page and project.

Richard Hill [00:46:48]:

Yeah. They've been on the site, the back end, getting it all yeah. Yeah. No. Great. I think that's very relatable. I'm sure most people listening, obviously, you know, had interesting times. Was it 4 years nearly? I think it was in March 4 years.

Richard Hill [00:47:01]:

I've lost Track. I guess 4 years, isn't it? March was it 5? They're 4, isn't it?

Krisi Smith [00:47:05]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:47:06]:

4. Yeah. Yeah. I remember. So yeah. And we were, They're sitting here and, somebody said to me, have you heard the search and search? You're right. It happens to our own agency. They're sending everybody home because of this thing called COVID.

Richard Hill [00:47:17]:

I'm like, what? What's that about? You know, that was. And then 4 days later, we sent everybody home. And then it was, yeah, pretty pretty madness. Yeah. Well, great to have you on the show, Guys, I'd like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. Would you have a book that you'd recommend to our listeners? Maybe, Chrissy first?

Krisi Smith [00:47:34]:

Well, I'm a Huge dystopian sci fi fan.

Richard Hill [00:47:38]:


Krisi Smith [00:47:39]:

Yeah. So I think probably Try to think about my my favorite one. My favorite author is Ursula Le Guin, and I've just read The Left Hand of Darkness, which The Dispossessed is also brilliant. So I'd recommend those. And I'm reading something completely different. I can't remember the author's name, but I'm reading I'm reading a book at the moment called, My Year of Rest and Relaxation?

Mike Turner [00:48:03]:

Oh, that sounds like my cup of tea.

Krisi Smith [00:48:06]:

She had one friend brought me as a joke for my birthday, But, actually, it's not what you think it is. It's a really, really, really good book, to sign in.

Richard Hill [00:48:15]:

Or is it about drinking tea? No.

Krisi Smith [00:48:17]:

It's not. Well, I thought it might be, but It's not. It's, yeah. It's a it's a it's about a character who is decides to take a year off from life and just tries to sleep for a year. A good book there. As you go through the book, you realize that there's perhaps more to why that has happened, and it's kind of, Yeah. It's interesting. Let me find the the author's name while Mike does her,

Richard Hill [00:48:40]:

That sounds really interesting, actually. That's, yeah. That's something I will get that. 1, I look the other end of

Mike Turner [00:48:46]:

the scale that I love reading, kind of business y books, so I should've think of which one I'd recommend. I've just finished It's here, actually. I've just finished this one, the advantage. Right. Yeah. Which is a really good one for where we are as a business at the moment, because it's sounds very boring, and some of your listeners will probably think it sounds terrible, and some will probably think it's really good, but it's about organizational health. So kind of at the point where we're putting in a senior leadership team is trying to get them working as a really strong team, communicate, values and Mission and that sort of thing more clearly for our business. It's all about that.

Mike Turner [00:49:21]:

I'm really, really good. And then another one which I I've recommended quite a lot recently. It's called Shoe Dog, and it's the, story by the founder of Nighty. And I I love that because you read so many stories of these businesses, and the story is, oh, we got this right and we got this right and we got this right and we got this right. And what I love with that one is that a lot of it is him saying, you know, we're 5 years in, and I'm still going to I still got my full time job. Our cash is so tight that we're probably breaking the law in order to to pay our bills.

Richard Hill [00:49:54]:

The realities are And and

Mike Turner [00:49:55]:

you could you could look at it, and you could say, That's it. It's a little bit more real than some of them, so I love that.

Richard Hill [00:50:00]:

No. That's great. I'm not I've I've read the Chew Dog, A great book. The other one, I think, will definitely resonate with our listeners sort of building that leadership team that, yeah, It's sort of empowering the the team, etcetera. Right, guys. Well, thank you so much for Camilla Show. For those that are listening, wanna find out More about Bird and Blend and you guys, what's the best way to do that?

Krisi Smith [00:50:22]:

Follow us on social media if you want to. It's Bird and Blend, tea. Come into one of our stores. That's the best way to get the experience. Like you said, we've got 19 stores up down the country, including Scotland and Wales. You can find out where the stores are on and shop on our website, which is bird and blend tea.com. Yeah. That's probably the best ways.

Richard Hill [00:50:46]:

Thank you, guys. It's been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to speaking to you again.

Krisi Smith [00:50:51]:

Brilliant. Thanks, Richard.

Mike Turner [00:50:52]:

Thank you.

Richard Hill [00:50:52]:

Thank If you enjoyed this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. You're always the 1st to know when a new episode is released. Have a fantastic day, and I'll see you on the next one.

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