Don’t stop learning and don’t think things will always run smoothly. You have to be open to change.”
As a child, Luciana Torous often ran little businesses; selling candy and crafts, making coupons and pretending to be a cashier. It was a phase she grew out of as she got older but remained in her memory as fond childhood memories. One day, on a whim with some friends, she visited a local tea shop and drank properly brewed tea for the first time. It was love at first sip. Luciana had tried tea in the past but found them bitter and unpleasant. However, the aroma, the flavors, and the potential medicinal benefits spurred Luciana to begin researching various teas and brewing techniques.
It was at this time that a friend had just returned from a year-long exchange program in Japan. Upon hearing about Luciana’s interest in teas (and convinced of the superiority of Japanese teas) she whisked up a bowl of matcha and with a little encouragement, had Luciana try it. Like with the other teas, she was hooked instantly.
For Luciana, matcha didn’t just become a daily beverage, it became an experience. Struggling with anxiety from a young age, drinking certain types of caffeine made her symptoms worse. Matcha, although containing caffeine, was different. After drinking a cup, Luciana felt calm, alert and mentally clear. She knew this beverage was something everyone should know about. It was around this time that she became more and more interested in the health benefits that matcha had to offer.
Luciana was inspired to share matcha with others in a fun way. She began experimenting by hand blending matcha with various flavors. After becoming more confident with the result, she also started blending hot chocolate and soon launched 3 Leaf Tea in January of 2015. Her experience working in restaurants and entrepreneurial interests naturally led Luciana to turn her passion for tea into a business. Seven months after the online business was launched, she was able to open a brick and mortar store and café located in downtown Auburn, NY.
Where did the ideas for 3 Leaf Tea come from?
The idea for 3 Leaf Tea began after a visit to a local tea house with some friends. Before that, I wouldn’t classify myself as a tea drinker at all. I had this assumption that all teas were bitter and strong. After trying high-quality tea, I was hooked! Soon after that visit, my friend who just came back from a year-long exchange student program in Japan brought me matcha. Once I tried it and realized how it made me feel, I knew I needed to share my new passion with others. Matcha was different than other types of caffeine, it picked me up but calmed me down at the same time. That was a huge thing for me since I have anxiety and OCD. Most caffeine tends to make my symptoms worse, but this was much different. I soon started importing fresh matcha from Japan and blending natural flavors to put a unique twist on traditional matcha. I’d sell to my coworkers and do events around town. After a bit of planning, the online business was launched, and 7 months later, a brick and mortar store based in Auburn, NY.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts very early. I’m usually up between 4:30 am-5:00 am. I like to start my mornings with a tea ceremony and do some meditation. After that, I’ll get into reading. I love to read any type of books about business. I’m constantly looking for and learning more information. After that, I’ll create a to-do list for the day. This helps me organize and be productive once I get to my office. If I don’t write things down I’ll not be as organized. Once I get to my office I’ll start tackling my to-do list and work in order of most important to least. Not every day am I able to finish the day’s tasks, but prioritizing definitely makes a difference.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life through research. I can’t stress enough how important that is. I come up with an idea, then find ways to test it. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t, but it’s important to be able to be fluid as a business owner. With any new ideas, I’ll often talk to others about it to hear their feedback too. Once that step is done, I’ll learn all that I can to make my tests be as successful as possible.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that really excites me? Matcha becoming mainstream. I’m seeing more and more articles being written about the benefits and more cafes carrying it. When I first opened not too many people seemed to know about it and now everyone is hearing about matcha somewhere.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive is taking care of myself. Taking time, every week to get away and re-charge. It’s so important as a business owner to take that time because no one else will tell you to do it. I love to hike, it helps clear my mind and I come up with fresh ideas. Anything that gets my body moving.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell my younger self to be less afraid of everything and be more willing to take risks. I was so afraid of everything, that I didn’t get out of my own comfort zone until I was older. I was scared of what others would think of me. I realized that this mindset was holding me back from my true potential.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
If you build a business, people will not automatically come to you and help you be successful. I often hear people saying that if you build a business based on a passion that people will automatically come, and you’ll be successful. I do not think this is true. Running a business requires patience and hard work. If I wasn’t constantly learning and tweaking things, 3 Leaf Tea would not exist. Just because you have a passion doesn’t mean people will always support it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Learn as much as possible! Don’t stop learning and don’t think things will always run smoothly. You have to be open to change. Running a business keeps you on your toes.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Social media was a huge help when it came to growing my business. When I first opened, I didn’t have a budget for marketing, so I used all the free marketing I could get. I started by creating profiles on all social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) and from there made sure to post regular content. I’d run contests to get people engaged and build my following. It’s so important, especially being an e-commerce business, to be active online. People are using the internet more than ever before so if your business isn’t showing up easily, people will not find you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first launched the online business, I got ready for my launch by stocking a bunch of product thinking that my online orders would suddenly bombard me. The day of the launch, I didn’t get a single order. I quickly realized that I had a lot more work to do, and inventory to move. From there I learned that I couldn’t just launch a website and expect instant traffic. I needed to work harder than before.
What is the one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Start a drink delivery app, if someone wants a hot or cold specialty drink delivered to them. So many times people want just a drink but either can’t leave or don’t want to leave to go get them.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I’ve ever spent was buying a Breville milk frother for home. Whenever I want a hot chocolate or latte, this thing heats and froths milk up perfectly. I can’t live without it.
What is one piece of software or web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Quickbooks helps me stay on top of accounting. At first I was a little afraid to use it because it seemed complicated, but once I learned how to use it, it wasn’t so bad. Quickbooks helps me stay on top of my spending, and gives me a great overview of my business and how it’s doing.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Everyone should read “Everything I know” by Paul Jarvis. It’s a simple, straightforward book filled with honest advice that everyone can hear.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you want something done, ask a busy person”
- Don’t think that opening a business will automatically mean success. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and dedication.
- Be willing to take risks, and don’t be afraid of what others think of you.
- Learn as much as possible and never stop learning.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.