COVID has forced a lot of businesses to close their doors. And without proper financial assistance, many of these businesses are closed down indefinitely. However, during the pandemic, many companies found ways to remain sustainable and exceed their business goals. Pivoting and knowing when to give up, when to change course, and restructure your business when the elements have changed are vital strategies to learn and address quickly. One company did just that. They gave up one part of their business to create more room to serve more people in need.
Finding Wellness Through Medicinal Teas
New Secrets Tea gourmet is a wellness tea company created and founded by Natalie Antoinette. Their mission is to help individuals achieve their optimal health and beauty potential through high-quality teas. The idea started in 2009 when Natalie was diagnosed with cervical cancer and was told that she could never bear children.
Her family is of Jamaican descent, and her father is a Rastafarian, so she grew up using herbs and alternative medicines. The doctors told her that she needed to have major surgery before the cancer spread. She decided against it. She used medicinal teas that were very potent but didn't taste good. She did this for two years, and her cancer went into remission. Since then, she's birthed two beautiful children.
This experience inspired her to create New Secrets Tea because she knew the power of activating herbs, but she also wanted it to taste good. She believes New Secrets Tea has grown to what it is now because of the world's shift towards wellness. People are now more intentional about their health. Wellness has now become a lifestyle, and people are looking for unconventional ways to heal themselves naturally.
Natalie began to pay attention to the medicines' labels that the doctors prescribed her customers, and she discovered that each medication had a plant source. Yet still, there were human-made additives in the ingredients. Natalie questioned, "Why can't we just stop at the plant? Why do we need to get all this extra stuff?" This sparked her interest in becoming an herbalist and practicing herbalism. She also went to school for exercise science. By merging the two, she created unique blends for specific circumstances. In herbalism, you focus on the root cause instead of masking the symptoms. Herbalist examines the whole body, then empty it to rebuild.
New Secrets Tea offers custom-blended teas, but you won't see these customizations on their website. Instead, you will find over the counter remedies such as teas for anxiety, high blood pressure, and the common cold. However, the potent medicinal teas that the company provides require a more interactive approach. They meet with their clients to understand what's going on with the body. They are very attuned with the customer, making sure that they are getting only what they need. Their motto is that everyone's body is different, so no one person receives the same blends.
Tell us what your business was like pre-COVID?
"We opened up a brick and mortar about a year before covid," said Natalie. It was a cafe in the city that turned into a tea bar, in which they offered healthy foods. The main foci were the teas and the different ways to serve and present them. Customers could purchase the teas hot or cold and access a bar of herbs to build their tea right there on the spot. Customers also had the option of using one of the house blends to create their blends and take it home.
"New Secrets Tea was becoming a staple in the community. It became a healthy space that people can come, and you know vibe out because we had seating, people did their work in, it was a nice chill spot, that people enjoyed coming to hang out in. But also, it was the benefit that people could walk out feeling better than how they came in. I really took pride in that," said Natalie. She took a long pause, and nostalgia invaded her. "It didn't matter who came in. The energy was very positive. People were making connections. It was the go-to spot in Baltimore," shared Natalie. Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic, New Secrets Tea had to close their cafe indefinitely. They are considering reopening in the future and are looking for spaces. They transitioned their teas online so people can continue to order. Closing down the brick and mortar was a tough decision for Natalie, but she knew it had to be done deep down in her heart.
The restaurant industry continues to take a hard hit because of COVID. Natalie didn't want to find herself ordering or having tons of products that she couldn't use because of another COVID shut down. She knew she had something great with the tea bar and knew if COVID didn't happen, it would've been more successful than she had ever imagined it to be. The hardest part of this decision was knowing that the cafe was very successful. The numbers told them to stay, but there was too much uncertainty for her to keep the cafe open. Realistically, she had to re-evaluate her time because the cafe was eating up her chances to expand the business elsewhere. "You have to be adaptable in business because nothing ever goes according to plan. You're going to have to pivot multiple times, and that's what makes a successful CEO," said Natalie. Change is inevitable, and every business must learn to adapt to change.
In which ways have you pivoted your business so you can continue to operate and serve?
The first pivot Natalie had to take was the tea side of her business. She went from a brick and mortar to an e-commerce store. She shifted her focus on making the website beautiful and ensuring the customer user experience was smooth. They then started to private label for other wellness businesses and supplying different teas for other companies. Natalie wanted to find other ways to support the other businesses who were also dealing with similar circumstances. So, while other businesses were figuring out ways to sustain themselves, New Secrets Teas started to provide teas to those businesses and finding ways to collaborate to keep more small businesses intact. They often swapped clientele and informed their customers which restaurants were open.
The second pivot was Natalie's consulting and coaching business. She has recently released a course for other wellness entrepreneurs who are new to the industry. Because of her personal experiences and successfully shifting her business, she now helps individuals and their businesses to grow. "When I first got into this business back in 2012/13, I would ask people questions. You're already here, which means you have some sort of answer. But everybody was standoffish, nobody wants to give the information, well I made it here, and you've gotta figure it out type of thing, that's always been off-putting for me," said Natalie.
She doesn't claim to know it all, but Natalie believes it's a blessing to help others and share in the success. Now people see her as someone who helps build other tea companies. It's not about the competition, and the industry is so vast. She's committed to assisting others in gaining the knowledge they need so that they can be self-sufficient. New Secrets Tea has already helped 14 entrepreneurs. Some are prominent names that she can't disclose. But since beginning this second pivot, eight of these businesses have been successful. "It's a blessing to be able to survive this but also to help other people survive," said Natalie. She's in the business of helping people, and she never understood how people in the wellness industry claim to help others but don't share the knowledge so others can uplift their communities.
What has helped you to pivot?
Natalie had to adjust her mindset. She had to become adaptable and flexible. Natalie then had to scrutinize the numbers. By doing that, she was able to make non-emotional decisions that saved her business. When you build something, you develop an emotional attachment to it, but it's important to be less emotional in making life-altering decisions. "You have to peel back and say what's realistic," says Natalie. She then recommends asking yourself these questions, " What do the numbers support, and what are my customers looking for?"
Natalie had two considerations: How could she provide the e-commerce products while also providing the customers with the necessary information that her customers needed? Before, the conversations that she was having with her clients were intimate one on one conversations. Natalie had to pivot to providing digital recordings, online meetings, and educational workshops to ensure that her clients received the education they needed about the herbs.
What advice would you give to business owners who are experiencing a crisis in their businesses?
"I want to say something cliche like don't give up, but I don't want it to be misinterpreted," says Natalie. When she was considering closing the shop, her mother told her not to give up, but this wasn't giving up. "It's pivoting. Pivoting is not giving up. I want to say don't give up, but it doesn't mean to stick with the plan that you currently have. You have to be realistic with your situation and re-evaluate it from a non-emotional stance. What do your numbers support? Can you still service your customers? Once you can answer these two questions, you have to be passionate about this. You have to know your why. Why you're even doing this? To serve people and help others to become healthy. I encourage you to not take it as giving up. It's pivoting. You have to be like water so you can move another way," says Natalie.
In her course Wellness To Wealth, the first part of the course is the mindset change, how to view those personal growth moments, and when to remove the ego. Removing the ego creates space for you to draw your attention to the business. Be very clear on your why because there will be moments in your business when you hit bumps on the road, so you have to be passionate about what you're doing so you don't get derailed or discouraged. When she closed down the cafe, it might've been viewed as a failure to others, and had she listened to what everyone else was saying; it would've taken her off course. "I had to remove that and recognize what was best for me, what was best for my customers, and what was best for the business and its growth," she said. If what you had envisioned doesn't work out in reality, it doesn't mean that you should give up.
Surround yourself with like-minded people, especially people who have either undergone similar circumstances or are currently going through it. Speak to people who have gone through the experience of building a business. The difference here is when you speak to someone who doesn't have those similar business experiences, it's more venting versus strategy. And you need the information to help you strategically navigate the ins and outs of the changes that your business is experiencing.
What's next for your business?
New Secrets Tea is experimenting with the e-commerce world by producing more content and leveling up her business. She is focused on getting as much knowledge to the public as possible through various social media platforms. Natalie is also growing and building her coaching and consulting business. She is ready to continue helping entrepreneurs to expand their wellness business successfully. She also hopes in the future that she can position herself to travel the world with her children.
Be sure to follow Natalie for more wellness tips through her Instagram