Customer Spotlight Plum Deluxe

Customer Spotlight | Small Business

Customer Spotlight

BEVERAGE/TEA INDUSTRY

herb co customer spotlight
Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

Home of the best monthly tea subscription box online

Plumdeluxe.com

 

QUICK COMPANY STATS (as of 2021, Q3)

CORE PRODUCT | Custom-blended organic loose leaf teas
INDUSTRY SECTOR | Beverage/Food
LOCATION | Portland, OR
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES | 17
FOUNDING YEAR | 2006
CUSTOMER OF HERBCO SINCE | 2013

Plum Deluxe

FEATURING PLUM DELUXE

Owner/founder Andy Hayes says, “Tea people are good people.”, and we’d have to agree. What started as a blog dedicated to savoring small moments, is now a successful business that sells unique, organic tea blends to a thriving community. In good-tea-people-fashion, Andy was kind enough to sit down with us and share a bit of his business journey—the story of combining and monetizing two of his passions, the risks, challenges, and advice that is useful for both novice and experienced entrepreneurs.



Origin Story

Plum Deluxe Origin

How did Plum Deluxe get its start and its first sale?

It all started when I lived overseas in Europe. There is a certain tea culture there that I hadn’t known about or experienced in the states. I didn’t find tea, tea found me. Tea has so many different flavors, combinations and styles depending on the culture and traditions. There is a different tea for each mood—one that pairs perfectly with reading a book, another for lively conversation with friends, a blend that will help you to relax or focus to get a bunch of work done.

While living in Europe I also noticed how much people appreciated the little things, like sitting on a terrace with a drink, or going to a bar and ordering a “small beer”. I thought it was fascinating so I started writing about those observations. I eventually quit a job I didn’t like, moved back to the states, didn’t have any big commitments, and was wondering what to do next. I had this blog with followers and a good readership—I thought maybe I could do something with it. I explored affiliate marketing and selling different products, but it never really clicked. After some feedback from my readers I realized that I needed to be selling a product that fit my writing—something to do with these small moments, the cozy time and slowing down. Inspired by care packages that a friend was sending me of tea combinations that I couldn’t get here, I finally realized that tea would pair perfectly with these moments and the stories I was writing. Now I had to figure out how to do make it happen.

Not really knowing where to start, I asked a friend of a friend who worked at a tea cart on the weekends hoping to get some help from her boss. As a test, I was asked to come up with four tea concepts. If the boss liked them, she would help me make it happen. One of the original concepts was Reading Nook, which we still sell. It’s a black, caffeinated tea with calming flowers—something new to her. I think my unique approach is what convinced her to help me.

She made my tea blends, I put them on my website and with one email announcing the new products, I sold out almost instantly. “The Boss” eventually had to kindly push me into sourcing and setting up my own operation.

Biggest risk taken?

Probably when I had to start hiring employees. It’s a bigger commitment when you have other people working with you and relying on you.

Inspirations for business or product

We really rely on our customers and listen to what they want. We only carry things that fit into our ethos…no sugar, quality product, and quality sourcing.

Team

Plum Deluxe Team

Who is on the Plum Deluxe team?

We have 17 people on staff and over half of them work in the production area blending, packaging, and shipping teas.

Surprise talents that helped

Some of our tea blenders are also bakers. I think the ability to measure ingredients accurately but efficiently is part of their talent, as well as the visual acuity / pattern matching to spot any potential issues with the product or the recipe.

What have you all learned along the way?

One thing at a time…figure it out and build on it.

Another thing would be finding new ways to work with others and that communication is key. I work with so many different types of people to get things done and to run the business—plumbers, shipping partners, ingredient sources, packaging companies, content creators. Bringing all of the pieces together is like wrangling stars into a constellation. Streamlining the shipping process was a big learning experience. By talking with USPS, we learned that they had the same pain points around shipping our product as we had around getting it shipped. We communicated and came up with a solution that worked for both of us. Just asking them what would make their job easier, actually my own job easier.

“I didn’t find tea, tea found me”
― Andy Hayes, Founder, Plum Deluxe


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PLUM DELUXE & HERB CO. INGREDIENT SAMPLE

Hibiscus

HIBISCUS

Hibiscus can stand alone with its rich color and tart taste but is also becoming a popular flavor mixed into beverages and cocktails. It is a star ingredient in Plum Deluxe’s “Easy To Be Green Tea” blend—a fan favorite mixed with blueberries and other tart fruit flavors.

Buy Hibiscus »
Chamomile

CHAMOMILE

Chamomile is an aromatic herb with an apple-like scent and a slightly earthy taste. Dried chamomile flowers are a popular ingredient in teas known to calm nerves and soothe an upset stomach. Plum Deluxe uses chamomile in several of their fun, fruity tea blends.

Buy Chamomile »
Lavender

LAVENDER

Lavender is a key ingredient in one of Plum Deluxe’s original tea blends, “Reading Nook”. It’s also included in several of their herbal teas as a compliment to fruity flavors. Lavender is a nice calming addition to a caffeinated Earl Grey tea.

Buy Lavender »
Ginger

GINGER

Plum Deluxe uses ginger in several of their hand-blended teas—from sweet & spicy black tea to a soothing coconut ginger, calming tea. Ginger has a warm, pungent flavor and fragrance. The dried root is also used to produce liquid extracts and tinctures.

Buy Ginger »

Why do you buy from Herb Co.?

Herb Co. is clear and proactive about what they can get and when they can get it. Something that is going to have a season and won’t be available at a certain time they make sure I know and have the chance to get what I need. There is a certain consistency and ability to trust the quality of the product. Herb Co. is quick to own mistakes if they happen and work to solve and make it right—especially during the pandemic when supply issues have been a problem for a lot of businesses. And, shipping time! It’s so fast.




Core Values

Plum Deluxe Core Values

Plum Deluxe Mission/Vision

Creating moments that matter.

Core Values

Team, fun, intentionality, solution-oriented, growth-mindset

What makes your company special?

Community—Plum Deluxe has an intimate relationship with their customers, we know and care about them and what is going on in their life. Our product—quality, flavor, and freshness of our teas—no sugar and nothing artificial.

Customer Profile—who keeps coming back for your product?

People who like to feel connected and appreciate sharing. People who care a little bit more, want something different and higher quality.







Industry

Plum Deluxe and the Tea Industry

Industry trends you see

Tea is becoming more popular because large companies like Starbucks has made it more approachable for people try, realize what is out there, and start exploring the vast options in tea. More hip tea shops are popping up. People are getting interested and even starting to know the lingo. Now both very young people and old people know what Darjeeling tea is! That is new and it is exciting that more people are getting into it.

Another trend is wellness & immunity.

Unique challenges for the industry

The supply chain, and sourcing fruits and flavors that don’t have a taste when they are hot—like watermelon or strawberry. It is a challenge to source extracts and essences that are real and aren’t lab-made.

Helpful resources in starting your own company

  • Wordpress and WooCommerce for website and online store.
  • SCORE—Society of Retired Executives—free training and mentoring program.
  • SBA—great for financing.
  • Podcasts—they are free and there is a podcast on everything from product sourcing, influencer marketing, content creation, SEO. Devour them while you’re working!

What are some next steps for Plum Deluxe?

We will always stay creative with the Tea of the Month Subscription. We make a new tea every month just for them. I want to try new ingredients that haven’t been available to us before. We will also take advantage of the large capacity of our new building to be nimble and respond to what the future brings, like wholesale and product availability.