Stephanie Sandercock is the owner and operator of First Edition Tea Co., a Toronto-based company that produces fun and unique tea blends, all handcrafted in small batches from high quality ingredients.
However, Stephanie didn’t always know this was something she wanted to do. In fact, First Edition Tea launched in October 2015, only a few years after Stephanie even started drinking tea!
Here’s the full story:
- When did you first start drinking tea?
My mom and grandmother always drank tea when I was a kid, but I never liked it. Tea didn’t quite click for me until about five years ago when I started trying teas that weren’t just a regular orange pekoe teabag. That’s when I realized that tea can be almost anything you want it to be. There is such a huge variety of things that we call “tea” and that’s what makes it fun. There’s something for every mood and situation. Then I started making my own tea blends, and now that’s my job!
- Was launching a career in “tea” something you always wanted?
I didn’t start off wanting to own a tea company. I was working a really high-stress job in the television industry and one night I just couldn’t sleep. I was lying there wide awake at about 2:00am and I started thinking: what if I combined books and tea? From there, it was something I thought about all the time. I started making hypothetical blends in my head, and some of those developed into the actual blends I now sell. I didn’t know anything about tea or business at first, so I taught myself. I went to seminars and took classes and did a massive amount of research online. I just worked at it bit by bit, learning more and more, and over the course of about two years I realized I really wanted to make a career out of it. You can research forever, but at a certain point you have to take the plunge and I’m really glad I did.
- What is a day in the life of Stephanie Sandercock?
My days tend to vary a lot. First thing in the morning I usually package and mail out any orders that have come in. I check all my social media channels and answer anything that needs to be answered. I spend some time looking for new upcoming local shows. I’ve usually got a few big business development projects on the go and the bulk of my day goes toward those.
For example, in the past month I’ve been working on expanding my packaging options, getting new photography and developing the wholesale side my business. A couple times a month I spend some time at a commercial kitchen packaging tea. When things are quieter, I get the chance to work on new blends or ideas that I’ve had. This involves brainstorming, sourcing samples of various teas and ingredients and then trying to come up with a recipe.
A few times a month I have shows on the weekends where I get to sell tea in person and those are always a lot of fun.
Every day is a little bit different and I get to wear a lot of hats, but that’s part of the fun of owning your own company!
- What inspires and amazes you about the culture of tea?
It inspires me that so many people are involved in the process of turning the tea from a seed in the ground to a finished product. I love that I’m just one part of the huge complicated world of tea and that my hands are the last ones to touch the tea before it goes into a customer’s hands. For thousands of years people have been processing tea in so many different ways in different countries and cultures for different purposes. And now I’m here as a tiny little part of that history, getting to work with these leaves that so many others have worked on.
- What is your favourite tea to drink?
My favourite would have to be just a simple Earl Grey with milk. I adore experimenting with tea, but a good strong cup of creamy Earl Grey will always be my true love.
- You’re based in Toronto but mainly sell your stuff at festivals and on Etsy – what kind of reach do your products have?
I’ve only been doing this for a few months, but I’m amazed at some of the places my tea has gone already! I absolutely love getting orders to far-flung places of the world. I’ve had orders from a remote village in Alaska, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Scotland, England, Italy, France and a lot of different US states and Canadian provinces. I love to travel and I think it’s amazing that my tea gets to travel too! Local shows are also so much fun because you get to show your stuff off in person and connect with people. I get to talk to people about tea all day and that’s kind of a dream come true.
- When did you first realize you wanted to kickstart a career as an entrepreneur?
I had an idea when I was really little that it might be fun to one day own my own company, but I didn’t really know what that would mean. Then it went out of my mind for a long time until a couple years ago when I found myself getting really stressed out by my job. I would daydream about maybe owning my own company, thinking it would be so much less stressful. I finally did it, but I was wrong about the “less stressful” part of that dream. That’s okay though. It’s a far better kind of stress when it’s your own company!
- What was the scariest part about investing your future in your own company?
There are lots of scary parts, especially at first. The biggest source of fear is definitely the uncertainty, especially about money when you’re first starting out. I didn’t intend to quit my job and go full time with my company straight away, but circumstances lead to that happening anyway. The plan of easing myself into it gently went right out the window. Having to rely on yourself for everything can be scary, but you have to figure out a way to not let it stop you.
- What was the first step you had to take to make First Edition Tea what it is today?
The first step was actually just learning about tea. I knew what I liked to drink, but I wanted to learn as much as I could about its history and production. I enrolled in the Tea Association of Canada’s Tea Sommelier Program and I learned so much over the course of a year with them and I am now a Certified Tea Sommelier Professional.
- What has been the most rewarding aspect of your journey?
My absolute favourite thing is when I get positive feedback from customers. Sometimes at shows people come up to me and tell me they bought some of my tea a few weeks ago and they’re already out of it because they loved it so much. When that happens, it makes my week! Being able to create something that people connect with is the best feeling.
- How do your website and your social media presence impact your brand?
Social media is a bit difficult for me because I have always been a very private person. I generally don’t share very much of my life on social media and that is something I have had to try to change now that I own a company. You have to put yourself out there or nobody’s every going to find you! I actually had to ask a friend of mine how to use Instagram. I couldn’t figure out how to post a picture. Kind of embarrassing… Now I love Instagram! It’s definitely my favourite platform because it’s so visual and it’s a great way to show a product or just to share a little slice of your life or business.
- What was your first job? How has your first job helped you in your own business, today?
My very first job was as a gymnastics coach for children’s birthday parties, which was a lot of fun. It was a very independent job with very little guidelines other than to make sure the kids were happy and safe. You had to be very creative with it and think up fun games and skills that the kids could learn quickly. I think that creativity and a sense of fun have stayed with me. Also, owning a tea company actually involves a lot of heavy lifting, and those muscles I used for lifting all those kids up definitely still get a workout most days!
- What advice would you share with up and coming entrepreneurs?
It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be stressful. You’re going to have bad days. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to doubt yourself. People around you might think you’re completely crazy. You might be making it up as you go along, but don’t worry because pretty much everyone else is too. You’re going to be scared, but don’t let it get in your way. Keep taking chances and putting yourself out there. Learn something new every single day. It’s all an adventure and it’s so worth it. Keep moving forward.
- Where is your favourite place to find inspiration? Why?
Books and travel are my two main inspirations, which isn’t surprising since that’s what my teas are based on. Books and travel help you open your mind, have adventures, and learn more about the world and people around us which are the most important things to me. I love finding ways to use tea to evoke the feelings created by great books and adventurous locales. It’s a way to bring a little piece of those experiences into everyday life.