Growing A Local B2C Business With The Founders of Tenzo Tea

May 8, 2018

Hi everybody!

Last week, we talked about viral giveaways and Facebook ads with Jack Paxton, the co-founder of Vyper. If you haven’t listened to that episode, go ahead; I won’t stop you.

Today, we talk about growing a local B2C business with Steve and Robbie co-founders of Tenzo Tea, a matcha tea startup.

I met these guys back in November during the Stacking Growth Summit in Los Angeles, and I just felt this great connection, their energy is amazing. I knew I had to interview them and share with you all what they are working on at Tenzo.

When I was in LA I bought some of their tea but I ran out pretty quickly and since I'm always traveling getting more has been hard. That's why during my trip to Budapest last month, I cheated on the Tenzo guys and tried another brand - it didn't live up to the same standards.

As you can see, I back their matcha 100%.

Thank you for being here today, I hope you enjoy the episode!

What’s This Episode All About

  • What is Matcha Tea?
  • How Tenzo Tea Started?
  • Why Matcha?
  • Growing a Local B2C Business

What is Matcha Tea?

Simply put, matcha tea is powdered green tea that’s been grown and processed differently. This type of tea has been used in Japan for centuries and has a ceremonial purpose too.

I tasted matcha for the first time with Steve and Robbie at Stacking Growth and since then I've been hooked. If you’re a coffee addict or love hammering those Red Bulls, give matcha a try; it’s awesome.

To find the best matcha supplier the guys from Tenzo even traveled to Japan.  On their last day of the trip, they were trying desperately to find one last farm South of Kyoto but they just couldn’t find it. That was until a black SUV pulled up....

“The guy motions ‘get in my car’ and doesn’t say anything. We looked at each other, shrugged and got in the car. For the next few hours, we drove around and visited multiple tea farms. Rob took a photo with a Japanese farmer who hadn’t seen a 7-feet tall person in her life. It was surreal.”

They gave the driver one of their last business cards, and a few hours later they got an email from that guy’s boss. They ended up having a meeting with that guy in the States and partnering up with him.

We'll go into that story more in depth in the podcast but trust me, it's a magical one!


How Tenzo Tea Started?

Steve and Robbie met at a really young age at volleyball practice. They went to the same school and even played volleyball together in college. They’ve been friends for a long time.

One of the inspirations to create Tenzo Tea lies behind Robbie and Steve’s active lifestyle. Robbie said:

“I’ve been an athlete my whole life. And I’ve always been very interested in being my best self, optimizing my nutrition and energy to be at my top performance day in and day out.”

They discovered matcha when they started looking for cleaner ways to energise themselves pre-game when competing at college. 

They tried other things but found that matcha gave them an unparalleled clean energy coffee or energy drinks just couldn't provide.

Then, they googled 'Matcha Suppliers' emailed several google results, found their first supplier and the rest is history.

Today, Tenzo tea is a B2C business that offers its clients ceremonial, organic, powdered mathcha green tea and spreads the mission of living an inspiring healthy lifestyle to people all over the world.

That’s a bold mission.

Why Matcha?

At first, matcha wasn’t their goal. They just wanted a company that created a positive impact on the world.  That’s why they decided to stay true to their personal story and who they are. And offer athletes like themselves something of quality. According to Steve,

“Every great business idea of this great wave or general theme that society as a whole is going through at the time. We really saw the world moving from unhealthy beverages to healthy ones. Whether that’s juices or smoothies. Anything.“

Besides, matcha is trending super hard. If you look at Google Trends, you’ll see that search intent for the term has increased 25% annually.

Also, matcha has been part of the Japanese culture for 800 years, and its benefits are incredible. If matcha has been part of the world for so long, it’s because it works. Also, it’s got a lot of caffeine and healthy and it's proven to work.

All those things combined gave birth to Tenzo

Growing a Local B2C Business

Tenzo is a B2C business with 120 locations all over LA, keeping it all very local and self-distributed to build a strong brand presence in LA. They want the product’s name, appreciation, and size to keep building out.

To them, niching down and staying local has been one of their best moves to keep growing. People often underestimate the benefits of networking when they’re building startups or B2C businesses and brands but building a community is crucial to building a successful business.

There’s nothing new and no growth hacks around this idea. It was just them banging on people’s doors.  One piece of Steve’s advice was really good. He said:

“The more people we can interact with, the better. You learn how to sell your product; you learn what people are interested in and that’s a major value point in the future.”

And it has worked for them. Instead of closing a deal with a coffee store every six months like their first deal it now it takes them three weeks. It has been a process of trial and error, but the buzz has built up to a point where their leads know what their product is and that helps a lot.

The best part of Tenzo is that Robbie and Steve hadn’t ever done anything like that before. According to the guys,

“Something like this could happen to anyone, but so many people aren’t willing to try or put themselves on a risky position, and it’s kind of like jumping off a cliff not knowing if you will be able to fly or see what’s at the bottom.”

Essentially, if you don’t take risks, you won’t get results either. To see gains you have to stay in the game and be persistant.

Building exposure is crucial for any B2C business when you want people to know and remember you. Instead of going all-digital and do everything on the computer, these guys took the human route and built a customer-centered process.

Recently they hired an agency to run things for them and they are trying to niche down their product even further. Specializing in ceremonial, organic matcha and from there building a platform to create more products, these guys aren't going to stop growing any time soon.


Key Takeaways

  • If you ever have an idea, go to Google Trends and see how much buzz there is around it
  • Local growth is also a matter of being out there and getting people to know you and your brand personally
  • Build trust networks with your suppliers and consumers
  • Risks and results go in hand. Don't be afraid of the trail and error process. 

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