To the tea – Adam Soliman of Charbrew

Twenty-three year old Adam Soliman launched high-end tea brand Charbrew in 2010 and is already expecting to turn over £500,000.

SmallBusiness.co.uk talks to him about his company’s development.

How did you get the idea?

I was studying for a degree in accounting and finance, and wanted to become a commodities trader in the City. But by the time I graduated in July 2009 I found that London’s major investment banks and broking houses were shedding jobs at the fastest rate in their history. So, as a hot beverage lover, I began researching opportunities in the global tea and coffee market.

How did you get started?

I set up camp in my mum and dad’s garage, using £5,000 of personal savings to buy my first consignment of tea bags from Asia and developed the Charbrew brand, combining the old colloquial ‘Char’ used during the British Empire in the 19th century and the modern day slang ‘brew’. I was packing the tea bags by hand into brown paper bags, loading them into the boot of my car and driving to farmers markets seven days a week. It was a far cry from the trading floor but it meant I was gaining experience at every level of running a small business.

How did it take off?

Customers kept coming back to the stall and asking for more varieties and I realised that the idea had potential. I won a series of start-up awards, developed my own varieties and pitched the range to major retailers, securing a £6,000 order with Lakeland.

In May 2011, Sainsbury’s placed an order for its entire 400 stores. I had just three months to scale up the business and products were hitting the aisles in July. I set about raising finance for further growth, ultimately securing a major investment from Enterprise Ventures as part of the North West Fund which valued the business at £1 million.

How did you get the word out?

At the farmer’s market level we did taste tests, and when I got into a few stores I would do some samples for customers. When I grew though I promoted it through social media campaigns, Nectar card promotions and PR.

What next?

A new range, and also potentially we’ll be launching with an international airline, involving a worldwide launch in all the first class cabins. We’re also in discussions with Ocado. In the long term, hopefully there’ll be talks with hotels, gyms, golf clubs, spas, airlines, and cruise ships.

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