In this chapter of Start-Up Stories we got to chat with Alexandra Thomas, Co-Founder of Tuk Tuk Chai: a premier chai tea that is disrupting the market and giving consumers a taste of real Indian street tea!
What’s the story of Tuk Tuk Chai?
The idea came from Rupesh witnessing Alex’s obsession for authentic chai while we travelled in India, but realising that the only versions of chai available in the UK were inauthentic and did not taste like the real deal. We also realised there was a demand for chai as chai lattes have become very trendy in large coffee chains. In addition, whereas iced coffee is available from multiple brands there is no equivalent for milk tea, yet milk tea is the nation’s favourite beverage. We therefore realised
“There was a huge gap to create an entirely new category”
and launch the first ever ready-to-drink iced milk tea brewed with Keralan tea leaves.
How did you feel after scoring such a big investment on Dragons Den?
We received an investment offer from Peter Jones, who was our Dragon of choice before entering the den. Of course this was really exciting and a great confirmation that we were on the right path with Tuk Tuk Chai by having such a successful entrepreneur willing to invest in our brand. However after meeting with his team we mutually decided to part ways. In addition, we needed more funds and decided to embark on a crowdfunding campaign so it made sense to carry on on our own. The overall experience of the den was amazing though and we learnt a lot along the way!
Why did you choose to turn to crowdfunding over the investment you’d already secured?
We mutually decided to part ways with Peter Jones as we needed more funds than £100,000 agreed on the den. What was not shown on TV was the discussion we had in the den where we explained that we wanted to do crowdfunding as well to raise more funds and raise awareness of the brand. Deborah Meaden was very supportive of the idea and said it was a great way for us to build an army of brand ambassadors. It was based on that that she thought this was a better route for us rather than receiving traditional investment and therefore she did not make an offer. Peter made an offer on the premises that it would be an equal partnership however after meeting with his team
“We realised that crowdfunding was still the best route for us. And it paid off as we raised three times the amount offered on the den.”
What are the biggest pain points of running a start-up, how do you get past them?
Running a start-up means we have limited resources in terms of funds and staff. So it means we have to be laser-focused in what we do and also work strategically to avoid unnecessary distractions. It also means we need to find the right partners to whom we can outsource some of our work, but it is crucial to find the right fit in terms of understanding our brand and culture.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about your journey so far?
Hearing our consumers say they love Tuk Tuk Chai has made the challenges worth taking!
As a start-up founder, how do you manage your work-life balance?
We are a couple working together and also have a young son, so it is important for us to have clear boundaries between work and private life even if it is often easier said than done! So we have to focus on working smarter and prioritising what is really important so we can have free time as a family. That also includes looking after our own wellbeing through exercising and taking time off to refuel our energy!
If you could go back to before you started the business and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Things are most likely not going to go to plan so be very agile to confront the obstacles along the way.
“Keep adapting to change and ultimately never give up”
How important is innovation to the business?
Innovation is key and we are proud to have launched the first ever ready-to-drink brewed iced milk tea!
Where can people find your delicious drinks?
We are available from 103 Sainsburys and Harvey Nichols nationally. If you enter your postcode here you can find your nearest store here
What does the future hold for Tuk Tuk Chai?
We have a lot of exciting developments for 2019 which we cannot yet share publicly but we look forward to increasing the reach of our chai in the UK market. In the long-term future we aim to diversify Tuk Tuk Chai into other verticals in the food and drinks category.
Tuk Tuk Chai are paving their way straight to the top, we can’t wait to see where they’ll be in a years’ time! If you want to know more about their products and story check out their website here