This series was brought to you in paid partnership with Facebook Canada
Resilient is a term often used to describe entrepreneurs. When starting a business, there’s a need to be able to think quickly, to pivot and to push through even when times are tough. For Cup of Té (pronounced “tay”) founder, Taylor Lindsay-Noel, resilience is a trait she learned a long time ago.
In 2008, Lindsay-Noel was just 14 years old and a rising star in the world of Canadian gymnastics. As a member of the Canadian national team, she frequently travelled for competitions and had the ultimate dream of wearing red and white on the Olympic stage.
Everything changed in July 2008, when a fall from the high bar severed Lindsay-Noel’s spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the neck down.
“Luckily I’ve had the most incredible support system from day one. I was in rehab for 19 months and then I went back to high school. Then I went on to university,” she said.
Finding a new passion
After studying Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University, Lindsay-Noel excitedly entered internships with some of the biggest names in Canadian media. In doing so, she realized that although she wanted to be a reporter, she didn’t want to spend years at a desk before maybe getting the chance to be on-air.
So, instead of waiting around, she put herself on-air and started a podcast called Tea Time with Tay.
On her show, she would interview guests over a cup of David’s Tea, using the flavours as a point of reference for the conversation.
“I was hoping that as my audience grew, they would reach out and sponsor me, but they never did,” she said. “Being really stubborn. I was like, ‘You know what? If they won’t sponsor me, I’ll start my own brand to advertise to my listeners.’”
And so, Cup of Té was born.
Cup of Té is an online retailer of premium organic loose leaf tea. Launched in November 2018, the company has grown to host over 20 flavours ranging from green to herbal and rooibos.
“I thought I was going to release one tea, then it ended up turning into a whole line,” she said. “That business took over my everyday life and is pretty much my main and sole focus right now.”
Growing the business
As someone with a background in media, creating and growing the business was out of her comfort zone. While she had always admired the entrepreneurs on the likes of Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den, Lindsay-Noel never pictured herself as one. She joked that she had to “Google her way through the business.”
One saving grace was the ability to create beautiful Instagram and Facebook accounts to target niche online audiences. She credits the social platforms as being that way that 90 percent of consumers find out about Cup of Té.
“Our following is very niche and very passionate. So if you look at 90 percent of our followers’ usernames, the handle is @booklover3 or something,” said Lindsay-Noel. “It’s people who have a strong passion and drink tea every single day, it’s a part of their lives. We’ve been able to create a sort of family feeling online where they [followers] feel really involved in the process.”
The ability to message Cup of Té’s audience and interact with consumers in the comments has helped keep that family feeling strong throughout the pandemic. In addition, Lindsay-Noel said that Instagram direct messaging helped build out new audiences through chatting with influencers, “It’s been imperative. I feel like without Facebook and Instagram especially, my business would not be where it is today.”
Creating that sense of community and building a strong brand presence has proven to be an effective strategy, especially throughout the last eight months. As an e-commerce store, Cup of Té was able to carry on during the pandemic. As a Black female founder, Lindsay-Noel said that the company saw an outpour of support during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve always said that if I just was able to get the business in front of the right eyes, then we can keep the customers for life,” she said. “And we’ve already seen a really high retention rate of those customers who came to us earlier in the year.”
Managing an online presence
Cup of Té is one of many small businesses trying to stay afloat during the most unprecedented year in memory. Being online—and digitally savvy—has been a key factor in helping Lindsay-Noel continue to succeed. However, managing online responsibilities can be overwhelming for many small business owners.
According to a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 51 percent of small business owners predict that they’ll rely on digital communication in the upcoming years. Yet, 46 percent of small business owners feel overwhelmed with keeping track of online communication, and 38 percent often forget to check their messages.
When small businesses are managing multiple social platforms it’s easy to lose track of customers who are reaching out. That’s why Facebook recently connected Messenger and Instagram and introduced new features for the messaging merge.
Now, small business owners can connect their Messenger app to their Instagram account to get all their messages in the same place—no need to switch between apps! By doing so, it mitigates the risk of missing a message and small business owners, like Lindsay-Noel, can rest assured that they are reaching every interested consumer.
The pandemic’s effects on small businesses
According to the most recent Facebook Global State of Small Business Report, 35 percent of operational SMBs expect cashflow to be a challenge in the next few months. However, it should be noted that that number has dropped from 45 percent of SMBs worried in June.
The worry about having steady business is something that Lindsay-Taylor knows all too well. She encourages any current or future entrepreneurs to be patient and stay positive.
“Hold your head up high through the really quiet periods. When you start, you have days where you get no orders. I remember there was a time when I think I went 17 straight days without an order and I was panicking,” she said.” So, know that there’s going to be lulls in the business, that it takes a very long time to turn a profit and be okay with that.”
An optimistic future for small businesses
Lindsay-Noel’s positive attitude is echoed by her fellow female founders; according to the Facebook report, 69 percent of female owners and managers of operational SMBs in August on Facebook reported feeling optimistic about the future of their business.
As the world waits to return to normal—whatever the new normal may be—consumers have the power to help small businesses survive the pandemic. In doing so, you’re helping entrepreneurs like Lindsay-Noel continue their dream.
“I really do appreciate when people take a leap of faith on a small business, because there’s a lot of really great businesses that just need a little bit of shine,” she said. “And they could probably blow your mind, with what they’re able to offer. We [Cup of Té] put our heart and soul into every single order that’s going out of these doors.”
Additional takeaways from Global State of Small Business Report
The Global State of Small Business Report is an ongoing effort by Facebook, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank to survey SMBs around the world and how they’ve fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through tracking timely insights on the impact that COVID-19 has on business operations, challenges SMBs face, and the pivots that they’re using to adapt and survive, this research hopes to support and amplify SMBs.
The most recent survey included data from at least 171 respondents in Canada, and was taken between Aug. 24–31, 2020. In order to participate, businesses were required to be an administrator of an active Facebook Business Page. The latest survey took a specific interest in gender equality, and shed light on the unequal impact of the pandemic on women at home and in business.
- 50 percent of operational female-led SMBs in August (vs. 44 percent of operational male-led SMBs)on Facebook reported that their sales in the past month were lower than the same month last year.
- 25 percent of female owners and managers of operational SMBs in August (vs. 7 percent of male owners and managers of operational SMBs) on Facebook reported that they were spending 6+ hours per day on domestic tasks and family care.
- 47 percent of operational SMBs in August on Facebook reported that their sales in the past month were lower than the same month last year.
- 88 percent of SMBs in August on Facebook reported that they were operational or engaging in any revenue-generating activities. (up from 74 percent in May)
As for Lindsay-Noel, she looks forward to seeing Cup of Té grow, hopefully eventually becoming the go-to boutique tea shop in every major city. For now, she’s enjoying the entrepreneurial journey.
“Behind every small business is a real person and entrepreneur. Still to this day, when I hear a sale, I genuinely get excited.”