Daniel Lewis | Youth Entrepreneur
As told to Jess Baria
The Brewing of T By Daniel
As a lad, I wasn’t much into business. For that matter, I wasn’t even into academics! I dropped out of high-school to pursue my love for the creative arts, dreaming that I would become a famous pop songwriter and perhaps start my own rock band one day.
Some of my songs featured on the radio, but that wasn’t enough to pay the bills. So, I tried working in factories and warehouses. For a while, I even served as the General Manager of a Domino’s Pizza outlet!
Then in 2009, I experienced a near-fatal stabbing incident. As I recovered over the following months, I re-examined my priorities. I also replaced several unhelpful habits with positive ones.
One new love I discovered was the goodness of tea. I believe that this drink helped me heal. I began thinking about how I could use my two great loves -- music and tea -- in a way that would bring health and happiness to others.
Generally, tea is perceived as a mild drink when compared to the oomph of coffee. I wanted to create a brand that gave tea the incredible respect it deserves! I eventually came up with T By Daniel, a concept that crowned the therapeutic wonders of tea with music and style. By blending these two seemingly contrary concepts, we are making T By Daniel the most, fashionable tea house in the Greater Toronto Area.
Setting up our first brick and mortar shop in Brampton in 2011 was a wonderful experience for me and my wife Renata. Of course, it was also time-consuming and costly. We never approached banks or got loans. But we participated in a lot of local competitions that offered funding for entrepreneurs.
The Ignite Capital flavour!
I entered the Ignite Capital pitch competition in 2014. The entire process was very transparent and had a warm, personal feel to it. The professionals at Ignite really took interest in our business model. I won the first prize in the Young Entrepreneur category, which was a $10,000 grant and an equivalent loan.
The prize money was a major milestone for my business, and I was able to fund several strategic measures to upgrade T By Daniel. We consolidated our branding and our online store, which enabled us to ship our niche loose-tea products worldwide. We could broaden operations to cover events such as corporate functions and weddings, where a mobile tea bar is required.
I was also able to hire a full-time manager. Before this, I was stuck in the shop, which made me miss out on several business opportunities in the city. Having a trusted in-house manager freed me to go out and scout for opportunities.
As was the original idea of combining my two passions, T By Daniel is setting the whole tea-drinking experience to music! We have recorded three audio ‘Tea Anthems’ which we distribute to customers. Our marketing campaigns and advertising efforts have tied in many music and fashion-inspired themes as well (link).
We now have a loyal and expanding base of patrons, thanks to the positive media coverage we have received, as well as our engaging social media channels. In fact, T By Daniel won the runner-up in the Best Social Media Outreach hosted by the World Tea Expo in California – an outstanding honour to have!
Today, six full time employees work for T By Daniel, and our annual sales have been climbing at 33% each year.
Sure, we would like to open more shops, but that is not high on our list of priorities for now. We believe in running the one shop we have well and serving our patrons with all our hearts. Once the brand is solidly anchored, we can look to opening an outlet in a high-traffic area.