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As I reflect on our goals for 2022 and what we have actually accomplished, I am reminded of a quote that has been attributed to Bill Gates and other leaders: "People tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can achieve in a year." I am proud of all that we have achieved this year and am grateful for the opportunity to continue working towards our goals every single day this year.
At the end of 2021, I had deemed 2022 to be the year of intention. I knew it sounded quite vague, but during the year gone by, having that one word as a reminder really made a difference in every single decision and move Nepal Tea Collective made. As you read along you’ll understand what I mean by this.
We set out right on an intentional path on 1st January 2022 by converting to a Public Benefit Corporation. This meant we replaced the word “shareholders” to “stakeholders” on our company charter. It’s funny how big a difference an intentional change of word can make! While this may seem trivial at first, it comes with big intentions. Since Nepal Tea Collective is a PBC now, we basically exist to create value for all stakeholders and not just the shareholders.This was our overall intention for governance and the only way to become the most impactful tea company in the world!
In 2022, we focused on measured and intentional growth. Building a thriving business with an impact-first mindset requires a lot of resources, and I was fortunate enough to bring some of the best and brightest people in my network onboard. We nearly tripled our team size and are proud to have a highly functional team working across multiple time zones. It has been a challenging but rewarding year as we continue to push towards our goals.
It goes without saying but achieving financial growth is crucial to any company’s sustainability, and we are thrilled to announce that we reached 80% of our goal this year. We almost doubled our business, and we hope to continue this momentum in the coming years. 2023 will be especially crucial as we aim to reach a six-figure monthly run rate. This growth rate is necessary for our sustainability, and I am grateful to the entire team for their hard work and dedication in helping us reach this point. I also recognize the challenges we faced in achieving this goal and am deeply grateful for the long hours everyone put in to get us where we are today.
As a social enterprise and registered public benefit corporation, we are responsible for both financial and social returns. While measuring financial returns is straightforward with established standards, measuring social impact is more complex, difficult and resource-intensive. Without a clear understanding of what we want to measure and how to measure it, we can become lost.
That's why we created our first impact measurement framework. While this is a work in progress, it gives us a baseline for where we stand and where we want to go, allowing us to make changes along the way. I believe that everything in life is a work in progress, and this framework helps us stay on track and continue to improve. It will be available on the website fairly soon.
In 2022, we created a lot of new things, from tea tasting classes to our premium Rose Label Reserve tea to top-of-the-world teas to a revamped immersive tea tourism experience. It felt like we were launching a new product every month after summer. While it was challenging to create, iterate, prototype, and launch these products, our small but mighty team pulled it together. This year was difficult as we managed all the different ideas and aspirations we had, but it was also intentional. These new products and services will be the foundation for our growth in 2023. Our focus in 2023 will not be on launching new things, but rather on improving and scaling our existing portfolio.
It goes without saying that we exist because of the community we have built, and we will only continue to survive because of its expansion. We are building a community not only here in the US with our customers, but also sustainable communities in rural villages in Nepal. This year, we were unable to add as many farms as we would have liked due to various reasons, including our own capacity. However, we did add the Bhakanje tea farm located on the foothills of Mount Everest and represents the true identity of Nepal as a country. This was an intentional decision to help bring a new tea community to life: the Sherpas. We are grateful to be part of such a supportive and diverse community.
We finally got to visit and exhibit at various tea festivals after quite a long hiatus. We got to meet a lot of you and show you what Nepal is brewing. Furthermore, we made some really meaningful collaborations, one with Strand Bookstore, NYC’s oldest bookstore and the other one with the Boiis Co. for their Mochi based cookies and tea parties.
Mentorship is key to learning from those who have more experience and avoiding common mistakes. I think of mentorship as a GPS: if you ask the right questions and know your destination, it can guide you there in the most efficient way. This year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Global Good Fund, which provided me with access to business and personal mentorship and helped me develop my own leadership skills. I was also joined by Chris from Starbucks, Brooklyn from Cornelia Bean, and Nalin Modha, a tea specialist with over 30 years of experience, on a trip to Nepal to learn and guide us in promoting Nepali teas in the global tea industry. In addition, I was elected to the board of directors at ESTA (European Specialty Tea Association) to be a voice in the industry and give back to the tea industry in a meaningful way. These valuable mentorship opportunities are intentional for Nepal Tea Collective as we aim to make a mark in the tea industry.
As a public benefit corporation and social enterprise, we are always thinking about how we can make a meaningful difference to the community, particularly the tea-producing community. This year, we implemented two initiatives with a long-term vision in mind, even though the results may not be immediately apparent. We started our 1% revenue share program with tea farmers to supplement their income and provide additional income for their workers. With this program, tea pluckers and farmers will be able to increase their daily income by about 10% starting this year. As we scale, the more we grow, the more we will be able to help our farmer partners grow with us. We believe that this program has the potential to make a significant impact in the long run.
Similarly, we started a program to plant one tea sapling for every customer we acquire. Our target for this year was to plant around 10,000 saplings, but we were only able to plant 6150. While we’re super proud of this achievement we plan to do better in 2023! We quickly found out that achieving that would be difficult due to availability, capacity, and seasonality of the entire process. While these saplings will not bear fruit immediately, we have calculated that each plant will increase the earning for one farmer by about $2 per year and sequester about 5lbs of carbon each year. While these numbers may seem small, we believe that this program has the potential to make a significant impact in the long run when we reach a million customers.
As a core mission of our business, we are always striving to create an identity for Nepali-origin teas in the global market, and 2022 was a significant step in that direction. We won six international awards for our teas in the AVPA tea competition in France, and our wholesale partner, Karma Teas, received a Good Taste award for one of our special white teas. We also introduced Nikesh, the youngest tea maker in Nepal, and other innovative tea producers to the world. This is just the beginning of how we will shape the identity of tea producers and farmers in Nepal.
Additionally, I was honored to be selected for the Young Pioneer award for excellence in social entrepreneurship, recognizing the work Nepal Tea Collective has been doing for the past six years. This award is not just for me as an individual, but for the collective that it represents, and it serves as a testament that we are on the right path, but have a long way to go.
As with any year, we had countless other projects, thoughts, ideas and just things that we wanted to accomplish but simply failed and learned from it or just did not have the capacity to pursue. Here’s a running list all of things that we did not achieve and/or failed at:
Close our fundraising round: Though we had hoped to close our first fundraising round by the end of 2022, we were quite delayed due to various reasons. However, we’re on track to close in a few months which will add significant value to our forecasted growth in 2023. I did not realize how slow fundraising can be especially when it is not a typical VC-led fundraising. However, we are being quite conscious and intentional about the right fit as investors and how we can acquire “smart money” and not just money to sustainably grow in the coming years.
Launch fully compostable tea Bags: Fully compostable tea bags have been on our hearts and minds for more than a year but we have simply not been able to execute on this due to capacity constraints and some other external factors. We have spent countless hours in research and prototyping but we had not found the perfect fit until very recently. We have been very particular and intentional about what we want to bring out to the market. Therefore, launching tea bags will be our top priority in 2023 and it is going to be exciting to see how this opens up so many avenues for growth for us.
Open a physical tea tasting studio: Another project that is near and dear to our hearts is the tea tasting studio for our valued customers and for us to really showcase what our teas mean and stand for. Pratik has done all the calculations and backend research for this and it is just about finding the right place that is holding us back from heading into our very first tasting studio. Who knows, you might see one in 2023.
Launch yacon syrup: We manufactured yacon syrup in Nepal with the intention of supplementing farmers income during the off season for tea and that process in itself has been quite difficult. Even more difficult has been finding the right partners to bottle the syrup in the US. As we embark on this journey in 2023, we aspire to launch yacon syrup in the second quarter of 2023. So, stay tuned!
Expand our reach to other countries: We have also struggled to expand to other countries, mostly because of capacity constraints. Though we receive numerous inquiries from many different countries, we want to be intentional about that growth and be foundationally stable before expanding to a new country.
Launch himalayan coffee: We have spent countless hours and resources and have tinkered with a number of avenues to introduce specialty Nepali coffee to the broader audience but have not been able to justify the resources needed to pull this off. We are considering partnering with other organizations in the longer run to be able to offer some high mountain coffee. So, for now tea it is! Enjoy the extra L-theanine in your caffeine with tea! :)
Thanks to anyone who made it this far! As I said, we had clearly underestimated what we would achieve in 2022. It was the best year we have had in terms of overall growth, fun and just building business. Hoping 2023 is going to be even better and already pumped on what we can offer you for this new year!
Nish | Nepal Tea Collective