A Tea Entrepreneur's Log by John-Paul Lee

the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up

a sad day…


*** this is a retro blog from 6/16/2005 – i didn’t really keep a blog back then but kept a brief digital diary in my phone which i just recently discovered.

i just sold my car today as one of the steps to fund the business. it was my favorite car to date, a sleak titanium-silver 2001 Infiniti QX4. i’ve had some good times with it & in it :) i almost lost it as i handed over the keys but its for a good cause so i’m over it. farewell!
but wait its not over yet… i also created a line of credit against my condo. its probably not a good idea to leverage your house to start up a business and trust me everyone disapproved of the decision but in the end you gotta do what you gotta do. don’t think its over yet, i still have to liquidate all of my stock options at accenture to fully complete my portion of the dues to support the Tavalon cause… lets just hope the stock holds up and will be sufficient so i don’t have to dive into my 401K. i’m breaking all of the cardinal rules but like i said, you gotta do what you gotta do….
on a good note, i found a person to rent my condo so i can officially move up to New York.

coffee fest


spent the whole day at the coffee fest in the meadowlands. first time attending and it was one of the better expos i’ve been to in a long time. these trade shows are great for networking and landing new business opportunities. we met some great people and have plenty of leads to follow up with. we are expanding the range of business at tavalon and now entertaining collaborations with various distributors throughout the states. these expos are crucial to build these relationships and i wish i had participated in more of these in the past. also realized how the coffee and tea industry is very large yet so small at the same time. you see the same people over and over again and the market is very incestuous. account representatives bounce around from company to company which makes it hard to put a face to company, quite hilarious. also makes me realize how fortunate we are to have a low turnover rate at tavalon. i would hate to see any of our members leaving to work with competitors…

an interesting day at court


went to court today to contest my speeding ticket that was wrongfully imposed on me a few weeks back. the officer claimed that i was going 25 miles over the speeding limit which was a lie plus she didn’t have a radar gun… anyways, i get to court and immediately they send me into the prosecutors office for a “bargain.” the prosecutor basically said you could buy your way out of a ticket and gave me a few options. its a scam and if i had all the time in the world i would be fighting this case on a higher level BUT i don’t so i took the deal. here comes the funny part. so now i’m in the court room for the hearing/judgment and the guy in front of me goes up to the stand wearing baggy jeans and a hoodie. he is charged with possession of cocaine and the judge asked him how he pleads. this was his reply verbatim, “yeah i had cocaine on me but i wudn’t gonna use it.” i almost cried of laughter and still had tears in my eyes when i went up for my hearing…

everyone in the room was on edge and understandably so… i should figure out a way to incorporate our calming teas into all court rooms across the country…



my liver needs a break after 15 years of drinking. i definitely did some serious damage to it during college and business trips to Korea destroy me (every business meeting begins and ends with liquor). so i decided to cut out alcohol for a while and go on a liver detox program. i just bought the kit at wholefoods few days ago and it is pretty intense. have to take 4 pills a day on an empty stomach and you get to know your urinals very well. no joke i have to go the boys room every 10 minutes, i guess its a sign that its working. its a bit annoying especially during business meetings… its only a 30 day program so we’ll see how it goes.

we just brought on a new executive vice president to the tavalon team. the man is double threat coming from a SOLID finance background on top of his ability to govern operations. for the most part finance people have a very different set of skills than the operations types, very rare to find a hybrid. we’ve been bringing on some great talent lately and i’m very happy to have these people on board to take tavalon to a higher echelon. i’ve been running around like a headless chicken for the past few years trying to do everything myself but not anymore… i’m taking strategic steps to strengthen our management team and looking for partners/foster parents to help me raise this child of mine called tavalon. i say it all the time but building a business isn’t as hard as finding the “right” people to help you build the business larger and faster. looking forward to putting my head back on and focusing on our expansion plans!

new “undercover” job


*** this is a retro blog from 5/06/2005 – i didn’t really keep a blog back then but kept a brief digital diary in my phone which i just recently discovered.

i just recently got a job as a general manager for a local tea house in the west village. i’m actually doing this so i can better understand the details of running a tea company. so i work at Accenture during the day and go straight to the tea house after work. this place is losing some serious cash right now and the owner is clueless. my goal is to double revenue during the next 5 weeks but it won’t be easy. i’m learning so much doing everything hands on and i have full visibility over the business which is exactly what i was looking for. although i could probably do without certain tasks i.e. scrubbing the toilet and cleaning the bathroom. actually, i had an epiphany today while i was cleaning the bathroom. it took me, no joke, 45 minutes to clean the toilet today. the toilet was completely clogged and i really don’t understand why people have to use so much toilet paper to wipe themselves. anyways i told myself as i was cleaning/unclogging that i’m definitely having someone else perform bathroom duties when i open up my tea bar AND i’m DEFINITELY installing a commercial grade toilet that has a LARGE draining mechanism. on an appetizing note, i just created a tea blend today which is a mix of first flush darjeeling, lemongrass, and mint. its really good, tastes kinda like a Moroccan mint. GOOD TIMES!

healing for haiti


the event was amazing! a good amount of money was raised for the charity and everyone enjoyed our tea cocktails. we served the smarTEAni (white tea, peppermint, & korean plums shaken with vodka) which we paired with oscar’s delmonico vodka. this was the first time working with the new vodka brand and it worked out very well. we also placed 12 months of free tea for the raffle which was a big hit. feels great giving back and having fun while doing a good deed. pictures will be up shortly on tavalon.com.

coffee and tea festival 2010


just wrapped up the coffee and tea festival. the weekend was a success and we made some good contacts in the industry. it was also a great opportunity for the team to get together and mingle. michael (dc metro brand ambassador) came up for the day to help out along with jim(director of sales), diana (nyc brand ambassador), chris (tea sommelier aka. tea encyclopedia), gary(investor), roc (our resident dj), and sam(intern). sam worked hard over the weekend and i was very impressed with his ability to step up and hang with the big dogs. i am truly blessed to have a solid group of people working for tavalon. tavalon is a great business but what makes it an EXCELLENT company are the people behind it.

i also got interviewed by KNN for a business segment on channel 532 and 535. looking forward to watching the camera add 15 pounds to my face… the interview airs on Monday, Feb 22nd at 7:55pm.

tomorrow is a big day.  i’m meeting with a group of people who are interested in investing into tavalon.  i’ve gone through quite a few fund-raising presentations before but  they’re always fresh and i never seem to lose the butterflies.  this particular groups operates over 240 retail locations and all very recognizable brands.  the man behind the scenes is also a former NBA player so its extra cool!  no its not magic johnson and i can’t disclose much more information at this point but hopefully the discussions go well and i can announce a new partner in the near future.

the real challenge here is that i want to keep as much equity as possible and the investing parties will obviously want the most ownership for their buck(or a few million of them).   as a wise man once told me “the closest a man ever gets to experiencing motherhood is when he starts his own business.”  i truly believe in this and not ready to give up my baby for adoption.  however, i am looking for foster parents/partners to help me raise this child of mine.  having said that i am also fully aware that its better to have a smaller portion of a massive pie than the whole of a tiny one.

sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but the key is to find a WIN/WIN scenario.

tea bar full of surprises


*** this is a retro blog from 3/28/2006 – i didn’t really keep a blog back then but kept a brief digital diary in my phone which i just recently discovered.

so i’m running the cash register this morning and a guy walks in with a rolling suit-case. he looks at the merchandise cove and says “you should take off all the zeros on your pricing.”  i ask him to elaborate and he mentions that it would be more effective to list the prices without the zeros for example “$18″ not “$18.00.”  it was a good suggestion and i agreed.  he told me that he was in the marketing field and was offering a bit of advice.  i asked him for his contact information and this was literally his reply, “google Seth and you’ll find me.”  he walks out after he purchased a cup of tea and my interest is piqued at this point so i dash up to the office to google him. turns out it was Seth Godin, the author of All Marketers Are Liars. how cool is that! maybe some day i’ll be the first link that shows up when you google John-Paul… til then back to work.
btw, i did google John-Paul and its about 1000 pages for the pope. tis a tough name i have…