Women in Small Business: 5 Questions with Sarah Adams
Name: Sarah Adams
Business: Chico Chai (https://chicochaitea.com)
Sarah is the owner and Brewmistress at Chico Chai, a handmade, small batch, loose leaf chai company based in Chico, CA. Her chai is organic and delicious, and her company values sustainability and community. As her business continues to expand and gain fans across the county, Sarah maintains a commitment to detail and quality.
1. What led you to owning your own business?
I always loved the idea of owning my own business, the idea that my work and vision could directly affect the growth of a job I created. When I moved back to my hometown, I was a huge fan of fresh, spicy chai but didn't have enough time to make my own at home between the hours and the commute. There wasn't anything available for me to buy that fit the bill, and I had a feeling that maybe I wasn't the only one who was craving this kind of chai. So after many test batches of versions of the brew I had made at home for years, I took a leap of faith, quit my job and started Chico Chai.
2. What is your business philosophy?
Make a product you're proud of and treat customers, clients and employees with kindness and respect.
3. What have you learned about yourself by owning your own business?
My strengths and weaknesses have become much more clear to me. I often have to do a bit of everything anyway, since it is a pretty small business, but I've been better at recognizing and delegating the tasks I know I don't excel at. For example, I've loved working my booth at the farmers' market on Saturdays, but I had to be available to work Monday-Friday, and I started hiring folks to work in my place so I didn't burn out. When I would come back to work there periodically, customers asked where my employees were by name, and they were disappointed to not find them at the booth. It turns out my team was better at sales than I was, so I permanently stepped away from that position, just filling in when absolutely necessary. It was better for the business and better for my mental health to just work five solid days per week.
4. What has been the most surprising thing for you?
How much I've had to learn to become a manager as my business has grown. It wasn't something I anticipated, I originally just planned on continuing to do everything myself, but as most entrepreneurs realize, that just wasn't possible at a certain stage of growth. I've had to learn how to talk to people, ask them to do jobs clearly and persuasively, to instill in them the passion I feel for chai and for the business. It's still a work in progress, but I'm progressing.
5. What advice would you give to a woman starting a new business endeavor?
Do research. Read, watch videos, talk to business people you admire, offer to take them out to tea and listen their experiences. Seek out advice from people in your field and outside, in order to get a broad sense of what the world of business looks like. If you can afford it, seek advice from a professional advisor. (I wish I had been able to do this when I first started). Also seek out more affordable/free advice from organizations like SCORE or local small business development centers. Plan your budget, what you need for the business and what you'll personally need until the business starts making a profit. Then you just have to do it. Be bold, take steps, jump in. Believe in your vision and realize that not everyone will get it (at first). Realize that you'll continue to learn more everyday, and you may have to stay flexible in the specifics of your product in order to be successful.
As you're well into the business, treat your team, customers and clients with respect and kindness, and make sure to stand up for yourself because nobody else is going to. Try to take time off when you can- entrepreneurs are nearly always thinking about their business. It's the first thing we think about in the morning, the last thing we think about at night and it's often what we dream about. You really have to force yourself to take a real break, to physically get away from the business long enough to remember everything else that's important in your life. This often benefits the business since it gives you perspective and takes your brain out of the day to day. I've had some of my best inspirations on vacation.