Hope & Glory: A Journey
Bharat and Nina Chudasama went into the tea business for the love of it, but also to create change. Three years into their journey, they reflect on the choices they made and why the best is yet to come.
Organic Masala Chai. Organic English Breakfast. Organic Red Velvet. Organic White Assam. Organic 2nd Flush Darjeeling. Organic Rooibos. Organic Chamomile. Organic Earl Grey. Organic Peppermint…. One by one, Nina Chudasama ticks off the names of the varieties that make up their carefully curated collection of premium, all organic Hope & Glory teas. They’ve just added a delicate, Organic Chaqouing Green and a rare Organic Jasmine Pearls. Like all their teas and tisanes, the new blends are hand-picked and processed the traditional, or orthodox, way by growers brandishing the right ethical credentials.
‘Our core collection is very popular’ says Nina. ‘Each variety was carefully chosen for a reason by us. Rooibos, chamomile and peppermint are all healthy. Red Velvet is beautiful to the eye, great as a cold drink, and appeals to children with its fruity flavour. Masala Chai is Bharat’s own recipe. He could drink it every minute of the day. It goes on. We don’t want teas that are just passing fads or to confuse customers with too many choices.
“We’re determined to shake up the market so that customers start to demand only the very best tea available”
These days, the Chudasamas are much more confident about what they do and don’t want for Hope & Glory. Lessons have been learnt during the course of three years. However, they’ve remained steadfast in terms of the change they wish to see.
‘We’re determined to shake up the market so that customers start to demand only the very best tea available. We think Hope & Glory® embodies that tea. When tea first reached Britain, it caused a sensation and people made a point of educating themselves in tea and its rituals. Our mission is to restore that curiosity and reverence for great tea.
‘Through Hope & Glory we want to bring back tea’s glory days in Britain and across the world. Think of how brilliant it will be to live in a tea-centred culture that doesn’t rest on just any ordinary tea. Are we disruptors? We’d like to think so. Tea-drinkers deserve better.’ says Bharat.
Steep Learning Curve
At one point, Nina and Bharat were ready to launch a mobile coffee business, until friends convinced them to draw on their family histories and circumstances as first generation British Asians. Both, as Nina recalls, were raised to view Britain as the land of hope and glory, where hard work held the secret to a better life.
They also thought they’d done enough market research by the time they launched Hope & Glory® in 2016, throwing themselves headlong into the market with a brand and unique product they truly believed in. But they were knocked back by what they discovered to be the current attitude of both businesses and consumers to tea.
‘We were actually quite naïve,’ recalls Nina. ‘Organic tea wasn’t something many people knew about yet, and we were trying to get that message across as well as the history of tea and the importance of tea knowledge. But our story just wasn’t loud enough to get people excited about the company and what we were trying to achieve. As a new brand from newcomers who no one in the food industry had heard about – I used to work in IT and Bharat in pharmaceuticals – it was hard. No one really took us seriously.’
Nina remembers sending out hundreds of letters and e-mails to hotels and industry bodies asking for a chance to present their teas. Not many responded. They gambled on two product launches at luxury hotels and at one point even sponsored the English Polo Team and The Boodles Tennis Challenge.
“We don’t regret having done what we did, because we learned from it.”
Bharat admits, ‘We knew we had to raise Hope & Glory®’s voice in the market place to shout about our brand values and what we stood for, and those early activities were aimed at achieving that. But in hindsight, it would have been better to invest in professional sales and marketing than in areas that ended up making our brand seem unattainable, rather than aspirational. We don’t regret having done what we did, because we learned from it, but knowing what we do now we would have done things differently.’
As with many start-ups, particularly family businesses, the founders found themselves trying to do everything. It finally dawned on them that they needed the right support. ‘Even if Bharat is extremely commercial, and I know I can be very creative, we couldn’t go on as we were, trying to be good at everything,’ says Nina.
Adds Bharat, ‘We made many, many mistakes and learned many things about the industry. There were challenges. Understanding about how packaging needs to be, how to position ourselves in the market place, not having the right support. Getting investors on board. Our children saw us under pressure, worried and stressed. Waiting for decisions to be made. The reality of doing business.’
Seeing The Light
Since recruiting a highly experienced sales professional as business development manager a year ago, Hope & Glory has more than trebled its number of clients in the food service sector, including top hotels, a key hotel group, cafes and care homes. Bharat and Nina have also invested in revamping their website, transforming it into an appealing retail sales channel, and likewise enhanced their social media profile. They have also updated the packaging and launched new blends and teaware.
Bharat and Nina are convinced that after making the right changes, they’ve now got the packaging just right. Hope & Glory teas now come in elegant 100% sustainable gold & silver packaging, with subtle references to their collections in the pink, blue, green and purple recyclable envelopes. The new look and feel speaks to the discerning market they’re after, and sends out the message about the quality of Hope & Glory tea and the conscientiousness behind the brand.
‘Whether it’s our tea blends and collections, our teaware and everything to do with tea, our team is devoted to delivering the best tea experience. People will associate great tea with our brand. I really believe that once people discover Hope & Glory tea, they will take our brand into their hearts,’ says Bharat.
There are still sleepless nights and the recurring moral dilemmas that come with running an all-consuming professional business, but at least in Nina’s case, there is now more time and opportunity to put things in perspective.
‘As a person, I believe in balance. I love our business and want it to succeed, but I also value family time. With three small children, I don’t want to be looking back 20 years from now and asking myself where it’s all gone. Whereas Bharat is a little different. He will work all hours because for him, even the short-term goals are worth it. But in a way, we have a dynamic that works: he’s a glass half-full and I’m half-empty. He’s always optimistic, whereas I’m more pragmatic,’ she says. Yin and Yang.
Nina still oversees all the tea orders herself. Although they have a team of people to do the packing and posting, she likes to keep a handle on all aspects of the order and delivery process. As it is, orders have been steadily rising, and there is now considerable interest from markets in the US and Middle East. Three years ago, you would have found her working at her kitchen table, but today she’s in the middle of a warehouse facility not far from the home she shares with Bharat and their three young children in rural Hertfordshire ‘This business is our child,’ Nina explains. ‘Maybe when we grow bigger, we’ll be able to let go even more. But at the moment, we’re still very much the business and the brand.’
“Whether it’s our tea blends and collections, our teaware and everything to do with tea, our team is devoted to delivering the best tea experience.”
Bharat says, ‘We’re trying to do all the right things and now we have people who really and truly believe in us and are opening doors. We want to prove ourselves worthy of their trust. And as a company, we’ve been able to streamline our operations and sharpen our focus so now we’re in a stronger position than we’ve ever been. It’s been a hard but fascinating journey, and one that we continue to believe in.’
And it appears that circumstances are on their side, with an enlightened, ‘woke’ generation more than ever receptive to a tea brand like Hope & Glory: British, ethical, pure, sustainable, healthy and ultimately satisfying. The future indeed looks bright.
‘What we’ve learned is to never give up,’ says Nina. ‘There are still sleepless nights and stresses, but even our children know that without hard work, nothing will happen. We went through a lot in the first two years, but now we can see the light. After all, where there is tea, there is hope…’
Interview and article by Gina McAdam