10 October 2017

Using expert advice to get your startup off the ground

With little experience in the industry, finding a veteran helped Tea Rex's founder launch his tea brand.

Like many a startup founder, Andrew Walker was left scratching his head when it came to several technical aspects of launching his fruit tea startup.

How to get stocked in a supermarket? What’s the right price? What’s the distributor’s cut? Questions about production and marketing kept occurring to him.

Luckily, a chance encounter put him in touch with a man who had the answers and who Walker would later convince to become his unofficial chairman. Since last December, Chris Copestake, founder of a big soup and sauce manufacturer, has been informally advising Walker on his business.

‘Within 48 hours [of his involvement], he’d opened up one of England’s biggest ginger importers to us,’ says Walker. ‘He put us in touch with a factory we would never otherwise have found or got access to.’

Copestake also recommended Walker quote suppliers much shorter lead times than necessary so Tea Rex could batch produce sachets. He has also given hours of his time advising on the finer points of manufacturing fresh products with a long shelf life. ‘It’s obvious stuff when you say it out loud,’ admits Walker. ‘But it wasn’t stuff I’d got my head around.’

Walker has tried to find others like Copestake to help him. He’s been relying on goodwill and ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ with a photographer, an ex-buyer from Waitrose, an investor, printer and nutritionist, who have given their time and services now for reward in the future when Tea Rex raises investment. ‘I’ve created a vision,’ says Walker. ‘I know exactly what I want out of people, and I’m incredibly specific.’