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Lawyer who quit courtroom to give capital Moore tea

IN this week's SME Focus we hear from an entrepreneurial lawyer who quit her job in London to take the risk of starting a tea business in Scotland just as the country entered a deep recession.

TIME FOR TEA: Eteaket, founded by Erica Moore, supplies cafes, delis and restaurants. Picture: Stewart Attwood
TIME FOR TEA: Eteaket, founded by Erica Moore, supplies cafes, delis and restaurants. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Name: Erica Moore

Age: 36

What is your business called? Eteaket tea

Where is it based? Edinburgh

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

Eteaket runs a tea room and has established itself as a specialist tea leaf provider which now supplies a growing number of hotels, cafés, delis, and retailers as well as Michelin starred restaurants including Tom Kitchin, Gordon Ramsay, and Joel Robuchon. The business has an online store and also sells a range of loose and leaf tea bags, teaware and gift sets.

What is its turnover? Around £500,000

How many employees? 14

When was it formed?

We opened our doors on December 16, 2008 so it's our fifth birthday.

Why did you take the plunge and what were you doing before?

I started my career as a litigation lawyer in London and while I enjoyed it in the early years, I realised that I wasn't completely passionate about it. I was, however, passionate about leaf tea and decided there should be more places on the high street where you could get proper leaf tea.

I resigned and went travelling to Sri Lanka and India to source tea and to learn as much as possible about it. After a lot of research I decided to open a tea business and attended a lot of very helpful Business Gateway workshops while I was still working in London.

I grew up in Gourock but chose to open the tea shop in Edinburgh. It was a leap of faith because I only knew one person there. I wanted a high-profile, city centre location from which to build the brand so I went for Edinburgh because it has an international reputation and a global tourism market.

When my husband Stewart and I moved to Edinburgh, I got in touch with Business Gateway. My adviser John Hill has been absolutely fantastic. He's a great source of knowledge, and a good coach and sounding board. He helped me secure support from Scottish Enterprise's Growth Pipeline and encouraged me to attend a workshop on International Strategy which has helped hugely with my plans for export.

I gained so much valuable experience as a lawyer. It taught me to be really disciplined and good at multi-tasking. On the other hand, the law can tend to beat any creativity out of you so I really relish the freedom I now have to dream up ideas and then make them reality.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Stewart and I realised early on that we wanted to have a business so cut right back on frivolous spending and saved as much as we could. We were initially going to open eteaket in London and successfully applied for bank loans there. However, we decided to move to Edinburgh, as we're both Scottish, around the same time as the banking world decided to collapse and we had to start seeking funding all over again. We raised the capital we needed through re-mortgaging and eventually selling our house, and with a family loan and all our savings.

Stewart is a full-time lawyer practising mostly in Glasgow although we live in Edinburgh. He's really a non-executive director, not involved in the day-to-day running of eteaket but we talk about it all the time.

What was your biggest break?

In November 2012 we were chosen by the Japanese Department Store Hanyku to set up two pop-up eteaket Tea Rooms in Japan. They financed it and flew our General Manager Sarah Chanter over there to oversee the tea rooms. Sarah baked 15,000 scones from her glass box while customers queued up to three hours for a table. We exported our tea for serving and retailing and it all sold out.

On the back of that we found a distributor for our tea in Japan who we are now exporting through. That opened lots of doors for us and we're now working closely with Scottish Development International and we're on the Scottish Enterprise Growth Pipeline. We are planning to expand our European exports during 2014 and to secure some contracts in Russia and the USA. We've just come back from a trade mission to New York City with the Santander Breakthrough programme.

What was your worst moment?

When helping out in the tea room on the busiest Saturday during the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago our dishwasher broke down, followed by our till, then we had to evacuate the kitchen while an emergency electrician fixed things. Customers were queuing out the door but it's hard to make tea without hot water. Thankfully most people understood and were happy to stay put while we got things back on track. I'm always heartened by how our team pulls together to get through challenges like that.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Apart from the hardship of having to travel to far-flung places like China and Taiwan and sampling lots of cakes for our tea room, I enjoy the freedom to dream up ideas with our team and to work together to make them a reality.

We have a lot of fun and are thrilled about all our exciting plans for 2014.

What do you least enjoy?

Paperwork and having to run out the door at 5.30pm come hell or high water to pick our three-year-old daughter up from nursery. It's hard to switch off without proper time to finish things off but, on the other hand, I've got the flexibility in other respects to spend time with family and friends when needed.

What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned?

That it's best to just take action and don't worry about everything being absolutely perfect. If you wait for all the lights to go green you'll never get anywhere! That has been hard particularly coming from a legal background.

How do you relax?

In what little spare time there is we enjoy skiing and, of course, playing around with tea.

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