Bethan Thomas, founder of HotTea Mama

Photo of Bethan Thomas

Bethan Thomas is a graduate of Oxford University and after she graduated and worked in the tea trade for over a decade, she was the first non-Chinese person to get a degree in Tea Science from Fujian Agricultural University. Officially, this makes her a professional tea obsessive. This passion for tea, was cut short by pregnancy which limited her caffeine in take, and many of the foods and drinks she usually enjoyed. Even herbal teas with liquorice were out of bounds.
At the same time, it increased the number of gifts she received from friends and family. But the range of products they could get her, was limited – no alcohol, not too many chocolates, no clothes…there’s only so much hand cream and bubble bath that a woman needs. It was at this time, that her friend Kate suggest they create tea blends that were safe to drink in pregnancy and motherhood, and package them to be the perfect gift for any mum and mum to be. HotTea Mama was born .Bethan blended a tea for each trimester of pregnancy and motherhood, where she had needed it most – to fight morning sickness, induce labour, increase milk supply, to stay awake and to fall asleep. The teas fulfil needs that she never knew she had before experiencing motherhood, and they are now bought by women all over the country, in Dubai and Singapore. Seed funding has allowed Bethan and Kate to run HotTea Mama, and in less than a year, it is listed on Amazon Prime, has 2 international distributors, independent retailers and online outlets. Monthly turnover is increasing at a minimum 30%, and they are currently looking for investment to cement the organic growth achieved so far, to scale up, and develop new product lines.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
HotTea Mama Logo

China and tea. My entrepreneurship developed naturally, it evolved through my experience in the more traditional tea trade. I simply seized the opportunity that Kate’s idea created.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?

The passion that gives you drive to persist and drive your own idea into reality. It’s what gives a small number of people the ability to genuinely think outside the box.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?

We knew quickly from people’s reaction to the idea, that there was potential. We decided to test the concept, and within 3 months of sales, we saw one third of all visitors to our site converting, with the average order being worth £18.00. This was achieved with no marketing budget, and the simple mantra of posting on instagram once a day. We knew that if we could could afford to do a larger production run to increase margin, we had created a brand that appealed to our target market enough to work.

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

Persistence – Keep trying even when you feel knocked back.
Resilience – Don’t be put off, keep trying.
Passion – If you’re not passionate, you won’t be persistent or, resilient.

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

The deep personal satisfaction of holding my product, and realising that I’ve created something out of nothing.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?

Martha Lane Fox. Her commitment to considering responsibility and morality alongside corporate requirements, alongside her obvious ability are incredible.

If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?

What was said when she turned down the invite to meet Trump at Blenheim Palace. And then, how she has managed and planned her career after Last Minute.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?

Every day I make mistakes and learn lessons. From small ones to big ones. I do my best to never repeat them, and that’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learnt.

How have you funded your ideas?

We personally financed the brand development and first production run, and then had a small amount of seed funding so to test the concept with Amazon and small retailers. We’re now looking for a larger investment to scale up as it’s clear the concept works.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?

Not yet!

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

Great businesses are based here, but it doesn’t have the same networking opportunities as London.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?

Oxfordshire Business Support has been a great help to us, giving advice and connections from accountants to potential investment groups.

Any last words of advice?

Nothing comes from nothing. Something comes of something. Give it a go.