Name(s): Millie Wilson (M) and Sarah Goodwin (S)
M: 17th March 1990 S: 10th April 1990
M: London, Homerton S: Mexico City
Designers / entrepreneurs
Tea & Tequila Trading
What did you study at university and what grade did you leave with?
M: Sociology at Bristol University with 2:1
S: Spanish at Bristol University with 2:1
Was it a clear-cut path in terms of what you would do after you left?
M: Most of our evenings in Bristol (where we studied and lived together) were spent discussing a future plan/dream of creating a brand that embodied all the things we mutually love. We had an idea of the essence of the business; Mexico, tropical style, and fun clashing colours, but as I said this was very much all fantasy chat and we never imagined we would go onto create Tea & Tequila!
S: When we left university we took slightly more conventional paths; Millie worked in marketing at Ralph Lauren and I moved to Mexico City and worked for a while in finance. Despite the geographical distance we still spoke most days over the phone and visited one-another as often as we could before deciding our dually aligned obsession with the beautiful Mexico, needed to develop into more than just a passion and fascination and so Tea & Tequila Trading was born.
What is Tea & Tequila Trading?
S: Tea & Tequila Trading is a Tropical Accessories brand blending the Tea (our britishness) with the rich colourful essence of Mexico (Tequila). We work closely with skilled artisans to create our designs. At the moment we are focused on leather and vegan leather clutch and chain bags but Tea & Tequila has encapsulated other areas of Tropical Mexican design before and has the scope to include other things as and when we expand our lines.
How did the idea for Tea & Tequila Trading come about?
S: The initial idea originally came to me when I lived in the beautiful tropical city of Merida in the Yucatan, Mexico during my year abroad from Bristol. It was simply the desire to do something with Mexico where I saw such potential and make an interesting business from it. Seeing all of these amazing things that I wanted to share with a wider audience, meant I naturally reached out to Millie as my partner. Together we then created the idea that started Tea & Tequila Trading, bringing ‘a little bit of Mexico’ to the UK and vice versa. The business model has somewhat changed since then and we have now focussed on our own range of Tropical Accessories, working closely with Artisans in different areas of Mexico and promoting ethical fashion.
What were the challenges in initially setting up Tea & Tequila Trading?
S: There were many of course! One of the ones that stand out most to me, was trying to fine tune all of our ideas and work out which were worth doing and which weren’t- which is hard when you are full of ideas! The real way we came to what we’re doing now was trying and testing a lot of different things in the market. Another for us was of course the distance, time differences and trying to be united when we were physically working alone and on the other side of the world from one another. Also, realising how much admin goes into running a business and how much time it takes up was a bit of a shock to the system but we have managed to control and manage this side so much better with more experience.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
S: We sought and continue to seek it from the people closest to us I would say. Family of course and friends that have gone out on their own too are always great people to speak to, as they may have overcome similar hurdles and can reassure you that you aren’t alone! Also we feel incredibly lucky to work with each other.
M: Yes, we are in the amazing position of working with a best friend. Therefore knowing one another so well we can be there to give each other advice throughout. We have different strengths and weaknesses which makes us a strong team and even though we spend a lot of time on the other side of the world from each other, we are always there to pick the other up!
Working together also helped us to get our idea in motion quickly. Knowing each other inside out and having faith, trust and belief in each other’s work ethic helped us to focus purely on the task at hand and utilise the time it usually takes business partners to get to trust and understand one another.
Did you ever doubt yourself that you could do it?
S: At the beginning of course it was very daunting considering we had no idea where our initial plans would take us or what we would be doing the next day let alone further into the future. Of course there are moments of doubt but I really think having each other to keep morale up has prevented us from having any too serious doubts and enabled us to think positively about what we are doing.
M: The business has been driven by our passion, making us very quick to react to any doubts we may have and change/adapt the business. Reacting to the market and being flexible with our approach from the beginning has definitely helped us progress to where we are today. No one can predict the future/market and so I would say versatility is one of the most important things to bear in mind when creating a business plan.
How do you market Tea & Tequila Trading?
S: We market T&T in a variety of ways. Our Instagram is probably our key tool as we are constantly updating it and aim for it to be somewhere that people will visit not just to look at bags but maybe get inspired to visit Mexico as well. We also do our own PR and have had some great press that helps to spread the word. Also doing sales events and trade fairs helps to spread to word too to potential customers and people in the industry.
M: Rather than outsourcing and investing in marketing/PR strategies we made an early decision to try to combat both direct retail and wholesale at the same time. We have dedicated time to selling and working with boutiques and department stores, accepting a lower margin with the upside of exposure in their retail spaces: this has been a great marketing tool for our brand awareness with less financial risk for us.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
M: We have original designs which are refreshingly fun and playful. We are the move away from fashion accessories centred around a label which aspires for status. Our customers are proud to own a bag they know was crafted ethically with love and care by our team of skilled Mexican artisans. I would also say the fact that we have such an original story behind our brand of how it came about and how we operate with one of us in each country.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
M: That hard work and perseverance will be worth it in the end! The first year or so was extremely difficult as we had to work two jobs at the same time to ensure an income while we searched the market and perfected our product.
What’s a typical day for you working on Tea & Tequila Trading?
S: I am always at my desk by 9am (Mexico time) in order to get in as many hours as possible with Millie which can sometimes be a struggle due to the 6-hour time difference, we will usually have a call to run through tasks and what we are each going to prioritise that day. I will spend the first few hours of the day catching up on emails which seem to be never ending! I’ll then probably have some kind of meeting downtown to check up on designs or production or perhaps I’ll be sourcing new materials. At some point in the day I’ll try to fit in a spinning or pilates class to clear my head!
M: I like to wake up first thing and go to a boxing or Pilates class to wake myself up and refresh my mind. I work from home or Soho house depending on whether there are orders to send out or meetings with clients. Sarah and I then have a call at around 3pm and then I finish work at 6 or 7 on a good day but with the time difference I something end up working into the night!
Do you both take on differing roles within TT?
S: Yes- it has happened organically over the time we’ve worked together. Obviously starting out as best friends having never tried to work together before we didn’t really know exactly what one another’s stronger areas were but we are lucky to complement one another by being good at different things. For example, I have to be in direct communication with all of the production side in Mexico as I am based here and speak Spanish.
Any utter disasters along the way?
M: On reflection we have made a lot of mistakes along the way, although they don’t necessarily feel like mistakes to us as they were always learning curves, and always managed to draw something positive from each experience, like a lesson or a new contact. Our biggest financial disaster was creating our website. After working with various web developers to design and create our perfect website we never really got what we really wanted. We ended up taking the reins and creating our website on Shopify (an amazing platform for web development) with a little help from our techy friends. My advice would be to give it a go yourself as there are amazing platforms available to help you create the website you need, especially when you are just starting out and you need something very simple and not expensive.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Tea & Tequila Trading?
M: our best moment would be a recent experience… we teamed up with a film production company and created a short film about T&T. We had two of our best girlfriends modelling and we all spend the day driving around London finding colourful streets, canals and parks. We had such a laugh dancing around and we are so happy with the end result: see here
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
M: Don’t be put off by the vast amount of competition in the fashion industry. When you have a product you love and believe in, stay true to your concept, design and story; this will give your brand identity and help to create a genuine, loyal following of customers. When your customers have a clear understanding of your brand story and trust in your product they will help to market your brand by word of mouth. With the impact of social media today word of mouth is an extremely important and effective marketing tool!
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
M: To focus on developing the brands identity through campaigns and events. Expand our range by introducing new designs. Get stocked at more key stores in the U.K., USA and all over really!
What’s the dream?
M: To continue designing and creating new designs and for them all to become recognised as being Tea & Tequila before even looking at the label. Our dream for this year is to be available to buy in some of the large department stores in London – Selfridges and Liberty’s.
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you both be doing?
S: That’s a very good question! Doing Tea & Tequila has really shaped my life decisions over the past few years – including where I live – Mexico City. I would think I would still be in Mexico but probably working in something a lot less exciting or perhaps for another start up brand perhaps.
Finish the end of these sentences…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
S: travelling, food and friends – ideally a mixture of all three.
M: music, clothes and food.
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…
S: I would try not to be phased but I probably prefer not to look! I am a sucker for a good cocktail – self confessed spicy Margarita addict.
The Twenty Mile Club is….
S: A platform for young entrepreneurs to share their stories and boost others confidence by hopefully crushing some of the fears and doubts we all tend to have by making it clear we’re all in the same boat a lot of the time!
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