For Fort Collins Ambassadors | Meet George & Kari Grady Grossman
October 21, 2020
How have you been able to pivot/adapt your business model?
When the Covid-19 pandemic shut us down we had to change our entire business model overnight, reduce staff and overhead costs, and pivot our sales channel to online ordering, store pickups, and delivery. Luckily, we had already launched a new e-commerce website before Christmas, so we were ready to make the changes and engage our customers with online sales. We pressed our 19-year-old son into service as our local delivery boy. Operationally, we had to close our Front Range Village location, close in-store seating in the Old Town teahouse and lay off some employees. Deemed an essential business, our Old Town location stayed open and we found ways to cut expenses by more than 50% of original operating costs. Hard decisions, but necessary to keep us afloat. Sales plummeted by 50% but costs were curbed more. We scraped our 2020 marketing plan and introduced new marketing programs that focused on sharing the struggle and finding positive impacts of the coronavirus with online community events, digital referral programs, and new rewards for sharing and posting reviews.
Our sales approach has always been experiential and sensory. When people come into the shop, they can smell the tea, taste the tea, discuss the tea, and that’s what sells the tea. So we started a YouTube channel to bring the in-house tea tasting experience to customers virtually. We had no idea that YouTube would be such a good tea selling tool. The response has been amazing. And now, we are gearing up for the holiday season with a new packaging and unboxing experience designed to bring the in-store sensory experience to our customers at home. After 4 months of closure, we just re-opened our Front Range Village teahouse, which we plan to use as a test kitchen for new tea concoctions this year. We will be asking our customers for feedback on a new line of ready-to-drink products for grab and go. If our customers continue to support us and we can operate with greater revenue than costs, we will pull out of this economic struggle intact, and may even end up with a stronger model with which to drive forward.
Have you done any community/employee giving?
Our main focus has been keeping as many of our staff employed as we possibly could, especially our full-time and salaried people. We talked to each staff member and asked what they needed, and we adjusted shifts to meet their needs as best we could. A few left voluntarily, opting for unemployment instead, and we used our revenues and PPP money to start new projects and give people hours even when the business volume didn’t demand it. We had them doing research and development type projects, developing new shipping room operations and marketing, marketing, marketing!
Our business has long supported an education program in Cambodia that we started when we adopted our son, and our March fundraiser moved to an online format raising $1,700 for a library. Locally, we supported the Black Lives Matter movement and criminal justice reform with a free iced tea fundraiser on Juneteenth. Typically, fall is our busiest time of year for donating tea gift baskets to a plethora of local silent auctions in the fall fundraising season, but I don’t know what is going to happen with that this year. For our customers, we now add a free sample, called a Happiness Supplement, to each order we package up for delivery, or curbside pick-up—just to put a smile on our customers faces and shine a little ray of happy on these challenging times.
What do you/your business need the most to succeed right now?
Customers. We need people to buy local and stop buying on Amazon. It just makes us sick when we see the Amazon prime truck driving around town. We ask people to “reverse showroom,” that means do your research and selection online AND then find a local business to buy it from. Everything on Amazon is available here from local merchants who have websites for online ordering. Right now, if you shop for tea online, I guarantee we can get it to you faster than Amazon, they are taking 3 weeks to 3 months for delivery, and my son will bring it to your house that afternoon! It’s really important to spend our money locally, to have our money churning in the local economy and not leaking out. It’s important for our local businesses, it supports your neighbors’ job, and your local government’s tax base. On our website, HappyLuckys.com you can select from over 200 loose leaf tea options, and you can select store-pickup, local delivery, or shipping. Join our Tea Lovers Club and get reward points every time you shop that you can use for discounts and freebies.
What else would you like to share with the community?
We know that everyone has different opinions about the public health recommendations for wearing masks and social distancing, but it is really most helpful if everyone follows the guidelines and does the same thing, regardless of your opinion about them. We have young employees who should not have to confront people about the rules, just follow them, and if you don’t like it take it up with the governor and the county public health officials. Business can operate if everyone just follows the same rules.
What’s your favorite business in Fort Collins?
All our wholesale partners featured on the Tea About Town page of our website! We love to collaborate by supplying high quality wholesale tea to the local business community. Our wholesale partners use our sustainably-sourced and artisan-crafted teas and herbal ingredients to brew beer, make kombucha, craft cocktails, distill spirits, flavor food, promote wellness, or just serve straight, hot or iced, in their cafe or restaurant. We have over 55 Tea About Town wholesale partners. Our longest wholesale partner is The Bean Cycle where you can get an assortment of Happy Lucky’s loose-leaf tea plus a to-die-for custom chai blend spiced up with fresh ginger and blended into artisan creations. Our largest wholesale partner is CSU where Happy Lucky’s brewed tea and matcha is served at Sweet Sinsations, Sweet Temptations, and Morgan’s Grind.
What’s your favorite thing about living/working/being in Fort Collins?
The spirit of collaboration that was mentioned above makes FoCo a great place to be in business. For an example, we are the inventors of the Foodie Walk which has developed over the last 8 years into both a marketing collective and a mutual support group. The Fort Collins Foodie Walk features 12 of Old Town’s finest culinary shops, as they stay open late on the 3rd Friday of each month for interactive showcases, seasonal flavors, and exciting taste experiences! It is well attended by locals, tourists, and CSU families alike! A virtual Foodie Talk, the third Friday of the Month, is being developed so anyone can participate online in a webinar format.
Click here to learn more about other For Fort Collins Ambassadors