Tuesday, December 9, 2008


(For years, we have been training entrepreneurs on how to start tea businesses. The excerpt below, My Story, was originally written for our online training that is only available to our members. Currently, I am working on a book called, Tea Business 101, which is designed to offer aspiring entrepreneurs insights into starting a tea business and how they can become successful. The book is based directly on my entrepreneurial experience and the current training we offer our members. The First Chapter: My Story, is below. I look forward to your feedback and comments.)

"Success is the result of having dreams, the courage to aggressively pursue them, and the inner strength to never quit until they come true."
-Sanjay Gupta-


Nearly 20 years ago I was a caretaker, looking after someone else’s apartment buildings. While not a bad job because it covered my rent while I was at graduate school, it entailed much labor-related work: plumbing, carpentry, and general maintenance. It also entailed collecting rent, renting out apartments, and maintaining tenant relations. I was one of the best: my buildings were always full and I took good care of them. However, after two years as a caretaker I realized I wanted something more. I wanted financial security and the freedom to pursue interests and hobbies.

Like many future entrepreneurs, I realized that life had more to offer than cleaning someone else’s jam-encrusted carpet--no matter how much pride I took in the quality of my de-encrusting. But what did I want to do instead? I found I couldn’t answer that question, so I sought answers elsewhere. Eventually, I stumbled across Anthony Robbins personal development tapes. Personal development. It all seemed pretty hokey, after all, wasn’t I already a developed person? But I’d paid the money so I listened anyway. I found that Robbins had something to say, and soon found myself applying his teachings. Knowledge is power, after all, but only if you use it.

Here’s the knowledge the tapes gave me:

1. Anything in life is possible if you put your mind to it.

2. Before dreams and goals can come true, you must believe in yourself.

3. Success is the result of constant programming through positive, self-empowering questions.

4. To get what you want, you must first determine what you really want.

5. The only way to accomplish anything is through persistent and committed focus.

6. Focus requires written goals.

7. The only way to achieve success is to take action. Written goals are effective only if you commit to achieving them through consistent daily effort.

8. There is nothing wrong with failure, so long as you learn something from it. Failure learned from is called experience.

9. Fear prevents success. Success only occurs when you overcome the fear to leave your comfort zone.

10. Success is the result of positive self-belief, action, and constant evaluation of the results.

Equipped with this knowledge, I dreamed big, set goals, and tried to figure out how I could achieve my newfound goals. Encouraged by my success with the self-help tapes, I immersed myself in business reading then began exploring business opportunities.


Consequently, at the age of 23, I set up my first business: I invested in Don Lapre’s psychic lines. Back then, I dreamt of making millions, becoming the Psychic Line Guru, appearing on infomercials espousing the virtues of 1-900 lines. I never became that Guru. The investment was too large, the return too small. After financing the program with two credit cards, I realized that it was going to take a lot more time and money to yield the results I wanted. Besides, the 1-900 market became flooded so that my lines were no longer competitive. Rather than pour in more money, I cut my losses and went looking for something else.

The something else I found turned out to be a variety of ventures, ranging from network marketing to commodity brokering to e-commerce. Some ventures were lucrative; others a money pit. Still I was not afraid to try something new, to put my heart into it and see it through. Knowing I gain from my failures as well as my successes, I chalked it up to experience.

Some of my failed businesses included get-rich-quick schemes. You know the kind I mean: the chain letter types that say if only you’ll sponsor a few people, you will get rich beyond your wildest dreams.

I did spend several years building up a network of distributors at one point. And I became very successful--until the company closed their doors and I lost everything. Again I learned from experience: if a business opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The only people who make millions on get-rich-quick schemes are their initiators.


This huge loss shook me to the core. I thought I would have to declare bankruptcy. Instead, I put my nose back to that old grindstone. It was then that I met a very special individual, Raj Manek. This great man encouraged me to pursue international trade, something that had always interested me. Taking his advice, I became an export consultant, helping companies distribute and market products internationally. So began Connexions Trading International in November 1994.

I had a lot to learn, but I was not afraid to leave my comfort zone. At first, I worked from my kitchen table, my only equipment a telephone and fax machine. I bought books on international trade and read voraciously. When I told Raj that my friends in Japan and the United Kingdom wanted to purchase Canadian products, he encouraged me to speak with a very successful entrepreneur who was currently pursuing export markets for his product.

When this manufacturer told me dentists were using his product to guard against infection, I recognized a great opportunity. I convinced him to give me world rights for his product, and fate intervened soon afterward. Still reading business magazines, I happened to pick up a trade show issue. The first page I turned to advertised the International Dental Show in Koln, Germany. Three months later in March 1995, I was off to Germany. Ours was one of only nine Canadian companies. Despite having very little knowledge about international trade or dentistry, I would be solely in charge of our booth. Again I left my comfort zone, traveling to Germany to meet prospective buyers. It was fascinating and overwhelming, meeting with the brass of multi-million dollar companies.

The manufacturer was so impressed with my willingness to take action, desire to succeed, and performance that he soon assigned another daunting task. I would coordinate the marketing and sales of his product in the United States. Equipped with very little knowledge of sales and marketing, I took action. I learned as much as I could, worked 18 hours a day, and focused on doing the best possible. Anything in life is possible if you put your mind to it.

Within three months, a major US retailer was stocking the product. The first order: $250,000! I was jazzed and very excited. This was a big deal, especially for someone who had started a company with little knowledge of international trade. Because of my tenacity and self-belief, in six months, I had literally transformed my life. I left behind my caretaking responsibilities and moved into a house.

I thought my life was set; I would be a millionaire before 30 and retire in Tahiti to sip margaritas amid white sand and adoring women.

I was wrong.

Despite my efforts and successes, the manufacturer terminated my contract--one of the many dangers commissioned agents face.


Brushing off the dirt, I picked myself up and went on to other businesses, selling or representing someone else’s product. One day when I stared down at a computer software game I was trying to market, I woke up. I realized the only way I could truly achieve my dreams and get real control over my life would be to create my own product line.

Thus began my research journey to India in 1997. I was not sure what product I wanted, but it would have to be unique. I examined mushrooms (not the magic kind), candles, incense, clothing, textiles, even explosives (YIKES). Nothing seemed quite right. Then I found some impressive gift boxes—-unique, multi-use containers. They would be an excellent start. Now I needed a unique, high quality consumable to package in these gift boxes. After many trips between India and Canada, I discovered Gourmet Teas. I immediately recognized the ideal product: Gourmet Teas Beautifully Packaged.

I then undertook four years of concentrated research, planning and development to ensure my plan would be the best. When I finished, I was satisfied that I had developed what would become one of the most sought after business opportunities of this millennium. In 2001, I officially launched the Tea Connexions Membership program and it was designed to fulfill the needs of entrepreneurs, needs which my experience had proven other opportunities did not fulfill.

1. Members of the buying group would have the freedom to personalize marketing and distribution strategies. True freedom. There would be no minimum monthly purchase or any of the other usual nonsense.

2. This opportunity would not be a get-rich-quick scheme. It would be a sustainable, successful business because it would not depend on the recruitment and sponsorship of distributors. It would depend on the member who would decide how to market the product and build their business.

3. Members would benefit from economies of scale, with substantial discounts on products and marketing materials based on the buying power of the entire group.

4. The opportunity would be product-oriented--a great product with high profit potential because member costs would be below wholesale.

5. Members would promote their own businesses, not the company itself. Members use their own brands. They would not suffer my fate, where I promoted someone else’s brand and lost everything when that company went under. Members would create their own local market loyal to them. I hope they remain a member of our buying group, but regardless of which tea supplier they use, once they build their customer bases, all members would have to do is provide customers with an excellent product and service. And since tea is a consumable, members can count on yearly residual income.

6. Members would benefit from my experience in the school of hard knocks. I know what it is like to start a business from my kitchen table with limited resources. That is why I designed this opportunity to give real value. I want members to achieve all the dreams and goals they set as part of the Tea Connexions family.

Since 2001, we have helped many entrepreneurs start their very own tea businesses.

Our business has grown considerably since then. Initially, we started in a 200 square foot office. In 2001, I made the move to a 1000 square feet. At the time, we did not even have one tea distributor, but I had faith. Two years later, in 2003, we moved to a new location that was 3000 square feet. After several years being based out of Saskatoon, SK, we realized that our business fate rested on our ability to warehouse our own product in the United States.

In 2006, we began intensive research on how to accomplish this objective. Our move to the US was important for three key reasons:

1. Increasing regulations caused by 9/11 were making it more difficult to ship cost effectively into the United States from Canada.

2. We needed a warehouse to better serve our growing base of US customers.

3. Finally, we wanted to lower shipping rates and also wanted to capitalize on more tea distribution opportunities.

In June, 2007, we finally moved our whole operation from Saskatoon, SK to Kingston, ON. This new location enabled us to maintain our Canadian business status and at the same time gave us easy access to our US warehouse that is based in Upstate, NY, which is less than 60 minutes away.

Like any business, we have faced challenges; challenges, however, that we constantly sought solutions for. My heartfelt advice to you is to never give up on your dreams and goals; constantly pursue them regardless of the challenges you face. Be prepared to ask yourself empowering questions and your problems will solve themselves. Bottom line, if you constantly focus on your dreams and goals, you will achieve them.

If you believe in your ability to succeed, set goals, plan and take action, I am confident your success is inevitable because your success will result directly from your efforts. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. As my own story demonstrates, you can quickly transform your life once you dare to leave the comfort zone.

As a final note, the Tony Robbins’s tapes always ended with the words live with passion. My hope is that you will live with passion, to lead your life instead of allowing life to lead you.

I keep the following message above my desk. It inspired me many times during my turbulent years in business. I hope it will inspire you too.




Click here to learn more about the inspiration behind Tea Connexions

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