Hamilton's Steeped Tea is turning into a real homegrown success story.
Since appearing on CBC's Dragon's Den and partnering with David Chilton of The Wealthy Barber fame and Boston Pizza owner Jim Treliving, the now multi-million dollar company has grown five times over.
The direct sales loose-leaf tea business that's run by Tonia Jahshan and her husband, Hatem is now looking to storm into the U.S., she says.
"We kind of quietly tiptoed into the market last month," Jahshan told the CBC. Since then they've picked up almost 60 "steeped tea consultants" from Hawaii to Michigan who act as direct sellers for the brand nation-wide. "But we're hoping for 10,000 consultants in the U.S. in three years," she said.
Steeped Tea currently has 2,500 consultants in Canada, and Jahshan says breaking into a much larger U.S. market will be extremely lucrative. "There's almost no one in the U.S. that does what we do."
'Supporting Hamilton has been one of the keys to our success.' —Tonia Jahshan, Steeped Tea co-owner
The couple started the company six years ago after a vacation in Nova Scotia. They were served loose-leaf tea and were blown away — so Tonia started selling tea in their home, and then moved on to hosting "tea parties," where she'd bring the tea out to other people's homes — much like a "Tupperware party."
Jahshan says Chilton and Treliving have been "instrumental and amazing" to the company's success since appearing on Dragon's Den. "David calls my husband Hatem every other day."
"They're really helpful. If we need anything, we call them up and we have them at our fingertips."
But all that growth is coming at a price — the Jahshans keep outgrowing their warehouse and office space. What started in Tonia's basement six years ago, first moved to a 1,200 square foot warehouse. Then a 6,000 square foot warehouse. Now, they're building a 20,000 square foot warehouse that should be ready for September - and Jahshan hopes that space will last them "at least a year."
The company currently employs 46 people for warehouse and office duties and that number will likely rise to about 70 come fall, Jahshan says. All the employees are from Hamilton, too.
"Supporting Hamilton has been one of the keys to our success."