#NewtoNext, Purpose Tea, Chi Nguyen
September 17, 2021 | Inspiration
After a successful career in brand strategy, Chi Nguyen decided to make a move and try her hand at the entrepreneurial life.
However, Chi did not want to start a business. Instead, she wanted to make a difference.
In 2017, she founded Purpose Tea, a mission-driven beverage company committed to giving back to women tea pickers in Kenya. Chi entered the 2nd Annual Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition in 2020 and was named a finalist. While she didn’t win, the experience proved just as valuable. We caught up with her one year later. For more information on the 2021 Pitch Competition, click here.
Watch the entire conversation here.
Enthuse Foundation (EF): Can you tell us about Purpose Tea?
Chi Nguyen, Founder, Purpose Tea (CN): Purpose Tea features, what I believe, is the most exciting innovation in tea, a routine made from the purple tea leaf. Purple tea has more antioxidants than other teas on the market. It also has exclusive health properties that no other teas have. On top of that, our mission is to lift from poverty some of the most exploited in the tea business, and those are female tea workers. So we give back five percent of our gross profits to a tea future initiative to help these women.
EF: What made you enter the Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition?
CN: COVID-19 changed our plans for the. We were already starting to raise capital, but investors stopped investing at the very beginning of the crisis because of the uncertainty. So, we had to put that type of fundraising on hold. However, the business keeps on going and needs funding to sustain itself. So, we got creative regarding where to obtain the necessary funds. As a women entrepreneur, I’m aware of the different organizations like Enthuse Foundation and Stacy’s Rise. So, we applied to all opportunities to ensure that the business was operational.
EF: You mentioned Stacy’s Rise, another grant you won. You are an expert in getting your pitch decks noticed! Do you have any tips for those that are putting together a fundraising deck?
CN: There are a few things I would advise folks applying to these types of pitch competitions.
- Be very clear and concise in your answers.
- Highlight what makes your business different.
- Tell your brand story that brings value to you as a founder
- Explain what your goals are for the company and community.
I know that seems very simple. But a lot of times, folks won’t have the answers to those questions. And those are the details that will make you stand out in a pitch competition.
EF: That is excellent advice and constructive feedback. Can you describe what it was like to pitch virtually and, looking back on it, what you wish you would have known going into it?
CN: I practiced a lot. We had already had a pitch deck created for our fundraising round. Still, we customized a new presentation for the Enthuse Foundation based on the requirements highlighted. Leading up to the event, I made sure I understood everything that I thought an investor would ask, from our go-to-market strategy to the product itself to the financials. It’s always better to overprepare than to under prepare.
EF: Unfortunately, you didn’t win the competition. Did you have any regrets about entering or participating?
CN: Absolutely, not. I always feel like it’s helpful to participate in these things. The goal is obviously to get the funding, but the other piece of it is to build out your network. For example, after the Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition, I connected with Jack Edwards, an expert in the beverage industry. He’s been amazing and so helpful to our business. That aspect of the competitions is so invaluable. To be connected to those in the industry that could help when you’re stuck or have a challenge, that is just immeasurable. Even though I didn’t win the competition, I was so appreciative of the experience. It gave me practice in terms of pitching and being able to tell that story to other investors. And I also got to know some other great women founders.
EF: Since the Competition in November 2020, how has Purpose Tea evolved?
CN: We have gone through extraordinary growth this past year. In 2020, we pitched to get our product into Kroger, our second time pitching to the retail chain. The first time we didn’t get in due to space constraints. There wasn’t enough space on the shelf for the assortment. This time they loved the brand. We had an enterprise-wide launch at Kroger just this past June. We’re doing well there, and now we’re ready to launch in additional refrigerated sections nationwide. However, it’s never the end when you get a yes from a big customer like Kroger. The work starts when you get the yes. We’re focused on growing our business at Kroger and partnering with them to do that.
EF: It’s incredible how much things can change and grow in a year. Now you are in Kroger and talking about expansion and growth in 2022. It’s inspiring.
CN: Sometimes, it didn’t feel that way. As an entrepreneur, you don’t think that you’ve made enough progress, you know. But we do, and you keep at it. You keep chipping away at it. And it’s just like one foot in front of the other.
EF: That’s absolutely a good point to remind yourself. As busy as we are as entrepreneurs, we need to take a step back and appreciate the hustle it takes all year.
Conclusion: We learn lessons in all situations. There’s a saying – “when one door closes, another opens.” However, you can’t experience the possibilities unless you enter the open door. So, follow in Chi’s footsteps and apply to the Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition. Even if you aren’t selected as a finalist or the winner, you and your business will be better for the connections and feedback gained.
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