Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, and it’s quickly growing in popularity within the United States. Tea shops provide people with a place to enjoy tea in a social setting.
Tea shops are opening in both large cities, like San Francisco, Vancouver and New York City, and small towns, and the future looks promising for these shops. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., the overall tea industry grew an estimated 4 to 5 percent in 2015, and the retail tea sector is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 5 and 6 percent through 2020.
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Learn how to start your own Tea Shop and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a tea shop by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Tea Shop
- Form your Tea Shop into a Legal Entity
- Register your Tea Shop for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Tea Shop
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Tea Shop
- Get Tea Shop Insurance
- Define your Tea Shop Brand
- Create your Tea Shop Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your tea shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a tea shop?
The costs involved in opening a tea shop business can vary a lot. A small kiosk might be opened for just a few thousand dollars, while a free-standing shop can cost more than $100,000 to build.
The list of startup costs include both fixed expenses, such as rent, taxes and equipment costs, and variable expenses, like employees’ wages, tea, dishes and to-go cups.
Tea itself can vary a lot in cost, depending on its quality. Upton Tea Importers, for example, lists a Darjeeling tea from on estate (Balasun Estate) for $44.80 per 800 grams and a first-flush Darjeeling from another estate (Singbulli Estate) for $58.90 per 100 grams. That’s a difference of over $50 per 100 grams of tea. (Darjeeling is just one kind of tea.)
What are the ongoing expenses for a tea shop?
The ongoing expenses for a tea shop business include labor costs, rent, utilities and the cost of goods sold (COGs). The biggest component of COGs is tea, but to-go cups also fall into this category.
Who is the target market?
Tea shops’ customers are usually people who like tea and have discretionary income. While some teas are extremely inexpensive, tea shops usually offer higher-priced specialty teas. Consumers with less discretionary income aren’t able to spend as much on these more expensive teas.
How does a tea shop make money?
Tea shops make money by selling brewed tea, food and packaged tea to customers.
How much can you charge customers?
The price of a cup of tea at a tea shop varies depending on the quality of the tea and the shop’s location, along with other factors. One tea shop business in New York City sold green tea for $2.85 per cup. Many fancy teas, however, can be priced higher than this.
How much profit can a tea shop make?
The profit potential of a tea shop business depends a lot on its location and what it offers. A tea shop on a busy intersection in a major city that offers lunch might have an annual profit of hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a shop in a small town that only sells tea might have a profit of tens of thousands of dollars after wages (including the owner’s wages) and other expenses are accounted for.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are a number of ways a tea shop can increase its revenue. Offering food and packaged tea can increase a shop’s average ticket. A shop that has light fare can host afternoon tea and private parties, which can provide additional revenue streams. Carrying bubble tea, which is tea with tapioca-like “bubbles,” milk and sugar, can attract customers who wouldn’t normally come in for a traditional cup of tea.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Tea Shop Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your tea shop is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a tea shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, local licensing or regulatory requirements apply. As a tea shop, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food or beverage are required to pass a health inspection.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A tea shop business is generally run out of a retail store. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
If you plan to lease a tea shop
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a tea shop.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
If you plan to purchase or build a music instrument store
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your tea shop business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a tea shop
Tea shop businesses generally serve a local area, so their marketing should be targeted towards the people near them. Signage can help draw attention to a shop. Going into a community and offering free samples of teas and coupons for complimentary beverages is one of the most effective ways to initially get people to visit a new shop.
How to keep customers coming back
Although tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world, there are still many people in the United States who don’t drink tea on a regular basis. Offering classes on tea can help introduce these people to tea and get them in the habit of regularly enjoying it.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Tea Shop in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who loves tea and socializing with others may be well-suited for running a tea shop. The business involves lots of hands-on work, namely brewing tea, as well as regular interaction with employees and customers.
Tea shops are often open during the morning and afternoon, and shop owners should be prepared to work when their shop is open (unless they have employees).
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a tea shop?
In a tea shop, day-to-day activities revolve around serving tea to customers. When not brewing or packaging tea for customers, downtime is often spent washing dishes, cleaning the shop, and placing orders for tea and supplies.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful tea shop?
Tea shop business owners must be experts on tea, and they also need to be familiar with inventory management and managing employees. The World Tea Academy and Specialty Tea Institute offer courses on tea, and IAP Career College offers a Tea Room Owner Certificate course.
What is the growth potential for a tea shop?
A tea shop business can be as small as a single location or as big as an international chain. Some of the largest chains have hundreds of locations.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
How and when to build a team
A small tea shop business can be run by a single person. Hiring at least one employee, however, lets the owner take an occasional day off. For this reason, many tea shop owners hire an employee as soon as the business can support an employee.
Tea shops that also offer food or are in particularly busy locations may need several employees working at peak times in order to ensure customers are promptly served.