LEARNING THOUGH HEKUMU HERBAL TEA BUSINESS
LEARNING THOUGH HEKUMU HERBAL TEA BUSINESS
When I heard Hekumu was sold out in the first sales day, my initial reaction was this must be a joke. This is not because I have no confidence in our products, but the result was unexpected and several times better than our most optimistic scenario. From zero experience of entrepreneurship, with little knowledge of tea products, supply chain, marketing, and sales to constantly making new attempts and learning new things, how Hekumu has come to today in the past one year, Suong and I will review our journey of discovery, recap what we have learnt, and discuss what will be applied in practice in future for Hekumu.
Where does Hekumu business idea come from? How it has been developed?
The herbal tea idea initially come from Suong in a course called Startup Experience held by HUBS in autumn 2020. As the selection of dried herbs and fruits are the trendy drink in Vietnam, Suong proposed that we take this idea to learn how to develop it to a real business from the course. There we formed a team and followed developing steps moving forward little by little. During the period, we were introduced to a series of developing tools, for instance, Business Model Canvas, empathy map, customer journey map, PESTEL, and validation canvas. And we also tried to make marketing and sales plan base on our hypothesis. Here are some examples.
Table 1: Business Model Canvas
Business Model Canvas is a business tool that can help entrepreneurs quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea or concept (Sheda, 2016). Look back now, it is hard to imagine Hekumu already had clear concept and vision in the early stage. It helped us precisely saw what Hekumu will be in one year later.
Table 2. Empathy Map
Empathy map is a simple, easy-to-digest visual that captures knowledge about a user’s behaviors and attitudes (Brow,2018). It let us learn what are users’ real needs, then we can specify the product design on how to solve the problems of users. Although it is based on the hypothesis, the products in our minds had become gradually clear.
Table 3. Customer Journey Map
Customer Journey Map uses storytelling and visual effects to illustrate the customer’s relationship with the business over a period of time (What is Customer Journey Map?, nd). We have taken step forward in defining users and formulating marketing, sales, delivery and even customer service processes. This tool also assists us rehearsal of some possible customer related situations in the future.
Table 4. PESTEL
PESTEL is an analysis model, known as the macro-environment analysis. It can not only analyze the external environment, but also identify all forces that have an impact on the organization (What is a PESTEL analysis, nd). Through PESTEL, we have considered more comprehensively the impact that the environment outside the company may have on Hekumu and considered how to avoid or reduce the risks from irresistible factors.
By inspired by book The Lean Startup, we started our experimental journey with customer survey (Eric Ries, 2011). Meanwhile, we welcomed our third member Luhtala to join our team. Fortunately, we received 159 answers from our questionnaires, and gained plenty of valuable information which enabled us having further understanding of Finnish tea culture and our potential customer base.
According to the results of the questionnaire, we learned about the tastes of our customers, so we selected certain tea products that we thought could meet customer’s need from various suppliers to hold the tea tasting event. All the efforts also strengthened our determination to participate in the Sales Day product campaign. And we made it.
From that on, we started preparation for the Sales Day and worked on it almost whole summer. Due to the second wave of corona hit Vietnam badly, we had to change our strategy and took different step than planned earlier phase. The shipping traffic became unpredictable. As Hekumu has been chosen as Sales Day product, we couldn’t take the risk of delay for doing importing and exporting. We move eyes to the suppliers in EU countries. The supplier has been changed, but what we care about high quality, unique taste, sustainable packaging, customer experience was not. In any case, we will fulfill our promise in the sale day campaign, to bring new products to the Finnish market and allows the sales team to show their selling skills sell as much as possible.
Team goal of Hekumu
The Hekumu team’s goal from the very beginning of the concept phase was to win a ticket for Hekumu to be one of only three products sold on Proakatemia’s sales day. Since being selected, the Hekumu team has faced many other obstacles from the uncertainties that have arisen challenging the whole team to strive to learn, explore, and gain more knowledge. That has been actually our target to learn the most by doing. Hekumu team was successful not only because of achieving our sales target, but also because we learned a lot from the practice of Hekumu together.
Teamwork spirit and delegation strategy of Hekumu
The success of Hekumu team shows partly how effective Hekumu teamwork strategy really could work during the sales day. The tasks were delegated well to Hekumu team players as if every individual is the project leader of their own. For example, when Esme Luhtala took the responsibility of sales, customer service and storage works, she has had full rights in making decisions and managing her own scopes of works. Sandy and Suong would stand ‘behind the stage’ taking care of supply chain, costing, logistics, law, and marketing stuffs, etc. We have gone through many meetings together to make sure that the important things were not missing from our action plan and all members were aware as well as were informed well of changing situations. Besides that, we put much trust on each other that the individual would manage and deliver their tasks well with their best commitment. Also, any of us would be ready to support or do the tasks of the others when needed. Even though we all have very different style of working, we still could find a way to mix and match to each other. In addition, it was also very important to cheer up the team in the right time. We have been though many amazing moments together, for example having fun and making jokes whenever we could, like when we found solutions for a specific issue or achieved some little things together. For example, the situation changed erratically, like there were many times when we almost closed the contract with the supplier, then the situation didn’t go as our expectation, the Hekumu team had to go back to the starting point to start over everything. That must be thanks to the team spirit and individual’s patience, for not giving up and keeping doing thing again together.
Learning to play with the numbers like a kid learning to count
For people who do not learn or have experience in financial or accounting, dealing with the numbers is surely something not any fun and causes a lot of challenges. Even though we have been taught some basic knowledge of financial in the money in business course, the knowledge of the Hekumu team could be at the basic level that we can only understand some financial terms. It would be very great if in Proakatemia, students could be trained in practice to learn, for example, how to do pricing for the products or service, how to control the costs in their business. There have been too many difficulties for Hekumu team to learn ourselves how to do pricing, costing, etc. for the products. Besides, we were not lucky to have a chance to be coached by any mentor about those financial issues. That was why we could imagine that learning the ways to come up to the final selling price or to build up the costing management excel file made us like kids struggling in learning to count numbers. There were a lot of challenges which required a carefulness, a good patience, and a not-giving-up spirit. Getting over it by ourselves is one of Hekumu’s pride.
Interesting experiences with the difficulties in supply chain and import-export during pandemic
Many people in Proakatemia were surprised that Hekumu has changed the direction to look for buying the products from France, instead of sourcing from the products from Vietnam like Hekumu early announcement in pitch day. The intention to sell the unique tropical herbal tea with beautiful look has not been changed. However, because of the corona pandemic, Hekumu was affected too and must change the strategy accordingly. Under the pressure of sales day’s deadline, we have decided to turn the direction to search for the products from the suppliers in India and France. In that time the supply chain from Vietnam has been interrupted by Vietnamese government. All import and export activities were delayed and jammed at the shipyards. At the same time, the prices of herbal tea materials have been inflated, causing the offer of our suppliers not so attractive. That made the Vietnam supply market not suitable any more for Hekumu. At the end, we have 2 options in hands: buying from India or France. Even though India is famous for the huge herbal tea material area, Hekumu still chose to import from France when comparing the price offers which are almost same from both suppliers. The tastes of products from India supplier were as good and unique as from France supplier, however France partner has the organic certificate and the advantage that France is a member of EU. In such a rush time, shipping within EU countries were a smart choice for Hekumu to avoid any risks of delivery from outside EU in a short time.
Learn to tell the brand story
Making the survey to understand the Finland market and consumers was useful for Hekumu to identify the persona and make out the unique selling points for Hekumu brand. We have been dealing with issues related to shaping the highlights and identifying the personality of Hekumu brand. Things that Hekumu team has experienced, consisting of creating Hekumu brand name, logo, slogan, packaging design, brand identity book, website design, social media planning and execution, etc. Only with the packaging design which Hekumu must hire a freelancer from Vietnam to do, other marketing stuff like designing Hekumu logo was supported by Omar Puebla, creating Hekumu website was done by Ping, a friend of Sandy, Hekumu photo taking was under the creation of Gustav Pertillä, and social media content updating has been taken care by Emilia Parikka and Ella Muja. Within Hekumu team, Luhtis was the creator of Hekumu brand name and slogan, Sandy has been handling the website design and Suong Tran is responsible for marketing and brand plan. The marketing project of Hekumu team seems to offer a chance to practise skills for teams in practice. To be able to tell a successful and contagious brand story, that requires a huge effort of learning by doing of many team members who are supporting for Hekumu marketing activities.
What can be applied in practice in the future of Hekumu
After the success in the sales day, Hekumu has agreed to continue our journey of learning by doing together. As the young entrepreneurs, we acknowledge that our next journey is long, tough, and risky. However, we are in Proakatemia where can offer a very good foundation and a start for entrepreneurship to build up dreams from now on. Hekumu is Flip’s project and keeping learning by doing is well proven to be a good way ever. Hekumu has a potential to grow within the ecosystem of Proakatemia and entrepreneurship of Tampere.
Vision of Hekumu
There is still the space for the herbal tea business in Finland to develop. To be able to become a player in the field, Hekumu team has to learn a lot about tea business, culture, market, customers, etc., try to enhance our competitiveness or unit selling points, understand more our customers while keeping committing to the products quality, etc.
The Sales day was the first launch of Hekumu to mainly B2B customers with only 2 products. In the future, Hekumu is planning to import more product category to meet the different tastes of customer and enhance the competitiveness. In the meanwhile, Hekumu will need to apply for the organic certificate for those 2 current products, Tropiikin Kesä and Hehkuva Iltatuuli to make our customers feel assured to the product quality. Hekumu’s business platform is going to be an online shop, aiming to sell to our distributors as well as B2C customers. Every upgrade will be taken step by step aligning with the situation of Hekumu team as well as we have to base on the Hekumu’s ecosystem power to develop is as well one consideration of Hekumu.
Besides, we should also invest on marketing activities, like developing our marketing materials and tools which consist of packaging, point of sales materials, etc., upgrading website to be a customer-friendly online shop, focusing on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn in the near future of Hekumu.
- Sheda, 7.7. 2016. How To: Business Model Canvas Explained. Read 16.12.2021
- Brown Jennifer Leigh, 27.6.2018. Empathy Mapping: A Guide to Getting Inside a User’s Head. Read 16.12.2021
- What is Customer Journey Map? No date. Read 16.12.2021
- What is a PESTEL Analysis, no date. Read 16.12.2021
- Eric Ries, 2011, The Lean Startup. Read 2020