Running a business is rewarding but also relentless, as any proprietor will attest. So after six years of building her own brand of quality tea blends, Mayde Tea founder Kate Dalton took a long-awaited break with her partner, Ryan.
It was mid-2019, just before the arrival of the couple’s first child, and they’ll never forget that idyllic time they spent on the beach in Hawaii. “It was such a special holiday - our last before our baby girl was born just two months later. And we got it all on Qantas Points, which makes it even more exciting,” says Dalton. “We probably wouldn’t have prioritised a break if we didn’t have the Qantas Points¹ the business earned with our American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. It was amazing. I’ll use my Amex Card to pay everywhere I can because I get points we can use to go on another holiday – that’s always in the back of my mind.”
A naturopath by trade, Dalton was just 23 when she launched Mayde Tea in 2013. She moved to Byron Bay just a year after starting the business and the small northern NSW coastal community proved to be the perfect setting for growth. Mayde Tea is now a thriving wholesale and ecommerce business, employing between 5 and 15 staff at any given time.
“I was living in Sydney and I needed a change,” she says. “I moved to Byron by myself. I didn’t have any friends here but it was the best move, as I could afford a little warehouse space, which wasn’t possible in Sydney for a brand our size at the time.
“I started making teas for my own health issues and I got really good results. They were helping me to sleep and aiding my digestion. Then I started making blends for individual clients but I just couldn’t keep up with all the orders. Starting Mayde Tea was a great way to share my knowledge as a naturopath with many people, beyond a one-on-one consultation.”
Hand-blended from certified organic ingredients, free from artificial colours and flavours and delivered in recyclable packaging, the Mayde Tea collection now includes a popular essentials range of black teas and chai, as well as herbal therapeutic varieties boosting everything from immune and digestive health to relaxation, sleep and energy. “We generally have about 16 products at any one time,” says Dalton. “I like to keep that as tight as possible. Customers can be overwhelmed with choice and I prefer quality over quantity.”
Seeking out the finest ingredients from around the world is now her full-time job. “I’m constantly testing ingredients and making sure they’re all of the highest possible standard. We have so many suppliers of individual ingredients, which makes my job hard, but quality is a non-negotiable.”
Dalton’s American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card provides an unsecured line of credit² to help her facilitate this global supply chain, while earning Qantas Points on every dollar¹ she spends on suppliers and business expenses. Plus, by using AccessLine³, Dalton earns 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent on international payments¹. “A lot of our suppliers are offshore and the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card is a really good option for international transactions. The exchange rate is much better than another credit card I had and the dynamic spending capacity is also really helpful². It means I can do two big shipments a year rather than lots of little ones throughout the year, which is so much better for the environment and for my business.”
Sustainability is something that runs deep in everything Dalton does. “I’m a naturopath so all our teas are formulated with health in mind as a priority, as well as the environment,” she says. “I feel like ‘sustainability’ is such a buzzword now for marketing but it really is important to me and it’s at the forefront of our minds for the whole process, from the supply chain to the way our products are delivered to customers.
“We only sell loose-leaf tea. So many people want us to make tea bags but I just want to keep it as authentic as possible. I believe we’re supposed to drink tea from a loose leaf rather than a tea bag and also for all the environmental and health reasons – avoiding all of the microplastics that come in some tea bags.”
Dalton estimates her business is about 60 per cent wholesale and now has about 400 stockists around Australia. She also sells direct to consumers via her website and newly opened showroom in the Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate, which she shares with her partner, Ryan, a designer whose Addition Studio specialises in furniture, lighting and beautiful stone objects.
Like its teas, Mayde’s growth has been organic – it doesn’t have a sales team and has only just started digital marketing to expand the brand. “Retailers have just come to us, which is great,” says Dalton. “I think the next step would be to get some distributors overseas. But I’m so happy with how busy we are in Australia and New Zealand, I haven’t felt the need to push hard overseas yet. We’re growing so quickly here that I just can’t imagine keeping up.”
Indeed, after a challenging year (COVID-19 restrictions slashed wholesale orders from cafés and restaurants and caused supply chain issues) Dalton says she’s already planning her next holiday – a short break to Queensland’s Noosa. “It’s one of our favourite places and it’s amazing with a baby, relaxing on the beach under the pandanus trees.” Deep down, though, she’s still dreaming about that Hawaii trip. “As soon as restrictions are lifted, we can’t wait to go back.”
Kate Dalton’s top business tips
Collaborate with other local traders: In a small town, “word of mouth is the best type of advertising”, says Dalton. “All you need is a great product or service combined with good local relationships and word will spread.” Collaboration with other businesses is a must. “Get to know other business owners and work together. I found that it just came about naturally but it helped me a lot.”
You can’t be an expert in all areas: While Dalton does most of her brand’s social media, she turned to the experts to assist with other digital marketing, including SEO, content and online advertising. “I knew it was something I needed to do and I didn’t have time to learn all the technical aspects myself, so I employed a contractor and she’s been great. It’s freed up my time to focus on developing new products and growing the business.”
Dust yourself off after mistakes: “I’ve learnt so much along the way but I’ve never had a business coach or anything,” says Dalton, who built Mayde Tea from the ground up. “I’ve just worked it out; I’ve made so many mistakes but I’ve learnt from all of them.”