Theresa Krier, Big T NYC, Woman Entrepreneur
Theresa was introduced to me over the summer. She was participating in a pop-up store that my friend had put on in Bridgehampton called the Hamptons Collective so the timing was perfect. I had already heard about Theresa, her energy and passion for tea. She was making teas and selling them under her label Big T NYC at the store this summer.
Theresa grew up in Indianapolis. Both of her parents were entrepreneurs. Her father owned a used car business and her mother was a kitchen designer. Her parents were big advocates of letting kids be kids. They were a very close knit family. Growing up Theresa worked as a life guard, a babysitter and a nanny.
After graduating high school Theresa headed to Xavier College in Cincinnati where she majored in entrepreneurship and pre-med. She originally started off with entrepreneurship and then as you are supposed to do in college she began to think about her ultimate goal. She wanted to contribute to the world. She thought that the way to do that was through medicine. She spent a summer abroad in the Netherlands at the sister school of Xavier. She took classes Monday – Thursday and traveled the other three days. It really opened her eyes up to the world.
Theresa graduated and instead of going directly into medical school she waited to apply and instead got a job in stem cell research. She figured working in this space would confirm for her whether or not she should pursue medical school. She worked on endothelium cells that are the cells that line your blood vessels. The doctors she was working with had discovered that through these cells that you could shoot something into them to create a new vessel instead of having open heart surgery. They were in the process of patenting their work and starting a bio-tech start-up to turn their findings into a drug. They recruited her to do the research. It was an 8 person company. Theresa wrote the business plan, brought in angel investors and found that this is what really energized her. She took a deep look at herself and realized she was more passionate about the business end than the stem cell research. It was time to take a pivot in her career after four years.
Just as she was starting to think about embarking on the next trajectory of her career a tragic accident changed her life forever. Her family (Mom, Dad, two brothers and herself) were heading on vacation in a private plane. Her father was a pilot. The plane crashed and everyone on the plane survived except her parents. It was a really hard time. She thought to herself I am not going to live forever and I should do something that I love. Her parents lived every day to the fullest and it made her think that way too. Both her parents had businesses that her and her brothers inherited. She was 24 and her brothers were in college. None of them really had the skills to run the businesses so she decided to get a MBA at Indiana University.
While she was getting her MBA she started to think a lot about her passion. She started to drink a lot of tea for the health benefits. Coffee is so popular but she began to look into tea and saw there was a lot of growth happening in that area. She had zero interest working for a corporate company. Her MBA advisor pushed her to work at a large company for an internship to get some experience under her belt. It was the best advice. Thanks to him she ended up at 3M in Minneapolis in brand management. At the end of the internship they offered her a full time job and she decided to take it after completing her second year. She went back to Minneapolis and worked as a brand manager under Post-its. She ended up running a $100m business that included post-it tabs, pockets and flags. A tremendous amount of responsibility and an incredible experience. She stayed one year and decided it was hard being a single person in Minneapolis.
She decided to go work for Tresemme that was bought by Unilever. They offered her the job anyway and they wanted Theresa to move to NYC. Through each of these decisions she thought it this a good learning experience for my tea company. Does it fit into my long term tea strategy? At each turning point she would go back to her University of Indiana advisor. He was a big proponent of her moving to NYC. She ended up spending one year in Chicago and two in New York.
Tresemme was the hair care sponsor of Fashion Week. Theresa thought Fashion Week is the perfect venue for her tea. The models were not drinking anything in the back. She did a mini-test doing a pop-up tea shop at the show. The models were lining up for the tea. It was her proof of concept and it was time to launch her company.
She was working full time at Unilever and working on her tea concept on the side. Eventually she took the leap and went full time with tea. This was over a year ago. She has started to gain some traction. Her first customer was the Ritz Carlton in DC for their afternoon tea. She has an ecommerce shop on her site but is continuing to make headway into boutique retail shops or pop-ups. She is beginning to align herself with the right retailers.
Theresa is not only driven she is methodical in her approach. She followed her passion and that shows when you talk to her. The high end tea business is growing in double digits annually. I think Theresa might be on to something.