A sense of good tea and successful business ideas

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CONSUMER STORY – At only 20 years of age, Bella Kobayashi is quickly becoming a successful business owner.

Launching her business Magnolia Tea House in Nairne, South Australia, earlier this month, Bella has had an astounding response to the teas she is making.

The launch went so well that it attracted media attention, including a feature on ABC Radio, and the teas completely sold out.

Ms Kobayashi, who has Down syndrome, says the attention made her feel “famous”.

The community response to Ms Kobayashi’s passion for creating her own business has been strong, with everyone from disability support provider Access 4 U to the local Lions Club offering support.

Her Personal Assistant (PA), Kathy, says, “It all happened from Monday last week really, so Monday we were not a very well known little tea company and then it exploded.”

“Ever since I’ve met Bella she’s been telling me we have to go the Klose’s Supermarket in Nairne [to sell teas] and after our interview with the ABC, Tim Green – the [Chief Executive Officer] CEO – approached us.”

Although the launch and the weeks since have gone quickly, Ms Kobayashi spent plenty of time planning out her business and organising all of the different factors needed for the business to be successful.

The idea started more than a year ago, after she found a love for mixing teas through her work at a cafe in Mt Barker.

“I finished school so I decided to start my own business Magnolia Tea House,” says Ms Kobayashi.

“Tea makes people feel special and happy.”

She is already thinking of new flavours to add to her selection of three mixes on offer and has plans for other products too – such as a magnolia tea cup.

“I’m usually brainstorming and finding new ideas for improvement,” she says.

“I write in my diary and keep doing it, keep writing, I’m really obsessed, I can’t stop, and it’s the same with my business.”

Ms Kobayashi is particularly on the lookout for an innovative way to make a watermelon herbal tea – even though her supplier says he’s never seen dried watermelon, it’s still on her list!

“I can set it up,” Ms Kobayashi says confidently.

Trips to the supplier’s warehouse, which is also run by a Nairne local, involves Ms Kobayashi tasting the different ingredients available and mixing the flavours together herself to come up with her own unique blend.

Her ‘Mostly Mint’ tea is a perfect example of her keen taste buds, as it mellows out the sharp minty flavour most people taste in minty tea with the inclusion of cacao nibs.

Once a flavour mix is created, Ms Kobayashi writes down the amounts of each ingredient, orders them, and has the ingredients delivered to her PA’s house so that she can mix them herself.

She also orders the bags and stickers the teas are sold in and tastes each mix for quality control before it is packaged.

The local Mt Barker Council has also been supportive of Ms Kobayashi, giving her some business advice, finding her a stall at the local farmer’s market and making sure she underwent a hygiene course so her product would meet health standards.

In the quiz following the health course, Ms Kobayashi passed with flying colours, managing a 99.8% result.

Together with her PA, she is learning the business administration tasks next, such as balancing her business bank account.

A management group oversees the business, which includes Bella’s mum Lyndal and two others, so Ms Kobayashi sends an email to the group at end of the day outlining what was done and the management group approves the money spent.

While the management group adds another layer of professionalism, everyone involved knows that Ms Kobayashi drives the business.

Kathy says Ms Kobayashi is the best boss she has ever had.

“She does drive the business, everybody seems to think that because she has Down syndrome she wouldn’t have any idea, but it is totally the opposite,” she says.

“Bella has many, many, many ideas and everything we do is because Bella wants to do it.”

Once the business is operating steadily, Ms Kobayashi has a dream to open her own cafe.

To support Magnolia Tea House visit the business’ Facebook page.