Interview with a Project Manager & his Tea Business

Tony Gebely works in IT- thats how I met him. He also has been working with small tea farmers in China, Japan, India, Nepal, and New Zealand to secure the best hand-crafted teas possible at fair prices for the Chicago Tea Garden.

He's great guy (yes, I know him) and love the tea (I have ordered from his company while in Chicago. Tea is awesome, so is the story that comes with it).

He has been sucessfull (click here for reviews/press coverage) , is running his business and who better to interview than someone who has been doing 2 things successfully. A project Manager in tea business!

To read more about the company and know him, see his blog.

You worked in IT and then you decided to start your business- why?
I wanted to be on a path where I could one day be my own boss and make my own hours. Also, being in the tea industry, I’d be able to travel to tea origins, so I gave it a go.

Why Tea?
I fell in love with tea while backpacking through Asia in 2005 and again in 2008, I started Chicago Tea Garden in 2010. I found that there is a huge lack of respect for tea in American culture, and I wanted to help forge an understanding of tea and it’s roots.

You are one of those very few people who still have a regular full time job and are successful in the business? How do you split and manage your time between the two?
This is very difficult, I have a full time job, I’m writing a book, and I’m running  the business. The weeks for me are very busy I usually have 12-14 hour working days from Monday – Friday, every now and then I’ll spend a weekend day working or holding a tea tasting, but for the most part I relax on the weekends.

Has your experience in IT or project management really helped you in your business? Do you plan through everything?
Yes, my experience in IT has helped tons, it’s a web-based business so I treated the entire build-out like a project and still do. I’m working on version 2 of the website right now. Early on, I realized that since I’m a one-man team, every single thing I do has to be well planned out and be 100% effective if I’m going to compete with tea companies that have entire teams of people working for them.

3 things you wished you knew when you started your business.
1.There is no such thing as free time unless your mind is also clear during your free time.
2.How long it takes to become profitable.
3.All about the mess that is business tax law. Ugh.

How is running a business different from running a project?
It isn’t really. A business is just a collection of small projects. When one is done, another starts, and there can be many going on at once. I use Asana (used to use basecamp) just to keep track of all fronts of the business.

Thanks Tony.