Our latest Entrepreneur of the Month is Joyce Tang, co-founder of Bathing Beauteas, in Seattle Washington, USA. We sat down with her to learn more about how Bathing Beauteas came about and the lessons she’s learned.
Tell us about the origins of Bathing Beauteas. How did you come up with the idea and its globally themed products?
Believe it or not, Bathing Beauteas all began because of a college entrepreneurship class. Within the first two weeks of class, we had to find classmates to form teams and come up with our product/service idea. The class was fast paced and pushed us to always be surveying and proving that our concept could work. One day, while our team met in a tea shop, the idea came up to combine tea and bath products! We were considering something more familiar like a tea-infused bar soap and a newer concept called a tea bath. After asking 100+ strangers around campus which product they would prefer to purchase, the tea bath won! Many people commented that it seemed new, interesting, and innovative. Yet, as we did research about bathing in tea, all of the history and science showed that effective beauty traditions in the past involved tea-infused soaks from Queen Cleopatra to Japanese geishas. It was important to our team to honor these origins. This is why we continue to intentionally design our tea bath ingredient lists, inspiration stories, and product names with global female figures in mind. And to do this day, we still take our meetings at the tea shop near campus where everything started.
How did you know you had the right idea? What research did you do?
Test before you invest! This was the number one principle that we learned in our entrepreneurship class and something that continues to drive us today. Whenever we have a new product idea, want to make a change to our website navigation, or run a paid advertisement, we spend a lot of time doing surveys with current customers as well as friends who are unfamiliar with our business. When we first started Bathing Beauteas, it was hard to say if we had the “right” idea. It took starting somewhere and non-stop listening, adjusting, and improving to grow our business - and our confidence! I would suggest starting your research online by learning about the costs of materials and the production process, what is already on the market and how many loyal customers they have, and diving into history of the origin of the idea. To give an example through Bathing Beauteas, we approached our research by:
Learning about what supplies it would take to create tea baths and calculating if the idea could be profitable (ex: If the raw materials are so expensive that you can’t charge a price that people are willing to pay for the final product’s benefits, then you’ll have to come up with a different idea. On the flip side, if your product is so innovative that you believe it’s filling a market gap that people will be willing to pay more for after understanding the product, then it’s still worth pursuing, but you’ll have to invest time and energy learning how to educate the customer.)
Understanding who our future competitors could be (ex: At the time, bath bombs were very popular and there were several name brands like LUSH that had already captured the market for bath bombs, so we didn’t go with that idea and instead pursued tea baths which were similar yet seemed refreshing in comparison.)
Looking into the history behind bathing in tea and usages for epsom salts (ex: Through this process, we became aware of cultural traditions in Japan, Egypt, and Greece that involved bathing in tea and made sure to honor these cultures. Additionally, we learned about how popular it was for athletes to use Epsom salt baths to relax their muscles so we also emphasized how effective this ingredient is.)
Who is on the BB team? Do you have any co-founders? How did you go about cultivating your startup culture with them?
The team is made up of me and my cofounder Stephanie. I’m so grateful to be able to run Bathing Beauteas with a like-minded person who brings a different skill set compared to me. While Stephanie and I both wear a lot of hats when it comes to running the business and are constantly learning new skills, we generally divide the responsibilities with me running the business/operations and Stephanie running design/marketing. These skills are also reflected in our day jobs. In our first year, we discussed how even though we don’t have employees yet, that we should start building a culture just between the two of us. We did this by having conversations about our vision in a very particular way. Stephanie and I would both come up with questions about what we hoped the future of BB could look like, answer the questions separately, then come together and discuss our answers. This allowed us to be honest and not conform our answers to each other if we happened to have really different ideas. I think being honest like this early on, when you still have a lot to learn about each other’s working and communication styles is vital. Now six years later, these conversations are a lot more natural and while it’s still the two of us, we are also managing a team of interns that experience the supportive and inspiring culture we’ve been building over the years.
Is BB your full-time job or a side hustle? If the latter, are you hoping to take it full-time in the future?
Bathing Beauteas has been a 6-year side hustle now. We’d love to see it become our full time jobs one day, but right now we’re content in developing our career paths in other ways while having this passion project that we love. More about that later!
What was the beginning like for your business? What did you find most challenging and enriching?
The beginning felt boundless, rewarding, and frustrating. Because we weren’t known for anything yet and so many aspects of the brand were still being developed, we were thrilled by all of the dreams and possibilities to work towards. Some of the most enriching moments were celebrating the wins - even the small ones - from selling out of products and breaking even during our first Mother’s Day Market to finalizing a beautiful logo that we could put on our packaging. Surprisingly, the most challenging thing at the start was being patient. I can remember feeling disappointed that we didn’t hit milestones earlier or gain momentum quicker. There were several moments I wanted to quit, because I thought “What’s the point? This isn’t going anywhere quick enough.” Now, I’m so glad my teammates helped me refocus and see that things take time and the right timing. Oftentimes in entrepreneurship, growth comes in spurts. There are many opportunities that are out of your control, but being consistent on your own end so that you are ready when they come is the key to focus on!
The YET Team was so enthralled by Joyce’s entrepreneurial insights that we’ve invited her to share even more. Stay tuned for thoughts on her entrepreneurship journey and the philosophy behind Bathing Beauteas.