Last week, I covered my first day at the 2009 World Tea Expo held in Las Vegas. This week you get to hear about the rest of my trip. I won't name names... but I met some really fantastic people at this year's expo...
I learned something while out in Las Vegas... though it wasn't related to gambling, adult inhibitions or travelling. Indelibly I learned that my greatest strength and passion is, and likely has always been, with people. What makes us tick individually. It turns out that this year's World Tea Expo, for me, ended up being all about the people.
While Saturday certainly marked a wonderful close to a beautiful and full day of tea related adventues... it was the people I met that day which truly energized me. The wonderfully high quality teas and the colorful array of accessories were really only icing on the cake.
I ate breakfast Sunday at the Roundtable All-Day Buffet at the Excalibur. The buffet was just $25 to come and go for as many trips as you'd like within a 24 hour period. My dietician would have been aghast at the prospect if she knew... but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas... right? I actually ended up eating rpetty well there. Fruit, eggs and grapefruit juice were what appealed to me and I chose rather appropriate portion sizes. In case you're wondering... I did go back for lunch and dinner... but I had a middle meal during a Tweetup I'll mention later.
Sunday and Monday were where it was all at. Two more sessions: "Selling Your Tea Online Successfully" and "Creating A Menu With Cost & Creativity in Mind" bisected my morning and afternoon. Both presentations were steller! I couldn't have been more pleased with the investment I made in paying for these two sessions.
Michael Cramer of Adagio Teas covered a wealth of great information related to community building... engaging and keeping your customers on your website and helping with conversion of simple visitors into customers who buy your products.
Melinda Decker, owner of LaTeaDa Tea Room in Clinton, IL provided an interesting presentation as well. While her ideas mostly focussed on her more traditional Victorian style tea house... she provided a number of robust and reusable ideas for making the most out of the materials you buy, simply by using the same ingredients to make multiple products... such as a cake, cobbler or pie being turned into a dessert in a glass.
I ran into Jack Cheng of Steepster.com, Lindsey Goodwin of VeeTea, The fine guys over at Village Tea, Ty Beddingfield of Gamila... the inventors of the Tea Stick and a plethor of other completely wonderful folks on Sunday. Several of these folks, plus Ilya from Adagio Teas showed up for an evening Tweetup after the expo floor closed and we had some grub and drinks. In particular, Ty and I really talked for a while about ideas and things. A wonderful day.
After dinner Sunday night, I hit up Cherry, a dance club over in the Red Rock Hotel. This club was one hell of an experience! I thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent there dancing and admiring the crowd. I really get energized when a club is as alive as Cherry was that night. Rare I think, for a Sunday night.
Now it's Monday morning. The sun is up... but I've been awake for hours already. To protect myself some from JetLag I have always tried to awaken as close to Eastern time as possible. I worked out in the rather meager (by my standards) health club in the Excalibur... an amazingly expensive $20 a day on top of the room bill.
After breakfast at the buffet again, I made my way over to the expo for some tea and my morning session: "Reaching Beyond Your Front Door For Additional Income" and then on to my afternoon session: "Price it Right & Sell it Smart."
Ronald Eng of Kopius Teas put on a wonderful presentation. Very well spoken with great diction and clarity. His ideas were understandably expressed and he was very energetic about answering questions. A serial entrepreneur, Ronald had some great ideas and concepts to share.
The rest of my "day" on Monday was spent scurrying around making my final connections with brands and companies, procurring more business cards in exchange for mine as an attempt to build more outlets and opportunities for me to grow with the tea industry over the next couple decades.
I did end up linking with Ronald Eng and Emilie Yanagi of Kopius Teas, the people at Zojirushi North America, a couple great folks over at TeasEtc, Maria Warman from Art of Tea and I cannot forget Nora of Golden Star Tea who has an amazing sparkling bottled tea beverage presented in a chapagne bottle!
At the end of the day I ran into May King of the new UK tea brand, MayKing Tea as well as a few other friends including Norman who is starting a tea garden in Hawaii! I ended up going out dancing with these two and we had a wonderful time out at Margaritaville down the strip after throwing back a few drinks at Liquidity, a bar in the Luxor Hotel & Casino.
I don't want to leave anyone out... but I'm HORRIBLE with names... I ended up meeting several hundred people at the expo and coming away with some great friendships made over the three day event.
I have to recommend this event to anyone starting a new tea business, or anyone already in the industry!
I've already made the decision to head back to Las Vegas next year for another round of tea education. Maybe by then I'll already have a small presence in the tea industry and be ready for some thoughts on expanding to becoming a tea brand. Here's to the future!