What It's About
Tea towels that highlight your values and dry your dishes.
Words of Wisdom
Luke recommends starting with an MVP (minimum viable product) to prove your concept: a basic Shopify store, one or two products, and some simple marketing initiatives to get your product in front of the right customer. Spend 10% of your time on admin, 20% on product, and 70% on marketing and getting the word out!
When Luke was visiting Philadelphia to expand their business in the U.S., he had lunch with a group of progressive Catholic women who were totally on board with Radical Tea Towel and its mission. They gave a whole list of people to feature from Frederick Douglas, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Susan B. Anthony.
Notes from Chris
When you’re going to a dinner party, there are three main table topics to avoid: politics, religion, and money. So, what happens when you take those topics and use them to create a tea towel based business with your family? For Luke Pearce and his mom and dad, it created radical change. It all started at the kitchen table eight years ago when Luke and his parents were having dinner. Luke’s mom, Bea, had recently lost her own mother, Pat, to cancer. Pat was a teacher, feminist, and socialist who spent her life living her values rather than preaching them. After she passed, Bea wanted to find a birthday present for Pat’s surviving partner, David, that embodied all that Pat stood for. Tea towels or “dish towels” (as we often call them in the U.S.) are very popular in the UK. So Bea thought it would be fun to get David a tea towel with a political message on it that embodied Pat and added a little inspiration to the kitchen. That evening, Bea had dinner with her husband, Tim, and son, Luke. She told them she'd spent an hour searching on Google but hadn't found any political tea towels. Luke looked at his mom and said, “So why don’t you create your own?” Neither Bea, Tim, nor Luke had experience running their own business but figured if they combined their skills, they could figure this out. At the time Luke was a mid-level manager for the metro system in London, so he took on the role of operations and marketing. Tim is a designer and took on the role of—you guessed it, design—and Bea spent her time searching for a local manufacturer who would print some test products for them. Together the three of them came up with 10 designs to start. They found a manufacturer in the UK who agreed to print 100 of each design. They started with names and quotes from well-known change-leaders like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. At the time, screen-printing was the rage so digital printing and ordering smaller quantities was not an option, so it was go BIG or throw in the tea towel. They took a chance, and Radical Tea Towel was officially activated. They invested about £3,000 ($3,600 USD) in the process. When their orders arrived, they were excited and believed they had something new and different to offer their market. Luke and his dad created a website to list the products and began referring family and friends to it. They began averaging about 1 to 2 orders per week. Their big break came after being featured in the “What You Like” column in The Guardian’s popular weekend magazine. Luke asked a friend to submit a write-up about Radical Tea Towels and how unique the concept is. Several weeks later, that write-up had been featured, and they received 70 orders in one day and then 70 the next. Orders were pouring in like a hot Earl Grey. That’s when they knew they were onto something bigger than what they had dreamed up at the kitchen table. Sales have tripled since coming to the U.S. and they were able to hire additional marketing and PR support. Last year, they hit the £500,000 (or ~$650,000 USD) mark and profited £35,000 (~$43,000 USD) after paying their own salaries as well as their staff’s. They’ve also increased their product selection to include aprons, tote bags, and more. This year they are on track to hitting the 7-figure mark and will be expanding to other markets like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Radical Tea Towels is on the right track to expand into a full-fledged international brand that educates customers on radical history, highlights empowering shapeshifters … and also dries the dishes.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Radical Tea Towel: Learn more about this political powerhouse over on Luke's website!
- Hand-Stamped Feminist Jewelry Earns $25,000 Side Income: She’s loud, she’s proud, and she’s wielding a hammer to smash the patriarchy with her hand-stamped feminist jewelry line
- Designer Turns Bad Parking Into $25,000 Per Year: Ever been annoyed at someone who double-parks? This Los Angeles designer turned his frustration into a novelty gift item with growing sales
- Bartender Earns Extra Income With “Revenge By Mail” Postcards: Want to embarrass your frenemy? Send them an awkward, anonymous postcard congratulating them on a purchase they didn’t make. This bartender and yoga teacher earns an extra $100/day from her inventive idea!
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