In Good Taste: Mohammad Alhawari, Founder, Feel Good Tea Co.
During the first year of operation, Feel Good Tea Co. generated AED4.6 million in revenue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has continued to grow from strength to strength.
This article is a part of In Good Taste, a special feature built for the August 2021 issue of Entrepreneur Middle East showcasing 10 of the UAE's most promising homegrown food brands.
As a corporate exec, Mohammad Alhawari had quite a high-flying job for many years in the insurance sector in the UAE- however, that career trajectory of his came to a halt in 2019 after he was let go from his executive position in the corporate entity that he worked for. It wasn’t something Alhawari was prepared for, and he freely admits to having been hit by depression soon after this particular episode.
But after lots of soul-searching and months of therapy, Alhawari found himself becoming more appreciative of the little things in life that brought him joy- one of which was a freshly brewed cup of tea. A passion for tea was thus sparked, and as Alhawari dove deep into the industry that made his favorite brew, he soon became increasingly aware of a gap in the market for good quality specialty tea- and that ended up triggering his entrepreneurial instincts. Alhawari launched Feel Good Tea Co. in early 2020, with the Emirati entrepreneur making use of research and his own travels around the world to find the premium ingredients that make the brand’s signature tea blends.
Image courtesy: Feel Good Tea Co.
By mixing together different kinds of organic tea leaves with herbs, spices, fruits, and other such ingredients, Feel Good Tea Co. is able to offer a variety of concoctions that can be enjoyed by simply tipping the contents of one of the brand’s Tea Pods (glass tubes that keep the teas fresh) into a cup of hot water.
“Feel Good Tea Co. really is about quality and experience,” Alhawari says. “I personally select each of our blends, which rotate seasonally, before they are pressed into our Tea Pods. Our products not only focus on unique blends and flavors, but also on a unique tea experience using loose leaf teas. The act of handling loose tea allows customers to touch, see, and smell the leaves, both in their dry and wet forms. The ritual of brewing the perfect cup can be both relaxing and contemplative, not to mention having the ability to create a cup of tea that perfectly suits a consumer’s personal preferences.”
Image courtesy: Feel Good Tea Co.
As an online business, Feel Good Tea Co. allows customers to buy the multiple varieties of teas the brand offers through its website, following which personalized boxes containing the purchased blends are then sent to their respective addresses. The company’s digital presence is thus something Alhawari and his team have placed a lot of importance on, and that seems to have translated well for them in terms of revenue as well. “A key objective for me was to focus on the customer experience,” Alhawari says. “Tea is a very social experience, and we wanted to encourage this through the brand and our product offering. For me, it is more about the enjoyment of my customers, and how they interact with our products. We harnessed the power of social media by utilizing advertising tools on Facebook, Google Ads, and Instagram. We now have a following of 53,100 on Instagram alone, something I am very proud of. During the first year of operation, the company generated AED4.6 million in revenue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has continued to grow from strength to strength.”
Alhawari adds that as the business picked up pace, he and his team went on to develop a corporate gifting package that delivers personalized boxes to companies across all sectors, and it’s an arm of the enterprise that has also seen spectacular growth. When asked about the key factors that have allowed Feel Good Tea Co. to see such success so early on in its business trajectory, Alhawari points toward his focus on the company’s branding. “What makes us stand out is not just the product, but also how we present ourselves,” he explains. “Branding has been a key part of our journey, and from the onset, I wanted to present a brand that was fun, and encouraged the same. This goes right from our digital presence across our website and social channels, through to our packaging. The boxes are completely personalized, and we reach a wider audience via Talabat, Deliveroo, and Instashop, in addition to our extremely user-friendly website. Through constant exploration and research on new trends, while also constantly taking in customer feedback, we have been able to build and scale the business exponentially. With Feel Good Tea Co. slowly becoming a household name in the region, we continue to drive awareness of tea rituals, and inspire a culture of tea lovers.”
Image courtesy: Feel Good Tea Co.
Alhawari is thus quite eager to take Feel Good Tea Co. on to its next stage of growth, and he is firm in his belief that he has built a business that is ready to scale. “As a startup, we did take precautionary steps with establishing our back-of-house facilities, and in the beginning, it involved many long, long hours of personally packaging the tea, and preparing them to be ready for shipment,” he notes. “With the quick success of our online presence, there were times when we did look around and question how we were going to manage. But that was the exciting part- and we now have a great team, and the business continues to go from strength to strength.”
WHAT'S THE T? Feel Good Tea Co. founder Mohammad Alhawari shares his tips for wannabe entrepreneurs aiming to follow her lead.
Do not discount the importance of creativity, passion, and innovation “Taking a step back from the corporate world allowed me to truly reflect on what would excite me. Feel Good Tea Co. was born out of love and passion. I would advise anyone starting a business to ensure it’s something you are truly passionate about, so that the excitement remains throughout.”
Use social media to your advantage “In this day and age, realizing the power of social media is extremely important. When we launched Feel Good Tea Co., it was essential for us to engage with consumers authentically. Through creative, engaging content, we’ve definitely made a noise, and our customers are able to relate with us and feel the human connection. For emerging brands, it’s important to have a presence on social media, ensuring the content posted is in line with your brands’ values, as well as relatable to your target audience.”
Empower your team “It can never be emphasized enough just how important it is to have a strong team around you from the beginning. Make sure you hire people that share your same passion and ambition, and empower them to drive the business with you. By doing this, you build the trust needed to be able to take a step back from day-to-day operations, so you can focus on the strategy and key areas of the business.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.