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In pictures: Dragons' Den success story feels the summer doldrums

Steeped Tea must motivate its home-based sales reps

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Steeped Tea was co-founded by Hatem and Tonia Jahshan in 2006. The company sells loose leaf tea and accessories using a direct sales model, through consultants across Canada and the United States who hold Tupperware-style home tea parties.

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The problem for Steeped Tea is that its sales consultants, who are mostly stay-at-home moms, are busy caring for the kids during summer. Also, people are on vacation and not available to attend sales parties. So business is typically slower.

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The summer quarter represents about 10 per cent of annual sales, Mr. Jahshan says, compared with the 60 to 70 per cent during the busy winter holiday quarter. Such rapid changes have made managing cash flow difficult. “The summertime is when you start buying all your inventory for the winter. So you’re at your lowest sales point when all your purchases are being made, and you’ve got to be very careful how you juggle that,” he says.

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The Jahshans are also looking for new ways to smooth out the sales curve. To that end, the company publishes a special summer insert to accompany the annual catalogue. This summer, they’re holding a special sale on summertime items. Additionally, Steeped Tea is offering exclusive swag bags to hostesses and travel perks to consultants.

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Steeped Tea’s financials “have never been better,” the couple say, but they recognize the need to improve infrastructure and forecasting to cope with swings in demand.

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