If you had told me when I was in my twenties, that one day I’d start a teashop and become a leading tea specialist, I would have laughed madly.
I’ve loved fashion ever since I was a little girl and that’s the industry I thought I would wind up in. I did start off there; I studied design and patternmaking after school. I went to Sydney and tried to find my way there as a designer, but that didn’t work out. So, I came back to Melbourne and started working as a visual merchandiser and after that as a buyer for accessories. This was in the ‘80s when Madonna was over-accessorising and everyone stacked at least a dozen bangles on each arm, for any occasion. I started to buy collections for stores and styling photographic shoots. I moved to a much bigger brand and that was when I became very interested in the consumer psyche and how space is designed in a retail environment.
Watching the successes and failures of products was incredibly exciting. I realised that if something wasn’t working it could be reinvented.
My design, styling and buying experiences have gone to make up many of the skills I needed to create T2. All of the elements were there, I just hadn’t thought of it yet.
The idea didn’t come until much later; in 1996, to be precise. I was having a chat with my business partner about the homewares business we had started four months earlier and how we couldn’t get it to work. We thought a cup of tea would help us gather our thoughts. We brewed up a black tea and bang! That was it! Why don’t we do tea? Everyone else is doing coffee; we could do tea. We went off in an excited frenzy and very soon after that we were putting Chinese wallpaper on the walls and painting the ceiling pink in our first store in Fitzroy, Melbourne. We decided our new company would be called Tea Too, but it was quicker to write T2. It was as simple as that.
Back then tea was an old, staid, stiff, gentleman’s club kind of world. So we said, let’s make it feminine, fun and fabulous and we changed everything. What do we do at T2? We love tea. That’s what we do. We don’t sell tea. We don’t have a tea business. We just love tea and I think that’s really important. We treat tea in a fashionable manner. We modernised it and took it to a different market.
I never make a decision purely for the money. I will make an expensive decision because it’s better for the brand and the customer and that’s what sets us apart.
My advice is consistent; be open to any opportunity that comes your way and be courageous enough to make your dreams happen. I also believe in doing what you’re good at, and in doing things differently. For me, if it was going to be tea, it had to be new tea; it had to be done differently. It was a fresh approach, and that’s why T2 has been so successful.
If you nurture your passion, you create your own opportunities. You can have an idea that can grow and evolve to become a reality – into a place you love going to each and every morning.
Maryanne Shearer is the founder of T2. This is an extract from The World We See by The Dream Collective (published August 25, $34.95)