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A Perfect Blend: Former lawyer and tea business entrepreneur, Erica Moore

Saturday 21 April is National Tea Day so to celebrate, we decided to talk to ULaw alumna and entrepreneur Erica Moore who, after nearly six years of working as a lawyer in insurance and re-insurance, started her own ethical tea business in 2008: eteaket. Here, Erica talks about her early aspirations, what it took to redirect her career into a whole new business and where she sees eteaket going in the future.

When I started my qualifications I wanted to aim high, so I saw my options as become either a doctor or a lawyer. I faint at the sight of blood, so I chose to go with law. My dad’s a lawyer, but I don’t think that really swayed my decision. If anything he’s probably inspired my current career more so than the early pursuit of law because he’s more of a businessman than a lawyer.

Initially I wanted to reach for the heady heights of London law firms. After completing my LLB in Glasgow in 1999 I needed to convert to English law and The University of Law (then the College of Law) was a no-brainer as it had such a good reputation. I decided to make the move to English law with my then boyfriend (now husband), and I remember that when we couldn’t decide which city we should study in we actually stuck a pin in a map. We ended up in Chester, and I’m really glad we did because it’s such a great city. I had an amazing time studying there, met lots of wonderful friends and made many great memories.

I was a lawyer for almost six years at D J Freeman. I was working mainly on insurance and re-insurance cases, and I really loved my early days as a lawyer. I was learning loads and getting tonnes of responsibility; it was pretty exciting, but because I didn’t actively shape the direction of my life properly I got carried along on the ride without really finding a niche that suited me personally. It also turned out that sitting at a desk for so long with little exercise and lifting heavy files meant that I developed some back and neck problems. It got so bad that my consultant actually advised me to “give up the desk job”.

I’d read Millionaire Mindset by Darnell Smith and it made me determined that I was going to find my path come hell or high water. When I came across an article about the musician Moby opening a loose leaf tea bar in New York I got hold of some loose leaf tea and was just blown away: you could actually taste it properly. From that moment I was hooked, and I was certain that there should be more places in the UK where you could savour the delights of proper tea that wasn’t all cut into tiny pieces and shoved in a little environment-hating bag.

It took months of research and learning in every spare moment. I went on as many business courses as I could, learning everything from bookkeeping, HR, marketing and web design to food safety. I also spent a whole glorious summer in the British Library copying out research reports by hand, and stood outside Starbucks for hours counting customers and estimating average spends. After all that I decided that the only way to get my idea off the ground was to quit my job as a lawyer and take the plunge into the unknown.

My legal education has helped me enormously in setting up eteaket. I’ve been trained to be well disciplined and to account for every minute of time, which has been tremendously helpful given that I launched eteaket in December 2008, right at the height of the economic crash. I was very aware of the importance of keeping costs under control. It was also really beneficial in challenging business situations, where I had the confidence to stand up for myself and negotiate with the best of them because I truly believe in what I’m doing. It has also come in handy for being able to deal with lots of information quickly and focusing on the main points. This is super important because as a small business we need to keep moving quickly and can’t get bogged down in too much detail.

The importance of ethics is drilled into you as a lawyer. It was certainly very important for Kendall Freeman in many ways, so I inevitably took this approach in eteaket, where we strive to do everything as ethically as possible. We’re a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership and have our own Cuppas for Causes campaign.

I have big plans for eteaket and intend to continue to expand our offering throughout the UK and overseas so we become a key player in the speciality UK tea market. I’d love to engage as many people as possible to join our tea tribe and help make tea an agent for slowing down, appreciating moments and creating more joy in people’s lives. At eteaket, we’re on a mission to connect people and create moments through the joy of whole leaf tea. It was founded on a belief that we were all born to chase our dreams and find our passion. I believe that life’s all about recognising and appreciating those brief moments of joy and happiness. In every part of the world, tea has the ability to create a gentle yet vibrant atmosphere that brings people together and inspires them to live their best life seeking health and happiness. We now have our online speciality tea store, with a Concept Store, Tea Room and a thriving wholesale service.

My advice to any entrepreneurs out there is to make sure you’re completely honest with yourself and follow a genuine passion. Do not compare yourself to other people and certainly don’t try and morph yourself into something you’re not. You have to be completely single minded about your goal as the road will inevitably be rather bumpy. If you do choose to start your own business, the highs are worth all the sleepless nights and you’ve got the freedom to create whatever life you want for yourself. I’m now lucky enough to be able to work around my kids, I can move my office to a coffee shop if I want a change of scene, or lie down on the floor if I’m having a bad back day.

Whether it’s through the legal sector, entrepreneurship or corporate business, find out how a qualification from The University of Law and our Business School can help you achieve your ambitions by checking out our law and business courses on our website.