At first, if you have already had a physical tea shop, you can miss a few following steps but we still suggest you should hurry up if you still haven't had a tea shop online. You really shouldn't miss the web to cost-effectively reach your countless potential customers and if you are a novice and know little about tea, you should be cautious. Tea is a niche involving a great deal of expertise and you can't expect to earn a lot in a short time.
1. Learn about tea
There are six major types of tea--white, black, oolong, green, dark and yellow tea--and thousands of blends, brews and names within those groups. Tea has significance in various cultures and is touted for health benefits. If you are running a tea shop, you would be expected to be asked questions about tea. You'll need to be knowledgeable about the regions tea comes from, the processing methods for tea, health benefits of tea and importantly how to store different kinds of teas.
Unlike other businesses you can choose, there is a lot to learn besides just how to open a tea shop. Read about tea books, join groups and go to seminars and presentations to get a good understanding of all. Some free online resources are also highly recommended such as Tea Guardian, Chinese Teas 101, TeaUSA and Vicony Tea Encyclopedia. (More resources can be found here). It would take a lot of time for you to learn. If you would get bored of it, you should consider whether you should give it up as early as possible.
2. Register your business
Register your business with the Internal Revenue Service. Fill out an application providing applicable details about your online tea shop. Once you're registered, an employer identification number, or EIN, is submitted for tax purposes.
3. Build an online presence
Build an online presence. You can sell tea through established websites such as Amazon and eBay but we recommend you create you own website. Choose a decent company to help you build an attracting online tea shop. Each tea in it should have photos, descriptions and prices. Choose a reliable Web-hosting company to host the online tea shop. Its service need to be stable.
4. Purchase tea
Purchase tea by wholesale. Carefully select teas that are proven to be popular, along with rare specialties that can attract individual customers. Try to cover more kinds of teas from China, India, Japan and Sri Lanka. Try to include green, black, white, oolong, Puerh and unique blends.
If you're running a business at home, you may not have a big space to store stock (important: different kinds of teas should be kept in the different ways). You can opt for a drop-shipping arrangement but we don't think it is a good idea because you can't keep your customers information confidential and it is also difficult for you to make your products privately labeled and sometimes easily cause a delay in shipment so it is great to cooperate with the companies that can wholesale bulk tea in small quantities. For example, Vicony Teas Company have a wide range of Chinese teas and you can wholesale from 1KG per kind.
It is a good idea to use packages with your private labels. During the early stage, we recommend you choose common packages such as blank aluminum foil bags or paper bags pasted with your own labels. It is economical and at the same time can show your identity.
Take the storage requirements of different kinds of teas into consideration when you purchase tea. For example, green tea should be put in cold storage so don't purchase too much if your ice chest have already no space to store it. Black teas can be kept well for more than two years at room temperature only when they are sealed properly so you can make a relatively large purchase if you are satisfied with the batch of it.
Remember the proper time to purchase different teas. For example, you can start purchasing the best Chinese green teas of the current year such as Dragon Well or Biluochun in April while you need to wait and buy such as Jasmine tea and Wuyi Rock Oolong of the current year until Mid-September.
5. Promote your online tea shop.
Promote your tea shop in various ways such as social networking, creating a tea blog, tweeting daily tea-related posts and creating a Facebook page for your tea shop. Signing up through an affiliate network to create online ads for your tea store is also recommended. Consult with a SEO & SEM specialist to make out a promotion plan and you can also find several books to learn SEO & SEM knowledge and apply them to your online tea shop.