Business 10 students recently had the chance to get advice from the entrepreneur behind DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods. Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker and her TeaPops, tea-based alternatives to sugary Popsicles, have been featured in the Wall Street Journal and found a fan in Good Morning America’s food editor Sara Moulton.
Dionne spoke to students about her inspiration to create healthy frozen treats and how she grew her business from the ground up. From the philosophy behind the business to the pragmatics of keeping a product frozen at fairs and trade shows, students learned about many different aspects of running a business. One interesting fact was that in the case of TeaPops, distribution and shipping account for more of the unit cost than manufacturing and supplies. Other factors to keep in mind are fluctuations in ingredient costs, spoilage and how to anticipate and prepare for growing demand.
She emphasized that she had three main goals when it came to what she wanted to accomplish with her company.
1. Use the Best Ingredients Possible
As a medical scientist, Dionne spent years studying the ways our environment and the food we eat impact our health. Her dissertation for her PhD focused on maternal fetal toxicology – the study of toxins on fetal development. For her Tea Pops, she made it a priority to source organic ingredients and find natural stabilizers.
As her business grows, Dionne continues to support a variety of causes. One local organization she supports is Power to Be, which helps get youth and families out into nature. With her medical background, Dionne also supports children’s health care, a cause very close to her heart. She also supports SMUS, donating to the Annual Fund every year and volunteering her time in a variety of ways. She has also donated batches of Tea Pops to local food banks and outreach programs.
3. Voice to Science
Dionne never planned on starting a business, but she’s found it to be a great basis for spreading information about her first passion: science. Being on the forefront of research, Dionne recognized a large gap between what the scientific community understood about health and what the general public heard. She regularly uses her interviews and media appearances to speak about the science behind food safety and nutrition.
The Business 10 students, who are currently working on their own entrepreneurial ideas, also had a chance to get some advice from Dionne on the challenges they might face in executing their plans. Hopefully hearing the story of one successful start-up will help them better grasp the recipe for success.
Do you want to visit an even more local business? Take a look at The Daily Grind, a cafe in the Wenman Pavillion run by the members of the Business Club.