Stories from the Den: Tonia and Hatem Jahshan, Steeped Tea

Stories from the Den: Tonia and Hatem Jahshan, Steeped Tea

Lifestyle | Posted by - April 28, 2014 at 1:15 am

Tonia and Hatem Jahshan are excited. Their company, Steeped Tea, is in growth mode. Ranked No. 27 on PROFIT 500′s list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, the Hamilton, Ontario-based direct-sales tea business has grown 3,600% in the last five years. The couple launched Steeped Tea in 2006 after a visit to Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, where they discovered loose-leaf tea. They stocked up and brought it home to Ontario. “Everyone loved it so I started doing tea parties,” says Tonia. She hosted her first party – similar to a Pampered Chef or Tupperware model – in 2006 and within six months was hosting up to 20 parties a month. “That’s when I decided to turn it into a direct sales company.” In 2012, after seeing a Facebook post announcing Dragons’ Den auditions in Hamilton, the husband and wife entrepreneurs decided to pitch the dragons. Here they share what that experience was like and life after Dragons’ Den.

We spent one to two months wrangling the final deal and $22,000 in legal fees to draft a 200-page shareholders. agreement.

Entering the Den

Tonia: We had been watching the show since it started but we never thought we’d go on because of how the dragons could tear down a pitch. We were four years into our company, growing at a rate of 300% a year already and my gut told me this might be a great move for us. We were planning to expand into the U.S. and we had the numbers to back us up. I thought this could work; it’s worth the risk.

Hatem: It was intense. We had two weeks to prepare for the audition, so we did our homework. The day we pitched in front of the dragons, we were so excited and nervous we didn’t sleep. Tonia was eight months pregnant and when we finally went down the stairs, I thought please God, don’t let her trip. All of the Dragons were smiling. That put us at ease. And then they started digging. They want to know who they are striking a deal with.

The pitch

Hatem: We were prepared to give up 20% for $250,000. The best advice I got regarding the den was you can spend the three minutes you have on national TV defending a bad valuation, or you can spend it talking about how wonderful the company is. We had $1.2 million in sales going in and went in with a very reasonable valuation. We received four offers and accepted a deal with Jim Treliving and David Chilton.

After the handshake

Hatem: It was always our goal to partner with the dragons. We did not go on the show just for the exposure. They are with us forever. We spent one to two months wrangling the final deal and $22,000 in legal fees to draft a 200-page shareholders’ agreement.

The future

Tonia: We have entered the U.S. market and it’s crazy. What took us four years to achieve in Canada took us one year in the U.S. We have created entrepreneurs all over North America. Thanks to the direct sales model, we have consultants who make $6,000 to $8,000 a month in commissions. And it will only get better for them as Steeped Tea continues to grow. I love it. I’m a mom of three. People look at me and say if she can start this multimillion-dollar company, I can earn a significant income, too. It’s humbling for me. I get emails from people telling me how the company has changed their lives. We now have 3,500 consultants in Canada and 300 in the U.S. but we are small compared to direct-selling companies like Pampered Chef, which has 65,000 consultants. We are at the very beginning and so thrilled to see what the next five years will bring. The vision is to have at least 10,000 reps in the U.S., 20,000 in Canada and to keep growing. We’re looking at Australia as our next step. The possibilities are endless.

Tags: david chilton, dragons den, jim treliving, mary bitti, steeped tea, profiles

Mary Teresa Bitti
Mary Teresa Bitti is the founder of MTB Writing & Editing Services Inc. based in Oakville, Ontario. She writes regularly about business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy and works with organizations to help them craft and share their stories.
Tonia Jahshan
April 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm
It was such a pleasure talking to Mary from @youinc! Determination, passion and enthusiasm is what you need to succeed in business.
Raman Chatha
April 29, 2014 at 8:29 am
Hi Tonia and Jahshan, it's inspiring to read your success it motivates so many entrepreneurs like myself to go forward . I am struggling with my venture hopefully I can find some answers.
Raman Chatha
April 29, 2014 at 8:40 am
Sorry my bad got your name incorrect Tonia and Hatem. All the best for you both .
Suzanne Bird
April 30, 2014 at 10:29 am
It is incredible to see the support and offers for a direct sales model. Validation from incredible Dragons' as a Network marketing leader in my company with business now in Australia, USA , Canada and UK, congrats to both of you!!!
Marissa Loewen
August 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm
I am incredibly honoured to be one of Tonia and Hatem's independent consultants for Steeped Tea. Not only has it given me an incredible income opportunity but it has shown me my true love is coaching and helping others achieve success in their careers.
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