Home > Life > TMC Talks > TMC Talks To Bethan Thomas Founder Of Hot Tea Mama
Explain what you do in a sentence?

I make delicious teas to naturally support wellness through life.

How long have you done your job?

For HotTea Mama, 4 and a half years. But I’ve worked in the tea trade for over 17 years.

What’s the coolest thing about it?

There are 2 super cool things – essentially drinking tea for a living (best job in the world!), and also getting amazing messages from the people who drink our tea saying how much they love it and it helped them.

What does your day or week entail?

It’s pretty varied, but I work with a small but brilliant team of heroic women who manage a lot of HotTea Mama now. So while I used to juggle everything, I am lucky that I now have lots of short but useful meetings with the team to make sure they’re ok. Then I work with suppliers on product development and stock management, and plan in how we can grow and the financials to support this. I start every day with a cup of Newborn Wonder tea for a gentle caffeine boost and plan out what I need to get done for the day. At the moment I’m developing a lot of blends and working on launching us into retailers in the UK this summer – all super exciting but a lot of new things to manage! I cut off caffeine from midday in an attempt to not have it affect my stress levels and it usually works

Where did you start out?

I moved to China when I graduated from university and worked at a large engineering firm, but I fell in love with China and Chinese tea and food in particular. I decided to do a masters in Chinese as a result, and wrote my thesis on Chinese tea. I then got a job at a Chinese focussed tea company and have spent the rest of my career travelling the world and tasting tea.

HotTea Mama was the brainchild of my best friend who had 2 children in the space of 2 years. She asked me what tea to drink when we had to limit her caffeine intake, and also if anything could naturally help with morning sickness and to prepare for labour, then breastfeeding and tiredness. We realised quickly that tea could really be a great support and set up HotTea Mama and our original range of 6 teas at that point.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Juggling work and life. For the first 3 years of the business, I ran it in the evenings around a full time job, with 2 very young children (I was pregnant when we set the company up and we developed the teas on mat leave!). There have been periods where we’ve grown or needed urgent work done, where I haven’t slept in order to work. It wasn’t always healthy for me, but I feel very blessed that I have been able to manage the business to grow where I can work full time on it, and employ a brilliant (tiny!) team. I hope we can keep growing and expand this – hopefully without my health being sacrificed!

What piece of advice would you give to someone hoping to do the same?

Be patient and try not to compare yourself to others. We have taken 4 years to get to where we are, and along the way I’ve seen many others grow quicker. It’s hard not to put pressure on yourself and feel down, even if you are growing the business every month. It’s so hard to avoid comparing, but as long as you’re moving forward – it’s good.

Something you’ve learnt that is crucial to either your job or to success:

Perseverance and a passion for what you do are worth more than anything else. It is very easy to give up when faced with challenges, but if you truly believe what you’re doing is beneficial, and break every huge thing down into small pieces….you can deal with more than you think!

How important is it to switch off?

Massively. I didn’t for a good 2 years and I was constantly sick. I’ll never make the same mistake again, even if there are some busy times that the old habits creep in!

How do you manage your work / life balance?

I have a lot of flexibility in my week – my daughter loves gymnastics and has classes 3 nights a week, so on 2 weekdays I ‘stop’ work to hang out with her and my son at 3pm before taking her to gymnastics. I work outside her class for 2 hours (I’m literally typing this in my car!) to get everything I need to do finished. And on Friday I finish work at 3pm and make up the hours on a Sunday when she has gymnastics again. I try not to count the hours I work, but instead work to aims for each week, and do this within a flexible time period around my family. And I try my best to put my phone and laptop away when I’m with my kids. I don’t always manage it, but it makes us all happier!

How do you manage mum guilt?

I’m not sure anyone manages it very well. It’s impossible for your brain not to trick you into thinking you aren’t doing enough. I always apologise to my kids if I think I’ve been snappy due to stress, or not paid attention as a work issue has taken over. None of us are perfect, but none of us are as terrible as we think. Hugs, kisses and trying as much as possible to not need to apologise!

How did you get over the feeling of missing your baby when you went back to work?

To be totally honest, whilst I missed both my babies when I returned to work, I loved going back. I was very lucky to go back 3 days a week. As a result, I knew I was always spending more of my week with them, than I was away from them. And I treasured the brain space I got at work, and my sense of individuality for not being ‘xxx’s mum’ in the office. I was doubly lucky to have a wonderful childminder who would send me photos of them while I was at work, and dropping them off was like sending them to their second home. Don’t get me wrong, I really did miss them, but the balance I found was actually really positive for me. I have always loved my job, both now and for other tea companies though, so I’m really lucky. I know for many it’s not this way, so I appreciate it alot.

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