Over time, you realize what your non-negotiables are to live a more balanced and sustainable life. For me, it’s making time to exercise, get 7–8 hrs of sleep, and hanging with my friends/family. I only learned this over time. You realize entrepreneurship is a marathon, and not a sprint. It’s important to take small breaks, recharging and recovering — otherwise you sacrifice your long term race.
Sashee Chandran is founder and CEO at Tea Drops. Tea Drops is a California based, innovative tea company, manufacturing organic, dissolvable teas. Before founding Tea Drops, Chandran worked in Silicon Valley leading digital marketing and market research campaigns for Fortune 100 brands. Tea Drops can be found in over 1,600 retail stores nationwide, as well as online and Home Shopping Network (HSN), and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Los Angeles Times. Tea Drops is proud to be a woman & minority owned company.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
The inspiration for Tea Drops really came out of my own personal frustration of trying to make loose leaf tea at the desk of my fast paced Silicon Valley corporate job . You need an arsenal of equipment and time to properly brew loose leaf tea — from a kettle, to strainer, to steep times, etc. I would always make my tea, and never have the time to drink it because I would need to rush to my next weekend.
There hadn’t really been any innovation in tea since the invention of the tea bag more than 100 years ago. So that sparked the question, ‘could this be simpler without sacrificing the quality of the tea?’ I spent the next two years experimenting in my apartment kitchen with different tea blends and spices before I came up with the idea for Tea Drops.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m pretty sure it’s an investor telling me that the tea market is not big enough to really grow a scalable business when he passed on investing in Tea Drops. I laughed because second to water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the WORLD. It taught me the perils of being so narrow minded and not having a global (expansive) perspective.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
I think there is definite hardship in being a solo founder. You are responsible for so many facets of the business, working around the clock, and seeing very little traction in the beginning. I have huge admiration for all solotrepreneurs out there!
The other big challenge for me was raising capital for my business. I was only enlightened halfway through the fundraising process that less than 2% of female founders get VC funding. And it’s less than 1% if you are a minority female founder. This was an uphill battle, and I had to pitch to over 80 investors, encountering countless rejections, before raising my $2M seed round.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
I don’t have a ton of experience here, but I do believe optimal leadership is about serving those on your team — minimizing their roadblocks, allowing them to soar, and bringing out the best in them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My parents were two of the first entrepreneurs I ever knew. They were immigrants to this country, both pursued their masters degrees, had corporate jobs, but also had these insane side hustles at the same time. My mom had a crystal store (vases/bowls) at a swapmeet on the weekends and my dad dabbled in real estate.
My mom in particular has always been an active part of my entrepreneurial journey. She moved up to live with me for periods at a time to help me manufacture Tea Drops out of my apartment kitchen in the early days. I put her to work 15 to 17 hrs a day during that time and she never once complained. I can’t think of a more selfless mother.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
The first couple of years were the hardest to adjust to entrepreneurship, especially being a solo founder and having so much to prove. Overtime, you realize what your non-negotiables are to live a more balanced and sustainable life. For me, it’s making time to exercise, get 7–8 hrs of sleep, and hanging with my friends/family. I only learned this over time. You realize entrepreneurship is a marathon, and not a sprint. It’s important to take small breaks, recharging and recovering — otherwise you sacrifice your long term race.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
I certainly think that entrepreneurship takes adjustment. I threw my everything into my business, and in many ways still continue to. It can make you very one dimensional, and cause you to be absent in other areas of your life. It takes intentional effort to step back, and not let other facets of life slip away. I certainly have made a more balanced life a bigger priority this past year. A mentor of mine once said it’s important to be “interested and interesting…” I agree to the extent that it is important to stay curious about the people and world around you, and not let your business become all consuming.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- PLAN YOUR SOCIAL CALENDAR AHEAD OF TIME:I used to be terrible at scheduling ahead, because most of the time I was busy dealing with business flare-ups. I now schedule weeks, if not months, in advance with friends/family. If it’s locked in your calendar, it’s a good forcing function to walk away for a bit.
- TRAVEL: Getting out of my daily routine and booking at least one international trip per year helps shift my perspective and get inspired by new ideas/people.
- PHONE DOWN (in doses) + LIMIT NOTIFICATIONS: I don’t think it’s reasonable as an entrepreneur to have a no phone day, but I do think chunks at a time (with friends/long dinners) is totally doable and necessary. I was also surprised how much my anxiety lessened when I turned off all my notifications for email and social media accounts on my phone.
- FIND A COMMUNITY: Having like minded individuals and women entrepreneurs to talk about the reality of our journey has been really refreshing and inspiring. My maker friends and I created a collective called Women Made LA — a supportive collaboration where we share resources and experiences to enhance our collective success.
- SKIP IT: It’s okay to say “no” — to events, people, and general things you just don’t want to do 🙂
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
Collectively achieving something together with my team!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Leave people and things better than how you found them. That’s my motto and the movement I’d love to inspire.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
@myteadrop (follow Tea Drops)