Every year I write our annual looking back and looking forward blog. I think I enjoy writing and reading it more than you guys because it kind of puts a flag in the ground for what I was thinking and what happened in our business the previous year. I just read last year's post, and it is cracking me up. I listed the top 3 things that I was looking forward to in 2021, and number 3 was improved logistics. Oops! Logistics in 2020 ended badly, so I can see why I was optimistic things would get better. What I don't think I had a clue on (and did any of us really) would be the extent of the inbound logistics issues. So when I see logistics as something I was excited about a year ago, I want to give the one year ago me a hug and encourage him to persevere. I always wonder what curveball we'll see in the global economy in 2022 that will impact our day-to-day operations. And honestly, that's the fun part of running a business. If we were solving the same problems every year, it would be boring, and I'd probably be antsy to do something else. The last several years have been anything but boring.
So, let's look at my top 5 favorite parts of 2021 at Hackberry.
What I learned: We opened the Sagebrush Coffee Shop this year, and it was a lesson in perseverance. Jenna mentioned to me that she would've given up because it became almost comical how every turn created a new crazy problem we had to solve. If I thought opening a shop might be easy, I was sorely mistaken. In fact, as Jonathan and I were brainstorming YouTube topics and series this year, a "what I learned by opening a coffee shop" series is on the whiteboard. I think I could talk for hours about it. In fact, I learned so much that I have an itch to open another location sooner rather than later because I hate to have all of that gained knowledge only go to a single location.
Our Staff: This may be obvious, but as we opened the shop, we've tripled our staff. I know that staffing issues are a real problem for many companies, but frankly, we haven't experienced that. I get a resume from a qualified potential employee on a regular basis, so it allows us to be choosy in who we hire, and I think we have a great team. One of the things I love about owning this business is growing an excitement about tea with our customers. It is as rewarding, if not more, to share that with our employees and watch them grow as Baristas and people. I also have to in this section just talk about how much fun it is to have all of my kids working in the business. They all have their role, but the most fun part is how excited they are about the business and seeing them grow as people because of the work they're doing.
The face-to-face interactions of a coffee & tea shop: The online business is great. Zoe or I interact with you guys through email all of the time, and I feel like we all have built friendships over the years. However, if we've learned nothing from the past 2 years, it is the significance of face-to-face human contact. It is better for all of us, and having the coffee & tea shop and becoming an integral part of the Chandler community is awesome.
Creative new forms of content creation: This last year, we expanded to Youtube more diligently, we have greatly improved our focus on social media (specifically Instagram). We added Karla, and our blogs and educational area of the website has grown from me writing blogs about things I just know by being in the industry to well-thought-out and researched articles. I feel like we've grown as a company to not just act like we're tea experts but to have full knowledge of what we're talking about and work hard to put that knowledge on display to help everyone that interacts with our media grow in their understanding and love for tea.
- Our growth in tea: I guess this is kind of tied to the last one, but we have grown so much in tea this year. I knew that opening the coffee & tea shop would help us in our ability to interact with customers, but I had no idea that we would grow so much as tea people by making hundreds of drinks a day. I didn't expect, as we dialed in chai, tea lattes and various other drinks, that we would elevate our cupping game and so many areas of our business. I mean, I guess I had an idea this would happen, that's ultimately why we opened the shop, but I feel like the impact has been so much more widespread and significant than I would've imagined.
The 3 things I'm most looking forward to in 2022 are:
Growing as tea experts: So I'm basically taking the last two and saying, I love what we did in 2021 and only want to expand that in 2022. We learned so much last year, and I feel like that was just a launching off point to our growth in this community. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the more we grow as people, the better our products will be, so we're going to be investing a lot of time and resources into our growth as tea experts.
Honing our content creation: Jonathan and I spent most of this week talking and charting what we want to do as a company when it comes to content creation. It is funny that the more we write, the more we want to write. However, we have ideas for YouTube, like a Hackberry After Hours Series where we walk through brewing techniques we use on bar. We're working to build in-shop training classes and may bring one or two of those to the YouTube channel. We take pride that we're not just another company selling tea online, but we try to be an educational resource for the tea community. I'm super excited about how we'll grow that aspect of the business.
- Finding another vertical and expanding into it: You can't hold an entrepreneur back. Opening the coffee & tea shop was one of the most rewarding tasks of my career. If anyone asks me how the shop is doing, I can only answer, "it is so much FUN!" I'd love to open another one this year, but I am going to be picky about location, so I honestly think the next location will be a 2023 thing. However, that won't hold us back in expanding the company in new and exciting ways. I've always wanted to bottle and sell our cold brew teas, so if we can figure that one out, I'm all in. We're working on a better strategy when it comes to selling our tea in bulk and finding ways to bring these amazing teas to businesses in a creative way. And I have about a dozen other ideas that I would love to investigate and see how we can expand what we're doing in new and creative ways.
I want to close this post in a similar way to last year. I think it is interesting how many people blame the year for the problems last year brought as if the calendar has anything to do with it. We watched the ball drop in NYC last night, and people were breaking down in tears at the close of 2021 as if a different number at the end of the date has everything to do with the way they approach the struggles of life. The reality is, we use years to segment time, and that segment of time was very difficult for many people. The reality also is that we don't know what 2022 will bring, and if we hold to the idea that the changing of the year will bring about any real change or improve our lives in any way, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment and putting our faith in the wrong things. At Hackberry Tea, we work hard, try not to complain about difficulties, and trust God. You'll hear the phrase "I can trust God with that" come out of my mouth a lot. I hope you all are able to do that as well, and I am very excited about this next segment in time.