Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!
Today’s guest is Erin Lindwall from Matcha Yu Tea.
What inspired you to create a purpose-driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?
While I was living in Japan in 2010 working as an English teacher, a woman came in for a lesson. She prepared Matcha for me and told me about her family’s Emperor Award Winning tea farm. Her father is a 7th generation tea farmer which I found so incredible, such rich history and quite a wonderful story to be told. I also enjoyed the high quality Matcha she prepared for me very much! Upon returning to Australia I wanted others to be able to enjoy high quality Matcha just like I had experienced in Japan and to feel connected to the wonderfully interesting Japanese culture whenever they drank it. I started Matcha Yu Tea to make that a reality! I have also been environmentally focused since a child so the decision to package my tea in 100% home compostable packaging was a key factor when launching. I could find that no-one else globally was offering this option and I felt it was my responsibility to lead the way and offer this eco option for Matcha Green Tea.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?
In the beginning I found I had to do a lot of research and sampling to find packaging that would protect the precious Matcha Green Tea Powder I wanted to offer. Although compostable, a lot of samples weren’t up to scratch as far as their protective barrier properties. I finally found my solution in Econic Packaging from Hamilton, NZ and are still thrilled to use their high quality, resealable zip lock 100% home compostable bags. Cost is also a factor when it comes to trying to be a green business. It’s cheaper to source plastic packaging and labels but it was a non negotiable for me to select a 100% zero waste option. I feel the customers I attract appreciate this and it’s completely worth sourcing this type of packaging that won’t leave a negative impact on planet earth whatsoever.
What is your business mission & purpose and why?
I want to offer others a high quality, ethically sourced tea product that benefits their health without being concerned with contributing to the immense issue of single use plastic waste on this planet. I want others to experience the beauty of Japanese culture, and feel good that they are supporting the people and longevity of the tea industry in Japan. Above all, I want everyone to experience what good quality Matcha Green tea should taste like.The quality of available Matcha varies greatly (especially here in Australia) so I’m dedicated to ensure it is always of excellent quality that you can be 100% satisfied with.
What makes your business unique?
To be the first globally to make Matcha powder available in home compostable packaging. I try to live as eco as possible and these core values extend to Matcha Yu Tea. In addition, my deep long standing connection to Japan allows me to offer an authentic experience to others that drink the tea I sell and help them fall in love with the culture too!
Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar sustainability objectives?
Most definitely. I try to attend beach clean ups when possible, I shop at my local bulk food store and markets plastic free and I always support other businesses that offer plastic free products. I have made the switch to ethical super and green electricity and I’m just always trying to be aware of my impact in every single part of my life. Now that I’m a mother, I want to lead by example and ensure a clean healthy planet for my child’s generation and beyond.
In which area of your business are you struggling the most to reduce your environmental impact?
I do think about the fuel emissions air freighting the tea from Japan to Australia but I am looking into ways to carbon offset this part of the process.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Like many other business owners, I juggle a part time job and being a mum with running the day to day of Matcha Yu Tea. This often means I’m squashing my own work into whatever free time I may have. Most days I’m keeping an eye on email enquiries, creating content and scheduling social media, running Facebook/Google ads, writing e-newsletters and blogs, packing and posting orders, exploring wholesale opportunities, packing tea, you name it…I do it! I love to keep it varied but definitely being organised with a diary or task management system (I LOVE Asana) is essential!
How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?
I’m hoping to have more wholesalers come on board so I’m contacting health food stores, cafes and eco minded businesses to offer samples and discuss becoming stockists. As I’m running the business solo, finding the time to contact and follow up on opportunities becomes a bit of a constraint to growth. But I also see great opportunity in that more businesses are looking to source and offer eco friendly products that are of a high quality. To be honest, I drink Matcha Lattes out and about at cafes and for the most part, the quality of tea used is substandard and really should be swapped out to a higher quality Matcha Powder for people to enjoy the tea just like it is experienced in Japan.
Consistent cash flow is always something to be aiming for when trying to scale, as it provides you with the opportunity to increase advertising budgets, explore new product lines, participate in events and so on.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?
Self-Belief – Know that your efforts to make the world a better place is not in vain and it comes straight from your heart. You must believe in yourself that what you are doing is the right thing, no question about it. You will have many days where you doubt yourself and feel like throwing it all in but hang in there. If you push past the self sabotage and fear, the best days are to come!
Courage – You may be the first to ask the question about an eco option being available for your business. From experience, it’s usually not the easy option and it may even cost more to source but remember, you can sleep at night knowing you are doing what’s right for the planet AND you can influence other businesses to take the right path too! That all takes courage to stand out against the crowd and sometimes be the first to take a stand.
What have you learned about your customers and yourself since launch?
That they put trust in me to continue to provide them with top quality products. That they can see the passion I have for Japan and the products I offer and love coming along with me for the journey of sharing this with as many people as possible. They love the finer things in life, care about Planet Earth and want to support my business as they know I feel the same.
What is the role of technology in your business? Are there any tools or technologies that you find helpful and/or looking to implement?
Technology is a life saver! As previously mentioned, Asana task management helps me organise my time and brain dump whenever I need to! You can input short/medium/long term goals, group similar tasks, content plan, have bill reminders and more..all of it in the one place!
I also love Klayvio (email software platform). It integrates with my Shopify store (another big love for e-commerce businesses like me!) seamlessly, allows me to write professional e-newsletters, automate abandoned cart flows and gives me amazing analytics too!
I do find Facebook ads a bit of a challenge to nail too! I really enjoy being creative and running the ads but you do have to be quite tech savvy and up to speed with the latest software update (Apple IOS 14 I’m looking at you!) to run them effectively. I would love to get some outside help with running successful and profitable ads so that’s what I’ll be working towards this year.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current purpose-driven business owners?
Don’t feel you have to continually offer discounts or slash your prices that end up cutting into your profit margins. The customer you attract is usually not price driven, more earth driven. They will realise the quality of your product and the eco friendly packaging may reflect in a slightly higher price but it’s warranted and respected. Your tribe are usually quite different to typical bargain hunters that just want the cheapest price (even if that cheap price comes at a cost to the Earth via plastic packaging or products that break easily!)
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
I want to help others feel energised by drinking Matcha – it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning that’s for sure!
I feel there is a growing movement of more people are voting with their dollar and turning to eco products. I’m more than happy to be making others lives easy by offering a great tasting, high quality product that makes a visible impact on improving people’s health and wellbeing, plus not negatively impacting Planet Earth.
Interested in participating in our interview series and sharing your story with others?
Please fill out this form.
Our fresh list of 100+ green & sustainable business ideas
Check out our resources library.