Allison DeVane didn’t get an investment deal when she appeared on the popular ABC show “Shark Tank,” but what the founder of Teaspressa did get were plenty of compliments from the entire panel on how much they liked the products – and passing the taste test isn’t an easy thing to do especially when you are creating something brand new.
“They taste great and every shark loved them,” Lori Greiner told DeVane during that 2016 episode. “But in business, you have to crawl, then you walk and then you run. You just have to take each step one by one. And if you do that, you can make it.”
DeVane has taken Greiner’s advice, following her road map to success all the way across the country to Ann Arbor where she opened her first Teaspressa location in Michigan last month on Main Street. And when DeVane finally does get up and “running,” Teaspressa will be showing up on a lot more main streets all over the USA.
Teaspressa tea is all natural, organic tea. The main difference is that they have created a way to make tea like coffee. This new approach is nothing like the traditional method of brewing and has the body and robust flavour of coffee and some teas, black ones to be specific, with the same amount of caffeine content.
“You get the best of both worlds by enjoying the caffeine kick and body like a cup of coffee as well as savouring the enhanced new flavours of the tea and all its health benefits,” DeVane says.
DeVane didn’t grow up in Ann Arbor, she didn’t attend the University of Michigan and had never even heard of the AA Art Fair. But she called Ann Arbor “the perfect fit” for her Teaspressa’s third location and first outside of Arizona.
“I just loved the city,” she said. “Walking around there I just fell in love with the look and the feel. I knew right away that Teaspressa would be a great fit here.”
DeVane’s first job was as a barista in a coffee shop – remember that, it’s important. She studied marketing and event planning and took those skills to a job with a local start-up company. “I enjoyed how you got to do a little bit of everything working for that small start-up company and I liked the challenge of it. There was something fulfilling and satisfying about it.”
But it still wasn’t her business. She knew the challenges – and rewards – would be much greater if she were calling the shots and the business had her name on it.
“My dad asked me if I could get paid a million dollars to do anything what would it be and I said to make and drink coffee,” she said. “I have always loved coffee. You can make good money being an awesome barista and that’s what I want to do.”
But to combine her two passions – running her own business and making coffee – DeVane knew that for the business to succeed it had to be different. There is a lot of competition in the coffee line and her flavor had to be not only unique but satisfying in taste and results – as in healthy results.
“I wanted to be different,” she said. “It can’t be coffee. It had to be something different. I decided to make tea the thing.”
Using a patented Tea Concentration Technology and brewing machine created by DeVane, Teaspressa’s Signature Tea Blends contain as much caffeine as a traditional espresso shot, but provides consumers all of the health benefits of traditional loose leaf tea.
“I wanted to start a company that would make an impact in the industry,” DeVane says. “I blend all the teas myself and it took a while to find that right blend. There was a lot of trial and error. After about three months we got it into a café to test and to see if people liked it.”
And they certainly liked it.
Teaspressa then went online and even more people liked it. The next step, the “crawl” as Grenier calls it, was opening a Teaspressa store. The first location, in Scottsdale, Ariz., opened in October 2017. The second location, in Phoenix, opened in March with Ann Arbor only a few months later in June as the “crawl” is turning into a steady walk at this point.
Modeled after the Phoenix signature café, Teaspressa Ann Arbor features chic interior design elements and an instagrammable aesthetic that is an “Apple store meets Anthropologie.”
“The first impression you get when you walk into one of our locations is that it’s very open, it’s very clean and has a lot of natural light,” DeVane says. “Our style is modern with a classic French twist.”
The 550-square foot Teaspressa storefront, located at 414 S. Main St., is a full-service café and lounge serving Teaspressa signature beverages handcrafted by baristas, such as its London Fog, Black Rose, and Carmel Cape that are comparable to traditional coffee drinks. The new café will also feature a “Grab-and-Go” option for quick-serve beverages to-go, a dog friendly patio, and a retail section to purchase Teaspressa products to brew at-home. The café will also offer consumers a “create your own” option, allowing them to customize and curate their own beverage.
As an extension of Teaspressa’s all-natural health-conscious tea blends, DeVane created the Luxe Collection, a modern approach to traditional beverage flavor enhancing products. Containing less than five calories per serving, the Luxe Collection instantly adds flavor to your drink and is a healthy alternative to traditional sweeteners, syrups and flavour additives. Made with no artificial flavors or dyes, Teaspressa’s Luxe Collection is used to craft Teaspressa’s Signature Drinks and can also be purchased to use at home for DIY barista-inspired beverages.
“The Luxe Collection and its product lines are artisan flavors handcrafted to complement and bring out the flavor profiles and aromas of each Teaspressa Signature Tea Blend, while also complementing champagne and liquor, too,” says DeVane. “I developed the Luxe Collection to help consumers celebrate and enjoy a versatile healthy lifestyle- anytime, anywhere.”
Near the end of her Shark Tank experience, Greiner told DeVane, “don’t look at this as a failure.” And, again, DeVane took her advice.
“Shark Tank was an amazing experience,” she says. “I didn’t get the investment. They said I was too early which I agree with now. But I got a great amount of sales and press from that appearance. It was an overall great experience.”
And, who knows, maybe someday DeVane will return to Shark Tank. But she won’t be crawling this time and the terms will certainly be different based on her current success. Getting in on the ground floor was a 2016 offer and this entrepreneur is moving on up and will soon be “running” a very successful company.
Teaspressa’s Ann Arbor cafe is open Monday-Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The café will also serve pastries and a selection of artisan sandwiches. For more information, visit www.teaspressa.com