Zen Wonders Tea is a small online tea start-up, focused on selling premium quality Japanese matcha green tea. Based in Melbourne, Zen Wonders was founded less than a year ago by Roberto Filitti, an International student from Milan, Italy.
The business has seen impressive growth during it’s first twelve months. One of the key contributors to the growth of Zen Wonders has been the use of Instagram as it’s primary marketing communication channel. Zen Wonders now has over 36k followers on Instagram. I recently had the opportunity to interview Roberto, who shares his story and tips on how to grow a small business using Instagram.
Tell me about the background and history of Zen Wonders
zenwonders.com was born less than one year ago with a simple and clear intention: to share with the world the delicacy and health benefits of fresh high-quality Matcha. We love the gentle and meaningful approach that the Japanese culture has naturally developed over the centuries towards this beverage, and we are very much fascinated by their “zen” and respectful way of living life.
My attraction towards Matcha stemmed from an interest towards the world of teas that met the opportunity to try high quality Japanese Matcha here in Australia. I fell in love with Matcha from my first cup and it wasn’t too long after that dove into the world of Matcha and decided to share some of the highest quality Matcha available in Japan with as many people as possible!
My previous background in business was very poor back then, I have been involved in a few retail jobs during my early years in Italy, where I am originally from, but I never had the chance to run something of my own before. It’s extremely exciting and rewarding seeing everything taking shape over time and believing that it is only going to be better if you embrace the challenges and grow stronger through them.
For now we would like to focus mainly on Matcha and share with people as much as we know about the difference between grades, flavours and different uses of each grade. But we also have exciting new products that we are looking to introduce to our range very soon, so stay tuned
Tell me about your marketing approach in building up and promoting the Zen Wonders brand?
I have decided to focus our attention mainly on Instagram @zenwonders_matcha as I noticed that it offers a big opportunity to reach out to a lot of people by sharing photos and content through the comfort of a smartphone, and also because our intention is to let young people know what Matcha is and how versatile it can be. Being a very small business with limited resources we haven’t invested our funds in many other advertising channels but we love to connect with passionate people that give us the chance to express what we do.
With an initial intention to focus mainly online, we have also come to realise that there was an opportunity to supply our product to local cafes and bakers, and within a few months we have created a little and valuable network within the Melbourne and Sydney areas by suppling our Matcha to some well known cafes and passionate bakers. We are also considering the opportunity to attend more markets and festival events soon, and we can proudly say that we are going to be at the Mind Body Spirit festival this coming November here in Melbourne.
How have you grown your presence and following on Instagram to over 35k followers?
I knew literally nothing about Instagram before I launched Zen Wonders’ account. It took me hours and hours of exploration in order to understand how the hashtag system worked and how the networking and cross-marketing promotion worked. I naturally developed an interest towards photography and composition during my 3 years of travelling around Australia and Asia when I found myself passionate about capturing landscape and wildlife moments that I would attentively frame in order to capture the details and lighting effect that I found most valuable.
I never planned any strategy on Instagram when I started it, if not simply sharing part of my feelings through the photos that I would personally take, and through their caption. I would have never imagined that I’d be able to build such a high number of followers in less than one year.
Within the last few months though I started to connect with passionate people with a strong base of followers that sampled our Matcha and shared their genuine thoughts and beautiful creations with it on their page. I believe that networking is everything, not only on social media but even more in real face to face life. This is the only extra and occasional “strategy” that we used, but to be honest I believe that posting visually-attractive and detail-rich content related to our product is still the best practice that I like to use to share what I find beautiful and valuable.
So far the content that has generated the highest response and engagement has been Matcha desserts, which was not going to be my main focus in the beginning but I soon realised that being still a very unknown product for many, sharing Matcha based creations is going to attract the attention of more people to whom we can then teach more about the traditional and cleaner use of Matcha as well as its origin, growing procedure and processing methods.
The quality of the imagery and photography on your Instagram page is outstanding. How do you resource these as a small business?
As I mentioned earlier I have developed an interest towards photography and attention to details during my previous travels, and our Instagram feed has definitely given me the opportunity to express this little passion of mine. I have to admit though that the extremely bright green colour of our Matcha helps a lot in achieving visually attractive compositions.
We like to post our own daily photos as well as our customers’ photos that feature Matcha creations made using our product. Also our café partners often share with us beautiful captures that feature our Matcha so we happily and proudly support them by sharing those photos while promoting their business too! Occasionally we also post interesting and beautiful content that we find on Instagram which involves Matcha, and we make sure to always credit and honour the author of the shot.
What are the main things you have learnt as a start-up business that you could share with other startups.
The things that I learnt so far from my personal start-up business experience are so many, but the 10 most important lessons that I feel the urge to share with you are these:
1) Focusing on quality always pays off.
2) Customer service should be second to none. A pleasant, caring and smooth customer experience is so crucial.
3) Choose something that you are passionate about as it won’t be a big effort for you to talk about it and present it to others.
4) Make sure you learn and keep learning as much as you can about the product or service that you are looking to share with people.
5) Share with your customers your own story and personal approach towards the product that you are looking to share with them .
6) Details details details! Attention to details is everything.
7) Acknowledge what is the strength and point of difference that sets your business apart from the competition.
8) Know your weaknesses, embrace them and own them as much as your strengths. Once you do that you will naturally find a way to overcome them, but don’t simply push them away!
9) Take risks! I love the saying “Starting your own company is like throwing yourself off a cliff and build an aeroplane on your way down!”. You can never really predict all the challenges that you are going to face so be brave enough to accept that and work through them as they come.
10) Connect with people around you and ask for their help, they are the most valuable source of inspiration and knowledge that you can find!
by Konrad Markham
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