#0024 Joanne Vermaak of Everything Tea

The Civitas Team

18 business ideas on growth, supplier relations, transparency in customer service, and the importance of outsourcing to local businesses.

Joanne Vermaak is the founder of Everything Tea, sourcing, importing, and blending tea, with a special focus on bespoke tea blends.  For Joanne, the idea of starting a tea business wasn’t shaped until 2013. Her taste for tea developed drastically after traveling to Amsterdam as an exchange student where she completed her degree in International Trade. After returning home  to South Africa, she realised the tea offering locally was very limited and started to purchase tea from all around the world for her own consumption.  She soon started selling tea to friends and family and that’s where the idea of an online tea store came to life.

Today, Everything Tea supplies a large variety of teas to hospitality and food services. The obvious highlight is the Blend-Your-Own-Tea section, where you can design your unique tea blend. They also opened their first retail shop in Johannesburg.

A Civitas team member sat down with Joanne to discuss the core principles of her business mindset, from the importance of outsourcing to absolute transparency.

Summary of the best ideas from the discussion:

  • You need to be actively promoting your business on a daily basis, having a website is not enough. 
  • Taking action even before you feel 100% ready is crucial! 
  • Create a fair payment scheme with supply chains. Pricing down will discourage and scare off the supplier. Instead, focus on how to gain mutual benefit.
  • Transparency is crucial in customer services. Be upfront in everything, from delivery time to cost breakdown.
  • Don’t over-promise just to please customers.
  • Outsourcing allows you to focus on your own strengths.
  • Try to assist and uplift local businesses and small entrepreneurs instead of outsourcing to larger companies.
  • Female-owned businesses can especially benefit from your outsourcing.
  • Don’t overlook in-store and face-to-face customer relations because they can still help you to stand out and demonstrate value.


  1. “Commit to an organized way of doing things as you grow. You need a well-equipped team to tackle all parts of your business.”
  2. “In the beginning, people won’t know that your services actually exist. So, it’s just about getting the message out there and actively telling people what you offer.”
  3. “Put feedback from customers at the forefront when tweaking your product.”
  4. “Looking at customer feedback and through trial & error, you learn to perfect your craft.”

Negotiating with suppliers

  1. “When it comes to negotiating with suppliers, focus on a win-win scenario instead of trying to push the price down. This will make the relationship last much longer.”
  2. “Don’t squeeze the price down for your own profit gain. Your supplier may not be the cheapest, but at the end of the day, you will get consistency and quality products.”
  3. “ If you are paying your supplier with a fair price, this will enable you to ask them to give additional value (e.g., packaging).”

Customer experience

  1. “One-to-one visit to a customer’s premises is still the biggest contributor to business growth. It makes you stand out if you go there, chat with the customer, show them what you have, and come up with a solution.”
  2. “ Transparency is the first step of excellent customer service. Build a customer relationship that’s open and transparent. Give them a cost breakdown and tell them about the cost drivers of your products.”
  3. “Keep in mind that there will be a certain lead time for a custom product or an imported product. If there is an urgent request, go out of your way to make it happen. But, don’t commit to a specific date if it’s out of your control.”
  4. “Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Rather be realistic even if it means you lose business.”


  1. “Be passionate about getting other people to a point where they can see that they can do their own thing.”
  2. “You can’t do everything on your own; you need to focus on your strong points. If you don’t have strength in a certain field, get someone else to do it for you, it will save you time and money,  and empower them.”
  3. “When you get a big order with a strict deadline and various tasks, you can consider outsourcing to small entrepreneurs and local businesses. There is always a way to make it happen!”
  4. “To help small businesses grow, give them the initial work. Then, do a little bit of mentoring and training, until they can run on their own.”


  1. “You will never feel 100% ready, the trick is to do it anyway. You will figure out the step as you go along. You just have to start!”
  2. “When you feel stuck, take a step back and try to think out of the box. Talk to people, as often ideas will come to life”
  3. “I definitely recommend Grant Cordone’s books for inspiration and shaping up your business mindset.”

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