From University To Dragons’ Den – Discovering ‘The Box Of T’

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Following on from Afternoon Tea Week in London, we interview recent Dragons’ Den winners, The Box Of T. Young entrepreneurs Omar Farag and Philip Perera secured an investment from Kelly Hoppen for 25% equity in their unique tea brand, ‘The Box of Tea’. Their business idea started as a university project and the company’s first product, PHOM, is now going to be stocked in popular department store, Selfridges. The Box of T allows customers to blend their own tea flavours, and we get to know the people behind the great idea.

How did you come up with the name ‘The Box of T’ – were there any other contenders?
‘The Box of T’ is the source of all our great ideas. Nothing more, nothing less. The ideas turn into delicious elements, just like PHOM. We are always putting new ideas into The Box. We fell in love with the name and idea straight away.

The concept of your business started as a university project. Why did the both of you choose to create a business around tea?
My mum used to run a teashop near Berlin. That’s where the passion for tea came from. When Omar and I met at University, we undertook the Graduate Enterprise module at Liverpool John Moores University. This module involved taking part in Young Enterprise with a group of our friends.

After running the project for one year, we quickly realised that it could become much more than a university project as our customers loved the beautifully packaged loose leaf tea caddies.
You’ve put a lot of thought in the packaging of ‘The Box Of T’, how did you decide on the packaging?
We wanted our packaging to be enjoyed as much as the tea that is inside it. That’s why we have commissioned an artist from New Jersey to create each of the pieces of artwork that go on our packaging. Along with Kelly’s guidance and a great team – we think we’ve really hit the spot with the brand and packaging.Do you think you’d ever look to branching abroad, especially as you’re now stocked in Selfridges in the UK’s most popular cities?
We are on the mission to get the world drinking tea and we are just at the beginning of our journey.
Box Of T flavours

What 6 flavours does the PHOM tea range offer and why those particular flavours?
On our website we offer 20 flavours of premium loose leaf teas including a range of black teas, green teas, rooibos teas, fruit infusions as well as herbal infusions. Our 6 best sellers are Refreshingly Breakfast, Deliciously Cherry & Almond, Boldly Gunpowder Lemon, Simply Decaf Breakfast, Tantalisingly Strawberry & Kiwi and Innocently Peppermint.

What does it mean to you to be young entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur means that no one day is the same. Every day is a learning curve and to be honest, it’s a bit of a roller coaster. A good day becomes the best day you’ve ever had, and a bad one is tragic! But through good times and bad, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that the hard work you do is because you love your job and you have a passion for it. There aren’t many jobs that let you feel the way you do when running your own business. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is starting to employ a team – creating a job for someone that was never there before is a really exciting prospect.

What point during Dragons’ Den did you believe you were serious contenders for an investment?
When Kelly showed her excitement about the brand and her love for tea, we knew that we had interest but we were not in the clear yet. It’s only when a Dragon makes you an offer that you know you are safe.
outdoor shot of Dragons' Den winners
What does it mean to have Dragon, Kelly Hoppen, support you?
To have Kelly’s support and input in our company is amazing. She’s always at the other end of the phone and can connect us with the right people to get things done.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time?
Over the next year we really want to get PHOM perfect, making sure the blends are the best from around the world and that our product is as accessible as possible. We have a few ideas in The Box dying to get out, but we’re getting them right before we launch them. Keep an eye out for new elements.We’ve got to ask, what is your favourite flavour and why?
This is probably the hardest question. If we had to choose one tea that we have to drink for the rest of our lives, it would be Boldly Gunpowder Lemon – a smooth green gunpowder tea with a hint of citrus that gives you a real kick in the morning.

BOE Magazine

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Become a Better Storyteller Through Dungeons & Dragons

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Become a Better Storyteller Through Dungeons & Dragons

As a storyteller of any kind, the way you weave your narrative decides whether people keep reading, watching, or listening. The classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons can teach you how to construct strong narrative and how to collaborate with others in a way that’s a whole lot of fun.

In the game, you are a part of a group of adventurers taking on the perils of a fantastical world. There are monsters to fight, locations to explore, and plenty of characters to talk to. Throughout the game you collaborate with the other players to tell a tale, but Ethan Gilsdorf at The New York Times describes one role in particular that can help you develop greater storytelling ability, the Dungeon Master:

The Dungeon Master must create a believable world with a back story, adventures the players might encounter and options for plot twists. That requires skills as varied as a theater director, researcher and psychologist — all traits integral to writing.

Being a Dungeon Master is being in charge of the whole experience, and it’s an experience that evolves and changes over time. As you run a game, you learn what kind of structure is interesting in a story, and what doesn’t react well with the players in real time.

The ability to grip your audience and keep them engaged is beneficial in any storytelling medium. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, explains how it can benefit people living within the realm of nonfiction too:

“Serving as Dungeon Master helped me develop a knack for taking the existing elements laid out by the game and weaving them into a coherent narrative… and yet you were constrained by the rules of the D&D universe, which in journalism translates into being constrained by the available, knowable facts.”

Taking on the role of Dungeon Master is no simple task. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, and time to do your fellow players justice, but the benefits of storytelling are abundant. If you want to build up your ability, grab some friends and dive into a make-believe world of dungeons, dragons, collaboration, and narrative.

A Game as Literary Tutorial | The New York Times via 99U

Photo by Scott Swigart.

Lifehacker

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