Chau-Jean Lin is the co-founder and company director of Marulin, an award-winning London-based company that sources tea from her family farms in Taiwan and friends around the world. Marulin’s heritage is in Taiwanese oolong tea, the type of tea her family has been producing for generations. Chau-Jean studied an MBA from 2014-2015 at the Said Business School and was a member of Brasenose College. Char-Jean has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I am trained as a materials scientist and never intended to be an entrepreneur. When I worked as a scientist in France, the appreciation for tea exceeded all levels that I had experienced in the USA or Asia. My family always had tea gardens, but I never thought to do anything with it before I went to France. After working in France, I worked for the oil industry and started selling tea on the side. I realised the potential of a tea company when the tea project started affecting my working hours, so I decided to pursue an MBA. While I was doing my MBA, I met my business partner, and we launched the company after I graduated.
Translating ideas and research results into viable commercial products, which can then be disseminated into the public domain.
We did extensive research on the tea and food market in the UK first. After successfully market testing our prototypes in blind tests and focus groups, we decided to bring our idea to market
So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
First and most importantly, be flexible. We went through at least three iterations of ideas before we settled on our product offering and position. Second, be open to learning new things from others. Without the wonderful people we have met and worked with so far, we would not be able to make the type of progress we have had without their advice and help. Third, know yourself. If you understand your own personal strengths and weaknesses, you can find people to complement you.
Being able to choose who you work with and what projects to pursue to the degree that one is able to. I also love the analysis that is involved – either from the feedback or the data that we get.
When we had our first repeat buyer who was someone that we did not know!
Everything takes three times longer than you expect. We thought we would be able to launch our products in September 2016 but we were not able to do it until December 2016. Even then, we ran into issues with packaging and labels the day we decided to launch our brand.
How have you funded your ideas? Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
We are self-funded. My business partner works part-time on other projects, while working on the tea project. I was also taking on work for part of the first year of this project to fund it but now work on the tea project full time. I had started to save for/seed this project when I was working full time.
We are based in London, but we often go to Oxford for market testing and idea generation. The beauty of Oxford is that you have a pool of experts that may push you in a direction that you may not have thought of before. The population of Oxford is very interesting demographically as well.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I’m biased, but I would recommend going to some of the events that SBS and the Foundry holds for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Take a break sometimes. When you are working for your own company, you can be consumed by it all the time.
Our products are currently available online, at the Timeout Award-winning Yurt Café in London, and through a local producer market (thefoodassembly.com).
EnSpire Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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