Author: Beat Haering

When he got out of the car, his heart beats faster and the closer he got to the warehouse the more he smiled. Thomas was happy, then with the recent delivery from Sri Lanka, he was ready to supply his customers all over America. And when he entered into the warehouse, Thomas his eyes glittered:   Tea as far as the eye can see and the nose can smell. But Thomas was also a businessman, so his inner joy lasted only for a short time, because he still had to sell this tea already packed in big boxes.

The whole organization of the repackaging was also an expensive challenge for his small business. Shortly, therefore, his wife and the whole family would fill small quantities of the various types of tea into small tin cans and send them as samples to traders all over the country. Only after these traders had tested the tea could Thomas expect their first orders. This process and especially the filling into the expensive tin cans often took several weeks and Thomas could not simply ignore the high financial risk now that he had a family.

On his way home, he wondered once more if this procedure could not be done more simply and cheaply. How often had he racked his brains over this?

When he arrived home, his daughter greeted him joyfully because she wanted to show him her new pillows for her doll’s house.

With a remnant of silk and a lot of skill, his wife sewed small silk bags into which his daughter stuffed some wool with her little fingers before her mother sewed them shut with a few stitches. The tiny doll’s house pillow was finished. Thomas watched them with growing fascination.

Was that the solution? Couldn’t the tea samples be sent in small silk bags instead of tin cans? Not only would this be considerably cheaper, but it would also simplify shipping, as a small silk bag would take up much less space. While it was a risk – after all, customers were used to the tin cans – the more Thomas thought about it, the more determined he became to ship the next tea samples in tiny doll’s house pillow bags.

Three weeks later, Thomas sat in his office, waiting for the morning mail. It had been over ten days since he had sent the last tea samples to his retailers. His wife was busy day and night sewing little doll’s pillow bags and his daughter turned out to be a highly motivated tea packer.

According to his calculations, he should receive a first order for his tea today at the latest, but nothing happened. When no orders arrived for the next two days either, he was gripped by fear. Had he sent samples using the wrong container and should he have informed his traders first? Or had the taste of the tea been changed by the silk? Only at the end of the week did he receive a letter from his most loyal merchant, which Thomas had trouble opening. 

He read:

Dear Mr. Thomas Sullivan,
“I hereby order 10,000 bags each of your tea “New Harvest”. At the same time, I congratulate you on your new method of portioning the tea individually. So you can easily brew a single cup of tea without needing a teapot, not to mention that the tea can also be easily taken with you when traveling. In addition, the bag is easy to dispose of without having to laboriously scrape the old tea leaves out of the pot as before. This also shows a spirit of progress in traditional areas such as the tea business. Our customers are all enthusiastic when we showed them your new method! Can you also deliver the other teas in your range in sachets?”

Over the next few days, Thomas Sullivan received more and more orders. Without wanting to, he had casually invented the tea bag, although he was only looking for a way to send his samples more easily and, above all, cheaper. He actually wanted to deliver the tea itself by the kilo as before. Apparently, he had met a need in the market that had previously remained unrecognized.

The risk of whether the dealers would accept the new tea samples at all had suddenly become an enormous market opportunity. Thomas Sullivan discovered this extraordinary business potential by watching is wife and daughter play and while this first tea bag was a revolution in 1904 it has become a common product today.

Coincidence has been the godfather of an infinite number of ideas. But only very few ideas have brought recognition and success to their creator, not infrequently it is because very few innovators have a suitable structure to exploit their breakthrough idea.

At CAREY ZURICH, we are specialist in setting up and managing advantageous structures for our customers and we would be pleased to establish a private “Tea bag” structure in the form of a company, trust, foundation or whatever is suitable.We are committed to serving the needs of our customers with all the Swiss thoroughness and reliability that you would expect, because we care(y).

Carey AG, established in 2003, is an owner-managed Multi-Family Office and FINMA-licensed trustee company providing tailor-made functional structures to private clients, international families and corporates. Our clients can count on Swiss quality, high ethical standards, efficiency and trust – because we care(y). As the holder of a professional Swiss trustee license, the company is supervised by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA.