1. Tell us about Nemi Teas, what inspired you to start the company?
Hey guys, I’m Pranav, the founder of NEMI Teas. We’re a London-based tea company that makes kick ass, sustainable tea (although we also do make our signature Chai Syrup!). At our core, we’re a social enterprise – we exist to employ refugees to give them local work experience to help them enter the UK workforce. But we’re also a sustainable brand, so all our products are organic, fair-trade and plastic-free.
2. How did you come up with the name “NEMI Teas”?
NEMI is actually my grandpa’s name! As someone with Indian heritage, tea has always played an incredibly important role in my life. There’s so much cultural significance behind it – in India, it really brings families and communities together. As a kid, my family would always be around the table sipping on Chai. So, when I started my own tea company, I wanted a name that would reflect all that history and heritage.
3. What would you say NEMI Teas Brand Mission is, and how are you applying that your day to day?
We’re on two missions: to empower refugees and to reduce the impact we have on the planet. Those are both non-negotiable to us. At NEMI, we’ve structured the business so that everything naturally revolves around those two values. The more teas we sell, the more refugees we can employ, and the less plastic is out there in the world.
4. Is there a specific moment in the NEMI Teas history that stands out in your mind?
Definitely, there’s one specific memory I always think back to – when we hired our first refugee. She had come from Eritrea to the UK as a teenager and she waited for her refugee status to be approved for 18 years. For all those years, she wasn’t allowed to work. It’s obviously impossible to survive on a meagre stipend for 18 years, so she had always worked illegally, off the books.
When I started NEMI in 2015, she had just gotten her refugee status approved. So when we employed her, it was her first legal job. It was really powerful to see the psychological impact that it had on her – it gave her real dignity to be a recognised employee with a payslip coming in every month.
5. What has been your biggest challenge in building this business?
The early days of starting up a business are always the hardest. You have no proof your idea will work, no clients and no real revenue. You have nothing except your own conviction. Especially as a solo-preneur, there are days where your faith in your business really waivers.
My friends, family and advisors were so important in getting me through that period. People who believe in your mission and ability to make things happen will spur you on. You’d have to be the most confident person in the world to get a business off the ground without a support network.
6. What's a fun fact about you or your brand that not many people know?
That the idea for NEMI actually came out of a refugee supper club! During one meal, I met Anwar and Mohammed, two refugees from Sudan. We got on really well and they were telling me about how things had been for them since moving to the UK.
Once they had gotten their refugee status approved (which gives them a right to work), they were so excited and motivated to get a job. But time and time again, employers told them that they didn’t have any local work experience and so wouldn’t employ them.
They were caught in a vicious cycle, where they couldn’t get any local work experience to get onto the job ladder. So, I figured I would set up a company that would employ refugees, no questions asked. That way, I could act as their referee to vouch for them to remove those barriers they had in terms of getting a job.
7. Is there anything you would do differently from starting a company/ your entrepreneurial journey?
I would have focused on building a core team earlier - especially bringing people on board with industry specific experience. I hadn’t worked in the food and beverage industry before, so that would have been really helpful.
8. Someone once told me to ALWAYS add your tea bag first, then follow with hot water - Do you have any tips or tricks for making the perfect cup of tea?
That’s how we do it at NEMI, always teabag first then water. It just feels wrong to do it any other way! But to be honest, it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. If you want to get technical about brewing the perfect cup of tea, pay attention to temperature. Freshly boiled water doesn’t work for all blends – if the water is too hot, your green tea can taste really quite bitter.
9. What are some of your favorite brands to follow along with?
10. What’s next for NEMI Teas?
We have some exhilarating, but sadly, top-secret plans for this year! I’ll give you a hint though. When this project kicks off, it’ll mean we can scale up our social impact to empower (hopefully) hundreds of refugees. If you want to be the first to hear the news, follow us on Instagram or sign up to our newsletter!