Sometimes a chance meeting can spark a business idea. Just ask Jane Malyon.
Malyon, who’s British, was enjoying tea one afternoon when she struck up a conversation with a stranger.
“I met an old lady who could no longer travel and whose favourite pastime was afternoon tea,” Malyon says in this Business Quarter (BQ) article. “She said to me ‘I’ve had my last afternoon tea ever’ and I thought ‘No! That can’t be!’”
That encounter five years ago led Malyon to start The English Cream Tea Company at age 55. She and her team deliver hampers (or gift baskets, as we say here in the U.S.) filled with scones, cakes, dainty sandwiches, jam and other afternoon tea treats to the doors of customers throughout the UK.
“I started The English Cream Tea Company, recognizing that it’s not always possible for everyone to travel to a great hotel, with the idea that a really super English Cream Tea could come to them instead,” she explains on her company’s website.
Tea is a lifelong passion for Malyon, who held jobs as a communications coach and a catering director before becoming an entrepreneur. As a child, she enjoyed weekend walks with her father to a local bakery to select cakes for tea. When her own two sons were growing up, she and her husband would take them to a London hotel each year to enjoy an afternoon tea.
Like any startup, The English Tea Company had challenges at the beginning. With a shoestring budget, Malyon gave shares of her business to her webmaster and branding designer. “When you have a team like that in place, you can start to tackle all sorts of things,” she told BQ. “From here, the business really started to gain momentum.”
Malyon launched her idea at a 2011 meeting in London of Key Person of Influence, a coaching organization whose mission is “to help our people become more visible, valuable and connected doing the things they love.”
That same year, she gained international exposure by setting a Guinness World Record for what was then the largest cream tea party in the world – 334 people.
Malyon’s current focus is on developing a selection of gifts that are suitable for retail and sending abroad. She’s also created videos for those interested in learning about British tea etiquette.
For The English Cream Tea Company’s founder, the best thing about afternoon tea is the connectivity that comes from sharing food and drink with others. Her business is about bringing this experience to people’s homes – and about delivering gifts that let customers know that someone is thinking about them.
As Malyon puts it, “I am effectively sending out hugs to people.”