Quali-Tea Chats with David Segal

We sat down with David Segal, co-founder of David's Tea, to talk luck, part-time employment, and coffee.
(Haha kidding, we obviously talked tea...)

Founding david's tea
we asked for a little "behind-the-scenes"

“ At the time, I really needed a job, so I went to work with a distant cousin of mine, Herschel Segal (founder of Le Chateau), for a very low salary. He was looking to invest in small businesses and I was going to help him look for companies.

This is when I realized that the market for tea was a wide open space. Since I loved retail and Herschel could provide the funds, we decided to start DAVIDsTEA. ”

“ We introduced something completely different - we created all these new flavours, came up with all these names, and gave it a very modern and aesthetic design. We made tea fun. ”

david's love for tea

Drinking tea wasn't always mainstream, even though it may have been a hobby for some. No one felt the need for a tea shop as it has always been available at the grocery store (where 20 different brands sold the same 8 varieties). BUT David:

  • Truly LOVES the product (David ordered non-caffeinated tea when we met up with him at a coffee shop!)

  • Saw an OPPORTUNITY:  “It’s a very fragmented business, nobody would have thought it could be a mass market major, especially in the retail world.”

what's luck got to do (GOT TO DO, GOT TO DO) with it?

David thinks they were in the right place at the right time and they simply had the ambition to make it happen. He recommended young entrepreneurs a great book by Bo Peabody called “Lucky or Smart?”.

Spoiler Alert: The conclusion, which David thinks is brilliant, is: “Good entrepreneurs are smart enough to know when they’re getting lucky”.

to get lucky you need:
To put yourself in a position to get lucky

Get up every morning and make things happen. So many people want to make something happen but either don’t have the right idea or the ability to make it happen. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it’s crucial to keep punching away at your ‘thing’, but you also need that element of luck.

“We weren’t the first ‘tea players’ - there were certainly others, but none of them saw it the way we did. I think a person’s DNA [that entrepreneurial drive] has to do with making things happen. But having that DNA does not guarantee you success; and lack of this DNA doesn’t mean you won’t fall into something that will allow you to be extremely successful.”


learning happens everywhere
David's high school part-time job had a huge impact on him

“ I worked at Athlete’s World (think old Foot Locker in Rideau Centre) in high school. I find that most kids don’t see their part-time job as a learning opportunity, but as a place to make a few bucks. But with retail, you can learn so much about human behaviour, why they buy things, how they function, etc… I learned how to sell, make people feel comfortable, give them enough options/info to make an educated decision on which product to buy. I learned that a good salesperson does a good job at breaking down a customer’s hesitance to look at the products without being aggressive. ”

E.g., Athlete's World was a shoe store but they also carried other merchandise (shirts & socks). When trying to sell those other items, the average salesperson would ask the customer directly if they’d like to make another purchase today, the answer usually being no.

Here’s what David discovered: "A customer that decides which pair of shoes to buy typically tries on five different pairs first. I would tell them I was dropping off the shoes they did not want in the back and take the pair they chose at the cash, and in the meantime, they were free to take a look at the great deals on t-shirts. After that, I would just walk away. No pressure put on the customer AND they get an invitation to look at stuff (rather than saying “Do you want to buy this?”)


"Nowadays, there are a lot of opportunities to become an entrepreneur within an organization. You don’t have to start something from scratch to be an entrepreneur. You can get a job that allows you to express yourself entrepreneurially. I get nervous when people tell me they want to be an entrepreneur so that they can become their own boss. That's not a good reason. Entrepreneurs have bosses, and it’s the customers. You have to have a concept that society wants and brings benefit. Find another reason to be an entrepreneur. " David left us with two important pieces of advice:

#1 - Ask yourself why you want to be an entrepreneur.

#2 - Never marry your ideas. Don’t become so blinded by your ideas that you can’t admit when you were wrong.