The Tea Stall: My first enterprise experience

Antara Bhatt, Adi Bhatnagar, Om Patel, Vaishvi Patel. Seasoned entrepreneurs successfully ran a tea stall and earned supernormal profits.

How were four 7th Graders trained risk takers you ask? Well every year on Teacher's Day, our school conducted an event to honor the teachers. The class would organize a stall and sell their product in exchange for coupons which were the currency in the event. However, over the years we grew smarter and realized that coupons were not worth money and our stall was not a business. 

In the winter of 2015, all of us got together and decided to run a real stall and donate all our earnings to the Blind People's Association. 

Our stall located at AUDA Garden, Prahladnagar, was to sell masala chai, bataka poha, idli-sambhar and dhoklas to morning exercisers

At 6:30 am we began. We had drawn up charts displaying the menu and using that roamed inside the park, marketing our stall. At first nobody had the courage to shout and attract attention. After my dad encouraged me to go all out I started shouting loudly:

"Chai, Poha, Dhokla, Idli lelo!

Buy for good cause!

Donate to BPA!

Ay chai lelo, chai lelo!"

That is when we built momentum and attracted customers. We also learnt a lot. 

A group of senior citizens beckoned us closer and asked they would only pay half the price for the chai. Not knowing what to answer, I blurted out that we had a solution for that and introduced cutting chai (half cup full chai). From their smirks I could feel the appreciation. Also from the huge order they gave to us.

In the park we were marketing to everyone. Then Dad intervened saying look at the shoes and clothes of the people. Look for Nike, Adidas, Skechers. Those are the people who will pay target them. So we did that. Identifying 12 such customers and politely asking if they would be kind enough to visit our stall after their session and donate for a good cause. Targeted advertising gave us a return of ₹3000 - covering our costs and giving a 50% profit. 

Around 8 am, as more people finished their exercise, the line at the stall grew bigger. I manned the cash station, Antara took care of orders and Om and Vaishvi packed and moved the line along. Our parents were a big help in managing some rude customers. Well for the first five minutes of it at least. Then they left and the four of us ran the stall independently. 

At the end of the day we had ₹4000 in profits-200% profit in 2.5 hours- and all our stock was empty. We donated that money to the Blind People's Association, ensuring that the money was registered by their accounts office.

Nurturepreneurs: A workshop that Unleashed my Potential

After the success of the tea stall I realized that if I would learn more about calculated risk taking and running an enterprise, I would be at a better position to make my efforts more successful. I took up Economics and Accounts as subjects and learnt as much as I could from my Dad. Though I was not particularly strong in them, I was able to retain and understand the knowledge. Two years later an opportunity presented itself by the name of Nurturepreneurs. A 5 day workshop to design and build your own business.

After figuring out our own businesses, we visited the Havmor India factory and office. At the factory we explored how a economies of scale are managed while mantaining top quality in the intricracies of ice cream making. After a really cool trip, we went to the Havmor office where we were to pitch an idea for a new type of ice cream. Groups of three were formed and the brainstorming began.

It was a real life experience of how R&D teams operate at their base levels. Within the three of us, we were fighting quite a lot. Brilliant ideas flowing around. I kept persisting the idea of cough-curing ice cream while the other two suggested ice cream for the lactose intolerant. In the heat of the moment, all three of us were at each others throats but we behaved democratically going ahead with ice cream for the lactose intolerant. The next day we were quite taken aback. Out of 10 groups 7 had the same idea for ice cream for the lactose intolerant. Though we went ahead and presented our idea, I kept laughing at our naivety for not seeing the obvious. My team mates also joined in the laughter.

It was a surreal and crucial experience that kept my brain on a constant high. Facing challenge after challenge, working on mock businesses for 15 hours in a day, fighting and reconciling with team mates. One of the best parts of my life.

Image by Sergey Shmidt

These experiences and my hunger to learn enabled me to design and develop an 

incubator for VSSM