Archive for the ‘tea’ Category

Rebranding – Part 1

December 31, 2008

Building Vertical Communities

Single Artisan, Product Focused Website

In November 2006, we launched the online marketplace to introduce a single artisan, Terra Keramik of Switzerland, to the North American marketplace. Because we represented exclusively Terra Keramik, we created the initial website under the Terra Keramik brand with a focus on its 12 tableware products. The initial online marketplace was organized around beverageware, dinnerware, and a section called studio.

Business Challenges

We faced several business challenges with that product centric approach. For example, to launch the Terra Keramik coffee beverageware in North America, we had to build a premium brand from ground zero that appealed to the professional and home barista markets. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the numerous online stores that sell $5 white and brown, machine-made, porcelain coffee cups displayed on “catalog pages” with little information about the product and no other subject relevant content or advice.

Rich, Relevant and Interactive Content

We wanted to provide useful information about the product, show how the products are used by professionals and home consumers, and provide a rich, interactive browsing and buying experience with relevant information about the entire coffee trade (growers, roasters, baristi, cafes, consumers). In effect, we wanted to build vertical online communities without duplicating the content and features already offered by successful online coffee communities such as coffeegeek, home-barista, coffesnobs, baristaexchange, and coffeed. We wanted to provide some of the basic and necessary information and tools that these much larger communities may lack, may be hard to find, or present them in a more user-friendly format.

Multiple Artisans, Vertical Communities

In late 2007, about a year after launching the Terra Keramik tableware, we introduced a second Swiss artisan, Glasi Hergiswil and its lead-free, mouthblown crystal glass products, to the North American market. This was followed by the launch of Café Kultur of Germany and its handcrafted espresso accessories. We now faced a third business challenge, how to convert from our online marketplace representing a single artisan with few products, to multiple artisans with potentially hundreds of products, each with its own distinctive brand and product lines. It reinforced our desire to build vertical communities and also compelled us to start thinking about creating an independent brand that would represent and support multiple artisans.

Rebranding – Part 1

In the summer of 2008 we began to organize our online marketplace around four vertical communities:

  • Coffee & Tea
  • Wine & Beer
  • Dining
  • Home Décor
  • The following screen shots show the online marketplace as of December 2008, organized around the above vertical communities.

    Home Page

    Home Page with neutral gray, top navigation bar showing the 4 communities and the studio (about us, etc.) tab.

    Coffee & Tea

    Coffee & Tea Community, highlighted in green on the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.

    Wine & Beer

    Wine & Beer Community, highlighted in red on the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.


    Dining Community, highlighted in orange on the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.

    Home Décor

    Home Décor Community, highlighted in light blue on the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.


    Studio tab, highlighted in cobalt blue on the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.

    My Account

    My Account section, accessible with the “Account” button above the top navigation bar. Pages with a 2-column CSS layout.


    Gift and Wedding Registry section, accessible with the “Registry” button above the top navigation bar. Pages with a 3-column CSS layout.

    Stay tuned for details on building out the vertical communities


    We’re BAAACK!!!

    October 21, 2008

    We’ve been busy the past 6 months growing and expanding our online marketplace at and although we continue to be busy (especially with the holiday season only a few weeks away), we are excited to share with you some of the things we’re doing on this blog. We’ll be posting in the next few days, so check back! Thanks.

    We have been featured in…

    April 13, 2007
    TraditionalHomeApr2007 TRADITIONAL HOME

    Traditional Home featured our Terra Keramik tableware in its April 2007 issue (1/2 page). Pictured are our cappuccino cups [not the espresso cups as indicated], candleholder and teapot. We appreciate the wonderful article and beautiful photos! Thank you Traditional Home!

    Traditional Home is the largest “upscale shelter magazine” based on paid circulation of 950,000 (compared to House & Garden, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home, etc).

    ctcottages_apr20071.jpg CONNECTICUT COTTAGES & GARDENS

    Connecticut Cottages & Gardens (CCG) Magazine featured our Terra Keramik beverageware and dinnerware in its April 2007 issue (1/2 page). The April issue is dedicated to the “green” theme, i.e. eco-friendly buildings, interior design, and landscapes. Pictured are our espresso cups and dinner plates. Thank you CCG for the beautiful spread!

    Connecticut Cottages & Gardens and Palm Beach Cottages & Gardens are sister publications (both featured our products) that cover the “gold coasts” of Connecticut and Florida.

    FreshcupMagazineFeb2007 FRESHCUP

    Freshcup Magazine featured our Terra Keramik beverageware in its February 2007 issue. Pictured are our espresso cups, cappuccino cups, coffee mugs and tea mugs. We appreciate the announcement of the opening of our online marketplace! Thank you Freshcup!

    Freshcup is a speciality beverage magazine focusing primarily on the coffee and tea trades. About 15,000 retailers subscribe to Freshcup.

    APARTMENTTHERAPY.COM (AT) featured our teapot on its blog on March 20. During the first hour of the posting, we received more than 500 visitors to our website! Thank you AT for blogging about our teapots!

    AT is an online community which helps people make their apartments better places to live and connects them to the resources they need to redecorate their homes. AT ranks as one of the 500 largest blogs according to

    COFFEED.COM featured our espresso cups and cappuccino cups in response to a question about cups for the upcoming US Barista Championships on May 4-7 in Long Beach, California. We really appreciate the posts from Matt Milletto and Mark Prince, as well as comments from others. Matt is consulting director of Bellissimo Coffee Group, director of the American Barista and Coffee School, and founder of Mark is the founder and editor of and a retired barista championships judge (see our earlier post about Mark and Thanks everyone! is an online community for espresso and coffee “professionals and fanatics”.

    We have superimposed Matt Milletto’s post, which actually appears further down in the post, after the first post to show it on the same screen shot.

    We met Luca Costanzo through the online community and sent him a couple of Terra Keramik cappuccino cups for “testing”. Luca is a barista at First Pour (espresso bar) at Veneziano Caffe (coffee roaster) in Melbourne, Australia (also the home of David Makin, the 2006 Australian Barista Champion). Luca blogged about our cappuccino cups at


    But will it fly

    December 7, 2006

    Before investing a lot of time writing a business strategy and plan, we wanted to “market test” the product with subject matter experts (people in the interior design, home accessories, tabletop, and coffee accessories businesses) as well as with potential retailers. To do that we bought a small shipment of espresso cups, cappuccino cups and coffee cups from Terra Keramik of Switzerland.  It arrived in October 2005 (only a few broken pieces) and we promptly hit the road to solicit feedback on the product and our business plan.  We received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement!  People provided useful input about the design of the cups, the need for attractive packaging for a high-end product, the competitive nature of the tabletop business, and so on.

    In our conversations we also came to realize that retailers would expect a 30-40% margin to “resell” the handcrafted tableware, which made the business unattractive to us.  And we would have to work out issues concerning logistics and inventory, shelf space, warranties, and so forth.  Ugh!  So we started to think about a pure online marketplace and our business strategy evolved in that direction.

    Benefits of online strategy:

  • modest start-up costs
  • faster time-to-market
  • owning the customer and customer experience
  • control of brand strategy
  • combine products with relevant content
  • better economics
  • Challenges of online strategy:

  • customers would prefer to touch and hold the product
  • no customer base of an existing brick-and-mortar retailer
  • experiment with emerging online marketing methods
  • relatively high shipping cost of product
  • One of us had previous online experience, and we felt comfortable that it was a strategy worth pursuing, albeit not without risk.  Let’s see if it flies!

    Writing a business plan at 30,000 feet

    November 22, 2006

    Unfortunately, our family vacation came to an end and we boarded a return flight from Zurich, Switzerland to Newark, New Jersey.  Once the plane was at a safe cruising altitude (somewhere around 30,000 feet) and the kids were settled in, we started brainstorming about how to import and sell Terra Keramik’s handcrafted tableware in the US. We booted up our laptop and began drafting the outline of a business plan and crunching some “back of the envelope” numbers to explore whether or not the business could make sense.  This started a year-long journey to bring to market a unique product and create a new online marketplace.

    What started out as a family vacation…

    November 20, 2006


    In early November 2006, we launched to sell handcrafted tableware imported from Switzerland. The tableware features clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist. While we offer a full line of beverageware and dinnerware, our focus is espresso cups, cappuccino cups, caffe mugs, tea mugs and teapots, and fondue sets.

    How did we start?

    In August 2005, we were on a family vacation in Switzerland and were enjoying a late morning cappuccino in an outdoor cafe (aptly named Cappuccino) in the city of Winterthur.  Looking across the street, we were immediately captivated by the array of shapes and colors of cups, plates, and bowls displayed in a large storefront window.  The sign above the shop read “Terra Keramik” and we were on our feet (no, we did not forget to pay for our cappuccinos) and hurried across the street to take a look.

    We entered Terra Keramik and were greeted by Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director with an offer to tour his studio, which was located adjacent to the store and separated by an open courtyard.  Talking with Felix and understanding his approach to design and creation led us to believe that we had discovered someone and something unique and special.  His creations were unlike anything we had seen in the US or anywhere else in our global travels.   As we left the store with a couple of brochures in our hands, the beginnings of a business idea started to emerge.