Hong Kong-born Choi says she was brought up in a tea-drinking family. “My father is Chinese and is one of nine siblings – so family tea-ceremonies were a big part of my childhood,” she says.
She attended boarding school in Australia then backpacked her way around the world. “I arrived in London in 1999 and fell in love with it. I never left!”
The Asian entrepreneur set up Choi Time in March 2005, packaging tea from China and selling it online via a site she designed using Moonfruit. She gave up her full-time job in PR 18 months ago to plough all her energy (and £35k in savings) into Choi Time.
Turnover for this year is a predicted £50k – but Choi knew she’d need to inject more cash into the business to rocketfuel growth. She spent six months fine-tuning her business plan and, in August, secured a £53k Small Firms Loan Guarantee from Natwest. “My bank manager also gave me an overdraft facility of £1k and a credit card with a £5k limit,” she says.
Choi already sells her tea in Harrods Food Hall, the Natural History Museum and small, independent delicatessens and farm shops but will use the extra cash to attend more trade shows (costing £1k a pop) and increase brand awareness. “Sales will jump a predicted 30 per cent next year,” she says.