Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Renals.
Angela, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was a young at-home mother in the middle of the baby years (with two kids and two to come) when I discovered the tradition of afternoon tea. My girlfriends had been meeting me at this wonderful teahouse in Chamblee for precious “me time”: adult conversation over delicious made-from-scratch lunches with tea. After months of ordering from the à la carte lunch menu, I finally agreed to our server’s suggestion that we order a full afternoon tea instead. The meal included a choice of soup or salad, followed by a three-tier tray with scones and spreads, finger sandwiches and mini desserts, all accompanied by bottomless pots of tea. I felt like I had just discovered one of the world’s great secrets.
It quickly became our custom to go to afternoon tea in Metro Atlanta and on our girls’ trips. I also hooked the women in my family — afternoon tea is now always on our itinerary during family vacations and holidays. Only we were having trouble finding the places that serve afternoon tea, especially when we traveled. Online listings of tearooms were either out-of-date or incomplete, and restaurant search sites didn’t have afternoon tea venues as a category by which to search.
So as my children began to go off to school and my thoughts turned to my next step in life, I decided to put my background in public relations and marketing towards a worthy project: increasing awareness of and accessibility to afternoon tea. I would create a website about all things afternoon tea, whose main feature would be a reliable directory that would make it simple to find a place serving afternoon tea.
During the kids’ dance or soccer practice, I’d wait in the car reading my latest library book on afternoon tea, taking notes that would inform the educational content of my dream website. I met with my co-conspirators — good friends with expertise in marketing, graphic design and web development — to plan the website’s functionality and design.
Finally, my littlest one went off to kindergarten and in February 2016, Destination Tea was born! This work rocks, especially because it still allows me to be here for my kids. While the kids are in school, I research, create and promote afternoon tea state directories and blog about afternoon tea reviews and news. A surprise perk of this job has been interviewing the tea room owners who are a creative, generous and encouraging community.
Today, Destination Tea’s afternoon tea directories cover the Southeast, Alaska, Hawaii and Eastern seaboard (New England is in development now). Our audience continues to grow, with year-over-year website traffic quadrupling.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My major obstacle is being my own webmaster because I have no technical training. I underwent a good bit of frustration in the beginning months, figuring out how to configure and design the website using a WordPress template and plug-ins, to arrive at the look and functionality I sought. I’ve had requests for an app and about half of our visits are from mobile devices, so that will be the next step in our development, which we’ll likely outsource, unless I start taking Mobile App Development classes…
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Destination Tea – what should we know?
Destination Tea is on a mission to get the word out that afternoon tea (tea+scones+savories+sweets) is a delicious social tradition that will bring real conversation, peace and wonderful memories into your life. Who needs to know about afternoon tea? Primarily but not exclusively women, of all ages, definitely mothers, especially harried ones (are there any that aren’t?), women’s groups, sisters, retirees and girlfriends.
The main feature of Destination Tea is its afternoon tea directories where new and experienced tea drinkers can find their favorite places for reconnecting over tea, savories and sweets, both at home and during their travels. A centuries-old custom is now accessible online, with Destination Tea’s listings of all afternoon tea venues in the Southeast, Alaska, Hawaii and Eastern seaboard (with more states added every month), browsable by map, price and teatimes. Afternoon tea novices and enthusiasts alike can also explore Destination Tea to learn what to expect at the tea table, how to choose a tea they’ll love, and delve into afternoon tea history and customs. On our Facebook page, our followers get details on special tea events (like holiday teas) and afternoon tea news.
One of my favorite research experiences has been to discover an established, popular tea room that has a limited online presence. This is not uncommon, because a significant demographic of tea house owners are retirees, whose main focus may be a mouth-watering made-from-scratch menu, and not so much their Facebook page. It is rewarding to know that including them in a state directory benefits their business, as well as the tea-going community, who may otherwise have missed a great experience.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My number one cheerleader is my good friend Michael Bradley, who I met working in the marketing department of an Atlanta software company almost 15 years ago (pre-kids). Michael (a graphic designer, website developer, photographer, the list goes on), convinced me not to be daunted by my lack of technical expertise. I check in with him regularly as the website grows or questions arise, and he celebrates Destination Tea’s every success, even the small ones.
My dear friend Jeanette Pasuizaca, now living in Houston, dreamt up this idea with me over many afternoon teas and planning meetings (full of can’t-catch-my-breath laughs), during her Atlanta years. When she moved to Houston to earn her MBA at Rice University, I became a solo act, but never without her encouragement.
As an Italian-American, my grandmother Violet Reina was a stranger to afternoon tea when I discovered it, but she quickly embraced our new “hen parties” as one of our family customs. She’ll soon be 93, and her words still come to me whenever I doubt myself. It was two years ago at a Christmas tea after she’d let me pour out all my thoughts about what I should be when I grow up, and finally, she said, “Angela, whatever you focus on will grow.” Two months later, I launched Destination Tea.