Everyone on Steepster, PLEASE read this...

To my friends: I am sure you all get tired of hearing me peddle my tea and asking you to back my Kickstarters. I’ve been struggling to get this business off the ground for eight years now. After my dad passed away last month, I had to take a minute and sit down and evaluate my life. I’ve made some major decisions about my business, not all of which I am currently at liberTEA to share, but one of the things I’ve decided is that it’s time to poop or get off the pot. So I have launched another (hopefully LAST) Kickstarter, and I DO need YOUR help.

If the thousands of people here on Steepster were all to pledge just $4 to my campaign, you’d get some great iced tea and I’d be so much closer to my goal. If all of you would post a single comment on the comment page, it would raise our popularity among all the other Kickstarter campaigns and make ours more visible to more people on Kickstarter. If each of you would share our campaign with your friends, and some of them shared it with their friends and so on, we could accomplish our goal in no time.

I NEED your help. I’m not asking for a handout. Our teas are worth every penny. I’m asking you to treat yourself to some delicious iced tea and support a small business, and my dream.




67 Replies

Added Bonus/something that will make you want to wash your eyes out with soap:

If we make our goal, I WILL dance a jig of gratitude AT the World Tea Expo this May and post a video of said horrifying performance for backers to see! Incidentally, I am 6’8, close to 400lbs and it will be a miracle if the convention hall can withstand such a dance. If I don’t break the convention hall, I’ll likely break something of myself, so pledge now if you want to see me make a fool of myself.

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Freudian Slip?

I have NO idea what you are talking about. ;)

Incidentally, please feel free to make your announcement whenever it suits you

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OMGsrsly said

Not only am I starting to become uncomfortable with the amount of fundraisers you have posted to Steepster, but I am confused as to why you are doing this as a Kickstarter rather than choosing other methods to promote your tea. Is it an advertising cost issue? People have a choice to buy from a Kickstarter, or from your website. The prices seem like they’re the same, so why wouldn’t I go through your website?

Oh, because there’s a Kickstarter-only value pack of 8 teas for $12?

Quite frankly, that seems like a huge profit loss to me, especially compared to your 1/$4. How will selling your teas for SO MUCH less allow your company to make enough money so you don’t have to do another Kickstarter? Redesigning a website and going to the World Tea Expo seem like they should be business costs that are factored in and budgeted for throughout the year.

+1 How many times are Steepsters supposed to save you? What happened to all of the money already given to you? Five Kickstarters only shows that money isn’t being handled well, we shouldn’t be asked to save you every few months. These things you’re buying with money from Kickstarter are, like OMG said, things you should be budgeting for throughout the year. We shouldn’t have to pay for your trip to the World Tea Expo or a website redesign or anything else like that.

Since November 2013, you’ve raised $35000 through Kickstarter. If you’re still struggling after all that, then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate before asking people to throw more money that has, by your own words, been struggling for eight years now.

My impression is that Kickstarter is to fund and support new, innovative ideas, not to save failing businesses.

Sil select said

That’s kind of where I’m at currently. Logically it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Anna said

Yeah, this is why this is a company I wouldn’t consider buying from. It all comes off as shady and completely unprofessional to me.

TeaLady441 said

“My impression is that Kickstarter is to fund and support new, innovative ideas, not to save failing businesses.”

Yes – I agree 100% with this! I’m sorry, but what’s going to make this Kickstarter any different than the least few? How long until we see another one?

OMGsrsly said

Whoa. $35,000? A lot of that will have gone to pay for the production of the rewards, but that’s pretty significant. I know he’s been working on improving the packaging, the way teas are sold, etc all year. There are a lot of good ideas that have been implemented. But if the only way you can drum up enough sales is through a kickstarter, then as a customer it feels like something is wrong with the business and advertising model. :/

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Uniquity said

I’m not sure how Kickstarter works, I’m not a drinker of iced teas, AND I’m rarely the voice of reason, but on this one, unless Jason et al ask Frank to reign it in, I think it’s fair for him to post. I get the impression that there have been money struggles, but this is part of the attempt to make it or break it. Of course we don’t have to contribute but it seems fair enough to ask. 52Teas used to be an extremely popular company with the Steepster set. I think that 52Teas/SBT has somewhat fallen out of favour but I see this as an attempt to revive it all or at least find out the situation and maybe move forward accordingly.

I do know there have been a number of kickstarters for Frank already, but again, until Kickstarter or the Steepster overlords cut him off, I think it’s fair to try to sell his ideas to his target market. I won’t be participating, but I do wish you good luck Frank!

Anna said

Who said anything about not posting? Are we reading the same thing?

Anna said

Why did you just quote three questions for the business owner? Are you saying potential/current/former customers should not be allowed to discuss said business owner’s practices?

I’ve been trying to stay out of this, but someone creating a sock account to “protect the city of Steepster from villains” is absolutely ludicrous. Just stop it already.

It’s not Frank. I’ll swear that on anything. I was sitting here thinking someone is going to think it’s me, but it’s NOT.

BTW, were some comments deleted or something. I missed the misogynistic quote and got totally lost. I thought someone was being misogynistic towards me, which would be funny, because I’m a man.

I swear, it’s NOT me. Please don’t blame me for this. I’m not lying.

I believe Frank. I think it’s someone else who doesn’t want to be too obvious about their savior complex.

Anna said

The Voice of Self-Righteousness and Misguided Moral Superiority would be a better name.

And they’re gone LOL

DarkStar said

Yeah account seems to have been deleted.

Anna said

Cowards will be cowards.

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SarsyPie said

The snark is kind of out of control on the boards lately. Some of the questions for Frank seem reasonable, but the tone is like a bunch of mean girls in a High school movie.


TeaLady441 said

I’m not sure if we’re ‘snarky’ or just fatigued after seeing the same old things on the boards year after year… Eventually you want to say something about it?

Agreed, Cavocorax. But when you call out one of the Steepster darlings like 52teas, you’re gonna get labelled as snarky. IMO, it’s not snarky, it’s unwilling to put up with BS.

Anna said

That’s a comment that REEKS of misogynism and you should be ashamed of yourself for spouting that kind of sexism.

Being a savvy consumer is not an acceptable practice for women now? Good to know. Let me go paint my nails and gossip about boys instead.

SarsyPie said

It was a movie quote. LOL. Maybe it’s time to calm down and have a nice cuppa tea.

Anna said

Yes, trolling the forums by dropping random movie quotes in random conversations that apparently don’t concern you seems like a great way to improve the tone on the forums. Swell idea; well done.

SarsyPie said

Methinks you doth protest too much. :)

SarsyPie said

Sheesh. Now I’m a liar and a troll? It’s from Death Proof. An absolutely amazing movie by Quentin Tarantino. Here’s a fun fact – I named my dog after one of the main characters. So what are you two doing later? Do you want to come over and have some tea? I have chamomile.

Anna said

Nope, not even a trite Shakespeare quote changes the fact that your comment was inappropriate and unacceptable.

Anna said

aisling of tea – I’d just ignore them. People with 0 reviews = trolls.

TeaLady441 said

I think maybe people are being a little too harsh her about a reference to the “Mean Girls” movie, but before the thread exploded, I didn’t actually see too much snark.

I think it’s fair to call someone out for using Kickstarter to keep a business from failing when they might just be taking advantage of Steepsterites generousity.

Anna said

Aside from our long-standing, friendly disagreement on what constitutes sexism, I’m totally with you, Cavocorax. Let me also quote myself, because that’s always awesome:

“Steepster is Fairyland, and that’s awesome on a personal level, as it keeps forum bickering to a minimum.

However, one of the issues with Steepster in terms of reviews of small tea vendors is exactly this – a bad review is considered equal to “bashing”, making “defamatory” statements or as perpetuating “drama”.

I’ve talked to numerous people who feel uncomfortable posting less than stellar reviews of vendors who participate on Steepster – one of the most common examples is WP, then there’s obviously 52 Teas – and so on.

Honestly, the perceived need to post nothing but stars and unicorns and sunlight regarding Steepster-participating vendors borders on mass psychosis.

“Cheers” and “peace” and the “path of understanding” are all excellent, but they REALLY don’t help me pick a tea company that delivers in terms of exceptional products and customer service. We all use Steepster differently, but, in the end, the majority of us are here to find good teas, and the right companies to buy them from."

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I don’t necessarily disagree with the opinions in this thread (and will never be a 52s customer for some of these reasons), but the more some of you post, the more angry/silly/snarky/irrelevant you sound. Also, those types of poorly constructed, mouthy posts are insulting to women, and I say that as a woman. So yah, no need to waste more time in this thread.

SarsyPie said

You’re right. I was trying to call out the meanness by adding a bit of levity, but it went in the wrong direction. Sometimes people don’t think I’m as funny as I know I am. Ahh well.

Anna said

You’re clearly not talking to me, so I won’t respond to this.

What I would like to stress, however, is that this is a thread about a fundraiser. Comments should preferably stick to the point – the fundraiser. Maybe a separate thread on forum tone could be started elsewhere? Keeps things more relevant.

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DarkStar said

Just a quick question. If you have done this already then I do apologise. Have you approached big retailers in the US and setup meetings with buyers? Sent out samples to big retailers in an attempt to create relationships and potential business etc. A lot of the time you would probably be ignored, however there could just be that one lucky break you are looking for. You would have nothing to lose by doing this…as you have said it has been a struggle for 8 years. You have the passion, keep pushing your product. If you don’t get any responses keep on trying.

Anna said


Absolutely. I’m always calling on retailers.

DarkStar said

Good to hear. I wish you all the best on your future endeavours.

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Wow. I wasn’t expecting to read this over my morning tea, but please, allow me a moment to defend myself.

My first Kickstarter was to raise $500 for a label dispenser, to speed up the process of applying labels. We raised nearly $18,000, a windfall to be sure and more than I had ever dreamed. YES, I went a little crazy. I bought a form, fill, seal machine, custom printed pouches, and my label dispenser.

The second Kickstarter was a fiasco that almost ending up costing me money because no matter how carefully I packaged the mason jar drinking glasses, they broke, and particularly the ones going overseas (that cost me a fortune in shipping charges to replace) but we did manage to get some custom point-of-purchase retail display boxes.

Our third Kickstarter lasted less than two weeks and the sole point was to be able to get us to a tradeshow in Las Vegas where we wanted to try to exhibit our teas. That was the worst one of all. I underestimated how much it would take to go to such a show, and then I kept telling myself it would work out, that we would get so many sales at the show it would make up for it. But the show was NOT good for us financially. I think we did about $800 in orders.

That said, I learned a LOT! I talked to a lot of distributors and other vendors at the show, and while it turned out that the show we went to, which was billed as a show for gift shops and other retailers, was primarily for toy stores and convenience stores (not a good fit for our teas). I learned more about what distributors and retailers are looking for in a product, and why our product was lacking in some ways (e.g. we only have one upc for all of our flavors). I learned a lot of other things as well, and while it nearly bankrupted us and I ended up having to put more money into the business and asking my silent partner to chip some in too, if I had it to do all over again, I would, because it was a hugely valuable education.

The fourth one I consider just pre-sales of our 12 Teas of Christmas, which we have done every year. I just thought we should do it on Kickstarter this year because a) it made fulfillment a little easier (separating the 12 Teas of Christmas orders from everything else), and b) I thought it would help expose the product to more people on the Kickstarter platform.

So, the short version of all of that is that, yes, I’ve made some mistakes, but the important thing is that I have learned from them. Common investment wisdom is that you should invest in someone who has failed a few times, because hopefully they have learned what doesn’t work.

The biggest mistake that I made, I think, is that despite the fact that I got my form, fill, seal machine (which really is amazingly helpful) in my first Kickstarter, I continued to think in terms of single unit pouches. I did this initially because the teas were so labor intensive and so expensive to produce that I never thought anyone would pay what I would need to charge for a larger quantity of teabags. But with the form, fill, seal machine, it’s not that bad. In fact, my costs now to create an 8-pack of teas is only about 3x the cost of what it takes to create a single pouch. This is something I hadn’t even considered calculating until about a month ago or so.

The thing is, when my dad passed away last month, it kind of jolted me into taking a really hard look at what I’m doing with the business. I’ve been at this for almost eight years now—longer if you count the many years I spent plotting and planning. We started as a tea bar and have evolved into an online tea vendor and through all of it, I have struggled. It’s not easy. I can tell you that if I gave it up today and got a job in accounting (I have a degree in accounting, believe it or not), my wife would be ecstatic.

After my dad died, I gave some thought to quitting. I seriously considered it. But after weighing all the pros and cons and considering all that I have learned so far and the equipment I’ve managed to purchase and my passion for tea (particularly iced tea), I decided instead that what I really need to do is refine my focus and work on what I am most passionate about.

For that reason, I have decided that March will be my last month producing 52teas. There are other people who are more passionate about hot teas, and one of them has agreed to take the reigns of 52teas for me. I will let her tell you about that in her time, but as for me, I want to make the best iced teas I can and I want to make Southern Boy Teas a household name. To do that, yes, I have turned back to Kickstarter one more time, and I’m asking for your support. I’m not asking you for a handout. I’m selling iced teas. I’m just doing it on the Kickstarter platform to try to generate enough support to fuel my dream. And if it doesn’t work, maybe I’ll give it up. I don’t know. I just know that I feel like I’m putting everything I have learned in the last eight years into something that I love and I’m hoping for the best.

This is probably way more than I should be sharing with everyone, but I feel like my customers are the biggest part of my company and I don’t see any reason not to share these things with you. Thanks for reading all of this and thank you for your support.

Anna said

No, I honestly feel it’s REALLY GOOD that you do choose to share this with former, current and potential customers, because it does answer many questions I, personally, have had about the company. Well done and thank you.

I’m not your client, but hugs…and good luck :-)

OMGsrsly said

Thank you for clarifying some of the previous kickstarters. I wish you the best in your endeavor.

Thank you for clarifying, Frank. However, I still stand by my original post. As for the rest…well, I’m bored and irritated by the blind faith people have in you. Steepster acts like Frank can do no wrong. He can do wrong and when he does, he deserves to be called on it. The sockpuppet is proof of how far people will go to “protect” him from having to answer for his mistakes.

Sil select said

Frank – THIS goes miles to help understand. Like i said in my previous comment, the logic just wasn’t working for me. Appreciate you clarifying!

OMGsrsly said

The presales for the Christmas sets totally make sense as a Kickstarter. I think that’s a great way to have a limited edition kit and drum up some enthusiasm for your product.

But I just remembered that about a month ago you posted asking for sales urgently. I don’t need to know why, but it is concerning.

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Jason select said

I’m unlocking this thread as it seems to have cooled off towards the end. It appears like I may have missed some of the more inflamatory remarks (mentions of sexism?) which are obviously never okay in this forums. If anyone knows what account posted those, please contact me directly with the information.

As to the overall conversation here, I don’t think anyone was inherently wrong in their posts. We want to allow vendors to be able to market their products here to their benefit and the benefit of the community, and we also want people to feel free to respond honestly and openly about tea companies and their products/practices. While we know everyone won’t always agree or even get along, we always encourage and expect interactions to be done in a postive and constructive fashion. There’s no need for destructive/inflamatory or negative remarks directed as any specific user. If you don’t feel you can be constructive in your criticisms, it’s best to not comment at all. (I’m saying this generally, it’s not intended to be directed at any specific users in this thread)

As always, we want people to feel free to post and interact on the forums without hesitation. Please help us keep this place a friendly and open environment for honest, constructive conversation. Thanks.

Thanks Jason. I’m not here to argue with anyone, and I AM open to constructive criticism. I’m only human; I know I’ve made mistakes. I just want to learn from them and grow beyond them.

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I feel like I brought up quite a few valid points in the post that was deleted, so I’m going to repost my response here. It does need to be recorded that after this thread was locked, Frank started a new post directed at me specifically instead of accepting the locked thread and moving on.

I’m editing a few things out in the hope of remaining civil, but I still feel this needs to be said, especially since in the other thread, Frank did ask to be called out.

…the purpose of locking a thread is to stop the conversation. So instead, you started a new thread instead of letting the old one die. And call me out in it specifically, nice. The old post is still there, people can still read it, there was no reason to make this thread.

If you don’t want to start arguments, don’t call people out by name in your post. But since you are obviously looking for a response from me, here goes.

I don’t like your teas. They are poor quality and the ones I have tried have not been worth the money paid, and that was three years ago when they were still reasonably priced. You post over and over begging for money, playing on people’s sympathies.

Am I supposed to be impressed that you maxed out nine credit cards? That doesn’t show commitment, it shows foolishness.

Regardless, it is all unprofessional. Complaining about how you can’t make it in America without being wealthy is unprofessional. Begging your customers to buy from you because you don’t have enough money to pay the bills tomorrow is unprofessional.

So there you are. I’ve called you out on your bad teas and your unprofessional attitude, like you asked. I can bet I’m not the only one rubbed the wrong way by this post.

If we can remain civil about this, I would like to respond to it.

I wasn’t “calling you out” so much as attempting to respond to your criticisms from your last post in this thread. I am sorry if that upset you.

I’m sorry you don’t like our teas. I think we make excellent teas. In particular, I believe our Southern Boy Teas are the finest iced teas available bar none. I can only assume that someone as forthright as yourself would have surely posted tasting notes/reviews of all of our teas that you have tried. From your profile I see that you’ve tried five of our teas and seemed to enjoy our Watermelon tea. Regardless, I respect your right to not like our teas. I’m just asking you to respect my right to let the people who DO like our teas know about my Kickstarter campaign without being accused of playing on people’s sympathies or whatever other offenses you feel I have committed.

If you don’t like my teas or you think I am unprofessional, please don’t patronize my business. And by all means, please feel free to tell others that you think my teas are poor quality and that I’m unprofessional, but don’t expect me to not defend myself.

Jason select said

Let’s leave it at that, thanks.

I have not patronized your business in years and I don’t intend to start any time soon. By your own admission, I’ve tried five of your teas and only liked one. And if you read my review of that one, I said, and I quote “It was very good, the tea came out a bit bitter to me, but I’m picky about my black teas. I look forward to trying it again, though!” So it was bitter, but I tried to put a positive spin on it. But one out of five stars is in no way a positive review. And don’t worry, I have never once hesitated to tell others what I think of your teas and professionalism.

Edit to add:
I’m sorry, Jason, I started writing this before I saw your comment and now I’m done, I won’t say any more on this thread.

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