Timbarra T House owner operator Camilla Brown chats with us about how she has intersected her passions for art and tea-making within her business.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A CUP OF TEA?
First take a tea cup, drop in a tea bag, pour in hot water, add a splash of milk, spoon in some sugar (if you aren’t sweet enough), stir and voila. This is not the case for Camilla Brown. First she sources a myriad of local ingredients from around Queensland, then blends them together to perfection and produces a final product that is as tasty as it is unique. It’s then served with a smile at her business, the Timbarra T House in Esk. We sat down with Camilla over a cuppa and got straight down to business.
WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?
Initially, my target market was the Esk community, however since opening the tea house I have found that the majority of my customers are visitors to the region. More specifically, I’ve found my target market is tourists who are after a unique experience and something a little different from the average take-away flat white routine.
WHAT INSPIRED THE TIMBARRA T HOUSE?
I have to say that I was inspired by a book among other things, but mostly, my inspiration came from the desire to have my own niche boutique that also provided me with some local employment.
WHY OPEN A TEA HOUSE?
Since there are plenty of cafes in town, I had to come up with something different, so I did a tea course with The Australian Tea Masters. I already had a hygienic handling of food certificate, which I acquired in preparation for my art exhibition opening at the Glen Rock Gallery in 2015. I have owned a restaurant before but I did not want to create such a heavy work load that’s required when running a restaurant. That’s why I decided on a tea house that could operate during those typical times when people might have a cuppa.
IF YOU HAVE THE WORLDS ATTENTION FOR JUST ONE MINUTE, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO TELL THEM ABOUT THE TIMBARRA T HOUSE?
In a ‘Shark Tank’ situation, I would stress that taking the time to enjoy a new tea experience, and leaving with the feeling that it was worth it, is what my hand-crafted blends will do. Secondly, the drinker can be assured that the tea consumed from my range really is a positive experience on so many levels. Not least of all, I believe there are health benefits to drinking tea, and many others will agree. Although, I’m not an herbalist, I’m a big believer that taking time out to relax and enjoy naturally blended teas does have a variety of health benefits.
DO YOU ADVERTISE?
Advertising has been a bit of trial and error for me. I’ve tried advertising in local newspapers and got a good response from an editorial in a local newspaper. However, I’ve found that the best form of advertising for my business has been through word of mouth. Through word of mouth, I’ve already filled orders for customers as far north as Cairns and Rockhampton via mail. So moving forward, as a small business, I would opt for less expensive and time consuming methods of marketing rather than paid advertising.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR PRODUCT?
I think it’s important to get involved in the local community and I recently participated in the Gatton Star’s Town Proud campaign. I would have liked to have seen more locals get onboard and support this campaign. This year, I am also investigating some new marketing methods including online and social media.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
I find that the majority of business takes place on the main street of Esk, so being positioned on a side street can be a slight disadvantage. This year I’m looking into how I can combat these issues with new marketing techniques.
I’ve also recently been challenged by the hot weather, as the tea house can get a bit warm. I’ve identified that a floor plan change will help alleviate this issue, so this is definitely on the cards in the near future.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO IMPROVE?
It has been a real struggle trying to crack into the local market. I would dearly love to welcome more local Esk residents through my doors, but I’ve found this quite difficult as most of my patronage comes from outside the region. I’d really like to see a little more camaraderie amongst the local business network and community and I’m eager to work together with others to see how we can increase visitation, stay and spend in Esk.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS?
I have received good advice from my accountant regarding book keeping and recording. I also take advantage of the small business seminars the ATO run regularly. They’re free of charge and I’ve attended one as a sole trader and sought clarifications on tax issues which has been a great help.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TIMBARRA T HOUSE FRESH AND NEW?
I change my menu regularly so there is often new dishes and teas for visitors to try. As I’m an artist and create many of the works on display, I enjoy changing the art around and making new pieces to keep the place fresh and colourful.
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TIMBARRA T HOUSE
5 Highland Street, Esk
07 5424 1677
Timbarra T House website