Mothering a fledgling: How the mother-daughter relationship behind Bird & Blend has helped the business to bloom.
With Mother’s Day (Sunday 22nd March) right around the corner, it seems fitting to focus on a British born-and-bred company that puts family at the centre of its business approach. Tea mixologists Bird & Blend started out life as a small, independent tea brand, but thanks to the mother-daughter relationship at its core, is now a thriving, award-winning business.
Krisi Smith founded Bird & Blend back in 2013. After working in the tea industry for years, she decided it was high time to put her skills to better use, gain back some control, and be her own boss. Alongside her partner, Mike, Krisi nurtured the business and grew it from a fledgling to a fully mature company with various accolades to its name.
Yet it’s not just Mike that has helped Krisi achieve such impressive success. In fact, Bird & Blend took flight in her mum’s back bedroom, where Mike and Krisi lived when they needed to focus all their finances on raising their baby. “My mum has been our number one champion since day dot,” says Krisi.
Krisi’s mum, Andrea has always been a hands-on member of the team, ever since the brand launched some seven years ago. She was the very first person to read the initial business plan and acted as chief guinea pig during early-stage product testing sessions, which would take place in Andrea’s, garden. “We used to hold tasting sessions for my mum and her friends,” says Krisi. “It was a great way to gain feedback on our flavours.”
Andrea also put in plenty of man hours, helping the couple to get their products ready for retail. “We’d pack tea in the bedroom and all go to local markets together to sell our creations. My mum would work cold market stalls and boiling hot festivals, all for free, to help us get the business off the ground. She still regularly does shifts in our Nottingham store, when they’re short staffed!”
More recently, Andrea has followed her own dream of moving to Spain, a decision that was partly motivated by the inspiring success story of her daughter’s own leap of faith. “Now she’s further away we catch up most days on the phone, especially if I need advice,” Krisi explains. “She’s always been incredibly patient with her time, helping to guide me through difficult conversations, or trouble I’ve gotten into over the years, as the business has undergone growing pains.”
If Andrea knows that Krisi is having a bad day, or is facing a tough time, she will send her sweet messages to help her stay focused, or to simply cheer her up. “She sends me motivational quotes or sometimes just a picture of a Lion emoji, to remind me to roar,” Krisi laughs. “If she can’t get hold of me on the phone, she has an amusing habit of jumping on our live chat and asking Georgina, our Customer Experience Manager, to get me to call her back! When it goes off, everyone in the office says ‘Mama Teabird is on the live chat again, Krisi’.”
Andrea’s digital presence doesn’t stop there. Always the first person to support and praise her daughter, she can often be found responding to customer comments on Bird & Blend’s Twitter page (@BirdandBlendTea) – from her personal account! “Mum sometimes responds to comments and tells people how proud she is of me,” Krisi says. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but our customers love it because they feel like they’re tweeting a celebrity!”
Krisi’s mum also loves a face-to-face customer encounter and often gushes about her daughter’s achievements in-store. “She’ll shout ‘It’s my daughter’s company, she’s so clever’,” says Krisi. “She also explains to people that I make all the products myself and that they all taste amazing. I sometime apologise to people, but I think they love and appreciate our close bond. It’s what makes Bird & Blend so special.”
Andrea is also always on hand to make sure Krisi keeps standards high, so every time she takes to social media or attends an important business meeting with chipped nails, Andrea is the first person to call her out on it. “My mum tells me off for looking scruffy,” Krisi laughs. “She says she didn’t raise me to have chipped nails, but since I have such a hands-on role in the business, I don’t always have time for a manicure!”
Yet this adorable mother-daughter dynamic hasn’t always been this way around. In fact, back when she was a student, Krisi used to work for her mum. “Mum used to be a bank manager and I would help out on the cashier’s desk during the summer holidays,” Krisi explains. “I loved working for her, although trying not to call her mum in front of customers was always funny!”
So when Andrea decided she wanted to do more for Bird & Blend, working remotely from Spain to focus on the brand’s customer service and social media channels, Krisi had no reservations. “I knew we would work well together, so mum came over from Spain for a week’s worth of training. It was so nice to be back in the workplace with her and to see her in my hometown again.”
Krisi’s mum is also known for referring to Bird & Blend as her baby, or more accurately, her grandbaby, and wants to one day pen her own book, for which she already has a title in mind: Teaching Bluebird to Fly.
Thanks to this close-knit family support system, Krisi has been able to turn her fledgling start-up into an award-winning tea mixology business with retail stores across the UK, including Bristol, London, Nottingham, Manchester, and Cardiff.
On a mission to reimagine the brew, Bird & Blend is leading the way in British tea innovation, offering the country’s largest range of creative blends, crafted from a wide range of ingredients including herbs, flowers, fruits, caramels, and chocolate.
As well as their online venture and Tea Mixology stores, Krisi and her family also attend festivals and run educational workshops, to show people a different side of the Great British brew.
For Mother’s Day, Bird & Blend is offering a selection of beautiful products, inspired by mother-daughter relationships. With an array of tailored gifts that are aimed to suit individuals down to a T, customers can build their own gift boxes (from £16.99), select Loose Leaf Tea Gift Packs (from £4.35), or Tea Experience Bundles (£25), in order to create the perfect present for their mum.