After 3 years as the Director of European Retail Operations for the widely successful luxury fashion house Michael Kors, entrepreneurial spirit and mother of four Natasha Kelly launched artisan tea shop Tiosk. Back in November 2014, Natasha and her co-founder opened their doors to East London’s stylishly health-conscious crowd, who for over a year now have been enjoying the vegan goodies and both the fresh or loose leaf teas on offer by Natasha and her team. The shop, situated in the heart of Hackney’s emerging creative culture, is Natasha’s first tea-based business venture and shows zero sign of slowing down any time soon.
Getting to Know Natasha
What were you doing before you set up Tiosk?
I have spent the last 30 years in fashion retail and operations, working for some of the biggest American fashion brands, which has gained me an amazing amount of experience and business acumen over the years. However.. .there are only so many years that you can hand yourself over so completely to corporate America, in a business that is not your own – particularly as I have 4 children. So, eighteen months ago I decided to take the plunge and put everything on the line, along with my business partner, to start the brand that is now Tiosk.
Why did you decide to set up a coffee shop?
Almost three years ago now, my business partner and I were lamenting how hard we worked to line someone else’s pockets and wouldn’t it make much more sense for us to do this for ourselves? We then set about coming up with ideas, ranging from the completely daft to the potentially exciting. TIOSK was one of the latter. The core concept is based on the theory that in 2015, tea should have the same attention as coffee. Premium tea should be easily accessible on the high street, in all its varieties, served in a contemporary, inviting environment. To date it remains the poor sister in most cafes. Most of us no longer think granulated coffee is enticing, equally it seems so old fashioned to give someone a cup of tea with a tatty old tea bag clinging to the cup. Nowadays it seems outdated to sell food that is bad for our bodies. Given the many health benefits of tea, it was a very obvious pairing.
Can you tell us a bit more about the food you serve?
It made sense to pair a healthy drink with healthy, wholesome food. Having been fortunate enough to have been brought up on an organic, wholefood diet, it seemed the natural thing for us to serve wholesome, nourishing food with the teas. In a way, they both serve to compliment the other.
Who is the classic Tiosk customer?
There are so, so many different types. Certainly for the most part they are health conscious, active types – which is great for TIOSK. We have many creative types here too, with whom we have built lasting relationships and will gratefully continue to collaborate with. We have Yoga instructors (a lot!), radio DJ’s, artists, photographers, and LOTS of entrepreneurs. It’s a really interesting community of people.
How do you compete with the overflow of organic cafes?
When we first opened our doors last November, we were the first ‘Health food‘ cafe and modern tea store on the street. There is a lovely vegan cafe who has been on the street for years, but otherwise there were not many other health-oriented options. Healthy food is currently seeing a huge uplift in the market (and about time too), so it is natural that people will follow these trends that have developed Broadway Market into what it is today.
How do you maintain focus?
When your house or your car or your office desk is a mess, it’s really hard to remain focused, and therefore really hard to stay calm. For me, an unfussy, simple but comfortable environment helps to wash away the stresses of modern life – of which there are so, so many. I hope that a visit to Tiosk and the environment we have created here can in some way help restore health to both your body and mind.
Do you have any wellness hacks?
Matcha latte wins hands down. However, there are some new drinks coming soon for winter that may well eclipse this. Our Milk Oolong is another very popular tea. Oolongs are very under valued commercially – which is one of the things we will be addressing when we launch the wholesale arm of the business.
Where did your inspiration for Tiosk come from?
I think it would have to be Stockholm, Sweden, as it was the last city I visited before starting up Tiosk. The Scandinavians use natural materials in such a simple, clean modern way. In fact, it was a spa that I visited whilst there that inspired the copper that you see all around in the store. Much of the interior of Tiosk is inspired by my past travels, Berlin, Rome, Paris and many more.
What are your plans for the future?
With regards to the future… there are LOTS of exciting developments for the brand in the new year. There was never going to be just one Tiosk… Growth is most definitely on the map!