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Leading a business back from the brink

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In the summer of 2002, spurred by the desire for a homey, neighborhood haven after Sept. 11, the techno songwriter, musician and singer Moby opened a tea shop in lower Manhattan. With his ex-girlfriend as his business partner, Moby saw a niche for a teahouse that was neither English nor Asian, but American.

Their mistake: They opened the café, called Teany, offering 93 steaming hot teas on a steaming hot day in the summer.

“It was really stupid of us,” admits co-owner Kelly Tisdale. “We didn’t even think of iced drinks.” She quickly made iced tea and salvaged the launch, although the shop lost lots of money in its first nine months.

They made other mistakes. The complicated menu featured expensive ingredients that spoiled rapidly, meaning Teany was losing a dollar on every sandwich. Their cook set them straight on that one.

Moby thinks starting out small helped Teany, “because then your mistakes are small mistakes.” The shop recovered from its initial missteps, breaking even in the second year and launching a line of bottled teas in New York and Paris. Besides teas flavored with juices and spices, the brand features drinks spiked with alcohol, including the Teany Bellini and the MarTeany.

Other factors that helped Teany rebound are Moby’s obsession with customer service and his passion for starting new things.

“Most people’s best day would be on the beach at St. Barth’s,” he says. “Me, it was being in Union, NJ, at the bottling plant. You feel like a queen bee giving birth to a few hundred thousand babies.”

—Adapted from “Moby, remixed,” Elyssa Lee and Rob Turner, Inc.

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