Upon one of my recent trips to Roatan, Honduras, I just happened to be sharing a dorm style room with the founder of Zen Green Tea, Erin Young, who is from Sydney, Australia.
Inspired by her story, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin so she could share her journey of starting her own business and creating a location independent lifestyle for herself.
Zen Green Tea was founded in February 2012, and at first was exclusively run out of Sydney. However, in the most recent years, through specific goal setting and strategic operational structuring, Erin was able to set up her business in a way which allowed her to successfully run Zen Green Tea while traveling the world!
Have you ever wondered what it really takes to start your own business?
Have you ever fantasized about how you can get paid for a job you love while traveling the world?
Here, Erin will share how she was able to do both!
What are the key steps to take in order to start a business you can run remotely?
- Identify what your key goals in life are first. This way you can ensure you build a business that aligns with your ideal lifestyle.
- Read The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris and set your business up so that one day you will not have to be physically involved in the day to day operations.
- Ensure you set revenue and profit margin milestones that afford you the option to work remotely. That being said, one of the benefits of working remotely is that you can often live in cheaper countries, therefore you need less income than you would to live in your home city. This was certainly the case for me. In Sydney, my living costs would be around $2,500 AUD a month, whereas my monthly travel costs average out at $1,200 AUD.
What are the challenges of starting a new business?
Finding the right idea and testing the idea before you put too much money into it. Isolation can also be a big challenge as you can often find yourself becoming anxious from the financial stress and the loneliness of not working with a team.
For me it certainly was not all smooth sailing — I juggled full-time work alongside building my tea business so I could invest the profits back into growing my company. I was also originally rejected from over 100 retail stores who did know what matcha green tea powder was at the time. Looking back, I now see how being rejected from all those stores actually helped bring clarity to my vision for the business. I focused solely on my website and built real relationships with my customers through emails, Instagram and Facebook, where I now have over 15.3 thousand email subscribers and 7 thousand followers respectively. All of my customers know me and have seen the journey of my business, which has built incredible brand loyalty.
How did you come up with a product idea?
I loved tea, especially green tea, primarily because of the health benefits, but I always hated the bitterness. At the time, I began researching online for a non-bitter green tea and that’s when I discovered matcha green tea powder. Matcha is a whole tea leaf dissolved in water, delivering 137 times the antioxidants of a standard green tea. At that moment, I knew I had to try it; however, I could not buy it anywhere in Australia. I made contact with a number of small sustainable tea farms and ordered their matcha green tea. I spent months tasting and choosing the perfect blend, which I then started selling to friends and family. When I started to get word of mouth business I knew I was onto something, so I built a website and it went from there.
Do you have any tips for someone looking to start a location independent business?
- Test your ideas in the cheapest way possible before you invest too much time and money.
- Work from a communal space to keep your sanity, whether it’s a library or coworking space.
- Understand that it might take time to build a revenue stream, so consider starting it on the side while you do full-time work. It took me four years to build an income equivalent to what I could earn in a salaried job.
What made you want to become a digital nomad?
I love the idea of being a global citizen and experiencing the world. Travel is the best thing I’ve done in my life so far. I love meeting new and interesting people and learning new skills in the different countries I visit.
What was the biggest challenge of being a digital nomad and running a business remotely?
For me it was a loss of community—I was traveling alone so I would miss having old friends around and work colleagues. It is hard to walk a different path to everyone and I was also worried that a nomadic lifestyle may mean I would not meet a partner to share life with. Recently, however, I changed my style of traveling from less backpacking to being based in a city for a longer period of time. Spending two months is Medellin, Colombia was incredible as I met many amazing friends and I also met my current boyfriend who is location independent like me.
How do you balance work and play while traveling?
I have phases of growth and maintain with my business. When I’m based in a city for a month I go into a growth phase where I tackle new projects and focus on expanding my business. I will likely work full 40 hour weeks in these phases. When I backpack I go into a maintain phase, where I only do what I need to in order to keep the business running. This is generally 4 hours a week worth of work. I also ensure that I listen to my fatigue levels. If I start to procrastinate, I just stop my task and I go and do something fun that is not work, that way when I work I am focused. If I’m not focused, I may as well just take the time off.
Any tips for managing finances while abroad?
I ensure that I have enough cash flow to cover the needs of my business and I always spend frugally on a day to day basis. Frugally spending allows me to then consciously plan out the more expensive things I’d like to do, such as like salsa lessons or diving, and be confident that I have the money to do it.
What is your favorite part about being a digital nomad?
I love the variety of experiences you have while traveling, coupled with the nice feeling that you are building a business and growing your financial position. Travel is usually a “guilty” experience with a time limit because people are not earning money while they do it. For me, it’s a lifestyle and I’d love to keep doing this for a long time to come.
In total, I’ve traveled to 58 countries, but the past 18 months I have lived and worked in 17 countries.
What are your three must-have items while working abroad?
- A high-speed lightweight laptop: It is so important that your laptop is top quality because it will save you lots of headaches and time!
- 7 kilo or below backpack: I always travel with less than 7 kilos (including laptop). It’s so convenient to not have to wait for luggage at airports, and it means I can always stay with my bag on transport. I’m sure it has saved me loads of money and I’ve never had anything stolen.
- Kindle: I love my Kindle so much. I have over 3,000 books on it, and read one book a week, minimum. The amount of learning and inspiration I draw from these books is incredible. I also meet other Kindle travelers and it’s so fun to swap books with each other— It adds another layer of growth and learning to all my travels.
Best place for location independent workers?
So far, Medellin in Colombia. The city is inexpensive and is filled with networking catch ups and digital nomads in the city. I also adored learning how to salsa dance!
Where do you plan on traveling to next?
I leave in a month to go to Eastern Europe—My boyfriend and I plan to buy a van and drive from Russia to Croatia. Can’t wait!
Tips for someone who is thinking about becoming location independent?
Absolutely do it! Get reading, start brainstorming your ideas, set yourself an income figure you need to hit and work backwards to achieve it.