Annie Haven's manure tea bags might appear steeped in novelty, but when it comes to brewing up business, the woman knows her you-know-what.
"I didn't just look at my cows and say I'm going to sell manure," Haven, a rancher in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., told WalletPop.
Just for clarification: You don't drink manure tea. You pour it in your soil so plants and flowers flourish. She makes the teabags bigger so you won't confuse them with the potable kind. But you brew it in a jar like sun tea.
Haven Authentic Brand tea bags have become a hit among ecology-minded home gardeners, with more than 3,000 disciples on Twitter, according to the Orange County Register. They're also generating constant comment for the packaging, even if Haven says that isn't what's driving consumers and retailers.
"I'm not really sure they're attracted to the gimmick of it," she said. "It's the ease of it."
No stench. No hauling of the unedited stuff required. And plants receive a direct blast of nutrients at the roots, according to Haven. Pre-brewed won't work, she explained, because the vitamins dissolve too quickly. Haven said the goods emerge from grass-eating cattle that are drug- and hormone-free. She won't reveal her process for distilling the teabag-ready stuff, but assures that it's by "environmental design."
The price ($12.95 for three teabags of cow or horse "soil conditioner") is positively Lipton-like when you realize that you can make five gallons per bag. That's a lot of watering, given that most of her customers tend to foliage in a small space, she told WalletPop.
Since she began selling the teabags, she estimated that her income has increased by a third. Development of her once-rural surroundings shrank her livestock enterprise. Fewer farmers and growers required her services, so she developed a product that she could sell to the very people who now occupy the built-up spaces.
Therein lies Haven's lesson for small-business owners: Meet a need with the resources you have and the conditions you live in.
"I've grown the business as the business has demanded growth," she said. "Sales built the product, the product built the website."
Haven's grandmother brewed manure tea, and a Canadian company tried packaging a brand of manure
tea years ago but made the teabags so close to human-portion size that perhaps they over-exploited the gimmick of it, she explained.
So far, the rancher has avoided critical missteps. Said Haven: "I know this baby from the ground up."
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