We had the good fortune of connecting with Susannah Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susannah, what role has risk played in your life or career?
When I first had the idea of starting a tea company, it was definitely a little scary because it seemed like such a big risk. Before diving in, I spent a good deal of time researching business models, thinking through different scenarios, and developing a business plan. That process helped reduce my risk and ultimately gave me the confidence to launch Thistle & Sprig Tea Co.
I think most small business owners think about risk at some level, because risk tolerance plays a big part in how we make decisions. And now we’re seeing and discussing it on a larger scale because of the pandemic. When I make decisions, I try to consider both: 1) how likely is it that something bad will happen; and 2) how bad can the bad outcome be? In the case of starting a business, the worst case scenario was simply failing and moving on to something else–which really, is not such a horrible outcome. In the case of coronavirus, I think most of us acknowledge that we need to do as much as possible to reduce transmission, because people dying is about as bad of an outcome as it gets. Right now we’re all in this crisis together, and the only way we’ll be able to put it behind us is if we decide collectively that the risk just is not worth it.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
It’s been a real labor of love to get to where Thistle & Sprig is today. One of the most unexpected parts of the journey is that I initially envisioned this company as primarily a wholesale business, selling to other brick and mortar shops. However, over the past couple of years, I have enjoyed developing relationships with customers directly and now we are moving much more into the direct-to-consumer space with our online store.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great spots in Atlanta, but here are some of my highlights for out-of-town visitors: Take a driving tour thru the historic Eastside neighborhoods, with a stop at Krog Street Market to grab a bite and shop at The Collective. Walk along the Eastside BeltLine and pop in to Ponce City Market, point out all the former Sears artifacts, and browse the local shops. Have an amazing breakfast at Home Grown, Ria’s, or Petit Chou. Tour the Westside BeltLine and the string of breweries along there. Definitely hit up the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sunday morning. And go for a hike at Arabia Mountain if it’s nice out, or explore a museum if it’s rainy – The High, Atlanta History Center, The Carter Center, and the Center for Civil & Human Rights are all excellent.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Definitely a shoutout needs to go to my husband, Dr. Paul Gross, who is also a small business owner of Terminus Chiropractic, located in Cabbagetown, and the most endlessly supportive person in the world. I’m so lucky to have a partner that not only understands what it’s like to own a business, but is also my greatest advocate. He is someone who works hard all day to help others be their healthiest, best selves, and is never too tired to do the same for me.