IT all started when she was pregnant and didn’t like the taste of the herbal teas she took to alleviate her morning sickness and heartburn.
Anna Louise Simpson set up her own company making a range of herbal blends, the business took off – and now the mother-of-two from Cramond is hoping to start selling tea to China.
She sets off next week on a seven-day trade mission to the Far East backed by the Scottish Government.
Mrs Simpson, 38, whose company Mama Tea Ltd – set up in 2009 – earned her the title of the UK’s top “Mumpreneur”, will be trying to establish links in China and Japan to sell not only her pregnancy-friendly teas, but also a new brand, Keep Calm teas, which she plans to launch in about six weeks.
The former corporate lawyer said: “Mama Tea is very much a niche, yummy mummy tea brand. Keep Calm is more for the general market and is branded as very British.
“I know it sounds a bit like selling ice to Eskimos, but although China is the source of so much tea, we think there is a real opportunity.
“Herbal is starting to boom in China.
“And we think Keep Calm teas will go down well with the ex-pat community and anyone who likes to buy good quality British imported products.”
Mrs Simpson said she already supplied rooibos tea to a retailer in South Africa, even though rooibos originated there.
“There is no reason why a well-produced, well-branded, well-marketed product cannot be sold back to the country which produces the raw ingredients,” she said.
She is one of 17 top food and drink retailers taking part in the trade mission to China and Japan. Most of her marketing is done over the internet and she already sells to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy and Barbados.
But she leapt at the chance of the mission to China. “You can’t beat jumping on a flight, looking someone in the eye and doing business.”
She still juggles her expanding business career with looking after children Annabelle, six, and Alexander, four.
She said: “I’ve promised them the next time I go to China I will take them.”
The joint initiative between Scottish Development International (SDI) and Scotland Food and Drink (SF&D) comes on the back of Scottish food and drink exports to Asia reaching a record high of more than £1 billion in 2011, with exports to Japan increasing by 25 per cent year-on-year to £91 million.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, who is to lead the trade mission, said: “This visit provides an opportunity to showcase the very best of Scottish produce in two key growth markets. I hope this mission will help boost some of Scotland’s household names to be global food and drink brands.
“Scotland is renowned for producing food and drink of world-class quality and companies are tapping into the huge enthusiasm by global consumers for the provenance of our food and drink, as well as its heritage and uniqueness.”