As a platform that brings buyers together directly with tea farmers, Tealet cuts out the middleman in the tea industry. Currently, the company boasts a grower network composed of family farms and independent cooperatives in eight different countries and 15 different growing regions, creating line of sight from field to cup, and breaking down supply-chain barriers in the process.
“What I’m trying to do here is empower a vast network of autonomous entrepreneurs that can really take their engagement with the market to the level that they want to,” said Elyse Petersen, founder and CEO of Tealet. “In the conventional, international commodities business, your source is your trade secret. My business model was the first one to completely open that all up and say what matters is the trust and transparency.”
That desire for openness and fairness in transactional relationships drove Petersen to seek out a payment provider who would not only share those values but also create a similarly accessible experience for her partners. That’s when Veem came on the scene.
“I remember reading about Veem in a crypto newsletter or something, and I was like, ‘I have to know what’s going on here.’ I started using them immediately; it just made perfect sense,” Petersen recalled.
With international financial transactions as one of Tealet’s biggest pain points, bringing Veem into the fold not only allowed for more transparency, but a strong cost-savings as well.
“On average, the fee [before Veem] was like 12 percent when we were sending payments to the farmers,” Petersen noted. “Our business model is all about empowering the oppressed, so we would cover those costs, but that was cutting into our margins and affecting the competition of the product whenever it reached the U.S. So, there was no question about using Veem.”
The company’s focus on fair trade led to a fast growth in its supplier network. In fact, it became common for Petersen to book a meeting with a potential partner, only to arrive and find they had invited a dozen of their peers.
“From day one, word spread fast,” recalled Petersen. “At the local markets and auctions where tea farmers sell their products, even if they’re high-quality, artisanal-level products, the highest price they’ll ever get is $5 a kilogram. On a platform like mine, we are easily paying at least $50 a kilogram. That’s a huge, drastic difference, and so word travels fast.”
As Tealet’s renown grew, so too, did its need for transparent payments. With some of her supplier partners new to international payments, they were wary and wanted to have confirmation around the transaction details and totals. While a reasonable request, the U.S. banking system created a number of barriers to being able to comply.
“The first time I sent a payment, and it was missing money, I felt the reaction from the farmer,” said Petersen. “I knew from that point forward whatever transactions we do with these folks, they have to be clean-cut and clear, so they get the exact amount that they are supposed to get.”
That certainty of payment meant that prior to using Veem, Petersen spent hours researching exchange rates and bank fees and upscaling the payment accordingly to ensure the farmer received the right amount. It was a time-consuming guessing game—one the diverted Petersen’s attention from the business itself.
“With other payment types, I had to anticipate what the loss would be for them and then pad the payments to them to make sure that once everything went through that 100 percent of the invoice was actually in the account. With Veem, you know exactly what’s going on,” she shared.
Today, Petersen uses Veem for nearly all of her supplier payments.
“We’re able to use Veem to pay growers in Nepal or Malawi, which Veem did not service at first but now they’re servicing, and it’s been a huge game changer,” she shared. “I think several of the farmers, since we’ve introduced Veem to them, are using it outside of the business they do with us. It’s definitely had a ripple effect.”
As Petersen’s work continues, she’s exploring the use of the metaverse for facilitating new types of interpersonal relationships at Tealet and beyond. And she plans to continue working with Veem as she expands.
“Veem is already servicing large-scale business, and my business is small compared to what it’s already handling,” Petersen concluded. “If we find an opportunity to scale into another industry or start brokering larger consignments, I know Veem’s going to be prepared to work with us.”
Veem is a global payments network built for businesses. We began in 2014 with the intention of making international money transfers as simple as purchasing a cup of coffee. Since then, we’ve revolutionized the way businesses pay and get paid around the world by empowering owners, accountants, and financial professionals to take control over their payment processes. We level the playing field by providing enterprise-level financial tools and negotiating power to the small businesses who need it most.