With 25 years as a high-end retail director for an enormously successful American brand under her belt, Natasha Kelly and her business partner set out to create a business in line with their passions, values and work ethic. Years devoting their time and energy to lining the pockets of corporate giants, the pair decided it was time to branch out and establish their own line of work. After a year of dreaming, plotting and planning – TIOSK was born. Read on for our exclusive interview with ACEY-WOMAN Natasha Kelly.
What was the catalyst that motivated you to make the switch from the luxurious life of a high-end fashion retail director to the humble life of a tea merchant?
I wouldn’t say it was a luxurious life in high-end fashion, more of a completely crazy life in luxury high-end fashion! There was no catalyst really, just years of scheming and dreaming, mostly about beautiful fashion/lifestyle stores, given my fashion background and studies, I had always focused on fashion related ideas. Tea, food and cafes were not even in my top 100! There are only so many years of your life that you can hand over so completely to corporate America in a business that is not your own, especially when you have 4 children, so 18 months ago I finally took the plunge into the business of tea, healthy food and cafes!
What tools did 25 years of working in the fashion industry provide you with for embarking on your new career?
Everything and nothing. I left armed with a vast array of experience, skills and knowledge. I was responsible for the bottom line, the top line, buying, merchandising, recruiting and ultimately directing the European operations of a major American fashion brand. So much of this is applicable to any business, however in the same breath, nothing can prepare you for the business that is - food and drink hospitality!
How did the Tiosk concept come to be?
Almost 3 years ago now, my business partner and I were lamenting how hard we worked to line someone else's pockets and wouldn't it make much more sense for us to do this for ourselves? We then set about coming up with ideas, ranging from the completely daft to the potentially exciting. TIOSK was one of the latter.
The core concept is based on the theory that in 2015, tea should have the same attention as coffee. Premium tea should be easily accessible on the high street, in all its varieties, served in a contemporary, inviting environment. To date it remains the poor sister in most cafes.
Most of us no longer think granulated coffee is enticing, equally it seems so old fashioned to give someone a cup of tea with a tatty old tea bag clinging to the cup. Similarly, it seems outdated to sell food that is bad for our bodies. Given the many health benefits of tea, it was an obvious pairing, and so TIOSK was born.
What is your personal food philosophy?
A little of what you fancy … makes you strong!
I was fortunate enough to have been brought up on natural, home grown, organic and a mostly plant based diet and so it felt right to offer healthy wholesome fair to our customers, or at least to offer a choice. Sometimes I prefer to cut out gluten or dairy and mostly I avoid refined sugars (and mostly I eat a lot of avocados). All that said, sometimes soul food is important, like the wonderful cakes of local baker Victoria Yum or the amazing vegan cheesecakes from the Hardihood.
‘Listen to your body’ is probably the best advice I have been given over the years (unless it is telling you to eat a lot of chocolate bars!).
What can we expect to find on the TIOSK menu this season?
For autumn, we will be serving a hot wholesome bowl everyday, including; Dhal's, soups and stews laden with fresh produce. A warming porridge is now on the menu for the morning and brand new to TIOSK, the Brazilian super berry Acai smoothie bowl, loaded with fresh toppings. Tea is always at the root of the business, its natural, clean and full of health benefits. For me a root ginger soy latte is my autumn comfort go to, a Matcha latte if I need a bit of an energy boost and a beautiful green tea like Little melon seed, to feel centered and clear headed.
Our ethos is ‘style with purpose’, an attribute that we believe all of our ACEY-WOMEN embody in their work and lifestyle. We’re interested to know what this phrase means to you?
Purpose - for me is clothing that works in the kitchen (with apron of course), running kids around and holding meetings. Style - is what happens when you feel good in something. Finding both is empowering and for me is ‘style with purpose’.
What are your ACEY wardrobe essentials?
Where to start….in my shopping basket, the white VEJA Esplar tennis shoe and Matt & Nats Cocoa vegan triplet bag.
You’ve just started housing art exhibitions at Tiosk, which we love. Tell us about this new venture…
It was always in the plan to partner/collaborate with local craftsmen, artists and small businesses. Our most recent exhibition features the beautiful works of Martina Lang for Photomonth East is hopefully the first of many celebrations with our clever, creative local community.
Find Tiosk on Broadway Market, London Fields, E8
Join Tiosk on Instagram: @tiosk_uk
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Photography by http://alandk.com/