At school in Nottingham, Krisi Smith was perceived as trouble, displaying the classic vices that would later prove to be her greatest strengths: she was independent and strong-minded; she asked too many questions, thought for herself and insisted on doing things her own way. The truth is she liked learning and was good at passing exams, but she was never admitted to the “upper tiers”, nor was she selected as a candidate for Oxbridge. Coming top in her final year was sweet revenge, but not so sweet as building her own business worth around £18 million. You didn’t have me in your club, she thinks as she surveys her empire of 14 retail stores across the UK, but still I have achieved this.
This being Bird & Blend, the award-winning tea mixology company that is “reimagining the ultimate British staple of tea”. It wasn’t that Creative Director Smith had a passion for tea; not back when she started out, at least. It was simply that she saw an opportunity. Tea was “the vehicle” for the kind of business she wanted: people-focused in both directions, while ticking the creativity box for its restless founder. “Who can’t relate to tea?” Smith asks, not needing an answer. “It was a cracking product to build our business around.”
Smith bought her first car when she was 16 years old, for £600, a sixth-hand Mazda painted green for go. “I wanted to escape,” she says. “To be out there in the world.” It was no coincidence that when she slipped a mix tape (actually a CD) into the stereo on her first drive to school, the lead track was Nineties N-Trance single “Set You Free”.
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