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Yorkshire vitamin tea startup celebrates expansion to the Middle East

A Yorkshire start-up is capitalising on the new health and wellness revolution in the Middle East to launch its range of vitamin-infused tea in Dubai.

James Dawson, 35, the founder of Harrogate-based TEA PLUS who started his business with the help of a £25,000 Start Up Loan in 2016, is expanding to the Middle East following an increase in online orders from the region.

The business owner, whose brand of healthy teas are already stocked in more than 2,000 stores in the UK, says his move to Dubai was in response to the region’s growing interest in healthy living.

His drinks will be stocked in 400 pharmacies, 300 health stores and other outlets in the first few months after launch. James will also invest in the country longer term by setting up social media, marketing and a sales teams in a central Dubai office.

The launch in Dubai marks a return there for James, who quit his job in the region in 2015 to follow his dream of becoming his own boss.

He returned to the UK with his wife and, having kept a close eye on consumer trends throughout his career, he identified a gap in the market for a challenger product in the traditional supplement and tea market.

The products are now stocked in Holland & Barrett, Boots and SuperDrug, and are part of Sainsbury’s Taste of the Future range.

James Dawson, the founder of TEA PLUS, said: “Despite having no background in the food industry, witnessing a huge shift in trends and attitudes during my time in Dubai made me realise there was a gap in the market for a disruptive tea brand both in the Middle East and back home in the UK.

“I took a huge risk leaving a successful career and had faith in my idea, but never thought TEA PLUS would expand globally at such a rapid rate. The loan and support that I received from Start Up Loans made a huge difference to my business – I really wouldn’t be here without it.”

Richard Bearman, Managing Director of Start Up Loans, said: “It’s fantastic to have helped James follow his passion and set up such a successful business. UK small businesses are vital to the health of our economy and it’s our mission to help as many people as possible from across the UK who need financial support to get their business of the ground.”

The Start Up Loans programme provides fixed-interest loans of between £500 and £25,000 to aspiring business owners from across the UK, many of whom might be struggling to access other forms of finance.

Since 2012, the programme has lent more than £563 million through 69,555 loans, of which over £50 million went to business owners from Yorkshire and the Humber.

In addition to finance, Start Up Loan applicants receive support from an experienced business advisor to help them prepare a business plan and cash flow report. Successful applicants are also offered 12-months of free mentoring to guide them through the early stages of their business journey.