Blog: Phuong & Viet Le

In her pursuit of creating global health awareness, Phuong Le, CEO of ONO Tea, moved back to Michigan from Hawaii to start the first line of lifestyle teas with her brother, Viet Le. In under a year, Phuong's passion for ONO Tea has caught the attention of exclusive resorts, hotels, and specialty markets.

A trained chef and the youngest Tea Sommelier to graduate from the American Tea Masters Association, Phuong shows us all the healthy benefits of living a tea lifestyle in her blog. She creates special tea blends for restaurants and hotels and teaches fun ways to infuse tea in her culinary and spa recipes.

Phuong is also an active member of several networking sites: MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook, a writer for Chic Galleria, an online fashion magazine, and a culinary writer for Tea Room magazine. Her articles have been published by Reuters and The Chicago Sun Times.  Phuong's passion for healthy living and modern twist on tea has influenced those around her to "rethink their drink" and select a healthier lifestyle.

Viet Le is the dynamic co-founder and chief creative officer of ONO Tea. Engulfed by the digital realm for over 10 years, he's designed and programmed mixed mediums using web-interactive technology to create work that transcends traditional branding and marketing techniques.

Before starting ONO Tea, he helped shape brands such as Ferrari, Quaker State, Minute Maid and Pixar by creating online advertising campaigns and providing creative direction for Doner Advertising. During this time, Viet's award-worthy work skyrocketed him to senior levels in under two years.

Today, Viet leads all creative direction and brand strategy for ONO Tea with his sister and partner, Phuong Le, who is CEO of the company. In 2009, Viet was awarded the honorable achievement of earning a spot on Crain's Detroit Business "20 in their 20s" list for his work with ONO Tea. He also supports local designers by managing a small group of freelance web designers, developers and copywriters. You can read more about the works of Viet by visiting his personal website.

Phuong & Viet Le - Most Recent Posts:

Viet Le - Post 4: You're Only as Good as Your Website

One of the most common mistakes that I have seen with business owners is that they slack off with their online presence. Little do they know that the majority of consumers immediately search for a business’s website on ANY medium that advertises their brand. You can have the most amazing brand offline, but as consumers start getting more internet savvy they will start looking at your online presence that much more.

My general theory is to never half-ass anything. However, many companies look at the price involved with a good website and will try to cut corners, resulting in a website fit for a fifth grader. In the past, it may have been logical to contract a student or your nephew that knows some web design, but with the new cutting technologies of flash development and video on the web, the “nephew” days are rapidly expiring. Wannabe web designers will eventually weed themselves out.

A website should not be an area where you toss all of the information in your brochures (referred to as information regurgitation), but it should be a piece of art that needs to be structured. Not only are aesthetic looks important, but the backbones of how the site is organized are as well.

A good comparison is found in designing the floor plan to a department store.  You always want the customer to know where they are currently located, as well as keeping relevant departments next to each other. Now if the kids section was located right next to the adult lingerie section, we have a problem. The same methods apply to building websites. If users have no idea where they are on the website, how they got there, or how to move to the next page, then they will just quickly exit.

Investing in a poor website is actually more detrimental to the brand, which really defeats the purpose of having one in the first place. Well-constructed websites will retain consumer interest, while keeping your return on investment happy.

Here are some good tips of what a truly professional web designer will do for you:
  • Ensure that the visitor has no problems navigating your website. After all, the users are there for a reason, and they need to be directed into the right areas.
  • Ensure the graphics and any animation suit the brand, and not distract from it.
  • Give you a better return on your investment and build your brand vs. breaking it
  • They will NOT work for free. Professional designers will have a portfolio of  work to be judged on (mine is ). Asking for free work compromises the respect of the professional (what would a law firm think if you asked each lawyer to do free work to base your decisions on).
Coming from a web design background myself and owning my own company, I have worked with both professional and amateur designers. In the end, you really get what you pay for. Expensive web designers may not necessarily be ripping you off, but they are bringing their expertise to the table. Judge them on their previous work and on how they carry themselves.

My website has gotten a lot of buzz from the look alone, and has been a deciding factor for many of our accounts. So the bottom line is, do NOT skimp on a website and waste your money, you will regret it in the long run. Remember, what looks good to you may not be what the average consumer will think is good…so set aside that hubris and leave it up to the design professional!

Phuong Le - Post 3: The Importance of Networking

Other than having a passion for ONO Tea, we are also creating a community where our friends/clients are learning fun and innovative ways to incorporate tea into their lives. To achieve a loyal customer base, we have found that networking is a huge part of our success. Whether it is by word of mouth locally or our online community such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, we have made great friendships and connections. On a business level, networking is crucial because it allows you to personally connect with customers and business partners without using advertisements or resumes. Here are a few good tips on how to diversify your networking:

  • Have networks with every lifestyle and community.
  • Do not restrict yourself to networks exclusively for people from similar backgrounds or in a similar line of business.  
  • Widen your network as much as possible.

People just don’t want to be sold, they want to believe in what they are buying and what it stands for, as consumers today are more concerned with real world opinions of a product. With that said, it is important to make sure that our brand is “touchable” and not intimidating. Word of mouth is and always will be the best form of advertising. With the viral type nature that social networking brings, it has become an important asset to any company.

We would love to connect with all our friends and clients on a personal level. If it was up to us, we would talk with each and every customer that had an interest in our company. As it is nearly impossible to talk with everyone personally, the best way is to address this is in a common location such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

We use Facebook and MySpace to show our customers that we are real people and that we use our own products everyday. Twitter is a new medium that we are exploring and we have only recently been posting updates to our websites. Our blog teaches our customers about how they can use teas for methods other than drinking. Ultimately they all work together to help market our brand.

Remember, networking has a lot of moving pieces. You must approach people, be approachable, follow up and keep your word. It takes time to make contacts, but once you've made them, they are invaluable.

Phuong Le - Post 2: Finding Your Passion in These Tough Times

"What is your passion? What motivates you?"  Many of us wander through life not really knowing what we were meant to do. Without a definite purpose, many of us will fall victim to false beliefs and blindly emulate models for living life.

I, however, was fortunate to find my passion at a very young age. I discovered my passion for creating and helping people as a little girl. I’ve always loved helping Mom create amazing culinary dishes, and she repaid the favor by teaching me the health benefits of the different ingredients. Mom taught me how to poach shrimp with green tea, infuse crystallized ginger into desserts, and even steam fish with black tea. I used those and several other childhood memories as inspiration for my culinary recipes and healthy living articles.

I coupled my childhood experiences and dreams and evolved them into my career.  I’m very blessed to have a job that inspires others to live a healthier life. Yes, I love my job.

My passion is living a life of purpose, being constantly challenged, growing as a person, and inspiring greatness in others. I’ve lived the life that many would define as "paradise." However, being a driven entrepreneur, living in Hawaii with the palm trees, sun, sand, and surf was not fulfilling.

I decided it was time for my next chapter, so I moved back to Michigan in 2007 and started ONO Tea with my brother, Viet Le. Even though business creates many stressful days, I’m always enthusiastic and thankful for the steady flow of new and exciting developments. Passion trumps obstacles and gives you clarity when faced with adversity. When you do what you love, you’ll have the greatest opportunity to prosper when times are tough.   

So how do you find out what you are passionate about?  Here are a few questions you need to answer:

  • Be blatantly honest with yourself. If you had all the money you needed and all the possessions you’ve desired, what would you do with your life?
  • Where would you direct all your love, energy and creativity?
  • Pursuing passion involves taking risks, since it often means letting go of fears and situations you find comfortable.  Are you ready for that?
  • Do you have a talent that the world needs? Don’t underestimate yourself. Talent doesn’t have to mean you make fabulous desserts. Teaching is a talent. Delegating is a talent. Taking care of someone is a talent.

Step out of your comfort zone, follow your heart’s desire, and be smart with your steps. Find what you are passionate about, work out a plan, take action, and pursue your dreams relentlessly. Don’t hold back because you fear what people will say. It is your dream, your passion, your life.

Viet Le - Post 1: Penetrating a Saturated Market - What's Your Perspective?

As one of the co-founders of a locally owned tea company, ONO Tea, I’ve often been asked how I came up with the niche of targeting teas by lifestyle. My answer has always been the same: “It’s all about your perspective,” which has become both my mantra for business and life in general over the past year. For being such a young company (one year and counting) and owner, I have learned a lot about the techniques to penetrate a saturated market.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was the little amount of start-up capital to invest into the company. However, our change in perspective led us to a more cost-effective route and also created a very strong niche of our own.

Many companies have found their niche along the way, as we did, by falling into their own “demand pocket.”  Our brand evolved from teas strictly targeted towards Yoga enthusiasts to teas targeted towards whatever your lifestyle may be. This was a direction that was not planned, but came to fruition after our teas were popular amongst a smaller yoga crowd in the Detroit area. Today we have ten tea collections, including teas for Athletes, Tots (children), Beauties, and even Real Men!

Initially when CEO Phuong Le and I started the idea of opening a tea company, we looked at other business models and almost followed a “standard path.” However, we quickly realized that this cookie-cutter approach would have made us just like every other tea company and that we needed to play off of our personalities.

Innovation was the key, and by using our knowledge of technology, online media and social networking, we were able to spread the word faster. It’s the whole viral nature of social media that attracts consumers to our products initially. We wanted our friends in our social channels to become a part of our journey and success story. This is why we will be showcasing all interested customers on our website, which is due to launch in the next few weeks.

Whatever it may be in business, fighting the economic recession or coming across a personal roadblock, it is all a matter of finding the right perspective on the situation at hand. There is always another way of looking at things and almost always another way to approach things.

Signup for Email Alerts