Oncle Tao, the culmination of a passionate journey
Uncle Tao is a café like no other. A “coffee of warriors”, as its creator Samuel Tessier calls it, a graduate of the PGE of NEOMA in 2013. It is a range of coffees made from Chinese mushrooms with various properties to strengthen the immune system, tone the body , regaining one’s energy, better combating anxiety… Beyond the product, it’s also the culmination of a whole journey for Samuel.
Samuel has always been immersed in Chinese culture since his mother is an acupuncturist. At 14, he discovered and became passionate about Chinese literature. At 16, he made his first trip to China. Then, during a university exchange at NEOMA, he left for Wuhan in China and rediscovered the traditional and authentic China that he loves so much in literature. He extended his stay there with a six-month internship and then enrolled on his return to a bachelor’s degree at INALCO to continue studying Mandarin in parallel with his course at NEOMA. With his NEOMA diploma in hand, Samuel continued his Chinese studies while practicing music as a jazz songwriter.
Then, he held management controller positions in large companies. But the heart is not there. “I was next to my pumps. I could not appreciate the uniqueness of my career. Big companies are very structured, there is little room for creativity. I quickly felt frustrated. The breaking point took place in 2018. Samuel then embarked on entrepreneurship with a first consulting company to teach French companies how to develop their visibility on Chinese social networks. After launching several e-commerce sites, he launched “Medicine China”, a platform for the sale of food supplements and advice on alternative medicine. This first success encouraged him to dig down this path. He then developed a formula with a pharmacist specializing in medicinal mushrooms and launched Uncle Tao. “With Uncle Tao, I finally manage to reconcile my need for creativity with my passion for Chinese culture. I found my way. »
His path is that of entrepreneurship, which he would not leave for anything in the world. However, all is not always rosy. “Being an entrepreneur for me means being really free. I can modulate my project as I wish, make it evolve, and it’s really exciting. But I also have ten times more responsibilities than as an employee in a big brand. I am on the front line in case of success but also in case of failure. A pressure experienced by all entrepreneurs. “Everyone handles pressure differently, depending on their temperament. For my part, I have chosen to impose a very strict discipline on myself: sport 3 times a week, meditation every morning, balanced diet. This routine helps me get through tough times, it’s my pressure relief valve. »
By evoking his bad times, Samuel returns to one of the most difficult but also the most essential moments in the development of his Uncle Tao project. Originally, Samuel wanted to develop a food supplement based on medicinal plants to fight against stress. “When we developed the formula with the pharmacist, I called on a large number of doctors, herbalists, acupuncturists, etc. to gather their feedback on the add-on I wanted to develop. In particular, I called the leading specialist in Chinese medicine in France. He didn’t buy into the project at all. He had very harsh words saying that I was taking a lot of risks for myself, for my loved ones and that I was playing sorcerer’s apprentice even though I was not a doctor. These criticisms touched me enormously because they came from a person whom I admired – and who I still admire – very much. Following this exchange, I realized that I was on the wrong track. So I decided to reposition my project. I then had the idea of creating a coffee with Chinese mushrooms, rich in nutritional virtues: the Café des Guerriers”. By offering a coffee that everyone can integrate into their consumption habits, Samuel is positioning itself in the market of nutrition and well-being accessible to all. A booming sector!
Thanks to his strength of character, Samuel knew how to listen and put to good use the comments made to him. “Entrepreneurship also inevitably leads to loneliness since you are the only master on board. This is why it seemed essential to me to get closer to a support structure that could support me in this kind of situation. I joined the Parisian NEOMA incubator in April 2021. There, I meet experts, coaches and startups who regularly give me feedback on my project. It’s excellent, it allows me to develop it and feed my critical sense. When you have your head in the handlebars, taking height is sometimes beneficial! »
Where some entrepreneurs say you have to “go for it”, Samuel is more reserved. “If I have any advice for NEOMA students and graduates who are wondering if they should start their own business, it is above all to listen to each other. Entrepreneurship is a very intimate adventure, which touches all spheres of a person’s life. You have to be aware of this and make your choice with full knowledge of the facts: yes, you are going to invest yourself body and soul in your project, you are going to dream about it at night, you are going to refuse invitations, you are going to tell the whole world about it…You You will experience joys and disappointments, successes and failures. You will have to keep confidence in yourself and bounce back despite everything. Beyond the glitz and numbers that make you dream, this is the truth of entrepreneurship. The other truth is that if it is a well-considered lifestyle choice, as it was for me, you will certainly not regret it! »
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