His customers may not know it, but the man behind Body Tea Australia isn't officially a man yet. Only a few weeks ago he quit school. Only this month he passed his provisional driver's licence test.
Taylor Dow, 17, says he is earning as much as $45,000 a week selling a weight-loss tea across the world. The boy from Ocean Grove in regional Victoria seems to have found a gap in the lucrative weight-loss market others appear to have missed.
Dow is a semi-professional basketball player who is aiming to play for Australia next year. Part of his training involves receiving advice and guidance from weight-loss experts and nutritionists. Dow just took the advice to the next level. “I had access to naturopaths and health experts and there were often dietitians giving seminars on how to suppress weight while maintaining high energy levels. I put all that professional education together and made the tea,” Dow says.
While he isn't going to give the winning formula away, he does say it includes hyacinth, chrysanthemum and jasmine flowers. He engaged a tea factory in China to make up the blend and then co-opted friends and acquaintances to test the product. “Some loved it for the way it helped in weight loss, others said it stopped them from bloating,” he says.
In China he employed herbalists to ensure the right organic ingredients were selected and production started in mid 2013. By the end of this tax year Dow expects turnover to exceed $1 million.
Dow's initial marketing phase was to use Instagram. He used “inspirational pictures” of people working out, interspersed with advice on healthy diets and quick recipes. Within a few months the number of Body Tea followers rose from virtually zero to 80,000. “Instagram worked extremely well. I considered Facebook but it was too expensive – they ask for six cents a click – and Twitter is not a great place to advertise,” Dow says.
“People laughed at me and said you can buy tea at Coles. I wanted to do something which made a difference. But this kind of business is a risk. I had to outlay a large amount of money before I could see results.”
He didn't have to wait too long. Within a few months of launching, the product was proving so successful he had to skip school to fill orders. He would make three trips a day to the post office, his mother's car bulging with packets of tea. By December last year – about the six-month mark – he had broken even and was earning about $10,000 a week. Since then everything has been pure profit – and his weekly takings now range from $30,000 to $45,000. He expects a profit of about $350,000 by June 30.
Dow does not claim to have a miracle cure and says the herbs have to be taken in conjunction with positive dietary changes and a reasonable exercise regimen. He has 9000 customers, most of whom have been accrued through word of mouth. A 15-day supply costs $29, and a 30-day supply, $55. Dow declines to elaborate on the margins he is making on each packet.
A naturopath contacted by Fairfax agreed that this kind of tea can improve the digestive system and increase metabolic rate but “is hardly the answer to maintaining weight loss”. He said that if used with intelligent eating and the right amount of exercise, the product can have benefits. “The problem with these kinds of teas is that they are not a long-term solution. You have to be able to make the changes to your lifestyle. But they can help to kick-start the process.”
Dow says no Australian naturopath has sanctioned Body Tea, but that a very similar recipe has been endorsed on the US television show Dr Oz, which spruiks various weight-loss programs. As for his competitors – and there are plenty of weight-loss teas around – he says (perhaps disingenuously) that most of them put chemicals in their teas.
Body Tea has launched three products and is about to launch another two. Dow now has five staff working for him and there are plans are to expand the business and launch a book of recipes and work-out plans.
Dow will not be going back to school and sees no point in attending university. His life will be one of entrepreneurialism mixed with his basketball aspirations. “If I really want something I'll go out and get it. If I keep working hard, good things will happen –I don't regret leaving school at all,” he says.
What do mum and dad think? Their 17-year-old wunderkind is earning twice as much money as both of them combined.
“Dad and mum have told me time and again to remain humble and keep my two feet on the ground. Keep a level head. I'm working on it.”