Elyse Petersen, Tealet, Tea, Social Enterprise, The Story ExchangeYour Name: Elyse Petersen

Business Name: Tealet, an online farmers market for tea

Type of Business: E-Commerce/Food & Beverage/Social Enterprise

Business Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Website http://www.tealet.com/
Twitter @TealetTea
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Tealet
Tumblr http://blog.tealet.com/
Pinterest http://pinterest.com/tealet/

Reason for starting
We are a diverse team with one common goal: to create a bridge between tea growers and tea drinkers. I learned about the infinite opportunity for a Hawaii Grown Tea Industry while co-authoring a collaborative research study between the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Tea Project and the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship: Hawaii Grown Tea: A Market Feasibility Study. After completing this report I looked at a variety of business models that would help develop a healthy industry in Hawaii. I then spent 4 months living on a tea farm in Japan and connected with independent tea growers around the world. Tealet was born when I pitched the idea at Startup Weekend Honolulu on April 28, 2012. This event was a great launching point to put their passion of empowering tea farmers towards a viable business model.

How do you define success?
I believe that success is doing something that is bettering the world. It is about constantly questioning the status quo and finding ways that people can come together to make a better situation. It is happiness in the work that you do and the feeling that comes with building a career and life that has a positive impact on other people and the world.

Biggest Success
Other than the success that we have been experiencing with Tealet I experienced my first success as a Peace Corps volunteer in Antigua and Barbuda in Eastern Caribbean. Here I was working with food processors that were having difficulty building strong business with their current line of jams and jellies because of the high energy and material costs. Together we collaborated with the Ministries of Agriculture and Education to develop curriculum for high school students to contruct and market solar dryers from recycled materials. In a four month period the project directly impacted 14% of the country’s population and has spread to school and food systems across the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. I am now doing workshops across the US to empower environmentally conscious consumers to build their own solar dryers.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge is to build a strong team of stakeholders around Tealet in line with a socially-minded mission. As I’ve been building I’ve been encountered with decisions that would have increased our margins or revenue but they were not in line with the mission that I established for myself when I first started working on the project. This mission is to create a connection between producer and consumer. This mission has made it a bit more difficult for us to find the right investors, but I believe if we are patient the right people will come together and we can build a successful business.

Who is your most important role model?
My most important role model is Vandana Shiva. I have only met her once in my life, but I am inspired by her strength to stand up for what she believes in. She is an agriculture activist and has helped thousands of farmers in India save their seeds and stand up to the corporate agriculture system that has taken away their power. She has since inspired activists around the world even as she has experienced resistance from many. I hope to be half as strong as her.