When Elizabeth Borelli first tried chai tea 15 years ago, it was love at first sip. Not long afterwards, her favorite brand closed shop, and thus began her quest to recreate the perfect chai. When she couldn’t find a solution off the shelf, she began to experiment with making her own. Years later, Tonic & Bloom was born.
Here’s more from Elizabeth:
What’s the spark that inspired the birth of your concept? As a former wellness coach, I saw that the challenges people were facing often had less to do with motivation than with misinformation. Grab-and-go juices and energy drinks are a huge trend, and my well-meaning clients were often missing the fine print, where the grams of sugar and calories are listed, and making poor health choices.
What problem does it solve? My goal is to provide an uplifting, low-calorie beverage with no added sugar that can take the place of coffee and energy drinks, without compromising taste or satisfaction.
How did you come up with the name? I love the idea of botanicals as healing agents, kind of like a tonic that helps to energize and uplift, or bloom.
How do you differentiate from your competition? The short answer is, ingredients and process. I put in a few years perfecting my chai recipe before publishing my first version in 2014. During those years, I was able to hand source the most flavorful, freshest, and highest-quality ingredients. I also discovered techniques to maximize the flavor so that the chai is especially rich and spicy.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? The ability to pursue one’s passion without compromising creativity.
What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date? It’s an emotional roller coaster ride! Even when you know the roller coaster is part of the journey, it can still be a challenge.
Your biggest success? Well, it’s a pretty new venture, but I’ve had great success in connecting with local organizations interested in carrying or promoting my product. That’s been exciting.
Do you have a failure story to share? What did you learn? I’ve had more than one challenging partnership that resulted in failure, once before the project launched and once in sustaining the partnership. I’ve learned that without crystal clear roles and plans in place going in (and sometimes even with roles and plans), partnerships carry no guarantees.
As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night? Search engine optimization.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur? Based on the above, stay the course. Starting a business (or any large-scale project) usually takes twice as long and costs twice as much as initially anticipated. Know that going in, and be sure you have the passion and fortitude to withstand the journey.
What is the #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur? Designing Your Life, written by two Stanford professors and based on a top-ranked course they teach. It’s a great read and so useful, I’ve actually designed a coaching workshop based on some of its strategies
Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like? Strong local brand recognition, meeting online sales goals, and eventually opening a Tonic & Bloom artisan café and organic beauty bar.
What’s your favorite local business and why? There are so many! When I first moved to Portland, it was summer, and I needed to keep my two teen girls too busy to miss their friends, so we did tea tours. We visited countless tea cafes, from the posh to the more urban. Tea cafes seem to be located in either the hippest or the quirkiest places, so we had a chance to see the many faces of Portland. I love the diversity and creativity Portlanders bring to their work. I honestly can’t think of a favorite business since they’re each a part of the fabric that makes this culture so great.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A horse rancher.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? I think it’s an amazing place for inspiration. The out-of-the-box creativity, the strong sense of place, and the commitment to quality have definitely inspired me. I’ve also been so impressed by the supportive community. That also has a flip side. If the trend is toward starting a business and generating positive feedback from peers, it doesn’t change the stats. Even if it’s easy to start a business and generate some revenue, it doesn’t mean it will be sustainable long term, and that can be an expensive experiment.
Any other tidbits or fun facts to share? In 2013 I wrote and self-published a book called Beanlicious Living. The title gets a chuckle if I mention it at workshops, and of course hindsight is 20/20!