You may have heard of The Great Resignation, that ripple effect of the pandemic whereby people re-examine livelihoods and leave full-time jobs to pursue a passion. Weeks ago in December, Amber Jackson did just that as she left the position at Brown University that lured her to Providence from Chicago, to focus on building her company The Black Leaf Tea & Culture Shop. “By the time this article comes out, I’ll be a full-time entrepreneur,” she says with a palpable glee. “The business is expanding very quickly and I’m ready to dive into the next stage of growth.”
Jackson launched the BLT&CS in 2019 at Hope & Main, the culinary incubator in Warren. Along with items for tea enthusiasts like carved spoons from Kenya, currently over a dozen teas are for sale, all designed and formulated by Jackson herself. Blends, or tisanes, include GLOW, touted as an herbal powerhouse; Haze, a sapphire blue floral-fruity mix; and Chai-Town, a homage to Jackson’s hometown where 20 percent of each sale goes to My Block, My Hood, My City, a non-profit organization that works to provide educational experiences to underprivileged youth in Chicago.
Jackson is working on plans to expand the “& Culture Shop” part of her business as a platform to create spaces and curate conversations for people that, as she explains, “look like me, that don’t have a space here in Rhode Island.” One channel is via monthly Young Black Professionals Mixers with the conversation series called Tea Talks that she hosts at rotating locations. “Tea has been used for centuries as a communal focal point. And I continue that tradition through The Black Leaf Tea & Culture Shop,” she says.
“Where will you be when the dust settles? Will your voices still be as loud? Will you still be hashtaging #SupportBlackBusiness?” Jackson posed these questions on her website after she suddenly found herself on many “Black-Owned Business’’ lists last summer. Both locally and globally, Jackson hopes the answer to that question will be a resounding yes. “I want to become more consistent with the cultural and community part of my business and showcase the many aspects of Black culture – music, art, literature, voices. I’m looking forward to doing more partnerships because I know I can’t continue to grow while doing everything by myself.”
In the year ahead, Jackson is excited about devoting all of her time to blending tea, hosting mixers, and more, all buoyed by a sense of optimism. “[I’m] trusting and surrendering the alignment of my life,” she says. “There will always be rough patches, some bad days, low sale days. But it doesn’t last forever. No matter what happens, I know how hard I work, and I try to be a good person. I know that whatever happens, I will be okay. I love that Providence is so collaborative. Anything you want to do, people are generally pretty supportive and want to see each other succeed.”
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