Brooklyn teahouse owners Alfonso and Jamila Wright talk design with Canva
Spreading love is the Brooklyn way. That’s exactly what couple Alfonso and Jamila Wright are doing with their Bed Stuy-based company, Brooklyn Tea.
What started in 2019 as a tea room in the heart of Bed Stuy has grown into a global brand. As it stands in 2022, they offer their own teas, merchandise, events, and most recently expanded their locations beyond Brooklyn with a teahouse in Atlanta, Georgia.
But of course, with growth comes challenges. And that includes graphic design. Although the Wrights are multi-talented tea experts and community builders, neither are trained design experts, so branding is one area they would like to expand their skills into. Fortunately, Canva is here to help. Not only is Canva a powerful visual communications platform that small business owners like the founders of Brooklyn Tea can use right away, but it’s also there to connect The Wrights with creative director Brittany Bosco, founder of the creative agency. Slug, to help her lend her professional eye. to their brand upgrades. But before the Wrights tied the knot with Bosco, they sat down with us to talk about being a black-owned business, the importance of community, their design challenges, and how they’re hoping.” exceed their weight class” with a platform like Canva.
The Wrights on starting Brooklyn tea:
“We have studied our industry in depth. We spent every possible weekend visiting tea houses near and far to take notes on tea offerings, decor, type of customer service and what made their spaces unique. Countless hours have been spent at the Brooklyn Public Library reading about start-ups, interior design, product design, and business plan writing guides.
Communicate the importance of tea cultivation:
“Brooklyn Tea strives to be a place, both virtual and physical, where people feel the communal nature of tea culture and see it dignified and embraced.”
How Beyoncé’s Black Parade Route appearance affected business:
“Before Beyoncé’s List, we were shipping about 10 online orders a month, and then we were on a new business lane and trying to quickly develop systems and procedures to ship 50-100 orders a day!”
On the culture of a digital community:
“We have adopted and adapted what we have learned from in-store interactions, events and festivals with the way we operate online. We use digital tools like email and social media to have a two-way conversation with our customers. We listen to their needs and create fun and informative content in response.
On unifying Brooklyn Tea’s vision:
“We created this brand with care and thought to evoke certain emotions and we want that to be felt regardless of locality, so having a consistent brand image across all of our locations is of the utmost importance to us.”
The Wrights on the importance of community:
“Our communities are essential to our expansion. These are primarily our advertising and public relations departments. Our first big story was about a client we didn’t know was a journalist. Plus, every time a customer shares our posts or posts on their own social media feed, we grow a bit more.
How Brooklyn Tea Maintains Authenticity:
“Authenticity is our best element of success. Our product is pure and our presentation is honest. We try to be ourselves at all times and encourage our staff and customers to do the same.
Describe the challenges of growing a small business:
“The hardest part of growing a small business is trying to figure out how to simultaneously establish customer demand, have the capital to grow when that demand occurs, and have the systems management know-how. strong in order to build effectively and efficiently.”
The Wrights on being a black-owned business:
“We incorporate our black identity with great power but very little effort. Whether it’s through our physical appearance as a couple with long, flowing locks and an Afrocentric sense of style or it’s our decision to open stores in predominantly black neighborhoods where loose leaf tea is not easily accessible or mainstream, we naturally incorporate our black identity because we don’t work in a space where we feel the pressure to compartmentalize who we are.
How the Wrights meet design challenges:
“Our design has been a mix of doing it ourselves and hiring talented professionals. As you can imagine, talented designers are expensive and we can only afford them for big projects with far-reaching implications. For day-to-day design, we rely on our own talent and know-how, which is limited as non-designers.
How Brooklyn Tea thinks Canva can help them:
“We want to use Canva to ‘push above our weight’ from a design perspective. We’re a very small company, but we want our design to look professional and consistent across all of our assets. We think smart and with tools provided by Canva, we believe we can do it.
The importance of strong visuals:
“The ability to create professional looking and visually appealing content is key to our growth and sustainability. Our in-store and online sales are largely dependent ›on engaging, entertaining and educating our customers and potential customers. Much of this starts with a strong initial visual presence.
The Wrights describe their collaboration with Brittany Bosco:
“We know that Brittany Bosco has experience creating campaigns for big brands and is a small business owner herself. We hope to learn from her ideas about aesthetics in the digital space. and use them for our future campaigns.
Understanding Canva functionality:
“Canva is a tool that we have a basic understanding of. We’ve already discovered some of the features of Canva for Teams and hope to learn more about how we can use the platform more often and more effectively.
The next steps for Brooklyn Tea:
“We envision Brooklyn Tea as a household name with many facets. We see ourselves forging our own path in the bottling, retail franchise and retail industries. Tea is versatile and we want our brand to grow to reflect that.