We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Markgraf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, what is the most important factor behind your success?
By far the largest contributor to the success of TEEMA TEAS is the authenticity of our story. No other tea or beverage brand is focusing exclusively on partnering with one farmer, so that’s something that we pride ourselves on — something that truly sets us apart. We’re honored to work so closely with the plantation, and love that we are able to give back to social initiatives on the farm. Plus, our teas are organically focused, direct-trade, and entirely picked by hand, so our customers know that they are taking part in a very human story: a story of care & cultivation followed by craft and attention to excellence. The final chapter in our brand story is that we give back to a leading micro-loan organization (Grameen America) that helps disadvantaged women break the poverty cycle by starting their own small businesses. They are doing amazing work here in Houston!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
No entrepreneurial venture is easy — far from it. And the truth is that no one, except those that have been in the trenches themselves, can tell you what to expect. The biggest challenge, perhaps, has been work-life balance because when you start your own company, you are wearing every hat and performing every role. If you’re not careful, it truly can take over your life. My biggest lesson has been that the moments when you feel you simply can’t afford to take even a small pause from the work are EXACTLY the moments when you need to take a break. I’m reminded of an old Buddhist axiom: “Meditate for fifteen minutes every morning and night. When you feel you cannot, meditate for one hour.”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a tough one, as there are so many amazing things to do it Houston! My first thought probably reveals that I have children: I would head over to the Museum of Natural Science. Even as an adult, it’s just simply fascinating. As long as we are in the area, we’d have to check out the MFA too, as it has one of the most interesting collections in the country. After all that we’d surely be hungry, so we’d head over to TENFOLD, THROUGHGOOD, or XELA coffee (there are a lot of great coffee shops in HTX but I think these two in particular do an amazing job) and then grab some food at POLANQUITO or HUONG SEN. We’d finish the night with cocktails at ANVIL or TONGUE-CUT SPARROW. I can’t imagine having a friend in town for a day without hitting up all these spots! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My exceptionally lovely wife, Sasha, deserves so much credit in helping TEEMA TEAS to become a reality. From the very beginning, in 2015, she has been a constant source of unflappable encouragement.