Nailah Ellis-Brown and the Largest Black Woman-Owned Beverage Manufacturing Business in the USA @mfgday #MFGDay20

Nailah Ellis-Brown began selling her tea out of the trunk of her car. Now Ellis Island Tea is the larges Black woman-owned beverage maufacturing company in the United States. Her products are sold in concessioners nationwide. Here’s some of her story, from In Good Co. Detroit:

[Nailah Ellis-Brown] Ellis said that her path to entrepreneurship started as a kid while attending the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit, an alternative school founded in 1978 by Carmen N’Namdi. Now closed, the school had a holistic approach to education that gave Ellis a global perspective on Black and African culture. It was that foundation that she credits for giving her the confidence she needed to pursue business in the first place. There, a little mop closet was fashioned into a student store, where she worked behind the counter selling bags of Better Made potato chips and juice boxes to her classmates who bought the snacks with play money issued by the school for good behavior.

…Ellis took the leap and approached Whole Foods Market, which has a history of stocking its stores with local products from small-scale makers, and asked the buyer to give Ellis Island Tea a shot. Her proposal was not immediately accepted, however, and she had to spend the next several months researching how to comply with the grocery chain’s long list of criteria before her tea would be considered for stocking. She continued on with Westborn Market and Meijer stores, which began stocking the brand throughout Michigan. In 2014, she opened her plant, situated in a warehouse across from the Russell Industrial Center, allowing her to start hiring Detroiters to manufacture the product.

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