Tea Time Online — and in New York

Brooklyn Tea, New York City, NY

Two years of running Brooklyn Tea has taught Jamila McGill a host of benefits that come from building a business on a foundation of technology. She and her husband debuted the brand online and in short order gained a large and loyal enough following to open a physical store in New York City.

Brooklyn Tea started with a simple idea: Give consumers easy access to a natural, healthy product with an assortment of flavors. Shopify served as a versatile and inexpensive venue to sell 15 different products initially. The platform made it possible to drop-ship products from other providers rather than keeping stock on hand and directly filling orders with large minimums.

The data gathered through Shopify teaches Brooklyn Tea about its customers and identifies any friction points in the sales process. This leads to a better experience, including more products to satisfy divergent tastes. Social media further amplifies fan recommendations. Instagram has been the best outlet for Brooklyn Tea, but it is also active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. 

The company engaged its social media audiences to create excitement about the opening of the physical store but continues to dedicate resources toward online promotion. Ninety percent of sales still come from ads on Facebook and Google, a strategy that generates wholesale and retail business as far as California.

The unlimited reach of Brooklyn Tea’s digital storefront provides a sense of security for the brick-and-mortar storefront, McGill said. Her dreams of expanding the staff size beyond the current four employees and opening another location also may depend on the continued availability of free and inexpensive digital tools.

“With the minimum wage increasing, it’s critical that small businesses save wherever they can, and inexpensive digital tools help us stay afloat,” McGill said. She added that technology opens entrepreneurial doors to people of color like her.