Spilling Tea on a Growing Beverage Biz: Nailah Ellis-Brown Took Ellis Island Tea from Car Trunk Sales to the Shelves of Whole Foods

By Dingle, Derek T. | Black Enterprise, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Spilling Tea on a Growing Beverage Biz: Nailah Ellis-Brown Took Ellis Island Tea from Car Trunk Sales to the Shelves of Whole Foods


Dingle, Derek T., Black Enterprise


NEAR THE RUSSELL INDUSTRIAL CENTER--A 15-MINUTE ride from downtown Detroit--you can find the site that houses natural tea manufacturer Ellis Infinity Beverage Co. The modern 4,000-square-foot warehouse space contains a spiraling assembly line, a huge refrigerator to store beverages, and an array of delivery boxes. The 28-year-old founder and CEO of this bottling operation is Nailah Ellis-Brown.

The 6-year-old company, which produces Ellis Island Tropical Tea required a $150,000 investment, and, has reached a critical stage. "We are transitioning from purchase order production to continuous production," she says.

It's been a few years since Ellis-Brown ran the company from her parents' basement and sold her product from the trunk of her car. Now, the hibiscus tea is sold at regional Whole Foods Markets. It is also receiving orders from other such retailers. Moreover, her company has structured an arrangement with a national distributor and grown to three part-time workers--she expects to hire several more employees--as orders continue to flow. Sales have grown from $27,000 in 2014 to more than $60,000 in 2015 and with secured regional and national accounts, she projects revenues to reach $200,000 this year.

Ellis-Brown, who owns 100% of the company and characterizes her entrepreneurial journey as a "spiritual walk," launched the venture with little capital and not a clue about how to run a business. She did, however, hold the vision that the old family tea recipe from Jamaica could make quite a splash in the bottled beverage market.

Her original plan was to earn a business degree from Howard University and then make her fortune on Wall Street to seed a future enterprise. Overwhelmed by the enormous student debt she would incur, Ellis-Brown decided to drop out of college and return to her hometown of Detroit to start a business. "I am pro-education [and] plan on going back to get my degree but once I realized how student loans work and how much more you'd actually end up paying back and how much debt I would walk away with, I couldn't accept that," she says.

After dropping out of college and taking up residence in her mother's basement, she decided to take her family recipe, carry on the family legacy, and start a beverage company. "All I had to do was get the recipe from my father and buy some tea bags. It was a no brainer."

What separates Ellis Island from its competitors is that it produces the sweet tea using hibiscus, rose hips, and peppermint leaves, giving it a red color and a smoother, fruitier taste. To mass produce the beverage, Ellis-Brown contracted a bottler but could not find any companies willing to undergo the "labor intensive process of hand steeping our herbs so we had to get into a space and buy our own production equipment," she recalls. "We have control over all of our production. We do not play when it comes to quality."

That commitment was critical when she secured her "dream account"--Whole Foods. She found the process of loading up 50 bottles in a cooler, driving around Detroit, and selling them from a car trunk much too limiting. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Spilling Tea on a Growing Beverage Biz: Nailah Ellis-Brown Took Ellis Island Tea from Car Trunk Sales to the Shelves of Whole Foods
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.