Nailah Ellis-Brown has been busy since I first visited her Detroit tea company.
“Things have really picked up,” she said as we walked around the manufacturing facility where her hibiscus tea is made.
Steeped in tradition
It’s her great-grandfather’s recipe, which explains the name Ellis Island Tea. Ellis was his last name, and he was born on the island of Jamaica. 3 years ago, when we visited, Nailah was running only one shift a week.
“A lot of times I would come here and be in the office doing paperwork and trying to pick up on sales leads and the plant would be dead,” she explains.
But today, the Detroit plant is running five days a week.
“We worked on Kroger for two years. It was a lot of work and we got placed in all of the Kroger’s in Michigan, so there’s about 150 Kroger stores.”
Makeover leads to national sales
Nailah was recently chosen to get an MSNCB “Your Business Makeover.” The makeover included meeting with marketing experts about how to take her product to the next level. She credits it with helping her land a Sam’s Club account, and an account with HMSHost, in which her tea will be sold at airports..
“We are going to be distributed through airport concessions all around the country. So we’re considered national now,” she says with a sense of pride.
“We got our packaging redesigned,” she explains. “The last time you were here we had old labels. We got completely fresh, new packaging. That helped a lot with the bottle popping on the shelf.
This type of growth has been her dream since she started the company 10 years ago.
“We are definitely going to close out this year with our one million dollar mark. That’s our plan! The sky's the limit," she says.
Nailah's daughter is a star in her own right these days. Check out this YouTube video that's gone viral, of her having an argument with her father about how to count to 5!