We had the good fortune of connecting with Carole Bright-Alvarez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carole, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
The idea for iN-TEA was actually inspired by coffee! – Living in Boston in the late 1990’s, coffee shops were prolific, but there were very few places to go where tea was honored and presented at its best. I had recently completed my MBA and had written a business plan for a handmade furniture store. But, while hanging out with a group of women who loved tea (one from India, one from London and other more local tea drinkers), we fantasized about a place where tea was presented with knowledge and integrity. I wrote the business plan, and 10 years later, acted upon it!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I grew up drinking loose leaf tea – I had no choice! My mum was born on the Isle of Man and brought her tea drinking habit with her to the U.S. when she immigrated. My dad was an exploration geologist and brought tea home from his exoctic work trips all over the world. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized whole leaf tea was not a mainstream American staple. The entrepreneurial spirit also runs deep in our family. My grandad owned his own grocery store, my dad ran his own consulting firm for 30 years, and both my sisters run their own businesses! My education has also been an important asset. With a B.A in Economics & Psychology, a M.A. in secondary Education and an M.B.A. in Marketing, I have drawn upon tools developed both through study and over time. Opening our shop in May of 2008 proved to be a challenge in itself. (No one knew the economy would take a hard fast dive less than 4 months later). We managed to survive the duration on our first 5 year lease because my husband supported us and I basically took no paycheck for 5 years. We moved the business to its current location on Main St. in Historic Downtown Littleton in 2013. Best decision ever! Covid-19 effects have definitely impacted our regular flow of business, but our website has helped us maintain connection and ability to get great tea to the masses! Most important lesson I have learned along the way is to value people. This means employees & advisors, as well as customers . I have also learned to trust in good intentions. I try to always approach people and challenges by, first, looking at intent. Tea is as varied and nuanced as wine. Influenced by the terrior, plucking and processing. The end result is a work of art (thus, artisan teas). iN-TEA is intent on bringing only the best quality teas from the most remote corners of the world, to a very deserving community.
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.
As a native Coloradoan, I pride myself on being an excellent tour guide. Day 1: First I would start in the city; saving high altitude exploration for after a couple days of acclimation. One of the best views in Denver is from the back of the Museum of Nature and Science. A perfect panorama of the city skyline against the blue sky and mountains. The museum itself is amazing and worth half a day (or whole day) especially if it’s cold outside! Just down the street from the museum is Taco Mex (on Colfax) a great family owned stop for authentic Mexican food including amazing street tacos, and agua frescas of all flavors. Heading into Denver: stop at Mile High Distillery and dinner at Rioja (Larimer Square) Be sure to get reservations! Day 2; explore Denver Lodo: Union Station, Tattered Cover, Wynkoop Brewery, Falling Rock Tap house and ballgame when in season! Day 3: South Pearl St: Stella’s coffee shop, Park Burger, Sunday Farmer’s market, and stroll Wash. Park. etc. Day 4: Explore South Broadway: Mutiny Info. Cafe & Bookstore, Sweet action Ice cream (even vegan!), lots of shops and thrifting. Day 5, take a drive to Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods is great for hiking, short walks or just taking in the beautiful scenery. There is an amazing Zoo and fun restaurants and taverns in old town. Manitou springs is a eclectic place to spend the night and don’t miss a visit to the natural hot springs. Day 6: Scope out Historic Downtown Littleton. Start by cruising the Main St shops: Of course a visit to iN-TEA!, Chocolate Therapist, Reinkes Bros. costume shop (not just costumes – an experience!) End the day at Rockers Distillery for the best Old Fashioned in the city! Day 7: head to the mountains! I love skiing Winter Park/Mary Jane (or hiking and shopping in the warmer seasons!) – Lots of levels of skiing to choose from and avoids too much time on I-70. Stop at Beujos Pizza in Idaho Springs on your way home for iconic Colorado style pizza.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people deserving of heartfelt thanks! First, my husband, Ralph. Without his vision, support and encouragement, I would not have embarked on this business journey. Without his consistent perspective and constant determination, I would not have succeeded. Both my daughters, who endured mom working long hours and endless business discussions at home. (Not to mention working behind the counter and always helping out day to day.) My parents, who not only lent on-going encouragement, but also financial support. My longtime friend, Michelle, who helped me set up and launch the business. My wonderful friend, Davina, who happens to be the most accurate and honest bookkeeper I could ever hope for, and, has stuck by me through black and red times! My other amazing friends, Ric, Wendy, Melissa & Scott, Kelly and others, who helped with construction, painting everything in sight, texturizing the walls, laying tile, and decorating; to be paid only with a rum and coke or pizza (not for only the first location, but again with the second as well!) My SBDC mentor Carl, who is an HR specialist and always there for guidance. And, of course, the amazing employees and community that have supported great tea drinking experiences over the years!
Other: Google My Business: iN-TEA We have over 595 reviews with 4.8 star average rating and loads of photographs!
All photos courtesy of Kaitlyn McMullen