What if you could combine all the things you love about hip-hop with a way to take better care of yourself? If that sounds like your cup of tea, then meet Shanae Jones the Hip-Hop Herbalist.
She is the founder of Ivy's Tea Company, a hip-hop influenced holistic health brand with a collection of handcrafted herbal teas and herb-infused sweeteners. Her products have taken a life of its own with catchy names like #TrapTea and equally clever descriptions that instantly reel customers in, but it's the delicious taste and sweet aroma that keeps them coming back for more.
This former executive assistant turned entrepreneur/herbalist shares her journey from working with a Quaker lobbying organization to creating safe spaces for black women and men in the holistic industry.
Courtesy of Shanae Jones
How did you come up with the title hip-hop herbalist?
It kind of came from other people. I'm happy too because I always wanted a nickname but I didn't get one (laughs). Now, I have one that I guess goes with my career, my passion. It just kinda came from the way I moved tea and I mixed it with herbs. [My] trap tea sort of took off on Twitter and this is just what it became, so that's how a lot of people [now] refer to me.
What was the concept behind hip-hop influenced herbal tea?
Well, I find that hip-hop is a great teaching tool and I see no reason why herbalism and herbal tea or any tea shouldn't be a part of that teaching. For me, it was quite simple; it was just very easy for me to see that connection between hip-hop and herbal tea. The common nature of hip-hop and also the common nature of herbalism and herbal tea. It's not considered highbrow medicine, and for a lot of people, hip-hop isn't considered this really incredible musical genre.
While I would disagree, there are parallels in that that also herbalism kinda deals with when it comes to conventional medicine. It was really easy for me to see the connection. I knew hip-hop, so [I] was like, I'm going to do something that I'm confident in and comfortable with and I can work with something I don't know much about.
I can make those parallels that people don't see. And I can bring it to people and make it plain for them to understand.
Courtesy of Shanae Jones
Why the name 'Ivy's Tea Co.'?
Naming a business is actually hard because you're like, 'I can't come up with anything!' But one day, it just rolled off the tongue.
I thought that I could name it after my grandmother. Her name was Ivy and she left Jamaica for a better life in London at a very early age. I think she was 16 or 17 years old. Ivy was kickass and very brave and I thought I should take that same energy and same spirit with me as I'm going on to do something very risky.
Being an entrepreneur is probably as risky as it gets and so I decided to name my company after her and it made sense and it sounded good. On the flipside, Ivy kinda smoked and she drank a lot. It probably wasn't the best idea to name a holistic health brand after her but her bravery was important to me and so I decided I would go with that.
Courtesy of Instagram/ @ivysteaco
Do you believe your British-Jamaican heritage influenced you as an entrepreneur?
Sometimes I would like to say 'no,' but sometimes when I look back I could see, [for example] my family owned a Jamaican restaurant. When I was in middle school and high school, I would work there. I would leave school and take the bus to work with my mom and grandmother in the evenings. I saw my family working together and I saw the freedom of entrepreneurship but I think that's why when I think about it, it gave me a real glimpse of how hard it is.
My grandmother now, she doesn't clean chicken at all, you can't get her to touch a chicken because she cleaned so many while she was working at the restaurant. It showed me the grit and it showed me the staffing problems, delivery issues--how do you promote? How do you market? And this was at a time where there wasn't really [any] social media so it gave me a real insight on what it is to be an entrepreneur.
I learned not to quit and I learned that it's not as glamorous as people online would make it look, so I at least got to see that upfront.
I do drink a lot of tea and I always have ever since I was younger. That's how I bonded with my mother and grandmother, just over cups of tea. It's how I grew into womanhood, it's how I learned a lot about my family, that's how I learned about gossip and I learned about news and socio-political issues. I got to learn about my mother and grandmother over those cups of tea so I guess it was the one thing that introduced me to tea, but the tea I make now is so different than what we had and it's so different from what people tend to think of when they think of British tea.
Courtesy of Instagram / @ivysteaco
Besides clever names like "PushaTea" and "What the Flu," what makes Ivy Tea Co. unique?
I'd say it's the mission behind the brand and that is to bring more black people into the holistic health industry and to change the scope of what holistic living is and what tea culture is.
The company is really all about shifting perspectives and subverting assumptions and in some ways, it is to offend people.
To get people to no longer take what they're used to and kinda flip it on its head and to say everything you think you know is wrong and I think that's really important as businesses grow and brands grow. There are lots of big trends we see about having a big face in front of the company and it's all about personality and how people buy into people and not brands per se but I feel that brands and businesses, in general, have the ability to shift American culture and the ability to create the America we want to see and mine is that I want to see a lot more inclusivity of black and brown people.
What are some obstacles you've encountered being a black woman in this space?
Well first off, a lot of people who drink tea don't think that hip-hop is necessary for it. They think that I should make it and make the brand, they would say, "more inclusive," but what they really mean is that they want to see less black people in the ad. They want the language to be a little "less black" but it's me.
When I make product descriptions online or I'm making a caption, it's my voice. I'm speaking the way that I speak on a regular basis not with any regard, it's not that I'm doing this intentionally, I'm just being my authentic self.
I also feel like the holistic health industry is full of wellness porn. Everybody's doing it, everybody's moaning, everybody is having a good time but they all got paid. It's not authentic, and I feel like I have to use my voice to kinda change that and of course, it's scary sometimes to be the first person over the hill, but I'm willing to do that.
I don't feel like I have much to lose, so I can take that chance but it is certainly a challenge. A lot of people don't want to see the brand the way that it is but I have proof of concept. I have customers who come back again and again. I have first time customers who come and are very appreciative of the fact that they can see themselves and hear themselves in the branding and that's enough for me to keep going because I know if I got them, then I can get one more and I can keep going and that's the point of the whole thing. I welcome the challenges. If it were too easy I think I probably would have quit by now.
Courtesy of Instagram / @ivysteaco
We've seen a rise in holistic awareness especially in the black community, but there are still some misconceptions about holistic medicine. How does your herbal teas address that?
I try to step away from that. I don't feel that Ivy Tea Company is here to address any misconceptions. It's gonna be there no matter what but we are here to bring acceptance and inclusivity into the industry and to create a space with people who have questions about holistic health but don't look like or live like the typical wellness guru. I want those people to come to me and feel comfortable asking questions and I want them to feel invited to approach the industry.
We don't have a medical industry in this country right now [for] holistic medicine or even alternative medicine practices like homeopathy, for example. Outside of the states, they do all the time but there are big pharmaceutical companies and lots of money to be made, so anything that encourages you to do something outside of taking a pill is oftentimes discouraged.
That's what herbalists like myself have to overcome and so that's why I feel like I'm here to stand in the gap. That's why it's important that I do this work but that I get more involved and give back to the community in a way. I don't want to address the misconceptions but I'll at least add information to it to make it a little more understandable as something you can take in conjunction to what you already know as far as conventional medicine is concerned.
What are the benefits of living a more holistic life?
I can speak for myself and say that it is a more focused, much more disciplined life. I also have much more self-confidence. I'm just a lot healthier because when you have teas and things, it's typically dry herbs but also when I cook my own food now, I use fresh herbs. I'm like the parsley person now, you know black chefs love to put parsley on everything.
I'm using fresh mint, I'm using fresh basil, I'm more into green juices and I'm also more interested in it. I used to have dry scalp, I used to suffer from a lot of migraines, and I no longer have those problems so for me the benefits have been tremendous.
You can find her products on www.ivystea.com. Follow Shanae on Instagram @ivysteaco.
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London Alexaundria is a writer and contributing editor for xoNecole. After graduating with a B.A. in mass media arts from Clark Atlanta University, London went on to work for several media outlets and started her own writing coaching business.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images
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Tracee Ellis Ross On Why She Declined The Idea Of Someone Else Running Her Hair Company
Actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross recently revealed the driving force behind her desire to become the owner of her haircare brand, Pattern.
According to its site, Pattern is a haircare company that provides a wide range of products, from shampoos, conditioners, oils, creams, and many more to individuals with curls, coils, and tight hair textures. Although Pattern would launch in 2019, the idea for the company first came to Ross a decade before --in 2008, when her hit show Girlfriends wrapped-- following a brief encounter at a beauty supply store and many wanting to recreate her past looks.
At the time, those individuals couldn't achieve the exact results because limited natural hair products were offered to the public. That instance became a pivotal moment in the star's life because she spent eleven years experimenting with professionals to create products that best suit those within the natural hair community.
In a May conference with Fortune's MPW Next Gen, Ross opened up about the struggles she faced early on as an entrepreneur trying to get Pattern off the ground and why she declined the offer to have the company be run by someone else.
Tracee On Past Struggles And Why She Chose To Run Her Company
During the discussion, the 50-year-old revealed that she is Pattern's "majority owner" because the company's overall mission to cater to those in the natural hair community was built from her "experiential knowledge."
"I'm a majority owner of my company. [Other celebrities with brands] aren't the founders of the company. Often, they join a company that exists," she said. "The mission [at Pattern] is born out of my experience. It's born out of my own experiential knowledge."
Further in the interview, Ross would add that she avoided partnering with an expert for Pattern because she felt she had gained enough knowledge experimenting with products in her bathroom.
"I didn't want to partner with an expert or a 'professional' because I felt—like so many—I had become my own best expert in my bathroom because the beauty industry was not catering to us," she stated.
Despite refusing to have a partner within her company, Ross found creative ways to build it. It includes paying a chemist with her own money to bring her visions of various products to life, and sending those samples to retail stores, ultimately leading to partnerships.
The final piece that helped Ross during her journey was receiving advice from business partners on ways to improve the brand, one of which came from Ulta Beauty CEO and Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon.
The black-ish star claimed that Dillon helped her realize how she could use her celebrity status and journey to promote Pattern, which she did. Because of that, Patten has now become a favorable haircare brand among many.
Tracee On How She Plans To Use Her Company To Create Opportunities For Others
Toward the end of the discussion, Ross disclosed how she plans to use the power of being Pattern's CEO to help others.
The High Note star explained that being an owner of a company has given her access to be around other CEOs interested in what appears to be becoming more profitable, and with that, she wants to expand that access to other people.
"I know that I have access to sit at a table with a CEO in a way that perhaps another founder doesn't. And when I do that, I make sure that those conversations are not only centered around Pattern," she said. "They're centered around creating and expanding the access for all of us."
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Feature image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Webby Awards