C-Suite Leadership Series: 20 Questions with Sheena Brady

Apr 24, 2019

We interrupt this blog with a very important message: 

If you’re a women-identifying entrepreneur in Canada who has been in business for at least six months and generating revenue, you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity: mentorship and access to up to $20,000 in funding. Watch the video to learn more or visit TeaseTea.com for all the details. The deadline to apply is May 3rd, 2019, so get clicking!

Thank you for your attention. Now, you may return to your regular reading…

Quote from the CEO:

“As a female business owner, I’ve experienced the struggle of finding financial support first hand. When you look at the numbers overall, less than 8% of funding goes to women entrepreneurs, and less than 2% goes to women of colour. I truly believe that those of us who have found success in entrepreneurship have the important obligation to pay their success forward.” – Sheena Brady, CEO, Tease Tea

After becoming a certified Tea Sommelier, through the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada, Sheena Brady decided to combine her passion and purpose and built a successful social enterprise, Tease Tea. At Tease Tea a portion of the proceeds from every order support organizations dedicated to the advancement of women.

Sheena’s business was born as a way to help consumer become self-empowered through their tea choices while at the same time enabling them to help empower women around the world.

We wanted to get to know the woman behind this strong message and delicious beverages so we asked her 20 (+2) questions. Here’s what she had to say:

Top 20 Questions

1. Your best subject in school?

English – I loved to read, and to get lost in books. Book reporting with the chance to identify not-so-obvious themes was something that always interested me.

Your worst subject in school?

Math. Confession: I did grade 9 math three times. Actually, this is something I am proud of. Despite those early challenges, I’ve been able to overcome my self-limiting belief that I can’t handle numbers. I’ve become financially literate to the point where I oversee all financial aspects of my company, from book-keeping and reporting to scales forecasting and margins. 

2. What was your first job?

I worked at a boat marina as a gas and store attendant.

3. Best advice you ever took?

“If you find an incredible opportunity, though have no idea how to make it happen or pull it off – say yes and figure out how to do it later.”

Often, the hardest part is just saying yes. When you learn that, you learn that the rest will come. For me, this  had been true about the smallest things, like pulling off my first keynote talk, to the biggest, like opening a popup in New York City!

4. Tip you would share with this year’s graduating class?

When you feel confident in your business or an idea, ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. It’s easy to find yourself facing roadblocks, red tape, etc. Most of the time it’s just because you asked first.

5. What book are you reading?

Brene Brown, Dare to Lead.

6. Favourite quote?

It’s actually the same as the “best advice” question – an answer that a mentor shared with me but is originally the wise words of Richard Branson:

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

7. One thing that surprises you about business?

It’s a beautiful chaos every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

8. What motivates you?

Thinking about our company’s untapped potential and how we haven’t even come close to maxing that out yet, despite our success to date.

9. When was the last time you worked a 40-hour work week?

I’ve been very intentional about working 35-40 hours a week in recent years. After learning what burnout looks like and feels like the hard way, I set limits and boundaries for myself. The reality is, there is always going to be an endless to-do list as an entrepreneur regardless of how many hours worked.

Now, how many hours does the brain shut off during the week? That’s a whole other challenge I’m working on!

10. What is the best (most recent) feedback you received from one of your employees?

You may not understand, like, or agree with changes happening in society that may influence how you should make decisions with your business but those changes are happening whether you like it or not, so it’s important you either adapt or don’t. If you don’t, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the possible consequences?”

11. When are you most productive?

Between 10am-2pm, once I have a clear path towards my goals and objectives for the day.

12. The best thing about being a CEO?

There is never a boring day at work.

13. The most challenging thing about being a CEO?

There is never a boring day at work!

14. What is one word that describes your leadership style?

Autonomy: I’d like to think I give a lot of it. From the team establishing working hours that serve their lifestyle and guarantee that the work is done, to creating a space where I want people to not only show up with ideas but be able to run with and execute them.

15. You have ___________ in your office?

Tea! Of course. Endless amounts of tea.

16. An experience that has influenced you the most as a leader?

Working at Shopify – I learned what autonomy and vulnerability really means as a leader, and how to inspire great teams with it.

17. Favourite app?

I live by my calendar app. It keeps me organized and prepared for my work related meetings and my personal commitments and appointments. There’s nothing fancy about it, it just makes me feel a little bit more in control of my day.

18.  Why Ottawa? When you can build your business anywhere in the world, why choose to grow in Canada’s Capital City?

I was born in Ottawa and though I moved around a lot growing up, it felt right to bring my business back to my hometown. It’s a great city for thriving; it has such a supportive entrepreneurial community running strong and ready for more.

19. What inspired you to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

 Before I founded Tease Tea in 2013, I was working in the hospitality industry for a number of years and always imagined I would, one day, open my own restaurant. I ended up becoming a certified Tea Sommelier through the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada for work and fell in love with the world of tea. I decided to combine my passion with purpose through entrepreneurship and began Tease Tea.

20. What’s one defining moment from your entrepreneurial journal?

The decision to start my business was the easy one. Getting started was a lot more difficult. As with most new entrepreneurs, I faced a lot of barriers to accessing financing. I had only my savings and a $1,000 credit card limit to grow with which, as I’m sure you can imagine, doesn’t last long. And when we started to receive large purchase orders, we didn’t have the supplies or financial resources available to fulfill them. Going from lender to lender and being turned down, even by organizations that claim to support women entrepreneurs, was incredibly disheartening.

The financing I did receive came in relatively small amounts, just enough to get us through the orders we had. This becomes a challenge to truly growing and scaling a business. But I surrounded myself with a great team and pushed through those start-up years with determination.

Bonus questions:

Q:

Charitea, Tease Tea’s give-back program, is on a mission to empower women and young girls. Can you speak to the idea that “you can serve the world unselfishly, and profit” and why you’ve prioritized women empowerment?

A:  

From the beginning, giving back and championing women was a fundamental part of the Tease Tea brand. We infuse everything we do at Tease Tea with our passion and purpose to support women. Through our business, now we are in a position where we can support ourselves and our staff, and work towards something bigger and better. I believe that those of us who have found success in entrepreneurship have the important obligation to pay it forward.

Q:

This year Tease Tea launched the 2019 Tease Tea Founders Fund, a fund that offers mentorship and up to $20,000 in no equity financing to the award-winning women identifying and non-binary entrepreneur (incredible!).  

  1. What problem is the fund solving?
  2. What is your vision for the fund?  
  3. In your opinion, who is the ideal candidate?

A:

  1. Statistics show us that women receive less than 8% of funding available to help launch and grow businesses. When you look at women of colour, they actually receive less than 2%. The Tease Tea Founders Fund is designed to not only increase the funding women receive, but to challenge other entrepreneurs who have seen success do the same.
  2. It’s never too early or too late to start giving back and supporting other entrepreneurs during your own entrepreneurial process. The world needs more companies making this world a better place. We don’t just need one company or individual but we need thousands to really make a difference. We look forward to the day where we have founded countless woman-identifying entrepreneurs with the support and partnership of the entire entrepreneurial community behind us.
  3. Any woman with the grit and determination to see their business succeed is encouraged to apply. If you’ve been in business for six months and have generated revenue, the Tease Tea Founders Fund is for you.

To learn more about Tease Tea or maybe place your next order of Turmeric Tonic, visit: https://teasetea.com/.

You can also follow the business on Twitter (@Tease_Tea) or Instagram (@Tease_Tea).


If you’re like Sheena was just before she build Tease Tea – a true business owner in the making – and you’ve got an idea and are considering starting out, visit the Invest Ottawa website at https://www.investottawa.ca/an-idea/ and click ACCESS OUR SERVICES. Then, complete and submit a Request for Services form. Find out how Invest Ottawa can support you and your next (or your first!) venture.

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