How One Small Business Is Using Canva To Bring Its Vision To Life

Complex Sat Down With Brooklyn Tea Owners & Founders Alfonso & Jamila Wright to Talk About Their Business, Community & Designing With Canv & Brittany Bosco

Header Image Complex Canva Brooklyn Tea

Image via Caitlyn Gaurano

Header Image Complex Canva Brooklyn Tea

Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way. That’s exactly what couple Alfonso and Jamila Wright are doing with their Bed Stuy-based business, Brooklyn Tea

What started in 2019 as a Tea Room in the heart of Bed Stuy, has blossomed into a global brand. As it stands in 2022, they boast their own teas, merchandise, events, and most recently, have expanded their locations beyond Brooklyn with a tearoom in Atlanta, Georgia.

But naturally, with growth comes challenges. And that includes graphic design. While the Wrights are multi-talented tea experts and community builders, neither are trained design experts, so branding is an area where they’d like to expand their skills. Luckily, Canva is here to help. Not only is Canva a powerful visual communication platform that small business owners like the Brooklyn Tea founders can use right away, it is also here to connect The Wrights with Creative Director Brittany Bosco, founder of the Slug creative agency, to help lend her professional eye to their branding upgrades. But before the Wrights link with Bosco, they sat down with us to talk about being a Black-owned business, the importance of community, their design challenges, and how they hope to “punch above their weight class” with a platform like Canva.

The Wrights on Starting Brooklyn Tea:

“We studied our industry deeply. We spent every possible weekend visiting tea houses near and far to take notes on the tea offerings, the decor, the kind of customer service, and what made their spaces unique. Countless hours were spent in the Brooklyn Public Library reading up on start-ups, interior design, product design, and guides to business plan writing.”

1 Canva Complex Brooklyn Tea Alfonso and Jamila Wright

Communicating the Importance of Tea Culture:

“Brooklyn Tea strives to be a place, both virtually and physically, where people feel the communal nature of tea culture and see it dignified, and embraced.”

How Appearing in Beyoncé’s the Black Parade Route Affected Business:

“Prior to Beyoncé’s list, we were shipping out about ten online orders a month, and then we were in a new business lane and we were trying to quickly develop systems and procedures for shipping 50 to 100 orders a day!”

On Cultivating a Digital Community:

“We’ve adopted and adapted what we’ve learned from in-store interactions, events, and festivals with how we operate online. We use digital tools like email and social media to have a two way conversation with our customers. We listen to their needs and create fun and informative content as a response.”

2 Canva Complex Brooklyn Tea Alfonso and Jamila Wright

On Unifying Brooklyn Tea’s Vision:

“We carefully and thoughtfully created this brand to evoke certain emotions and we want that to be felt regardless of the locality, so having consistent branding at all our locations is of the utmost importance to us.”

The Wrights on the Importance of Community:

“Our communities are critical to our expansion. First and foremost, they are our advertising and PR departments. Our first big write up was a customer who we didn’t know was a journalist. Moreover, every time a customer shares our posts or posts on their own social media feed, we expand a little more.”

How Brooklyn Tea Maintains Authenticity:

“Authenticity is our strongest component for success. Our product is pure and our presentation is honest. We try to be our true selves at all times and we encourage our staff and customers to do the same.”

3 Canva Complex Brooklyn Tea Alfonso and Jamila Wright

Describing the Challenges of Growing a Small Business: 

“The hardest part of growing a small business is trying to figure out how to simultaneously establish demand from customers, have capital to expand when that demand happens, and have the know-how around strong systems management so you build efficiently and effectively.” 

The Wrights on Being A Black-Owned Business: 

“We incorporate our Black identity with a lot of power but very little effort. Whether it’s through our physical appearance as the couple with long flowing locks and an Afrocentric sense of style or it’s our decision to open shops in predominantly Black neighborhoods where loose leaf tea hasn’t been readily accessible or commonplace—we naturally incorporate our Black identity because we don’t work in a space where we ever feel the pressure of compartmentalizing who we are.”

4 Canva Complex Brooklyn Tea Alfonso and Jamila Wright

How the Wrights Address Design Challenges:

“Our design has been a mix of doing it ourselves and hiring talented professionals. As you can imagine, talented designers are expensive and we can only afford them for major projects with far reaching implications. For daily design, we rely on our own talent and know-how, which is limited as non-designers.”

How Brooklyn Tea Believes Canva Can Help Them:

“We want to use Canva to ‘punch above our weight’ from a design perspective. We are a teeny-tiny company, but we want our design to look professional and consistent across all of our assets. We think with cleverness and with the tools provided by Canva, we believe that we can do that.”

The Importance of Strong Visuals:

“The ability to create professional looking, visually appealing content is key to our growth and sustainability. Our in-store and online sales are greatly dependent ›on keeping our customers and potential customers engaged, entertained, and educated. Much of this starts with having a strong initial visual presence.”

5 Canvas Complex Brooklyn Tea Art Director Bosco

The Wrights Describe Working With Brittany Bosco:

“We know Brittany Bosco has experience creating campaigns for major brands and is a small business owner herself. We hope to learn from her insights on aesthetics in the digital space and use them for our future campaigns.”

On Understanding Canva’s Functionality:

“Canva is a tool that we have a basic understanding of. We’ve already learned about some of the Canva for Teams features and we hope to learn more about how we can use the platform more often and effectively.”

6 Canva Complex Brooklyn Tea Jamila and Alfonso Wright

The Next Steps for Brooklyn Tea:

“We envision Brooklyn Tea as a multifaceted household name. We see ourselves carving our own path in the sectors of bottling, store franchising, and “big box” retail. Tea is versatile and we want our brand to grow to reflect that.”

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