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Meet Shell Singal of Tea Bazaar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shell Singal.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Hi! I’m Shell Singal, President of Tea Bazaar, a San Diego based organic loose-leaf tea company that sells wholesale and at local farmer’s markets. Tea is my passion. It brings me joy to share this social, sacred and healthy ritual that connects me to my roots.

Growing up as a first-generation Indian American, I was bullied. There was not a lot of diversity in the suburb of Chicago where I grew up, and I felt my life would have been easier if I had been born white. Achievement and education are highly valued in my family. I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in finance, passed the CPA exam and spent ten years in the competitive world of advertising. Even though I achieved the financial success, it came at a price. I took a break from corporate life and moved to the Satchidananda Ashram in Yogaville, Virginia. I began to fully immerse myself in meditation, yoga and organic healthy living. Through that experience, I began to rediscover and appreciate my cultural identity.

At the ashram- everyone drank tea. When I was growing up, drinking tea was part of my parent’s daily life. I spent summers in India, where people scheduled their days around drinking tea together. For me, tea symbolizes connection and happiness. When it was time to move on from the ashram, I decided to move to San Diego, where I felt a sense of belonging. I felt people looked at me for who I was rather than for the color of my skin. I love the open-mindedness and non-judgmental attitude of this community.

I felt compelled to give people access to what was so freely given to me at the ashram. I knew that the healing properties of tea and herbs could benefit my community, and that is how the idea of Tea Bazaar was born. The company has grown despite the many challenges and obstacles along the way. Through becoming a successful entrepreneur, I have overcome my self-doubt, and although financial success is important, there is so much more that fuels me.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
My original plan wasn’t to sell tea at farmer’s markets; it was to open up a tea shop. However, a long-time friend stole my money. I was left with less than nothing and too embarrassed to tell anyone. I fell into a deep depression and my spirit was completely broken.

During that time, a close friend came to visit for Shakti Fest. I took $300 worth of previously purchased inventory and set up a small table in the parking lot at the Joshua Tree Campground. I didn’t sell a single cup of tea that entire weekend and felt utterly defeated. A vendor there convinced me to sell my tea at another yoga festival in the Palomar Mountains. It was raining and cold, but I set up anyway. I had nothing left to lose. I ended up making a couple of hundred dollars that weekend and was encouraged to come back for another festival. I did, and that’s how I began selling tea. It wasn’t what I thought it would look like, but I was grateful for the opportunity to do something I was passionate about.

From there, someone suggested I try the Encinitas Bazaar. I had no idea what I was doing and made a lot of mistakes. However, it was clear there was a real need for high-quality loose-leaf teas, especially holistic teas. At the time I had about twenty teas and blends; now we have over a hundred. Slowly, I began doing other markets, and by the end of the year, I was doing seven.

There were a lot of days I didn’t make the booth fee. Those first months were some of the hardest I’ve ever had, but they were also some of the most rewarding. It was hard work, long days and nights, and mentally and physically exhausting. I wanted to quit so many times. My family members and friends kept telling me it would be completely understandable if I quit, but something inside me told to keep going.

My parents, who were my biggest support system, market managers, other vendors and my customers also told me to keep going.

Every time I wanted to quit, it seemed like a customer would tell me how much they loved the tea or how much it helped them and that kept me going a little bit longer.

As 2020 began, we were gaining momentum and growing. Then the pandemic hit, and everything changed overnight. All the markets were shut down, there was a stay-at-home order, and no one knew if they would be around in a month. I was broke, back in debt, didn’t have a permanent place to live, but I had overcome so much and wasn’t ready to give up. So, when things started opening back up, I started over. Everything was different. I could no longer serve drinks, we had half the vendors, people had to wait in line to get in and our booths were roped off. I had to completely change my business model and how I sold tea. However, we adapted and the support we received from our customers and community was extraordinary.

We’ve grown exponentially since the pandemic last year. I have an incredible, smart and talented team today that has been integral in our success. They love and believe in our teas as much as I do, and work hard, long hours with a smile on their face. We laugh a lot and have a lot of fun.

We’re still growing and have a lot to look forward to. We recently came out with a new line of whole flower hemp CBD loose-leaf tea, are working on a website and are planning on opening a store early next year. We’re really excited about the future and continuing to help our customers and community. Whether people are drinking our tea for taste or for its holistic benefits, we’re grateful and thankful to be part of their lives and appreciative for the opportunity to support them on their journeys.

Please tell us more about your business or organization.
Tea Bazaar sells over a hundred high-quality, organic loose-leaf teas at popular local San Diego farmer’s markets. Additionally, it supplies wholesale teas to local restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and universities. Tea Bazaar is working towards a goal of healing, restoring and rejuvenating our minds, bodies and spirits naturally; it believes delicious, high-quality tea should be available and accessible to everyone.

What should we know?
Loose-leaf tea is completely different from tea bags. Since you’re steeping whole tea leaves, flowers, fruit and herbs, versus crushed-up tea bits, it’s much more flavorful and beneficial. Water is able to infuse through the whole tea leaves extracting more aroma, flavor and vitamins. Loose-leaf teas can seem overwhelming at first. However, we’re easily able to help our customers find the perfect teas by creating a personal and interactive experience where they can see, smell and touch our teas.

What do you do, what do you specialize in / what are you known for?
Our large selection, and wide variety of teas, is inspired by our customers and their needs. We take the time to ask questions, listen and understand what they are looking for before exploring our extensive tea line together. Customers have over a hundred traditional, flavored and rare teas and blends to choose from, including many Bazaar Blends that are specifically designed for common ailments like headaches, anxiety, insomnia, low energy, toxicity, acne, focus and immunity.

What sets you apart from others?
I believe our love and passion for our teas, and our desire to help our customers set us apart from others. We truly care about our customers and want to see them live their most epic lives. Seeing a customer’s face light up when they see and smell the tea and listening to them share how the tea helps them in their life brings us incredible joy and purpose.

What are you most proud brand wise?
We’re proud that people associate our brand with a local, friendly place where they can go to learn more about loose-leaf teas and experience a large selection of high-quality, holistic and delicious teas. We’re delighted when people come see us at a local farmer’s markets so we can help them find teas they’ll enjoy.

What do you want our readers to know about your brand, offerings, services, etc?
We’re so excited to launch our new line of CBD teas! This was a direct request from our customers. We spent the last year collaborating with a cannabis pioneer, strain hunter and strain specialist so we could pair the very best whole flower hemp CBD with our top three loose-leaf teas – Don’t Worry be Happy, Sleeping Beauty and Headache Fairy. Unlike generic CBD products that contain leaves and stems, our tea only includes the whole flower hemp, where all the benefits come from. We believe in the science that shows CBD helps alleviate pain, anxiety, migraines and insomnia, along with countless other benefits. It makes me feel good that we’re able to offer a safe, high-quality, natural CBD product.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I would recommend finding someone who is successful at doing what you want to do and talking to them to see if they are someone who would be a positive influence on your business. My mentor is at most of the farmer’s markets in San Diego, runs a successful business and has a great team.

I would also recommend ensuring your mentor is ethical, moral and humble. My mentor is smart and knowledgeable and lives his life with integrity. It is important to me to find role models who are not only good at business but also remarkable people.

Pricing:

  • 2 Original Regular Bags/$30; 1/$18
  • 2 Premium Regular Bags/$40; 1/$25
  • 1 Original & 1 Premium Regular Bag/$35
  • Speciality Teas; Mini Bag/$20; Sample Bag/$30; Regular Bag/$50
  • 2 Whole Flower CBD Teas/$100; 1/$60

Contact Info:

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