Meet Nailah Ellis-Brown, creator of Ellis island Tea. She became an entrepreneur at the age of 20, launching her own hand crafted tea business in 2008. Her vision for Ellis Island Tea grew into opening her own manufacturing plant; making her the only Black woman beverage creator to do so.
Ellis Island creates traditional Jamaican hibiscus bottled teas and has grown tremendously since it’s inception in 2008. You can find the sweet teas on supermarket shelves in Meijer and Whole Foods, but since their distribution deal with Sam’s Club have now made their debut in all 600 Sam’s Club locations.
Ellis Brown grew up in Detroit and was always determined to not let her circumstances define her future and knew that she couldn’t wait for opportunities to come her way and had to create them for herself.
“Growing up in Detroit, I knew nothing was going to be handed to me. I expected doors to be closed and knew I would need to work hard and never take ‘no’ for an answer,” she said.
With the deal with Sam’s Club, Ellis Island Tea will be bottled and sold at almost every one of their stores across the U.S. The recipe for the tea was handed down from her great-grandfather.
“There is a lot of history in the recipe for this tea. It was handed down to me from my Great-Grandfather Cyril Byron, who was a Jamaican immigrant. He knew his recipe had value,” said Ellis-Brown. “He passed it down through the generations with the caveat that it was to be ‘sold, not told’ – meaning take the tea to market. I am honoring his legacy every single day with every bottle of Ellis Island Tea I brew and sell.” She added that the Sam’s Club order was the largest one that she’s received since she started her business.
“…The idea for Ellis Island Tea and my beverage company began at a backyard barbecue. My father used to brew up my great-grandfather’s recipe for iced hibiscus tea and serve it at every special family event. During one of those gatherings, it suddenly dawned on me that this tea was so good that I could market it and make beverages my business. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and this was my pathway” Ellis-Brown said.