Not too steep: This alum’s passion for tea and education helped her grow into an entrepreneur
By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations
Marketing alum Nancy Prokosh didn’t plan to become an entrepreneur. In fact, the idea came to her in a dream.
“I had a recurring dream about Alice in Wonderland, with teacups spinning around and around. I didn’t know if it was a sign for my future, but it sparked my interest in tea,” says Nancy.
And Nancy has run with it. Today, she is recognized as one of Canada’s top tea experts, and she owns a successful retail business, Tealicious Tea Company.
In the tea leaves
Nancy opened Tealicious Tea Company in 2001, which was a brick-and-mortar retail store until she branched out into the online sphere in 2015. Unlike many big-box tea brands, Nancy’s teas are fair trade and 100 percent organic, grown without the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
It’s important to Nancy that Tealicious’s teas are good not only for Mother Earth, but for the producers as well. Tea farms can be exploitative for workers, their working environment rife with problems from poor wages to child labour to Indigenous land tenure. As an Indigenous entrepreneur herself, Nancy aims to be part of the solution.
“I partner with tea producers who support women who have been cast out of their communities for one reason or another,” Nancy explains. She adds that such shunning is common if a woman doesn’t conform to a community’s gender norms and expectations. “In most cases, these women have no education, no money, nothing. But the tea producers I partner with will hire them on, train them on everything from tea cultivation to harvesting, as well as provide them with the opportunity to access education.
“This access to training and education can be a catalyst for these women. This provides them with more opportunities and the ability to be self-sufficient. And it’s important to me to support these efforts.”
Nancy’s passion for education has deep roots in her own personal journey.
“When I got married to my first husband – which was an expectation for people at that time – I turned down my acceptance to SFU’s law program. It was the biggest mistake I ever made. I didn’t understand how much I would come to regret the decision,” she says.
But Nancy hasn’t let her regrets hold her back.
After opening Tealicious Tea Company, Nancy wanted to upgrade her knowledge to help grow her business and came to Douglas College to pursue a credential in Marketing. The program enhanced her skills in customer relations, selling, marketing, promotions, buyer behaviour and strategy.
“Douglas College helped me a lot with my business. The program helped me build my foundation,” says Nancy.
Since coming to Douglas, Nancy has also pursued training with the International Tea Education Institute, adding tea pairing to her list of offerings. Currently, she is in the process of launching courses to train others in tea pairing. She hopes to branch out into public speaking and present to those also in the field one day.
“We’re in a time when people are constantly reinventing themselves,” says Nancy. “I’m excited by the opportunity to grow my business and continue to challenge myself in new and interesting ways.”