TeaLight Teas

TeaLight Teas originated as a kiosk at Market on Main in Ottumwa, IA in 2018. Valarie Banks initiated this venture as a hobby, offering a curated selection of 20 blended and sourced teas that reflected her passion for tea and herbal drinks. Today, TeaLight Teas leverages its robust online presence to connect with retail customers and wholesalers nationwide, showcasing an extensive array of teas and products on their website, tealightteas.com.

In 2020, Valarie’s role as a corporate events manager was eliminated due to COVID. Concurrently, her mother had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2019. As a full-time caregiver, Valarie faced pivotal life decisions, including the fate of her business. Opting to elevate her enterprise, she delved into market research and prepared for the launch of her website. Collaborating with Morgan Terlouw of Verdigris Photography Design, Valarie’s vision materialized, and her website went live on August 8th, 2023.

Valarie expressed the profound connection facilitated by tea, stating, “It is even better when you can drink tea with someone and connect about life.” Her most significant achievement since starting her business was the website launch, a momentous realization of her dream.

Navigating challenges, Valarie acknowledged the difficulty in finalizing the pricing structure, particularly competing with larger corporations as a small business. Undeterred, she emphasized the perpetual need for research to stay ahead of trends while remaining true to her vision.

Maintaining authenticity and faith, Valarie emphasized putting God first, praying over everything, and staying focused. While she currently has no plans for a brick-and-mortar store, she aims to enhance her website, expand offerings, partner with schools and nonprofits for fundraising, and collaborate with corporations for custom brand teas.

Offering advice to aspiring business owners, Valarie emphasized the importance of thorough research, hard work, and fearlessness. She credited Janine Clover, Regional Director of the Southeastern Iowa SBDC, for invaluable support, highlighting the SBDC’s encouragement, training, mentorship, and personalized assistance.

Notably, TeaLight Teas’ best-selling tea, Queen Susie’s Mint Tisane, pays homage to Valarie’s mother. Until December 31st, 2023, a portion of the sales from this tea will be donated to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, supporting the organization’s commitment to assisting LBD families in the United States.




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