Aureal Ojeda of Outwoken Tea: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway
First, you must have a goal and then a plan to achieve that goal. For me, my goal always remained the same, but it’s important to remember that the plan may change.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aureal Ojeda.
Aureal Ojeda is the Founder of Outwoken Tea, a zero-waste tea brand sustainably sourcing from small tea farms in developing countries. Aureal continuously strives to bring awareness to how each of us can challenge ourselves to create better, conscious decisions to positively impact the environment. Each Outwoken Tea purchase plants one tree through their partnership with OneTreePlanted.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Absolutely! I am a mother to my 12-year-old son, an entrepreneur and a seasonal construction worker, but my journey to owning a zero-waste, ethically sourced tea company began when I was younger.
I’ve always loved tea — even when I was a kid. I became more interested and more appreciative of tea in my early twenties when I started learning the health benefits and all the fascinating history behind it. I was going through a health journey myself, and tea truly became an important aspect of that journey.
While tea became a cherished part of my health, my entrepreneurial journey came to be during a bad day at my job in a landfill. On this particular day, there was a storm, and my truck was stuck. I was knee-high in dirt and garbage, and the wind was so strong a plastic pouch smacked me right in the face. In the same moment, I was watching birds around me; one choking on a bottle cap. I had an epiphany that day. I knew I wanted to create a company that combined my passion for tea’s health benefits and one that bettered our planet. Thus, the birth of Outwoken Tea.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently in the process of writing an article surrounding mutual aid and the positive outcomes that have stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve become conditioned to hearing negative news in the last year, and I wanted to shed light on the uplifting events and milestones we have achieved as people.
Titled, “We the PEOPLE! 2021,” I am going to interview professionals from various industries on their perspective on mutual aid and how they have seen more solidarity come through during the dark times of the pandemic. My goal is to make the article as diverse as possible so anyone who reads it can relate to it.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
Many businesses make a point to donate, but it’s important we take it a step further. Outwoken Tea stands out because of the activism behind the company. Within my community, we take part in community cleanups; I turned my front yard into a community garden; we partnered with a nonprofit organization to help reduce single-use plastic locally.
In my business and in my personal life, I always strive for honesty and transparency. I want to show my customers and business partners exactly where I source from, what organizations I work with — I want to be candid about who I am as an entrepreneur and to show that Outwoken Tea reflects who I am and what I am passionate about.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
With any entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to get countless “no’s” before you get one “yes.” When I built Outwoken Tea, I wanted every aspect, including the packaging, to leave zero-waste behind. To my surprise, I couldn’t find a manufacturer willing and able to provide compostable and biodegradable packaging.
I had one manufacturer respond to my packaging inquiry saying, “Whatever you’re doing, it will never be in demand, so you might as well close shop before you even get started.”
Hearing this reconfirmed what I wanted to do with my business — to wake people up and bring awareness to our negative impact on the environment. This “no” is what inspired me to name the company “Outwoken Tea.”
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
Today, I am proud to say my company is designed to leave zero-waste behind! While it was a challenging journey, I want my experience to create a domino effect for other entrepreneurs and businesses. If I can do it, as one entrepreneur, so can large companies.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My son has been there for me through every step of my entrepreneurial journey. He has watched Outwoken Tea grow through all of its trials and tribulations. My son has helped with my packaging; he’s spent 13-hour workdays with me; he is my barista for events and farmer’s markets. I couldn’t have done it without him!
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
My father always taught me that, as a strong minority woman, you will always have to work twice as hard as anyone else to get the same chance in life. He always told me to never compare myself to another person’s journey and built in me to work hard and to never depend on anyone else.
I would not be able to have come back from the rejection I have experienced without the lessons my father taught me when growing up. My dad raised me as a strong independent woman, and I’m grateful for the confidence and resiliency he instilled in me.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
First, you must have a goal and then a plan to achieve that goal. For me, my goal always remained the same, but it’s important to remember that the plan may change. When I first began my business, I had a plan mapped out across my office space, outlining detail after detail on what I needed to do to grow my business. But each step to grow my business had another 50 steps within — while it helped me map out my business, there will always be a few more steps along the way you may be missing. Which leads me into my next strategy…
Expect the unexpected. Your journey might not always be what you are expecting so anticipate having to pivot. The economic shutdown in March 2020 occurred on the same day I launched my business. Everything that I had accomplished had slowly crumbled in front of me. I had plans to attend the Democratic Convention as a vendor; I had open contracts with major businesses. But my passion to keep my business and mission alive kept me going and ultimately led to the successful re-launch in June of last year.
You must be willing to ask for help and resources. As the saying goes, closed mouths don’t get fed. I have a caseworker for every aspect of my business, and I make sure to have the proper resources for my own help and advocacy. Entrepreneurs have to use their resources to their full potential — especially if they’re free!
A “do-it-yourself” mindset is important to have when starting a business. I realized early on that it’s better to assume that only you will get the job done. Not everybody will support you along the way; sometimes it’s not meant for people to be with you on this journey.
Lastly, take advantage of your time! Every single day, I block out windows of time to get things done for my business. You must make your business a priority every day and show up every day. You have to show up for your business because no one is going to show up for you.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
I think to what my father always told me — that I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to get the same opportunity in life. I live by this philosophy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Supporting the planet and challenging ourselves to make more sustainable choices is my passion. But, on a greater level, I believe everyone should have a cause to support. If more people supported a mission or mission-based businesses, it would have a domino effect that could influence generations to come. I definitely think more businesses should have a greater purpose that can inspire other companies to do the same.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes, you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!