CEO + Founder, Allison Ullo, on Trusting Your Instinct
Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
I’m Allison Ullo and I am the CEO + Founder of Leaves of Leisure Tea. Almost a decade ago, I stopped drinking caffeine after my doctor attributed by mood swings to the amount of caffeine I was consuming. To be fair, at the time I was working full time during the day, and then I was working a second job waitressing at night till 4am. Coffee was my crutch. I dove head first into finding an alternative beverage that would leave be feeling refreshed and uplifted without the anxiety or false sense of energy. Tea became my go to, specifically herbal tea. The launch collection is a series of 6 teas based on leisure activities, and each one if full of detoxifying, mood boosting, and over wellness ingredients made to emulate a sense of nostalgia and joy. Leaves of Leisure tea was created for the woman looking to cut back on caffeine and alcohol, but still be able to partake in mornings and happy hour in a way that feels authentic to them. We are bringing the balance and inspiration from the first glance to the last sip.
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I am most excited about the networking. I love connecting with others that are as ambitious and motivated as I am to create, grow, and help others.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I think I have always known that I wanted to start my own business. Out of college I worked multiple corporate jobs, and it never felt like a fit to me. Being stuck in a routine that I didn’t create and that wasn’t optimal for my specific strengths and creative process always felt stifling. Being able to curate my life in a way that works for me is the most important and working for myself allows that.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I actually went to school at FIT for fashion merchandising and product development. After graduation, I worked in product development at Alexander Wang while also waitressing in the evening. Waitressing may not be glamorous, but it is a GREAT way to network. I ended up meeting a ton of people along the way that helped to catapult me into the direction I am now. I ended working public relations (which I still do) and doing public relations for a variety of lifestyle brands including CPG, which is what sparked my interest in starting my own tea brand.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think yes. Working for other people never felt good to me. I love to collaborate and work as a team, but I like to have control over my own destiny and being an entrepreneur allows you to do that in the most direct way.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Originally, when I launched the brand, I thought that IG ads was going to be a large part of my business. I hired someone to help and put a budget together. While it drove traffic to my site, it didn’t convert, and I could see that I was literally lighting my money on fire. As someone that works multiple jobs in order to fund my business, I knew I needed to shut the ads down fast and pivot my strategy.
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
To date I think the two biggest challenges are financial capabilities and learning to drive traffic organically without a large budget. I realized within the first few months, what I was doing wasn’t working. But I was also going about things the way others told me to, and not really leaning into my personal strengths. I am learning that I need to trust myself more, and lean into what I am good at, rather than constantly compare what I am doing to others.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Recently, I got my first press hit in Buzzfeed, and it has driven converting traffic to my website. While it may seem silly that I feel proud or excited about it, since I do public relations for a living, it is SO different to do it for yourself than it is to do it for others. I put my clients before my own business always, so to finally be able to spend some time on my business and have it work, is such a motivation.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely, and I actually think at the core that is what Leaves of Leisure is really about. I work WAY too many jobs, and I always have, but the only way I can sustain doing so many things, is because I have dedicated rituals that are carved out in my schedule to ensure I have balance. I think having routines to start and end your day are really important. They hold you accountable and force you to stop, focus on yourself and care for your body and mind in a way that works for you. I start every morning with 30-40 minutes of yoga, 10-15 minutes of meditation, a tea and yogurt bowl, and I write in my gratitude journal. It sets up my day to always at least start in a good mindset. When I start to feel overwhelm midday, I take a tea break and often fit in another short meditation.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
There is no magic wand or advice that will catapult your business to success. You just have to do the work. Be patient and know that every little effort you put in goes toward the greater goal. It may not seem impactful but those 1% gains add up.
What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
I have seen some press success lately which is really exciting. Caffeine free and zero-proof drinks are really popular right now, and our tea offers an updated take on an alternative.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I am very focused on building out recipes and concepts around tea mocktails, zero-proof drinks etc. Not only on my own blog and social, but also within the restaurant and café community.
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