Mamaprenista Ami Bhansali of Chai Diaries on her mission to Make Fresh Premium Teas Accessible to All
Welcome Ami! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
Chai Diaries is a lifestyle brand retailing specialty teas. Inspired by my tea-enriched household (three generations of history in growing and manufacturing tea in the beautiful Nilgiris, India), the brand is all about REAL TEA, REAL HERBS, REAL SPICES! Embracing a tea culture from early on, at Chai Diaries, we are on a mission to make fresh, premium teas accessible to all. Inspired by fashion, art, culture, and diversity, Chai Diaries is about clean ingredients, beautiful packaging, and a superior tea experience. Sourcing teas from the world-over, our specialty teas are hand blended locally in Los Angeles, California.
So Ami, what excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
Meeting like minded ambitious women, here to change the world!
Starting your own business can be intimidating! What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I have always been an entrepreneur! Surrounded by entrepreneurs early on in life, I think the excitement of creating something and being able to share it with the world, living a legacy that far exceeds my own life…was very appealing to me!
So Ami, what was your background prior to starting your own business?
Public Relations and marketing. I launched 2 successful branding & marketing companies during my time in India where we worked with luxury brands coming into the country in the fashion and food space.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Ami, when you first launched your business, what was your initial marketing strategy?
I was sampling my teas at a neighborhood cafe in New York City! I was doing free demos at stores like Lululemon after their yoga sessions. I think having a personal touch and seeing your customer’s reactions first hand is the best marketing strategy. You just scale from there – remembering this foundation!
Entreprenistas overcome challenges every single day. What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way?
As a small business owner, you need to be your own best cheerleader. It is easy to spin down the dark alley of self-doubt and loathing. You need to trust you are doing something bigger than yourself. You are providing a service and helping your community. That is what kept me going, I wanted more women to accept entrepreneurship as a way of life. As a mom of two, it is a constant juggle of roles but somehow we find the strength to do it. Don’t get threatened if you are the only girl in the room, stand tall and proud and let your voice be heard. It gets overwhelming, but you break each problem into a smaller challenge, and you remember to celebrate each win. I remember being disheartened after a retail meeting and a friend gave me the best advice ever. She said, “Take the emotion out of it.” What that meant is that a “no” isn’t a “no” forever, it’s a “not right now”, and that changed the game for me. I followed up without my ego getting in the way with vendors, suppliers, customers, networking associates until they heard me. That is one of the biggest challenges I overcame for Chai Diaries to finally catch a break.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Being featured in Forbes. It was a testament of what I was doing, why I left my comfortable life in India to pursue a dream that seemed impossible in an international country! It was in a way, making my father proud, finally making sense of the journey I was on!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely! Being a mother of 2 very active toddlers, you tend to re-look at life and it’s priorities. I have always been ambitious and career focused, but becoming a mother made my WHY even more authentic. I feel entrepreneurship is for the long run and every milestone – personal and professional – need to be celebrated to stay true to our purpose.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
That there is a network of like minded individuals sharing the same challenges as me and willing to help!
Ami, you have lots to celebrate! What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
The Entreprenista 100 award!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
This is a very exciting year for us! We are growing our national retail distribution. We are launching some exciting customer favorite products in new packaging. We are actively growing our private label business and reaching more customers. For us tea is more than just the leaves…it is the lifestyle you build around your morning cuppa! We are the cheerleaders helping our customers live their most authentic life – be it in the silence of the morning when a mom drinks her first cup of chai before the kids wake up, a VP calming his nerves before he steps into the boardroom or a college kid about to embark on his/her life’s adventure! Chai Diaries recognizes you, for who you are in the pages of your journal!