Erica Indira Swanson is one of my favorite lady boss friends and badass business owners. She is creative, driven and owns the best damn Tea Bar in Portland, Oregon. With a white minimalist interior and a dynamic tea menu, Tea Bar is literally the place to be. On top of running a successful tea house with talk of expansion, Erica also runs Little Beirut Properties, a real estate company based in Portland. She is clearly a girl about town and constantly inspires me to dream bigger. Did I mention Erica is twenty-three years old!? I’ve had the privilege of being Erica’s health coach (and friend) and her commitment to all aspects of her life (business, health, friendship) is nothing short of inspiring. I asked Erica to be September's Inspired By guest so we could get a tour + interview of Portland's Tea Bar and how she manages her business, personal life and health.
Can you tell us a little bit about Tea Bar and what you offer?
Tea Bar is a minimalist inspired Tea House in Portland, Oregon. We provide the Portland community with a beautiful space to enjoy a variety of tea beverages, all of which are made with the highest quality ingredients possible. Our menu is small but mighty—we offer matcha, tea lattes, sparkling teas, boba tea, mimosas and loose-leaf blends. A few of our top-selling items are our London Fog tea latte, Vanilla Rose Boba and Lavender Matcha Shake.
What kind of process did you go through to open the space?
Tea Bar was opened on a budget so I had to think of creative ways to create a space that fit my vision and my budget. To me, the challenge of designing it on my own was exciting. I dovein head first and fell in love with the process of brining my vision to life. From designing, to building a team and product, to connecting with our customers, many of which feel like family now, I have loved every part of the process.
What do you believe has made Tea Bar so successful?
We are a specialty tea shop. It is clean. It is simple. It is bright. We play Beyoncé. We have fun, we make delicious drinks and we connect with our customers. I tried to create a space that was inviting and that people would want to spend time in—I think we succeeded in doing just that.
You inspire me to dream big. You've accomplished so much at such a young age. What keeps you motivated and inspired?
Having been raised by a single father, I would often tag along with my Dad to work. My Dad worked incessantly. Seeing that from a young age, instilled that same work ethic within me. Having witnessed that for so many years, it has motivated me to always follow my passion.
How do you balance your busy work schedule with your personal life?
Before I opened Tea Bar, I wanted to create and implement systems that did not depend on me being present at all times. That has allowed me to step away, and create a bit more of a balance in my life.
Now for a few fun questions...
Favorite time of day: Morning
How you stay healthy: Cooking my own meals and eating at home
Go-to healthy meal: Bone broth or a salad with smoked salmon, apples and a olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette
Best kept beauty secret: Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Favorite way to sweat: Ashtanga Yoga
Favorite way to decompress: Spending time outside with my dog Ponyo
Favorite drink at Tea Bar: My favorite changes weekly. With the change in weather lately, I have been reaching for our London Fog.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
To travel. Two months before I opened Tea Bar, I flew to China to be the maid of honor in one of my best friends weddings. I met her when I was 16 while living in Jiamusi, China. She speaks absolutely no English and taught me most of my Mandarin. Living in China and Cuba, traveling throughout SE Asia, Central and South America from the age of six until now has entirely shaped who I am and everything that I do.
Now it's your turn to give IMC readers advice. What is one tip for starting and running your own business?
One thing that has helped guide me through this experience is seeking out the support and guidance of several mentors. I think having a strong support system is invaluable.