Brooklyn Tea’s Recipe for a Thriving Workplace: Brewing an Unstoppable Team

Brooklyn Tea’s Recipe for a Thriving Workplace: Brewing an Unstoppable Team

In the bustling streets of Brooklyn, New York, there’s a local business in Bedford-Stuyvesant that’s brewing up more than just great tea – they’re crafting a recipe for an exceptional workplace. Brooklyn Tea was founded by Alfonso Ali Wright and Jamila Wright, a husband-and-wife duo passionate about creating a space where both customers and employees feel valued, heard, and part of something special.

From humble beginnings to a thriving community.

The story of Brooklyn Tea begins with the couple’s own journey. Jamila found a kindred spirit in Alfonso who comes from a Jamaican family where tea was a staple morning and night. Throughout their relationship, he helped deepen her appreciation for the beverage. “You make these beautiful pots and cups of tea with cinnamon sticks at the bottom, and it felt so romantic, and it was such an authentic way to get to know each other,” Jamila recalls. “It really was the start of us thinking about how we could replicate this ability to commune and get to know each other over tea in the form of a business.”

In their humble one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, the couple began brewing up their dream. “We just knew that this is a business that is helpful for the community and is interesting enough that we could do it forever,” says Jamila.

In December 2018, Brooklyn Tea officially opened its doors on Ocean Avenue, inviting customers to explore the vast and fascinating world of tea. But for Jamila and Alfonso, Brooklyn Tea was always about fostering a sense of community, both among their customers and within their team.

Building a workplace rooted in trust and shared responsibility.

Drawing on Jamila’s experience as an educator, the couple set out to build a workplace rooted in trust, bonding, and a shared sense of responsibility. They understood that when you invest in your people and create an environment where everyone feels valued and heard, you lay the foundation for an unstoppable team. 

“You may have your mission and your business plan, but what is the plan to really execute that and make it live and breathe truthfully with your staff and your team? And how do you want your staff to feel listened to and taken care of,” Jamila explains.

Streamlining operations with Homebase.

About two years into the business, the couple recognized the need to find a more efficient way to manage their team and operations. Like many small business owners, they found themselves grappling with the challenges of scheduling, payroll, and communication. “

We were writing this weekly schedule on a calendar that was smudged and people’s names would disappear or reappear,” Jamila recalls. “It was really a very pathetic situation.”

Fortunately, one of their team members  introduced Homebase  to them. Since then, Brooklyn Tea has been leveraging the everything app to supercharge  their daily tasks.

Staying connected, promoting autonomy and flexibility.

With locations in New York and Georgia, Homebase helps the couple communicate to keep the team in sync and on track. “Someone in leadership sends the team our priorities for the day, which kind of helps them to understand what they’re getting into today. But also, each team member sends an update after their shift. So we know exactly what was done, what wasn’t done, how the day went if we’re not there,” Jamila explains. “So it just really makes sure that all of us are- cohesive. Cohesive at all points.”

In addition to the communication the team has with each other, the couple are also able to track how much they paid for labor for the day and how much money the store made. This has allowed the owners to step back and let their team take more ownership of their roles.

“Homebase has been a huge support for our team to allow for more work-life balance and flexibility,” shares Jamila. By using Homebase’s scheduling and time-off request features, Brooklyn Tea has given their team the tools to manage their own availability. Their team can swap shifts in the app and solve scheduling issues without having to go to a manager for help.”When you’re not stuck to that very analog calendar, they have more agency and they have more empowerment to problem solve on their own,” Jamila notes.

But it’s not just about the practical benefits – it’s about fostering a sense of trust and togetherness. “It helps us connect. I send messages through it a lot,” Jamila explains. Whether it’s a staff meeting reminder or a shout-out for a job well done, Homebase’s built-in messaging keeps everyone in the loop and feeling valued.

Making data-driven decisions.

The Homebase reporting features have also been invaluable. Alfonso particularly appreciates the on-time arrival report, which has helped them address attendance issues in a more objective, data-driven way. “When you are in a business, doing a million things, you kinda notice things, but you don’t have it written down,” he says. “But then we’re doing a check-in and showing your employee, ‘hey, you’re on time 37% of the time, we need to fix this, right?’ It’s way better than ‘you’re always late.'”

The platform has also helped Brooklyn Tea keep a closer eye on their labor costs. “Industry standards for the most part is to keep your labor at about 30% of sales. And before Homebase, we were not keeping track of that whatsoever,” Jamila admits. Now the couple have a keener eye on how much labor is used for different days and what it costs them.  “That has really helped us to make better decisions moving forward,” she adds.

Supporting the whole person.

The couple’s support for their team goes beyond supporting their workers’ well-being in the store. Jamila and Alfonso make a point of attending their workers’ plays, art shows, concerts, and open mics, and even showcasing their team’s art in the store. 

“What you’ll see at Brooklyn Tea is that people are more goal-oriented versus task-oriented. It’s not just about punching in and out the clock, it’s about how we can really make our community feel seen, feel dignified. They’re really bought into what we’re trying to accomplish because they know the care is not only on the receiving side for the customer, but it’s also behind the bar.”

Jamila and Alfonso beam with pride when they hear from their customers who rave about their team.

“We get emails, texts, reviews all the time of people who are just enamored with our team, who just love them to death, and who ask about them,” Alfonso explains.

“It makes me really happy that we, well Jamila, chose the right people and that our community loves the people that we’ve chosen to serve them.”

“We love when our team feels motivated and empowered to make those shifts, without the note, pun intended. And I think that’s what we’re really proud of is what they do when no one’s watching,” Jamila adds.

Brewing up success, one cup at a time.

Today, Brooklyn Tea has expanded to include a second location in Atlanta, a thriving online retail presence, and a growing wholesale business. Despite this growth, Jamila and Alfonso remain committed to the values that have guided them from the start – a passion for community, a curiosity for the vast world of tea, and a deep appreciation for the power of human connection.

With Homebase, they’ve been able to streamline their operations, make data-driven decisions, and foster a culture of trust, flexibility, and ownership. “Homebase allows you to quickly do a thing that you’re probably not great at. Scheduling and communication as a leader is always one of the hardest parts and this makes it a little easier,” Jamila shares. “So you can get back to blending your tea or making your muffins or whatever it is you do in business.”

As they continue to brew up success, one cup at a time, Brooklyn Tea is proof that with a shared vision, diverse experiences, and a commitment to putting people first, even the most humble beginnings can lead to an extraordinary workplace.

Related posts

8 best free time clock apps for employee time tracking

It’s hard to know where to start when looking for the best free time clock app for your small business….

Read article

10 Best Square Alternatives for 2024

Square is a popular software solution for small businesses in the retail, hospitality, and restaurant industries. You can use the…

Read article

Travel Time Pay for Hourly Employees (2024 Update)

When it comes to travel time pay for hourly employees, things can get confusing for both employers and employees. If…

Read article

Bar Management 101: How to Manage a Bar in 2024

If you manage a bar business, you know how important successful bar management is — and just how difficult it…

Read article

Time Theft: What it is, Impact on Business, & Prevention

As the saying goes, time is money. That means that time theft is something no business owner ever wants to…

Read article

12 Proven Strategies For Finding New Employees for Your Business

Your business is growing, your customer base is expanding, and the time has come to expand your small business team….

Read article
Effortlessly schedule and track your team's time with Homebase.
Try our basic plan free, forever.
Try Homebase for free