From the Jamaican Countryside to the World: This Founder Wants Everyone to Love Her Tea
The founder of an ecommerce herbal tea business says she's just getting started.
This article is a republished version of an original article created and published by Entrepreneur in October 2022.
Danielle Johnson started her ecommerce shop, Plantish by JM, in 2020 with no idea where it would lead. A native of Jamaica, she says her family couldn't afford to send her to college and most jobs there didn't pay well.
"In Jamaica, the school system is kind of made for people that work 9-to-5 jobs," Johnson says. "There's no outlet for entrepreneurs or people that want to start a business, so I spent a lot of my life not fitting in, outside the box."
So, she took the entrepreneurial leap and started her own business selling herbal teas, all naturally harvested in Jamaica and sold to customers in the U.S. She also provides raw herbs wholesale to large and small companies. Now, thanks in part to a $10,000 small business grant from Venmo, she has the next few years mapped out and is expanding rapidly.
Committed to supporting emerging entrepreneurs and small-business owners, Venmo started the grant program with a mission to help these startups build a more equitable and inclusive global economy. Venmo is providing 20 Venmo Business Profile users with $10,000 in funding to support their businesses.
Hoping to aid struggling businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic, Venmo launched Venmo Business Profiles to help businesses find new customers by leveraging Venmo's social community to reach their customers as well as their customers' friends. More than 1.5 million customers have established a Venmo Business Profile and the ecommerce tool has continued to expand with new features like higher limits, in-app refunds, photo galleries, digital asset kits, QR Kits, tipping features, and more.
A simple solution for an ambitious startup.
During the early days of the pandemic, Johnson says opportunities for any job were hard to find, so she spent a lot of time walking the Jamaican countryside, wondering what she would do. One day during one of her walks, she spotted the flowers that would change her life.
The duck flowers, she cautioned, "smell horrible," but her grandmother told her of their medicinal properties. Johnson started selling them online. The huge flowers, which can be made into a tea or consumed whole for detoxing purposes, were a hit and her customer base boomed as word of the traditional detoxification method spread, she says.
Early on, Johnson says she fielded 10 orders per week. In the past two years, she created her own branded ecommerce site, expanded her product offerings, and has seen her business grow to more than 6,000 unique customers.
Johnson set up her Venmo Business Profile this year after registering her company as an LLC in Delaware, finding it "really easy to use." So easy that she also began redirecting her wholesale customers to her Venmo.
Plantish by JM founder Danielle Johnson, Image credit: Plantish by JM
Having received the $10,000 small-business grant from Venmo, as well as access to pro bono technical expertise, mentorship, and other resources from the Taproot Foundation, Johnson says she is feeling more empowered and ambitious about growing her business. It has been a collaborative effort which utilizes a team of bushmen and a service provided by the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture that enables Johnson to mill her crops into powder. She says she cherishes the opportunity to hire other locals and help them find work, too.
Johnson plans a rebranding of Plantish by JM to focus on the healthier aspects of its products and the quality of its content. She believes these details appeal to a younger demographic and aims to create stronger social-media content to show her products to prospective customers. With plans on expanding its product line, Johnson also plans to use some of the grant money to purchase a surplus of stock for the upcoming holidays.
It doesn't end there. Johnson also wants to take more photos of the flowers and Jamaican countryside, so American buyers can better understand the products.
Could she open a brick-and-mortar store soon in the U.S.? It's an idea Johnson says she expects to explore.
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