April 12, 2024

5 Minutes with Kahleea Washington of Sweet Lee’s Teas

In our “5 Minutes with an Entrepreneur” series, we pass the mic to Michigan entrepreneurs…


A person with long braided hair is smiling at the camera. They are wearing a houndstooth-patterned blazer over a red top. The background is dark.

In our “5 Minutes with an Entrepreneur” series, we pass the mic to Michigan entrepreneurs we’ve supported to hear their stories, including the spark behind their businesses, their challenges, and what motivates them to keep going.

Sweet Lee’s Teas is a Black- and woman-owned all-natural fresh fruit and herbal tea business based in Lansing, Michigan. From fresh-fruit bottled teas to loose-leaf tea blends, their products are crafted to be delicious and flavorful while still addressing common health concerns. Sweet Lee’s Teas’ bottled teas are sweetened with fresh fruit and agave to help prevent major blood sugar spikes and their loose-leaf tea blends use unique herbal combinations and dehydrated fruit to provide powerful medicinal benefits.

Keep reading to hear business owner Kahleea Washington share her own journey with tea and wellness, the challenges of retaining customers with healthy products, and the advice she’d give an entrepreneur as they get started.

What was the spark behind your business?

My mother introduced me to the diversity and beauty of tea at an early age and I have been an avid tea drinker since! Then in high school, I was shockingly diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which later encouraged me to craft an alternative to all the sugary, fruity beverages on the market. I created my fresh-fruit herbal teas to provide consumers with an all-natural fresh- fruit herbal drink that is not only enjoyable but also addresses common health concerns!

Five years from now, where do you hope to be?

In five years, I hope to have Sweet Lee’s Teas products in storefronts — not just in Michigan, but throughout the nation!

What’s the biggest challenge facing small good food businesses?

The biggest challenge I am facing as a small good food business is getting people to not only try a healthier, fruity beverage but commit to incorporating it into their daily lives. In our society we are constantly consuming things that do little to better our health and wellbeing, but my products provide a much-needed beverage alternative that anyone can enjoy.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs? OR What’s one lesson you’ve learned that you’d pass onto others?

Research and utilize the resources in your community! There are so many small businesses resources and institutions that are knowledgeable and can help ensure your business is successful.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made that other should avoid?

Thinking you need to figure it all out on your own!

What’s the biggest ah-ha you’ve had?

Providing samples! People are usually hesitant to try tea, but after having a sample they are always pleasantly surprised by how delicious our teas are!

What key qualities should an entrepreneur possess?

Adaptability, patience, and determination.

What advice would you give yourself as you were starting out?

Crafting a quality product takes time and patience — you do not have to have it all figured out and perfect right away.

We are honored to support businesses like Sweet Lee’s Teas by connecting them with opportunities and resources to help them grow.

Interested in working with the Michigan Good Food Fund? See if your business is a good fit here.

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