Recipe for Fulfilling Career Medley

In an empty teapot infuser, mix together:
2 scoops of self-actualization
1 scoop of wealth
1 teaspoon of mental stimulation
1/2 teaspoon of challenge
1 dash of positive impact

Pour boiling water into the teapot.

Serve hot or cold. Garnish with a slice of adventure.

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While some may wish this magic elixir existed, there are no shortcuts to a satisfying career. Determining your recipe for success is the first hurdle, and then you need a constant source of passion to bring it to life. This takes time, exploration, and focus. As tea without water is nothing more than dry ingredients, so too business ideas without dedication are merely suggestions. As dried leaves, flowers and spices infuse that water with flavour, passion infuses your work with purpose and brings your ideas to life.

Donna Sikora worked in the male-dominated security industry for many years, but as a creative soul, she felt there was something missing in her work life. She was skilled at making sales and had great co-workers, but inside she always knew that she wanted to do something else. She often pondered starting a business of her own. As time passed, the yearning for a creative outlet grew stronger but Donna wasn’t sure which of her interests could match up with a business opportunity. Then one day while pouring herself a steaming cup of green tea, she thought: “Why not tea?” 

“I tried oolong tea for the first time and I literally fell in love. And then there was absolutely no turning back! And I knew that I was on the right path for my life.”

Enhancing the vitality of water, tea has the power to ease a broken heart, soothe an ache, calm the spirit, provide comfort in the cold, and quench thirst in the heat. Donna believes there’s a tea out there for everybody. To learn more about her favourite beverage, Donna joined the Tea Sommelier Program at George Brown College Culinary School. Every week was an eye-opening and delightful experience of tasting and evaluating flavours and aromas. “I tried oolong tea for the first time and I literally fell in love. And then there was absolutely no turning back! And I knew that I was on the right path for my life. And I started the tea company,” Donna smiles. Together with other graduates from the program, Donna formed the Tea Guild of Canada, a non-profit organization uniting tea lovers and connoisseurs. She also began sourcing Canadian ingredients from various regions and carefully blending them herself. Then in 2010, Donna started My Tea Brew, an artisan tea company offering all-natural, loose leaf tea blends.  

Photo by Alex Banman

The first sips of My Tea Brew made their neighbourhood debut at the Port Credit Farmers’ Market. Networking at community events eventually led to opportunities at other farmers’ markets and Christmas shows. By 2014, My Tea Brew was thriving, and Donna was able to quit her job, ready to make the little tea company her sole focus. 

Seven months later, as Donna was beginning to realize her dream, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to put the tea business on hold. She went through her treatment with the help of some amazing people from Wellspring, an organization that supports cancer patients and their families. Inspired by their incredible encouragement and strength, Donna created a soothing brew called Goddess Blend, which is made with Ti Guan Yin, an oolong tea meaning Iron Goddess of Mercy. To show her appreciation Donna donates a portion of each sale of Goddess Blend to Wellspring.

Photo by Alex Banman

In January of 2016, Donna’s healing journey had ended and she was able to dive into her tea business full-time. From starting with just a few blends, today the My Tea Brew collection includes more than 30 handcrafted teas. Unafraid of the established tea giants, Donna is in fact grateful to the big tea companies for making tea popular. “They’ve opened the doors to seeing tea differently… that tea is fun, and that there [are] so many different types of tea out there,” she says. There’s a unique complexity of flavours in Donna’s all-natural handcrafted loose-leaf blends that can’t be found in the large brands at supermarkets; “So although they’re out there, I don’t…see them as a direct competitor, because we’re approaching it a little bit differently.”

Today Donna’s main challenge is brand expansion. “I’ve gotten great compliments on the teas. I get emails from customers that are completely unsolicited, about how they love my teas, so I know that I’m doing something right. And I’m enjoying that. But [my challenge is] getting out there on to a broader audience,” she explains. Nevertheless, Donna has built up a loyal customer base of tea lovers who keep coming back. 

“Follow your passion. Life is short…just take that opportunity. Open that door a little bit wider, even though you may be a little bit scared of the unknown. Go for it. It is well worth it.”

Selling at local markets across the GTA allows Donna to get exposure in different communities as well as find opportunities to collaborate with other vendors. Past collaborations have included dried Cabernet Franc grape skins from Stratus Winery, estate lavender from Rosewood Estates Winery, and Vidal Icewine from Chateau de Charmes. Donna’s most recent project was Montgomery’s Tea, a special blend for Montgomery’s Inn in Etobicoke. Starting with a black tea base, Donna added dried apple pieces and maple syrup flakes to bring to mind the trees that once surrounded the inn. She balanced this sweetness with a dash of Lapsang Souchong, a smoky black tea which evokes the coziness of the multiple fireplaces used to heat the 19th-century inn. Donna loves to create custom blends using flavours that capture the essence of who she is making them for.

Looking back at all that she’s accomplished, Donna knows she absolutely made the right decision when she started My Tea Brew. “I’ve never been happier in life,” she beams. To anyone thinking of starting a business Donna says, “Follow your passion. Life is short…just take that opportunity. Open that door a little bit wider, even though you may be a little bit scared of the unknown. Go for it. It is well worth it.”

Photo by Alex Banman

Everyone’s recipe for a fulfilling business is unique, but the process that brings all the ingredients together is hard work, which is impossible to sustain without passion. As the balanced flavours of Donna’s teas come together in a homemade blend, our daily efforts compounded over time create a sense of fulfillment. May your favourite tea comfort you at your workday’s end and inspire you to continue the journey.

My Tea Brew is available online and at these retailers. You can also find it at the following markets and events in the GTA:

Summer and Fall
Humber Bay Shores Farmers’ Market, Etobicoke – Saturdays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Creative Hub – Farmers Market, Mississauga –  Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m

Handmade Market, Niagara (May/ Sept and November)

Photo by Alex Banman

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