Sister’s Supporting Sisters is dedicated to women of color living out their entrepreneurial dreams. Sister’s Supporting Sisters was started due to a lack of outlets to feature the immense talent and creativity of women of color. It is important for women of color to be more supportive of one another in business and life in general. A strong network of relationships amongst minority women would definitely help make the climb to the top a little bit easier – especially if they just happen to be going after the same dreams. Honestly, there is enough money for everyone to do their thing and still be supportive at the same time. This month’s installment of Sister’s Supporting Sisters highlights Monaqui Porter-Young the founder of Srina Tea.

Monaqui Porter-Young is CEO of Srina Tea, Inc, a green tea company based in Sri Lanka. The farm provides over 35 local women, many of whom have lost everything after decades of civil war, with a lucrative trade and a renewed pride in their work and their land. At Paradise Farm, women from both sides of the war conflict work side by side, peacefully. After a visit to Sri Lanka five years ago, Monaqui, an actress, was inspired to became a certified Holistic Health Counselor, specializing in digestive disorders and primary foods. After four years of studying business, including production, importing, exporting, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, integrative nutrition, distribution and all the aspects of how to run a socially-responsible enterprise, Porter-Young returned to Sri Lanka and started Srina. The farmers receive a clean and safe working environment, training toward sustainable development using natural resources and above average wages for the area. Based in New York, Monaqui is a wife and mother, currently expecting her second child.

The Sister to Support: Monaqui Porter-Young
Name of Business, Website, or Service: www.srina.com

Clutch: Tell us about Srina Tea?
Srina Tea: Srina is 100% organically grown green tea, hand plucked and packaged using natural fibers. Srina Green Tea is grown on a distinctly high mountainous region of Sri Lanka located on a 90-acre rainforest called Paradise Farm.

Clutch: What’s the story behind the name?
Srina Tea: The Name Srina stands for Sri Lanka Naturals. After traveling and working with the farmers at Paradise Farm, I wanted to come up with a name that symbolized the place of origin and the all-natural feeling you get when you drink the tea. SRINA-(pronounced SHREE-NAH) felt so good rolling off my tongue!

Clutch: Who’s behind Srina Tea?
Srina Tea: Srina Tea consists of a small team of passionate tea drinkers and supporters of Paradise Farm and Sri Lanka. Monaqui Porter is CEO/President, and Meraash Deen (a native Sri Lankan) is Executive Creative Director. We also have a team of advisors, legal experts, and financial advisors. Srina Inc. (formerly MPGlobal Connect Inc.) is a partner of Paradise Farm in Sri Lanka.

Clutch: What made you decide to start Srina Tea?
Srina Tea: A life changing visit to Paradise Farm led to an amazing opportunity to develop deep, personal relationships with the female tea pluckers. I wanted to do something to help them change their life using their natural resources. The first sip of Srina Tea convinced me that America would appreciate such a quality, refreshing green tea, produced in a natural, sustainable package.

Clutch: What has been your biggest challenge in starting Srina Tea?
Srina Tea: My biggest challenge in starting Srina Tea was raising capitol without offering collateral. Initially, I wasn’t interested in working with private investors, so I went to commercial banks.

Clutch: There is so much false information out there when it comes to finding loans and grants for minority women. Did you find it easy to gain financing or did your 9-5 help fund your dream?
Srina Tea: After spending about a year on a solid business plan, great personal credit, and market research to support the numbers, I walked into a commercial bank and through SBA I was able to secure financing. I also attended many free lectures and seminars on loans, business plans and SBA lending.

Clutch: What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business?
Srina Tea: Be ready to do the homework. Many people have the dream of starting a business, but they neglect to ask themselves the hard core questions. There are sacrifices, not only starting a business, but in maintaining that business and making it grow. It’s a process with rewards that sometimes come slowly. It requires a mix of patience and endurance.

Clutch: What do you think the biggest mistake or misconception women make when starting a business?
Srina Tea: I think the biggest mistake women make is believing that we can do it all–the sort of “superwoman” mentality. You have to be able to admit your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with quality people you trust.

Clutch: Do you have any advice to women contemplating or who have just started a business?
Srina Tea: My best advice is to be ready to do the homework. Study the industry that interests you. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks. Business is all about risk. Don’t give up!

Clutch: Do you plan on expanding your tea collection or holistic services?
Srina Tea: We are currently preparing to launch Srina Citrus and Spice Collection tea in loose leaf and tea bags. We are expanding our Srina Tea Club as a means to better connect with our customers. I will also be offering my holistic health counseling to Srina Tea club members.

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