Name: Joseph (Joey) Wight
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Describe yourself in three words: Intuitive, Driven, Open
What is the name of your business and what do you do?
Wight Tea Company. We sell hand-crafted loose leaf teas and tea blends both B2B and direct to customers. We also have a large selection of tea drinks and foods at our new retail location.
Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?
I’ve been interested in tea since I was very young. I spent a large part of my life learning about tea and working in the tea industry. When my business partner and I started our business we felt like there wasn’t enough good tea in our area, so we decided to start our business.
In just a few words, how does running your own business make you feel?
Running my own business makes me feel empowered!
What are some of the hurdles or roadblocks you faced/face as an LGBTQ+ small business owner, specifically? How do you overcome them?
Putting “gay owned” on our label was a roadblock. While I am mostly comfortable sharing my life with others, I definitely had second thoughts about such a public announcement.
This has also closed doors on wholesale accounts in the past. When we realized a new high-volume client was run by a church, we sent an email outlining the wording used on the packaging and they dropped the account. We’d rather be up front than hit bigger problems later.
As an LGBTQ+ small business owner, do you feel you’ve been granted the same access and opportunities that other small business owners in your community have been given? If not, what are some examples? How did you push past that?
Not a roadblock, but I can say that it’s something I constantly consider. One of the reasons we chose the location of our new tea shop and cafe was because we felt comfortable with the other business owners in our building. Not only were there other LGBTQ+ business owners, it was important to us to share a space with other minority business owners that could also intersect with being LGBTQ+
What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to the small business economy as an LGBTQ+ business owner?
I feel like I bring the perspective of inclusion. Making spaces where people in my community are comfortable is very important. That also goes for other underrepresented groups.
What are some of your major wins or accomplishments since starting your business? What are your proudest moments?
One of our major wins was opening our brick-and-mortar location during a pandemic. With restrictions on seating and gatherings, we made a space where people could feel comfortable and get both retail teas, and prepared food and drink while feeling safe. That store celebrated its one-year anniversary on June 3, 2021.
What are the next big plans you have for your business?
Our next big plan is opening up a warehouse dedicated to making tea blends, and shipping them out from our online store. We outgrew our current space very quickly, and we’re excited to have more space to grow.
When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?
Our vision. My business partner and I share a vision of what we can do in our industry, and when I get frustrated with small details of projects not working how they should, I back up and think about the bigger picture. This gets me back to focusing on the steps needed to overcome those tough days.
How can LGBTQ+ business owners give back to their community?
Hire within your LGBTQ+ community and pay them! Showing people that they are of value and have a place in a field they’re interested in can go a long way.
Collaborate with your community. Coming together to work with people who have expertise in complementing products or ideas is a great way to let your community benefit from your business.
Host fundraisers. Pick beneficiaries that do great work. Whether they are percentage proceeds given, or matching donations with the public, fundraisers are a great way to give back to your community.
What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ small business owners just starting out?
Don’t hold back. Once you are sure of your vision, map out the steps and milestones to get where you want to be and then start crossing items off the lists.
What’s your “power song” and why?
“Oh” by Ciara. From my past, it still puts me in a great mood every time.