For Yvette Nathalie Brown, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week and the owner of Tshikovi Tea House in Phillipsburg, the idea of entrepreneurship was always on the table. A believer in divine inspiration and letting her heart lead her, Yvette has had a career in the arts as a dancer and choreographer and in wellness. But tea was always a big part of her life—so the chance to create and share her knowledge led her to become a certified herbalist and tea sommelier blending delicious teas with intentional health benefits. At first, she started selling her handcrafted blends that pay homage to Black culture and representation online, but eventually, she wanted others to experience the tea ritual and opened Tshikovi Tea House. In addition to her tea blends, she also sells wine-infused tea, loose herbs, infusers, tea straws, and more. We chatted with Yvette, who lives in Somerset with her husband (who’s also co-owner of Tshikovi Tea House) and young daughter, Zaura, to spill the tea on her favorite blends, where she came up with the idea for her Sip Slow Tea Straw and her family’s go-to park in Somerset County, which includes a nature trail and a zip line. (featured photo credit: Photography: 3rd Eye Visualz)
Please tell us a little bit about your family and career background. My husband, Sina-Ta Brown, and I have been married for seven years and have a 3-year-old daughter, Zaura. I grew up in Rahway before heading to Morgan State University in Maryland, majoring in psychology. My husband and I lived in Linden, but when I got pregnant with Zaura, we knew we’d need a bigger space and found it in Somerset, where we moved right before the pandemic started. It was perfect timing because we have the best of both worlds here. We live in such a peaceful area with beautiful and abundant outdoor space, but we’re also very close to downtown New Brunswick. I majored in psychology in college, which has helped me better understand people (always an asset when running a business). After my formal education, I became a dancer/choreographer for musical artists, which is still my heart since I love creating that way. I also started The Powerscope/Black Girl Balanced, a health and wellness media outlet focused on the Black community and Women of Color. We were on a nationwide tour of self-care and community love when the pandemic shut us down, but it won’t be forever—I have plans to bring it back.
Why tea? What makes it so special to you? My mother and grandmother were very big into natural healing and herbs, so being exposed to all of that was just part of my everyday life when I was growing up. But as I grew, I realized how much information I give to people daily and knew I wanted to share that knowledge. I continued my learning by becoming a master herbalist. When I’m researching and blending teas and herbs, it goes back to respecting and honoring my African roots and family here. I feel deeply connected to my lineage.
Tshikovi Tea House started as an online business. Why did you decide to open a storefront, too? I opened a physical space because it was important for the tea experience. When people walk into the shop, we’ll have a connection, and they know they can discuss anything with me—it can turn into a therapy session, but that also helps me understand them and recommend specific blends. It’s a beautiful thing to know that you’re trusted with such a gift.
What’s your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur? The best thing about it is having limitless possibilities on where my business can go and knowing that I have the option to adjust if necessary and pivot at any time. I also love the idea of being able to pass something down to my children later on if they choose to receive it.
What do you hope Zaura learns from seeing you as an entrepreneur? I hope my daughter understands and sees that your limits in life are the ones you put on yourself. I want her to see how effortless it is to flow into your creative space and thrive. And I want her to dream big. You can do whatever you want, so you should do what makes you happy.
What’s your bestselling tea, and do you have a personal favorite? The tea named after my daughter, Zaura’s Blend, was the first blend I created, and it’s still our bestseller. It’s made up of gunpowder green tea, yerba mate, basil, peppermint, and more and is excellent for energy, which Zaura has in abundance. And personally, my favorite tea changes depending on my mood or what I’m looking for property-wise, but I always go back to Yvette’s blend, a fruity tea. It’s a black tea base blended with antioxidant-rich hibiscus, immune-boosting cranberry and pineapple, and red jasper to boost confidence, self-love, and balance. It’s a bit sweet and spicy.
You make other tea accessories too. What should every tea lover have? I’m very proud of our teas and herbs, but we also sell some exciting products. Our Tshikovi Affirmation Tea Infusers have a positive word attached to it—there are over 100 different ones, and you never know which one you’ll get—it’s our version of a fortune cookie. Another great product is our Sip Slow Tea Straw, a must-have for those that enjoy loose tea but prefer less prep time. The straw has a strainer at its bottom, so you sip through your straw and no loose leaves get in your way. I was introduced to this type of straw while sipping Yerba Mate in South America, and I knew it would be perfect for loose teas.
Please share some of your favorite NJ businesses. Kings Family Restaurant in Newark is a great breakfast place—we eat there at least once a month. Everything is good, but our favorite is the amazing huge pancakes. As far as self-care, I just had a facial at the recently opened ReVibe Style and Spa in Avenel, and it was perfection. The owner is an old high school friend of mine, and she created such a beautiful spa with excellent services. I can’t wait to go back. Also, Melinated Moms, a support system for women of color, does terrific work through advocacy, awareness, education, and entrepreneurship. And last, but by no means least, is 3rd Eye Visualz, my husband’s photography and videography business. He is incredibly talented, and his business’ services are ideal for all photography and video needs, including weddings, events, portraits, and music videos.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NJ with your family? We love Middlebush Park, which has a great children’s playground, sports fields, a nature trail, and even a zipline. It’s free and a beautiful full-day experience. And we love being around bodies of water. Asbury Park is a favorite for the beach and boardwalk, but we also enjoy checking out all the different businesses there.
What is your best advice for an NJMOMpreneur just starting? Listen to your gut instincts—just because it seems scary doesn’t mean it’s not for you. That butterfly feeling you get is a sign of moving forward. You just have to step out of your comfort zone and go for it, step into those next-level things in your life, and trust in your gut instincts.