We had the good fortune of connecting with Brittany Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brittany, what’s your definition for success?
Success looks different for everyone and is subjective, for sure. I’d define success by what’s learned and applied along the journey of the marathon, not by what’s accomplished once one has reached the destination of the sprint at hand. I believe that having faith, dreams, hopes, and ideas without doing the actual work and being a gatekeeper to resources is dead. Aspiring is great, but action begets true success. What we learn and can apply continuously throughout our journey provides the tools for and opportunity to succeed again with what we take with us from where we have come and what we can leave behind or pass on to others in order to get to where we are going.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I was born and raised in a suburban hood of Long Island, NY, relocated to NC at the start of my junior year in high school (yikes), and probably have never been the same person since. At the age of 16, I had my first true life experience of extreme change and starting over, and though I adjusted well, it wasn’t something I was happy about at all. As high school graduation drew near, my mom gave me the choice of going to college or getting a “real” job and so, I went to college because I had already been working jobs since the age of 14.
I took a traditional first generation college student approach to life, accumulating student loan debt, and following one of my older brother’s footsteps to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree (in Psychology) in 2010. I loved studying the mind, why and how we come to be who we are, and cared about helping others so much that I chose to work diligently in the mental health field in every single job that I had thereafter, went on to accumulate more student loan debt by way of graduate school to get a Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling, and pursued licensure as a mental health counselor. On June 30, 2021, I chose myself and walked away from that 10 year career in mental health because of significant burnout, heightened by the pandemic. I tried applying for well over 150 new jobs and attempted to change to career fields such as Human Resources only to be offered low, entry level, significant pay cut salaries because my Master’s degree wasn’t as significant outside of mental health, engaged in countless interviews that I simply didn’t hear back from at all, or had gone through multiple interviews all to be rejected for those positions as well. At first, that brought me to very low points mentally and emotionally beyond normal rejection and disappointment, I questioned if I ever really knew who I was at all, and I isolated myself often, but eventually I just became numb to it and chose to keep trying because quitting is never an option.
As a black female counselor, there is nothing that we learned in graduate school, or any exam we’ve had to take and pass for licensure or certifications, nor any amount of continuing education units or therapeutic techniques and trainings that could have prepared counselors to be fully present healers in a global revolution and pandemic. The daily act of breaking through, unpacking, and processing every feeling and taking every action step with others using my innate capacity to heal and nurture (as black women have always done since the beginning of time) while working through my own baggage without a functional work structure that truly cared about the wellbeing of its employees, took its toll on me mentally and emotionally and I HAD TO make a change. I remember going on vacation to Cabo toward the end of 2020, as travel is self-care for me, only to return feeling no different than when I left, it was time.
I chose entrepreneurship in creating Teaescence to open myself up to the world in refreshingly unique and creative ways and to share the one thing that has held me together— my love for TEA— as a support to those of us bold and brave enough to pivot. I chose to pivot my entire life, pursuing the road less traveled by creating a life that I truly want, not one that I have to settle for or stay stuck in just because of the years of life, education, and money I’ve invested and to inspire, provide support, knowledge, education, tools, and resources to others aspiring to do the same. I incorporate my professional experience as a former licensed mental health professional over the past decade and my personal experience navigating the start of a black woman owned small business and herbalism to deliver quality products of loose leaf teas and herb infused/flavored sugar cube pairings and to focus on community building/networking. The journey just started and hasn’t been easy at all, as I quit my career as a practicing clinician cold turkey with no for sure plan B or money saved, just vibes and a vision. If it weren’t for the unmatched support system that I have and knowing and believing in myself, I would not be where I am in this moment though I still have so far to go, so much more to accomplish, and even more purposed for me. A year ago, I was strictly thinking about diagnoses, therapy and counseling sessions, a phone that would not stop ringing, and clinical documentation. The fact that I have created and shifted my entire thought process and life to start my own business and create a life I’m excited about, still blows my mind.
I hope that others connect with Teaescence’s brand and my story as an entrepreneur and find inspiration in having the courage to do it scared, do it unprepared, and do it without knowing what’s next (whatever your it, IS). Just do. Because we will never know what’s next if we don’t reach for it. You have nothing to loose, all to gain. I feel freer, that’s a great feeling.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First things first, donuts! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a donut lover so depending on the time of day, I’d take my best friend to either Reigning Donuts or Pepperbox Donuts in the NoDa area. I am also a plant based foodie, traveler, and free spirit by nature so a week in Charlotte will easily consist of a variety of great food and good vibes. Some of my favorite casual places to eat for lunch include Abugida Ethiopian Restaurant, Benny’s for one of those huge NY style pizza slices, Eastside Local, Jinya Ramen Bar, Salata for quality soups and salads, or Veltree for some of the best vegan soul food I’ve ever tried. Suarez Bakery in Optimist Hall also has bomb lunch bowls that are filling and healthy (they also have donuts!).
For leisure, I’d go for a walk following Little Sugar Creek Greenway leading to Freedom Park, visit art exhibits or scheduled events at BlkMrktClt, Levine Museum of the New South, Mint Museum, or Good Life at Enderly Park. We’d get pedicures at my favorite nail salon La Pure Organic Nail Boutique, probably have tea time at some point at The Pauline Tea Bar Apothecary, and happy hour/drinks at Aura Rooftop or Dilworth Tasting Room.
For the weekend, I’d hit up brunch on Saturday or Sunday’s at Snooze, Ruby Sunshine (add your name to the waitlists in advance), or Sanctuary Bistro and Eight and Sand Kitchen. There are mimosa and bellini specials at Rhino Market Deli in the Railyard as well. For entertainment, Member’s Only or Tailored Smoke Cigar Lounge for a chill vibe, drinks, and hookah if you’re into that sort of thing and for a late treat, a bowl of cereal or cereal shake at Day & Night Cereal Bar.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I will take every opportunity to shoutout God and my mama! Without God, nothing at all is or will ever be possible and I’m grateful that I was chosen and created in God’s thought. Aside from being the vessel by which God was able to gift me to this planet, my mom is one of the batteries in my back, my inspiration, motivation, and hands down biggest supporter. She is the realest human being to ever walk the earth, and honestly, she deserves it ALL.