Entrepreneur Spotlight: Stephanie Steiman

“LAUNCH was an integral part of getting me started. I thought it was a very positive experience, and a great community was created out of the class."

We all have our end-of-day rituals -- the things that provide us comfort when we round out our day. For  busy mother of four, Stephanie Steiman, this comfort has always been enjoying a cup of her homemade chai blend after all of the kids were in bed.

Fast forward to 2018, Stephanie saw an Urban League Instagram post announcing LAUNCH CHA's upcoming entrepreneurship course. “It was an affordable class, and it was just once a week so the time investment was reasonable.” The decision was easy to register for the course and start her entrepreneurship journey. 

The result? Cheiman Tea, a special blend chai latte mix that is made by hand in small batches.  Just add hot water, stir and enjoy!

After graduating, Stephanie was encouraged to set up a booth at the Chattanooga Farmers Market. Here, she instantly proved how outstanding Cheiman Tea is, “We set up a tent, handed out free samples and sold out the very first time. Then from there we grew to two weekends a month, and then to multiple markets every weekend!”

As to her experience in the entrepreneurship course, Stephanie reveals, “LAUNCH was an integral part of getting me started. I thought it was a very positive experience, and a great community was created out of the class. All of the entrepreneurs really got to know each other and support each other's businesses, we became cheerleaders for each other.  Almost two years after our class graduated, I still see many of my classmates. We check in with each other and are still cheering each other on!  Their continued support means so much to me as a new business owner.”

Three months following her graduation, Stephanie was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy.  While challenges arose, her teenage daughter, Erika, jumped in to keep the business running. “My daughter was always happy to work quietly behind the scenes, mixing and packaging chai with me,” Stephanie explains, “But with Bell's Palsy, I was unable to speak clearly. Erika had to step out of her comfort zone and become the lead salesperson at the markets.”

“Initially, I just wanted to make enough money to provide for my kids...but it evolved into me wanting to show them that the challenges in my life were not going to keep me from succeeding and that I could rise above.” 

Despite the personal challenges that Stephanie has faced, Cheiman Tea has continued to grow over the past year and a half, and has even found a new, larger production space!  In addition to the Chattanooga Market, you can now find Cheiman Tea in many local gift stores, coffee shops, and restaurants.  Following this expansion, Cheiman Tea won a Chattanooga Startup Award for LAUNCH’s Micro-business of the Year this past fall.

With the current climate, Stephanie now faces another challenge; local and regional markets are being canceled around the fear of COVID-19. She is having to pivot quickly to create a full online storefront. While she works through this, Stephanie hopes that “Cheiman Tea can provide a few moments of comfort during such a stressful time for everyone.”