Being a small, woman-owned business in Portland, Oregon, we deeply admire businesses like us. Each business is unique with a beautiful story that inspires us endlessly. In honor of the women we admire and the businesses they have put their heart and soul into, we have decided to create an ongoing series spotlighting the companies that make Portland incredible.
For our inaugural Small Business Spotlight, we chatted with Teri Gelber of T Project. Her attention to detail and focus on high-quality, handcrafted products resonate with us and reflect in the delicious teas she creates.
What inspired you to start a business creating teas?
After having a baby, we headed north to Portland from LA. I said goodbye to a great career - teaching cooking, producing a public radio show and writing cookbooks for chefs. The move and motherhood shook me up as did the changes in the publishing world, leading me to take a break from writing to have more time with my son. I was always an avid tea drinker and living in a colder climate I sipped tea all day, much of the year. Many of the teas I purchased were bland and made with artificial ingredients, and that’s when the lightbulb went on. I began to make tea blends at home and share them with friends. And though Portland is a coffee town, many of my mom friends were trying to get off coffee so they became my first clients, cheering me on to make more.
How did you come up with the name T project?
I was inspired to do something healthy and to collaborate with other creative women so I didn’t want the word tea to be in the name, perse. And, both my son’s name and my name begin with the letter T.
What did your business look like when you first started and what does it look like now/ how have you grown?
My business started out VERY slowly. I’m a turtle sometimes, plus I had a 5 year old I was in love with. The first blends came easily, because of my cooking background, it was my comfort zone. But, the design, was another matter. That piece took longer than I thought and finally, 3 designers later, it came together. I found a very affordable basement space near Theo’s school where I pursued more blends and my website. I gained some local following from shops and restaurants. This proved a great way to spread the word about my new business and grow. Learning the tea business was hard. I worked in food and beverage much of my life but never in tea. Everyone was secretive, so I had to learn on my own. I studied with some mentors in Canada, attended trade shows and like most small business owners fell into some debt. I considered it my tea education/tuition. I found a bigger space and held events of all sorts collaborating with other women creatives. I had a small gallery too, since art has always been one of my sidekicks. I wanted to find the best teas possible and the only option was to travel to meet and learn about organic teas. This was such a highlight for me. Covid hit, so shop is now closed to the public, but my website and popups keep us going.
What is your favorite thing you have made?
Besides my pretty canisters and labels, it would be my line of wellness teas that we recently launched. During Covid, I saw a need for specific teas and botanicals that encouraged health, tranquillity and balance.
What is your favorite thing to do in Portland?
I love the farmers markets SO much. I visit about 3 a week in the spring, summer, and fall, as I cook all of our meals at home. My ex-editor calls my house: Teri’s 24 hour Diner. I feel that supporting local farms and hard working growers is my joy, obligation, and privilege. I feel very lucky to live in such a fertile landscape filled with kind and awake people. Mostly!
Finally, What is favorite Filling Spaces product?
Oh that’s hard because I love so many things you make. The block print pillows are truly perfect in every way. They’re so versatile, easy to use both indoors and outdoors.
A huge thank you to Teri for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions so beautifully. Please find out more about her and shop her teas at tprojectshop.com
If you are a woman-owned business in Portland, Oregon, we would love you to hear your answers as well!