Brewing bridges between communities
Solidariteas creates vehicle for awareness and community collaboration
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
In one of her classes, Mount Royal University English major Alexandra Daignault was tasked with finding a way for people to interact with a social justice movement in their everyday experience.
One day the Indigenous studies minor was sitting in a coffee shop, thinking about the “locally driven” brands around her. She asked herself: how can tea help us interact with social justice in our everyday lives and build community? The asnwer was in her product, Solidariteas.
About a year after her initial idea, Daignault met Anna Johnson, an alumni of MRU’s Business Administration program. They started to work on building a new business.
The duo are working to build an enterprise that sells tea through various revenue streams, and donate part of the profits back into the Indigenous community, seeking to help missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Neither women are Indigenous and realize the importance of consulting with the Indigenous community.
“The whole premise of Solidariteas is working in respectful collaboration with communities,” Daignault explains. “We’ve worked with local communities and Elders to help build this project.”
“We don’t want to be held on a pedestal at all,” Johnson says. “We’re not doing this alone, by any means. We’ve had an amazing support network that just keeps growing.”
Building a cultural advisory committee, having community members give advice and be involved in the process of building the startup is vital, they both emphasize. To their count, upwards of 40 people have been involved so far.
“It’s not just us going into communities and saying, ‘this is great,’ it’s community giving to community. We just happen to be facilitating it,” Daignault says.
But the company wants to extend beyond just monetary impact. An awareness component is built into the packaging, with a story written on it, explaining why missing and murdered Indigenous women is something we should all be aware of and stand in respectful solidarity with.
“It’s a Canadian issue that’s often just ignored, and it’s time to stop ignoring it,” Johnson says. “Alexandra and I have the privilege and ability to be able to have this awareness tool to build communities.”
Building communities means allowing those not directly affected by an issue to stand in “solidaritea” with those who are. Building those bridges is the entire premise of Solidariteas, and while reconciliation seems to be a word all Canadians know, they don’t necessarily know how to contribute.
“Ask questions. I think that one of the most powerful things you can do as a person is ask questions instead of, ‘I’m gonna do this awesome thing and I’m not gonna ask you how you feel about it, or ask you what your preference is, it’s just going to help you,’” Daignault says.
Check out Solidariteas on Facebook or Etsy and look out for their launch in March 2017.