Do you remember the feeling of snow days as a kid? Waking up to find that school was cancelled and you could spend the entire day playing in a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow. Taking it all in as you lay on the powdery ground creating a snow angel, mouth wide open hoping to catch snowflakes.
What comes to mind when you think about the first day of Autumn? Driving with the windows down during the day catching the breeze, but cozied up with a blanket and a lit scented candle at night. Amazed to see how nature transitions from a sun-kissed summer to a fireside fall.
These are the feelings of childhood memories and nostalgic reminders that overwhelm you as you take your first sip of Leaves of Leisure.
Meet Allison Ullo, CEO + Founder of Leaves of Leisure, a herbal tea brand created to bring a sense of wistful feelings and relaxation to the everyday chaotic moments of your life. Allie is the modern day "Renaissance Women", having worked multiple jobs from the age of 16, she now holds the titles of PR Consultant, fit model and entrepreneur. Working endlessly for the last decade of her life, Allie has devoted time to perfect her definition of wellness and self care.
Today, Allie talks to our team about how her beliefs led her to creating Leaves of Leisure, the importance of creating a healthy balance, her journey as a female entrepreneur and more.
We love the feeling you get from simply just reading the Leaves of Leisure tea names. Can you talk to us more about where you found the inspiration to start Leaves of Leisure? What have you found to be a key aspect of branding?
10 years ago, I went to my yearly doctor's appointment and complained of depression and rolling highs and lows. My doctor said the symptoms were because of the amount of caffeine I was consuming (3-5 cups a day). To be fair at the time, I was working a full-time job in PR from 9-6 pm and waitressing at a nightclub from 10 pm-4 am, so caffeine had become as important as water. I was desperate to feel better and quit coffee immediately but went through horrible withdrawals. I knew there had to be a better way to live and started to search for a healthier way to feel uplifted when I was tired or needed a break. I wish that quitting my jobs could have been an option, but like so many, I needed the money to live and I felt committed to building a life in NYC on my own terms, so I started searching for other ways to relax, rejuvenate and get a natural pick me up.
I have tried it all, every gimmick, every trend, but to this day there is nothing better than a day out in nature, a hot bath, a good book, and a hot cup of tea. Herbal tea became a go-to, but finding great tasting, fun herbal or non-caffeinated teas was like finding a needle in a haystack and so I started blending my own teas. For as many fun beverages exist it is still a shock to me that tea is still so outdated when it comes to flavor profiles and packaging. Tea doesn’t have to be proper or traditional, in fact, it shouldn't be. Every little girl asks for a tea set to have tea parties with her dolls and stuffed animals and dresses up and lays outdoors having picnics and feeling grown-up, but then we grow up and that creativity just seems to get lost.
Leaves of Leisure was created to bring those happy nostalgic memories of childhood or your favorite weekend activities to your daily grind. We don’t all have the luxury to get outside on hard days or take a bath when we are stressed, so Leaves of Leisure tea brings it to you in 3-5 minutes of steep time.
Branding was so important with this brand in particular because we are trying to evoke a feeling from the first glance of the packaging to the last sip of the tea, so everything needed to flow and inspire the exact image the packaging depicts. We worked really hard to think about where the tea would live and how it would be drank and who was drinking it.
What is something you wish someone had told you before starting your own company? Or what have you found to be the biggest challenge so far?
Whatever you think things are going to cost, triple it and whatever time you have in mind double it. I have worked with so many startup brands for PR and seen them struggle to stick to a timeline or struggle with budget restrictions, but nothing can really prepare you for how much work, time and money go into starting a business. I thought I would easily be launched by last Fall and we are only in Pre-order now.
Everything just takes time, the back and forth with vendors, things going wrong, reprinting packaging that was done wrong the first time, delays in shipping from overseas, if it can happen, it probably will and it’s better to be prepared for all those hiccups.
You work full time in PR, you’re a model and now an entrepreneur. You honestly might be the definition of booked and busy. How do you balance everything while still making time for yourself and maintaining a social life?
Yes, sometimes I think about my schedule and even I don’t know how I am balancing it haha, but honestly, the best way to manage heavy schedules like mine is with a solid routine that makes you feel good. I start everyday with a morning routine that sets my tone for the day- yoga, meditation, hot cup of tea and gratitude writing. No matter what my day looks like, I get that in and I know I will have a better day. I think setting boundaries is also important. Setting boundaries with others and with yourself. I block days off on my calendar where I don’t take PR calls and if I know I have to work really late to catch up on work, I will take an hour or two break for a bath and to eat a healthy meal to pick me up before I go back to work again. I also prioritize sleep. I am not one of those people sleeping 5 hours, I sleep 8 hours every night and it is an important ingredient to my ability to balance and manage everything.
Social life is a bit tougher. When you are starting a new business you do have to make a fair amount of sacrifices and that can often result in having to pass on spontaneously hanging out with friends or family, because that is time you need to build your business. However, work and no play is not healthy, so I build it in the same way I do anything else, I schedule it. I plan in advance times to meet up with friends or weekends with family, so that when I am planning my week I know where I maybe need to pick up slack to allow myself a break to hangout and really enjoy seeing my friends. I even recently started meeting up with friends for a drink after finishing up my PR job and then I come home at 8 or 9pm and work another hours or two on the tea company. You would be surprised on how seeing friends and family is actually a natural energy booster and you will feel more creative and energized to work on things even late night.
All of the teas from Leaves of Leisure are made with natural ingredients. Can you talk more about the benefits of these ingredients? What is the process like for coming up with new ideas for tea blends?
Years ago when I started blending my own teas, I started to learn about the benefits of certain herbs and teas and how you can literally blend things to cure ailments and change your mood. My cupboard is full of loose leaf teas I’ve hand blended for specific purposes. When picking tea blends for Leaves of Leisure, I wanted to take into consideration everything from the smell, taste and of course the benefits of the ingredients and how it played back into the leisure activity that I was portraying and trying to literally bring to life in a single sip. Some of my favorite ingredients that are featured in numerous teas are:
Wellness is more than a trend now, it’s a mindset. With so many different companies promoting wellness products and a self care first mindset, what differentiates Leaves of Leisure from other brands?
Leaves of Leisure is different than anything else on the market because we have mostly herbal teas. Most tea brands have way more caffeinated tea than herbal. So first and foremost we stand out with our approach to the types of tea we offer. In addition, we are promoting wellness as a practice that you can fit into 3-5 minutes of your day. We understand that most people don’t have time or don’t know where to start when it comes to finding time for workouts, meditation, sound baths, etc. Taking a 5 minute break out of your day to sip on a mood boosting tea, to embrace a happy moment or memory and reconnect with yourself is achievable.
I also think my approach to wellness as a whole is different. I don’t believe in totally cutting out everything you like or love, but finding healthy boundaries and limitations that feel good to you. Most people won’t quit caffeine like me, but if they can cut down to 1 cup a day and substitute their other cups with an herbal tea, they will get similar benefits and get the best of both worlds.
Can you talk to us more about your personal experience with caffeine addiction? What are the unhealthy side effects of excessive caffeine consumption that people don’t realize or choose to ignore?
Caffeine in low to moderate quantities is fine and in some cases good, but excessive amounts can have all kinds of side effects including anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, rapid heart rate, fatigue and can become very addictive. For me, I was consuming 3-5 and sometimes more cups a day to stay awake and feel energized but didn’t realized it was actually doing the opposite. The ups and downs of craving and needing caffeine to function fully was so depleting and when I actually quit drinking it I realized how dependent I really was.
I went through terrible withdraws including sweating, headaches, depression and full blown tremors. Having not had high amounts of caffeine in my diet for over a decade, I now feel a ton ox anxiety, rapid heart rate and difficulty focusing when I even have a sip or two of something highly caffeinated. I realized I am really sensitive to caffeine and the only reason I ever started drinking it, is because that is what everyone else drinks in the AM or when they are tired and I just followed suit. I never took the time to figure out what works best for my body. The teas at Leaves of Leisure are mostly herbal or very low caffeine and reflect what I wish existed in the market but was unable to find in my own journey to find alternatives to coffee.
Is there a piece of advice that has resonated the most with you along your entrepreneurial journey? Or what advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their own business?
Just start. I spent most of my life thinking about and dreaming about things I wanted to do or companies I wanted to start. And then I realized that the one difference between me and so many others like me, is that they did something about it. There is literally never a good time to just go and no reason to wait. If you are passionate about what you want to do, you will figure out the logistics, the time, the money, etc. You will find a way. Just take that first step, believe in yourself and keep going.
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