“I did not want my legacy to be a cubicle,” says Reginald Quarles about his decision to leave a career in mental health and start his own business. Quarles worked for a critical incident team, finding qualified mental health counselors for people who had witnessed traumatic events, but decided he wanted to pursue a different route and "build something great and lasting.”
In June 2016, Quarles quit his full-time job to start a tea shop. “Tea is how I meditate and how I relax; I want to share this avenue of peace with others,” says Quarles. He also wanted to create a space where people could “escape the craziness of day-to-day life.”
“So,” says Quarles, “I created the utopia, Teatopia.” After viewing about 30 different locations in Illinois and Missouri, Quarles settled on a tiny storefront in St. Louis, where he could touch both the east and west walls by standing in the middle of the floor.
Teatopia serves more than 70 varieties of tea in beautiful glass teapots and cups, along with salads, wraps and smoothies. Quarles also sells tea through Teatopia’s online store.
After just 10 months in business, Quarles was ready to expand, so he moved into a larger location across the street from his first storefront. The move got a write up on the local site Feast. Teatopia has also been featured in Alive, Sauce, Riverfront Times, and on the local NBC affiliate.
In starting Teatopia, Quarles made up for not having a business background by using the business blueprint on SCORE’s website, taking classes, and meeting with SCORE mentor Richard Toman. Working with SCORE helped him to keep up his resolve after a very long search for a location.
“SCORE also helped me with finding a reputable accountant to help me understand the language of numbers that I was not familiar with,” Quarles adds. Having an accountant meant he could pay his employees and develop a growth mindset.
Quarles says that although starting a business is hard work, “when you love it and when you are having fun with it, you will fight tooth and nail to make sure your passion succeeds.”