When Mandalyn King’s husband deployed to Afghanistan with the Army nine years ago, she found herself searching for an outlet to keep her hands busy and her mind away from worry.
The daughter of an avid gardener, King spent much of her childhood watching and helping her mother tend the family patch, so when her mom came to provide moral support following her husband’s departure in 2010, she suggested King might like to put her own green thumb to the test.
“I grew up in a garden with my mother and she always had the most beautiful gardens,” King recalled. “So when she came she was like, ‘Let’s do something different. Why don’t we just plant some stuff?’ I think she knew it was going to help me mentally get through that deployment. It was something to focus on, something for me to put my heart and soul into.”
After installing four raised beds made from wood scraps, King began growing basic vegetables like tomatoes, squash and beans, mostly to keep herself busy.
But as time went on, she found the practice helped her achieve a sense of solace, helping her through what she said was one of the most difficult times of her life.
King soon graduated to growing medicinal herbs and flowers, eventually blending them into hand-crafted teas that received glowing reviews from family members and friends who sampled them.
What began as a hobby soon turned into a serious business proposition for King and in 2015, seven months pregnant and with $500 in her savings account, she decided to officially launch her business. She dubbed it The Queen’s TEApothecary — a play on her last name and the products she sells.
“I started on Etsy and from there, it was immediate,” King said. “I then started branching out and doing some of the local markets around town. And that’s where it really started to take off. Because then I was getting the local clientele, plus the online clientele. And later I started my website, so I now have multiple areas I’m pulling in clients from.”
The first year, the business brought in about $5,000 which, accounting for her labor, amounted to a loss. But within 18 months, she was able to turn a profit.
In the three years since, she has nearly sextupled her revenue, pulling in nearly $30,000 in 2018, and her products are sold in nine shops in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Fairplay and Denver.
The Queen’s TEApothecary specializes in handcrafted organic tea blends — all with royal names like Sleepy Princes Herbal Tea, King’s Chocolate Chai Tea and Peachy Prince Tea — but King said her bestsellers are gift and sampler sets.
As her business has grown, King has had to outsource parts of the operation, including growing the organic herbs she uses to craft each tea blend, though she still maintains a personal garden.
Over the next five years she would like to increase revenue and expand her business into additional retail shops, with the ultimate goal of moving the business out of its current location in the basement of her family home. She has her sights set on expanding the operation and possibly even opening up a tea shop and events venue.
“I would love to branch out of my basement,” King said. “My husband and I have been discussing the idea of having a place where I could still have this operation, but also offer tea parties and a place for bridal showers, baby showers … something where people could come in and have this beautiful, delicate location where they can walk in and feel loved and feel welcome.”
In the meantime, the mother of two and entrepreneur is simply enjoying the ride.
“I love coming down here [to the basement workshop]. I love the creativity of it. I love the way my office smells and I love when people come back and say, ‘This helped me so much,’ or ‘This tastes so good!’” King said.
“So wherever this takes me, I’m in.”