Building a team to take tea pops to the world

DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods an Oak Bay-grown success story

Oak Bay’s Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker leads the certified woman-owned business DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods with a commitment to ethical

Her email signature says volumes: PhD, multi-tasker, mommy, CEO, founder and medical scientist.

They’re a few roles DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods founder Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker performs in a given day.

“It’s a balancing act. I feel like a juggler on steroids at times,” the entrepreneur says with a laugh during an interview in her Oak Bay home.

“I think in a woman-owned business it’s not the woman, it’s the family and the team,” she adds. “You have to put together a really good team. I’ve put together a strong team who know what we’re doing and support what I need. They have my back.

“When you’re a mom that’s always No. 1.”

In spring of 2012, the certified woman-owned business started in the adjacent kitchen, where sons David and Josh each made his own preferred snack – one tea, the other frozen pops. Cubes of frozen tea gave way, with much sweat equity, to tasty organic frozen tea treats. They filled a niche with consumers seeking a dessert option that checks a list of health musts: certified organic, kosher, non-GMO, nut free and naturally gluten-free and vegan.

They sold more than a million tea pops in the past year.

Laslo-Baker applies the approach that children and family supersede business for her team and for herself. It’s about being supportive and empowering the team. She even hired a business coach and facilitator to help staff learn to think about and understand different personality styles, which they also take from the workplace, to their home lives and relationships.

“They really learned to communicate, which is huge,” she says.

Laslo-Baker takes pride that they’re now a B Corps company – for-profit companies certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance accountability, and transparency.

“We went through a huge process,” Laslo-Baker says. It was a worthwhile endeavour, as a major goal of starting the business, aside from providing healthy, tasty snack choices, was to show her boys that you can build an ethical and transparent company.

“We’re a company with really simple values, an ethical and transparent company that creates healthy and delicious food,” she says. While she has faced challenges, tear-inducing exhaustion and at times harsh roadblocks, “you get up and remind yourself what’s important,” she says. “Everything is around that core base for me, teaching my kids. It’s grown to be about a value-based company.”

The family remains heavily involved. The boys, and their friends, get to flavour test at home and sometimes head on road trips for trade shows. “DeeBee’s is my third child,” says Laslo-Baker. “It’s got its own life. I think we’ve all helped it learn to walk and now it can run.”

 

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