Story and photo by Melissa Ibarra/Viking/Staff/@ibarra_mm
The owner of Hojas Tea House, Alma Ortiz, spoke to members of the Business and Economics Club how she started her business and her impact on the community.
Marco Ramos, a finance major, and Ian LeBanc, current senate representative, said they wanted a nontraditional business owner to speak to the club on the community, diversity and amount of work it takes to open a business.
When Ortiz opened her third Hojas Tea House location in Long Beach, near the LAC Campus, Ramos- who knows Ortiz from visiting her first location in Wilmington, reached out to her to see if she would speak to the club members.
Ortiz’s story began in 2007 in church with a speaker who said God was using him to make a difference in people’s lives, she told the club
She knew of the health benefits of tea early on in life and wanted to share those benefits with her community. Ortiz started to sell tea from her house.
At the time, she had worked for Los Angeles Unified School District for ten years because she wanted to make a difference and did not have a background in business of any kind.
In April 2008, Ortiz decided to open her own tea house. “The more I prayed, the more I realized what God will have for me,” Ortiz said.
By August she had a location and in September 2008 she opened the doors to the first Hojas Tea House in her own neighborhood of Wilmington.
After Ortiz’s speech, Candelaria Hernandez, a first year business administration major, said she liked how Ortiz’s business is more about quality products and her community.
Karina Garcia, first year business management, commented on how involved Ortiz’s family is in her business.
Passion is what allows her to keep going, she told the club members. “I believed in my product….The first year it was Nacho and I, one on one, educating customers about tea,” Ortiz said.
In the beginning was just the two of them answering the phones, marketing and where behind the counter.
Nacho, her husband and high school sweetheart, had some background in business, which helped. She admitted it would have been easier if they had more help in the beginning and recommended mentorship if possible.
9 years after her business began, her tea house is now a full on cafe, Ortiz said.
Now Ortiz has to outsource for accounting and payroll to make sure everything is done correctly.
She’s more involved in the Wilmington community now. Hojas Tea House has had elementary school students come in on a field trip where they learn about herbal western medicines.
Ortiz said, “At times … it seems like a long road but it has been fun.”