By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, DETROIT, MI, Fri. July 24, 2020: A Caribbean roots entrepreneur has landed a sweet deal indeed, partnering with actor and comedian Kevin Hart.
Hart, according to MLive, has partnered with Michigan sweet tea company, Ellis Island Tea, founded by Nailah Ellis, whose great-grandfather Cyril Byron, a Jamaican immigrant and chef, came to America through Ellis Island more than 100 years ago.
Ellis says the tea recipe was created by Byron. “Before he died, he passed the recipe along to his family. The recipe had never been written down before me,” Ellis told MLive. “In our family, the tea was made for every big family gathering and holidays. Our family is full of chefs and the tea was always the talk of the dinners.”
The company is described as the largest Black female beverage manufacturer in the United States. And was founded in 2008.
Hart investment came though his bodyguard who was told about the tea through a friend of a friend.
“I called him up and asked him if he could do anything and he mentioned my company in passing to Hart and a meeting was set up. It happened so fast and yet it happened so slow,” Ellis said.
Fast forward and in a live live Instagram conversation promoting the tea, Hart said: “I like the healthy component to it. I think a lot of us are dying and suffering from the same things over and over again. It starts with taking care of yourself. So, when you’re providing the things that we like and you’re putting some health benefits in it, I think that’s an amazing recipe for success. I’m already in. I’m team you. I’m going to be team(ing with) you.”
Ellis says she still can’t believe she was not only able to meet with Hart, but land an investment with him. The size of the investment was not revealed.
“You’d be surprised what can actually happen if you just put it out here. I felt crazy every time I said I wanted to get in front of Hart. Like, yeah right,” Ellis said. “I felt awkward for dreaming that large. But when I sat down in front of him he was just in love with the story and he said he wanted to see me win. Before he cut the check, he said you’re a dreamer, I’m a dreamer and I love dreamers. The rest is history. I’m still in a state of shock.”
Ellis Island Tea is an all-natural beverage, handcrafted from a recipe inspired by Ellis’s Jamaican great-grandfather, who came to America through Ellis Island more than 100 years ago. Made with real herbs, including hibiscus, Ellis Island Tea is rich, red, smooth and flavorful.
Hart knows an audience looks for truth and a way to connect. So, when Ellis introduced him to her family tea, he was intrigued.
The tea’s history and Ellis’s own backstory of starting with nothing at the age of 20, brewing tea in her mother’s kitchen and selling it from the trunk of her car around Detroit resonated with Hart. Hart’s own story is one of resilience and perseverance – working small clubs and honing his craft for years before becoming a bankable star who commands $10 million-plus a movie.
“There were a lot of people pulling for Nailah,” said Hart, who was impressed by the Detroiter’s determination and hustle. “Her name just kept coming up and coming across my radar. So, I figured there had to be something to it.” Hart’s net worth is estimated to be between $150 and $200 million.
Ellis is now rolling out her tea in southern Walmart stores this month, with Target and CVS stores in the near future. Hart’s investment has paved the way for Ellis Island Tea to create new packaging, lower prices to better compete and to add new e-commerce options. Ellis says all of this should create rapid growth.
Ellis is also the winner of BET’s Queen Boss business competition and her company’s growth has been chronicled in national media, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, MSNBC, The Financial Times, The Root 100 and Black Enterprise. Accolades and awards have poured in, but Ellis has always focused on building a business that endures.
Ellis Island Tea is the only Jamaican Sweet Tea made in America. It is an all-natural bottled tea made from hibiscus with a smooth, refreshing flavor. Ellis Island Tea comes sweetened with pure sugar cane and honey or in an unsweetened version that is crisp and tart.
Along with being sold online here and soon to be at Walmart stores in the southern region of the U.S., you can find the tea at select Sam’s Club locations and Costco stores along with various airport concessions across the country. It includes Jamaican Sweet Tea and Jamaican Herbal Tea.