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Fit to a Tea
Lucky break sets in motion a whirlwind of events for boutique tea makers.
West Bloomfield native and clinical psychologist Steve Nakisher and his business and life partner Shane Talbott were struggling to build a business in the worst economy in recent U.S. history when they got the lucky break that changed their lives forever.
The couple met in Chicago 15 years ago, where Nakisher, who attended Congregation B’nai David and later Temple Israel, was pursuing his doctoral degree in clinical psychology after earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.
“From the moment we met, we knew we would spend our lives together,” Nakisher said. Talbott converted to Judaism before the couple wed in a religious ceremony in Chicago in 2004.
Talbott was a hair colorist by trade, and he and Nakisher opened a hair salon on Oak Street in Chicago. Talbott had always loved creating unique tea blends, so he created a tea bar at the salon.
“Not only did I want my clients to look good, but I wanted them to feel good, too,” said Talbott. “We took traditional Japanese sencha green tea and added strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb. Clients really responded to the tea blends so we decided to package the teas and put them on the shelf at the salon.”
The teas were such a hit, Talbott and Nakisher ended up selling the salon to focus on the tea business, Talbott Teas.
“Shane loved creating interesting blends and beautiful packaging, and I loved branding, marketing and selling. It really was a perfect fit,” said Nakisher, who added that he grew up watching his father, Len Nakisher, successfully grow his kitchen and bath business before selling it for early retirement. “It was like getting my MBA by learning from my dad over dinners at the kitchen table,” he said.
“It positively turned our business upside down,” said Nakisher. “Then, we were faced with not having the money to create inventory to meet the exciting new demand.”
They maxed out their credit cards, got a second mortgage on their house and received some financial assistance from Nakisher’s father and brother, who is a dentist in West Bloomfield.
“We were able to stay afloat but decided to reach out to Shark Tank to see if we could raise capital to build our company,” Nakisher added. The ABC series gives nascent entrepreneurs the chance to dramatically alter the course of their business by making a possible deal with the “Sharks” — self-made millionaires in search of innovative investment deals to bankroll.
While on the show, they received an offer from venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary, who subsequent to the show worked with fellow “Sharks” Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran to seal a bigger deal with the iconic leading national smoothie and specialty healthy lifestyle brand, Jamba Juice, based in California, which purchased Talbott Teas earlier this year.
“Jamba is a progressive, specialty beverage brand with a passion for creating innovative, trendy offerings that support healthier lifestyles,” said Talbott. “We could not have found a better company with whom to align and grow our brand.”
“For us, this is a total dream-come-true scenario,” Nakisher said. “I am a psychologist, and Shane is a hair colorist. Our story — from creating teas in our kitchen to the hair salon to Oprah to Shark Tank to Jamba Juice — feels like a whirlwind.”
Talbott is now the vice president of innovation at Jamba Juice. Nakisher continues to work part time at his psychology practice, Center for Personal Development in Chicago, and is also helping to grow Talbott Teas.
The couple hopes to soon be able to spend more time with their family.
“We have seven nieces and nephews whom we adore. We love nothing more than to spend time with them,” said Nakisher, whose parents, Len and Hazel, live in Commerce. Brother Marc, his wife, Allison, and their three kids live in Huntington Woods, and brother Rob and his wife, Sarit, live in West Bloomfield with their four kids.
“Our family is so important to us. And, we are so lucky to have such an amazing family in Michigan. We feel totally blessed.”