RefuTea: Q&A with Autumn Modena

By: Hunter Mylek

What is ReFuTea?

RefuTea is a social enterprise that supports refugees through the sales of loose leaf teas! I plan to have a cafe one day, but currently I am growing the brand through wholesale and retail distribution. I will be employing refugees to help package teas within the month! 

You create tea for such an amazing cause, what made you think of combining the two?

learned about the refugee resettlement process and their need for employment upon arrival back in 2015 while I was volunteering teaching English as a second language. It was so sad to me that they come to the US to build a better life but oftentimes end up isolated in their communities because of language barriers and lack of transferable job skills. Many refugees have agricultural backgrounds. I was thinking of all this and looking at the coffee shops in downtown GR when I thought “that would be a good place for someone to work and assimilate into their new community…but I don’t like coffee.” I’ve always preferred tea and tea shops are less common than coffee shops. The idea just stuck with me and then I pitched in Grand Valley’s Idea Pitch competition, without any business experience, and won all my start-up funding through various business pitch competitions. 

What does your business mean to you?

Commitment.  Now that it has been almost seven years growing this business, I’ve learned that the dream doesn’t always unfold in the timing or the way that you imagine it will, but it’s still developing and it’s still contributing good toward others. Committing to something that is much bigger than yourself means you have to lay down your own way of doing things at times. I feel committed to helping refugees in this way and I’m determined to make an impact. 

What does the future for ReFuTea look like?

There are some exciting new partnerships launching this year! RefuTea was recently added to Kroger’s website and is available for delivery through online grocery shopping. It will also be featured this fall on Zulilly as part of their online food and beverage launch! RefuTea will also be available on shelves at Rivertown Market, Meijer’s new downtown Detroit store.

What tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs that want to turn their passions into a business?

Go for it! Work hard and have fun building your dream! Make sure you have people around you that see things differently than you and believe in you and your mission, though. You definitely can’t do it alone and you certainly don’t want to!

To keep up with RefuTea and to help Autumn with such an amazing cause, visit her site to purchase tea and ten percent of sales at the end of each quarter will be donated to refugee resettlement agencies in the Greater Grand Rapids Michigan area. RefuTea aims to bridge the gap between resettlement and assimilation by employing refugees to package and serve tea. ​

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