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The TwenTea Company is the innovative brainchild of WyKisha McKinney, founder and CEO.  The inspiration behind our 20% pledge and the #HaveTeaWithMe creed stems from WyKisha's experiences as a survivor of suicide loss after her brother's death in 2004, her personal struggles with major depression, and as a long-time advocate and volunteer for nationally recognized organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  With an extensive background in nonprofit management, she has a strong belief in building sustainable program and services with high impact.  She is a highly sought after speaker and enjoys helping survivors of suicide loss find purpose and hope after their loss.  WyKisha can often be found travelling across Texas with her husband and four children ( two human and two canine),  or forcing them to watch Dirty Dancing or I Love Lucy.  In addition to these things, she loves trees (more like she's obessed), high-heeled shoes, Prince and a 35-year old stuffed dog she named "Sad Sam".  

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The Origin Story

How did The TwenTea Company come to be? 

I have about twenty years experience in the nonprofit industry., and initially that's what I wanted to do.  I wanted to start and run a nonprofit organization.  About five years ago, I started learning more about social enterprise and social entrepreneurship and fell in love.  Th idea of a for-profit business having a social purpose really spoke to me and I decided that this was the route I wanted to take.  Then, I read a book called Start Something that Matters, by Blake Mycoskie  (The Founder of Toms Shoes), and I was completely sold!  Blake's story of starting small and building Tom's into the powerhouse it is today motivated me to get things moving.  Coming up with the social cause was easy for me.  I had been an advocate for suicide prevention for more than a decade at that point so I definitely wanted my business to do something to help those affected by suicide.   However, I had no clue what I would sell or do, but it had to be something that was affordable for me to launch since I would be financing this business on my own.  There also needed to be a demand for the product or service and it would be a bonus if the product was connected to the social cause in some way.  It wasn't until 2017 when I was having lunch at this cute little tearoom in Houston that I set my sights on the tea industry.  I noticed how busy the tearoom was whenever I visited and how much tea I drank.  I would often go there to relax and sit in silence while I let the hot tea melt my stresses away.  After doing a little research on the industry, I knew that tea would be the perfect product.  

TwenTea Co. gives 20% of it's profits to prevent suicide. Why is this so important to you? 

My brother attempted suicide in 2001 and then died by suicide in 2004.  He and I were very close and losing him was the most painful experience that I have ever endured. In fact, it was so traumatic, that I think my brain actually shut down for a time to protect me because I have very little memory of the months that followed Johnny’s death.  What I do remember is feeling extremely alone and isolated and struggling to find help. I knew what depression and grief were in the sense that I could define the terms if someone asked, but to really KNOW grief and depression is to know a pain so deep and so unbearable that you question your own existence.  I spent most days like a zombie: going to work and being physically present but mentally checked out, going home and laying in bed but not sleeping, and attempting to bury my pain in food.  I cried all the time, sometimes all day and all night.  One morning after another sleepless night, I found myself staring at the collection of prescription medications my doctor had given me and contemplating on how many I should take to sleep long enough to forget any of this ever happened. I was planning my own suicide and didn't even realize it.  Fortunately, my husband and son would come home before I could do anything, and with some encouragement from them, I went back to church.  This marked the start of my healing and recovery. 


Since then, I have been so blessed to be able to help others affected by suicide.  I began volunteering at the local crisis hotline, where I would eventually become a manager and trainer. I became one of the founding board members of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Southeast Texas chapter, of which I currently serve as Board Chair.  I went from not being able to get out of my car at the first Out of the Darkness Community Walk (an annual fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) to chairing the walk and raising more than $120,000.  I have flown all over the country to speak about my experience as a survivor of suicide loss and to talk with our country’s leaders as a community advocate.    The highlight of my journey though, was being filmed in a documentary for International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day.  To me, it was a milestone noting how far I had come as a survivor.  I am motivated by the desire to prevent any other family from experiencing the kind of pain my family had when we lost Johnny. I also don’t want families that have lost someone to have to work so hard to get help. Healing from a suicide loss is hard enough without having to struggle to find support.  So that's why TwenTea Co. is so important.  It's my way of making sure that people know that there is help available and, more importantly, hope.  

Why tea?  What makes it the perfect product?

So this is my favorite part!  Somebody famous once said, "When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things." As I sat in that cute little tearoom, eating my lunch and contemplating my life choices, I began a Google search on the tea industry.  What I learned in that 45 minute to an hour timespan completely changed the way I looked at tea.  Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world!   It's a $12.5 Billion dollar industry with 4 out of 5 Americans drinking daily.  Our concept is simple: We use tea, the second most consumed beverage in the world, as a vehicle to fight against one of the most problematic public health problems in the world. Imagine if Twentea Co. put information about the warning signs of suicide and how to help in the hands of 4 out of 5 Americans!  Then, for every product purchased from those consumers, 20% of the profit is given to local crisis hotlines, awareness campaigns, and creating support groups.  I get chills just thinking about the impact!  On top of the impact opportunities, tea is the perfect product for this mission because of its health benefits.  It tastes good, and is good for you.  Tea is known to create a calming effect, reduce stress hormone levels, increase energy and mental focus, and improve memory.  Seriously, how many times have you heard mention of someone having a hot cup of tea to reduce stress or talk out their problems with a friend.  Which brings me to my last point, tea fosters connectedness, a key protective factor against suicide.  The Suicide Prevention Resource Center states that positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.  Literally, inviting your friends to come over and "spill the tea" improves your and their mental well-being.  


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.


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