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A young couple started a unique small business: one that gives back.

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Tillamook

When Caroline and Trey started their small business, they knew they wanted to run things a bit ... differently.

Here they are with their tea:


Hey there, Caroline and Trey! Image by Jen Christo.

The challenge they faced was this: How could they combine their delicious iced tea recipes with their love for community?

So they created solidariTEA, an iced tea company that donates 10 cents to community groups for every bottle of tea sold.

Caroline and Trey started brewing up (heh heh) the idea for solidariTEA in the spring of 2011 as a way to strengthen their community.

"We see communities as the societal equivalent of an ecosystem," they explained to me. "The stronger and healthier the community, the better it will be able to serve and support its members."

Even their cat loves the tea. Image courtesy of solidariTEA.

To get the project going, Caroline and Trey had to raise money of their own. They turned to microlending campaigns and even got a boost of support from Tillamook Co-Op members, which works hard to support community real-food projects.

Next up was deciding who they were going to support. The duo didn't just want to create a new community organization. They wanted to support the groups already doing great work on the ground. So they started partnering with existing community groups to provide an alternative to traditional nonprofit grant funding.

In May 2015, solidariTEA made its first donation of $3,500 to partner nonprofits. And that's just the beginning.

After the first couple years of making and selling tea, Caroline and Trey were able to make a donation in May 2015 that represented their sales through the end of 2014.

The solidariTEAm giving their first checks to community partners. Image courtesy of solidariTEA.

Who were the lucky recipients? Rock Paper Scissors Collective, a volunteer-run community arts organization, and People's Grocery, a group that aims to provide education and healthy local food choices to the community — both based in Oakland, California.

"We understand [that $3,500] is small potatoes now," Caroline and Trey told me, "[but] as we scale up our business we expect ... our teas to represent a real source of stable income to our partners to continue the amazing, grassroots work they do."

Still, their first donation is a huge success for everyone involved! That's $3,500 these community groups can spend "on absolutely anything that fits within their scope and mission." That's because, unlike traditional nonprofit grants, solidariTEA's donations are based on trust, respect, and solidarity and come with zero spending restrictions or strings attached.

Pretty cool, right?

Despite all the hard work it's taken to start their own business, Caroline and Trey say it's all been worth it.

"We've met a lot of really inspiring, wonderful people: people with big hearts who are doing bada** things, from which a lot of new friendships have grown."

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