Shell Singal is deeply steeped in a business that is showing no signs of slowing in its brewing success.
In five years’ time, Tea Bazaar has flourished, from initially offering 10 different types of health-focused loose-leaf teas in 2018 to selling 10 times that amount today to a growing stream of customers.
Navigating through and emerging from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic successfully – currently with eight employees and a brick-and-mortar spot in Little Italy – Singal’s Tea Bazaar was recently honored as the Asian Business Association of San Diego’s Small Business of the Year.
Founded in 1990, ABASD represents the interests of more than 30,000 Asian Pacific Islander-owned businesses in San Diego County.
A first-generation American, descended from natives of India, Singal is originally from suburban Chicago and earned a finance degree from Indiana University as well as a CPA license. She moved to San Diego in 2018 after living and working in an ashram in Virginia learning and teaching yoga and ayurvedic medicine and natural healing, with the hopes of continuing her practice of Ashtanga yoga locally.
But after landing in San Diego and quickly noticing a lack of availability of what she calls “functional teas” in the region, Singal pivoted her career calling and started selling different types of teas at yoga festivals and other pop-up spots around the county.
Tea runs deep in Singal’s heritage and her roots, and she has a profound understanding of its part in sacred and healthy rituals meant to heal and promote good health.
“Tea has a special place in my heart,” said Singal, 40. “I love coffee, too, but it’s tea that I drink every day. I grew up with tea but I didn’t realize it wasn’t commonplace. In Indian culture, it’s very much a thing. In India, a lot of times your day is scheduled around tea. And the same in Britain.”
Now she sells 100 different types of loose-leaf teas made with leaves, flowers, fruits and herbs, and tea-related merchandise at more than a dozen farmers markets as well as the Tea Bazaar headquarters on Kettner Boulevard.
“I started doing something that I loved and knew something about but I had no idea what I was in store for,” Singal said. “I knew I wanted to do something good, something that brought more good to the world.”
Singal who has worked in advertising and marketing, traveling the world to London, Australia and India, and spent time in the nonprofit world as well, says she remains inspired by customers’ needs and her own background.
Singal said Tea Bazaar works toward a goal of healing, restoring and rejuvenating minds, bodies and spirits naturally, and believes “delicious, high-quality tea should be available and accessible to everyone.”
The teas focus on helping different challenges — from stress, immunity, focus and anxiety to headaches, low energy, toxicity and insomnia.
The company also supplies wholesale teas to local restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and local colleges and universities.
“We really care about our community and making our tea accessible to as many people as possible,” Singal said. “Because I truly believe that being able to heal our body naturally and have an alternative to big pharma, and have access to alternatives is so important to our community in general.”
Helping customers old and young create unique infusions of the venerable drink which archaeologists have discovered in tombs that are 2,100 years old, Singal was honored at the ABASD gala earlier on May 19 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Singal said she wasn’t sure she would make it through the pandemic, and praised the group for its support, “telling me it’s going to be OK, and presenting me with opportunities that I didn’t know were available to me.”