NYS SBDC Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Melissa Wawrzonek, Clipper Ship Tea Company
from the Farmingdale SBDC
While sailing aboard oil tankers in the United States Merchant Marines, Melissa
Wawrzonek began planning for a career after she retired from the sea. She decided to
translate her love of tea and passion for traveling into a business. To prepare herself, Melissa studied all she could about tea and visited tea producing countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Japan. She completed a 3-year certification course through the Specialty Tea
Institute (STI), which certified her as a Tea Specialist and Tea Educator & Speaker. In 2010, with certifications in hand and start-up funds in the bank, Melissa retired from the Merchant Marines. During the summer of 2010, she consulted the Farmingdale SBDC for assistance in finalizing a business plan and leased a 1200 square foot retail space in Northport Village.
Melissa and her family completed a restoration of the 110 year commercial space, with original tin ceilings and tin walls, a hotel concierge desk from the 1900ʼs, a 150 year old mahogany bar, and turn of the century fixtures. After 3 months of renovations and approximately $100,000 in start-up expenses, the Clipper Ship Tea Company opened as a retail loose leaf shop. The Clipper Ship Tea Company specializes in all things tea and sells premium loose leaf tea, tea ware and tea accoutrements. The store also sells honey and tea infused chocolate. The storefront has been open for one year and is thriving in its downtown pedestrian village. Melissa is in the process of launching the online portion of her tea business and is planning to open more tea retail storefronts in the years to come.