This week’s Brooklyn Business Owners Spotlight Series features The Brooklyn Teacup, a business idea the owner stumbled upon – literally.
Ariel Davis was on a late-night run on the sidewalks of south Brooklyn when she nearly stumbled over someone's trash. She looked down and noticed it was a collection of fine china that had been put out. That moment sparked the idea for The Brooklyn Teacup emerged.
After rescuing the pieces from certain destruction, Davis resolved to upcycle them into tiered cake stands—her favorite type of tabletop décor, both whimsical and versatile—to gift to friends and family.
But there was a problem: she couldn’t find any businesses willing to drill holes through them. Like any woman on a mission, she decided to learn how to do it herself. In the process, she discovered how many people she knew who had beautiful “special occasion” bowls, teacups and more, just tucked away in storage.
Emboldened by this knowledge and the support of loved ones, she launched The Brooklyn Teacup with a mission to preserve the nostalgia of fine china in a modern and practical way. As a self-proclaimed "solopreneur," she wears many hats in the business, from marketing and managing the website to product creation, customer service and even shipping. But being a great multi-tasker doesn't come without its challenges.
“If I don't do something, it just doesn't get done,” Davis said. “And during this growth stage, I'm learning that sometimes I have to be OK with that.”
Using word of mouth, social media and pitching both media and complementary businesses, Davis began to grow the business. She found bakeries and cafés' useful partnerships to either use or sell the pieces in a display or retail capacity. But it was her pitching the media that helped spread the word best.
After reading a piece she had written about preserving family heirlooms in The Washington Post, Davis reached out to the staff writer to pitch The Brooklyn Teacup. In October, both she and the company were featured in an article titled “Five Fresh Ideas for the Family China Nobody Wants.” That article was reposted in many other major outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, Arkansas Gazette and Virginia Pilot.
“It's been very exciting to hear from customers all around the country who want me to upcycle their china or to commission a custom piece,” Davis said.
With The Brooklyn Teacup, the larger community can now buy unique, custom, and eco-friendly gifts that are purchased locally from both individuals and thrift stores alike. Pieces are also sold at The Brooklyn Women's Exchange. The oldest, all volunteer-run nonprofit in the country, its mission is to keep alive the tradition of locally-made handcrafts.
Davis is working to secure more partnerships with businesses that also serve her target demographic. One example is other local businesses that serve brides, preferably those who are eco-conscious and sentimentally-oriented.
“When I was getting married, I would have loved to have used a service that would allow me to incorporate family heirlooms like fine china into my big day,” she said. “Or to give away as favors to relatives who hosted my bridal shower, or to the bridesmaids and close friends.”
Sentimental but space-strapped Brooklynites now have the opportunity to repurpose their family heirlooms in ways that are both meaningful and useful. Family heirlooms can be enjoyed, shared, and passed down for generations to come—instead of collecting dust or winding up on the curb.
Davis tells us, “I have a lot of ideas in the works so definitely stay tuned or reach out if you have collaboration ideas in mind."
Brooklyn Business Owners is proud to announce our weekly Spotlight Series. Do you own a business in Brooklyn or run an initiative that gives back to the local community? We'd love to hear from you and share your story.