Alexandra Daignault of Sarjesa Inc in Calgary
For Alexandra Daignault and her tea company Sarjesa, this pandemic hasn’t just been about surviving as a business – it’s also about protecting vulnerable and marginalized communities during a time when they need it most.
"There is so much good work being done across the city, and it’s awesome to see such a focus on collaboration in a time when resources are scarce." - Alexandra Daignault, owner of Sarjesa.
Launched in 2017, Sarjesa was born out of conversations with Indigenous Elders and community members, with a mission to reduce violence towards women by sparking important conversations over a cup of tea.
Alexandra Daignault started the business while taking an Indigenous Studies course at Mount Royal University. “It was a way of raising awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, while also educating folks about the plants that grow in Canada.” The team began producing teas made with Canadian-grown herbs and imported fair-trade ingredients, donating to Calgary’s Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society in support of their violence prevention programs.
During the pandemic, their cause has taken on new importance – and urgency – with so many women trapped in dangerous quarantine environments. "Domestic violence rates have been known to rise during times like these," Alexandra says. "So we have been working to help reduce stress for families."
Part of that effort is making sure there’s food on the table. In collaboration with the 4Rs Youth Movement and Jacey Firth Hagen, the team has been distributing care packages to Awo Taan. Each box features recipes and ingredients to make at least six meals per family.
On the business side of things, Alexandra says the pandemic has inspired some new operational partnerships for Sarjesa. "We have started to help out some other tea brands via co-packing to reduce costs for everyone during this time. It’s led to some really great collaborations and learnings for us."
Amidst all the chaos, Alexandra sees encouraging signs of progress in her industry. "I think it’s become more mindful and collaborative," she says. "It’s certainly been a reminder of how dependent the tea system is on growers and farmers from all over the world. It’s given a new weight to systems like fair trade, and I find myself wondering how we can push to be even better and more equitable."
For a company whose mission has always been bigger than the product they sell, COVID-19 has presented many challenges – but also plenty of inspiration.
"I am proud to be part of such an amazing community of people who have chosen to come together and share," Alexandra says.
"I have no doubt in my heart that we will all get through this."
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