Jean Ramos and Laurel Shearer met at the Coast Works Community Conversation in Aberdeen last March, and they came up with an idea.

Ramos is an elder member of the Quinault Indian Nation living in Queets, Washington. After winning the 2015 Coast Works business plan competition, she launched Tribal SovereigNDNTea, a local business selling Native medicinal tea made from sustainably foraged

Bog Labrador. Bog Labrador, a relative of the Rhododendron, grows abundantly in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula. “Native Americans are the original sustainable society,” says Ramos. “That’s why I chose Labrador tea.  We take some and we leave some.” Her business is taking off.

Shearer, a self-taught confectioner and chocolatier, is a Seattle transplant now living in Aberdeen, Washington. She participated in the 2016 Coast Works competition and is now working to launch laurieAnnie (one word, and the “l” in laurie is meant to be lower case), a business that will make locally crafted artisan candies.

“Another participant in last year’s Coast Works competition has been helping me develop my business and suggested making a lozenge,” says Ramos. “I thought it would be interesting to see if Laurel could make a candy using my tea. I didn’t expect Laurel to take the idea seriously, but she did.”

Shearer worked as an accountant for 30 years. She sees her new business as an opportunity to bring her creative side to her work. “Cooking has been my life-long joy,” says Shearer. “Experimenting with foods and flavors has become second nature.”

Shearer and Ramos traded products. A week later, Shearer sent samples of tea-infused chocolates to people in her network for feedback. The result was rave reviews. The chocolates were indescribably delicious and unique.

“Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has nothing on Jean and Laurel,” exclaims Mike Skinner, who helps administer the Coast Works initiative. “What about sustainably harvested huckleberries, wild blueberries, even spruce tips? The possibilities for regionally flavored candies is limited only by Laurel’s imagination and Jean’s knowledge of traditional Native foods.”

What other regional flavors should Laurel and Jean consider? Our next Community Conversation will be on Tuesday, April 25, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, at the Lincoln Center in Port Angeles, Washington. Come share your ideas, and explore other ways small businesses can work together to build community resilience and sustainable well-being on the Olympic Peninsula.

Have a business idea you’d like to explore? Coast Works is currently accepting applications for the 2017 round of the competition. The deadline is May 22, 2017. Download your application today at www.wacoastworks/apply. Help us spread the word!