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Sara Stender Delaney

CEO of 3 Mountains


What inspired you to start your business?

I spent a year in Rwanda and the experience had a big impact on me. This is where I first came to know about silver tea, and I was motivated to help serve as a liaison between Rwandans and Americans, using tea as a catalyst for change. First I started a nonprofit, and then I began to see how impactful conscious commerce could be to create new economic opportunities, combined with our social services.

What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

We all face challenges as entrepreneurs and it’s tough to say which are because I am a woman. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me personally, is owning my femininity and letting that shine through, in an industry that is still heavily composed of men (grocery stores and breweries), and to trust I will be taken seriously in business negotiations.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

To maintain confidence in your mission when you enter a room. Keep your big WHY at the forefront of your mind at all times, especially remind yourself of this when days seem hard. Don’t see things as mistakes, or have regrets. Know that with each failed attempt, you are growing and learning.

What three traits define you?

Determined, Inspired, Creative

How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?

I have been certified for less than six months, during a really strange time in our industry. The Certification has supported recent grocery store submissions for new products and I believe having the Logo on our new packages coming out soon will really help speak to our consumer.

What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?

People are always going to drink something. Although some people only drink water, almost everyone purchases ready-to-drink beverages on a regular basis. I absolutely love to observe people’s purchasing behaviors. I am fascinated by the psychology of consumption and product selection.

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

Right now, it is our communication strategy and branding. Sometimes I get so deep in the weeds on something, or feel too influenced by someone’s opinion, that it becomes difficult to stay focused on the core messaging. We are still getting to know our customers so the questions are like 1. How do we speak to our customer? 2. What do we need to change in our messaging or images? 3. How do we build a brand that can become a household name but remain unique and socially impactful?

What are the biggest obstacles you see for young female entrepreneurs?

I don’t focus on the obstacles. Like in mountain biking or downhill skiing, when you focus on the stump you need to get over, or the gate you need to get around, that’s when I fall. If I notice it and then focus on where I want to go, it is usually much more successful.

What do you love about being a business owner?

Freedom and flexibility, and doing what I love.

What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?

Nonstop decision-making.

How do you define success?

Inner peace and acceptance of what is. The ability to relax. Feeling empowered. Uplifting and healthy personal relationships. I believe these things are symptoms of success. They come after we do the personal work and when we stay in gratitude. We find gifts in the everyday life. Yes, it may involve financial wealth, but I think that is the outcome of these deeper areas of growth. I do not strive for ‘happiness’ anymore, but rather a feeling of being at peace with the process.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Follow your heart.

What’s your favorite career moment?

Immediately following my Ted Talk in 2019. It was very surreal, like a dream come true.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

I would spend more time in the woods – hiking, biking, running; I would work more on building my business; I would spend more time at home with my family.

What are you reading or listening to now?

I’m learning about the stock market and investing strategies. I have a couple of investment podcasts and teachers I’ve been following; I read something at night for about 15 minutes usually and it’s often an Entrepreneur magazine.

What’s the best way to start your day?

I read a Daily Reflection when I wake up, hopefully around 6am if I made it to bed by 9:30pm. I do a quick journal and on the best day, I do a brief meditation on what I read, or on my intentions for the day, before I even get out of bed.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Something big! I wanted to be visible, feel like I was doing something important, and I liked the idea of being on a stage but I was also very shy and pursued solo sports like ballet, horse back riding and skiing.

How do you unwind after a long workday?

I try to separate my work from my family time even if it is just a quick workout, or walk, or short meditation. This can be tough working from home so much but I usually know what time family will be coming home, or what time other people in the house will be winding down with their work or school for the day.

What do you like about your workspace?

It’s flexible! I am used to working remote since I used to spend more time in East Africa. I like being mobile. I do have an office but I rarely go in. It is really cozy and quiet though, so when I know I need uninterrupted time, that’s the perfect place!

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I... roll my sleeves up.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself there are no mistakes.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my faith.

By this time next year, I will be… even more experienced in this industry.

The best thing that happened to me last week was … I received three important product awards / finalist nominations (Specialty Food Association (Sofi), World of Tea, and Made in NC).

To get my creative juices flowing, I… trail run.

3 mountains

3 Mountains makes two distinct brands — Tima Tea, loose-leaf African tea products, and Silverback Beverage, carbonated plant-based energy drinks. 3 Mountains products go beyond Fair Trade. In addition to paying a premium for the tea in Rwanda, their company is the primary sponsor of “Sustain”, a program designed by Africa Healing Exchange, teaching entrepreneurship skills to women in Rwanda. They provide seed funding for culturally-appropriate business ideas that help alleviate food insecurity and poverty, while protecting the natural habitat for our endangered species.

Learn more.