Stories from the Pot of Gold! - Meet Dona Perera
A passion for exotic tea and how that can bring communities together were the hallmarks of my recent meeting with Dona Perera. Dona agreed for me to share her story as part of my series: ‘Stories from the pot of gold!’ Everyday people, doing everyday things that are extraordinary for them!
Dona is as an extremely bubbly Entrepreneur who loves to talk. So, when I said I was recording her interview, she burst in to laughter at the possibility my phone battery would go flat. Dona settled in Ipswich, Queensland, after migrating to Australia from Sri Lanka over 12 years ago. She has just launched Tranquil Tea and imports quality Ceylon tea in to Australia. Her vision is to help train and employ next generation tea drinkers to serve a good cup of tea and share the values that emanate with that tea.
I was enthralled by Dona’s story from humble beginnings in Sri Lanka where her parent’s values were instilled in her. They believed that education was a passport to a broader view of life, to a freer mindset and they were also passionate about the importance of community. She said; “My Father loved meeting people, and in the morning, he would open our gate and invite passers by in for a cup of tea. He would shout out to me or my brothers to put the kettle on!”
Dona added: “We always served tea traditionally, two hands holding the tray upon which the teapot and cup sat, and we were never allowed to go to our room. Instead, we had to come out and talk, while they drank their tea”. Dona says it takes three to five minutes to brew a proper cup of tea and its while the tea is brewing that she believes you should take the time to sit with someone and hear what he or she has to say.
Dona lives life from a foundation of very strong self-worth and self-esteem, but her resilience was tested when she migrated to Australia. She found it very difficult to find work initially, despite having teaching qualifications. Her frustration impacted her ability to feel accepted in her new home country. At one point, Dona felt like she was losing herself, her identify and her confidence. She said: “I was just so unhappy and really thinking like why did I come!”
She finally settled in to a teaching role, but quickly became disillusioned with the education system. She didn’t find the inner happiness she was looking for and said: “I love teaching and coaching people, but I see the education system failing at many levels.” Dona was unhappy because there were lots of students who did well and really appreciated her work, but there were a large number she saw slipping through her fingers. Simply because of the learning environment and lack of vision.
Dona said: “I realise that I have certain core values that I really need to constantly stick by, and by working in certain organizations it conflicts with my values”. It’s this mismatch that forced her to make a big decision about her career. She started visualising what she truly wanted to do and this led to her to leave formal teaching and ignite her passion to connect communities, coupled with informal business coaching.
I asked why it was so important to her and she said: “I feel that community values are being broken down and we are losing our humanity on a larger scale. People are becoming so focused on themselves, breaking that community structure. So, I thought I can use this as a chance to build relationships and bring those values back again.” That’s her vision and what she calls: “transparency with a purpose!”
She is putting this vision to practice with a recent two-hour workshop where she showed a group of teenagers how to brew tea. They enjoyed the workshop so much that they all went home and made a cup of tea for their parents. She knows that because the parents called her to let her know how pleased they were.
Dona has built a reputation for her tea with local families and it’s not uncommon for her to host around 20 friends at her home for tea tasting. For 10 years she brought tea from Sri Lanka because she felt tea options here had no flavour. It was a friend who suggested she import tea from Sri Lanka and so Tranquil Tea was born.
She’s just launched her website and is encouraged people are ordering her products. It’s going very well and she now wants to combine her business with public speaking and team building at schools, and associations like the Guides. The Gold Coast library recently invited her to tell her journey with Ceylon tea.
I asked Dona if she ever doubted herself and her response was a resounding “No!” She continued; “With most things I analyse everything and then bang when I decide to set a target I go for it and jump straight in … there’s no stopping me!” She never doubts her ability and while Dona admits to not formalising her goals, she uses milestones in her calendar to track how she’s doing.
In terms of people that have had a major influence on her, Dona says the Chief Executive Officer at the first company she worked for in Sri Lanka inspired her. He was a young man who built a textile business with his brothers. They started from humble beginnings in the back of a property to one, which now employs 300,000 people globally. Dona said: “These guys had a completely different vision. They wanted to actually grow Sri Lanka. They wanted to change the low perception of machine operators and lift the living conditions for women of all ages by moving factories to the villages, so women didn’t need to move to the city where conditions were typically poor”.
This further instilled in Dona the vision of bringing communities together and through tea she is now inspiring others. It’s this sense of community that drives her and her passion for Ipswich! She believes the people of her hometown have an untapped potential to do greater things as a City. Her vision is to bring the local community together and connect them with international communities, so they can understand they all face very similar problems.
Thank you Dona for sharing your story and if anyone would like to contact her or is interested in sampling some genuine Ceylon Tea, then follow this link Tranquil Tea. If you’ve found Dona’s story inspirational, then please share it. It may just inspire someone else you know. Also, if you’d like to share your own story of success, then I’d love to hear from you via email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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