For Jessica Sadler the earliest memories of sitting down with a cuppa were in her nan's kitchen as a child and that warm, fuzzy feeling with a brew has spurred her to make a business from it.
"I would have been seven and she would make cups of tea for us - really watered down and lots of sugar - but it was this special time that we would have together," the entrepreneur said.
Those memories of love and joy instilled a passion for tea over the years, with the family and child therapist deciding to create a side hustle and launch her own business, Infuse Me Tea, despite being in the midst of a pandemic.
"Over time my taste buds have changed, I generally don't have a sweetener in my tea - but that same love that same joy and memory making has always been there for me with tea," Ms Sadler said.
"My biggest goal is being part of people's moments, be it significant ones or heart-aches, or just that moment to unwind. I want to be part of that through my tea."
Something that I have observed is how willing local small businesses are to promote and support each other.Jessica Sadler
After some initial hesitation on whether she could manage a career and run a side business during a pandemic, the preparation began and Ms Sandler launched her boutique blends at the end of April, all crafted by her own hands.
Just a few months into operation the "momentum" was paused with Greater Sydney in another lockdown and no markets to sell at.
But Ms Sadler said it's not her main source of income and that she was able to be part of a mentoring partnership with Foragers markets (where she was selling her products) and the Southern Region Business Enterprise Centre (SRBEC).
"It's allowed me to think more clearly about the direction I want to take my business and the steps needed to do that," she said.
"The greatest thing I have learned is to have faith in my product and myself as a small business owner. Already I have learnt that having confidence in what you are doing is felt by customers - if you love it and know it's a quality product, your customer will sense that and feel it too."
Ms Sadler said 2020 highlighted the fact you never know what's around the corner - including another lockdown - but also not to "place all your eggs in one basket".
"It's difficult to know when markets will return, so for now the focus is on directing as many people to the website as possible," she said. "Something that I have observed is how willing local small businesses are to promote and support each other."
Deborah Sams, a business advisor from SRBEC, said while COVID has caused a lot of disruption "it's given [entrepreneurs] a lot more confidence" to take the next step.
"It's really exciting to see some people with brilliant ideas, these guys are manufacturers creating these beautiful products, and there's huge opportunity in the Illawarra," Ms Sams said.
"For them to grow and expand their services are only going to contribute to the economic impact of the Illawarra."
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