Quentin Wayne knows the feeling of impending death. After battling a two-year addiction to his anxiety medication and several suicide attempts at age 29, he found his journey of healing and recovery through the ritual of juice and tea. Inspired by tea culture, Veni co-founded Baltimore-based tea company Equitia with his wife, Erin, in 2020. The now-38-year-old entrepreneur uses green tea to help with his son’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and he wants to make sure high-quality tea is available to everyone. – As told to Xintian Tina Vango
Growing up in West Baltimore in the 1980s and 1990s, I was surrounded by a sense of poverty, disrepair, violence, and despair. While I was dealing with this reality, I was also going to school where there were no people who looked like me. I was constantly being ridiculed, harassed and bullied. And then every time I would react to defend myself, I was the one who was in trouble. It started making this story in my mind even as an 8 year old boy that I don’t mind.
I was diagnosed with acute depression and Anxiety at the age of 14. The doctors wanted to give me medicine and my mother declined that treatment option. At the time, mental health was not something that was talked about. As a black family in America, we are not fortunate enough to have mental health issues. We just had to smile and bear it and learn to survive.
When I was 26, I was diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and major depressive disorder. At that time the only treatment option given to me by my doctor was prescription. The funny thing was that this was not a situation where I was getting drugs from my friends in the street corner. I was actually getting it from my doctor. As I would suggest and recommend, he was increasing my dosage, which should have been a red flag for me, but it was not at the time.
I was addicted to anxiety pills for almost two years. I am constantly experiencing this feeling of impending death, thinking that I am having a heart attack. The second time I tried to kill myself, I made up my mind that I would give up living to die and fight to live.
When I was 28, my tea ritual was involved in my recovery. It started with the nightly tea bags you get from the grocery store, and then it grew into this passion for loose-leaf tea. Making myself a cup of tea was very meditative, it was something that could really help me detach myself from my reality at the time. And it taught me how to be present.
Business started out of necessity. My son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of 7. Given my experiences dealing with my mental health battles with tea, I made the conscious decision to manage her diagnosis holistically. I went to a neurologist, and he suggested that my son drink green tea before any major tests, as the caffeine and L-theanine would give him a calming focus. But my son said he hated the taste.
So we were like, if this is really going to work, we have to figure out a way to make tea tastier for a 9 year old. We went down this rabbit hole of research learning as much as we could about green tea, the flavor profile, and things mixed with it. We landed on a blend of green tea with lavender and lemon grass, and they loved it. By the end of that school year, he had moved from struggling in school to the honor role. Of course, it was not just the tea, but it certainly provided some benefits for my son.
I have always firmly believed that if you find something that works, you share it with other people. So in 2020, my wife and I started a tea company that wanted to take things that worked for our family and make them accessible to other families.
But we should all think of ways to take it forward. The harsh reality right now is that many black-owned businesses are struggling to get funding. We do not have funding; My wife and I put $70,000 from our savings into the company when we started.
For us to bridge America’s racial wealth gap and create an environment where more black-owned businesses can thrive, I encourage people to support these businesses from Juneteenth onwards. We have to remember in the face of adversity and don’t let difficulties in challenges stop us.
This year, Father’s Day and Juneteen are falling on the same day, and I think it’s a beautiful thing to be a Black Father in America. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Being a black father who has the ability and privilege to start a business and show his kids something different is meaningful to me.