KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When many business owners were closing amid the pandemic, Nika Cotton was opening the doors of her tea shop.
Soulcentricitea offers dozens of red, black and green teas. While she touts the medicinal benefits of her beverages, Cotton also hopes to serve hope, healing and restoration to the community.
"I really want this to be a space that when people walk into [it], they feel calm," Cotton said. "People have commented they feel the weight lifted off their shoulders when they come in, and that was the idea that designed the aesthetic of this space."
Cotton is a political activist, poet and former social worker. She intends to use the space to bring more awareness to social justice issues by hosting conversations, writing workshops and support groups.
"That is definitely one of the main goals of this space - to be able to organize and to be able to provide a platform for some of the issues that are important for us right now," Cotton said. "We see a lot of political upheaval, right in this time and place, and this is really an opportunity for us to make some of the changes."
Soulcentricitea sits near 30th Street and Troost Avenue. It's an area Cotton intentionally sought out along what's known as the city's dividing line.
"Because Troost is gentrifying very, very quickly and one of the things about gentrification is it usually pushes out Black businesses," Cotton said.
While building a business herself, Cotton is also helping another Black female entrepreneur. She hired Naandie Wright with the help of a $25,000 grant.
Wright works behind the counter, but Cotton also allows her to work as a psychic for those who desire readings.
"This is the perfect place for me to be. I don't have to put a part of myself in a box. I can be exactly who it is that I am," Wright said.
Wright started working at Soulcentricitea at the beginning of the month, but it didn't take her long to understand and value Cotton's long-term goals.
"Seeing Nika create all of this is 100% inspiration," Wright said. "I think it's very important for women who are opening up spaces, starting their own businesses and experiencing success to share so we can see and we can know that it's real."
While Cotton is working to impact the future, she's also honoring those who have made history.
On the menu, you'll find drinks named after Black female authors.
Order a Toni Morrison and you'll get a cup of rooibos green tea with agave and hazelnut. Drinks are also named after Zora Neale Hurston, Belle Hooks, Georgia Douglass Johnson, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde and many more.
Soulcentricitea is open Monday thru Friday from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.