Thank you to Hillary Coley, owner of Dominion Tea in Purcellville, for sharing your story with us for Women’s History Month! The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Committee shares spotlights of community members throughout the year. Learn more about the DEIA Committee here.
Where were born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born and spent the first 13 years of my life in Sierra Vista, Arizona. My family moved to Jacksonville, FL the summer of my 13th birthday. I stayed there through high school and came to DC to attend college at American University. I met my husband, David, at American University and we got married shortly after I graduated. We settled into our first apartment down in Springfield right next to the newly opened Springfield/Franconia metro stop. We bought our first home a few years later down in Woodbridge, but the commute from DC to Woodbridge on 95 got ridiculous. So, we started looking at Loudoun. We had been coming to Loudoun on the weekends to enjoy the few wineries it had at the time, some of which don’t exist anymore. We settled into Loudoun in 2002 and it is the place I have called home the longest now.
When did you launch your first business and how did you get into your current line of work?
David and I both worked jobs in corporate America and were watching our parents go into retirement. Spending your days at either the golf course or doctor’s office was not and still isn’t our idea of a reasonable retirement. We envisioned ourselves still working but running our own business, so we started exploring businesses we might want in the second phase of our life.
After shelving what was probably our 10th or 11th idea, I sarcastically said to David we should sell tea. He smirked at me and walked off, about a month later he came back to me and said I might be on to something. We started Dominion Tea in 2013 after some in-depth research on the industry, key players and getting the start of the necessary knowledge to import/blend tea ourselves. I have been a lifelong drinker of tea and appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into making a good quality tea.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that influenced your career?
I owe a great deal of my success to my parents who modeled a work ethic and care about what they produced that I unknowingly thought was normal behavior. They also gave me a grounded confidence that I can learn anything I put my mind to. I should mention they were both public school teachers, so I had no idea going into the corporate world that a 40 hr work week was standard and you were supposed to take your weekends off. My husband had to teach me that.
I also had key people along my work path that offered me opportunities to grow and lead and I was lucky enough to realize that I should embrace those opportunities. I try to learn from everyone I work with as it has been my experience everyone has something to teach others, even if they are unaware of it.
What is the best part of your job and why?
Selling tea gives me a legitimate excuse to drink way too much tea every day. But seriously, it is a joy to be able to teach both my staff and the public about where tea comes from, how our suppliers produce it, what influences its flavor, and how to best enjoy it. I get to travel the world, meet new people, explore and learn about foreign cultures, and truly enjoy being a citizen of planet Earth. I have learned an amazing amount about the complexities of international trade, and I am grateful that my years of doing tax returns and interacting with the IRS on behalf of my clients at the start of my career has given me the patience to handle the paperwork for the FDA and Customs and Border Protection now.
What is it like owning/running a business in Loudoun?
It is a true joy being able to run my business where I live. The mix of metropolitan worldliness with farming roots makes Loudoun the perfect environment for a niche product like loose-leaf tea. Most tea drinkers have either traveled internationally themselves or enjoy learning about foreign cultures and appreciate the effort that goes into farming and caring for plants.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It is a great way to remind the public that women were and still are an influential part of our society. I love reading about the women who were first in their fields whether it was science, nursing, law enforcement, business or anything else. So much gets left out of history books, so having other ways to have the stories of the past retold to including players that are often left out are critical for children to see what is possible for them to accomplish.
My mother and father told a lot of family stories about the women of their families and where I came from. Without realizing it at the time, those stories told me I could accomplish what I want because the ladies in my family had been doing so for many generations, even with the limitations and expectations placed on them by society.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
Traveling around the world with David and our son, DJ. As a family, we all enjoy indoor climbing, mainly bouldering, so you will generally find me at Sportrock Climbing Center 5 days a week, either first thing in the morning with David or in the evening with DJ for his climbing team. I also serve on several nonprofit boards including the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, Visit Loudoun, the Loudoun Bed & Breakfast Guild and Discover Purcellville. I also serve as a member of the Gifted Advisory Committee for Loudoun County Public Schools.