Portola Coffee Lab & Seventh Tea Bar
City of Residence: Irvine.
Children: Alethia, 5 (left); Seraphina,18 months (middle); and Gabriel (Gabe), 6 (right)
Portola Coffee Lab and Seventh Tea Bar are staples for local java junkies, and tea savants alike. However, it’s very possible that neither place would exist had it not been for Christa Duggan’s desire to be a better mom. “My husband had been roasting coffee as a hobby for as long as I can remember, but we never really thought of it as a business,” explained Duggan. However, when her oldest son was diagnosed with a heart defect upon his birth, Duggan needed to quit her corporate job to find one with the flexibility that would allow her to go to doctor’s visits and hospital stays. Rather than go on a job-hunt, she and her husband decided to take his hobby, utilize Duggan’s business skills, and create their own brand. “We knew that if we were going to open up a coffee house in OC, it was going to have to be different,” and different it is. Portola Coffee Lab is well known for its unique brewing methods, lab-coat wearing baristas and lack of sugary drinks. “Everything is natural. You can’t order a vanilla latte like you would at Starbucks, but we really believed in the brand and believed that’s the way coffee should be served,” said Duggan.
A completely grassroots operation, Duggan started Portola slowly. The company first roasted out of a bakery in Irvine, while Duggan worked to anchor Portola in the community with her marketing efforts by way of Twitter, Facebook, and a hook that said Portola would deliver fresh roasted coffee to your door. “I knew I wanted to reach the community. I would put the kids in the back of the car, drive around, and that’s what I did,” mentioned Duggan. “We built the brand slowly so that I could juggle everything, and then things became somewhat easier.” Portola opened at the OC Mix to a very enthusiastic welcome, and shortly after, the Duggans decided to open their second business right next door, Seventh Tea Bar, which uses the same principles as Portola Coffee Lab, but applies them to specialty teas. “I love Seventh, especially for being a mom. On the coffee side, I never really felt like I got my ‘mom’ out because coffee is such an adult beverage, and my life is centered on children. So, when I opened the teahouse, I was so excited to also find a way to incorporate children,” she said. “Anyone who knows me knows my kids are my life, so to be able to merge the two is really cool.”
As both businesses continue to thrive, Duggan’s life is a constant balancing act. However, with a flexible mindset, she’s got being a mompreneur down pat. “I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and I do what I have to do to make it work. Being a mompreneur is harder that you can imagine, but it’s the best job you can ever have.”