Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Razzall.
Rebecca, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I went to film school originally. Many of my early gigs involved music and film – I had my first office PA work at Capitol Records music video department where I got to work with Joseph Willis, who was a great mentor – and then I produced at VH1 and MTV… I also moonlit bartended at CBGBs, worked briefly for a legendary ninety two year old agent Robert Lantz, and had a few other jobs. Then I spent a dozen years producing branded content, first on the East Coast where I was rep’d thru a production department and then I went solo on the West Coast.
When I became a mom several years ago, I got into meditation (Vedic practice with my teacher Penny Hintz) and also tea – where, I went the ultra nerdy route and got certified as a tea sommelier… then I began building a business called TEASTREAM which has had a much longer R&D phase than I originally planned – I spent three years visiting farmers worldwide (India, China, Taiwan, Japan…) and meeting the tea community – lots of interesting conversations, and warm generous hearts. I also began to understand on a deeper level the issues with industrial agriculture and its impact on global warming, and vice versa… Maybe a year ago, I decided not to go raise capital for that business yet, for a few reasons… so I pulled focus back onto my producing work, with TEASTREAM as a midnight oil project, for now. Something was intuitively telling me to do so – I always pay attention to that!
These days I’ve been executive producing for a cool strategic creative agency/production hybrid called Channel, who are out of Sacramento. We do some fun work for TikTok, and other brands… and I have my eco-tea workshop / production office hybrid space here in Venice, Los Angeles. But currently, with COVID – work is from home… which is challenging for many, but my team has been accustomed to remote work for a while now. Also on the bright side, I take breaks in the small garden I’ve been working on with my four year old son. Being with nature is therapeutic… our garden is biodiverse and inspired by friends & farmers I’ve met along the way. All heirloom seeds – including Natsu Fushinari cucumber, fennel (Florence), nettles, Tong Ho – aka Chop suey greens… oh and we have an accidental pumpkin teepee which was a cute (big) surprise where organic compost was buried…
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Entrepreneurialism (and content production) and well life, these days in general – definitely feels sink or swim at times… But recently, after months of Covid quarantine, it was awesome to see communities come together to protest racism. Enough is enough! My own struggles in my white (Irish/Italian) privilege are nothing compared to what others in this world are up against.
But sure, professionally speaking – there are always challenges. Sometimes its financial. Often, it’s a difficult ‘triggered’ personality – learning how to set boundaries in an empathetic or diplomatic manner has been one of my biggest learnings… one time sticks out from my early twenties – I was an associate producer on a celebrity studded big event – my boss on that job screamed in my face, on many occasions – it finally stopped when our director Beth overheard, and told her to chill out. At the wrap party, the screamer said, “You know, I have to hand it to you – you really are unflappable – most people would have cried in your situation.” (What she did not realize was that twenty four year old me would frequently and calmly walk to the bathroom stall, and then take ten to cry alone!) As I got older and wiser I learned it was important to set boundaries with toxic behaviors, and to try to make a conscious choice about who to work with, whenever possible. Saying no is a really important yes to whatever else is out there… Through my own struggles I am grateful for the opportunities that provided me to learn how to step into my power – whether that was through speaking up, or bowing low, with equanimity…
Some of my favorite projects, though, have involved more of a ‘struggle’ / logistical challenge – that together with a kind and talented team, was successfully completed. An ex (good!) boss Doug Raboy sent this old photo of me and my friend Namik Minter – she and I co-produced a bunch of work together at Doug’s old agency, in our twenties. We learned a ton, had many adventures, and have all cheer-leaded each other on, since. I’d like to keep these two close in my next lifetime, please.
Currently, many of us are collectively struggling or at least adapting daily to the new state of the world – Gratitude, meditation, motherhood, and kind community – medicines for the heart – are some of my greatest anchors in all of this.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m currently leading production efforts as executive producer at Channel Creative – I’m proud of the multi-talented, genuine and hard-working team. I came from MTV originally and was used to blending as both a creative and producer at a fast pace, when I started my career… then when I got into advertising at some of the traditional big agencies back in NYC, I was surprised by the layers, bureaucracy, and sometimes what appeared to be waste. In recent years, I’m grateful that our collective society has been shifting into a new low-waste values model, sustainable mindset and economy. Channel’s boutique hybrid agency/production model is refreshing – I’m happy with my 360 degrees role.
And then… TEASTREAM, where I am founder/CEO (Chief Empathy Officer) – my advisory team and various global stakeholders and I are interested in bridging communities who together work towards regenerative (not degenerative) ecosystems, as well as fair wealth distribution models. TEASTREAM has set intentions to amplify those in tea with these shared values. And the project has already yielded so many great adventures and friendships in the tea community world wide. I am very grateful for it.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success by taking a look at the well-being, happiness and health of the ecosystem around whatever we are viewing for measure… Take a flower for example. Was it farmed in a monoculture industrial farm environment, sprayed with pesticides, rooted in fungicides and herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, which destroy the microbiome in the soil – all of these (expensive!) inputs in order to mitigate risk, satisfy old-school insurance, minimalize short term loss and guarantee global supply chains their perfect looking floral bouquets? Or did it grow in a ‘long-now 10,000 year clock’ kinda environment such as a naturally biodiverse forest or a biodynamic regenerative garden, with organic compost, love and care… then maybe foraged by a local business to sell alongside other locally sourced goods with low/no carbon footprint. Or is it somewhere in between there… IE those who scale responsibly and thoughtfully over time with a co-operative supply network with deep relationships and shared understandings.
Did I mention I got involved with Kiss the Ground as an advisor and soil advocate a year or so ago? They’re an amazing regenerative agriculture group, doing important work to educate communities about the global warming reversing potential of healthy soil – and how we can all do our part to contribute … Check them out at kisstheground.com!
Success, I believe is also rooted in the ability to feel gratitude. There is a good quote I came across at a recent (virtual) meditation sit with Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock. It was about gratitude yielding happiness, not the other way around. It’s a very key differentiation. When one is grateful, one is truly happy, and then – I’d call that extraordinarily successful.
I turned forty last week, during a time of Covid social distancing / quarantining, and city-mandated safety curfews. But I was so thankful – for the loving friendships and family in my life… for the work we are doing as a collective community to speak out against hate and racism… in the clean food supply that our local and global businesses are working around the clock to provide… in another bonus day to learn and to love. Thanks for interviewing me Voyage LA!
1. Watering my home garden in LA last week, on my 40th birthday…
2. My friend / colleague Namik Minter and I, co-producing in our twenties, snapped by our old boss, Doug Raboy. Here we had just finished up a great meeting with the founder of a very cool tech company, at their NYC headquarters.
3. My team from Channel Creative and I after one of our film shoots earlier this year.
4. My tea sister Rui Rae (owner of Grass People Tree) and I in Guizhou, China, two spring harvests ago. Rui taught me so much about all of the amazing wildcrafted teas there – and we quickly became close, through shared values and also similar personal life experience. She taught me one of my favorite words… Yuanfen (缘份). A beautiful principle which is about the binding force that links two people together in any relationship.
5. One of my childhood friends / Teastream advisory board member, Tim Wildin, and I – waking up on an eco friendly tea and coffee farm in Northern Thailand, the autumn before last – that’s Myanmar in the distance.
6. Raj Vable (owner of Young Mountain Teas) and I last spring in Darjeeling, India – at an inspiring permaculture-forward tea estate / forest, munching on lemongrass ground cover!
7. My tea teacher, Roy Fong, and I – at his ‘Imperial Tea Court’ in San Francisco ferry building, last winter, filming a segment for a documentary series I’ve been producing, about the tea community.
8. Me and Akky-San, a wonderful tea master farmer in Kyoto, Japan.