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Pouring Pride

June 17, 2024 Erica Hulse

“Entrepreneurship was never something in my brain growing up,” shared Arielle Clark, self-described Black, Queer, Polyamorous Woman and owner of Sis Got Tea café in Louisville, Kentucky. The published author, University of Louisville IT Systems Engineer, and College of Business MBA alumna shared that she “grew up in poverty, so…the purview of my family was, ‘Get bills paid, make sure everyone is fed’ type of thing.” Clark had not considered running her own business until she was required to complete an entrepreneurship course as part of her graduate program in lieu of participating in the program’s international trip. “I [said to myself,] ‘I’m never going to be an entrepreneur, but I don’t have a choice. I have to take this class.’ That class changed my life.”

Realizing her passion for business ownership as a means to give back to a community with whom she closely identified, Clark began to research and develop a business plan that would eventually become an alcohol-free, safe space for marginalized community members. Embodying the spirit of entrepreneurship, Sis Got Tea is an inviting space that welcomes the LGBTQ+ community and all like-minded customers in the greater Louisville area while serving traditional and innovative tea selections. Clark’s vision has been featured nationwide as one of Places.Travel’s “Pride in the ‘Ville: Discovering Louisville’s LGBTQ+ Neighborhoods” and was recently featured on the Marketplace APM (American Public Media) business news podcast and website.

Arielle Clark sits on a gray couch holding a mug with the logo of her cafe, Sis Got Tea.

Supportive Sips

Growing up with her family members completing their undergraduate degrees at UofL, Clark explained that she “want[ed] to be different” and looked for a smaller campus in the Louisville area as part of her undergraduate academic experience. After deciding to apply for and being accepted to Bellarmine University, Clark became concerned about the cost of attending a private university. She noted she was “fortunate enough to get a full-ride scholarship for all four years through a Bellarmine alumna named Angela Mason,” a scholarship donor who also identified as a black, queer woman. Like Clark, Mason had grown up in poverty and worked to overcome numerous personal obstacles, and she would eventually grow to become Clark’s mentor and friend. “She changed my life, not just with…helping me pay for school, but also as a person,” Clark noted. However, their shared identities were only one part of their strong connection. 

An entrepreneur in her own right, Mason launched a highly successful business and was able to retire early, focusing on giving back to the Louisville community through scholarships and volunteer work. Mason provided Clark with valuable guidance and insight upon graduation as she began her professional journey, particularly as an emerging entrepreneur. “As I moved through my career, got into IT, [and then] started my own business, I looked to Angela as my role model, and seeing a black, queer woman in a position of leadership, being able to do great things was life-changing.”

Inclusive Infusions

While her undergraduate experience with her scholarship donor and graduate experience with her entrepreneurship course may have changed her life, Clark’s commitment to bring to light the need for educational offerings in UofL’s MBA program related to diversity, equity, and inclusion has transformed the educational experiences of today’s graduate students in the College, bringing about positive change to not just programmatic offerings, but the lives of UofL business students. 

While enrolled in the program, Clark identified a need for awareness and education surrounding DEI issues in the classroom and reached out to the College’s executive leadership and DEI committee about her concerns. That singular conversation resulted in a change within the structure of the MBA program, launching Inclusive Leadership, a professional development course that continues to be offered as a means of educating students about the detrimental impacts of conscious or unconscious bias, such as microaggressions, on marginalized employees.

Arielle Clark stands in front of the counter of her cafe, Sis Got Tea.

Beyond Brewing

With the café having celebrated its first year of business in April 2024, Sis Got Tea shows no signs of slowing down. Clark elaborated, “I want to continue giving back to the community through Sis Got Tea, providing a safe, affirming, uplifting, bright space, particularly for marginalized folks.” The café will continue to sponsor community-focused events such as stitching circles, open mic nights, name change clinics, and LGBTQ+ sobriety support, as well as offer free sexual health and wellness resources and items. Donations to support those continued efforts via Venmo and Paypal are accepted and appreciated.

Are you a UofL student, alumni, faculty, or staff member of the LGBTQ+ community seeking support? Visit the LGBT Center for resources and assistance.

About the UofL College of Business:

Founded in 1953, the UofL College of Business fosters intellectual and economic vitality in our city, region, and the global business landscape. Our academic programs, research, community outreach initiatives, and commitment to student success inspire lives and businesses to flourish through entrepreneurship, innovation, critical thinking, diversity, and the power of people.

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