Her Olympic dreams were dashed in a brutal fall. Now, her company is on Oprah's 2020 Favourite Things list

At the age of 14, the 2012 Olympic hopeful Taylor Lindsay-Noel was paralyzed after a gymnastics accident. Now, her organic tea company Cup of Té has made it onto Oprah’s 2020 Favourite Things list.

Taylor Lindsay-Noel immediately shared the news with her mom — the pair used to love The Oprah Winfrey Show

Taylor Lindsay-Noel says she remembers the day she sent samples of her loose leaf tea to Oprah Winfrey and her team. 'I just kissed them, and I'm like, please make this happen,' she said. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

As Taylor Lindsay-Noel oversees a small team weighing and packaging flavours of her loose leaf tea, she remembers almost giving up.

"I almost closed my business because I thought that it wasn't going to go anywhere," recalled Lindsay-Noel.

At the age of 14, the 2012 Olympic hopeful and member of Canada's national gymnastics team landed on her neck after a fall off the high bar during a routine. 

She was instantly paralyzed.

Twelve years to the day of that accident, however, came an email she says turned her spirits around. 

"I wake up to an email from someone who says they're from Oprah's team," Lindsay-Noel told CBC News. 

Months of anticipation

Her first instinct was to assume it wasn't real.

But as it turned out, Oprah Winfrey's team was considering adding her company, Cup of Té, to "Oprah's Favourite Things" list for 2020. Winfrey made it a point this year to celebrate Black lives and choose 50 Black-owned or Black-led businesses to be on the list.

"We had to send our package to Gayle King and Oprah's home, and I just kissed them, and I'm like, 'Please make this happen,'" Lindsay-Noel recalled.

After that, Lindsay-Noel says, it was months of waiting.

"I was on pins and needles because once they reached out, it doesn't mean that you're on the list," she said. "It's weeks and weeks of testing, sending product to them, going back and forth, multiple rounds. And there's no guarantee."

Lindsay-Noel's company, Cup of Té, made it on Oprah’s 2020 Favourite Things list. (CBC News)

When Lindsay-Noel found out she made the list, she immediately shared the news with her mother, Rowena Lindsay, who she used to bond with over episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show

Lindsay says she wasn't completely surprised Winfrey's team reached out, saying her daughter was prepared for success. 

And while she says she can't take all the credit for her daughter's drive, she believes the framework she provided as a parent allowed Lindsay-Noel to blossom. 

"When you look at the packaging of Cup of Té, her branding is phenomenal. She's put in the work, you know, and it shows," said Lindsay.

"I think she's extremely fortunate that Oprah called her, yes, but she's also put in the work." 

'It just made me feel I was doing something right'

The idea for the business came to Lindsay-Noel when she couldn't find a sponsor for her podcast, Tea Time with Tay, where she interviewed influencers over a cup of tea.

That's when she decided to create a tea company of her own.

Lindsay-Noel admits it hasn't been an easy road and says she's grateful for the vote of confidence from the Winfrey team. 

"It just made me feel like I was doing something right," said Lindsay-Noel. "I think when you are an entrepreneur, you have so many moments of doubt.

"But when you have someone like Oprah and her team tap your shoulder and be like, 'Hey, we love what you're doing,' I'm like, OK, I wasn't wrong. I should stick with it. And there is a future." 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.