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Bigelow Tea Supports Pancakes For Parkinson’s at UVA

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Michael Kreamer, Cindi Bigelow and Cindi’s son David

I had such a great experience yesterday. Bigelow Tea helped support an event on the University of Virginia campus called Pancakes for Parkinson’s. A young man named Michael Kreamer contacted us to inquire if we would like to participate. We were delighted to help out.

So we sent him Bigelow Tea and of course some fun “swag” (Bigelow Tea shirts and hats). When I arrived at the event I had no idea what to expect. Well, to my delight, Bigelow Tea was a huge hit!!!  Michael stated he had run out of water (5 gallons!) almost immediately. He had to replace the water 5 times and eventually just could not keep running out to the local downtown to refill. The young students were lined up—a longer line than for the coffee!—and the biggest hit was the Vanilla Chai. These young people were major tea fans (thank the heavens).

Cindi Bigelow with Chris Hudson

 I just stood there trying to take it all in, observing which teas they gravitated toward (all four we supplied them with seemed like home runs: Vanilla ChaiGreen Tea with PomegranateLemon Ginger and English Teatime), restocking cups, restocking tea and just being in awe of the entire experience.

I have to say the newly designed foils looked truly outstanding in the basket that Michael displayed the teas in. A huge “thank you” to this young, entrepreneurial student for allowing us to be a part of this fantastic event for an outstanding cause on the UVA campus!

What a great day!

Cindi Bigelow


Cindi Bigelow Reflects on Corporate Responsibility and the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge in Huffington Post

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For Bigelow Tea CEO Cindi Bigelow, being a corporate leader goes far beyond her office door. In a new article on the Huffington Post, Cindi shares her views on what she calls “corporate responsibility” and how thinking about this responsibility to the community led Bigelow Tea to start the annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge.

More than 25 years ago, the teenage son of a long-time, dedicated Bigelow Tea employee passed away. “I knew as a company we had to do something that would honor his son’s memory,” Cindi says in the article. After considering many options, the company decided to start a road race, the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge. Fifty people ran in the first race, and $3,000 was raised to create a scholarship in David’s name.

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Over the years, this event has evolved to attract thousands of runners and to aid many notable nonprofits in Connecticut. On Sunday, September 29th, Bigelow Tea will hold its 26th race in Southport, Connecticut. Funds from this year’s event will go to 17 charities that help the homeless, hungry and those at-risk in our community. There will be three athletic events taking place: a 5K Road Race, a 2-mile Fitness Walk and Kids’ Fun Race.

We encourage you to join Bigelow Tea and register for your spot in the race. We all have a community responsibility to help others … and this is a wonderful, meaningful way to do so.

 

Bigelow Tea’s Cindi Bigelow Considers The Virtue Of Being Nice

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When I was invited to speak about leadership at a local high school recently, I found myself looking out into an audience of expectant faces – typical American parents concerned about their kids’ future at a time when jobs are scarce, college costs are high and people are debating the value of a liberal arts education.

I have two children, one who recently graduated with a degree in Spanish and English, and another who is studying business… so I know the competition is intense, compounded by the fact that some 78 million members of the Millennial Generation are entering the workforce at a time when some 76 million Baby Boomers don’t really want to retire.

The audience was looking for answers. I’m an established businesswoman and a parent. What could I tell them?

“What do you want your kids to be?” I asked. “Doctors? Lawyers? Investment bankers?” And I could see heads nodding in agreement around the room, at least until I threw them a curve ball and asked, “How many of you said in your minds, ‘I want my kids to be NICE?’” You could see their eyes open wide.

You see, in my mind, it’s of incredible importance, even though, I will admit, “niceness” isn’t on any curriculum at any liberal arts college I’ve visited. Furthermore, “niceness” isn’t part of any professional performance evaluation in Corporate America, probably because we sometimes operate under the misguided notion that nice guys, and girls, finish last. I’m here to dispel that notion. I look for “nice.” I need to see “nice,” not only in my kids, but also in my employees — all of them. Yes. I want my kids to be “nice” people, and I don’t really care if it’s one of the least-discussed values in modern America. But in my opinion, we need to talk about this virtue much more often. These words need to part of our daily lexicon.

A “good” education should make sure it’s teaching young people about values, and let’s be honest, young people need to focus on these virtues because in many ways, our society has taken kindness, niceness and compassion (things that our parents and grandparents in the Greatest Generation practiced so naturally), for granted. My list of what I want my kids to be is actually much longer than merely “nice.” In no particular order, I want them also to be:

  • Caring
  • Hard-working
  • Balanced
  • Fair
  • Resilient

I also have a list of what I don’t want them to be. I don’t want them to feel “entitled” or be disrespectful. And I certainly don’t want them to have an “attitude.” And how do I impart this important information to my kids? By “messaging” to them continually (maybe similar to how a company tries to advertise its products). This kind of steady repetition of values is essential in raising our children. “Say please and thank you.” “Hold the door.” “Be kind to your brother.” “Be friendly to the kid who doesn’t have any friends.” “Tell the truth even when it hurts.” “Learn how to say ‘I’m sorry.’”

And the good news is it works. I’ve seen the results.

This is how values were traditionally passed on from generation to generation, back in the era when we talked with our children at the dinner table and didn’t spend the time texting. The crazy thing is that research on the Millennial Generation shows they are looking for values, they crave them, and many are concerned with the direction our country is taking. There have been many studies of the Millennial Generation, particularly by marketers and retailers who recognize their buying power, not to mention politicians, who recognize their voting power.

Here are some of the relevant characteristics of a generation that is typically defined by its love of technology:

  • Some 63 percent of Millennials, as opposed to 55 percent of Baby Boomers, consider it their duty to care for their parents who are aging, according to a study by Focus on the Family. To me, that’s great news.
  • Equally important, 52 percent of people in the Focus on the Family study say that “being a good parent” is their most important goal in life. How can you argue with that personal goal?
  • At the same time, this is the generation that might just change the face of Corporate America. A poll by the Marist Institute of Public Opinion found that almost two-thirds of Millennials think the nation’s moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction.
  • In addition, they have a problem with “compartmentalization,” and 88 percent of them think people “have a different set of ethical standards in business than in their personal lives,” and 66 percent believe there should not be two sets of values governing people at home and in the office.
  • When it comes to the traditional juggling act of balancing work and family life, 75 percent of those polled said they believe they can balance the challenges of their careers — but not at the expense of their families.
What I find so inspiring is that the younger generation is already wired for success and committed to traditional values like kindness and compassion and integrity. We just have to keep reinforcing that message and not let our society’s love of professional and material success overshadow the importance of being a good and decent person.

When I finished the presentation I asked the group of parents one more time, “What do you want your kids to be when they grow up?” All of them raised their hands and said “Nice” at the same time. Made my heart warm and put a huge smile on my face!

Cindi Bigelow

Originally published by The Huffington Post


Service With Smiles In Appalachia

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What an amazing week with amazing young adults and fellow advisors…I just got back from Man, West Virginia, where I spent a week helping work on a home that was an ASP project. The Appalachia Service Project has been a wonderful experience for me over the last eight summers.

This year, 220 of us got on buses or loaded into vans to make the drive down. We then split into three different ASP centers in different West Virginia locations. My group of 75 was assigned to Man. From there we break up into teams – two adult advisors and five high school youths. Our assignment was a trailer that had been worked on for the three weeks preceding our arrival. Our week had us finishing up some insulation under the trailer (only a little, thank heavens), installing underpinning around the home, re-siding a side of the home, and straightening out an exterior door that had been installed the week before.

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Planted a very special garden

Well I am delighted to say we accomplished our entire mission (something I don’t always get to do) plus added a garden at the end of the trailer as a little extra. The family was so appreciative and was out there every chance they could helping us. The young children on my team were just so proud to see what they had accomplished. Two of the girls on my team were there for the first time and were clearly so touched by the process (one said it was the best week of her life). Funny, how can sleeping in a classroom, eating cafeteria food, crawling under a trailer, working in brutally bright sun wearing jeans and heavy boots be the best week of your life? Well, that is the beauty of the week…I can say it actually is one of my best weeks of the year, every year!

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Getting ready to put insulation under the trailer

I think it is the spirit of the people who go down there – from the moment we wake up at 6:45 am till we close our eyes sometime after 11 pm, everyone is so kind and loving. Everyone smiles, laughs and just is so happy to be down there doing this work. Just think about it, we are taking young children from a very fortunate community to one that has many, many issues of poverty and health…and we have one mission, to help make a home a little bit safer, warmer and dryer. Pretty nice in my opinion…everyone just feels so good about what they are doing and that they are even fortunate enough to be able to help others. Yes, it is an amazing week with amazing people. I am of course glad to be home, but I still feel the glow all around me of one of the most loving weeks of the year!

Cindi Bigelow

 

Bigelow Tea Supports The Imus Ranch For Kids With Cancer

 

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The Imus Ranch, founded in 1998 by Don and Deirdre Imus, is a unique organization that provides kids with cancer, and other serious illnesses, the opportunity to have fun again and regain their perspective.  More than just a respite, it instills pride, restores dignity, a sense of achievement and self-esteem through a real life “cowboy experience.”

Bigelow Tea has been a proud supporter of the Imus Ranch Radiothon, the ranch’s annual fund raiser, for each of the past 15 years.

“It’s always great spending time with Don and Dierdre Imus on the Radiothon,” says Cindi Bigelow. “I love the event because of all the amazing stories about these kids and their experiences on the ranch. They are doing some fine work.  Bigelow Tea is glad to be a part of it!”

To watch today’s segment of the Imus Radiothon which includes Cindi Bigelow pictured above, visit here and click on “Cindi Bigelow on Support for Imus Ranch.”

 

 

 

 

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Homeward Bound

This is my last journal entry. We certainly documented a lot of what happened on this trip. But believe me that was not everything. I tried to balance giving the reader a real feeling of going along with us into this special land as well as to catalog the trip for future generations. It was hard to pick and choose what to share, but I did my best to mention as much as possible.

So now we are flying home. As I said before, we left the hotel at midnight and got to the airport a good two hours early. I fell asleep in a chair while John worked. On the plane we went, our first four-hour leg to Dubai. That is when the journal writing began!  The same was true in Dubai airport where we have a 2.5-hour layover and then onto Emirates Air once again to fly back to New York.

Writing, writing and more writing. I had so much to share. John worked tirelessly to review over 2,000 photos and videos that we had taken, to pick out which ones were best to capture our journey. So many memories for such a precious trip. How could we do it justice?

Well we can only hope we did Sri Lanka proud and we were able to share the message of how proud we are to be the number one importer of what we consider to be among the finest teas in the world.

Thank you, “Serendib,” little gem of an island now called Sri Lanka, for welcoming us with open arms. We are honored to share your fine teas with the United States of America.

Forever grateful,
Cindi, John, the entire Bigelow family and all our wonderful employees


Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Winding Down

Back to the Hilton hotel (where we had stayed when we first arrived in Colombo) for another quick stay. We said our goodbyes to Ishanka. My only regret is that I didn’t know his language so we could have communicated more. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him and really wasn’t able to.  I think he knew how much we appreciated what he had done for us and how we enjoyed our time together. Maybe someone will translate this and read it to him. Thank you Ishanka for taking such good care of us.

At the hotel we were met by our new friend, Anuradha; he was what is called a journey ambassador.  He had greeted us the first night and had taken amazing care of us from that first meeting forward.

We told him we had only 10 minutes to get ready for our next meeting and he quickly shepherded us to our own rooms. It really was like greeting an old friend when we saw him!  ”Hello” I shouted when we saw his face (in my rather loud American voice). He just smiled and let us know he was happy to see us.

Up to the room and down in no time, ready for our second-to-last  meeting of the trip. This was another longtime partner that we had never met face to face. Idris Shabbir of Adam Expo was there in the lobby with a huge warm smile. The only problem was that at this point I was starting to run on empty. It was after 3 and we needed to be back here at 6 p.m. for one last meeting. Idris was bright, eager and well prepared with a comprehensive agenda. In the car we went, heading to his tea blending facility. Unfortunately the Colombo traffic, which was starting to cause me to have a slight version of PTS, was extremely heavy. What should have taken only 15 minutes took over 45. My brain was racing. How could we see two plants, hold a business meeting, drink teas and be back in two hours when drive time was one hour each way?

Needless to say Idris had to substantially shorten his agenda. I knew he was disappointed but there was nothing we could do;  we were flying out that night and I desperately needed a few hours’ sleep.

Bigelow Tea VP John McCraw and I got a lot out of the meeting and a lot of good follow-up points, but I couldn’t help but feel bad that we had so shortchanged Idris. Over time he will see that it was not the case. Our understanding of what we saw would benefit him over the long run, but that wasn’t going to make me feel better at the moment. (Sorry Idris … please forgive me.)

But as tough as it was to accomplish we were back at the Hilton by 6 p.m. There we were once again greeted by our friend, Anuradha. And once again we had to tell him we had another meeting in 10 minutes!  He just laughed. I am sure he thought “those crazy Americans,” and if he did he would have been right.

Up to the room I went to try and freshen up a little when the phone rang. It was our dear partner, Niraj. He was unable to meet us at 6. It was a disappointment that we wouldn’t say goodbye in person. This man had taught me more about tea than I had ever imagined, spending countless hours imparting his knowledge of tea and of this beautiful country. I will cherish my time with him forever, and I pray our paths will cross again so I could let him know what he has done for me, my family and the business.

But I took a sigh of relief. It meant that we would have a little more time to relax before departing the hotel at midnight for a 3 a.m. flight out to Dubai. Now it was time to rest and process. Now it was time to reflect. Now it was time to be alone.

Cindi Bigelow

 

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Heading Back

Down the winding roads we went, turning, turning, turning. I will have to say the drive, while having stunning views, was not for the faint of heart.  Both from the car motion as well as the style of drive. I truly felt the drivers in this country have a language of their own.  Passing and honking at a level that would be considered completely out of the question in the US. But here, well, they just kind of knew what they were doing, and more importantly the other drivers seemed to know too.  Many a time our wonderful driver, Ishanka, would have to slam on his breaks to avoid a steer or oxen in the middle of the road. Or dart away quickly from a “tuk tuk” (small motorized vehicles that fill the streets in Sri Lanka). But we trusted Ishanka.  Although he spoke no English, we knew that he knew exactly what he was doing.

Finally, six hours later we arrived in town. We stopped at a small stand on the roadside to enjoy a king coconut.  There, all four of us got out and John and I watched in amazement another old tradition. The owner of the stand took out his machete, cut off four small orange coconuts from a branch freshly off the tree, then passed it to his wife who took a knife to chop off the top.  They placed a straw in the hole they had created and handed it to us.

The locals do not drink coconut in the middle of the day as it is thought not to be good for you in the heat of the day, but Prassana and Ishanka joined us as good hosts. When we finished drinking the coconut water, they hacked open the entire coconut, first cutting a small piece of the side of the shell to form a scoop. We then used that scoop to remove the coconut gel in the middle of the nut. It was quite an experience and certainly on “the bucket list” of things to do while in Sri Lanka.

It was now time to drop Prassana off at his home where we met his warm and welcoming mother-in-law. She of course invited us in to chat. After a short visit we said our heartfelt good-byes to our most wonderful guide, partner and friend.  We were going to miss him!

John and I didn’t have much time to dwell on that fact, however. We were already late for our next meeting. This trip literally had us on the go non-stop!

Cindi Bigelow

 

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: Beautiful Nayabadda Mountain

Woke up at 4:50 am to the sound of Buddhist monks chanting in the distance. Seventy percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist and this is how they like to wake up before work. They believe the pleasant sound or waves go into your body and make you more positive. So although I would have preferred a few more hours’ sleep, I enjoyed waking up to their chanting.

We gathered for breakfast: John, our VP Blending and R&D, and Prassana, our export partner in Sri Lanka.  I wanted to finish this trip ensuring I was experiencing as much of this country as possible, so I had a very authentic meal of a porridge called Kenda made from kurukan (a wheat-like plant) with jaggery (a cube of sap from the palm tree), that you bite into before each sip.

Alongside were string hoppers (made of rice), and chicken curry.  Oh yes, we were finishing in style.  I tried to savor every bite. When we finished we packed up the car and said our goodbyes to the staff.  As usual they were warm and made you feel like family.

As we headed down the mountain roads we were once again surrounded by tea fields as far as the eye could see. The British brought tea to this country back in the 1860′s, when blight wiped out coffee plants. As I looked out over vast gardens that employ over a million people on this island, I could only think how much this country has done to develop that concept, and how the Sri Lankan people nurtured this industry to make Ceylon tea renowned as one of the world’s finest quality teas.

As we continued our descent, we passed by stunning natural waterfalls running down the mountain side, sometimes seeing as many as one every few minutes.  On the way down I asked Prassana to stop if we saw monkeys so I could photograph them.  Well within a short period of time, we were pulling over to see a family of these adorable little creatures sitting on a fence. Of course I wanted to get out and pet them but was quickly dissuaded when I was told they most likely would attack me.  I didn’t want my trip to end on that note so I proceeded to talk to them through the open window while they were just a foot or two away. They definitely had a funny look on their faces as I talked to them like we were friends.

Cindi Bigelow

 

Cindi Bigelow Travels To Sri Lanka Journal: More On The Art Of Tea

We headed toward the Ragalla Estate where we had another incredible learning experience, focused mostly on the processing and tasting of these delicate teas. Each plant processes a little differently to get the exact flavor they want to represent their gardens, much like wine.

After a few more hours we headed to a hotel in Bandarawela.  We just dropped our stuff off and headed back out to visit the Nayabadda factory to see their night manufacturing.  Well that was an experience! Up windy roads with few signs in the pitch black of night. Turning and turning, we made our way to this large, hundreds-of-years-old factory on top of a hill.

The crew greeted us with huge smiles. There, the learning process began once again, with an understanding of how they have operated for over 150 years to gently process this tender leaf to create the perfect light, bright cup of Ceylon tea.

We finished up and headed back to the hotel for a late dinner.  Completely exhausted at this point, I flopped into bed to catch a few hours’ sleep before waking up early to head back to Colombo. As I lay in bed my mind was swirling with information and emotion. I felt so connected to this wonderful country and, to be honest, with the realization that this could be the last time I came to visit. So I was happy and sad all in one.  This was truly a trip to cherish for a lifetime.

Cindi Bigelow