Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Power of the purse

Is it just me? Does it seem that every other article about new women entrepreneurs describes some lucky lady making millions by selling purses she made in her basement? Apparently, purses are the gateway to fame and fortune. Who knew?

I’m not sure that it’s a path everyone can take, but I think it means something important for women. It means a business can arise naturally from a lifestyle. Love and passion can result in financial stability. Most importantly, it means women don’t have to fit themselves into a traditional business environment or position.

I am learning that entrepreneurship provides many answers and solves many problems. Despite financial pressures, it can provide personal independence, a creative outlet, and tremendous work-life flexibility.

Yes, there are long hours and a need to wear a thousand different hats, but it’s certainly been the best decision of my life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One, two, chai chai chai

I chuckle a bit when I hear the term “chai tea.” In India, “chai” actually means “tea.” So “chai tea” is, well, redundant-redundant.

What many people think of as “chai” is actually masala chai. A “masala” is a mix of spices and other ingredients used to flavor food or drink. So, traditional masala chai is loose leaf black tea (chai) flavored with a masala of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and cloves. There are lots of variations in spices and proportions, and some families even have their own secret recipes.

Traditional chai is made by boiling a pot of tea on the stove and adding spices directly into the pot. But we wanted to offer a superb traditional masala chai with modern convenience – a beautiful tea sachet.

Many tea sachets that contain masala chai simply don’t deliver on taste. We worked hard on this, and we believe we have achieved a vibrant and delicious masala chai flavor in a tea sachet. Though milk and sugar are customarily added to this drink, it’s not strictly necessary. In fact, we love this tea straight up and as is.

We think it’s critical for a business to believe in its product. We really do!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Give it up, baby!

There are more women in business than ever before. What an opportunity to redefine how businesses operate!

A growing number of established companies are participating in charitable giving to a wide variety of causes. Our company hopes that even us new businesses will incorporate charitable giving into business planning from the get-go. In that vein, Chai, Baby! will donate 5% of net profits on continual basis to various charitable organizations that support women seeking safety, education, health and independence.

We would appreciate your suggestions for organizations dedicated to these purposes as we make our charitable giving plans for the upcoming year.

Contact us, baby, and join us in giving it up!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Who are you calling baby?

In the beginning, I worried a bit that the “baby” in “Chai, Baby!” might sound somewhat demeaning. You know what? I got over that in a hurry.

Why? Because I knew in my gut what “Chai, Baby!” means. It’s a greeting, full of energy and affection and joy. This is a women’s business, providing an excellent product to other women. Thus, the greeting fits that spirit and intention. And I mean that, baby.

With the growing influx of women-owned businesses, that energy is all around us. I particularly love that many of these businesses and organizations are reclaiming the color pink as a symbol of that power and energy.

During my prior years I refused to wear -- or even acknowledge -- pink. It certainly didn’t belong in the law firms at which I worked, and I definitely didn’t want to convey weakness or lack of substance as a lawyer.

But now, I, too, am participating in the redefinition of pink. It’s a signature color for this company, and it’s everywhere -- on the tins, the shirts, the tea sets. I want to join the women who are infusing this traditionally female color with power, strength, and style.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Why Chai Baby?

Another good question.

Underneath “Chai, Baby!” -- a catchy and energetic tagline -- there is an actual Chai Baby. Once this girl got into my head, she wouldn’t leave. Instead of being lawyerly and networking for legal contracts and contacts, I stole gel pens from my kids’ art cart and sketched and sketched for hours.

So, while the tea business was taking shape in the world, Chai Baby also took shape on paper. A lovely, kurti-clad girl, radiating confidence and strength and style, emerged and winked at me. She was the original Chai Baby, a pleasing amalgam of the wonderful women in my life and the qualities they possess.

She’s been in my head for so long now that she’s become iconic for me. Aside from her whittled abs (I fear that ship has sailed), I aspire to be the person she represents. (Good thing life’s a journey, eh?)

For me, she has also become more than a fusion of features -- she is also a fusion of cultures. She is the point at which the best of all worlds meets. She is you! Whether or not you yourself are a cultural blend, you know how to appreciate the accelerating mixture of people, traditions, and backgrounds. You know that it is a beautiful and fertile time.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Why Chai?

It’s a good question. After all, loving tea (or any product) is not a sufficient reason to start a business. (Can’t take the lawyer out of the girl, can you?)

Yes, I love tea. I always have. But tea has become more than a product for me. It has become a series of journeys. And all of them have pointed naturally toward a tea business.

My first journey: learning about tea itself. This is a wonderful plant! Significantly less caffeine that coffee, chock full of antioxidants, and always a tasting adventure. Not to mention the proliferating research regarding a tremendous array of potential health benefits. It has been enjoyable to develop the “Chai, Baby!” brand, but far more important to me that the underlying product is useful and healthful and wholesome.

My second journey: learning about myself. I’ve spent my work years advising clients and counseling them on running their businesses. Now, I’ve learned that I like doing more than advising. I like managing my own mistakes, not worrying about the mistakes of others. And now, I get to be a client myself sometimes, and it feels gooooooood.

And my third journey: learning about I truly want to accomplish in my lifetime. Over the years, I often had only one feeling at the end of the work day. I felt that my only accomplishment had been rearranging my desk’s paper and the world’s money. Now, I know I want to create something that never existed before. I want to influence the business community to make charitable giving part of the course of business. And I want my business to build a community of women.

So, “Why Chai?” you ask? Because it’s a perfect fit!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Out of the Airplane

So, I did, in fact, start a little tea business. After representing medium to large-sized companies as a lawyer, I was suddenly a company myself -- a very, very tiny company. After years of advising and counseling and suggesting, I had to start doing.

Of course, I knew in my head that I’d be filling a very wide variety of roles, from CEO to copy girl. But knowing and doing are two different things. Every minute became precious, every minute had to be spent as entrepreneur or mother or wife or lawyer. And, of course, there was the financial investment.

Suddenly, I had lots of reasons to worry.

And I did worry. But I also felt exhilarated (in an “I just jumped out of an airplane” sort of way). I spent years doing work in a very competent, but never really inspired, manner. By contrast, I began actually leaping out of bed, ready for the day’s tasks. I was excited and stimulated and terrified all at once. I began to understand why people do, in fact, jump out of airplanes.

I thought, even if I don’t succeed, it’s worth it to feel like this.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Start a little tea business? Whatever.

I like stories about ideas for new businesses. My personal favorite: “It struck me while I was diapering my son.” (What struck her, do you think?)

Well, the origin of my tea business is much less dramatic (traumatic?), and certainly more pleasant. As you might guess, I was having a cup of tea.

Years ago, my friend and I were in a bookstore cafe enjoying a Decaf Peach tea blend. I noticed that my teabag was unlike any I’d seen before -- pale and silky, translucent and triangular. I could see the tea leaves floating and expanding in their silken pod. And the tea tasted lovely.

I decided to buy the entire box, and I looked inside at the teabags slipping around one another. I thought about what a simple, sensual experience tea drinking is: sight, smell, taste, touch.

My friend and I began musing. “Wouldn’t it be something,” I said, “to start a little tea business?”

Very funny. I’m a lawyer by profession. Not just a lawyer -- a corporate lawyer. My work involves contract review and painstaking research and meticulous drafting, and covering everyone’s you-know-what. Start a little tea business? Yeah. Whatever.

And yet, during the years following this memorable tea-drinking experience, I started a surprising and exciting journey. I have loved drinking tea my whole life. But I began to learn -- really learn -- about tea. I obtained certifications, drank boatloads of teas of every type and quality and flavor, touched all manner of water-saturated tea leaves, and inhaled a thousand lovely steeped tea bouquets. And I continued to learn about this wonderful plant -- its health benefits, its processing methods, its blending possibilities.

I began to dream in tea.