Friday, January 1, 2010

The Mug & Tea Leaf interview

I frequent the Online Sweepstakes message board and noticed one of the members has a shop called The Mug & Tea Leaf What really impressed me was The Mug & Tea Leaf is donating 100% of their January 2010 profits to St. Jude's and a local food bank! So I did a little Q&A to find out more.

Q: What inspired you to donate January's profits to charity?

A: We often donate to worthy causes (3, 4 times a year; around 1 time per quarter) - it is what our company is based upon - Being as green as humanly possible and charitable! We thought that to start the year off right and in positive form - why not donate the very first profits of 2010?

Q: Why did you pick St. Jude's and a food bank?

A:The economy has really taken a hit and people who were fine before have found themselves in dire situations. In our society, food is often taken for granted - as though our cabinets and refrigerators magically fill themselves at night. Food banks help those who need it with one of the most important necessities in life - healthier foods and temporary peace of mind. St. Jude's turns no one away as long as the child qualifies medically and they do not treat on the basis of the parent's ability to pay. I cannot imagine being in that position, whether or not I had the ability to pay. For a parent going through that, it must be a true beacon of hope.

Q: Could you explain the Green Tea Project?

A: The Green Tea Project is a project that started just after the company was formed. Upon buying and opening a ready-made salad at the store, we found plastic package after plastic package: one for the salad itself, one for the dressing, one for the croutons, and one for the cheese. It was a horrific waste of resources that will take eons to break down. So we formed the Green Tea Project. Basically, we made our products 100% Earth-friendly. Here are the details, starting with the outside and working in.

*Box filling - we use cute, shredded recycled lavender paper. This is very easily reused, recycled, or tossed in the compost bin.

*The box - the box your tea arrives in is attractive, durable, heavy card stock. We do not paste our name all over the box and it closes on its own - so after your tea is gone, it makes a perfect gift, keepsake, or storage box. No need to worry about it saying "The Mug and Tea Leaf" all over it - reuse it as many times as you want or use it to give a gift to someone else. If you really like our product, you won't need reminding via the box and, therefore, we've saved it from the landfill by making it 100% reusable.

*The package - the package that the tea is actually in is made of waxed paper, which easily breaks down, even in the compost heap. It keeps the tea fresh, but you don't have to worry about a plastic bag that will last forever in the dump.

*The tea bags - we believe simple is best, so our tea bags do not have a string, little tab at the end (as most do at the end of the string), or both of the staples that are usually included with the tea bag (one to hold on the string and one to keep the bag sealed). We use heat-sealable bags, making sure that extra cotton (in the string) isn't wasted, paper isn't wasted (the tab), and metals aren't wasted (or even near your tea!) using the pointless staples. Just drop in the tea bag, let sit, and retrieve with spoon or other utensil - easy peasy and a lot less waste.

*The tea itself - tea is delicious, but what do you do with it after it is done? Not only does it easily break down (it is plant matter, after all!) if you throw it away, but it is fantastic for the compost bin, potted plants, or just emptying the bags into the yard. The tea breaks down and provides essential minerals and nutrients to plants.

Q:What's your favorite product you sell?

A:My favorite product to sell is anything the customer wants to us to create. For example, a customer requested something herbal with a citrus twist and a hint of bite, so we created a lamb mint tea base with organic orange peel and a dash of black pepper. The pepper brought out the light tones of the lamb mint and the muskier tones of the organic orange peel.

Q: What made you decide to open your own business?

A:I decided to open my own business because I wanted to do something positive for the world. I did not really have dreams of being the biggest tea company in the world (they sell tea bags 100/$1, I cannot compete with that). I did want to create teas that people really enjoyed and instantly knew the quality. We painstakingly create, measure, and refine the teas to make sure you get exactly what you want. And by creating a product that customers would want, I would be able to take some of those profits and put them in the hands of the charities that truly needed them. With an eco-friendly bend, I was able to create a company that cares about both the Earth and the people that inhabit her.

Q: What is your advice for anybody else looking to start their own business?

A: If you want to start your own company - do it! People talk about writing books, losing weight, learning a new language and all that is wonderful as long as you take that first step. Be forewarned, it is hard work and it is easy to cut corners - but don't - they easily show. And do it the legal way - don't just throw up a store online and hope for the best; instead, form a company (sole proprietorship, LLC, whatever works best for you), and put all your efforts into it. Almost all the information you will ever need about business can be found online.

You can find The Mug and Tea Leaf at:
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