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In Time for Father’s Day: Important Lessons From David Bigelow, A Father, A Role Model, Co-Chair Bigelow Tea

 

Hopefully it happens other times during the year, but Father’s Day (and the whole weekend) is a time when we appreciate what our dads bring to the table. They’re role models, they keep us on the right path, and they pass on their own experiences so we can thrive in the world. Whether you’re sitting over a cup of Bigelow Tea discussing old family stories or simply driving home – talking about what’s new in life – it seems every moment can carry some nugget of wisdom (or, at the very least, a few dad jokes).

It’s tough to say which is more important, showing appreciation for our fathers or sharing those moments that make them so special. The good thing is, in today’s busy life, taking some time out to spend with dad can be both. And chances are, whether you have a laugh or learn something new, you come away with just as much as he does.

As a family-owned company, Bigelow Tea owes much of its success to the patriarchs who have been leaders and advocates for the company (in concert with the matriarchs, of course!). It started with Ruth Campbell Bigelow’s husband who supported his wife in every way possible with what would become his family’s now third generation business (painting tea canister labels in their living room in the early days was one great example)! Today, Co-Chairman David Bigelow (pictured with president and CEO and daughter Cindi Bigelow) – one of only two people who know the secret Constant Comment blend – helps to support the company, ensuring the quality of our teas and the well-being of all employees.

Fathers have played an important role in the history of our business, and nowhere is that more apparent than for Cindi Bigelow, who has shared several stories and memories of her father – and his influence – for Father’s Day. Check it out, and from our family to yours, have a wonderful Father’s Day on Sunday!

Cindi Bigelow: Lessons my father taught me

During my first week on the job in our family business, my father taught me a lesson I never learned at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

I had just received my MBA and was proud of that accomplishment. I immediately started work as the family company’s cost accountant and was ready to set the world — and Bigelow Tea— on fire with my bold ideas and innovative concepts.

On our first PC, I was putting together the company’s first bills of material, and I couldn’t wait to show the CEO — my father, David — what I had accomplished.

On my third day, he came down to see me.

“How’s it going?” he asked.

“It’s going great,” I said, and was about to explain the project when I noticed he was preoccupied with my “out-basket.”

“You have envelopes going out,” he said.

“Yes, they are my bills that need to be mailed.”

“But they don’t have any stamps on them.”

“I know,” I said.

He paused, reflected a moment and replied, “Gee, Cindi, if you don’t put stamps on your envelopes, then why should the other employees put them on theirs? So why don’t you go buy some stamps and put them on your mail.”

It was the first of many lessons I got from David Bigelow about business practices … and humility. And it was also a lesson in leadership, the kind of leadership that my father exemplified.

Over the years, there were hundreds of similar occasions that emphasized one of his foremost principles: The boss sets the tone, he/she sets the standard. The boss determines how high or how low the bar is for acceptable performance based on his/her personal actions.

You see, he was very democratic in the way he ran his business, and the employees revered him because he had a common touch. I should add that he displayed the same values and integrity as a father.

I’m not engaging in hyperbole when I say my father was a saint. Anyone who knows him always says he’s one of the finest men there is, although he would certainly disagree. To my biased thinking, he’s one of most giving, loving, intelligent and humble men I’ve met — in addition to being a great father. That’s quite an accolade from a daughter because it is even harder to be a successful parent than it is being a successful businessperson (and that is incredibly hard!).

The most important thing any father can do is give his children the assurance that whenever they turn around, he’ll be there — providing, protecting, advising, loving … all the things fathers are meant to do. And that is exactly what my father did for my sister and me. ​ All the years he was running the company, he never missed having dinner with us, and whenever I needed him, he was always there.

He never put his business before his family, and I’ve tried to be as conscientious in raising my own children.

Every Sunday after dinner, I’d ask, “Dad, can we get ice cream?” And the answer was always “yes.” Then, he’d take my sister and me to the local Carvel in Westport and buy us soft-serve cones.

He always offered support, and if he had to teach us a lesson, he did it by example and not criticism. Whenever I came home with a report card, he’d look at it and exclaim, “Cindi, oh my gosh! All A’s! I was lucky if I got C’s when I was your age.”

That praise made me one of the proudest girls in school. Years later, when I visited his alma mater, Avon Old Farms School, to watch as he received a lifetime achievement award, I discovered that he was far from “average.” He had received all the top awards from students and faculty, and then went on to Yale. However, he never bragged about the honors or used them as an opportunity to one-up someone else.

I would often sit in executive committee meetings and see him handle volatile issues with a higher level thought process and insight. Most importantly, what impressed me then and continues to impress me was his sense of fairness, not only as a father but also as a businessman. If there was ever anything that even hinted of unfairness, a whole new David Bigelow would show up at the door. This, even more than things like profit margins and marketing, motivated him. He’d get feisty if he thought someone was being wronged, either customers or employees. Many times, I’d hear him discuss company decisions and one of his first questions would be, “Is that fair for the employees?”

He raised me to have same sense of fairness as my moral compass in all aspects of my life. Another lesson he taught me was that leaders should do the right thing even when no one else is supporting them. Sometimes that means staying firm when you know what you’re doing is right and have the confidence that it will play out properly in the long haul. When he wanted to build a new plant but still stay in Connecticut, everyone said he was wrong for many reasons … wages, taxes, utilities. The list was endless. He went against all the members of his team because he knew if we wanted to maintain our outstanding manufacturing work force, we would have to rebuild and stay in state.

Thirty years later, I look at our Connecticut plant and see the most engaged and passionate workforce. They are the definition of the perfect plant. And we owe that to him.

He also taught me to be successful without being successful at someone else’s expense. ​For my father, the highest calling is to be a good, decent human being. He lives by that in business and with his family. He never compromises.

Over the years, he continues to be an inspiration as chairman of the board, a father and a husband.

Everyone should be as fortunate as I am, because one of life’s greatest blessings is to have a father committed to doing right in a world that often confuses right and wrong. His philosophy is very simple: be honest, be fair, be concerned about others more than yourself and remember that success has many different definitions. His always valued being able to look back at his accomplishments and know he thought of the greater good.

Thank you, Dad, for your many invaluable lessons and more importantly, the power of your example.

From Ruth Bigelow’s Kitchen To Yours: 6 Facts About “Constant Comment” Tea

The awesome story of Bigelow Tea begins with “Constant Comment”®, the iconic blend of orange and sweet spice created by Ruth Campbell Bigelow in her kitchen in 1945. But how much do you know about the very beginning? If not a lot, that’s about to change right now!

  1. A Fresh Start
    Picture this: in the early 1940s, Ruth and her husband, David Sr., decided to start a tea business. But, that’s not where they began. Initially, Ruth had owned an interior design company called Ruth Campbell Design, and was very successful. But when the Great Depression hit, both Ruth and David Sr. lost their jobs. It was then that she decided to make tea.
  2. Manhattan Roots
    When they started to talk more seriously about tea, the Bigelows lived in a small apartment in Manhattan. They felt strongly that, for the company to be a success, they needed a home where they could begin. Searching the local streets, they found a brownstone, just off Second Avenue, which was in terrible disrepair. Optimistic, they bought it with the last of their life savings, and plastered and repainted it themselves—talk about fixer uppers! It was in this home, in 1945, that Ruth and David Sr. opened the doors to the new Bigelow Tea Company. Little could they have imagined that their dream would one day grow to be America’s #1 Specialty Tea company!
  3. Orange and Spice, and All Things Nice
    Inspired by an early Colonial recipe, Ruth spent several weeks of trial and error blending black tea with orange rind and sweet spices. Finally, she created her own special blend and shared it with friends. Anyone who tasted it couldn’t stop commenting—the name “Constant Comment”® was a natural choice for the tea.
  4. That One Shop
    Ruth knew she was on to something with her blend and took “Constant Comment” to every store she could. One shopkeeper told Ruth that he had been opening the container for customers to take a whiff of the incredible aroma, and it was flying off the shelves! Ruth took this idea one step further and set up a jar of “Constant Comment” in each case of tea, with the directions to “open and whiff.”  Shops across the country placed this little jar by their cash registers and sales grew.
  5. All in the Family
    Jump ahead more than 70 years to today, where Ruth’s granddaughter, Cindi Bigelow, serves as the third-generation president and CEO. If you’re a fan of “Constant Comment” tea, Bigelow Tea or tea overall, you’ll love hearing Cindi Bigelow herself tell this story of this original creation while sharing more about her personal (and professional) love of tea! In a month that celebrates mothers around the world, it’s heartwarming to know that this love for tea runs strong through three generations – from the mother of “Constant Comment” all the way to Cindi today.
  6. Shhh… It’s a Secret
    To this day, “Constant Comment” is a secret recipe that only Cindi’s parents, Bigelow Tea Co-Chairmen Eunice and David Bigelow, know and blend. It has stood the test of time and continues to fill cups, kitchens and hearts.

Every Bigelow Tea flavor is blended to be remarkable, but it’s the very first that got so much talk it still carries the famous name. What was the first “comment” you had when you tried “Constant Comment” for the very first time? Tag #TeaProudly with your memory!

Happy Easter From Bigelow Tea

From our family to yours, may your Easter Sunday be filled with joy and loved ones.

In A World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind!

bigelow tea kindness

Did anyone ever say to you, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” Well, they’re onto something. Being kind and nice and good is, well, pretty incredible. And on Random Acts of Kindness Day, Bigelow Tea has a few suggestions on how to bring a little good into the lives of others. First, though, why is kindness so important? Well, let’s just say it’s because being nice is, in the words of Bigelow Tea president and CEO Cindi Bigelow, an endangered virtue. It’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot of really cool research out there that suggests kindness is good for you. See for yourself!

  • Performing random acts of kindness may be the secret to alleviating social anxiety, according to research. Studies have also shown that being nice makes us happier, less stressed and may even help us live longer. Oh, and don’t forget the whole altruism aspect… When you’re nice to someone, you just feel good. You have a bigger smile and an even bigger heart.
  • Research also suggests that being nice in the workplace is good for both individual workers and for businesses as a whole. Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners found that leaders who project warmth and kindness are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? Because employees feel greater trust with a leader who is kind. Plus, those who are compassionate and more in tune with other people’s emotions may be more successful at work.
  • Being nice may make you more attractive. (!) According to some rather encouraging research, being a good person could actually make people perceive you as more attractive. Thumbs up to that!

We think Cindi’s words put it best: “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. “

So, do something nice for someone today. Ask someone to sit down over a cup of tea to talk; you’d be surprised how many people would appreciate the outlet. Or simply handing off a cup of tea to someone can help relieve stress or give them an excuse to relax for a moment. We’re not saying tea is the only way to be kind, but it’s an amazing jumping-off point, so why not start there?

How will you show kindness today? Join the conversation by tagging #TeaProudly on social media. Be kind, be good, be nice… after all, we’re all in this together, right?

This Is What Made Ruth Campbell Bigelow So Special To The World Of Tea

bigelow tea ruth campbell family

Today is a very important day at Bigelow Tea; it’s the birthday of fearless company founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow (perfect timing as it’s also National Women Inventor’s Month…another reason to celebrate Ruth’s accomplishments!). Although Ruth passed away in 1966, this incredible lady is still the source of inspiration for everything that the Bigelow family accomplishes as they continue a third generation of ownership of a tea company that reinvented tea in America. To think it all started in 1945 in Ruth’s kitchen where she diligently mixed and blended and mixed some more until she had a creation of black tea, orange rind and sweet spices that ended up being a source of “Constant Comment” among everyone who sipped this special tea flavor. And here we are today with an ever-growing community (a true #TeaProudly movement is what we call it!) of incredibly devoted tea lovers as passionate as we are about tea!

Honor Ruth today by getting cozy with a cup of “Constant Comment”® and smiling at some of these family stories that show just what Ruth was really made of:bigelow tea constant coment cup and saucer

Back in the early days when Ruth was struggling to get her product to hit it big, a shopkeeper confided to her that he left open a container of “Constant Comment”® because the
customers loved the tea’s amazing aroma. “One whiff and they’re sold!” is what he allegedly told a proud Ruth! From then on, she included an extra whiffing jar in her tea cases so that store owners could keep it next to the cash register, where a sniff led to a sale!

Another famous story: The company moved from New York to Connecticut in 1955, and hurricanes almost completely destroyed the building, leading to the Bigelow family’s own “Connecticut Tea Party”! But Ruth and Co. didn’t get knocked down- with her guidance, they got right back up and rebuilt!

Ruth is the one who said it best herself in this letter from 1945 that sums up what gave her the strength to build up a business out of nothing but sheer grit, determination and imagination – the lady was truly ahead of her time, so take a moment to read it!

Fast forward to 2017– one tea bag a time, Ruth’s kitchen creation has become an American institution with over 130 flavors of black, green, oolong, and herbal teas. So today take a big sip from your mug in Ruth’s honor!

How will you celebrate Ruth’s birthday? Tell us and tag #TeaProudly!

Forever And Always, “Constant Comment” Bigelow Tea

bigelow tea constant comment

Tea is second only to water as the most consumed beverage in the world which doesn’t surprise any avid tea drinker given the importance the beverage holds in many cultures, whether it’s a hearty daily tradition, a treat for a special ceremony, or a therapeutic blend to soothe and comfort. On any given day, over 158 million Americans alone are drinking tea and we are proud to be a part of this thriving community and honored that as a third generation family businessBigelow Tea continues to be part of the tea lovers’ community decades after the creation of the one and only “Constant Comment”®. Today, we offer over 130 flavors that will please any palate, but for National Hot Tea Month, what better time to get back to our roots by honoring this remarkable and historic tea that’s still a source of “Constant Comments” among all tea fans!

In case you aren’t familiar, here is the story of how Bigleow Tea got started: it all began in 1945 when Ruth Campbell Bigelow started on her mission to create a better cup of tea than what was commonly offered at the time. She was inspired by an early Colonial recipe that used orange rind and sweet spices. After tireless hours spent creating her own special blend, she shared it with friends who couldn’t stop commenting, and hence the name “Constant Comment” tea. Ruth knew she was on to something with her blend and took “Constant Comment”®   to every store she could. One shopkeeper told Ruth that he had been opening the container for customers to take a whiff of the incredible aroma, and it was flying off the shelves! Ruth took this idea one step further and set up a jar of “Constant Comment”® in each case of tea, with the directions to “open and whiff.”  Shops across the country placed this little jar by their cash registers and sales grew.  Jump ahead to today, over 70 years later, and here we are, a tea company beyond Ruth’s wildest dreams!

To this day, “Constant Comment”® is the same wonderful recipe that third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow’s grandmother, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, first created. It has stood the test of time and we know it will continue to fill cups and hearts for many more decades to come. Amazing when you think how this special product started on the shelves of local shops, and today it’s still a source of constant comments all over the Web… and the world! If you’re a fan of “Constant Comment” tea, Bigelow Tea or tea overall, you’ll love hearing Cindi Bigelow herself tell this story of this original creation while sharing more about her personal (and professional) love of tea!

Tell us, what was the first “comment” you had when you tried “Constant Comment” for the very first time?  Tag anywhere online with #TeaProudly so we can share in the fun.

Bigelow Tea Celebrates National Family Week

bigelow-tea-family-week

Family is everything at Bigelow Tea and for over 70 years, three generations have been dedicated to producing the most beautiful cup of tea, a tradition that started in 1945 in Ruth Campbell Bigelow’s kitchen in New York City.  Family tradition is something we know about so during this week of Thanksgiving (and well, every day of every week!), let’s together celebrate National Family Week.

bigelow-tea-constant-commentLet’s be honest, as much as we love a day filled with turkey, football, parades and cozy weather, don’t our actual favorite moments come down to the conversations, hugs, and laughs while sharing a cup of tea during this holiday time? If you agree, why not sit back with a slice of pie and a cup of tea (“Constant Comment®” always goes well with a conversation), and cherish those moments and this special time you can spend with family.   And when we say family, we also mean our community of tea lovers. Together, we not only appreciate sharing a cup, but we all have a love (and true passion) for tea, right? This is truly #TeaProudly (link here to teaproudly blog entry) so this National Family Week, we’re sending warm wishes out to our extended Bigelow Family—our amazing employees, our fantastic growers and vendors and of course to each and every tea drinker everywhere! Cheers to a wonderful week!

Bigelow Tea Joins The Conversation About Female Entrepreneurs in America

Bigelow Tea is beyond proud of third-generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow, who was interviewed as part of a three-part series on Travels & Traditions, called “It’s a Good Thing: Women Entrepreneurs in America,” hosted by Burt Wolf and Linda McMahon. The program will begin airing across 290 PBS affiliate stations this month and more than 100 million viewers are expected to watch it.

In her interview segment, Cindi speaks about Bigelow Tea—its history and her experience at the helm of the company. Founded in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow, Bigelow Tea is dedicated to being a premier packer of truly fine quality teas. In fact, Bigelow Tea is recognized as America’s #1 Specialty Tea company. Here are a few of the tea-related tidbits Cindi shared:

  • Initially, Ruth had owned an interior design company called Ruth Campbell Design, and was very successful. But when the Great Depression hit, both Ruth and her husband lost their jobs. It was then when she decided to make tea.
  • In 1945, inspired by an Early Colonial recipe, Ruth disappeared into her New York brownstone kitchen to create a better cup of tea. After weeks of trial and error, blending black tea with orange rind and sweet spices, she emerged with the first cup of specialty tea, which would become known as “Constant Comment®”.
  • During the early years, it was challenging to sell “Constant Comment” until, one day, a shopkeeper who had success selling the tea shared with her that he had been opening up a container to allow his consumers to enjoy the tea’s amazing aroma. “One whiff and they were sold!” she said. Ruth immediately started including an “extra” little jar of “Constant Comment” in each case, labeled “Open and Whiff.” Shops across the country placed this whiffing jar by their cash registers. Soon after, the tea was sold in Bergdorf’s, Bloomingdale’s and grocery stores.
  • To ensure Bigelow’s fresh, pristine flavor each and every time you brew, our tea bags are individually wrapped in foil pouches to shield delicate tea leaves from air, moisture and surrounding aromas, locking in flavor and freshness. This approach began after David Bigelow began working with a Japanese company who created overlap packaging. Today, 1.7 billion bags of Bigelow Tea are packaged in foil overwrap.
  • To this day, “Constant Comment” is a secret recipe that only Cindi’s parents, Bigelow Tea Co-Chairmen Eunice and David Bigelow, know and blend.

bigelow-tea-female-entrepreneurs

On a daily basis, Cindi attempts to bring the spirit of her grandmother, Ruth, into every decision she makes for the company. In a country where only 5 percent of companies have female CEOs, Bigelow Tea has thrived—against all odds—to be not only the #1 specialty tea company in the USA, but a source of “constant comment” in the conversation about women entrepreneurs.

Bigelow Tea: Three Generations of Family Memories

bigelow-tea-family

Over 70 years ago Bigelow Tea humbly began in Ruth Campbell Bigelow’s kitchen in New York. Bigelow Tea has been a family affair since day one and continues today under the leadership of Ruth’s granddaughter, president & CEO Cindi Bigelow. Three generations of Bigelows have worked to build their family legacy and passion for tea and here are a few stories to prove it:

  • Bigelow would not be America’s #1 Specialty Tea Company today if not for the hard work Ruth, her husband David Sr., and son David Jr. put into the early days of the company. Each night David Sr. and David Jr. would sit in their Manhattan home and hand paint the two ladies on the original packaging to give it a special touch!
  • The holidays are always time for celebration at Bigelow Tea. David and Eunice Bigelow, Bigelow Tea Co-Chairs, fondly remember their two daughters Cindi and Lori helping to hand out Christmas gifts to the Bigelow Tea employees when they were young girls.  David and Eunice still have the girl’s matching black vests and red skirts!
  • While Cindi and Lori Bigelow were young, Eunice Bigelow stayed at home but still conducted all of the tea tastings from her kitchen. Cindi remembers coming home from school to dozens of cups in the kitchen filled with the day’s varieties to taste. It’s no wonder Cindi grew up dreaming about working at Bigelow Tea one day!
  • Nothing could keep Cindi from planning and hosting the first ever Bigelow Tea Community Challenge twenty five years ago. This was the only race that Cindi has ever run in and a day she will never forget. Bigelow Tea has donated almost a million dollars to charity since the inaugural race in 1988.

These memories are important building blocks in the Bigelow Tea company history. For over 70 years the family has been passionate about tea and continues to be personally involved in every aspect of running the company, quality and care we can taste in every cup of Bigelow tea!

Eunice and David Bigelow Recognized With Lifetime Achievement Award

bigelow familyBack in 1945, when Bigelow Tea first started, Ruth Campbell Bigelow could only afford a single-color label for her tea. Each night, her son, David, Jr., would help his father hand paint the two women on the original label. Then, in the morning, they would put the tea into the family station wagon and sell it store by store. David, Jr. has surely come a long way since painting labels. Today, he and his wife, Eunice, are co-chairmen of the company and were recently recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Food Association at its Summer Fancy Food Show on June 27 in New York City.

While Bigelow Tea attributes its beginnings to Ruth and the flagship tea “Constant Comment®”, it was her son, David, and his wife, Eunice, who paved the way for the growth of the U.S. specialty tea market. David, with Eunice’s unwavering support, led the company with a spirit of determination to its current prominence as the country’s #1 specialty tea company. His integrity, intelligence and kindness also helped form the brand’s personality and its success.

“All of us at Bigelow Tea could not be more proud to see this Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on my parents,” said Cindi Bigelow, third-generation president and CEO of the company. “They are admired not only for the significant impact they have had on the specialty tea industry, but for the positive influence they have had on lives of the thousands of employees whose privilege it has been to work alongside them during Bigelow Tea Company’s more than 70 years. Their passion, creativity and guidance are without measure,” Cindi remarked.

bigelow tea family

In addition to making Bigelow Tea the U.S. industry leader in specialty teas, Eunice and David’s more recent accomplishments include their significant 2003 additional investment in South Carolina’s 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation. It was their dream to restore this unique site, which is America’s largest tea garden, and share this vibrant piece of Americana for all to enjoy. Today, the beautiful Charleston Tea Plantation has become the standard bearer for the long and illustrious American tea story and welcomes 70,000 visitors each year — a suitable landmark to complement the profound impact their efforts made on the consumer tea market.

So raise a cup to Eunice and David Bigelow. Without their ingenuity, vision or drive, Bigelow Tea might not be celebrating its 70th year. It’s been the labor of a lifetime, a labor truly worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award.