This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Cindi Bigelow, the third generation president and CEO of Bigelow Tea! She’s been working at her family’s business full-time since 1986, and assumed the role of CEO in 2005. In addition to helming Bigelow Tea, she also is Mom to two kids, Meghan (29) and David (27). We chatted with this Fairfield, CT-based executive about growing her business during the pandemic, her working mom mantra, and more.
When did you realize you would go into the family business?
I believe it was in high school that I realized that is what I wanted to do, and from day one I knew that I wanted to be the CEO one day.
What are the biggest contributions you believe you have made to the brand so far?
One of the biggest contributions would be leading Bigelow Tea’s drive toward sustainability. We became a Certified B Corporation in 2019 and received our certification for using 100% renewable energy in 2020. We are also a Zero Waste to Landfill company. Since my tenure, we have also introduced many new and innovative products to the marketplace. We were the first company to create seasonal teas (such as our Pumpkin Spice), as well as being the first company to introduce probiotics into teas. Recently we launched our Cold Infusion Botanicals line to naturally enhance your cold water and support healthy hydration throughout the day.
Another area that we have built upon is our community engagement. Our annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge Road Race is in its 34th year this year and now supports 23 local charities, having raised over $2Million since its inception. We also offer tea education programs throughout the community.
I feel that we have built on our company’s history of maintaining the highest-level quality for our teas, and our passion to preserve the family culture, and I am very proud of that legacy.
Some great accomplishments for sure! What are you most proud of?
I would say I am most proud of driving the business forward while holding on to the values in which our company was founded. In 2006 we became the #1 specialty tea company in the United States of America, but we have never lost sight of being a family company that cares deeply for our employees and community.
Amazing. What is the biggest misconception of a family-owned business? And strength?
The biggest misconception might be that a family business is not professional. We work hard every day and that allows us to achieve remarkable things. I believe the biggest strength is just that: being a family company. It allows us to be flexible and long term focused with a more holistic view of business.
Will your own kids work at the company—or do they already?
To be honest, I am not sure if my children will work at Bigelow. It has to be a path that works for them. This business is truly a gift (I like to refer to it as a gem) but you have to see that for yourself and I want to give them the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves. Most likely they will own it, but I will ensure that the people that run it after me truly understand the gift and opportunity they have been given.
What is your favorite Bigelow Tea product?
I have way too many to list. Some of my go-to teas are of course “Constant Comment®”, Lemon Ginger with Probiotic, Earl Grey, Green Tea and our new Benefits® tea Calm Stomach.
Can you please tell us about your Benefits® wellness line and new K-Cup® Pods brew over ice line and why they are so perfect for right now?
We all need comfort and need to be putting things in our bodies that are good for us. That is exactly what tea does, especially our new Benefits® wellness line. This line was developed specifically to support a healthy lifestyle. The blends were designed with particular wellness aspects in mind, from Sleep (Lavender Chamomile) to Calm Stomach (Ginger Peach) to Stay Well (Lemon Echinacea). Given the ongoing pandemic, it is so important to keep our bodies strong and healthy, now more than ever.
In terms of the K-Cup® brew over ice teas that have just come out, they are an incredibly convenient way to enjoy a healthy cup of iced tea anytime with speed and convenience. With summer just around the corner, they are extremely easy to make and gives everyone the chance to enjoy a glass in about a minute.
We also recently launched our Cold Infusion Botanicals® line, which enhances your water with subtle flavors such as Strawberry Lemon Orange Blossom and Blackberry Raspberry Hibiscus. These are not overly sweet, but instead add just the perfect amount of flavor to any glass and are great for on-the-go summer days.
I know you had a boost in sales but particularly online sales. Did you actively pivot during the pandemic?
Prior to the pandemic, we had been preparing for the growth of online sales for many years, so when COVID hit, we were well positioned to take care of the increased demand from our customers. We are grateful to be part of their everyday comfort and wellness routine.
What’s next for Bigelow?
As for any business, we are looking at expansion and innovation. We are preparing for the future and always strive to be ahead of the trends. We have some exciting new tea ideas but that is our secret for now.
What’s your favorite “working mom” mantra?
“Scheduling is your friend!” Scheduling ensures you can fit all the things you hope and want to do as a mother into your busy schedule. Also “Your phone is key.” I make sure I am available to my kids 100% of the time via my phone. They know they can call me any time and I will answer. I think having that open line to them whenever they need you is so important.
Do you have anyone who has inspired you in business or a mother?
I have many mentors and people that inspire me. I try to learn from everyone whom I encounter. There are nuggets of learning everywhere if you stay open to them.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what do you think you’d be doing?
Honestly, I have no idea what else I would be doing! I am so passionate about everything I do though so I am sure whatever I was doing I would give it my all and enjoy it. In absolute honesty, I cannot imagine doing anything else because truly I LOVE WHAT I DO AND LOVE WHO I WORK WITH. The best decision I ever made was coming to work at Bigelow Tea.