Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Building-Branding Lisa Knows Tea & the Books that Helped Part 2

Last week I started part one of a two part series on branding and building my business.  This is the 10th anniversary of my tea business, so I thought it would be fun to share the things that have helped me along the way.  I concluded in part 1 last week with writing about how much I love what I do.  Loving it makes it easier to spend so much time doing it.  I can't imagine me doing anything else with my life.  I think most everyday, I spend some time on my business.  It might not be at my desk, but I am costantly thinking about tea.  I think you have to love something that much to create a business around it.   

 Along with discovering my mission and my vision, honing my speaking and writing skills and figuring out how to get published, I couldn't lose sight of my main event-tea!  I have tried to stay on the cutting edge of tea training as well. This has been done by self study and also by formal training through The Specialty Tea Institutes's Educational/Certification Program. I was part of the first graduating class of Level Three-Professional Series in 2006.  This year, the Specialty Tea Institute rolled out two classes for the next level of training.   I have just finished the first two Level Four classes and will be blogging about that in my next blog.

In last week's blog I told you about the book The Path. Another great book I recommend was suggested to me by my brother Mark and is titled Now Discover Your Strengths: The revolutionary program that shows you how to develop your unique talents and strengths-and those of the people you manage by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton. It is based on the Gallup study of over two million people.

After you finish reading the book, you go online to Gallup's Strenthsfinders.com and take the quiz to discover your top five strengths. I have referred back to my strengths many times as I have developed my business. The concept of the book is stop trying to correct your weaknesses, but to work with your strengths. Working with your strengths is where you can make the greatest impact. It is also where you feel the most comfortable as you are in "your zone." I love referring back to my strengths. I believe we are all created with several strengths and when I stay true to mine, things just seem so much easier.

Another book I want to share about that made a great impact on me was, The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as you Start, Build, or Manage a Business by Martha Stewart. Think what you may of Martha, she has been a huge success in business. She took her passion and turned it into a conglomerate. The book emphasizes turning your passion into a business and steps to think about along the way on how to do it.

           Martha Rules are:  
1.  What's passion got to do with it? Build your business success around something that you love-something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you.
2.  Ask yourself, What's the Big Idea? Focus your attention and creativity on basic things, things that people need and want. Then look for ways to enlarge, improve, and enhance your Big Idea.  
3.  Get a telescope, a wide-angle lens, and a microscope. Create a business plan that allows you to stay true to your Big Idea but helps you focus on the details. Then remain flexible enough to zoom in or out on the vital aspects of your enterprise as your business grows. 

4.  Teach so you can learn. By sharing your knowledge about your product or service with your customers, you create a deep connection that will help you learn how best to build and manage your business.

5.  All dressed up and ready to grow. Use smart, cost-effective promotional techniques that will arrest the eye, tug at the heart, and convey what is unique and special about your business or service.

6.  Quality is everyday. Quality should be placed at the top of your list of priorities, and it should remain there. Quality is something you should strive for in every decision, every day. 
7.  Build an A-team. Seek out and hire employees who are brimming with talent, energy, integrity, optimism, and generosity. Search for advisors and partners who complement your skills and understand your ideals.

8.  So the pie isn't perfect? Cut it into wedges. When faced with a business challenge, evaluate or assess the situation, gather to Good Things in sight, abandon the bad, clear your mind, and move on. Focus on the positive, stay in control, and never panic.

9.  Take risks, not chances. In business, there's a difference between a risk and a chance. A well-calculated risk may very well end up as an investment in your business. A careless chance can cause it to crumble. And when an opportunity presents itself, never assume it will be your last.

10.  Make it beautiful. Listen intently, learn new things every day, be willing to innovate, and become an authority your customers will trust. As an entrepreneur, you will find great joy and satisfaction in making your customers' lives easier, more meaningful, and more beautiful. 

The last book I want to share is My Life in France by Alex Purd'homme.  It is the story about the life of Julia Child.  Although it isn't in the business genre of books, it is a great read for those trying to stay true to their dreams-even when it is difficult and takes a long time. 

Julia Child was not an overnight success.  She didn't find her passion until later in life when she relocated to France for her husband's career.  Once her passion was found, she immersed herself in it completely.  Although she got discouraged at the pace of success, she didn't give up.  Determined to get her cookbook published, it took 3 publishers and many years to make that dream a reality. 

By staying true to her dreams and vision she singlehandedly changed the way Americans thought about food.  In addition, she was a leader for women in the culinary field and also a leader for cooking on television!  Her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, made it to number one, 48 years after coming out!  Even if food isn't your thing, I think this book will excite you to stay true to passion and dreams-whatever they may be.  This book was a fun read as you travel through France with Julia as well.  I would love to have been able to sit with Julia Child over a cup of tea!   I have heard that she loved Lapsang Souchong.

I have tried to stay true to my mission and vision as I have built Lisa Knows Tea over the last 10 years. If you have decided these two important things for yourself in the beginning, building a brand is much easier. It is not easy to build a business and a brand, but when you do what you love, know what and why you are doing it, and know where you want to go, the hours don't seem as long!

I hope these books and insights are helpful to those of you who are thinking about creating a business or have a business already. I don't claim to know it all and will continue to learn, but I wanted to share with you some of the knowledge I have gained so far. 

What is YOUR dream and have their been books that have helped you along the way? 
Happy Sipping and Celebrating 10 Years, Lisa

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Building-Branding Lisa Knows Tea & the Books that Helped Part 1

I get asked a lot about how I chose tea as my profession.  I think sometimes that tea chose me!  However, enjoying tea and all things tea isn't a great business plan.  Even drinking massive amounts of tea from all over the world still doesn't equate to a business.

I was reminded again about the importance of branding while at The Food Blogger Forum in early September.  The panel was Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina, Virginia Willis of Virginia Willis Productions, and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.  I have to say that I didn't hear anything new from the panel that I didn't know, but for me it was valuable to be reminded from experts about branding and business choices.  The couple of things that stuck out in my mind were:

  • Have a good understanding of what your vision and mission is for your business and stick to them
  • Sometimes the nos in business decisions are more important than the yeses
When I decided to turn my passion of tea into a business, I went on a journey to think about what that would look like for me.    When I was ready to pursue a tea business, I started attending conferences and trainings on tea to learn from the experts.  The first conference I attended was on how to open up a tearoom.  I thought at the  time that was what I wanted to do. 

The best takeaway from the conference was the suggestion to read The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and Life by Laurie Beth Jones.  I have since read the book a couple more times as I worked through my concept of my business.  After doing most of the exercises in the book, I kept getting stuck on my vision statement. 
Laurie writes, "While a mission statement is centered around the process of what you need to be doing, a vision statement is the end result of what you will have done.  It is a picture of how the landscape will look after you've been through it... Your vision statement is the force that will sustain you when your mission statement seems too heavy to endure, enforce, or engage. All significant changes and inventions began with a vision first."
I decided my vision was not to open a tearoom, but was still unclear what my vision actually was.  Although I loved to cook, entertain, and drink tea, I didn't see myself tied to a building or behind a counter.  I think why it was so hard to create a vision statement was that I couldn't think of one person that was doing exactly what I wanted to do.  There was no one to emulate.  Keep in mind, this was around 2000 and tea wasn't the booming business or cool trend that is has become now.  I needed to create my position.

I finally came up with it after much thought and soul searching.  I wanted to be a tea professional that spoke, wrote, and taught about tea.  I wanted my books and speaking to be approachable.  I wanted to dispel the myth in the US that tea is stuffy, only for women, and only for the afternoons!  I remember the day I told my husband about my new revelation.  He is probably one the most supportive husbands I know because his response was, "I have no idea what a tea professional is, but if anybody can do it-you can!" 

So with my husband in my corner, I sought to become a tea professional which meant more training.  I already had a BA in Business Admininstration/Marketing which was and is very helpful, but I needed more training to build a business/brand in tea.  It is important, in my opinion, to be an expert in your field.  

I attended The Protocol School in Washington, then led by Dorothea Johnson, soon after my first tea conference.  I became a Trained and Certified Tea and Etiquette Consultant and began to speak.  I also started teaching cooking classes and demonstrations on tea and tea foods.  I had gotten some speaker training at the protocol school, but wanted to hone my speaking skills even more.  I also wanted to break into writing-no easy task! 

The next step was to go to some speaker and writer conferences.  I attended a couple of them and learned an immense amount from each of them.  Having to stand up in front of a group of your piers, give your talk, then be evaluated by your peers and the instructor was humbling as well as hugely instructive.  I also learned the steps on how to become a published author.  Learning how to write a book proposal was huge step.  I often say a book proposal is like a term paper, but you have to include marketing, competition, and what makes your idea so great!  Then I had to learn how to pitch my book ideas to the decision makers. 

I remember getting my first rejection letter from a publisher in the mail for something I had pitched over three months prior.  It wasn't fun, but because I had already created my vision statement,it sustained me and kept me from quitting.  The next rejection letter stung as well, but my vision kept me going!  When I finally got an acceptance letter from a publisher, it was awesome.  I think getting the rejection letters first helped make the acceptance letter all the sweeter.  They not only accepted one proposal but two!  Hence, Tea with a Twist and The World in Your Teacup were born. 

I can't  begin to tell you how much I love what I do.  I love tea-all aspects of it.  I love to write about it, talk about it to anyone who will listen, to teach people how easy it is to make, speak about how it is made and where it is grown, pair food with it, and most importantly drink it!

Stayed tuned to the next blog for the conclusion of Building & Branding Lisa Knows Tea & more books that helped me in Part 2.  I would love to know what books you have read that have helped you build your dreams!

Happy Sipping and Dreaming, Lisa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Meeting Nathalie Dupree

From Chapel Hill and A Southern Season, I headed to Charleston for some Specialty Tea Institute Level Four classes.  While I was in Charleston, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my lifelong mentors-Nathalie Dupree.  I remember watching her on PBS for so many years.  She is just as delightful in person as she is on television. 
Nathalie Dupree in the tea fields near Charleston
She lives just down the street from where my hotel was for the conference in the historic district.  It was a lovely walk to her home with quaint shops and restaurants all along the way.  She was so gracious to meet with me and invite me into her home. 

We chatted about many things and she shared some tidbits of wisdom from her many years of being in the food world.  Her advice is invaluable to me as there are not many that have been in the culinary world and done as much as she has.  She has what she calls the "pork chop theory" about sharing.  I had just heard about her theory from another friend of both of ours ,Virginia Willis on her blog.  Not only do Nathalie and Virginia talk about the theory, they have put it into practice.  Virginia just shared the theory again at the Food Blog Forum I attended this past weekend.  For more on the pork chop theory see Virginia Willis's blog.

Along with sharing career tidbits, we talked about other things as well.  Nathalie Dupree is just about my mom's age. I had my mom on my mind since I had just been to see her in Raleigh earlier in the day.  It is always such a heartbreaking experience to visit her in the nursing home.  For those of you that don't know, my mom got earlier onset Alzheimer's Disease in her early 60's.  She has been struggling with the disease for over nine years now.  I had a long quiet ride by myself from Raleigh to Charleston thinking about her and missing her. Wisdom from people who have gone before me in life is a thing I really value.  I really valued my mom's wisdom and was one of the many reasons I dedicated my first book to her. 

Although I didn't know Nathalie personally at all other than some writing correspondence, we ended up talking about my mom.  We even shared some tears about her as I wondered why life is so different for people.  My mom can no longer speak or say my name.  Ms Dupree on the other hand, who is her age is vibrant, full of ideas, and in the midst of writing cookbooks.

For me, tea is much more than just a beverage.  It is also about taking time to spend with those you love.  I told Nathalie how much I valued the time my mom and I spent having tea and talking about life.  I am so grateful for those times now.  I had no idea that they would be cut short by her awful disease, but I was thankful I took the time when I did before it was too late!  I wrote a short article about our teas together that will be featured in the March/April issue of TeaTime Magazine as my birthday gift to her.  I am blessed to share the same birthday as my mom and really miss our birthday teas!

Before I had to leave, Ms. Dupree showed me her teacup collection which is amazing and had many stories behind them.  We also looked at her garden which was filled with herbs, fruit trees, and even a tea plant! I loved her whimsy of "planting" broken pottery in her garden.   I hated to leave, but it was time to for me to go setup for my conference and for Nathalie to get back to her Sunday!  I felt like I had known her much longer than just the hour and a half I had been there.

Are there those in your life that have practiced the "pork chop theory" and helped you along the way?  Would love to hear about it.  

Thank you Nathalie Dupree for such a lovely visit!

Happy Sipping and Visiting, Lisa

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tailgating and Tea

I recently returned from a trip which included giving a cooking class at A Southern Season. For those of you who live anywhere near Chapel Hill, SC, A Southern Season is a Must Visit Place. They not only have a wonderful selection of teas, but also a wonderful selection of specialty foods , kitchen tools, and culinary appliances. It is the Home Depot of the Food World!

While in Chapel Hill, I had the pleasure to stay with longtime friend Anna and her husband Mike. They treated me to a wonderful al fresco dinner on their deck the night before my class. I just thought I would feature Mike's (yes Mike's) handy work outside while Anna was busy fixing us a delicious dinner. The picture below doesn't show the lantern with a candle inside hanging from their beautiful eucalyptus tree that drapes their deck!  I wish I had a picture of the dinner that I was treated to.
The next morning it was off to A Southern Season for my Southern Tailgate Tea Party! Along with being a great culinary store, they also have a wonderful Viking cooking school.  I was invited to teach at CLASS (Culinary Lessons at A Southern Season) again in late August.  The theme was A Southern Tailgate Tea Party and Iced Tea.  The recipes came from Tea with a Twist and the history of iced tea in America came from The World in Your Teacup.   The United States has quite a bit of tea history beyond the Boston Tea Party.  Most people don't realize that the Boston Tea Party was not the first tea revolt.

Their venue has a really great setup with elevated seating and tables that have silverware setup. 

They also have a two big mirrors and cameras set up with 2 large screens on either side of the mirrors for closeups shots.

The staff is really great to work with as well.  They have prepped so much that it is easy to come in and demo and talk about your recipes and expertise. 

Here is the recipe for
Cheesey Cornbread Sausage Balls
-perfect for tailgating

1 lb package of breakfast sausage
1 1/2 cups self rising cornmeal mix

10 oz freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, do not use pre-grated

4 oz jar pimentos drained and chopped

¼ cup chopped jalapenos in jar

Dash of hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all the ingredients together with hands in a large bowl until well blended. Use a 1 ½ inch scoop and form balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet with sides and bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown. Sausage balls may be frozen uncooked or cooked.

Thanks so much to Anna and Mike for hosting me and to the staff at A Southern Season especially Marilyn Markel and Caroline Cahan!

Happy Sipping & Tailgating, Lisa