Laura J works at Tea as the VP of Finance and Operations. She enjoys celebrating the beauty found in cultures around the world, and helping to grow Tea’s presence in that world. She lives in Menlo Park with her husband and two toddler citizens of the world, Kate & Max.
As a mother I think a lot about the world we are leaving for our children. As someone who loves to learn, I’ve been reading a lot about the current status of the environment. It saddens me to consider the reality that the world is getting “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” to borrow words from Thomas Friedman. But my heart sings at the energy and ingenuity that is going into saving our planet. Smart people everywhere are thinking critically about what we can do. There are big movements toward shifting the way we generate and consume power in this country and around the world, and so many small efforts toward the good.
As a leader at Tea, I embraced the challenge of Earth Day to remind us that we can do more to reduce and off-set our company’s carbon footprint. As an organization we chose to partner with our community of customers and friends to raise money to plant trees around the world towards that end. Carbonfund.org makes it easy for companies like Tea, and people everywhere, to make a difference. On Earth Day we will donate 20% of our website sales to global reforestation projects through carbonfund.org.
We also invite our customers to make a year-round commitment with us to fight global warming. We’ve created a SKU that can be added to any shopping cart for a donation to carbonfund.org. Tea will match dollar-for-dollar any contribution made by our customers. As I watched our incredibly talented graphic design team put together our Earth Day message for our customers this afternoon, I felt proud and happy to be on this team. Join us in planting trees around the world. We can make a difference one beautiful tree at a time. Yes we can!
I grew up in Missouri. My husband grew up in Russia, and this is where his extended family remained. Now we live together in the Bay Area with our kids. In 2008, we packed up our 3 and a half and nearly 2 year old children and made the trek (24 hours door to door with two toddlers is officially a trek) to Saint Petersburg. Though the trip was not without its challenges, it was wonderful to experience Russia with the kids.
Since day one, Dmitri, my husband, has always spoken with the children in Russian. They have a Russian nanny and many local Russian friends. So, the kids both speak in Russian as well as they do in English. It was such a pleasure to watch them naturally and easily interact with their extended family in Russian. They played games, laughed at their grandfather’s jokes, and chatted endlessly with their slightly older Russian cousin (age 8).
We enjoyed long strolls with the whole extended family in the beautiful parks in St. Petersburg surrounded by canals. We went to the zoo. We played in the neighborhood playgrounds. We ate yummy treats. Max discovered a pretty serious passion for Russian apple juice boxes (not really unlike juice boxes in the U.S., but in plentiful supply and at his reaching distance in his grandparents’ pantry), and both ate a considerable amount of Babuschka’s (grandmother, in Russian) borscht soup. It was a toddler paradise. The jet lag was a little crazy. Visiting almost the exact opposite point on the globe pretty much flips night and day. The kids got a little turned around. They’d be up one moment playing enthusiastically with their cousin, and then moments later crash into deep sleep. I was beyond exhausted, but I have to smile as I recall the trip. This is what it means to be a little citizen of the world – to be equally at home on either side of the globe at the tender age of 2.
My parents have joined a group of doctors and their spouses to build a partnership with a hospital and an orphanage in Cajamarca, Peru. They visit every couple of years, and over time they have developed quite a list of vendors of medical supplies that donate excess inventory for the hospital and a variety of donors who provide all types of supplies for the children in the orphanage. The doctors, including my father, go and train the local doctors on how to use the latest techniques and employ the latest in materials and medications in their surgeries at the local hospital. My mother has become involved in working with some of the spouses to build a relationship with an orphanage. The group over the years has provided the children with many supplies, including clothing, computers, books, etc. And they always manage to have a little fun during each visit. For example, this most recent trip they took all of the kids out to a movie and had a cake and ice cream party.
It all started when a friend of my father, originally from Cajamarca, had a vision of wanting to not only help his home town, but also to share his culture with his friends and colleagues in St. Louis. Over time it has built to be quite an operation, and they have set up a non-profit to accept the donations, etc. The trips have become for my parents much anticipated and cherished vacations full of music, laughter, dancing, and great food.
I was delighted to be able to facilitate sending some of our excess inventory from Tea’s Peru Collection from Fall ’07 on the trip that happened this summer. Alpacas are featured on a few of the pieces, including a fun graphic tee. The kids were incredibly excited to show the American ladies that they had some actual alpacas. The picture above features two of the boys from the orphanage posing with their local alpacas. Their house mother is in the background talking with the alpacas to ensure that they behaved for the cameras.
It has been a joy for me to watch my parents celebrate Peru so enthusiastically for many years, and it warmed my heart to see the kids with their alpacas.
While I do take pleasure in seeing my children dressed in the perfect outfit for a special outing, I am just as happy to see them dressed up in mis-matched play clothes of their own choosing. I am generally not driven so much by appearances as by ideas and the beauty found in all of the little imperfections in the world all around us. So, many of my friends find it somewhat odd that I work for a children’s fashion company. When asked why I love my job so much, the answer is always the same. Apart from the fact that I truly enjoy tackling the operational challenges in both the apparel industry and in entrepreneurial ventures, I am so enthusiastic about Tea because I love the ideas and inspiration behind the company. The founders of Tea embody the core values (to be Inspired, Global, Warm, and Mindful) so completely, and it permeates throughout the organization. It is a privilege to be able to work to build this organization and develop the tools and infrastructure to support and sustain this vision as we expand our reach to new customers each year.