Friday, June 20th, 2014
Have you tried Zhena’s Gypsy Tea? You can buy the tea bags at select grocery stores, and it is delicious. I love the coconut greet. But even cooler is the founder of the business, Zhena Muzyka. She wanted to start her own business; she needed to earn money to pay her son’s medical bills; and she only wanted to do something with fair trade.
She started selling custom teas from a cart in California. Now she runs and international, multimillion dollar company while helping tea growers in Calcutta (and other places) create more prosperous lives.
Zhena just released her inspirational and advice-filled memoir called Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success. She talks to us below about how she made her dreams come true–and saved her son’s life in the process. This is a major good karma alert–such a sweet story.
KK: How did I get the courage to follow my dreams? ZM: I needed health insurance! Let me explain… My son’s birth and subsequent need for special care gave me the motivation to start the tea company, his final surgery at almost age 4 gave me the courage to keep building the business. It was very motivated by healthcare. I wasn’t able to get him insurance at the time because of his “pre-existing” condition. I never imagined a birth defect could be a pre-existing condition, but insurance companies wouldn’t cover him. I had to grow the business to get big enough for a group health plan that would accept him. It took five employees–so it was a very practical courage, one based on growing a business to cover his needs. But then, when I met the tea workers and their children and realized that most not only didn’t have healthcare but also didn’t have running water, decent housing or a chance to go to school, I realized that my dream to save my son and give him a healthy and happy life extended to the women and children in the tea growing regions who made $1.35 a day and where infant mortality rates were frighteningly high. Through my experience with my son Sage, I was deeply bonded to the workers in the fields and became an advocate for them. Here’s my video about it.
KK: Any advice to moms with small kids who are interested in business
ZM: It’s a great time to start a business when your kids are present. Although we spent a lot of time at the office, Sage now 14, has great entrepreneurial instincts. He got the education of a lifetime being in the company. At one point most of the employees brought their kids to work for a couple of hours after school, and we set up a great area with a pup tent, cartoons and toys for them. Today, with the internet so strong, a mom can have a thriving business via her computer. If I were starting today–which I am again with my 4-year old daughter, 14-year old son and new business Zhena TV–I would get super educated on technology and make it work for you. Use resources like Lynda.com to train yourself how to do videos, websites and all other marketing–the power is now at moms’ fingertips with the internet! Find the thing that makes you happy–for me it’s tea, writing, jewelry, fair trade, coaching women in business, holding women’s retreats, interviewing people and traveling as an activist—and turn it into a business that works around your schedule. A good starting point is when you feel the nudge, when the nudge becomes a shove and your quiet inner voice gets so loud that you know in your heart it’s time. There is never a typically perfect time to start, but I always know that when I am feeling the most resistance that it’s time to push through it and get going!
KK: What’s some really great advice that someone else gave you?
ZM: The best advice I ever got about life was to meditate. Meditation is the salve to any worry, it creates spaciousness in a busy mind, and it allows for perspective when times get tough. My meditation teacher who happened to be my first business consultant told me that I had one of two choices, meditate or medicate. What he meant was that meditation gives the calm happiness we are all seeking in other things like shopping, wine, TV, all of those guilty pleasures become crutches if we do not take care of our minds. I now teach meditation to the women I coach and often in the beginning they get discouraged because their minds “won’t stop” chattering, but that is exactly when meditation is most effective, it’s about watching the mind and patiently noticing its patterns and means of distracting us from what matters most in our hearts. Meditation is like dating the mind, getting to know it, because we are already married to it, we need to know how to be friends with it if we ever want to be in harmony with it on a long term basis.