By Luther Turmelle New Haven Register, Conn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Cindi Bigelow, CEO of CT based "Bigelow Tea" recently spent time with students at Quinnipiac to talk about entrepreneurship. Two students who have developed a Tea-related smartphone app also had the opportunity to show Bigelow their product and get feedback.
It was tea time Tuesday morning at Quinnipiac University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as Cindi Bigelow, chief executive officer of the Fairfield-based specialty tea company that bears here family's name, paid a visit.
The 56-year-old executive was at the school for two reasons: To speak to entrepreneurship students at the school and to view first-hand a smartphone application being developed by students to help tea lovers brew a perfect cup.
The application, which is still in developmental stages, is the brainchild of two Fulbright Scholars from eastern Europe attending Quinnipiac, Laszlo Dinca and Tamara Leskovar.
Dinca is from Hungary and Leskobar is from Slovenia. The two met at a networking event for Fulbright Scholars and Leskobar was looking to solve an age-old problem tea drinkers face: How to make a cup of the brew that is not too weak and not too strong.
"Usually, I put the tea bag into the hot water, I get distracted and I forget about it," Leskobar said. "So I was just thinking how could I remind myself at the appropriate time to take the tea bag out of the water and how could I do that as simply as possible."
That's where the Time 4 Tea app comes in. Developed by a third Quinnipiac student, Tejas Kumar, the app allows tea drinkers to scan a QR code, or two-dimension bar code affixed to the tea bag tag, with their cellphones. The app reads the barcode and sets a timer on the phone for the correct brewing time.
When it's time to remove the tea bag, the phone sounds off appropriately, with the whistle of a tea kettle.
As she was walked through a demonstration of the app, Bigelow bantered effortlessly with the student entrepreneurs.
"Hold on, I've gotta remove my tea bag or the tea police will come and get me," she quipped as the app's kettle sound effect went off.
The company makes extensive use of social media and technology. Bigelow's critique of what makes a good app was short and to the point.
"Simplicity is the key," Bigelow told Dinca and Leskobar.
Dinca is an executive assistant at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and hope one day to found his own business.
Tuesday's visit by Bigelow was used to launch a test market of the Time For Tea app. Stations where students can test the app have been set up on campus at the Lender School of Business Center and at the Carl Hansen Student Center.
Users can test the app and can offer feedback, as well as fill out a brief survey so data can be collected on tea-drinking habits.
Dinca was asked when he thought the app might be available to the public.
"We are not at that stage yet," he said. "At this point, we are still perfecting the concept."
Bigelow agreed that it was too soon to say whether the company might have an interest the product.
"I'm seeing it for the first time today," she said.
Bigelow's grandmother founded Bigelow Tea in 1945 and by the time she turned 16, "I knew this is what I wanted to do."
The company employs 150 people in Connecticut and 350 nationwide, said Elaine Gavoli, a company spokeswoman. The average Bigelow worker has been with the company for 18 years, Gavoli said.
During Bigelow's remarks to students, she was asked about what qualities a successful female leader needs to have.
"You do have to do an internal inventory," Bigelow said. "Ask yourself if you have what it takes, that's the first question."
And when doing that analysis, she said, young women need to be honest with themselves.
"Are you a control freak?" Bigelow said. "That is one of the greatest limitations that I see for women. You've got to challenge yourself not to be a control freak because you're not going to get anywhere; it comes across as nobody is a smart as you."