By Natalie Cioffari
On Thursday, Oct. 27 the Woman Can Have It All series, hosted by Linda E. McMahon, had its first event of the semester with guest Cindi Bigelow. The event was also sponsored by the Jack Welch College of Business. This year, SHU L.O.V.E, the women’s choir, made an appearance and welcomed everyone with music.
Bigelow is a third generation President and CEO of the family-owned company Bigelow Tea. She graduated from Boston College, and has a MBA from Northwestern University, along with honorary doctorates from Fairfield University and the University of New Haven.
The company was started in 1945 by Bigelow’s grandmother, who also created the Bigelow’s first tea “Constant Comments.” Its name is exactly how it is perceived; her grandmother received numerous comments about her first tea, hence the name.
Bigelow grew up surrounded by the family’s business, and at 16-years-old she started working with the company. “It’s a family business and a family jewel. Not a lot of people have an opportunity like this,” she said in her presentation. “I was blessed with how I was raised.”
In 2005, Bigelow took the title of President and CEO. During this time, she established the Annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge, where the company raises and donates money to local charities around the area. She also supports our troops by sending boxes of tea to different military stations, with little cards thanking them for their service.
Q: With this being the first event of the semester [for the Woman Can Have It All series], why did you pick Cindi Bigelow?
A: Linda: Well Cindi Bigelow is so recognized here in Fairfield county. She is so accomplished. Not only has her company been around for over 70 years, but she is also the third President and CEO in the company. She has such a commitment not only to her company, but also to her community. She is well known for her philanthropy, she is well known for her speaking engagement, she has a passion for education, she’s a wonderful coup for us to be able have her on our schedule, and we are delighted to have Cindi here. We are actually welcoming her back. In 2011 she was the recipient of our Discovery Gala event.
Q: Growing up around a business, what is something you can tell women that want to be entrepreneurs or CEOs who are not brought up with something like that at their fingertips?
A: Cindi: I think, first of all, the desire is very important. But, it’s not just desire, it’s also a skill set. So if it’s something you want to do you have to take inventory of yourself and say, “what is a good leader to you?” and “what are the skill sets that you have that align with being a good leader?” Whether you’re male or female you need to make sure if you’re looking for a title like CEO or you want to run an organization, you need to understand that’s a significant reasonability. You to need to be starting early on determining what are the proper skills sets that you need be developing yourself starting very young.
Q: You really push for scheduling and time management. What is something you could tell us college students about that?
A: Cindi: It’s priorities. It’s establishing, for example, as a student: “what’s important to you?” I can’t speak for every student, but let’s just say you want to do well. You have to carve out that time. Starting at Boston College, I use to wake up at 6 o’clock to do my accounting, because I knew at 5 o’clock it was happy hour and everyone was running around getting some beers. All of that scheduling capability allows you to establish what your priorities are. Now, does that mean missing out on hanging out? Well yes, you have to make sure you are doing that too. You do not want to be this robot that has everything scheduled. You need to carve out time to relax with your friends. So just find out what’s important to you, learn those disciplines now, and you’ll take that with you forever.
Q: Is there anything going forward that you hope to give to your generation, or other generations?
A: Cindi: I hope to give everyday, and I hope to make the world a better place everyday. I hope to be non-judgmental, but I know it’s hard to do everyday of every minute. I hope to try and appreciate, and to try and bring positive energy everywhere that I go. If I can do that, then the pain that I have experienced in my past it’s a good thing.