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The Meek House’s Top Principles for a Successful Coffee Shop

Tea with Tom: Coffee Shop Best Practices Episode 2

Featuring Gianna & Elizabeth of The Meek House, Redlands CA

Welcome back to another episode of Tea with Tom. Here, we discover the best practices our entrepreneurial customers have taken to build and maintain successful business. In this episode, we explore The Meek House’s top reasons for success. Elizabeth and Gianna are sisters and owners, born to first generation Romanian immigrants. Of course, Summit Tea is well fond of women entrepreneurs. In fact, Summit Tea Company was founded by Tom’s sister! Now, listen along as we eat The Meek House’s famous Cornulețes and talk about the Journey to Meek.

Funding – Not Just Financially

Financially, Gianna and Elizabeth’s parents saw their business plan as an investment. However, their parent’s support came through in different ways. First, The Meek House has a European vibe inspired by their parent’s Romanian origins. Having seen their mother, a businesswoman herself, put forth all her efforts into her business inspired the two sisters. In addition, their father helped them with permits from city hall. Together, their parents inspired them to not just dream, but to run after dreams. Then, time came to put their dreams to the test as they quickly realized just how different their idea was at their chosen location. Surrounded by franchises, they had to pitch an independent idea before a board of mall executives. Scary? You bet! Impressively, they mustered their courage and landed a key location across a movie theater. Today, they are still the only independent organization in the entire shopping center.

A Place to Call Home

Elizabeth and Gianna’s dream is to have a place people can feel at home in. It may appear that the coffee industry can feel quite elitist. Therefore, they wanted to create a different atmosphere. This is where the name for The Meek House stemmed from.  “Blessed are the Meek for they shall inherit the Earth” (Mathew 5:5). When starting a new business, their advice is to not get worked up in the details. Elizabeth advises, “people will remember the memories they made in the shop, not the upholstery.” Now, with Elizabeth having a little girl on the way, she feels confident that having a place that feels like home to her will be a helpful space for her family to be involved with the community she helped to create.

Journey to Meek

In order to accomplish their dream, Gianna and Elizabeth took some actions to set their shop accordingly. First, they employed well-intentioned staff that understood the goal they were working towards. The sisters were sure to devote all their time to working alongside their employees. This way, the staff understood how they wanted things to be done, but also, they were a part of the mission, not just a getting paid. Next, The Meek House works with organizations and companies that make a positive impact. From local small business, to responsibly sourced coffee beans, everything is selected with kindness in mind. Finally, referring to their dream, despite their drinks being “hand-crafted”, they wish to stay humble. Craft, quality, and service all go together at The Meek House, where they “spread kindness with every cup of coffee.”

Advice to Future Entrepreneurs

“Don’t be afraid to try new things.”

When they first opened, they had no intention of roasting coffee beans themselves. However, through help from the coffee community and positive feedback from customers, now The Meek House has their own roasted coffee beans!

“Hold on to the Ride”

The “Journey to being Meek” was a personal journey as well. Elizabeth and Gianna found themselves in a daily coaster of ups and downs. They had to learn to be much more patient, flexible, and intuitive than they through they already were. They recognized that the key to the process was to be patient, it is all in God’s plan.

“We all started with a dream – stick with it, anything can be possible.”

Increasingly, over the years we have seen the number of women entrepreneurs in the coffee society rise, and this is because of amazing women like Elizabeth and Gianna. Indeed, they inspire young women that they too can follow their dreams, even if they may seem bigger than oneself. Without a doubt, Summit Tea is proud of all our women entrepreneurs and all they have and will accomplish.

Just want to listen? Here is the audio! Want to listen on the go? Download the MP3 Audio!

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Tea with Tom: Higher Grounds

Tea with Tom: Coffee Shop Best Practices Episode 3 – Featuring Pastor Bill & Alicia of Higher Grounds, Crestline CA

Welcome back to another episode of Tea with Tom. Here, we discuss the best practices our entrepreneurial customers have taken to build and maintain successful coffee shop business. In this episode, we explore Higher Grounds Coffee’s story. Now, listen along as we brew some Matcha, Tropical Black, and Chamomile Spice Teas with Pastor Bill and Alicia. Uniquely, Higher Grounds is a profitable coffee shop adjacent to a Non-Profit Church. Find out how they paired community with natural leadership to create a successful business.

Non-Profit for Profit

A Social Purpose Corporation is what Higher Grounds Coffee is categorized as. Although, the shop is a for-profit shop, it is owned by a non-profit local church. This relationship between the patrons of the store and church are what makes Higher Grounds unique. Pastor Dan and Alicia unpack how a non-for-profit can have a for-profit enterprise.

Community Integration

The relationships that Pastor Bill had formed through the church community became essential to opening Higher Grounds. The small community they served came together to give back to the idea of a coffee shop. From receiving a better loan rate to having a fund thermometer printed in the paper, Higher Grounds became a local project. Community alone brought the ability raise their 30% down payment. This goes to show the importance of building strong relationships prior to starting up a business.

Natural Leaders

When tasked with managing the Higher Grounds Coffee shop, Alicia stepped in and went above and beyond for the shop. Here, Alicia found herself a natural born leadership. Natural leaders have the ability to provide innovative insights that one cannot simply pick up in a book. Expressing ideas and directions with intention are how these individuals are able to bring utility and positivity to the culture of a shop. When it comes to hiring a manager, it is essential to bring in these types of individuals to have a successful business.

Just want to listen? Here is the audio! Want to listen on the go? Download the MP3 Audio!
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The Next Generation of Leaders

The Next Generation of Leaders

By Tom Waller, Co-Owner

Summit Tea is about influence. One of our labels reads: “While tea is our business, the next generation of leaders is our mission.”  Middle School, High School, College, and young entrepreneurs are the sweet spot of that influence I seek – the next generation.

As a lifelong mentor with more than 40 years of experience, my life’s purpose is to engage with people like you and leverage your influence. This is central to everything I do, including Summit Tea.

What this means to you as our customer, is that I am for you. I would like to see you live your life well; certainly live it better for us having crossed paths. I care a lot about the quality of teas we serve you, but even more about how you bridge from your present to the things that matter to you. A good mentor is an architect who champions impossible dreams especially when the flame of hope flickers low.

This is especially true for our Wholesale customers. We want them to be successful selling our teas, so we have created an in-store marketing system that builds growing and profitable tea programs. Taking it a step further, we want them to be successful overall as small business owners, so we created the Coffee Community where owners and managers come twice a year to learn from each other by transparently sharing what they do really well and how they do it.

The same “I am for you!” value flavors the work environment for our employees and it’s woven into our relationships with our suppliers, family and friends.  Therefore, almost all our Chinese teas are grown for us by one farmer in central China. This is a long-term relationship – they’re a small family business/we are a small family business. I go there and walk their fields, I know how they cultivate and handle their teas, and I know how they treat their workers. We  also “cherry pick” other teas from those who do it so much more amazingly well than we can.

I’m a person of faith, too, and I hope that you will see that lived out authentically but probably not very perfectly. I love God and His son, Jesus of Nazareth, but I’m not very religious, meaning I struggle at times, sometimes with “church.” Then of course, there are interests of mine which include enjoying the ocean, hiking in the local mountains and also craft beer!

I want to invite you into the story we are walking out each day. It’s full of interesting people, life lessons, mistakes, and, above all else, it will be a window into how I (we) walk out these convictions. If I am for you, then, you must know I’m committed to your quality experience with Summit Tea Company.


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Summit Tea: Origins

Summit Tea: Origins

By Marji Waller-Thompson, Founder

A great cup of tea is hard to find – we’ve traveled to China to bring some of the best teas to you. Welcome to Summit Tea! My family and I are very happy to welcome you to the wonderful world of premium teas.

Our story started when I, Marji, lived in China from 2002-2004. During my time there, I learned how wonderful loose whole leaf tea is, and I had the chance to taste traditionally produced teas of all varieties – black, white, oolong, green, and even tisanes (herbal infusions).

When I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I brought my interest in quality whole leaf tea back to share with a good friend named Mary. Our interest in tea was piqued by how closely fine teas parallel fine wines. Just like a glass of wine, each tea is an individual to be enjoyed on its own or coupled with food.

The tea that most people are familiar with come in tea bags, however tea bags tend to be a lower grade of tea made from tea fannings, the “tea dust” that remains after the whole leaf tea is packaged. We knew that Summit Tea could provide an opportunity to share the endless, wonderful world of the highest quality teas that are just waiting to be tasted.

The name “Summit Tea” represents that our business provides the top teas available. This name is also appropriate because some of the world’s best teas are grown at higher elevations. Most of our tea is direct sourced and produced in China, but some of our premium providers are located in France and the Pacific Northwest. We have worked to gather a beautiful and delicious array of teas to meet everyone’s tastes. In addition to traditional teas, we also offer decaffeinated and herbal (naturally caffeine-free) options.

In 2011  my brother and his wife, Tom and Patti Waller, took ownership of Summit Tea and relocated to the beautiful Southern California city of Redlands.  Tom and Patti’s vision was to direct source their Chinese teas from one farmer as well as expand Summit Tea by serving Coffee Communities and independent Markets. All this while continuing to serve our growing on-line Retail Customers. 

We look forward to sharing these fine teas with you as we invite you to try all our teas. You will not be disappointed!