In the seven years since My Cup of Tea launched as a ministry in the Orange Mound community, we have experienced many changes. Women have come to us for help and jobs, left us for all kinds of reasons, and then have come back again. We have been a part of births, illnesses, and deaths. We have celebrated milestones, grieved disappointments, encouraged each other, apologized to each other, and learned from each other.
A duplex on Semmes was renovated to host our tea operation and just two short years later, we moved to a larger, renovated Victorian-style home that we fondly call The House. We started our enterprise with a modest number of teas for sale. Today, we have 70 teas and at least one customer in every state except for Alaska and South Dakota. From 2020 to 2021, sales of tea and tea products increased by almost 35%.
Yet, with all that change and growth, we have applied for more grants and asked people like you for donations more than at any time in the last seven years. If you’ve noticed and you’re wondering why we ask, here are three important reasons.
The first reason is a pragmatic one. While we could not be happier about the popularity of our products and the robust sales we have enjoyed, especially during the holidays, My Cup of Tea would have to sell nearly 60,000 boxes of tea annually to cover our expenses. We have 17 employees, and like most businesses, personnel-related costs consume the largest portion of our budget. And that’s a good thing, since a primary part of our mission is to provide jobs to Orange Mound women. Our second largest expense is the tea itself. As you probably know, we import tea from all over the world to ensure we are selling a superior product. Then, like all businesses, we have expenses related to our facilities, marketing, and professional services like accounting.
The bottom line is that without donations and grant funding, the business activities that provide the jobs for women would not survive.
The second reason we continue to ask for money is that we want to include as many people as we can in our cause. While we have some opportunities for volunteers to donate time and expertise, those opportunities are limited because so much of our day is spent filling orders. Also, not everyone can donate their time because of work, family obligations, or physical limitations. However, donating, even a small amount, directly impacts the lives of the women we serve. We are able to keep them working and earning a paycheck, and we are able to meet emergency needs that arise in their lives. It is for this reason we launched The Blend a few months ago. The Blend allows those who want to engage with us on an ongoing basis to contribute as little as $10 per month to support our work.
“Couldn’t a person just buy the tea to support My Cup of tea,” you might wonder.
Of course, and we encourage everyone to purchase tea for yourself, your family, friends, and coworkers. Most of us, however, will try a product once because it looks interesting or because someone told us good things about it. Whether we continue to purchase that product depends on many factors – quality, convenience, practicality, price, etc. This is why we are always excited to win a repeat customer. But a person who gives their hard-earned money to an organization expecting nothing in return is a committed supporter of the work and often will give again monetarily or in other ways. The regular repeat customer and the donor are the keys to long-term sustainability.
Changing the poverty cycle that may have existed for generations in a family and affecting revitalization of a community is not a sprint, but a marathon. We have taken important steps to ensure that My Cup of Tea thrives for many years to come, and one of those steps is building a base of financial support to sustain our work through the best and worst of economic times.
To be clear, if you are regularly purchasing tea, please continue. Those purchases create the physical work each woman at The House does. But if you want to invest in their lives more, then consider donating to us. The Blend, as mentioned, is a monthly donor network that comes with gifts and benefits for giving each month. If you would like to make one-time or periodic donations, you can do that here. And we also accept checks at 3028 Carnes Avenue, Memphis, TN 38111. All of these gifts are tax-deductible.
Finally, if you ever have any questions about our products or how we use your donations, email us. We are happy to discuss those issues with you.
And thank you for standing with us and the women of Orange Mound for all these years.