Posted by: Matthew | January 4, 2008

My Interview With Lori Piper from Little Snowbird

This is my interview with Lori Piper. She sells tea. Thanks for letting me interview you, Lori!
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Where do you live? What is it like where you live?
I live in a little town called Olivehurst, which is about one hour north of Sacramento, the capital of California. I live on an acre of land in a small house, but my husband is fixing it up and making it a little bigger. It is very hot and dry here in the summer, and cool with a little bit of rain in the winter. There are no sidewalks or streetlights on my street.

There is also a small airport (mostly for crop-dusters) just past the hay field next to my house, so I get to see and hear airplanes taking off and landing a lot! Some people would be annoyed by the noise of the planes, but I like them. Twice a year they have an air show and I get to watch the fighter jets from my front yard! They fly very fast and then go straight up into the sky right above my house – it’s very, very loud and very, very cool!

Other than that it’s kind of quiet here. The closest grocery store is about 10 minutes driving time away.

I know that you sell tea? What kinds of tea do you sell?
I sell tea for kids and adults. I buy the tea and I buy the flavors and then when someone orders some tea, I mix and add the flavors to the tea and package it up for them. I have lots of flavors that you don’t normally find with tea, like Hot Fudge Sundae, Strawberry Shortcake, and Bubblegum Blast! All of the teas for kids are caffeine-free or decaffeinated, since caffeine is not good for children.

The teas I sell are green tea, white tea, and herbal teas called rooibos (which is from an African bush) and chamomile. I don’t sell any black teas because they have the most caffeine, and while caffeine isn’t too bad for adults, it is best kept to a minimum. Besides that, everyone sells black teas. If you have ever had hot tea or iced tea, it was probably black tea.

By the way, did you know that green, white, and black teas all come from the same plant (camellia sinensis)? That’s why all of the other teas are called “herbal” teas (or “tisanes”).

I myself prefer the rooibos tea. It is naturally caffeine free, has a nice sweet taste all by itself, and doesn’t get bitter if you prepare it incorrectly. It is also full of good stuff just like green and white tea. I drink it every day!

How did you get started selling tea?
About a year ago I read an article about the health benefits of green tea and decided to try some. I bought some green tea in teabags from a local supermarket and it tasted horrible! It was bitter and tasted very grassy. So I stopped drinking it and threw it away.

Some months later I came across another article online about green tea, and read that it only tastes good if you prepare it a certain way. The water cannot be boiling (too hot) and you cannot brew it for too long. If you do, it will get bitter. This article also mentioned that loose tea (without teabags) from smaller companies is usually better quality and commercially processed teabags are often made with lower grade teas. So I bought some more green tea from a small online retailer and prepared it properly and it tasted very good!

After buying the tea a few times I thought that perhaps I could save a little money if I started my own online store and then I could get my tea at wholesale prices. It wasn’t supposed to be anything big, just a way to save a little money and maybe make a little money too. Then for some reason I woke up one morning thinking that I should make tea for kids since there really aren’t a lot of options for kids when it comes to healthy drinks that are low in calories but high in flavor. Since your parents get to add the sugar and milk, they get to control how many calories go into your drink, but it still has load of flavor and health benefits no matter what!

So I did some more research and started my company.

How did you come up with the name Little Snowbird, when you don’t sell little birds that live in the snow?
There are actually two answers to this question. I decided on the name after again waking up one morning with the idea already formed in my head. I find that most of my best ideas come to me like that. I think that my brain works overtime when I am sleeping, trying to solve all of my problems for me.

The second answer is where the actual name came from. Do you what a CB radio is? It’s kind of like a walkie-talkie that goes very long distances. A lot of truck drivers have them in their trucks and they use them to talk to each other so they don’t get lonely when they are out on the road driving all day long. They also don’t use their real names when they talk to each other. They have nicknames called “handles”.

When I was growing up, my Grandpa and my Dad both had CB radios in our cars, so the whole family had their own handles. My Grandpa was Cajun, my father was The Greek, my mother Leadfoot, my sister was Turkey Trot, my Grandma was Big Snowbird and I was Little Snowbird. That’s where they name came from, sort of a tribute to my Grandma, who is the nicest lady I have ever met in my life. Plus it’s a cute name, and since I’m selling tea for kids, “cute” works!

How many kids do you have?
I have three kids. My stepson is nine (and a half almost!), my daughter is two and a half, and my son is almost one and a half.

What is like being a mom?
My life changed a lot when I had kids. My stepson lived across the country until the week after my daughter was born, when his mother moved with him back to California. So I went from no kids to two kids in a weeks’ time! It was a big adjustment.

I waited to have kids for a very long time because I knew what an important job it was and I didn’t think I had the ability to do it right. Actually, I think I was scared that I would mess up my kids’ lives by being a bad mom and I didn’t want to do that. Then I eventually got married and decided to have kids. Now I am finding that it is just as hard as I ever imagined. Having two toddlers in the house at one time takes a lot of patience, and I don’t always have enough.

The one thing I find myself doing that I am trying not to do is yelling too much. Toddlers can be very loud, and when there are two of them, they try to be louder than each other. Then I end up yelling just to be louder than them. It builds up until I just want to cry sometimes. Now I have noticed that my daughter has started yelling at her little brother just like I yell at them. Not good…

So I have decided to work on my patience and stop yelling. It’s not easy. Learning to give up a little control over a situation can be hard, but I just keep thinking about it every day so I don’t let myself forget and lapse back into the yelling. I put up big reminders on the fridge and the computer so I don’t forget to practice better patience!

Being a mom has helped me understand both that I cannot control everything, and that I should be continually working on “being a better person” so that my kids will be better people too. Since I am a stay-at-home mom, they learn how to act from my example, and I want to be the best example I can be.

On a happier note, being a mom has also opened me up to the idea of doing extra things for kids! I have several other websites that I am working on right now that are about kids. One site is going to be a collection of bedtime stories that parents can read to their kids. Another is an informational site about how to raise physically, emotionally, and intellectually healthy children. My stepson also wants me to start a website for him so that he can take digital photos and display them for sale! He’s such an entrepreneur! I like making these websites; it’s rewarding to give back a little when you can…

Did you ever have braces when you were a kid?
No, I never had braces, but oddly enough, I wanted them! That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I thought they looked cool. I think maybe one of the prettier girls in my school must have had braces so I thought they would make me look pretty. Anyhow, I didn’t need them.

This question reminds me of another strange fact about me: I also wanted to have casts on my legs and have to be wheeled around school in a wheelchair! I wanted the attention and sympathy. But I never broke a bone, so I didn’t get those either.

The one thing I wanted that I did get was glasses. I’ve had glasses since the second grade, and I can’t see ANYTHING without them! It didn’t start out that way, but my eyesight just got worse and worse over time. I thought glasses were cool at first, too. I don’t think so anymore.

What are you afraid of? (Are you afraid of exploding teapots? Hee hee.)
I’ve found that I have a lot more fears after having kids, because I love them so much and it’s my job to protect them. I am afraid that they will be kidnapped or have an accident and get hurt or killed. I worry that they will die in the middle of the night and I will find them dead in the morning. I worry that they will choke on something they found in the house and die. Starting to see a trend? The worst part about these fears is that sometimes I play the scenes out in my head and actually imagine these things happening. When I do that, I experience a little bit of the emotions that I would feel if it really happened. I don’t know why I do that to myself. It’s definitely not a good thing.

When my kids are a few years older, I am going to enroll them and myself in martial arts classes. I think it will help them develop physically and mentally, and I think that if I know how to kick a little but I might not be so scared about being able to protect them!

I’m also a little bit afraid of heights. I have dreams every once in awhile about being up really high with nothing to hold onto.

And I’m afraid of drowning. I almost drowned twice as a kid, and even now that I’ve learned to swim I’m still very tense in deep water.

And now I am also afraid of exploding teapots. The thought had never even occurred to me until now. Thanks! ;o)

What is the most disturbing thing you have ever seen?
Wow, do you really want to know this?

The most disturbing thing I have ever seen was online. I won’t tell you the name of the website so you won’t be tempted to go there. They have very bad pictures of people who have been in accidents or have been killed (among other stuff). Pictures of people who have lost half of their face in a motorcycle accident and are sitting in a hospital room, pictures of people who have killed themselves by shooting themselves in the head with a shotgun, that kind of thing. I looked at the website for an hour or so, and suddenly I just couldn’t look at it anymore. Now I wish I had never seen it. Every once in awhile I will remember those pictures, and my heart drops into my stomach.

What is the funniest thing that you have ever seen?
Believe it or not, this was the hardest question to answer! I’m answering it last.

Everything I can think of that was funny – was funny at the expense of someone else, which really isn’t all that funny when you think about it. I suppose that if it’s funny at my own expense then that’s okay. One of my most favorite people ever taught me not to take myself so seriously. She was beautiful and funny and she really didn’t care if she acted silly in front of people. She was so secure with herself and it was the first time I had ever really seen that. I have tried to be like that ever since. I don’t even know her anymore, haven’t seen her in over 10 years, but she had a great impact on my self-esteem.

Back to the funny stuff: On my honeymoon (which consisted of camping in a tent on the beach in northern California – by the way I highly recommend trying it! Their website is http://www.westportbeachrv.com) my husband and I were jumping over rocks and checking out the isolated beaches just north of our campsite. There was one area where the beach was about 20 feet long between rocks, but you had to wait for the waves to roll out and scoot across really fast before the waves came back in and covered the area. Well I waited for the perfect moment, and as I jumped down I slipped on the rocks and went tumbling onto the wet sand in my shorts! It didn’t really hurt, but the funniest part was that I had to get over it real quick and get up and run to the next set of rocks before the waves came back in and soaked me even more. My husband almost fell off the rocks himself laughing at me. After I was safely on the next set of rocks, I had a good laugh, too!

What is your favorite type of animal? Why?
My favorite animal is the elephant. I actually have a line of elephants tattooed on my ankle! Did you know that elephants actually show signs of deep and profound emotions such as sympathy and regret? I watched a documentary once about elephants, and there were a pack of elephants walking along when they came upon a baby elephant, orphaned and stuck in some deep mud. They initially left the baby elephant there to fend for himself, but later that night when they heard the baby’s cries as some other animals (hyenas I think) were threatening him, they came back, scared away the other animals, helped the baby out of the mud, and adopted him!

A lot of people don’t think animals can reason or have complex emotions but I disagree. Elephants are a perfect example of this! They may not be as highly developed as humans, but they certainly rely on more than just instinct to get through life.

What is the worst thing you ever did as a kid?
I once sprayed hairspray in my sister’s eyes on purpose. I asked her to smell the hairspray, and when she did, I sprayed it right in her face. She is seven years older than me and I am lucky she didn’t beat me up for that one!

Other than that, I was a pretty good kid. I was really shy, so I mostly stayed out of trouble.

What do you think about when you are going to sleep at night? (Do you think of tea cups flying and pouring you nice glasses of tea?)
Wow, what don’t I think about? Like a lot of adults, sometimes I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking! I think a lot about my tea business and how to make it more successful. I am hoping that if it is successful enough then I can stay home with my kids for longer and maybe even Homeschool them if I want to. I think about my other websites and formulate stories and articles in my head. Sometimes I want to get out of bed and write it all down so I won’t forget it by the next morning. This is also the time when I start worrying about my kids like I explained before.

I usually find the best way to get to sleep when I can’t stop thinking is to start going over exactly what I am going to do when I wake up in the morning. Get out of bed, put my robe on, go to the bathroom, walk into the kitchen, make a bowl of cereal, add milk to the cereal, etc. You get the idea. Since this stuff isn’t as stressful, it helps me relax and fall asleep.

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Responses

  1. I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, but after this interview it sure makes me want some! Who knew there was Hot Fudge Sundae or Bubble Gum tea?

    Really great interview Matt! I’m headed over to Lori’s site right now!


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