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Jobs, Slow Tea, and The Future of America

I believe that the purpose of life is to live a meaningful life. And considering that for most of our waking lives we work, our jobs are therefore quite influential on whether or not we are living with meaning.

A society without jobs is a society without meaning.

The biggest challenge I see with the current economy and the “job crisis” is that without jobs, we have a society without meaning. And legions of people without meaning is both sad and scary.

In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, no jobs and no meaning stresses both the top of the pyramid, where people are looking to make a difference with their lives, and the bottom of the pyramid,where survival needs go challenged with food and shelter. The whole “needs” pyramid starts to get pretty wobbly.

Going for walks. Having sex. Talking on the phone. Connection is tribal and helps us to thrive (and survive).

On the surface Samovar is a tea company. But just ask any of our staff and you’ll find that tea is actually not even part of our mission. Our mission is simply to connect people. We believe that our lives get better when we slow down, smell the leaves, and take a moment to connect. First with ourself, then with others. Connection is tribal and helps us survive. Connection is emotional and helps us build relationships. And connection is ego. Knowing others know and care and listen to us helps us feel good. Tea certainly helps build connection but so do other things. Going for walks. Making dinner. Having sex. Talking on the phone. Connection is good and makes life fuller.

My hope with Samovar is to continue to spread our mission, to create more positive human connection with the business, and to make the world a little bit better by helping people to slow down, wake up and connect. I believe that the world (especially today) needs what we have to offer and will actually improve because of what we do. Being a business, a for profit business, part of that mission includes being profitable. I believe that if Samovar expandstwo great things happen:

Samovar creates more jobs and gives more people more meaning.

Good for the individuals and good for society. Growth equates to touching more customers, helping them to slow down, wake up, connect and feel better. Good for individuals and for society. So why not go for it – Grow to create jobs for society, and grow to foster the Human Connection movement? I’d love to do that, which I believe is the right thing to do especially in this economy. There is a need for this, and Samovar is capable of adding real value here. Just take a look at the dire state of things and how desperately we need an injection of good business. A quick look at the press tells the story well.

Even if you’re making $10M+, the business needs to pledge a bank-owned CD equal to the amount of the loan.

However, coming from the perspective of the small business owner in America, the bureaucracy simply disallows it. Seriously. Some people would assume that in having the most expensive tea in the world (a cup of chai runs you $6) that Samovar is flush with cash and capable of opening up another location on a whim. Not true. We do have the most expensive tea in the world. However we also have a great city (San Francisco) in which to do business. And this city places a very heavy financial burden on businesses who choose to reside here. This burden eats away at the potential to expand. There are two main impediments to our expansion, to Samovar’s creating jobs and creating happy people:

If you want to do business in this Cool city, then you’ve got to pay the cool tax.

1.Repeal the San Francisco Cool Tax

If you want to do business in this Cool city, then you’ve got to pay the cool tax. That includes over $10/hour minimum wage (the highest in the country), $1.36/hour worked for every employee for health insurance, a tax on the total employe payroll for the year (not profit, but payroll), and a limitless list of licenses and permits – just to name a few. In fact, in regards to the health insurance, if a company employs over 99 employees, the fee goes up to $2.37 per hour worked, per employee. In other words, a company is penalized by growing to over 99 employees – Amazing! (Here’s a recent article on some of the challenges of doing business in SF).

To be clear – I am not complaining. These are just the costs of doing business in such a great, Cool city. The challenge is that as the costs mount, in order to stay in business, we’ve got to raise prices. And as the prices go up, the cost of living goes up, etc, etc. It becomes a bizarre cycle. And, as it appears that a business is penalized for growing, then I’ve got to ask – what’s the point in growing? I’d love to create jobs and broaden our mission here, locally, in San Francisco because I believe it would benefit so many. But the basic math, the business reality, is that it’s not possible because of infrastructure. If anyone has a solution, I’m all ears!

2. Unfreeze the Frozen Bank Money

You would have thought that with all the government financial injections, that banks would be eager to help successful businesses (like Samovar, with 9 years of operating history) stimulate the economy by helping businesses create jobs. Jobs will stimulate the economy right? Reading the news today it seems so anyway. No way. No bank I spoke with will lend to a small business doing under $10,000,000 in sales. On top of that, even if you are doing $10M+, the business needs to pledge in a bank-owned CD an amount of cash equal to the amount of the loan. But if you had the cash, you wouldn’t need the loan. In short they make it impossible to borrow money, with which to expand, create jobs, and stimulate the economy. Money is just frozen in banks doing nothing. Again, if any reader has the answer, please let me know.

In the meantime I’m grateful to have such a phenomenal team that makes Samovar special, a great city with customers who believe in what we do, and farmers from around the world who support us with their amazingly fresh, delicious and healthy, world class tea. For now we will stay small, simple, and connect with those people who find us in our three SF locations or on our website – continuing to create positive human connection with the business that we have.

I would love to hear what others believe would be ways for us to improve our business, and foster the mission of positive human connection. Please add your comments to this post.

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