A Mindful Approach to Business
by Leigh-Ellen Romm
Tea people appreciate a good pause. Todd and Tina Miller Howard, both ’99, expect that the time it takes to steep a proper cup of tea can help their customers at Leaves Book and Tea Shop slow down and connect. Tucked between a brewery and an art studio in Fort Worth, Texas, Leaves has no drive-through and no Wi-Fi … just tea and books.
“Leaves is a community gathering space where you are encouraged to pause from the hectic pace of life. That’s our primary vision,” Tina said. “Selling books and tea is the way we support that vision because reading a book requires someone to consider a particular topic for more than a 140-character tweet.”
The shop opened in September 2018 and has many faithful, enthusiastic customers. They come for the tea; they come for the books and for the special events including story time, writers’ forums, book club for business people, and late night gatherings for music, haiku, and other thoughtful things.
Tina and Todd met at Austin College, where she completed majors in Economics and Spanish, and he completed a major in Business. Although the Howards share ownership of Leaves, Todd also works as the Physician Recruitment Manager at Radiology Associates of North Texas in Fort Worth. Tina was self-employed as a photographer and writer before opening the shop, and she said she can connect the value of a liberal arts education to the daily decisions of small business ownership.
“A liberal arts education broadens your perspective and exposes you to many ways of thinking. It teaches you how to analyze and synthesize information in new ways and to recognize that there’s not just one way,” she said. “My liberal arts education not only gave me a basis of knowledge to explore more deeply for insight but also helped me to understand the value of continuing to expose myself to more than just my field of business.”
The business is a family affair; everyone, including their two young daughters, knows how to make tea and run the register. Tina said they made it through the first year of business with stress management and good friends. “And, underlying it all is the peace in knowing that we, as cheesy as it may sound, were called to do this,” she said.
“We count our success by creating an environment that allows people to take a pause, even if it’s for the few minutes they wait for their tea to steep,” she said. “And, it encourages people to connect face-to-face with others. When we look around the shop and see that happening, or when people share with us that our shop is their oasis, that makes it all worth it.”
Tina, an inaugural Austin College Leadership Institute Scholar in Fall Term 1995, recently hosted an after-hours College event at Leaves for best-selling mystery novelist Deborah Crombie ’77, alumni, and friends. Learn more about the shop.