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Entrepreneur Leigh Rawdon ’95 Stays True to Her Brand

Leigh Rawdon '95
Leigh Rawdon '95

Twice a year, Tea Collection designers go out into the world to draw inspiration from new experiences, people and cultures for their children's clothing collections. The intentional approach to creative work upholds the core values with which the company launched in 2002.

Today, Tea Collection CEO and Co-Founder Leigh Rawdon '95 and Emily Meyer, Tea's chief creative officer and co-founder, seek out experiences that focus less on what's trending and more on what resonates with their personal and company values. Their shared love of travel led to a business partnership, but their belief in doing the right thing and celebrating what people have in common, rather than their differences, is what inspires the work.

"By doing the right things for our customers, our staff and the community, we believe we're creating a built-to-last company," said Rawdon. "We make decisions that are good for the long term and that match our brand strategy."

In Silicon Valley, a built-to-last company does not come easy. There are thousands of entrepreneurs searching for the keys to success. Not only has the team at Tea established that built-to-last status, as they are a profitable and privately-held company, they also are making a difference around the world through their commitment to inspiring global connection and curiosity and making the foreign familiar.

Most recently, Tea Collection partnered with One World Play Project to launch Citizens Football Club (Citizens FC), a project that connects soccer-loving children around the world. Together, the partners sell, donate and distribute jerseys and soccer balls to youth worldwide. Through this program, Tea Collection and One World Play Project hope to bring children together through the transformative power of play.

"This partnership is one of the things I'm most proud of," said Rawdon. "It connects my personal life and our brand values, and it actually will have an impact in the world. It brings many things together for me, which is so, so special."

Wisdom From the Classroom

Rawdon was an English major at Davidson, a Stuart Scholar and the editor of the Davidsonian. She went on to earn her MBA at Harvard. She says Davidson formed a lot of who she is today --an entrepreneur with a strong work ethic, integrity and a commitment to doing the right thing.

"Davidson placed such a strong emphasis on having an authentic experience," she said. "Students don't go to Davidson because of a brand name; they know they are getting something deep and true. That value system has played out in the rest of my life."

Rawdon's experiences have also had an impact closer to home, as she has mentored students at Stanford University over the years. Her advice to budding entrepreneurs? "Know what you want." She also tries to say "yes" a lot, as many people have said "yes" to her along the way.

"People say they want to be entrepreneurs because they want to be their own boss, or they want to be rich and famous or they have a passion for the idea they are pursuing," she said, "but each of those reasons leads down a different path. The first step is to know what you want, and then you can build a business strategy. Last, you develop the financial strategy."

Rawdon says many budding entrepreneurs worry about the financials first and the business strategy second.

"I don't know that I even followed this advice completely," she said, "but we've been able to evolve in a way that supports our vision and goals to connect people around the world. Now, our business and financial strategy supports that."

Looking ahead, Rawdon hopes to continue building the Tea Collection brand and growing the mission-driven company. Her love for travel -- a passion that began in high school on a trip to France and grew at Davidson during a summer in Prague -- continues to inspire her daily work.

"People come from different backgrounds with different languages, clothes and food," she said. "Ultimately, we all have a common humanity, and as a company, we try to bring the beauty of the world home to our customers."