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A Cup of Tea with the President

Listen as Tom Lisicki, the President of Stash Tea, shares the challenges he faces in selling his tea in other countries and what it was like to meet President Obama, who is trying to tackle those challenges with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

An early morning. A rainy afternoon. A blizzard, a banquet, an evening with a Brit: It's hard to find an occasion that isn't complemented by a good cup of tea. 

Bringing that comfort to kitchen tables around the world is the mission of Tom Lisicki, the President of Stash Tea Company, a small business just outside of Portland, Oregon. Stash Tea employees make a variety of specialty teas that they sell across the United States and the globe -- in Canada, Brazil, Latvia, and more. "Now, we're selling in 30 different countries like Mongolia, which is kind of surprising to me," he said.

But the challenges businesses like Tom's can face range from the mildly frustrating to the downright ridiculous. For example, one of Tom's organic green teas comes from Brazil. It's certified in Brazil. But, because of certain trade barriers, Stash Tea can't sell that tea in Brazil. 

Stash Tea is just one of the many small businesses that depend on exports to help them expand and hire but face hurdles when attempting to sell their goods overseas -- an issue President Obama understands and is trying to make easier through new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the most progressive trade agreement in history.

So, recently, Tom and a few other small business exporters traveled to the White House to have tea (or coffee) with the President and talk about the challenges small businesses like Stash Tea face in selling their products abroad. 

See what the President had to say after they met:

Following the small business roundtable, Tom reflected on how he got steeped in the tea business, the trade obstacles he hopes to overcome so he can create more jobs, and how the President's trade deal can help. Listen to his answers below:

How did you get into the tea business? 

"Kind of by accident. ... It was the granola days."

What are some of the challenges you face when you are exporting tea?

"We sell tea to China, but our most popular tea we can’t sell because there is an ingredient in it, that we actually import from China, but they will not allow us to sell it back to them, which seems kinda bizarre."

How do you think the Trans-Pacific Partnership can help?

"To be able to have more trade agreements, it could definitely make it a lot easier for us."

What is one thing that the President said or one thing that you heard that left an impression?

"The biggest thing was that he’s making it very clear that he understands the importance to the economy of exporting."

Learn more about the President's trade deal and what it means for American workers and businesses: