Tina Roth Eisenberg is a New York based, Swiss born and raised graphic designer. Over the past nine years, Tina (aka design blogger @swissmiss) has started numerous side projects that have organically turned into businesses: a collaborative co-working space called FRIENDS, a global, monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, a simple to-do app called TeuxDeux and Tattly, a designer temporary tattoo shop. Kelly Hoey and Tina chat about how having kids ignited Tina’s entrepreneurial career, how she became a serial creative entrepreneur, and how her #1 rule, invest in what you love, has served her well.
Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett, iBooks
Temporary Tattoos, Now for Grown-Ups, Too by Courtney Rubin, New York Times
An Exclusive Spotlight on How CreativeMornings Runs 106+ Global Monthly Events by Carrie Melissa Jones, CMX
The Tale of Tattly: Temporary tats have staying power by Jane Wells, CNBC
15 successful startup founders who can also claim the title of ‘Mom’ by Biz Carson, Business Insider
The Rise of Moms as Technology Entrepreneurs by Elena Krasnoperova, Medium
Company culture tips from Netflix, Zappos, Atlasssian by Michael Feferman, Venture Beat
Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.
TINA ROTH EISENBERG - Tina is a New York based, Swiss born and raised graphic designer. Over the past nine years she started numerous side projects that have organically turned into businesses: a collaborative co-working space called FRIENDS, a global, monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, a simple to-do app called TeuxDeux and Tattly, a designer temporary tattoo shop. Tina is often referred to as Swissmiss after her popular design blog which is also the name of her Twitter handle.
Tina: I have a personal rule that if I keep complaining about something repeatedly, I have two options: do something about it or let it go.
Kelly: I'm Kelly Hoey, host of Broad Mic. I speak with the most accomplished entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders about the issues that matter in building a business. You will get the inspiration as well as the picks and shovels you need to become a better entrepreneur. Be inspired, take action, think broad.
Today in the Broad Mic studio, I have Tina Roth Eisenberg, a New York-based Swiss-born and raised graphic designer. Over the past nine years she has started numerous side projects that have organically turned into businesses, a collaborative co-working space called Friends, a global monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, a simple to-do app called TeuxDeux, which is my favourite, and Tattly, a designer temporary tattoo shop.
Today I'm going talk with Tina about how Tina became a serial creative entrepreneur, how having kids was the start of her entrepreneurial journey, and how her number one rule, "invest in what you love," has served her well. Welcome, Tina.
Tina: Thank you so much for having me.
Kelly: So let's start way back. What factors do you think influenced you? Anything in your childhood, in your imagination there in the Swiss hills, anything that kind of influenced you to become an entrepreneur?
Tina: Oh, yes. So many. Well, first of all, just imagine I grew up in a 3,000 people town in the rolling green hills with the Alps in the background in Switzerland with cows in front of my door.
Kelly: Just like where we are now.
Tina: Yes. So very serene, very beautiful, lots of fresh air. But I think what I didn't realize as a kid, but now as a mother that runs two, three, four businesses, what I didn't realize is that how my parents who were entrepreneurs influenced me. So every lunch conversation, every dinner conversation, of course there were some entrepreneur conversations sprinkled in there and that you just listened to as a kid, right? You sort of just take it in. Or seeing my dad after dinner going back into his office and loving what he did and work in building a business, and seeing the joy that he had in building these startups that he did at the time, or seeing my mom leaving every morning at 7:00 in the morning. She ran a really high end, very big clothing store. Like we're talking 3 storeys, 30 employees, and every morning at 7:00 she left. She was a hard worker. She got so much fulfillment out of her work, so did my dad.
And as a kid that was just my reality, that's just what it is. But as you get older and you start working in different work environments you realize there's a lot of really miserable people out there that don't like what they do. And so all of a sudden, just like normal, I realized it was not normal, right? And so I'm incredibly grateful that my parents sort of just influenced me organically by their modeling behavior that you can run your own business and you can love it. And I think that's kind of what rubbed off on me.
Kelly: That's such a great story, and I'm thinking of Sir Richard Branson who someone asked him what it was in his life that made him such a great entrepreneur, and his answer was, "I came from a loving family."
Kelly: A lot of men in the room at the World Business Forum were a little upset with that answer. They were in suits, they wanted something tangible to touch on, and mom was not the answer.
Tina: But you know, I need to counter this though because my sister was just visiting, she's three years older, and I had this very deep conversation with her on a subway platform where actually she would counter this in saying, "That's exactly why I didn't become an entrepreneur." She went the complete opposite. To her, the experience of growing up with entrepreneurial parents was so different. Like I actually remember, of course, it was hard, there were moments where my parents were very distracted because of it, but maybe I was too young, but I don't remember those hardship moments as something I would never want. My sister did. I mean, she's like, "Never will I ever start my own company." Which is so fascinating. She's probably just a type that just repels, whatever. But to her that must...it must've sunk in so deeply that she actually would never ever consider running her own company.
Kelly: That's amazing. That's amazing. So you consider Tattly, TeuxDeux, and your blog, and CreativeMornings, to be side projects at one point.
Kelly: And when did you know it was the right time to flip it from the side project?
Tina: Well, so the blog which was basically the catalyst for all of it. So in 2005 I just kept finding things on the web that I wanted to...that I kept emailing to friends and they were like, "Oh, come on. Stop emailing me this stuff." And so I realized, "All right, I need to have an outlet where I can collect this." And you've got to understand, this was before Pinterest and Tumblr and all these tools were around that made it easy to collect your stuff online. And so the next best thing was just I pulled up Typepad, and I was like, "I need a URL." And I was like, "I need a name. Swiss Miss, that's what they call me." And it was born and it was literally just an archive for myself. And then all of a sudden I realized I started looking at the stats, I was like, "Oh, I had a lot of people tuning in." And then all of a sudden I was offered money for...I was invited to be on the Deck, Coudal Deck Network which was really prestigious. Still is. And I was like, "Ooh, I should take this seriously." These things always were out of just a labor of love, something I love doing. And then the universe would send me kind of like, "You can make money with this," in a tasteful way, right? So those were always just moments like, "Oh."
Kelly: I just want to do this, it would be handy for me to win and I can stop annoying my friends. But all of a sudden it's a business.
Tina: So I just want to bust a myth that you all think that I'm just really smart about all these things. They really just always fell on my lap. I really want to say that of all the things I've kind of started, same with CreativeMornings, the same with TeuxDeux, like they all...I usually give away...I always give everything...that's my main mode is, "This is fun. I'll give it to you for free." It still is. And I also believe that the generosity model actually pays off in some weird way. Like being generous in time, attention, or just whatever it is, has always, for me, paid off in the end. And it has always organically then manifested, and not always just money, also connections or opportunities that then open up.
Kelly: So let's jump into these businesses.
Kelly: What was the origin...I know the answer to this question, but I want you to tell everybody else. What was the origin of CreativeMornings?
Tina: So CreativeMornings came out of two ideas. So, basically I was very fortunate because of the popularity of my blog that I would be invited to a lot of conferences either to speak or to attend and cover it. And I would oftentimes get these emails afterwards of like junior designers or other people in the industry, it's like, "You know, you're so lucky you get to see all my heroes speak at all these conferences." And conferences are expensive, right? They're time-consuming, they happen once a year, and I was like, "Man, there are so many people that want to go to these that want to connect." The reason why we get together like here is that we want to connect. And I was like, "There needs to be something simpler and more accessible for everyone." Again, the giving away for free thing. You've got to see, it's a theme here. And at the same time I just started a co-working space before co-working spaces were a thing. I didn't even know I did that. I just created a room with other people that did entrepreneurial creative things and I was inspired by it so...I wanted to be inspired, basically, and I just rented out desks.
So when I realized, "Wait, I have a space so I can make this happen." So once a month I opened my doors, I invited people to come in, just the creative industry, to come for coffee and for talk and then that just took off. For two years I ran it by myself here in New York and it was basically sort of what we're experiencing here right now. And every month the group would get a little bigger. It started out with 30 people, and then it was 50, and now we're 70, and now we fill a 500 people room in like under a minute when sign-up opens up.
Kelly: I know. I've been on the end of...
Tina: On that?
Kelly: ... a minute and a half.
Tina: But you know, you have a connection.
Kelly: I've got my secret connection.
Tina: But now also we have grown into a 145 chapter organization in over 55 countries. So over 15,000 people get together every month and it's completely free in every city.
Kelly: But to get the emails and sign up you've got to go to CreativeMornings and become a member.
Tina: Yeah, you go to CreativeMornings.com and you look for your city. If there is no city where you are you should apply and start a chapter. You can become the ambassador. Just go to the bottom of the website, it says "Start a Chapter." We grow by about five to six cities a month which is really my mind-blowing. I had kind of an emotional last month when I saw the photos roll in. So every chapter around the world puts on these events on a volunteer basis and then they upload the talks and photos of the events. So I always have what I call my Oprah-Pharrell moment. I don't know if any of you have seen this, where Oprah made Pharrell cry when she showed him all of the remixes of "Happy." And I kind of have that moment when I see the photos roll in from around the world from these events, and I got really emotional when I saw photos from the first event in Jerusalem roll in. And I was like, "Wow, I created something that is now taking a life on it's own that gets people together that creates a safe space for the creative community to meet and is completely accessible in a place like Jerusalem." And that really moved me.
And CreativeMornings is way beyond me at this point. This is like a group of 1,500 volunteers around the world that just keep growing. I couldn't even turn it off anymore which is just the most beautiful thought ever. Like if we would stop HQs here in Brooklyn, we're a team of 5. Like if we would just, say, we stop doing what we're doing, this thing would continue. And there's nothing more beautiful than knowing you've started something that has a pulse on it's own.
Kelly: Well, let's stop and talk about that just for a second. Let me go off kind of script on some of these questions. You're headquarters at five.
Kelly: So how are you scaling that business?
Tina: We should be ten.
Kelly: We're women. We're efficient. We multitask. Okay, yeah, I get that.
Tina: It literally is five women, I'm not kidding. You know how some people always tell me, "I have such a hard time hiring women." I was like, "I can't hire men for the life of me."
Kelly: Show me a good glorified man, I'd be really interested. Just find one, yeah.
Tina: No, to be honest, we're highly understaffed but I also want to keep it scrappy. I believe in scrappy. I believe I do better work when I have to be somewhat scrappy, and the nature of CreativeMornings will always be an organization that is somewhat has to improvise and has to figure things out on low budget. I feel like that's where the beauty lies. I never want to have an overhead of a 150 people and turn into this big media organization, or whatever. I don't aspire to become Ted. Ted is great, but I don't want to be that. I want to be that grassroots scrappy organization that can...
Kelly: People always say, in terms of creativity, or getting things done, they say, "Think outside the box." I'm like, "No, no, no, no, get in that box. Get in those limitations and those restraints, and now get really creative because you don't have the time, you don't have the budget, you don't have endless..."
Tina: I'm the most creative when you have those limitations, right?
Kelly: Yeah. Like, yeah, you don't have all the resources in the world. What do you do? Okay, how can I make this happen? Let's go to one of my next favorite of your businesses. How did Tattly come about?
Tina: So Tattly was a joke. The joke is on me now. So we're turning five this July. So five and a half years ago my daughter, at the time five, six-ish, came home from a birthday party and opened her goodie bag and yet again brought out these really hideous temporary tattoos, and they were such an insult to [inaudible 00:12:23] aesthetic, and she asked me to put them on her, and I have this rule, I have a personal rule that if I keep complaining about something repeatedly, I have two options: do something about it or let it go. Like complaining just does nothing for me. And I sat there, I was like, "This is it. I have complained in my head about the status of temporary tattoos in this world so many times." And then I was like, "Tina, you're so silly. You're a graphic designer, you do web design for a living, you have an incredible network of artists and illustrator friends. Come on."
So I started researching at night. I could barely go to bed and I emailed my friends and said, "Hey, what would you say if I made a cool, small website and we sold some cool temporary tattoos. You know, skin, new canvass. You want to make something?" The next day I had designs in my inbox. So, fast forward two months later, we launched Tattly.com with 16 designs by some of my dear friends, designers, well-respected illustrators and artists. And then, lucky me, I have the blog so I launched it, and it's the first time I blogged something that was my product, right? I didn't think about it that, "Okay. Here you are, Tina, for years you've been celebrating and shining the light on other people's stuff." And I've sort of become known for trying to elevate people that just launched something. That was always my biggest cake. Like when I get an email saying, "You blogged about my, whatever, cupcakes and now I was able to quit my job, and I started a bakery, and best thing ever." Right?
So I didn't realize all of that karma that I have built up over the years when I said, "Hey, here, I started Tattly. Fun." And I thought I'm going to send maybe 50 orders a month, it's just going to be that little thing.
Kelly: A little hobby, a little side project.
Tina: Yeah. So the first day we had over a 100 orders. We were like, "Oh." We stood next to the printer, we were like, "Oh, look at that." So the orders kept coming out. We were kind of in a state of shock. But the moment where it really hit me was the next day when my phone rings, and there was this very charming buyer from the Tate Modern shop in London.
Kelly: I love this story.
Tina: And he asked me for a wholesale catalog. I was so cool on that phone call. I was like, "Absolutely. No problem." I took his info, and I hung up, and I literally screamed and looked at my studio mate, Cameron, and I said, "Cameron, what is a wholesale catalog?" And I called up my friend who had a product company. She said, "Tina, let me sit you down." And then we made packaging and we made a wholesale catalog, and now we're in over 1,000 stores around the world. We ship globally. We're a team of 16 that ship everything out of Brooklyn and it's amazing.
Kelly: And that company really showed you, too, we refer to it affectionately, the Swiss Miss effect of websites crashing.
Tina: Yeah, I had it on myself which was kind of nice. Yeah.
Kelly: Crashing on website, there's your karma. Crashing everyone else's when you blog about them on your, you know.
Tina: That was really quite a moment, and I love the internet so much that I had to buy yayinternet.com, and there's an animated GIF that my friend Jen Mussari made with cats and cosmos and it says "Yay Internet" on it. That's all it does.
Kelly: It's the best. That is absolutely the best. Before we talk about TeuxDeux, because as I say, it is...
Tina: You are my biggest fan of TeuxDeux, you know that, right?
Kelly: It's the world's greatest to-do list. It seriously does what it's supposed to do and we will talk about the flying cat which really makes my day. But let's talk about...let's go back to this with your companies and the timing of the starting of them. You're doing this when you're a mom, or becoming a mom.
Tina: Yeah, I had this weird thing happen to me that as I got more and more pregnant with my daughter, who just turned 10, I sort of took inventory of my life. I went deep. I was like, "Wait a second, Tina, you're becoming a mom." And it's such a milestone. It's such like a grownup moment. I was like, "Tina, you've got to stop this fooling yourself. There's all these dreams you had that you have not even started tackling." And one of them was I always knew that I want to have my own company at some point but in some weird way I think I was waiting for this angelic moment where this angelic choir comes down and says, "Tina, start your company now." And then I realized that is just...that's never going to happen.
And then I thought, "Why not now?" So I literally started my own design studio when my daughter was born which was a bit nuts. But the universe was sending me signals that my first client was [inaudible 00:15:53] right away, and I was like, "Okay. Okay. I think they're nudging me to do this." So I started my own design studio when my daughter was born, and she was really the catalyst. I was like, "You know what, I've got to be a role model to this little kid now. I've got live my dreams. I've got be bold." And then, funny enough, three years later, when I got pregnant with my son I was kind of afraid it would happen again and the whole inventory thing.
Kelly: The world's greatest birth control. I may start another company.
Tina: A company, yeah. For sure, I would not have another kid. So the same thing happened again, and I sort of took inventory of my life. At that point then with running my design studio, which was really busy, I had more clients than I could actually handle, and I've realized, "I really didn't want to have clients." I was like, "Wait. This is not what I want." And I looked at what I actually wanted to do and it was these little side projects that I've started already. And I was like, "You know what, I'm lucky enough that my blog makes some passive income that I can allow myself," and granted this was with the blessing of my husband, because this is like a joint conversation, that he's like, "You know what, I want to do a one year sabbatical. I want to see what happens if I can free some brain space and just time to work on my own things."
And that's really when I did that sabbatical, like instantly TeuxDeux happened and then Tattly came shortly after and CreativeMornings started blooming. It was amazing what happens when you just give yourself a moment to allow these things that are probably already blooming in your life, or they were just ready for you, or they're waiting for you to give them some love. So pour some love onto it and that's really when it all took off.
Kelly: I want to quickly go back to CreativeMornings for a second, but that one, too, in terms of nurturing it until turning it into, I want to say...not that it wasn't powerful before, but this powerful community that a lot of people want to get in front of. You didn't take sponsors for the first two years, correct?
Tina: For the first two years, no. I just had, for example, FreshBooks was the first company who paid for the first breakfast. So I had local sponsors that just paid for breakfast, but globally I haven't taken any sponsorship money, global partnership money until like five years in, four years or five years in, yeah.
Tina: I was just afraid I'm going to break it. And also the other thing was that I knew that I have high aspirations and kind of flipped the sponsorship model on it's head a bit. I feel like it really needs a reinvention and it needs a refreshing of not just having banners everywhere around this stage and stuff. There needs to be something. So I had that aspiration and I knew I only have pull if we have become such an undeniable force that they want us so bad that they're going to obey or go by my rules, or at least a little bit. Because we got so many companies...you know, brands love everything grassroots, so we got inquiries on a daily basis, but I was like, "No, we're not there yet. We're not big enough yet that we can say how we want it to be done." And sure enough when we did start the global partnerships, brands were so crazy about us that we could be really, really picky on who we want to work with and what that partnership is going to look like.
Kelly: Which is, I want to say, a powerful lesson for anyone who is looking for outside money, they make their business, or venture grow, is wait 'until that right time where you get to call the shots versus if you would say, "Oh, no. I can't do this unless I have someone come in and write a check."
Tina: And I'm not saying this is the only way you can do it, I am just very, very protective of the things I build. And I'm also Swiss so I'm probably overly-cautious at times with things like this.
Kelly: You're talking to a Canadian, so you got that going on. You talked about your team being, I want to say, with CreativeMornings, all women. What do you look for in a team?
Tina: It's not always been all women, it just currently is. When I look for a team, I have one hiring rule, and so the nature of how I run my company is very unusual, I think, in that because I bounce around so much that I actually...I will never breathe down your neck, I will never over-analyze what you're doing because I just trust you. And the only way that works is that I will only hire people that have a side project mentality. When I interview you, we're probably going to go for a walk and I'm going to say, "So tell me, what it excites you? What are the things you're crazy about? What lights you up?"
And then I want to hear someone spew all of these side projects they've started, or projects they're working on, or I just need to see that fire, and this like, "I had an idea and I executed on it." And if I don't see that, I will not hire you because you're not going to thrive with me, because we've got to throw things at you, and then you just got to be entrepreneurial enough and just driven enough to just catch them and run with it. And that just asks for a certain type of personality.
Kelly: Do you think culture can be a competitive advantage? Like company culture as a competitive advantage.
Tina: Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. You mean in hiring?
Kelly: In hiring and scaling and...
Tina: Yeah, totally. Yes, I actually think that's the only reason why I got to hire the cool people I got to hire, because they hear about the freedom they get. Also I have zero tolerance for drama, like if you're a dramatic person I will kick you out myself.
Kelly: Or Broadway, we're at LMHQ right now. You're on Broadway, you just go further up Broadway if you need drama. Yeah, okay, got it.
Tina: So it's just like I'm very careful in who I bring into my teams because, to me, the people I spend my days with, the people I work with, that is the most important intentional community of my life, besides my family, of course. But just to tell you, like yesterday one of my most amazing employees of CreativeMornings resigned and I just sat there and I cried and she cried, and I was like, "Oh my God. I'm going to start crying again." And this is so hard. To me, I got so ridiculously attached to people I work with. They're more than employees. They have such an impact of my life. I'm going to start crying again. Anyway, so...[inaudible 00:23:36]...
Kelly: Let's talk about the glitter then.
Tina: Okay. Let's go happy. No, it's not glitter. Glitter is the herpes of the crafts world. I don't like glitter. Confetti.
Kelly: Confetti, right.
Tina: Okay, let's go happy. Yeah, so one of the things I believe in running my businesses is that you need to have fun. You need to sprinkle a possibility of a smile in everything you do all day long and that manifests in different ways in how I run my companies. And one of that, for example, in CreativeMornings, when you like a talk, it rains hearts, which makes me so happy. Or if you go on a CreativeMornings community you can filter by signal. That got no reaction out of there. That was amazing. There's no single people in here? They have never tried to find...
Kelly: No, no, you go and sign up for CreativeMornings and it will ask if you were single, and it's like, "Heck, you never know." You can't get a date on whatever, Hello Cupid. Maybe get a date on CreativeMornings. What the heck?
Tina: Like-minded people. Or the Confetti Drawer is my all-time favorite thing. We have this big drawer at Tattly that is filled to the brim with confetti, and so first of all you need emergency confetti. You never know. And then also when you check out on Tattly.com you can check the confetti checkbox and then we'll fill you a package with confetti but we also had to learn that we also need to give people a warning because you might piss them off. So there's this like a warning, a confetti warning sticker outside on the package. You've got to be respectful.
Kelly: You've got to do it. And I've got a confetti story for you later that I think you'll really appreciate. Okay. Let's go to my favorite.
Kelly: TeuxDeux. My Virgo. I'm like a checklist. Okay. Let's talk about how that came about. Let's talk about Cameron. Let's talk about sitting at that table.
Tina: Okay. So this is in 2010. I was just getting up to sit down in my co-worker space, and I have lunch and I walk by and my studio mate's, Cameron's desk, and I see an easy to-do app that I really didn't like. So I said, "Hey, Cameron, let's sit down. Let's talk about why you like this app." So we sat down and...
Kelly: Did it offend your Swiss aesthetics?
Tina: No, no, no, I just wanted to know like maybe I just didn't use it right. Sometimes you have to work with something for a little while. So we sat down and the lunch conversation came on to-do apps, and then I got really passionate, I kind of started ranting. I was like, "The ideal to-do app would look like this for me. I need it in a browser. It needs to be a week. It needs to be as close to paper as possible because I like to check things off." And but the thing about paper lists is that you have to write it again the next day. That's just annoying. If it only rolled over. So I'm like, "Bleh," and he just looks at me and goes, "Tina, just design it. I'll build it for you." And even though I...
Kelly: Get her off the ledge.
Tina: Yeah, and even though...this was one of these key moments where being in this co-working space has changed everything for me. Even though I built apps, interfaces for other people, I didn't connect it that I could make it for myself, right? So I sat down the next day, I designed for three hours, I gave it to Cameron and his friend Evan to develop. Sure enough, 48 hours, working prototype. And we started using it in our space and then everyone that came in asked, "Hey, what is that? That's cool. Can I have it, too?" So we had to hardcode people in. We just built this for us and our friends. And eventually I said, "Come on, Cameron, let's just make a really silly simple marketing site where people can just sign up on their own so we don't constantly have to do these like hardcoding users in."
And then in December of 2010, like Cameron made a silly slightly offensive video, now in hindsight, but it was just...I feel we gave away for free, right? It was just, "Hey, friends. We made this. Like it's a to-do app. It's simple. It's like paper. Here you go, use it." So we launched it in 2010. I blogged about it again, and then about three hours later, I looked at Cameron, and Cameron is green in his face. And I say, "Cameron, what's going on?" And I see him look at some stat stuff, and he goes, "We have signups by the thousands. I don't know what's going on." And then he started digging. Seth Godin wrote about it, like all of the big people picked it up right away. But the best part was, and this is the kicker, Fast Company wrote about it two hours after we launched and called it, "The best to-do app of 2010." It was December, you know. And then we were like, "Oops, that's not what we intended." And then the funny thing was that we got picked up by the church.
Kelly: Okay. I wanted you to tell the nun story.
Tina: Ah, it's the best thing ever, so cute. Okay. So we had priests and nuns, apparently they had like lists. It's cool. I like lists, too.
Kelly: Well whe you show up at the pearly gates St. Peter's got a list, so, you know, you've got to get through it in this lifetime. Okay.
Tina: So but the cutest thing was... so again, we made this for ourselves and for our friends. So our alert messages, they were all kind of obscure and very odd humor. So one of them was, for example, if you didn't have internet connection this alert came up and said, "Danger! Danger! High voltage! Can't sync." Like in really small. And this nun emails us and she goes, "Dear Team TeuxDeux, I just got this iPod Touch," or whatever it was at the time, "and I really care about it, and I'm really worried about...does this message...is it breaking my iPod Touch?" I'm like, "Cameron, we need to change the messages."
So then fast forward two years later, we realized it costs a lot of money to maintaining an app and the service. So we had to switch from the free model to paid which hurt us because we were hoping we could keep it free forever. But now we just make enough so we can maintain it, and it's not really a business, it's just what we love to do. And by the way, you're going to be so happy...
Kelly: Is there a new flying cat?
Tina: No, but we're coming out with a...because the iPhone app right now, as it is, I'm not that proud of. It's the web app is where it's at. And to keep a way of our TeuxDeux app is that you make it your browser window. So every time you open up your browser window, it hits you over the head what you need to get done instead of browsing, you know. But we're coming out with a new iPhone app and it's so good. I can show it to you afterwards. I have it on my phone. It's so good.
Kelly: Okay. So I want to explain to everybody. When you check something off on your to-do list, there's a flying cat that goes across the screen.
Tina: You can also turn it off.
Kelly: No, no, no. It's like you don't want to turn that off because there's something satisfying about crossing something off a list and then double satisfying when you get like rainbow flying cat across the screen.
Tina: I'm so glad you appreciate those.
Kelly: I know. And I do like the humor.
Tina: I want to talk about something that I love too much that Cameron came up with when we had to go to the paid model. We really thought about how we're going to phrase it. And he's so brilliant, so when you sign up, you can test it for free for 30 days, but then when you have to sign up there's two modes, there's the skeptic mode and the believer mode. The skeptic goes monthly and the believer goes yearly. And I can't even tell you how many times, like after I speak at a conference or something, people come to us, "I'm a believer." And you know, people look, "What is she talking about?" Right? But I'm like, "I got you." Awesome, right? I love it.
Kelly: You're like the Monkees, like that song play when people check off, you know, on I'm a believer and pay for TeuxDeux. That just shows how old I am.
Tina: I'm not following you.
Kelly: No, no, you know what, I'm going to send you the YouTube videos of the Monkees. You'll know what I'm talking about.
Kelly: So, what else do I want to talk to you about? Okay, we've talked about going to the paid app model, because I think it is one of those interesting things. You need to decide at some point, the internet is great but you've got to pay for some of these things. How do you sort of figure out who your customer base is? Has there been a pattern or logic that you've followed, figured out what each of your businesses who your actual customer is? Or is it just sort of...
Tina: I should probably be way more analytical than I am about this, yeah.
Kelly: You just watch and see who it is?
Tina: Yeah, I mean, we just had, for example, yesterday with Tattly, because we never had really a deep dive into who our user base is, but yesterday we kind of had a product site and we had a product meeting where we talked about upcoming designs and stuff, and then we kind of really looked at our bestsellers and we're like, "Guys," because I started this sort of for my design nerdy crowd. We still have those designs. But when we looked at all the bestsellers, it was like floral, gold bracelets, butterflies. I was like, "Ah, we just have to really embrace the fact that the girly lady customer is probably our main customer." Yeah.
Kelly: I'm just also kind of imagining you pitching a BEC [SP] with TeuxDeux and explaining to them that your market segment was the church.
Tina: Yeah, that's kind of cool though, come on.
Kelly: I know. I think it's totally cool, but it's like so funny to think about, "We're going after nuns."
Tina: No, TeuxDeux is definitely getting things done, list lovers. And I don't think you can say that's a woman or a man or young or old. That's just if you're a list-maker you're a list-maker.
Kelly: Right. Right. And I think it's also when you think about all these productivity tools, what do you want it to do? And for me a productivity tool that is trying to be like a Swiss Army knife, no offense, I don't want a Swiss Army knife. I want it to do one thing. I want my to-do list to do one thing and have a flying cat. You've talked in the past about the importance of labors of love.
Kelly: Why is that important?
Tina: Well, I think, first of all, a lot of the successes of the things I've started I think come out of the fact that I really started them because they're either fixing a problem or just a need, something I want to see in the world. So they come from like this pure kind of passionate place, right? And then, as I always said, the money part always came later. It was never the goal to make money, right? So when you start something as a labor of love, and I'm really believing this, people latch on to it and feel it in a different way. I'm a real feeler. I'm all about energy, and I think that changes the nature. If I would've started Tattly right from the beginning like, "This is all about making money," I would've made decisions at a different place. I would've made them from a different place and they would've felt differently. It's like CreativeMornings, like there's nothing better than people...you see them come for the first time, they're really skeptical, they kind of like having their guard up, and then they send us these emails in the follow-up after the event and they go like, "Okay. I admit. I was waiting to be pitched and to be sold, and there was nothing."
And then everything shifts. Like when they realized, "Oh my God, people love what they do here and they pour in there an extra layer of love on top of it." And I feel like in today's day and age there's not enough of that. Because we're constantly, I don't know about you guys, but I'm constantly kind of like, "Okay, what are they going to pitch me? Oh, they want my email address again. Oh my God, I'm going to get..." No. If you take that off and you can actually win that person's trust, they will get so loyal with your brand, they will become so loyal they will follow you over a cliff, right? And I think that's what this world needs more of.
Kelly: I will follow the flying cat over the cliff for you. I can say that. No, absolutely. Absolutely. As a creative person, how do you deal with roadblocks? What's your suggestions on how to work through those, I want to say, those roadblocks we all hit in our imagination and our thought process and our innovation?
Tina: You've just got to flip them. You've just got to flip them. As we've said, I'm a graphic designer by trade. Graphic designers love constraints, and in some way a roadblock is nothing else but a constraint. And this is one of the things I say all the time at Tattly and at CreativeMornings. When we hit a roadblock, when there's a problem...just to give you an example, so we say flip it. We've got to flip this thing. And with that, I mean turn it on its head and turn it into something good. So just to give you an example, CreativeMornings, the beauty was that we were able to...like this group of 50, 60, 70 people to go to companies that would invite us in, and people love seeing other people's faces and I loved the intimacy of the small events. We've grown to 400, 500 people events, and intimacy has gone and we're just big theaters. And I was mourning that of it. I felt like, "Oh, man. I wish the nimbleness was still there."
At the same time, our waiting list grew to like 800 every single time, and I said, "There's 800 people that still want to go get together. Like this is what it's all about." So I said, "Why don't we combine these 2 things and make it into something good?" So that's when we sat down, and, "How can we turn this on its head and make it good?" So what we did is said, "For all the people that are on the wait list that don't get in on that Monday when sign-up starts, on Tuesday you get an email that tells you about field trips." So we started reaching out to companies that love us that actually want to host something small because people always come to us, "How can we help?" And we said, "You know what, you didn't get in on the main event, but guess what? You can go to these 12 little workshops that are put on by IU and Shutterstock and intellectual property lawyer and you can learn how to make ice cream." So it's the community now stepping up, companies, individuals that can teach something or host something.
And now being on the wait list is awesome. And that was one of my favorite models ever or examples ever to turn the seemingly bad into something good. And now people get on the wait list on purpose because they don't want to be on the big events so they can get on to more intimate events.
Kelly: Oh, get me on the wait list, yeah. Well, the field trips are great. I've gone on the field trips, they're fantastic. And I know there have been a few times when you sort of felt like, "Whew."
Tina: I want to go to the field trip but I can't because it happens at the same time as the main event so I kind of got to be in the main event.
Kelly: You pretend you're somewhere else and not tweet about it. We've talked about one of your rules for how you live your work life and that's like don't complain or change something, don't continue to complain about it. Can you share one of your other rules for work that you live by?
Tina: One of my big ones is if you say yes you've got to really say yes. So with that I mean...and we talk about this with my team a lot. When I say yes to something, I'm willing to go all the way, and I am all in and I will not under-deliver. And if you really think about that in your head...like sometimes when we take something on, and we're like, "Okay. Are we ready for this partnership," or whatever it is, "Am I ready to really work this and go all the way and give a 120%? Am I that in? Am I really believing in this?" Because I feel like there's too many people saying yes and then not going all the way. And there's nothing worse than a half-ass yes.
Kelly: Yeah, it's like sort of a lukewarm yes, in saying yes rather than being brave enough to say, "No, I can't do this," or, "No, it's not the right time."
Tina: Or just no to commitment, and then you have to figure shit up, you have to make it happen. And that rule has helped us sometimes re-frame and really test our commitment to whatever we're just about to say yes to. And has actually prevented us...like there was one moment, I'm not proud of it that I went this far to actually almost get to an agreement of a partnership, to then realize and I have sleepless night the night before, I was like, "I am not 100% sure I'm going to give it all." I was kind of like...and I had like come to Jesus moment with myself and I'd rather embarrassed myself in that moment than like a year in and saying, "You know what, I'm really not feeling this." I kind of had a gut feeling about it right before I signed the agreement. So if you say yes, you really have to mean it and go all the way.
Kelly: Excellent advice. I think we've already touched on this one. Are you starting anything new we should know about?
Tina: No, it's like with shoes. If a new pair comes in, one needs to go.
Kelly: Well, maybe in your world, not mine.
Tina: I know. Not in your world. I know that, Kelly, I know that. If you follow her on Instagram there's lots of shoes on there.
Kelly: Oh, I want to say...
Tina: Really, really great. Shout out to your shoe gate, man.
Kelly: Oh, thank you. I want to say if I started business in relation to my shoes, I would be such a mogul. Oh my God. Has mentorship an important factor in your success?
Tina: No, I wish that concept of mentorship would've been something that I would've grasped. Really, that's something I want to teach my kids and often talked to my younger employees about it is...I don't know why. I think in Switzerland I grew up with this mentality of like you could sort of have a mentor, but I think it would've helped me a lot if I could've identified someone that I really admired and looked up to and looked up to their values and the way they lived their life, and maybe just walk up to them, so like, "Would you mind to maybe just here and there sit down with me?" And I feel like I kind of do it that with some people in my life. It's never officially been a mentorship but I kind of feel like I'm trying to be that person that can help them nudge along in their career. So I would say to any young person out there, look for that person that you can even...I mean, it's a very flattering thing if somebody come up to you and says, "Hey, I would love for you to sort of mentor me a little bit." Yeah, I feel like I missed out on that one.
Kelly: Yeah, and some of it is turning to people and asking for help, and I like your idea, too, like who do you look to in terms of the values and the way they live their life and conduct their business that you're thinking, "Okay, they can be my north star on some of these issues."
Tina: And I also feel like there's a really great quote, I'm going to butcher it right now, but Kevin Spacey were is like if you've been successful in your life it's your obligation to send the elevator back down.
Tina: And I feel like we all...once we get to a certain level where we feel like, "Wow, we actually have something to offer for other younger people that are just making it," it is our obligation to help them.
Kelly: Yeah, and I would even say more broadly than that in terms of who we send the elevator back down to. Yeah, Kevin Spacey, amazing quote on that and he did a really terrific interview with Caroline Ghosn of Levo League and it's videos on their website, Levo.com. It was extraordinary. He was just really feeling like when you have reached somewhere and you've been so privileged, right, that sending the elevator back down and lifting other people up. Besides, some people might like to be lonely at the top. I think having a big party up there would be much more fun. All right. We're going to get to the pay it forward questions.
Kelly: This is I ask all the guests on Broad Mic. So it's going to be fast and dirty answers, or clean answers, whatever. But you don't have to justify any answer.
Kelly: Here we go. What are your primary sources of information?
Tina: There's so many because I have a daily folder on my bookmarks bar that has a 180 websites in it that I open up daily all at once.
Kelly: I want to film that just to see what that moment is like. My eyes are popping. What book are you reading?
Tina: "Becoming Wise" by Krista Tippett.
Kelly: Oh, I love her. Do you have any rituals or habits you swear by?
Kelly: Who are three entrepreneurs or leaders you follow or admire?
Tina: So easy. Maggie Doyne who runs BlinkNow in Nepal, Jane that founded Sugru, and Celine that founded Slow Factory.
Kelly: Awesome. Oh, beautiful scarf for those of you listening to the podcast. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Tina: Trust your gut.
Kelly: Are there any particular myths that you would like to dispel?
Tina: I cannot yodel.
Kelly: Are you allowed to keep your Swiss citizenship with that now being revealed? It's sort of like being Canadian and I don't know how to drive in the snow and I can't ski, so anyway. Which probably would disqualify you from Swiss citizenship as well.
Kelly: What words of advice would you give our listeners about taking risks and closing the confidence gap?
Tina: If you're afraid of doing something it probably means you can learn something. So if you're afraid of it, if you're afraid of taking the risk, then sit yourself down and think about what's the worst that can happen? And just look in that, what the worst is. And then you're probably going to realize it's not that bad. But just embrace that. Just acknowledge the worst that could happen, sort of hug it a bit and then just go do it.
Kelly: Name one female entrepreneur that is below the radar that we should know about.
Tina: Again, it's Celine from Slow Factory.
Kelly: And Slow Factory is?
Tina: Slow Factory is...I'm religiously wearing her scarves. Right now I'm wearing one. Celine is from, originally Beirut, Lebanon, lives here in New York. She's a really beautiful person who believes in fashion as a form of activism. So she makes these scarves with images from the Hubble Telescope from NASA, and prints them in this beautiful place in Italy, and sells them around the world and has partnered with big global organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and just she believes in fashion can have an impact on the world, and they're just beautiful and she's a beautiful human, and she's been bootstrapping this business for the last few years and I am so blown away by how she's pulling this off. And she's a mom of two little ones, I don't know how she does it.
Kelly: Amazing. Yeah, you wouldn't know what it's like to be a mom of two little ones and have a company, would you? I can say these things.
Tina: No, that's all right.
Kelly: Cheeky friend that I am. All right. What does think broad mean to you?
Tina: Flipping things on its head. When you're stuck and you need to think broad, just turn it upside down. Try to flip the problem on it's head.
Kelly: Thank you.
Tina: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
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