Tina Roth Eisenberg was chugging along in her career as a designer… and then her daughter was born. She realized she had not yet become the kind of woman she had hoped her children would know. She immediately delved into a career as a serial entrepreneur that now includes an impressive group of “labors of love.” In this talk she shares five rules that have helped her launch businesses like Creative Mornings, Tattly, and Studiomates, among others.
Each was a side project that stemmed from a personal frustration. “I have a rule: If I keep complaining about something, I either do something about it or let it go,” says Eisenberg. The result: a group of projects that reflect the values dear to Eisenberg, most importantly using business to positively impact the lives of others.
Whether it’s through having a confetti drawer, keeping sane hours, or building environments that cultivate enthusiasm, Eisenberg urges us all to judge our success with the happiness and personal growth of those around us. “While I really love my work, my work is not me,” she says.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, a Swiss born and raised graphic designer, runs four “side-projects gone businesses” out of DUMBO, Brooklyn; a collaborative co-working space called Studiomates, a global, monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, TeuxDeux the simple to-do app and Tattly, a design-y temporary tattoo shop. Tina is often referred to as Swissmiss after her popular design blog which is also the name of her Twitter handle.
My name is Tina Roth Eisenberg, but of most of you might know me as swissmiss, which is the name of my blog and my Twitter handle. And I believe the labors of love. I’m a Swiss born, raised, and trained graphic designer, and over the past nine years I’ve started several side projects that have turned into businesses and that have completely redefined my life. They are my blog, Swiss Miss; a co-working space called Studiomates; a lecture series called Creative Mornings; a to do app called “To Do;” and the temperature tattoo shop called Tattly. I’m also a wife and the mother of two. This is my husband, Gary, and my son, Tilo, my daughter, Ella.
Who here has kids? I’m sure you all agree with me that there’s no other moment in life where you really look at yourself and where you are and how you’ve become what you are and where you want to go like that moment when you hold your child in your arms. And I can say for a fact that if it wasn’t for my daughter, Ella, and for my son, Tilo, I would not be standing here today. They have been my biggest career catalysts, also known as kick in the butt, that I could have ever imagined. When I got pregnant with Ella, I really started taking inventory of my life and I really looked at where I was. And I was very honest with myself because I realized there were a few dreams that I hadn’t addressed. For example, I’ve always wanted to run my own design studio. But for some reason, I was waiting for that magical perfect moment, like angelic choir coming down telling you, Tina, you should start your business right now. And I realized that will never happen because the right moment is now. So I did a slightly crazy thing and started a design studio the day my daughter was born. [LAUGHTER]
It worked out for me. I was very lucky. I had very prestigious clients right away, I was really busy. And then fast forward three years later. I got pregnant again with my son, Tilo, and I did the same thing again. I took inventory of my life and of my dreams and I realized, wait a second, I really don’t want to have clients. So I looked at what– [LAUGHTER] –I looked at what make me happy and I realized it was really my side projects and I was really not made for the service industry. And I decided, because my blog created some passive income through ad revenue, I realized that I’m want to try and do an experiment. I’m going to do a one-year client sabbatical and see what happens. The birthdays of my children remind me every year of the turning points in my life. My daughter just turned eight, which means that’s when I went on my own and started my design studio. My son a few months ago turned four, which means that’s when I left the client work and really focused on my own work. And I can say for a fact that my kids have completely pushed me professionally and in my personal life. But most of all, the most important part that my kids have taught me is that while I really, really love my work. My work is not me. My kids make me go home. I had to leave work, I had to leave the office. I really needed that. I no longer work late at night and I no longer work weekends. And what has happened is actually I work more efficiently and just more focused. And what is interesting is that I’m realizing now I started my business at the same time I became a parent. There’s incredible similarities between growing your business and raising children. And I want to give you five very personal rules that have sort of emerged over the past few years. So a few months ago I came home and my son, Tilo, ran to me and said, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, what’s this guy’s name? I’m really not very knowledgeable when it comes to superheroes so I turned to Google and I went down a massive rabbit hole of superhero powers. I found out his name is Cyborg and large portions of his body have been removed by mechanical parts. He has all kinds of powers and he has a laser pointer finger, which is really cool. But I didn’t stop there. I went into this. I researched all of the other superheroes and I learned that, for example, Wonder Woman was trained in hand to hand combat and she can talk to animals. And did you know that actually, Batman has no superpowers, he just has some unstoppable determination? I found it incredibly fascinating. So while I was doing all of this research on superheroes, I sort of asked myself, so wait a second, what if I was a superhero? What would my superpower be? And it didn’t take me very long to find out that this would be me and I would have an E Captain Enthusiasm on my outfit. I am quite certain that my ability to raise enthusiasm amongst people is my biggest driver of success, is my biggest asset. And some people might say that confidence can do the same thing, but I disagree. Because confidence is always about yourself, while enthusiasm is about something else. Confidence is impressive, while enthusiasm is infectious. Confidence is serious, while enthusiasm is fun and fun wins. So this question, what is your superpower, has since become my favorite question at dinner parties or even job interviews. And I’ve noticed one pattern. All the people that were somewhat successful in their life could answer the question right away. And it seems like they were super self aware of what their personal superpower was and really put it to use. For example, [INAUDIBLE] said his superpower is curiosity. Scott Belski said it’s grounded optimism, which is totally him, right? And, for example, my friend Marie [? Popova ?] of Brain Picking said doggedness. Yes. That’s all the reasons why they are successful at what they do. And I was really curious when I prepared for this talk. I was wondering if 90U Conference was one big action league, what would all of our superpowers be? So I don’t know. Do you want to share your super power? Just use hashtag superpower and hashtag 99conf. And that’s my first rule, embrace your superpower, own it and really use it. My second rule that I kind of live by was influenced by my daughter. In the spring of 2011, she came home from a birthday party with a goody bag and in it were these incredibly hideous temporary tattoos, a complete insult to my Swiss aesthetic. And she asked me to put them on her. And this was not the first time that I was annoyed by these bad temporary tattoos. And reminded myself of this personal rule that I have. If I keep complaining about something repeatedly, you either do something about it or you let it go. And I was like, wait a second, I can do something about this. So I channel my inner James Murphy, who once said the best way to complain is to make things, and I got to work. I researched to make temporary tattoos, I reached out to my Illustrator friends and asked them if they wanted to contribute. I designed a site and boom, two months later, in July of 2011 more as a joke than anything else I launched Tattly.com. I announced it on my blog, Swiss Miss, and it was a quite magical moment because minutes after announcing our printer kept spitting out orders. And we stood there slightly in shock and in disbelief. And this was actually the first batch of orders that we shipped on the very first day. And I want to take a moment and just say, can we just acknowledge how amazing the internet is? [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] And I feel like we need to do this acknowledgment all together, all right? Can you raise the lights a little bit so I can videotape this because it needs to go on the internet afterwards. Can you at the count of three say really enthusiastically yea internet with me? All right. One, two, three. (IN UNISON) Yeah, internet! Oh my god, this is so good. Thank you. Anyway, so we launched Tattly and two days after launching I got a call from a very prestigious museum store in London. No idea how they got my number. And they were like, could we please have a wholesale catalog? I was very cool on the phone. I was like, absolutely. I hung up the phone and I turned to my studio mates and said, what is a wholesale catalog? That made me realize we probably needed to take this more seriously. And we started working on the wholesale catalog that day. We created packaging, because apparently stores wanted it, stores around the world, we sell directly to consumers, and we even team up with really cool brands like this example, NPR. They did a custom Tattly set for their donor drive. In short, the last three years have been amazing and very humbling and I have quite unexpectedly actually created a company. And the beauty of getting into a field that you know nothing about– because I had never sold a product before– is that it’s quite liberating. It’s like when you become a parent for the first time. You’re just full of hope and like, I can do this. I’m not sure if I would start a retail e-commerce product company again because now I know how much work it is. And it ends up being like a team of 12 that needs to run this. But what makes really, really happy is that Tattly embodies a lot of my personal values and I want to give you a few examples. For example, on the back of the packaging we celebrate the artist online and on the packaging wherever we can. And I believe that the secret sauce to a creative life is actually passive income because it frees you up to work on other stuff. So for every Tattly sold, our artist gets a really generous cut. And the commission is way higher than the industry standard and it makes me really happy. Or if the order online from us, an envelope would look like this. It looks as if your mom or your friend sent you something in the mail. And we use real stamps. And that’s really important to me. And that’s the reason why I didn’t use a fulfillment center because they would just slap a UPS label on it. I love you, UPS, but it just doesn’t look as friendly. And then Made in the USA. I will not let go of this. I don’t understand why I should produce temporary tattoos in Asia just because it’s cheaper. If we can do it here and I can create jobs, I thoroughly believe that some decisions need not always to be done just based on the bottom line. Because in the end of the day, running a business also comes down to just doing what’s right. So my second rule is– [APPLAUSE] So my second rule is don’t complain, make things better, which pretty much applies to all of the side projects that I’ve started and was the engine behind me starting at the co-working space called Studiomates in Dumbo. I was really tired of working from home first and then renting desks in really soulless office spaces. And what I really was craving was a like-minded community of creative people that works out of the same space, that can help each other, can support each other. And I am completely humbled by what it has turned into in the last six years. What started in this room, we have been breaking down walls whenever a neighbor moved out and we’re now right a force of 60 people, some of most talented designers, photographers, illustrators our industry has to offer. And I know for a fact that there’s a lot of things I would not have started if it wasn’t for the support of my studiomates. And there’s a wonderful quote by Seth Godin in which he says, who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle. Studiomates has completely changed my outcome. And what I’ve realized is that real connections are really not made behind a screen, they’re made in person. It’s the moments in between, when you have lunch together or you just take a quick break. And that’s also the reason why I started Creative Mornings. Five and a half years ago attending a lot of conferences, I really craved an event that was more accessible than conferences and happened on a regular basis. So basically, we all come here because we want to meet, right, and we want to get inspired. Yet there’s a lot of people that can’t come because it’s too expensive or it’s too far away and then they only happen once a year. So I started a lecture series that happened once a month in New York City for the creative community, absolutely free. We have a little breakfast, a 20-minute talk, and then you go off to work. And I was running it alone here in New York and studios kept reaching out to saying, hey, I would love to hosted it. And we had to go to bigger and bigger venues to the point where now we easily And this one, for example, was at the Metropolitan Museum with the advertising legend George Lois. And I was always a little bit surprised why it was so successful until I came across this quote by Clay Shirky in which he said, we systematically overestimate the value of access to information and underestimate the value of access to each other. And he completely made sense. And then two years in after running it I started being approached by people around the world that wanted to take Creative Mornings to their cities. And I figured, why not? And now we are in– I just can’t believe how many dots there are on this map. We’re in 80 cities in over 40 countries. people getting together every single month on a Friday morning. And I just want to show you a few photos of events that happen every month around the world. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the Pharrell-Oprah moment. This is my Pharrell-Oprah moment. Berlin; Oslo; Warsaw; Los Angeles; Budapest; Lima; Bangalore; Zurich; Seattle; San Francisco; Paris; Auckland, New Zealand; and then this one was in a tent in Atlanta. How cool is that? And all these talks have a theme, a monthly theme, and they all go on our site so you can watch them afterwards in case there is no Creative Mornings in your city. And all of this only happens because we have this incredible, remarkable group of hosts and volunteers around the world. And what I’ve learned is that Creative Mornings has, by me letting go and trusting all of these hosts with my baby, collectively turned into a global labor of love. And I am just so impressed by all the interactions I have with the hosts. This is a remarkable group of people. And I know for a fact that my studiomates and the hosts of Creative Mornings have made me a better person. So this is rule number three, choose wisely who you hang out with. And that brings me to my fantastic team. This is Team Tattly and Team Creative Mornings and security, Sheila the dog. They’re a remarkable group of young, smart, resourceful people. And I am really honored that I get to work with them every day, but most of all they’re fun. [LAUGHTER] A lot of people that follow me on Instagram and Twitter– [LAUGHTER] –often ask me, are you guys getting any work done? And we do. We work really hard. But I was also want to make sure we have fun while we’re doing it. So that’s why we have a prop box because sometimes you to need a Viking hat to reply to certain emails. [LAUGHTER] Or we have a growth chart at Tattly and the growth chart makes me want to have investors just so that if they ask me, how are you doing, I can point them to the growth chart. Or then my all time favorite thing is our confetti drawer. I really believe every business needs a confetti drawer. So these are the things that we just do internally just to keep ourselves happy. But we also try to sprinkle sort of a possibility of a smile in everything else we do with that goes outward bound. And it’s too many things to mention, but I just want to pick some of my favorites. Like on creativemornings.com, you can filter all of the chapters by rainbow. It does nothing other than look good. Or on the People page– there’s profiles on Creative Mornings– you can filter by signal. Or when you like a video on creativemornings.com, it rains hearts and just makes you happy for a little bit. I really believe that these little details give our product and our services personality and make people understand that we really love what we’re doing. It really shines through. And it’s my fourth rule, don’t forget to play. Obviously, as you probably can tell, I live a really fortunate life. I work on projects I love and with people I admire. But then in moments like this one, where my son is having one of his silent epic meltdowns, I really wonder, how did my parents raise me to get to this point? What have they done? By the way, I documented these on itshardbeingtwo.com. [LAUGHTER] I think a lot about what it means to be a good mom and I think a lot about what it means to be a good boss. And if I’ve learned one thing in doing both it’s that in having these roles, you need to really be able to articulate what you stand for, what you believe in, and what your values are. And I believe in an environment of kindness, respect, and trust. I believe in an environment where you can be vulnerable and make mistakes. I believe in an environment where we push each other to be better and shine the light on others. What I’m secretly hoping for is a new measure for success that goes beyond money and power. I measure success with the happiness I see around me and with the personal growth I see around me. I firmly believe that we all can make a difference because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you lead a team of If your team members go home feeling fulfilled, happy, appreciated, they’re going to be a better spouse, they’re going to be a better mom, a better dad, and they’re just going to be happier members of the society.
So I obviously am no expert on leadership and I’m far from perfect. But what I’m trying to be is just the best mom and the best boss I can be. And if you just take one thing away from this talk, I would hope for it to be that when you go back to your work, to your families that you really think about what you can do to bring just a little bit more heart, a little bit more kindness, a little bit more sense of generosity and play into your environments. And if you don’t know where to start, I would suggest you empty out one of your desk drawers and you fill it with confetti. [LAUGHTER] That’s it. [APPLAUSE]