Episode 41: Growing Businesses and Communities Through Trust with Tina Roth Eisenberg
Episode 41 features Swissmiss, AKA Tina Roth Eisenberg. Tina is quite a powerhouse and is a super creative person who loves taking side projects and turning them into real companies that make a big impact in the design world. In the episode, Dan and Tina chat about finding your people, confidence vs enthusiasm, and injecting joy into your work. Tina also shares what makes Creative Mornings so magical and details about her new venture, The Creative Guild.
This episode is brought to you by Wix. Push the limits of design and start creating beautiful, impactful websites that are uniquely yours at wix.com/dribbble.
Links Mentioned on Overtime
- Tina on Twitter
- Creative Mornings
- The Deck Network
- The Creative Guild
- The Do Lectures
- Friends Work Here
- How I Built This
- Hang Time Los Angeles
Dan: Swissmiss, AKA Tina Roth Eisenberg is our guest today. This is Overtime, I’m Dan Cederholm, your host. This is a great episode with someone I’ve admired for a long time. Tina is quite a powerhouse and just super creative person who loves taking side projects and turning them into real companies that make a big impact in the design world. She’s based in Brooklyn, New York. We talk about all the stuff that she’s working on, all those projects I mentioned, how they came to be, what she’s working on these days. Just a really, really great conversation with Tina. And I think you’re going to love it.
Dan: A couple announcements. We have a new Hang Time, which is our event series. We’re coming to Los Angeles in December. Dribble dot com slash hang time to check out the speakers as we announce them. We’ve got a great lineup this time in Los Angeles, in December. I hope you can join us and so stay tuned for more info as we plan that event out.
Dan: This episode is brought to you by Wix dot com. Push the limits of design and start creating beautiful impactful websites that are uniquely yours with Wix. And I’ll be talking more about Wix later on in this episode, but let’s go visit with Tina Roth Eisenberg. She’s in Brooklyn and it’s just really fabulous to talk with Tina. So, enjoy this one.
Dan: So it’s morning time over in New York City right?
Tina: It is. I had three coffees, I’m ready.
Dan: You’re ready. You had three coffees.
Tina: Yeah, I didn’t know … Yeah. Whatever.
Dan: That’s … Well that might be … One of my initial questions was going to be, how you … and I’m sure you get this question a lot, because-
Tina: How do you do it all? Is that what you’re going to ask me-
Dan: Exactly. It’s a really dumb question and I’m not going to ask it the same way, but I honestly kind of wonder, because you have family, and you have multiple things going on and I think I’ve heard that you … at a certain point, you’re like, I’m not going to work weekends and long night. And I kind of did the same thing too.
Dan: And it’s sort of life changing in a way. But I guess the question is, is it possible to juggle all these things and not drive yourself crazy?
Tina: That’s a very existential question right there.
Dan: Right off the bat. That’s how we’re starting.
Tina: See this is where we need to define crazy, but yeah. I mean to be honest, I am someone who probably puts too much on my plate on a regular basis, but at the same time, these are all … all the things I’m doing, are things I really care about and I want to see in the world. And then I think the luck I have, is that I can get people very excited about the things I want to build. I get to form really great teams around me that support what I want to do. And obviously without that, I could not have built all of the projects and companies that I’ve done.
Tina: I think the secret sauce here is that if you’re someone who is really enthusiastic and can ignite that fire in someone else, and then they come on and they want to build that thing with you, then this is possible right?
Dan: Yeah. The people that you surround yourself with obviously, have the same … And that’s one thing, looking at all your different businesses and all things you create, it does seem like your teams … you’ve found people that share your same ethos and your same drive and enthusiasm.
Tina: Yeah. I feel like the things I want to build and see in the world, if you want to work with me, you have to connect with who I am on a very, very deep, personal level. I always say, “You have to kind of share a north star and the same values.” But when you find those people, and you give them freedom and you let them bring themselves into work … I’m a very trusting person to the point where it’s almost … sometimes I’m like, “Tina, you trust people way too much.”
Tina: But what happens out if it, is trust really breeds magic. When you hire capable, smart people and you have the same values and you agree on that thing you want to build and you both see the value and you feel like it makes the world a little better, and then you let them run, then there’s real magic that happens.
Dan: Yeah, that’s the part that seems difficult for some people, to let go and trust in the people. Do you find that you … Has it been difficult to find those people, or do you … I don’t know. Do you fire a lot of people?
Tina: No, I don’t. You know what I’ve learned over the … I’ve had a bit of a … I hit a little bit of rough seas in my personal life over the past, let’s say three years. And the one thing that has really emerged in my life, is realizing that when I’m not taking care of my personal problems, they actually start showing at work. I’ve started having a more wholistic view on how I operate as a business person in terms of, if I’m avoiding things at home that are difficult or where I have problems, then they actually start showing up in a different way at work.
Tina: And to me, what I learned is that … and when I wasn’t doing so well personally, and I couldn’t be the person I needed to be at work, you set up that energy seeps into you as a boss and as a team leader. And I realized that I was not attracting the ideal person to build what I want to build.
Tina: I’ve really … I’ve done a lot of work personally in just understanding how you need to take care of yourself first as a leader, and so that then you can actually attract the right people. And not just the people that work with you, but also customers and partners. And it’s not something I thought about before, but now looking back, there’ve been some times and … I’ve been running my own companies for 12 years and there’ve been sometimes where I was like, damn. Why is not the right person walking through the door right now?
Tina: Because sometimes I … I don’t know if you have a lot of experience hiring people, but sometimes these magical fairies walk through the door and you go like, how did this happen, right? But those moments only happen I feel when I’m taking care of myself, when I’m in a good place.
Tina: And I’ve been really incredibly lucky, especially over the past few years. I have such remarkable people working with me. And which to be honest, is a real blessing because they make me better.
Tina: I think about this all the time. Sometimes I just look through the room and see okay. For example, our Creative Mornings COO Kyle, he is in service of the creative world and in service of people. Just having him around you, makes you a better human, the way he shows up in the world. The way he’s helpful and stuff like that. So I look at the people in my room, I was like, “Okay, Kyle makes me better in this way. And then Katherine makes me better in this way.”
Tina: And it’s really cool when you can look at your teams, the people you work with in a way and how do they all improve me personally?
Dan: Yeah, finding the right people seems absolutely key and also taking care of your personal life. Yeah, I can attest to that too. That’s big. That’s super important.
Dan: I heard you mention this. This really connected with me too. You were talking about confidence and how confidence is about you, whereas enthusiasm is about something else-
Tina: Something else, yeah.
Dan: Yeah, and I thought … and you riffed on that a little bit, and I just want to dig in there a little bit because I think it’s so true and it’s … I think it’s inspirational for people that are wondering how to get to where you are, and how it doesn’t … you don’t necessarily have to be serious. It can be fun as well.
Dan: I wonder if you could touch on that a little bit.
Tina: Well I think it goes in the same thing again as I said before, I feel like the reason I was able to attract the remarkable team I have is because I’m very enthusiastic about things in the world. And I’m not just a cocky … I’m a confident person, but I’m not just confident and … I feel like the joy that comes out of enthusiasm, is contagious. So enthusiasm is contagious and contagiousness is what you need when you want to assemble a team that keeps going and-
Tina: When you hit bumps, that you … So I’m a big believer that enthusiasm goes along with joy, and I’m a big believer that you need to create environments that are very joyful. We have so many laughs at work. If you follow me on Instagram-
Tina: There’s a lot of people that actually DM sometimes like, “Are you guys working at all?” But I said, “Yes of course,” but I just … I want to have fun while I’m working. So there is-
Tina: An element of joy and laughter that goes through everything we do, and when you look at the products that I build or the companies I’ve built, there’s … we try to sprinkle the possibility of a smile into everything we do. You see that in CreativeMornings and you can filter all our cities by rainbow. It has no-
Dan: Yeah, I love that.
Tina: Functionality other than just funny.
Dan: I love that.
Tina: When you like a video, it rains hearts and stuff like that. And I’m a big believer that stuff like that actually gives a product a soul.
Dan: It does.
Dan: It does. It totally does, and I love all those little touches. And I’ve … yeah, I’ve always loved that about everything that you do. And there’s so many things that you’ve created that have turned into businesses right?
Tina: That’s weird.
Dan: It’s crazy and I … not crazy, that’s a wrong for it. It’s not crazy at all. It’s awesome. But-
Tina: No, it’s crazy. I take that.
Dan: And I think that myself included, I think … and correct me if I’m wrong, but when you started, blogging was perhaps a big catalyst for the other things that you do.
Dan: Would that be correct?
Tina: Well, not knowing that it will become one but-
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Tina: I started my blog 13 years ago, over 13 years ago-
Tina: 13 and a half years ago.
Tina: And it’s so interesting looking back, how young the internet is, back then there was no Tumblr, no Pinterest, no … there was no easy way of just collecting-
Tina: And sharing stuff you found online.
Tina: And so it was just for me, a visual archive and then a few months in I realized, oh I’m not alone. Because I never looked at stats, but my friend emailed actually me and is like, “Do you realize a lot of people are linking to you?” And I was like, “No. Why would I?” And she goes, “Look at your stats girl.” And then I realized, oh it’s actually not that much of a personal archive anymore. And you know it was just the right moment at the right time.
Tina: And the blog has really opened up so much for me because I was part of the Deck Network-
Dan: Yes, yes.
Tina: That Jim Coudal created, which was such a blessing and it came in the right time and which really allowed me then eventually to take a year off, take a year of magical thinking as I called it, a year of client sabbatical. And then that’s when I started all of these side projects, or I call them labors of love that then turned into businesses, which is … I really am grateful for what the blog has made possible for me.
Dan: Yeah, it’s amazing right? I think you’re right. The right place, the right time. But also, I find a curation thing too. Once I discovered Swissmiss for instance, I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a person that just knows about great stuff that I’m going to want to know about.” And really latched onto that. And then as you rolled out your businesses after that, and different projects, that enthusiasm I feel like, just carried over.
Dan: We’re excited for you because we know you through the blog or whatever, and we’re excited about the next thing that you’re going to do and I think that enthusiasm is infectious.
Tina: Yeah, the thing that I learned is generosity is really a thing. I remember, I’ve been … My currency in life is introducing people to each other, helping people sort of … helping people. When I had the crazy amount of readers in the heydays, I was able to change people’s life with one blog post. That’s an incredible power to have.
Tina: And also an incredible responsibility. So my favorite thing to do was to highlight someone who had an idea for a product, maybe prototyped it in their garage. And I have a few stories where I would feature someone and then a week later, I would get an email saying, “Hey, you changed my life. After your blog post, I was picked up by,” I don’t know, “Bed Bath and Beyond and now I’m going into production.”
Tina: And that’s really my currency in life and it’s the same thing with Creative Mornings where all I want to do is create opportunities for people to meet and open doors. And that’s just my personal thing that really fuels me. And what was interesting is after years of celebrating people on my blog, really out of a genuine love for doing that, when I … the launched of Tattly, my temporary tattoo company, which was only-
Tina: It was really just more a joke than anything else.
Dan: It wasn’t really, really?
Tina: Yeah, it was. And we launched 16 designs by … they were all by friends of mine like Jessica Hische and Jason Santa Maria and Julia Rothman and I didn’t think much of it. I thought, yeah maybe we’re going to ship maybe 100 orders a month or something, maybe 50. So we launched it and I didn’t realize that when you’ve been celebrating other people for years and all of a sudden you launch your own thing … So the first day, we had 150 orders and they just-kept spitting out.
Tina: I remember standing there going, “Wait, what?” And that was a real magical moment. And I’m a big believer that generosity pays off in many ways. And generosity, and time, spirit, attention-
Tina: It’s a real thing.
Dan: It really is. So was that terrifying too? Was it exciting and terrifying to-
Tina: Oh yeah. My favorite word is being anxcited.
Dan: Yeah. Anxcited, oh nice, yeah.
Tina: It’s like my state of living.
Dan: I think I might have to take that word as well.
Tina: Yeah, it’s not my creation. I think I picked it up from Kyle who I work with, but it’s a really … Just this morning, I was waking up and I was like, oh my god, I’m having so many conflicting feelings right now. You know what it’s like when you build something. There’s risk to it and you-
Tina: But you’re also so excited because you want to see the thing in the world and you can see where’s it going and you just-
Tina: Have to keep pushing. But then there was moments where I was like, oh my god. What if I burn it all down?
Tina: So I have those feelings right now.
Dan: But I think those are healthy feelings. I think successful things need that balance. You mentioned you want to see it in the world, which I always think is the number one reason to create something right? One of the best reasons to create something, is just that you want to see it. And then hopefully other people want it as well-
Dan: And it snowballs right?
Dan: Yeah. So Tattly, jeez, that’s grown into quite a business and you’re supporting artists-
Dan: And you’re doing all sorts of great things with that.
Tina: Yeah, it makes me really proud. When I started Tattly, there was no high end temporary tattoo market. That’s why I started it because it pissed me off. It was an insult to my Swiss aesthetic to see these shitty temporary tattoos-
Tina: It was an insult to my Swiss aesthetic to see these shitty temporary tattoos my daughter would bring home. And you know I taught them to my friends, I realized the licensing world is really broken. And you know again, I didn’t create Tattly it will become a business, it was more a labor of love. So, you know, I remember sitting at my coworking space, talking to my friends like, “Hey, how should we price this out? Five dollars sounds good for two, right?”
Tina: It wasn’t based on margins. I didn’t know anything, I’ve never had to retail products so it was based on gut and the royalty that we paid is really generous and much higher than industry standard and all that. I’ve been able to keep that up and it makes me really proud because every tat we sold, a generous cut goes to the artist. Last summer we reached a million in artist royalties that we paid out-
Dan: Oh my god.
Tina: Super proud and trust me, I could have used that million to grow the business, but in the end of the day it makes me really proud that we celebrate the artists in terms of giving them exposure on their packaging and we celebrate them on our site. And also we just support them financially because the magic sauce to a creative life is passive income.
Dan: Yes, yes.
Tina: That’s my-
Dan: Totally agree.
Tina: It makes me proud that we’re, in some way, Tattly is not gonna change the world. It’s not gonna solve world peace, but it brings a layer of joy and connection to people and it supports artists. What’s really important to me, as a mom, who had to work quite hard to make my Swiss entrepreneurial parents understand that you can live a creative life and you can make a living. I get it as a parent you worry that your kid will end up in a career and they can’t have a decent life, but it’s important to me as a mom that my kids can go on a Tattly website, click through to the artists, and see that these artists are living a creative, courageous life. It’s a means of making a living, that’s something that’s really important to me.
Dan: That’s amazing and a million dollars to the artists, that’s incredible. Congratulations. I think that - you mentioned, “Well, I could have used that money to invest in the business.” And to me, my first thought was, “Wow, you really are by supporting the artists. They’re gonna wanna work with you again and support Tattly and think of Tattly as a welcoming place to work with, right.” So I think that goes hand in hand.
Tina: Again, this is like another point of generosity pays off. There’s a lot of other - a lot of times I get approached by other companies and they say, “How in the world did you manage to get artist X to license with you? We’ve been trying for years.” I was like, man … you know, it’s like how you show up in the world and I feel like again, that generosity element is something that makes people trust you.
Dan: Yes, yes. Absolutely. It’s karma.
Dan: It’s karma. So, Tattly in itself - you must have a team devoted to each of these things that you’re doing. Tattly. I want to talk about creative mornings ‘cause I know you just launched a new feature that stems out of Creative Mornings.
Tina: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Dan: That’s really interesting. And it’d be nice to get the origin of Creative Mornings, ‘cause I imagine it probably started again as something you wanted to have happen locally and now it’s turned into this global-
Tina: Creative Mornings is really blowing my mind a bit. You know, when you build something and it’s so beyond you.
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Tina: I’m totally amazed at what it’s turned into, but to explain how it started. When I moved to New York - so I had a dream of living in New York, I grew up on the Swiss countryside. I had this dream of living in New York and after I graduated from graphic design school, I basically told my parents, “I am going to New York for three months. I’m gonna try to find an internship.” And that was 19 years ago. I’m still here.
Tina: The universe was cheering me on and got me an internship within 20 hours of arriving, so that was really magical.
Dan: Oh, wow.
Tina: I remember arriving in New York and I didn’t know a soul. I remember how hard it was. I made very little money and I was a social butterfly back in Europe and I remember Friday night, I was sitting in my shitty little sublet in the East Village and I was like, “Geez, man. How do I meet my people? Where are my people?”
Tina: I remember looking sort of at the events that were out there and there were AIGA put on events, but they were like $25 to attend and I just didn’t have that money. And I remember … “Why isn’t there something - where are my people? Where’s my community?”
Tina: Then fast forward 9 years later in 2008, when I started my co-working space and I started my own design studio. I sort of started to become somewhat established in the city. I remember sitting in my really lovely co-working space. At the time it was called Studiomates and I sat there and I was like, “Tina, you have a space now. You can let people in.” And also my co-working community that we had at the time was a remarkable group of humans and I realized, if you come to work everyday and you surround yourself with these creative people that set the bar really high. Like the developers, illustrators, photographers. It’s just really magical what happens when you break down those barriers of traits.
Tina: Because you know, AIGA is mostly designers. I used to go to Information Architects events and it’s just these segregated communities of trades. And I was like, what the heck? The magic happens when - and again, we all believe in living a creative life. We all believe in creativity. That’s kind of like the over arching value we believe in.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely.
Tina: So, I was like let me just prototype this. So I started prototyping what I then called Creative Mornings. I opened the studio, had breakfast, and the first one - sixty people show up. Oh my god. The elevator was broken, we were on the sixth floor. The bagels were shitty, the coffee was cold. It was so bad. And I remember going, “Alright. So people show up, but this is awkward and people feel like they’re networking which is awkward. How can we take that feeling away? Let’s just add a talk on top of it.”
Tina: So the second one was a talk. And people loved it. Companies started reaching out to me. I remember 6 months in we were on Google, I was like, “What the heck, how did this happen?” There was a real need - I loved the internet and all of that. I love connecting with people online. But nothing beats a face to face connection. Nothing beats being in a room with someone.
Tina: So Creative Mornings, we’re turning 10 this year. It has magically turned into a global - it’s the largest event series for creatives. 20,000 people get together every month for free in 65 countries and 188 cities. We grow by 3 to 5 cities a month. And it’s completely organic, it’s volunteer driven. We have 1500 volunteers - it’s really magical.
Tina: The thing is, I couldn’t even turn it off anymore. That’s when you really realize, “This is - oh, this thing’s alive.”
Dan: It’s become it’s own animal.
Tina: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Just, the emails we’re getting. You know, the people that - just yesterday, I got another email from someone who moved from Nashville to San Francisco. They used to go to the Nashville Creative Mornings and then they signed up, they changed their chapter online, they went to the San Francisco chapter. They emailed us like, “Within the first event, I found my people.” There’s just real beauty to that.
Dan: Wow. My goodness.
Tina: It’s the community I wanted to exist when I moved here, but now other people have it so that’s good.
Dan: You created this thing that’s expanded and that’s amazing. Now you’ve just launched a new venture off of Creative Mornings, the Creative Guild.
Tina: Yeah, so this is the thing that just keeps me up at night in sheer excitement that I can’t even go to bed.
Tina: The Creative Guild is really … let me backtrack a bit. So, I feel quite lost these days online. You know, here I have created this community that - people that show up to Creative Mornings are a very special kind of people. If you’ve never been to one, it’s gonna sound really cult-ish. But when you show up at a Creative Mornings, you just feel an air of kindness and generosity and love and just open-ness in the room.
Tina: I know it sounds cult-ish, but you gotta go. You gotta see it-
Dan: No, I think you’re right. I would agree, I would agree.
Tina: Because Creative Mornings events are free, so you can see first timers walk in and they’re kind of like, “What the heck, where’s the catch? When are they gonna start selling me something?” And you can see them after awhile sort of easing into it and trusting it because you realize people welcome you with a smile. They hand you a coffee and then there’s breakfast and people are very open and very kind.
Tina: I feel like the world needs more safe spaces like this where there’s no catch. It’s really just about the beauty of meeting up. And so, my people show up at Creative Mornings. I sort of know those are my people, we share same values. But I mean, where are those people online? I’m quite upset what happened to Twitter ‘cause it used to be - it really was my place, I feel like, for awhile there. I made a lot of friends through Twitter.
Tina: That is kind of in the gutter. And then Facebook is not my thing, and LinkedIn is also not my thing. So I’m like, “Wait a second. Why am I sitting here complaining?” Like if I’ve been able to, over the last 10 years, create a community a respectful kind, community sort of believes an over arching sense of living a creative life. Who’s to say we can’t translate that to an online community and actually expand the reach?
Tina: ‘Cause the one thing I worry about is, Creative Mornings is amazing, but it’s based on location and if there is a chapter. Then there’s waitlists and you can’t get in. There’s scarcity around it. All I care about is creating more connections for people that wanna be part of this and believe in what we believe in.
Tina: So that’s where we started like, “Hey, what can we do to sort of open up more possibilities for the people that wanna be part of this Creative Mornings community. You know what, there’s also no directory of creative companies. It just really doesn’t exist.” And so what we launched right now, three months ago, is the very beginning of what we call the Creative Guild.
Tina: The Creative Guild is basically the over arching, will become the over arching brand where Creative Mornings is one of the event outlets of it. What we started with is a directory of creative companies and individuals. I get at least two or three emails a week with people going, “Tina, you know everyone. I need a branding agency with really kind people. You’re nice, you maybe know someone who is nice.” I was like, “Where do we send people?”
Tina: So now we have a growing directory of people where you kind of get a sense of - like the profile is really soulful, it’s not as dry and boring as the LinkedIn profile. I’m sorry LinkedIn, there’s just no soul there. What we’re trying is to sort of highlight the values of the company and give it a bit of glimpse into the values and whimsical-ness of certain companies and the personality.
Tina: Right now, you can sign up on the Creative Guild and create a profile for your companies and which we hope will allow for more connection and more collaboration and of course, as a job board and all of that. But this is just the beginning of a really long road map where we really want to create the corner of the internet for people that believe in creativity as sort of a North Star of their life to show up and connect.
Tina: What we’re after is to create a corner of the internet that is really respectful of the user. Like when you sign up for the Creative Guild right now, when you apply, you actually have to sign a code of conduct. And the responses we’re getting is so beautiful because people say, “That alone makes me want to sign up.” Like, we make you agree to things like, always remember there’s a human on the other side, you know. Show up with a notion of giving and not taking.
Tina: Again, there’s this generosity part there. Just trying to stay human because the lack of humanity on the online platforms right now is very apparent to me and also the lack of respect of the user. So what I’m really excited about is to say, “Hey. We care about how you show up as a human here and not how your algorithm shows up. We are not gonna optimize for clicks. We want you to have control over what you see and how you see it.” So I’m really excited of having a more human approach to creating an online corner of the internet that is friendly and kind and accessible.
Dan: That’s awesome. We need more of that for sure, my goodness. I feel like, you mentioned Twitter being a safe place and a great place. And I agree, like back in the day. It’s almost like the web itself was kind of that initially. Then it sort of splinters and splinters. But I feel like things like Creative Mornings, it’s just another filter of “Okay, these are people I want to either hire, or work with, or meet, or whatever.” That seems to be super critical these days.
Dan: There’s too much out there. There’s a lot of people in the world.
Tina: Too many cynical people.
Dan: Yeah, yeah exactly. Well, that’s the thing-
Tina: Too many people that just are there to take. Just to give you an example, I’m not sure if you’re aware of the DO Lectures but last week-
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Tina: I had four magical days in Wales, attending The Do Lectures and speaking of the The Do Lectures. And I have so much respect for what David and Clare Hieatt have built. What really hit me, especially now that I’m trying to create this friendly place on the internet is what I’m after is exactly what Clare and David have created with the Do Lectures.
Tina: I have never in my life, attended an event that is so heart opening and so - when everyone shows up with a notion of giving and not taking. The conversations I had were so generous and so kind. I was like, “Man, if we can create more pockets like this in the world.” It literally was like a future affirming four days where I walked away and was like, “If you just continue nurturing these pockets in our world, we’re gonna be okay.”
Dan: That’s encouraging. That’s hopeful. Is this the same David Hieatt that does the Hieatt jeans?
Tina: Yes, yes. He’s like reviving a jean store. He’s a remarkable human.
Dan: That’s what I wear. I love that company. It’s such a great company from everything - copy writing, everything. They’re great to follow even if you don’t wear-
Tina: Yes. Oh, David Hieatt is one of my favorite sources online. The stuff he finds-
Dan: Oh, yeah.
Tina: Thoughtful, kind, big hearted human.
Dan: Wow, I had no idea that was - wow. That’s fantastic. I’ll go there next time. I wanna touch on, like - so we’ve talked about Tattly a little bit. Creative Mornings, of course. And are these separate teams that you have? That handle these things?
Dan: Or is there like a Swiss Miss-
Tina: Swiss Army?
Dan: Yes, right.
Tina: That’s what we call them. No, they’re different companies and different teams who just happen to sit in one floor. I work out of this magical place in Brooklyn where we’re in an old factory building. On one side of the building is all artists and residents and then-
Tina: With on one side of the building, it’s all artists and residents. On the other side, I have two floors. One of them is my co-working space called Friends Work Here, where I rent out desks to people that work in a creative field, which is really my happy place which allows me to have little [inaudible 00:34:17] lectures lunches every day because people are working on really interesting stuff. Then one floor is Tattly and CreativeMornings combined. We’re sitting in the same space, but we’re entirely different teams and companies.
Dan: Different teams.
Dan: Then you’re the glue that holds all that together.
Tina: Yeah, I’m the crazy lady jumping back and forth and coming in with ideas.
Dan: Yeah. Incredible.
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Dan: You also have TeuxDeux … Wait. I’m going to say this wrong.
Tina: TeuxDeux. TeuxDeux.
Tina: I know. It’s like I’m so good at making it really hard for people to remember my product names.
Dan: It’s funny. It’s so iconic though to me, the branding and everything.
Tina: Well, again, it’s not something I started out of wanting to be a company. It was just something I needed to exist in the world. To-do names, to-do app names are really hard. Everything “to-do” is taken, so my co-founder Cameron, who’s so funny, is like, “How would the French pronounce it?” I’m sorry if anyone who’s listening who’s French, I don’t want to insult you. I love French, and I love the France and the French people. He was like, “TeuxDeux,” is how they would say it, so we spelled it out how the French would pronounce it, which is T-E-U-X-D-E-U-X.
Tina: Yeah. It’s probably the to-do app with the hardest name to spell, but it’s a very simple app. It keeps my life sane.
Dan: Yeah. I love it. It’s brilliant. It’s another example, to me, of … There are other to-do apps out there, obviously, but to have the amount of care and detail and simplicity and all that … There’s always room for something that’s just well done, you know what I mean? That goes with to-do apps and tattoos. It seems like anything that you’re creating is just like a better-curated version of that. I’m trying to be complimentary.
Tina: Thank you.
Dan: As I’m saying, I’m like, “This doesn’t sound like a compliment.”
Tina: No, no, no, no, no. Thank you. No, I appreciate it. No, I get it. I feel like there’s always new interpretations of existing things. Yeah. Thoughtfulness goes a long way, I think, and simplification.
Dan: It really does. It’s a messy world out there.
Dan: It’s hard. No, so I wanted to come back to Friends Work Here, or FRIENDS, right, is your new … and then Studiomates, which I remember visiting a long time ago and thinking, “God, this is like the epicenter of creative things going on here in New York.”
Tina: It was really magical.
Dan: Yeah, and you’ve lived in New York for a long time, coming from Switzerland. How do you think that’s evolved up to today? It still seems like an epicenter of creativity, and Brooklyn in particular, right?
Tina: Yeah. I’m going to say, sometimes you do things, you start things, and you don’t realize how they’re going to impact your life. The first iteration of my co-working space, which was called Studiomates, was basically just … I started my own design studio in 2008, and was like, “Man.” I rented some desks and some really soulless spaces. This was before co-working spaces were a thing. It’s been 10 years since I started my first co-working space. I realized, “You know what? There’s other people like me out there who are starting their own studios, who are freelancing.”
Tina: I just had this idea, like I think if I build a really nice space, people will come. Sure enough, in July of 2008, I opened up Studiomates. I built it out. It was a space that I thought is going to be at the most six people, but then over the course of three years, we kept breaking down every single wall, basically, next to us. We grew to 65.
Tina: We had some of the most remarkable talent in that space, from Jessica Hische to Maria Popova of Brain Picker, the guys from Fictive Kin, Jason Santa Maria, Oak Studios, you name it. What I’ve learned is when you surround yourself with people who have really high standards in their own work, who dream really big, you automatically … You reach higher.
Tina: We were holding each other accountable. When you can turn around, and you have really smart, creative people around you, and you can say, “Hey, guys, can somebody just give me feedback on this right now?” It’s really elevated who I was as a creative human. I am pretty sure, actually, I wouldn’t run all the companies I’m running right now if it wasn’t for Cameron, who I mentioned before, my co-founder for TeuxDeux, who consistently told me, “Tina, stop solving other people’s problems. Build something on your own.”
Tina: I can’t stress enough when I see young people starting out in a creative field and say like, “Just surround yourself with people who you look up to, you admire, who you think really have good values and dream big, and where you can lift each other up and support each other.”
Tina: But the interesting thing was that there was a point where we got too big. I remember this magical moment, looking back. When we were around 30, it was magical. Then it just got too big. Then unfortunately, we had to move out of that space. Sometimes these moments are really good because it was sort of reset moment. I started out with one space, and it was never meant to be this big, giant co-working space. But then when we had to move out, I was like, “Tina, what do you want this to be?” Because it’s not a business for me. It’s creating the environment where I thrive, and I’m happy because I’m inspired by people around me.
Tina: When I had to find a new space that could fit both Tattly and Creative Mornings and FRIENDS because I knew I didn’t want to give up my co-working space, so I renamed it to FRIENDS. I love the tagline, “First we were Studiomates. Now we’re FRIENDS.”
Dan: That’s great. Yeah.
Tina: I remember really … because I got out of … The universe was really cheering me on, and these beautiful two floors in this factory building in Brooklyn and The Invisible Dog fell in my lap. I remember, it was an open 3,000 square-foot loft. The landlord told me, “Listen, Tina. Tell us what you want it to look like. We’ll build it for you.”
Tina: That was just this magical moment of me like, “Okay, Tina, you have, what was it, like seven years of experience of running a co-working space now. What have you learned, and how are you going to divide this space up? How many people are going to be in there?” So I very carefully made sure that now we’re not more than 30 people.
Tina: We have the work area, which is open and beautiful. Then we have a lounge area. We have better conference rooms and phone booths and all that. But it was such a beautiful moment to really, now from what I’ve learned, design a new space so that people can really thrive in it. It’s a magical, beautiful community that we have at FRIENDS. Writers, illustrators, developers, photographers. It’s really what I call my happy place. When I go up with my lunch, and I sit down, and I sit across from someone, it’s like, “What are you working on? What’s happening?” It’s really inspiring.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. That’s gotta be. Has there been any difficulties? In a lot of your creative endeavors, you’re creating communities, really, right?
Tina: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. It’s about the people. Sometimes that’s not easy. With Dribbble, obviously we have a lot of challenges in community and curation and just making sure people play nice and all that stuff. You’re doing that on multiple levels with different businesses. Has there been challenges, or is it about making sure the people that come in are like-minded?
Tina: Yeah. Knock on wood, we’ve been really, really lucky on all of the different levels. If I think of it that, for example, Creative Mornings, once you are in as a host, and we think you’re the right person to run Creative Mornings and represent CreativeMornings in your city, we give you what I call the key to our Porsche, which is a back end. Then we trust you, and we let you run.
Tina: If you think of it, there’s people that are volunteering their time that we let … They represent our brand in their city. A lot of people that are very controlling would say, “Oh my god, that’s terrifying,” or whatever. In the 10 years that we’ve run Creative Mornings, we had two, one chapter that we had to shut down because they were abusing and going against our non-negotiables. They were selling tickets, and they were clearly in for their own ego.
Tina: But what we’ve learned over the years is there’s a way you can really get to the bottom of a person by just asking the right questions. We have a super-elaborate onboarding and interview process to really make sure that the people we let in are in for the right reasons. They have a low ego. They’re kind. They’re generous. They believe in community-building. I feel like it was over the years, we had to really hone our skills and figure out … We had some missteps, but nothing dramatic. If you think of it, it could have been. I feel it’s the same with FRIENDS.
Tina: The one thing I’ve learned is that a community is not a community until it self-organizes. What I’ve always told everyone, and because I run everything so lean, I always say, “Listen, don’t wait for me to police things. You are part of this community, and you are setting the tone. If you see something happening you don’t like, and you think it’s going against what the organization stands for, then you speak up.” Giving people the power and also reminding them of their responsibility to speak up when they see something that’s not right, really I feel like is the magic sauce for this.
Dan: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. It comes back to trust and empowering people to make the right decisions. That’s fantastic. It’s no wonder that all your communities are thriving like that. You’re starting them for all the right reasons, and then you’re maintaining them with all the right intentions, I’d say.
Tina: I hope so, but sometimes it’s hard to balance the … You know that CreativeMornings has the most backwards business model in history, like three events around the world for everyone.
Dan: Right, right. Well, that’s inspiring though. I think that there’s a lot of people out there that assume that you need a business plan. You need to have gone to school, business school, or you need a…
Tina: I have none of that.
Dan: Right. Yeah. Same here. Same here. I don’t like … yeah. I think that there’s a great … One of my favorite podcasts is Overtime. No. I’m just kidding. It’s called How I Built This. It’s an NPR podcast.
Tina: Yeah. I love it. I love it too.
Dan: Yeah. It’s amazing that how many founders of companies, and these are all companies from all … not just design or tech or whatever, but they all start how you explain your start in your different things, and that you want to see those in the world. You have enthusiasm for them. Often, it’s not based on an ego-driven agenda. It’s about the passion for the actual thing. I think that sometimes people forget that, that you gotta have that for success.
Tina: But you know, I’m a big believer that people actually sense … Again, if we want to go a little woo, I do believe that every company has a vibration and has a frequency. The people that you hire, they add to that. The founder sets the tone for that, and then everyone that you hire that contributes that adds to that vibration. I really, really, truly believe that people just sense that. People can sense if something is …
Tina: I’m a big believer that the things I have started, the reason they have started get traction in the beginning, especially when I never thought about them being a business, like Tattly, Creative Mornings, is because there was just a certain innocence and a layer of just love and fun around it. Then people want to support it. They sense that. I feel like whenever I see people wanting to start something, it’s like, “Listen, if money is your only driver, that’s not wrong, but that might not keep you going when it gets hard.” I think people might sense that, so I really feel like people sense the intentions of a business.
Dan: And it won’t be fun.
Dan: Yeah. I agree, and also having fun along the way, I feel like, is the reason for a lot of this stuff, the reason for living, really.
Tina: Life would be tragic if it wasn’t funny, man.
Dan: Yeah. Agreed. Totally agreed. That’s a good place to stop, actually. I mean, I don’t want to stop, but I think we have to. If we’re going to stop, then we might as well stop.
Tina: Do it here. Yeah.
Dan: That’s positive. Thank you so much, Tina, for being on and for all the things you create. It really is infectious.
Tina: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Dan: It was great.
Dan: This has been Overtime, Dribbble’s official podcast. I’m Dan Cederholm. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Please subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. We’ll see you next time. Thanks again.