Do Something About It! Tina Roth Eisenberg on How to Become a Serial-Entrepreneur Success

by Marc Schenker

posted on 07-25-2018

Tina Roth Eisenberg is a talented UX designer who also doubles as a serial entrepreneur. If you’re an avid reader of design blogs, there’s a good chance you’ve already come across her Swissmiss blog, which is just one of her many projects.

A problem solver by nature and a creative soul, Tina has built a successful string of side projects that have boosted the creative community. For more than 10 years, she’s been on a hot streak of following her passions, opening successful business after successful business.

We talked to her to find out the motivation behind her ambition and how designers of all stripes can do the same for interests they care about deeply.

You’ve earned the nickname “The Queen of Accidental Businesses.” How did you get that moniker?

I have a personal rule that if I catch myself complaining about something repeatedly, I have two options: do something about it, or let it go. This rule has led me to start a few side projects that, very much to my surprise, have organically turned into businesses.

In 2007, I felt isolated working from home as a freelance designer, and I had a vision of other folks and I coworking in a friendly space. I started the first creative coworking space in NYC in 2008 — Friends Work Here was born. This was my first taste of what it meant to be around like-minded folks, having a truly intentional community to help you grow and be your best self.

Tina leads a meeting at the Friends Work Here coworking studio space. Image source: Tory Williams.

In 2008, remembering how lost and lonely I was when I first moved to NYC in 1999, I created the community I wished had existed back then by starting CreativeMornings. We have since grown into a global engine of generosity, fueled by 1,500 volunteers, happening in 186 cities and 65 countries every month — a volunteer organization entirely in service of the creative industry.

In 2010, I was lamenting the world of to-do apps and couldn’t find anything that was as simple as a paper list but also worked on my screen, so I started TeuxDeux. Within a day of launching, Fast Company called us the best to-do app of 2010. And then the church world found us, and we got a lot of support emails from nuns. They didn’t get our silly alert puns. That’s what happens when you start a project as a side project. We have since made our alerts more mainstream.

In 2011, my daughter came home from a birthday party with temporary tattoos in her goodie bag that were a complete insult to my Swiss aesthetic. I decided to do something about it. I reached out to my artist and illustrator friends and asked them for fun temporary tattoo designs, and, voila — Tattly was born.

The Tattly studio. Image source: Tory Williams.

We now have a team of 12, ship millions of tattoos around the world, and collaborate with prestigious brands on custom tattoos. And best of all, last year we reached a million dollars in artist royalties paid out to our artists whom we license our designs from. I am a big believer that passive income is the secret sauce to a creative life. My team and I are able to make that happen for our artists.

You’re currently in the middle of a product launch. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, we are a few weeks into launching the beginnings of the CreativeGuild, the latest labor of love of CreativeMornings. I have been feeling lost online, not sure where to find my likeminded, kind, creative folks on the internet. What I realized is that I am missing an online equivalent of what CreativeMornings is for me in real life — a safe, uplifting, inspiring space — so, I decided to build it.

We started with a Rolodex of creative companies, individuals, and jobs. You could describe it as a more soulful version of LinkedIn. I love that when you apply to be part of the CreativeGuild, you agree to a code of conduct. We believe that online experiences should feel more like face-to-face interactions. We care more about how you show up as a human than how your data shows up in an algorithm. And we aim to optimize for opportunities instead of advertisements.

We believe this version of the internet can exist. We are building it with an ambitious product roadmap ahead of us. I admit I did a little dance in the office when companies like WeTransfer, Herman Miller, and Help Scout signed up. If you consider yourself a creative company, you should apply. Here’s where you can find out more.

What have you learned about launching successful products and businesses?

Three things come to mind:

  1. Good things take time. Start something with a patient mindset. Don’t expect success to happen overnight, but keep showing up, and keep making it better. If you start something as a side project out of the deep desire of wanting to see it exist in the world, without the pressure of it having to pay your rent, you will be able to be playful and experiment. And when you’re having fun building the thing, people will feel that. Before you know it, you might have a viable business at your fingertips. And when that’s the case, make sure to learn every day to allow the space between where you are and where you want to be inspire and not terrify you.
  2. Be intentional with whom you surround yourself with. Intentional community is everything. The people around you impact the way you think and what you dream of. My coworking community has given me the courage to start businesses I would have otherwise not started.
  3. If your only contribution is anger, you’re not helping. Add light. Be playful. Try to sprinkle the possibility of a smile into everything you do. Be a warrior in the service of joy. People love products and services that fill them up and make them feel good. Be a shining light, a force of good in whatever world you operate in.
Describe your journey from UX designer to serial entrepreneur. What was the motivation for you?

I grew up with entrepreneurial parents and knew I wanted to start my own business. I always waited for that perfect moment to present itself. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized that there will never be an angelic choir coming down from the sky telling me to start my business now. So I started my first business, my design studio, the day my daughter was born.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka the swissmiss.

When my son was born four years later, I realized I didn’t like having clients and went on a one-year client sabbatical to see if I could come up with my own projects. I did. It’s been eight years, and I never went back to having clients. The birthdays of my children are huge turning points in my career. They fueled the entrepreneur in me. To all women out there: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have children AND a career. If you have a partner who is helpful, you definitely can.

How can designers follow in your success — what do they have to know to go from UX designer to serial entrepreneur?

My advice would be to follow and make things that make you happy. Hang out with people who are positive, makers, and doers — people who want to have a positive impact in the world. There are people who break things down and people who lift up. Know which side you’re on. And if you’re like me, show up, contribute, and add light. Create the things or communities you want to see exist in the world.

Your life is your biggest design project.

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Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Creative Cloud