It’s a balmy spring day on Brooklyn’s Bergen Street. The trees are in blossom and there’s a lot of activity on the street; a fleet of trailers is lined up for a film shoot. Behind an unassuming front door and up a flight of stairs are the offices of Friends Work Here and Tattly, two labours of love started by Tina Roth Eisenberg, who’s better known online by the name of her blog ‘Swiss Miss’. Tattly sells high quality temporary tattoos; Friends Work Here is a co-working space.
Over croissants in the meeting room, Tina explains how her current ventures all started as side projects that have bloomed into businesses. That was never the plan. As well as Friends Work Here and Tattly, Tina is founder of a lecture series CreativeMornings and a to-do list app Teux Deux.
For many entrepreneurs, running one business is hard enough, so how does Tina find running four? “I thrive on being busy and jumping around. Those are two personality traits that have allowed me to do all the different things I do. If I had another personality trait it would drive me crazy doing so many different things.” She explains that CreativeMornings and Tattly take most of her time. CreativeMornings is a lecture series that takes place in cities around the world; Tattly however is a product, a sales-driven business. She says they are very different beasts. Having to jump between a variety of businesses that have different customers and which need different kinds of leadership brings many challenges. The hardest part is when a business hits a period of difficulty and both teams need you at the same time. That happened recently.
“It was the first time ever that I thought I’m at my limit, that it’s not so smart to run so many different things. I’d never questioned that before. That’s when I said to myself, why do I do what I do? Why do I have so much on my plate? I felt like I literally couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the capacity.”
But at the same time, Tina realised that by starting these as ‘passion projects’ rather than as profit-driven businesses, she had put in place the right people to help her through these tough times.
“You start in a different place if it’s not about the money,” she says. She’d hired people she could trust, choosing people who were willing, eager and smart. “These remarkable people made the situation better. I think both CreativeMornings and Tattly are better by the sheer fact that I couldn’t get involved in every decision.”
She acknowledges that involving more people in decisions alleviates stress her end: sharing the burden with her team means she can also share the stress.
Another challenge is deciding where to put her attention: Tina wishes she had more time for one to ones, or taking employees out for lunch. “People want to be seen, heard and appreciated. That’s my personal stress.”
Managing our to-do lists can be a great cause of stress. That’s why Tina launched TeuxDeux, her own to-do list app. “TeuxDeux is just a tool I built for myself to organise things. It’s to get those things I think about at 3am in the morning out of my head.” Using TeuxDeux gives her a sense of control.
Having team members from her multiple businesses based in the same building makes relationships easier to manage than if they were spread out across various locations. Although Friends Work Here was just another solution to x her own headache (she needed somewhere to work) — she’s built a like-minded community of designers, developers, photographers and other creatives. That gives her not only a great environment to work from, but also a support network for when times get tough. She explains there is no room for egos here, everyone supports each other and is empathetic to one another.
Tina recalls a moment a few months ago when things got real stressful. “I had a little freak out moment. I didn’t say anything, I just got up. I stood in the corner and one of the coworkers — who I don’t even know that well — saw me and came over to ask if I was okay. All I needed was someone to be there and to care for a second. And to empathise. That’s what life comes down to — that you have your support system.”
It’s the same with a company. She thinks an employer has a responsibility to relieve stress and to help people feel safer by creating a work environment that is not driven by fear and stress. She believes that if you feel appreciated and heard at work, you’ll be a better spouse or parent at home.
So how does she react when a member of staff comes to her feeling stressed and saying they can’t cope? “I’m empathetic to a fault! My team members aren’t worried about showing they’re vulnerable. I’m the first one to say go home and deal with what you need to deal with, if they’ve got a problem. It’s just not me to tell them to suck it up!”
For Tina, stress becomes problematic when she loses her inherent belief that things will be okay. “That’s when stress has taken over, when I stop functioning and go into a panic, fear-driven state. Then you don’t make decisions from a grounded place.” As well as drawing on the support of the community in 47 Bergen Street, Tina also goes for a walk or meditates. Other times she just stops and stands back and puts things in perspective and says “things are okay.”
Whilst these moments of stress are terrifying and frightening, Tina thinks it’s an opportunity to see if you can flip it. “That’s what we say here a lot. We’ve just got to flip this and turn it on its head into something good!”
“These moments of stress and crisis makes you have to deal with things you might not have faced up to. I actually think it’s a good thing.”
Of course, no visit to meet Tina would be complete without walking away wearing a Tattly. So before I leave Tina whisks me into their in-house tattoo parlour where she transfers a Tattly onto my arms: it’s a pair of quotation marks. Just right!
By Ian Sanders
Tina Roth Eisenberg, also known as Swiss Miss, is a designer and entrepreneur based in New York. swiss-miss.com & friendsworkhere.com
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