This special report from the 2017 High Five Conference was prepared by Holly Larson. Follow her on Twitter @HollyKLarson and connect with her on LinkedIn.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, the Founder/CEO of CreativeMornings, delivered the closing keynote address on Day 2 of the High Five Conference in Raleigh, NC on March 2, 2017. Eisenberg’s topic was “The Best Way to Complain is to Make Things.”
Eisenberg came to New York as an intern for three months 18 years ago and never left. “It was instant love. Everybody walks and talks as fast as me,” she said.
Eisenberg is a Swiss graphic designer who runs four “side-projects gone businesses” out of DUMBO, Brooklyn: a collaborative co-working space called Studiomates, now called FRIENDS; the CreativeMornings global, monthly lecture series; TeuxDeux, a simple to-do app; and Tattly, a design-y temporary tattoo shop.
Eisenberg created a talk series, Advice to My Younger Self, which is really advice for her children. They are stories of what she has learned over her journey.
- Pay attention to what tickles your heart.
Eisenberg has the hardest time when people ask what she does. She realized she needed a better elevator pitch. Eisenberg asked her daughter Ella if she knew what she did all day. “Yes, you sit at your desk and laugh,” Ella said.
Eisenberg was elated because she realized that Ella had learned that she should never settle for a job that doesn’t make her happy. That is one of Eisenberg’s biggest goals that she has accomplished in life.
Eisenberg showed a video clip of Steven Spielberg saying, “Sometimes a dream almost whispers…. It never shouts. [It is] very hard to hear. So you have to every day of your lives be ready to hear what whispers in your ear…”
This world need more people who are lit up and alive, says Eisenberg.
- Kids are good for you (and your career).
Eisenberg’s daughter was her biggest career catalyst. When she was pregnant with Ella, she realized she wanted to start a design studio. Eisenberg started the studio on the day Ella was born. She started a coworking space, CreativeMornings and got pregnant again.
When her son was born, Eisenberg realized she didn’t want clients. She took a one-year sabbatical which was possible because her Swiss Miss blog generated income. Eisenberg then created TeuxDeux, which helps people who like to make lists. She started Tattly, a tattoo company with an ecommerce site, just for fun.
Her children’s birthdays are reminders of all the milestones Eisenberg has accomplished in her life.
“Having kids is not the end of your career. It makes you so much focused and driven,” said Eisenberg.
- Don’t complain. Make things better.
If Eisenberg complains a lot about something, she gives herself two choices: do something about it or let it go.
When Ella brought her temporary tattoos, Eisenberg decided to launch an ecommerce site with tattoos from other illustrators as a joke. She didn’t realize she had created great karma by showcasing other illustrators’ work on her blog.
The second day in business, she got a call from the Tate Modern in London; the caller asked her for a wholesale catalog. Eisenberg calmly took the phone call and then asked her staff, “What is a wholesale catalog?” and the team scrambled to create one.
Tatly now has 16 staff in Brooklyn and 700 designs from 100 illustrators. Eisenberg has become an authority on temporary tattoos, and she had her team have been invited to the White House twice. “If you have a slightly crazy idea, have fun with it,” says Eisenberg.
- Choose wisely who you hang out with!
When Eisenberg started her design studio at home, she was so lonely. This was before co-working was popular.
Eisenberg found a white box space on DUMBO and built it out. People came flocking. There was so much demand, that the co-working space grew from one space to four, providing space for creatives like marketers, designers, and artists. Eisenberg was able to get advice from people who could help her career.
“It is my happy space,” she says. Eisenberg quotes Seth Godin: “Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with.”
- Always be kind.
Eisenberg once bought a fake pineapple on Amazon. She had it with her when she went to a grocery store and bought a bunch of snacks. The checker bagged the fake pineapple and charged her for it, even though he didn’t even sell pineapples. Eisenberg was perplexed, amazed, and ultimately peeved at his chutzpah.
The point? Business people are real people, so treat them like humans. Don’t win at their expense.
- Trust friends’ magic.
When Eisenberg moved to New York in 1998, she couldn’t afford the events at AIGA that she wanted to go to. When she started her coworking space in New York, she realized that it was very difficult for creative talent to get together.
Eisenberg opened her coworking space and created Creative/Mornings, a monthly lecture series. It started with 30 people and grew it to 85 people.
Eisenberg thought the series had reached its limit. Two friends took it to Zurich and then LA. First followers are incredibly important, says Eisenberg as they take the kernel of an idea and make it grow.
Eisenberg loves interacting online, but the real relationships are made face to face. Creative/Mornings is helping foster these important connections.
- Yes means yes!
When Eisenberg and her team say yes, that means they have thought things out and created a plan to deliver. They then have an unwavering commitment to deliver.
When Eisenberg and her team were building out the coworking space, they got an emergency request for lighting, even though they had asked for advance warning of all requests.
Hailey, the project manager, told Eisenberg, “I’ve got this.” She called around and found 42 lights at the Paramus Ikea and headed off to buy them, pausing to take a selfie with her jam-packed car. People like Hailey have a tremendous work ethic.
“If it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no,” says Doug McKeon in Essentialism.
- Flip it! Embrace any challenge as an opportunity.
Creative/Mornings has a backwards business model: It offers free events and provides free food. The meetings have 500 to 600 participants, and there is always a waiting list of another several hundred.
Eisenberg told her team, “We have to get the magic back and help the people who are on the waitlist.” The team now finds free workshops in the same city and sends these events to the individuals on the waitlist.
When Eisenberg started the tattoo company, she didn’t have any money. She approached MailChimp, which provided the money to get started. The company provides a bonus tattoo with every order.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Often.
Eisenberg embraced risk when she was invited to speak at AIGA at the first time. She was terrified of public speaking and planned to say no. That night, she lay in bed and told herself she had to say yes.
Eisenberg spoke at the AIGA event and met John Maeda, an executive, designer, and technologist. Maeda, who is Eisenberg’s creative hero, has also become a mentor for Creative/Mornings.
Maeda has done incredible pivots in his career and says he does it to “shock himself that he is still alive” – a value Eisenberg espouses. She has taken many big risks in her career and sprinkles in small risks on an ongoing basis to keep her thinking fresh.
- It’s okay to have fun.
Eisenberg has an eccentric aunt who was a fashion designer and artist. Eisenberg’s aunt didn’t care what people thought of her, so she was a great role model for her niece. Eisenberg and her aunt take kooky performance photographs together, and the aunt once jumped in her pool, fully clad.
“Fear of what other people will think is the single most paralyzing dynamic in business and in life,” says Cindy Gallop, an advertising executive and creative thinker whose Ted Talks are must-view events.
Eisenberg interjects whimsy into her businesses. She has worn a giant fake piece of bacon to a Creative/Mornings event and used a Viking Helmet at a visual prop at the office.
If you like a video at Creative/Morning, it rains hearts. If you order tattoos at Tatly, they will come in a box surrounded by confetti. Her team keeps a giant drawer filled with confetti at all times.
Eisenberg views success as the growth she sees around us. She advised participants to watch Simon Sinek’s videos. If you create an environment where people feel safe, happy, and heard, they will become more proactive in their personal lives as well.
“If you don’t know where to start, just start with a confetti drawer,” Eisenberg concluded.
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