Teresa Truda, 30
Nominated by: Bree Pagliuso
Since she can remember, Teresa Truda has always felt like a little bit of an outsider – she’s always pushed a little harder, jumped a little higher and asked questions a little louder than everyone else.
By age 30, Teresa’s constant bucking of the norm has seen her co-found her own digital consultancy, start and then sell an eCommerce shoe store and relocate to China to launch her own, investor-backed, personal services platform for business travellers called Chozun.
We spoke to Teresa in a cozy bar in The Castro district in San Francisco, right on the cusp of her move to Shanghai, and learned that sometimes people are going to want you to fail, that it’s ok to cry, and that if you are looking for a co-founder, try to find the yin to your yang.
You recently wrote an article about failure, specifically about Pata Pata, a shoe company you founded that you recently sold in order to dedicate more time to your latest pursuit Chozun. Why did you feel the need to write about that?
That’s a really good question. Pata Pata originated as a side business, a passion project. I was running my digital consultancy when I launched Pata Pata and after I sold it I wanted people to know that that didn’t mean it was a failure, or that I had failed. I wanted them to know that it was something that I didn’t have time to maintain anymore, something that I found challenging, and something that I loved, but something that I was almost ready to move on from.
One thing that stuck out for me in your piece – only because it resonates in terms of my own experience – was people asking you, “Oh, how’s that thing that you’re doing?” Both belittling what you’re doing as well as implying it’s not something that could be successful. Where do you think that attitude comes from in people?
I would say it comes from two places. It comes from insecurity and jealousy. The type of people that were asking it always seemed like they were waiting for me to say, “You know what, it’s kind of doing shit,” and then they could internally feel better about themselves. They were people who didn’t really understand how I could have multiple projects going at once and be semi-successful – well, by that, I mean, live and pay my rent.
When you were thinking about and writing this did you think about what success actually is?
Yes. I think about it a lot actually. I guess people define success in different ways. Some (well, most, really) define it based on material possessions: having a car, buying a house, having children, getting married. I don’t resonate with that at all. I think success is whatever you want it to be, for yourself. Success is however you picture it. For me it’s not necessarily having a family and buying a house. And that’s fine. It’s my definition to determine. For me, success is actually about being true to myself, my wants, my desires and being genuinely happy, doing something that I really feel passionate about.
Was this something that you always felt from when you were quite young? Did you always feel a little bit different, as though your point of view was always a little different?
Totally. I always felt like I was different (and still do), but when I was younger I never really felt confident enough or strong enough to express it. I still don’t go around preaching or voice my opinion very loudly but I definitely feel a lot more confident in my own conviction and know it’s okay to feel the way I do, be the way I am, want the things I want and define success however I do.
These days you’ve focused all of your attention on Chozun, your recently launched startup. Want to tell us a bit about what Chozun does?
Chozun started from a painpoint I had myself. Being a time poor, business professional, travelling to a new city for work and needing a wax (true story). I had no idea where I would go when I got off that plane nor the time to start trawling the internet. And it wasn’t the only instance I had where I wanted to find a trusted professional that could give me a high quality service in a new city (the amount of phone screens I’ve broken getting off a plane are actually countless).
So, chozun was born. It’s a platform for business travellers. When they get to a new city, they tell us what they want, we profile them (using our proprietary tech), and within seconds they are matched to a business that can give them a high quality service, based on their personal tastes.
When we came up with the concept, I didn’t ever anticipate it getting me to where it has already. To have a company that is my own, to have investment, to be able to go work in another country, to expand it to multiple cities… sometimes I have to pinch myself. It’s pretty cool. It’s really exciting, everyday.
What has been the hardest part of this particular journey? Are you the soul founder of this business?
No. There’s two of us. We are two pretty strong minded women co-founders. We also have a tech lead, and are supported by a couple of great engineers, data scientists and regional managers. The hardest part? The hardest thing for me with this was making the decision to quit my well paid, perk central advertising job to pursue this full-time. Saying goodbye to the stability, the great pay and lifestyle that came with that was super hard. It was a pretty big risk for me, personally. Not that I had a mortgage to pay or anything like that, but it was a big risk to leave an industry that I was so familiar with and back myself enough to give this a shot.
What makes a good co-founder?
When there are two of you, I think you definitely have to have different skill sets and qualities from one another. You need some that you can bounce off. Zia, my co-founder, is very straight down the line, whereas I’m super sensitive and sometimes a little bit emotional. She’ll pull me up on things where I’m being super irrational, and vice-versa. I think it’s really important to have someone that you can communicate openly with. Communication is key. Honesty and being a trusted, reliable supportive person not just with your co-founder but the wider team is imperative. And being able to lead, make decisions. Solve problems.
What’s the biggest change in your person, from who you were when you were graduating from school to who you are now?
Just believing in myself, having confidence in myself and my decisions. And feeling like, It’s okay to be you, Teresa.
How has that manifested? Do you feel it in the way that you interact with people or is it something internally?
A bit of both. I internally feel it, so that I think projects outwardly when I interact with people. I think it’s also just changed my attitude towards things. I’m a lot more positive about everything and I’ve realized that by being optimistic you open up a shitload of opportunities and draw awesome people into your life!
You’ve just turned 30. I turned 30 a couple of months ago and it does feel like this kind of whole new thing…this whole new age. How was it for you?
It was a bit strange. People make such a big thing about turning 30. Even some of my closest friends had really high expectations of what they would have achieved by 30, but I never felt that. So for me, it was kind of bittersweet. I turned 30 and was like, “I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now, it’s all okay.” Plus I was in Mexico with some of my best friends, in one of my favourite places in the world, so of course it was great.
For me, the best thing about turning 30 was realising I was actually 30, not a 22 year old trying to play amongst the grown-ups. I realised my point of view matters, I have an opinion, and it’s valid. When you think about the next decade, what does that look like to you?
That’s an awesome question. I want to move to Mexico, eventually. I want to live in Mexico for a very long time. Ha. But besides that, I truly want to create a comfortable life for myself, working on my own product – where I can live well, eat well, be around my sensational friends, adorable nieces and nephews and be able to give back to society through charity work and stuff like that. That’s kind of the ten year plan (even though it’s not really a firm 10 year plan. I’m not a planner). I definitely don’t want to go and work for a big company, ever again. I say that, and I’m so scared that I’m going to eat my own words… and have to go knock on doors in two years! And ask you to take my last sentence out of this interview. [Laughs]
You’ve worked in advertising and you’ve had a consultancy business, you’ve launched and sold one business and recently launched a second. When do you know that it’s time to jump of the cliff again? To start the next adventure?
When you become really unhappy. At the end of my advertising career, when I decided to transition out of that, take the final plunge, I was tired. I was getting sick, a lot. I was super unhappy and working 16 hour days for someone else. With Pata Pata, I guess it was like instinct, I knew it was time to part ways…I’m a massive believer in just following your gut. With Pata Pata, I was so hesitant to let it go because I loved the brand, I loved the concept and I loved everything we stood for, but I just knew that it wasn’t sustainable for me. So, it was time to get real and move on.
Are you happy now?
I’m super happy. I always think if you’re not happy or if there’s something that’s bothering you in your life, you have the ability to change it. People have flat days, absolutely. And there are weeks, months you can go through personal shit. But ultimately, you’re the only person who can be in control of your happiness and your destiny so just, sort it out – talk to a friend, see a shrink (life changing). Sounds simple doesn’t it, but you know where I’m heading.
What is a female’s greatest strength in the workplace, do you think? What is it that we bring that no one else can?
We’re just awesome. I think we bring a flare of personality, intelligence, strategic thinking and strength. Courage and strength. We’re risk takers, problem solvers, and I would say that women are super resilient.
And in a different kind of way as to what people might think resilience should be. What I’ve learnt from the women I have worked with is that we just keep getting back up and getting back up and getting back up…
Yep. Bring it. If something knocks you back I feel like women stand up and solve their own problems.
Do you think that a single person can change the world?
I think that a single person can contribute to changing the world. If every single person actually did something to make a difference then the whole world would function in a much better way.
Knowing that small steps make big differences, what are the little things that you try to do every day to contribute to a better world?
Be nice to people. I really think that that is such an underplayed thing. My friends call me ‘Mother Teresa’ or TFT (Too Friendly Teresa) because I’ve got this thing where I am always trying to help people…sometimes I over extend myself. But I think if you see that someone needs some help with something, personally, or in a work environment, just do it. Help them. You never know when that will come back around. And it does.
Then there’s the monetary side of things where I try to donate to charities or give homeless people money. Be nice and be human. It’s all it really takes.
Any final, parting words of wisdom?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. You’ll get people who will knock you down constantly, but if it’s something you want to do and it feels right, then roll with it – even if it actually feels a little bit wrong! Take the risk. If you think about what the worst case scenario of that situation is, you’ll work out that it’s not that bad, that it’s worth the risk and you can face it.
I used to have this fear of crying and feeling sad but I’ve had a wonderful therapist in my life for years and she has always said to me, “When you’re feeling like that, hold onto the chair, just sit in the chair, and cry. Feel those emotions and then ten minutes later, those emotions will pass.” And I used to do that. It worked. I overcame my fear. So what if I cried! It’s human, for me. So I use that as an example a lot. Your worst fear isn’t that bad. Everything can be solved or worked through. And you control your own happiness, destiny, life.