Kristina Rudzinskaya of Etalon: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup

An Interview With Doug Noll

Doug Noll
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readAug 23


Understanding the importance of taking breaks and prioritizing self-care is crucial. Be attentive to the initial signs of burnout and prioritize your well-being. You might be amazed by how much more productive and resourceful you become after giving yourself the chance to rest and recharge!

Taking the risk to start a company is a feat few are fully equipped for. Any business owner knows that the first few years in business are anything but glamorous. Building a successful business takes time, lessons learned, and most importantly, enormous growth as a business owner. What works and what doesn’t when one starts a new business? What are the valuable lessons learned from the “University of Adversity”? As part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristina Rudzinskaya of Etalon posture apparel company.

Meet Kristina Rudzinskaya, the inventor and founder of Etalon, founded in 2021 with a mission to guide people towards alignment within themselves and the world around. Prior to dedicating herself to this work, she led the Quality Engineering team at Slack. Additionally, Kristina is a certified STOTT Pilates instructor, drawing inspiration from her fascination with alignment and fascia.

Kristina co-founded SPRAVA, the Belarusian Business Association in California, reflecting her commitment to fostering connections and opportunities for Belarusian business. She is also actively engaged in the female entrepreneurs community, and hosts monthly women’s meetups in San Francisco.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Hi, thanks for having me.

My name is Kristina. I am the founder of Etalon posture apparel, inventor and functional designer.

Like many in SF, I worked in tech for nearly a decade. My life took a momentous turn when I decided to delve deeper into my passion for Pilates and studied to become a certified Pilates instructor. Through my teacher training program, I gained a deeper understanding of body mechanics and posture, and fell in love with the transformation that was happening in my body and mind.

During that time, I also worked in an office environment where I witnessed people slouching over their laptops all day long. It became evident to me that I wanted to help people feel the same magic felt, even though I didn’t yet know the exact path to achieve this. After some brainstorming sessions, I decided to explore the posture-correcting market to see what’s already available and how people take care of their posture problems.

While conducting market research and testing various posture solutions, I realized that existing posture correctors either fall short in functionality or look like medical braces. I expressed my frustrations with the lack of elegant and effective solutions to my friend, who is an experienced entrepreneur. In response, he encouraged me with the words: “Hey! Why don’t you design your own posture corrector? You already possess a wealth of knowledge about body mechanics. I bet you can do it better than these existing products!” His support served as a catalyst and inspired me to embark on the journey of establishing my own company: Etalon.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Certainly! When I first started my journey, I faced some tough times that taught me valuable lessons.

Manufacturing Challenges. One of the biggest hurdles was getting our product manufactured at the quality and quantity we desired. Most manufacturers preferred working with big clients and large orders, which made it difficult for us as a small startup. For example, it took relentless effort and five months of persuasion to convince our fabric manufacturer to sell us the specific fabric we wanted.

Networking with Medical Professionals: Another tough aspect was networking with medical professionals. This industry operates differently, and traditional methods like email and LinkedIn did not prove very effective. Instead, we had to rely on face-to-face interactions and phone calls to establish meaningful connections with medical experts who could provide valuable insights and support for our venture. It required persistence and adapting our approach to build those crucial relationships.

Imposter syndrome since I was starting out in a new industry, or better say, in several new industries (Orthopedics and Garment Construction). It was hard to break initial barriers in order to speak confidently about my company with potential business partners. It took me time and effort to acquire the necessary acumen and be able to operate the relationships with potential suppliers, factories and other industry partners.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Sometimes I didn’t, haha.

Well, first, taking breaks is important. Either going for a walk or having a full weekend without any work is essential.

Also, connecting with people. Moments of self-doubt and hardship are part of the journey. I will always remember a conversation with my friend (she is a fashion designer) who said that she went through thoughts of “giving up” every single time she launched a collection. Hearing this normalized my experience, too.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Every entrepreneur appreciates when you ask them how things are, genuinely. I had times when a simple question like that would bring tears to my eyes, I was like omg thanks for caring. So thank you for asking. I am doing well, and the company is growing.

While grit and resilience are undeniably crucial, it’s essential to emphasize another significant aspect — developing the ability to see the bigger picture. Without this broader perspective, relying solely on grit and resilience may lead to progress, but the efforts could end up disjointed and less effective. Viewing the big picture is a vital complement because it enables you to consider not only isolated actions that contribute to progress but also how these actions amplify one another.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. The key lies in maintaining focus on your goals and treating these fluctuations as transient, much like the philosophy of arising and passing of sensations in Buddhism. Avoid getting entangled in the grasp of either successes or failures, as fixating on them can divert your attention from seeing the bigger picture and overarching objectives. Instead, strive to make thoughtful, well-considered long-term decisions that steer you towards your destination, rather than relying on short-term, hasty fixes that may provide a band-aid solution in the short run, but lead to chaos in the long run.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In hindsight, it’s amusing to think about how seriously I used to take certain situations that, looking back, seem rather funny.

One memory, in particular, stands out vividly. It was during the early stages of our project, and we had just experienced an unsuccessful first round of prototyping. Faced with the setback, I knew it was time to re-evaluate how the product should work. I had a clear vision of the movement I wanted in the body, so I explained to my partner that I envisioned the shoulder blades moving closer together to the center of the spine, gradually pulled by straps. I had all these elements in except for something that could effectively hold these straps in the center.

To my surprise, my partner came back with a shower curtain ring from the bathroom. It was strange but genius and incredibly funny in retrospect. Little did we know that this seemingly unconventional piece would enable us to confirm the hunch and mark the beginning of something incredible.

I just love unexpected solutions like this. Resourcefulness at its best!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My overall vision for the company’s products is that we don’t just focus on fixing posture like other traditional companies. We emphasize alignment in every aspect: physical, psychological, and spiritual, aiming for a pleasant user experience. It’s all interconnected and we address alignment holistically.

Moreover, our approach to building things is unique compared to others. We blend the best ideas from various industries because we believe that true magic and innovation occur at the intersection of multiple fields. I bring a lot of my engineering background into design, and intend to build a scalable design system for different body shapes and intensity levels.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s crucial to know yourself and recognize the signs of burnout. I went through a burnout in the past, which was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that it led me to leave the corporate world and reinvent myself in a new field. However, the curse was that it was a tough journey, taking me almost three years to fully recover.

Now, I’m more aware of the early signs of burnout. I can feel it creeping in, usually as anxiety in my stomach, especially when I’m driving, which is my special “me-time.”

When burnout starts showing up, it’s important to take a break instead of pushing yourself further. Prioritizing self-care is essential because neglecting yourself can have serious consequences.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are several people.

  1. My partner, Anton, played a pivotal role in our early design iterations by helping me discover a preliminary solution to secure the straps together. Beyond that, he is deeply engaged in the company as an informal advisor, possessing an unparalleled understanding of me and my values. His insights enable me to find solutions that resonate authentically with my vision. While I have my decision-making processes, knowing that he is there for support eases the pressure during challenging times. Additionally, he lends a helping hand whenever I need it, whether it’s shipping numerous Kickstarter packages or assisting at an Orthopedic conference.
  2. My coach is a significant figure in my life. Our relationship can be intense at times, and we may have our disagreements and arguments. However, he consistently pushes me to see the world from different perspectives. He holds a crucial role in my business and I jokingly call him my business godfather.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That’s what I live for. I help people be more aligned in a very sustainable way.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Listen to your gut and remain steadfast in your path. Listening to advice is important, but do not be swayed in different directions based on what other people tell you. Engaging with VCs, fellow designers, or users is enriching as everyone brings valuable insights to the table. I enjoy these conversations as they offer diverse perspectives and contribute to enhancing our product, communication, and processes. However, when I hear an expert’s advice, I take a moment to reflect on how it aligns with my overall mission. There are moments when such advice contradicts our broader vision or mission. In such cases, I trust my intuition, for if I were to follow such guidance blindly, it could lead to failure.
  2. Part-time help or hires may not be sufficient. Find people who can wholeheartedly commit to your venture, especially in key roles. This is a hard one! especially for startups with limited budgets. Hiring the right people can be difficult. In such cases, part-time assistance can offer a significant boost. However, if you seek a more sustained and impactful contribution in a critical role, aim for full-time hires. Having individuals solely dedicated to your company fosters a comprehensive understanding and leads to well-thought-out decisions.
  3. Even if you feel like an imposter, don’t fit in! Embrace your strengths and unique perspectives to create your own path. Understanding industry rules is crucial, but as an outsider, you often possess a unique perspective, recognizing that some of these rules may lack logical reasoning. This presents an opportunity to introduce best practices from other fields. For instance, why not embrace rapid prototyping, a common practice in other industries, within the fashion world? By challenging conventional norms, you can foster innovation and drive positive change.
  4. Ensure that you are surrounded by supportive partners and friends who genuinely believe in you. However, this doesn’t imply that these individuals will shower you with constant compliments. On the contrary, they will provide you with constructive feedback, stemming from their care for you and your achievements.
  5. Understanding the importance of taking breaks and prioritizing self-care is crucial. Be attentive to the initial signs of burnout and prioritize your well-being. You might be amazed by how much more productive and resourceful you become after giving yourself the chance to rest and recharge!

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?

Of course! I’d be happy to share what works for me, but keep in mind that everyone is different, and my “tricks” might not be as effective for you.

Nature has been my savior. Whenever I feel stuck, overwhelmed, or emotional, I close my laptop and head out for a hike. It never fails to provide new perspectives, making the situation feel more manageable and less daunting.

Having a supportive group of people around me has been crucial. It’s not just about receiving advice, but also having those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work alongside me. Simply knowing they are there can help release tension and help me keep going.

Engaging in sports has been super important for my well-being. While I used to do Yoga and Pilates, my body is craving for more intensity now. I found strength training and occasional running to be super helpful when I need to release pent-up energy.

I realized that nutrition also impacts my energy levels. After not eating meat for five years, I felt my energy was too soft for the challenges I faced. So, I reintroduced meat into my diet, and it provided the “push” and “constructive aggression” I needed.

Remember, the key is to find what works best for you and nourishes your mind and body. Listen to yourself, and explore different approaches to discover what brings out the best in you at the stage of your life you are currently in.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Thank you for your kind words! I absolutely love this question too! If I were to start a movement, it would revolve around promoting alignment in all aspects of life — physical, psychological, and spiritual.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

On LinkedIn, I share my professional journey, and on Instagram, I share snippets of my personal life and cute cat pictures :) Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to connect!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.



Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

Award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and now podcaster.