Tina Roth Eisenberg on 4 things designers-turned-startup-founders need to know

Mar 28, 2017 · 4 min read

“I sometimes laugh because here I am, sitting, looking at Excel spreadsheets and talking and worrying about margins. How have I become that person?”

Like many creatives, Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka Swiss Miss, didn’t think sales spreadsheets would become part of her day-to-day.

But the New York-based entrepreneur and blogger has managed to turn not one but five side projects into successful, profitable businesses. First, there’s her popular design blog, Swiss Miss, which averages a million unique monthly visitors and cemented Tina as a beloved tastemaker. Then there’s Tattly, her design-led temporary tattoo company; her breakfast lecture series Creative Mornings, which now has more than 160 chapters around the world and Friends, a collaborative co-working space.

Each of these business evolved organically out of things that piqued Tina’s interest, or things that frustrated her, and each has taught her lessons about how to be a designer-turned-founder.

Becoming a better salesperson is something you can learn, and it doesn’t have to be a dirty word if you’re a creative.

In an interview with Stewart Scott-Curran, who heads up brand design at Intercom, she shared her advice for designers-turned-startup-founders, her tips for juggling multiple projects, and the role community can play in inspiring great work.

Click the play button to listen below, head to our blog for a transcript, or keep reading for some highlights.

1. Everyone can learn to become more sales driven

Becoming a better salesperson is something you can learn, and it doesn’t have to be a dirty word if you’re a creative. “When you’re a sales-driven company, at the end of the day, even if you sell artistic things, you need to care about your margins and the sales channels,” Tina say. Though she admits she’s “not a salesperson at heart”, running a sales-driven company — even one as quirky and creative as Tattly — forced her to start caring more about the sales process. “I had to learn and embrace sales as an art form.”

2. Make innocence a competitive advantage

Entering an industry as a novice can feel daunting, but it also means you question things that seasoned industry veterans wouldn’t think to. “It’s incredibly refreshing when you start a business with such innocence and enthusiasm like I did and then automatically bring a breath of fresh air to an industry that others would never even dare to do.”

3. Mix up your network

Tina attributes a lot of her success to making an effort to work with people in industries other than her own. “You benefit when you surround yourself with people that are equally driven, creative, but from different industries,” she says.

“Find a group of people that has really high standards in their work and that complement you in some way. I have become so much better at everything I do and have set my bar so much higher and my goals have changed because of the people that I surrounded myself with.”

4. Design your way to success

Graphic designers have a distinct advantage starting businesses, as they can quickly create a cohesive, polished looking brand identity. “The second day I was in business with Tattly the Tate Modern shop buyer called and said, ‘How long have you been in business? You have such a great brand.’ I was sitting there thinking, my God, we’re two days old,” recalls Tina. “Just because I was a graphic designer I was able to make it look professional right out of the gate.”

Intercom makes messaging apps for businesses that help them understand and talk to customers.

Want to hear weekly conversations with practitioners from the worlds of product management, design, startups and marketing? Click below to subscribe to our podcast, or visit our the Inside Intercom blog for key takeaways and transcripts.


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