Humanitarian and entrepreneur Tanisha Robinson has been a hustler since childhood. After serving in the army, she became a creator of startups around the world. Her love of Supreme Court blogs led to the creation of a t-shirt in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that jumpstarted the company Print Syndicate. A cold-email to the CEO of Zappos helped her raise capital for the enterprise and she now manages a team of more than 100. See how she funneled her passion and commitment to social justice to a thriving business.
Name: Tanisha Robinson
Title: CEO/Founder of Print Syndicate
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Hometown: Liberty, Missouri
Twitter handle: @TanishaRobinson
LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanisharobinson
The gig: As CEO of Print Syndicate, I’m responsible for all day-to-day operations from meeting with investors to analyzing our marketing data. We believe in creating products for unserved social identities and have made an impact in Columbus. I employ over one hundred and fifty people and encourage them each day to embrace and thrive off of their eccentricities.
The journey: I’ve been hustling since I was 12 years old. This came from the necessity of wanting things and having no money. I grew up unable to express myself in my hometown, then the army and the Middle East so I channeled the entrepreneurial spirit I’ve always had towards creating a mechanism with the potential to empower these unserved tribes to take pride in their identity. I’m a proud nerd who reads Supreme Court blogs for fun. That niche passion of mine lead to the creation of our “Notorious R.B.G” shirt which ended up being the catalyst of Print Syndicate’s success. Building companies is an exciting, but one of my favorite jobs was washing dishes at a restaurant. Between podcasts and audio books I was able to consume an amazing amount of information while working.
How to be CEO: At each place I’ve worked I’ve learned about myself and the type of leader I want to be. I value transparency and compassion, and strive to empower my employees. Throughout the year, I make sure to grab lunch with everyone in my company at least once.
Confessions of a Barrier Breaker: I’m a Black woman, a veteran and a lesbian – I consider myself an ultra-minority. Because of my ultra-minority status, I’m more empathetic and sensitive to ideas around social identity. It’s a huge advantage to have functioned as a misfit because I can deeply relate to what customers want from us.
Her lessons learned: Print Syndicate is built on a graveyard of failed experiments. The most important thing is to recognize those failures, iterate and move forward. We fail every day, but the key is to continuously make forward progress. Whether you have a bad day, bad week or bad month you can’t lose track of the big picture.
What may surprise you: I’m the second of seven children and I’m the shortest one at 5’11.
Her best advice: Whether you are intentional about your culture or not, you have one.
Her proudest accomplishment: Our company will do 2,000 hours of community service this year. I hope it matters to the city of Columbus that we exist, and if it does, that is my biggest accomplishment.
Networking 101: Be fearless, specific and thoughtful. The door that opened our Series A funding was a cold email I sent to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. If you’re going to approach the top business leaders in retail, make sure you come prepared. I asked Tony if he could introduce me to someone who is thinking about the future of retail and he connected me to Zappos’ Head of Innovation who then introduced me to the person who would ultimately become my lead investor.
Her childhood dream: When I was in middle school, I had to write my own obituary and thought a lot about what I wanted to leave behind. I talked about being a philanthropist, working for the poor and fighting for social justice—and people called me “Mother Tanisha.”
Her stress reliever: Bourbon is the core mechanism of my stress management strategy.
Her tech fix: My FitBit HR tracks my steps, tells me that my resting heart rate is way too high and reminds me that a little less stress would be healthy. I love Dark Sky and spend most of my time on the New York Times, New York Times Crossword, and Wall Street Journal apps.
Her beauty must-haves: I like to get my eyebrows done and never go anywhere without my Burt’s Bees.
Her power style accessory: My Lucchese cowboy boots, which are handmade in San Antonio, Texas.
Her work/life hustle: The first thing I do every morning is have coffee with my lovely wife Michelle. We’ve been married two years and she is both a best friend and mentor. Sleeping well and spending time with her are the two most important things to me.
Her theme song: the Radiolab podcast