Women in Business Q&A: Rachel Tenpenny Crawford, Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Teamotions

04/20/2016 05:21 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2017

Rachel Tenpenny Crawford is the co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Teamotions, an emotional wellness company based in Ojai, California. Through tea tastings, public speaking events, podcasts, and her writing, Rachel teaches users how to use the Teamotions line of hand-blended teas as a tool to cultivate a heart-centered approach to emotional health and well-being. As a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, Rachel is a passionate advocate for holistic grief recovery and emotional healing and well-being.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I think the interesting thing about life experience is it doesn't determine who we become as much as it forces us to decide who we want to become. The choices I made in the face of my life experience, specifically the deaths of my baby daughters in 2008, have shaped me to be a more compassionate and determined leader than I think I'd be if I had not experienced such a pivotal life event. Tragedy demands that we choose to either redefine our values or give up on them. I chose to redefine them, and those clear, refined-by-fire values shape every decision I make, including how I lead my company and those in it. When you know exactly what you stand for and what your goals are, leadership flows more naturally. That gives me the freedom to lead from the heart. Leadership is about influence, and influence is cultivated through relationships. I also saw myself at my worst when my daughters died, so I'm more aware now than ever of my weaknesses and tendencies under emotional stress. This helps me surround myself with people who are strong in ways I am weak, step back to evaluate before making important decisions, and really listen to the input and advice of my mentors and advisors. Knowing my weaknesses is a strength. I don't dwell on my weaknesses, though; I know where I am strong and operate freely from my strengths. I'm not afraid to ask for help or guidance either. I see it as a necessity of any leader worth her salt.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Teamotions?
Stepping out to start my own business has taken a bit of moxie. I learned how to operate outside of my comfort zone in all my previous jobs, which gave me the confidence to become an entrepreneur. I've either been self-employed or worked for commission, so I've always been in charge of cultivating my own paycheck. I learned how to work hard and smart. I learned that good intentions don't put money in the bank. I learned how to show up, start early, and stay late. I learned how to produce, how to adapt, and how to think realistically. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I went to college too, but nothing prepared me more for starting my own company than hands-on experience.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Teamotions?
There are many highlights to being the Chief Visionary Officer of Teamotions. Every time I teach a Tea Tasting class, every Teamotions Ambassador that signs on, every new product we develop...it's all exciting. The most rewarding part for me is all the emails we get from people saying how much Teamotions means to them and has made a difference in their lives. I gauge our success by lives touched more than any other factor. I feel a deep sense of purpose knowing that we are accomplishing what we set out to accomplish. That keeps me going on the days when challenges are bringing me to my knees. One big challenge Teamotions has faced from the beginning is that it doesn't "fit it into a box," so to speak. Teamotions doesn't fall into any clearly delineated category, so traditional or normal growth strategies don't quite apply. We've had to become very comfortable with a more intuitive style of building a company and surround ourselves with people who are open to thinking outside the box. The biggest challenge for me personally has been the sheer time investment running my own company requires. I'm also a wife and a mom to two elementary school boys and my husband is in the military, so the demands on me and my time are already intense. Add running my own company to the mix and it can feel overwhelming at times. If I didn't have my sister as a business partner, I wouldn't be able to do it. Facing the demands of entrepreneurship together is the key to our success.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I'm not sure how to define "my industry." Teamotions is a niche within a niche. We use a relational sales business model to share our message of hope and healing and offer our teas as the revolutionary emotional well-being tools they are. We don't fit into any box and never have. My best advice to any woman who wants a career with Teamotions is to believe passionately in our message and product, and be comfortable stepping outside the box to touch lives. My best advice to any female entrepreneur is to never let conventionality get in the way of your vision. There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes. Find what works for your business. Vet every possible strategy and approach. Do your research and due diligence. But NEVER compromise your vision. And don't work with anyone who doesn't share your vision 100%.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson I've learned to date is that I can trust my inner voice. I've made some decisions in the past because I felt like it was the "right" thing to do, or what "made sense," or because it seemed like what I was "supposed to do as a responsible CVO," even though my gut instinct was telling me not to. I have regretted every single one of those decisions. My struggle is that I feel an enormous responsibility as a business owner to not fail or make mistakes. But I've learned when I let my fear of making a mistake drown out my commitment to my vision for my company, I regret it every time, and it usually costs me money, time, and momentum. I've been able to glean wisdom from each experience but not without taking a hit. Entrepreneurship isn't a science. I've learned to combine my heart, intelligence, and intuition to build Teamotions.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't believe in a work/life balance. Work is life; life is work. I don't separate the two. Being an entrepreneur is as much who I am as being a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. And I think the term "work/life balance" has caused more guilt and confusion for women than it has inspired purposeful, contented living. I believe life is about choices and sometimes I have to make choices that look a lot like what some people call imbalance, but as long as it aligns with my values, I'm ok with it. Having a well-defined value system has helped me keep my sanity more than any other life skill. When I know I am making purposeful choices, not just reacting to all the demands on me or constantly subtracting something from my life every time I add something, I feel confident I'm on the right track. Some seasons of life are simply "out of balance." Some seasons demand more time, more energy, more effort from us than others and that is okay. It is important to remember that at any time we can make a shift. It may be difficult, but we always have the power to make a different choice. I think the more important skill is knowing when to ask for help. No human, no matter how capable and hardworking, can do it all and have it all. Every day we get to choose how we want to live and I take that very seriously.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is the challenge of taking care of their emotional health as they strive to provide, excel, and advance. Women are notorious for putting their emotional needs last. They will give everything they have at work, at home, to their kids, to their spouse, and to their churches and communities and have very little, if anything, leftover for themselves. This can lead to burnout, self-neglect, illness, resentment, hormone imbalance, and a sense of lost identity or purposelessness. This has negative and expensive consequences in the workplace like low morale, missed days due to illness/personal days, low productivity, and increased turnover. It is more difficult for women to compartmentalize their life into categories like "work" and "home." This isn't a liability; it just means that corporations and organizations need to do a better job of creating a work environment that supports emotional health and well-being and teaches women the emotional skills they need to develop healthy boundaries and take responsibility for their emotional health. If women don't have this kind of support at their workplace, they need to be able to access the tools and skills they need to cultivate it on their own. This is the purpose of Teamotions--we provide tools and skills to corporations and individuals to teach them how to cultivate emotional well-being. We want to help people thrive, not just survive, and empower them to take responsibility for their hearts no matter their circumstances.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Nothing has impacted my life in a more positive way than mentorship. I've been blessed to have a handful of amazing people invest in me as a person, a student, an athlete, a wife and mom, and now, as an entrepreneur. My first mentors were my parents. I have really great parents. My dad raised me with a lot of wisdom and taught me the value of work ethic, integrity, and generosity. He gave me my first job when I was ten years old and his favorite saying was, "If it is important enough to you you'll find a way." My mom taught me to look for ways to help without being asked and ingrained in me the fact that I'm not the center of the universe. My grandfather also mentored me. He used to pay me $20 to transcribe Jim Rohn tapes and gave me my first books to read on leadership and influence. My youth pastor took me under his wing for seven years, cultivating my faith, my passion for people, and my determination to make a difference in this world. We traveled all over the world together, serving, learning, and being changed by what we saw and did. And there were also coaches, teachers, professors, and internship directors who shaped who I am today, many of whom I'm still in contact with. Without these people I would have led a very different life, especially after my daughters died when I was desperate for support and love from people who knew me and walked through life with me. I think that is what true mentoring is. A mentor bonds with you, walks with you, knows you, invests in who you are, not just what you are doing. Anything less is just a life or business coach.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I tend to pay attention to the outliers and the women who run a bit under the radar. I admire the rogues and the revolutionaries. In 2009, after my daughters died, I attended a women's retreat and heard, for the first time, an author and speaker named Jill Briscoe. She is one of the most remarkable women on planet earth. Jill Briscoe is in her early 80s and still going strong. She and her husband lead a global ministry together, publish a magazine, and have authored over forty books. She is brave, transparent, and seasoned. She is truly a woman of global influence and I've admired her experience and tenacity from the first time I heard her speak. Her accomplishments--and there are many--are dwarfed by her humility and commitment to her mission. I can only hope that when I'm eighty years old I'll have the knowledge and energy to contribute to the lives of others with as much class and wisdom as Jill Briscoe.

What do you want Teamotions to accomplish in the next year?
In the next year I want to add 250 Teamotions Ambassadors. I want to grow Teamotions' reach tenfold. I get emails regularly from people asking where we were when they needed us and it breaks my heart. We are here and we want to help, but we can't help the people who don't even know about us. Getting eyes on Teamotions is Job #1. I'd like a Teamotions Ambassador in every state! Honestly, I'd like one in every city. Eventually I want Teamotions Ambassadors worldwide, but for now my focus is national. Our message is simple: Every heart matters. Our mission: Leave no heart behind. That's a tall order, but a worthy one. I need 250 more Teamotions Ambassadors to build the foundation that will take Teamotions to the next level. This year is focused entirely on that goal.