My Dad has always instilled hard work ethic in me and my sister. Surfing has always been my identity and main priority in life. However, Aja and I have always dreamed of being entrepreneurs together, and one day we made it happen. We shut down all the excuses that we could come up with and went for it! My biggest advice to others would be to go big and put all of your love in passion into whatever it is you do. Whether it is surfing a wave or making a new skincare formula, I put my whole heart into it and do it with passion & purpose.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tia Blanco & Aja Blanco.
Tia Blanco is a professional surfer, lover of animals, vegan activist, yoga enthusiast, and an entrepreneur. Her and her sister, Aja Blanco run an all natural, vegan skin care line called Dear Self Skincare. Tia is also an ambassador for Beyond Meat, Swatch, Sector9, Raen, and SugarTaco.
Aja Blanco graduated from NYU, where she studied Business and Psychology. Apart from Dear Self Skincare, she is a Software Engineer and amateur gardener. In her spare time, she enjoys painting & cooking.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Our dad is a lieutenant commander in the US Coast Guard, therefore we spent most of our life traveling around coastal US cities. We moved around/grew up in Oregon, Puerto Rico, San Diego, Laguna Niguel, and Hawaii.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Tia: I learned early on that I shared the same passion for the ocean as my Dad. My dad shared his love for surfing with me at the age of 3 years old. By 12 years old, I was completely in love with the sport of surfing and I began competing almost every weekend. Once I won my first competition in Waikiki, I knew that I was going to do everything in my power to be the best surfer I could possibly be.
Our dad instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in both of us at a very young age. So I have pretty much always known that I wanted to start my own business at some point. It was just a matter of what industry I wanted to get into. Naturally, Tia and I have always been really passionate about skincare. We were always searching for a line that was all natural, vegan, and cruelty-free that also worked well with our sensitive skin. Since we couldn’t find one that we really trusted, we made one ourselves!
Aja: I am also a Software Engineer. And as far as that goes, I became really interested in technology during college, when I worked at Apple. So I decided to study programming and now I love to develop fully customized, user-friendly, responsive web applications. Which works out really well, so I can stay on top of our website for Dear Self.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? Some of my highlights have been winning back to back gold medals for the USA in 2014 & 2015.
I really feel like my career is just getting started. I was in school for a really long time, so I don’t have too much experience yet. Although, I’m sure I will have a ton of interesting stories to come!
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?
One time I was rushing so much because the waves were super fun, so I forgot to put my fins in my surfboard. I remember trying to stand up on my first wave and falling instantly… So embarrassing!
This is our very first business, so we have made a lot of “expensive” mistakes along the way. One time, we misspelled a word on our shipping boxes, so our biggest lesson learned is to review and double-check things until we are blue in the face, before anything goes into production.
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 about that?
Tia: Since I grew up moving every 3 years, I think that made me extra close to my family. They were always the constant people in my life. My family has helped me persevere through some of the more difficult parts in my career. If it wasn’t for them I am not sure where I would be today!
Aja: I totally agree with Tia. We are so lucky to have a family bond as strong as ours. It’s really very special. I have been through some pretty dark times, and my family was always there to help me get through it and come out stronger.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Tia: My Dad has always instilled hard work ethic in me and my sister. Surfing has always been my identity and main priority in life. However, Aja and I have always dreamed of being entrepreneurs together, and one day we made it happen. We shut down all the excuses that we could come up with and went for it! My biggest advice to others would be to go big and put all of your love in passion into whatever it is you do. Whether it is surfing a wave or making a new skincare formula, I put my whole heart into it and do it with passion & purpose.
Aja: This may sound cliche, but I really believe “what you put in, is what you’ll get out”… That’s just the way life works. If you believe in something with so much conviction and do everything in your power to make it happen, you have a much better chance than if you just “hope” it will happen and put in minimal work and effort.
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
Tia: Each day is a new day to better yourself and your future! Not everyday is going to be easy and sometimes you will lack motivation… However, our mom always reminds us to just to do the best you can everyday no matter what. Some days your best will be better than others, but as long as you’re doing your best everyday you are bound for breakthroughs!
Aja: Couldn’t agree more! Every day is a blessing and opportunity to improve yourself and create the life you always imagined. Life obviously has it’s ups and downs, but it becomes much more enjoyable if you just ebb and flow with the process. Tia always reminds me to be present during every phase. Because the hard times make the breakthroughs feel that much more glorious.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?
Tia: Confidence is key! Whatever it is you want to express, do it with confidence and assertiveness. Always remember to implement passion into what you are saying to capture your viewers attention.
Aja: I am not an expert speaker by any means, however, the most effective and powerful speakers that I know of seem to exude as much confidence as they do relatability. They appear so comfortable on stage, that they make the audience feel comfortable as well. And they tend to be masters of silence and pausing.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
Tia: No one knows the thoughts or feelings that are going on internally, so embrace the nerves with confidence!
Aja: I used to get terribly nervous when speaking in public, my voice would get shaky and sometimes I would turn bright red. My best advice is to get as much experience as you can. Whenever you have an opportunity to speak, take it. Honestly, the more you do it, the less scary it will seem. Another important reminder is to really concentrate on what you are trying to convey, instead of thinking about how you are being perceived.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Love the process
Learn from your mistakes
Believe in yourself
The power of the mind is endless
What you put it, is what you’ll get out
The hard times, will make your breakthroughs feel that much sweeter If it was easy, everyone would be doing it
Don’t spend so much time comparing yourself to your peers, focus on your path Believe in yourself and your success with unwavering conviction
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Tia: My dream is to qualify for the WCT tour in surfing and get dear self skincare into stores like Sephora and Ulta. I know those two goals will take a lot of drive and ambition, but I am up for the challenge.
Aja: As Tia mentioned, our main goal for dear self is to get into retail stores as big as Sephora, Ulta, and even Whole Foods. Beyond that, I’d love for us to grow big enough to become a household name. It is far-fetched, but anything is possible.
My goal as a Software Engineer is to get experience working at a big company like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Tia: I use all of our dear self products religiously! Each one of our products are named after an affirmation to encourage self love. I do my best to embody the affirmation and turn my skincare routine into a self love ritual as well.
Aja: I love using our skincare in my routine! I can’t go anywhere without our makeup remover- “I am infinite”. My favorite product at the moment is “I am divine” our detoxifying night oil. I like to do a facial massage a few times a week to really get the blood moving in my face and give myself a natural “face lift”. I also love taking epsom salt baths when I need to relax. And we may or may not be working on a bath line. 😉
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Tia: I think the best “life lesson quote” I have been living by at the moment would be to love the process. You will always have good and bad days in life. Whether it is losing a prestigious surf contest or having a setback in business, it’s important to take a step back and turn each situation into a positive. Loving the whole process of the road to reaching your goals, will change everything.
Aja: My biggest life lesson quote is: “You get what you put in.” It has been true in every part of my life. When I was a little girl, I wanted be an Actress, but I took maybe one or two classes and went to one audition. Even though I wanted it, I didn’t put that much effort into it. As you can imagine, nothing ever came of that. On the contrary, I worked really hard in school, so hard that I would often miss football games and social events to have more time studying. From all of that effort and sacrifice, I was able to graduate as a Valedictorian, received a Harvard Book Award for being number 1 in my class, and received a scholarship to one of my dream schools.
You are both people of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Tia: I am very passionate about my vegan lifestyle. Being vegan has a huge impact on your health, the environment, and the animals. I would love to inspire people to try out a vegan lifestyle the healthy way in hopes to better themselves and the world around them.
Aja: From where technology is at today, to where it is likely headed… I think it will be integral for every kid to learn the basics of programming. Technology is all around us and makes our lives easier in so many ways. If you think about it, technology has the power to solve really complex problems and has the potential to effect so many people. So I would like to help more children have access to learning programming at a young age.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I am Ariana Grande’s biggest fan!
I follow @Mayuko on Youtube, a fellow software engineer who used to be a senior IOS developer at Netflix. She is super inspiring.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!