Tania Damha was born in Morocco as a Berber, a descendant of the Moors, who built beautiful buildings in Spain and Portugal, including the Alhambra. When she was a child her family moved to Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. After finishing high school, she took an aptitude test and discovered that she was good at technology—she did a work-study program at a tech school and became the first woman ever to be hired at the Royal Dutch Paper factory.
She operated gigantic paper machines surrounded by four hundred men. But she says not to worry—with her greasy, oily face and oversized shirt, she felt like one of them. After sustaining an injury from being hit by a car, she took time off and realized she wanted to move to Amsterdam, the city where van Gogh and Spinoza roamed the streets and found inspiration.
She got a job at a bank and studied Business Economics in the evenings. After working at the bank for ten years she finally left to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood. Tania loved her new life in Los Angeles but took a break from acting after a decade.
She delved into business ventures including having her own hot sauce company, selling dresses, baking fruit tarts, and producing tech events. Her event groups included an idea group and two tech groups, IoT LA and OC. Her groups grew to 3,000 members. She was sponsored by the most prominent tech companies in LA and was able to secure thought leaders who lectured at her events. Her group EPIC LA presented a series of live talks that brought together entrepreneurs, leaders, and visionaries. Her events were created to inspire people to take massive action in their lives.
After a five-year period of organizing communities, Tania traveled extensively. She hiked to the top of active volcanoes in Italy and Guatemala, visited almost every big city in Spain, and went to Monument Valley where the Navajo Indians live. Hiking volcanoes transitioned into running marathons. She ran marathons in Athens (one of the most challenging in the world) and Paris and plans on many more to come. In Paris, she witnessed the burning of the Notre Dame, after running her marathon.
In 2017 her other put-off-for-too-long dream of writing got the time, energy and attention it deserved. She wrote her first book and flew for it to Spain. Writing keeps her mind happy and makes her feel useful. In 2020 she finished her second book “Get Rid of Your Bullshit Life and Kick Ass.” Tania wants you to find your dreams and hold them tight. May you find out just like she did, that the sky is not the limit—it is just the beginning.
Where did the idea for your book come from?
I always loved books. For a long time, I wanted to write one, but fear stopped me. I finally kicked resistance to the curb and booked an airplane ticket to Spain. I flew out on Dec 31st and went to Andalusia (the south of Spain), where the character of my book lived. In two weeks, I wrote more than I did in the last 10 years. I finished writing my book and shortly after wrote a second one. I published my second book first. “Get Rid of Your Bullshit Life and Kick Ass”, teaches people how to win in life. I started my publishing company Maktub in 2020.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up early. Usually between 5 and 6 am. I look at the notes on my phone. The night before I write a list of things to do. If I wake up early I do an item before my run. If I wake up late (after 6) I run first. I run for one or two hours, then go home and tackle the other items on my list. I make sure all the important stuff gets done before noon. At noon my workday is over. If I do more in the afternoon then that is a bonus. Turning off the cell phone is crucial.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I am super enthusiastic about an idea, I pursue it. An idea has to hit me in my gut, nestle in my heart, and take over my brain. When it takes control of me mentally, physically, and emotionally I start researching. I have to fall in love 100 percent. I do not do half ideas. Or 25% ideas. We get many ideas. There is often power in not doing certain things. The key is to choose wisely.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about the increase in centenarians, people becoming 100 years and older. Life is magical. If we get lucky to live longer, why not. My grandpa was 111 years when he died. Having a healthy, happy, and long life is a trend I cherish.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My invented habit I call, “My 90 days to Excellence Sheet.”
Every three months, I put a big sheet of paper on my wall. I write with big letters the names of the months on it. For now, it is Oct, Nov, Dec. Under each month I write the days. Every day I write the important things I did. That way I keep track. I get visual proof that I am not bullshitting around. Every weekday, I have to produce a few important objectives. 7 items done, on one day, means it was a productive one. Here is an example of what I did on Oct 21st:
Oct 21st /Edited Wisdom Wed Article 1 hour/Ran 8 Miles/French 1-hour/ IngramSpark Book Uploading 2 hours/Marketing Research 2 hours/ Amazon Research 1 hour/ Social Media Postings 1 hour.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that some serious zigzagging will happen in my life. There are no straight lines to your destiny. Moving from A to B then C is unlikely. It will be more like going from A to M and back to A where you started, and then forward again. Cherish your zigzag life. It is the journey that counts, and eventually you will end where you belong.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think people undervalue the kindness of strangers. I wrote a quote, “Strangers are friends till proven wrong.” How many times has someone helped you, who you did not know? They supported when you reached out. They referred you without knowing you. My four close friends are great but at times you get support from strangers and they help in a surprising way. Make sure you help others in abundance too.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly reach out to people. I believe in being pro-active. Nothing happens if you wait for it to come to you. Do not be afraid and ask for help often.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Writing my weekly Wisdom Wednesday newsletter. I started writing them during the pandemic. I was initially hesitant to do this because I thought who wants more emails. I think I was afraid. I finally got over my BS, kicked resistance out of sight, and started. I receive many positive responses from my readers. People are helped by my weekly notes. You never know who you can help with your words. Growing my list allows me to stay in touch with my readers. When my books are ready I can let them know first.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure as an entrepreneur. What about ten? I think life is hell without a good hot sauce, so I created my own hot sauce company, which I ran for three years. The product I made was a unique sauce for the female market. Most hot sauces I purchased were too manly looking. There must be women, I thought, who also love hot sauce but do not want to only see a manly label that screams things like, “I am going to kill you,” “Burn in hell hot sauce,” “Hot sauce that burns tongues away,” “Die fast with our hot sauce,” or other variations.
I tried a hundred different recipes in my tiny kitchen. I mixed different peppers, ingredients, flavors, and roasted vegetables and got to work. My fridge was full of little glass bottles with different sauces, in different colors and sizes, lined up neatly in a row with the date written on with a Sharpie pen. It was the midst of a recession, and I felt the urge to create something to keep me going; I had unwanted free time due to the lack of work.
My goal was to come up with a luxury hot sauce, one that was not yet on the market. My hot sauce would taste heavenly. Its flavor would make you feel like you’d arrived in a special land. I found a manufacturer, launched a Kickstarter campaign to get production financed, and found a great designer for my labels. I was thrilled when I picked up my first batch of hot sauce. I was ready to sell this delicious sauce to my fellow hot sauce kings and queens. I set up tastings in gourmet stores, supermarkets, and little mom-and-pop stores. I drove to San Francisco where I set up a table and presented my hot sauce on salty crackers. My friend filmed my interaction with the consumers. I was ready, my hot sauce was ready, and San Francisco was ready. I stood behind my table and served my first customer the hot sauce on a little cracker. I could not wait till he would say that this was the best hot sauce he ever tasted in his life. Instead, he coughed. Then he coughed harder. And then he coughed even more. He thanked me and rushed the hell out.
More customers came in. The same ritual kept happening. I gave them the hot sauce, they put it in their mouth, their tongue caught on fire, they swallowed it, and they coughed hard. This kept going for hours, throughout my entire tasting. About 80 percent of the people who tried my hot sauce coughed after. “Hmmm,” I thought. “What is happening here?” This supermarket is a prominent, hip, super healthy store in San Francisco. The consumers are very health conscious, so I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe, they like more of a bland taste. They are not into a spicy, exotic Moroccan hot sauce, but a version with less heat.
What I needed was to have a tasting at a real hot sauce store. A place where my kind of people came, people who had hotness come out of their mouths and noses and still kept a huge smile on their faces, the Julius Caesars and Napoleons of the hot sauce world, the fierce Cleopatras and Joans of Arc. I scheduled another tasting at a real hot sauce store in Berkeley. People came here especially to buy hot sauce. I set my table up, people sampled the sauce, and again, they coughed. Not as many coughed as in the supermarket, maybe 70 percent, but they still coughed hard.
This experience was a major wake-up call for me, and eventually, I was happy this setback happened. The lessons from my hot sauce fiasco were clear. I realized that I did not want to be the new hot sauce queen in town. I still love hot sauce and will always love it, but it was not my destiny.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A business idea that is relevant to today’s economic climate. Create a resume updating service for the twenty million that are unemployed. Put it on LinkedIn and charge less than the competitors. One to help folks out and second to get clients.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best 100 dollars I spent was on my running shoes. They were on sale. I love the coral color. They are light and make me move fast.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I recently started using Grammarly. English is my fourth language, so I am still learning. Grammarly saved my grammar Ass a few times. I use it when I write my Wisdom Wednesday newsletter. I also use it when I write emails to people.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Let’s go with old wisdom because if it survived time then there must be value in it. I recommend “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. A Roman emperor who wrote his thoughts down and never thought they would be published. There are many translations. I would read Gregory Hays’s version, it is not as wordy and to the point.
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
- Do not only ask friends for advice. Ask strangers. Ask business associates. Ask people who review products. Ask outside your circle.
- Resistance is a deadly force and shows up in different forms. At a certain point, you have to conquer yourself and start creating your own destiny.
- Be pro-active. It is the golden ticket. It will bring you where you belong.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.