Tatiana didn’t follow a conventional path to starting a branding agency. She doesn’t have a degree in marketing, and never worked at a traditional agency. Instead, she moved about 6,500 miles away from her hometown: switching continents and shifting from an accounting career to a creative pursuit. After investing her time into self-educating, building a portfolio, and learning how to start and run a business…she went for it.
Now, almost five years after she decided to pursue her creative dreams, she has an impressive client roster – she’s proud to have worked with companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and The Motley Fool.
I hope this interview with Tatiana Dumitru will inspire you to take a chance on following your dream and pursue it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Tatiana Dumitru: I was born and raised in Romania, a former communist country. As a kid, I remember there were a lot of regulations – limited access to information, restrictions to travel abroad, and food rations.
When it was time to go to college, I studied to be an accountant – I was always good with numbers, so I thought that a degree in accountancy and audit would be a “safe” path to steady income for years. Though I knew I was choosing certainty over creativity, it felt like the smart thing to do. There’s always going to be someone who needs to hire an accountant, right?
However, I’ve always had a creative side. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn in by great design and clever ideas. In my first year of college, I had a brief opportunity to work in marketing and I really enjoyed it – even though it meant working and going to school full-time. I managed to juggle both, and because I loved the marketing work so much, thought of changing my major. But it felt like an irresponsible decision, and I could hear the analytical side of my brain saying it just wouldn’t add up. (Like an incorrect math problem!)
How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?
In 2012, I came to the United States, and soon after, I became a mom. My husband was the only person I knew here – I didn’t have any friends in the States, and both of our families were still in Romania. After we had our second baby, I found myself staying at home with two small kids, no friends, constantly tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed trying to be an optimum mom (opti-mom, if you will!).
So, I felt the need to find a hobby, something that would make my everyday life a little more exciting and a little less like the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ I wanted to do something creative, and my first idea was to come up with t-shirt designs. I started an Etsy shop, and it got me really excited – I loved getting to flex my creative muscle in a business-minded way.
How did you launch PreTee Creative?
The t-shirt business and my Etsy shop never became profitable, but it gave me a lot of firsthand experience. The experience opened my eyes to all of the work that goes into building a business – there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears behind every perfectly-filtered Instagram post. A year after starting my t-shirt hobby, I decided to become a freelance marketing specialist and I started using platforms like Upwork to get jobs.
I found a lot of success in helping clients come up with unique brand names or catchy taglines. This momentum encouraged me to keep going and seriously pursue my creative dream. I put time and energy into educating myself about branding, making the most of my ‘free time’ between running errands and taking my kids to their activities. I watched webinars, took online classes, and read as much as I could. Though this was a ton of work, I loved it.
In 2019, I decided to start my own branding agency. I kept the name that I used for my t-shirt business, PreTee Creative as a constant reminder of how far I’ve come.
Starting a business is challenging. What motivated you/kept you going?
I was nervous to follow this path and start a business because, so often, I’ve felt alone. I didn’t have any connections or mentors who could guide me in the right direction. I had to completely rely on my judgment and trust my instinct for every single decision I made.
But I remembered reading in one of my books that it’s better to take small steps instead of focusing on a singular goal, and I learned how to celebrate every win (big or small).
Also, I started with a great mindset, which I believe is really important – I know that sometimes there will be setbacks along the way, but those are just part of the journey. I’ve learned that the best outcomes happen on the heels of a failure…or when you’re least expecting it.
What are some things you’re really proud of?
Ever since I started my agency, I’ve worked with start-ups and global corporations. I’ve built brands from scratch and given existing ones a new look and feel. I’ve been featured in various media outlets and I also serve as a Leadership Network Writer for Entrepreneur.com. I’ve built a team with people from different corners of the world – I work with people from the US, Europe, and Australia and plan to expand.
I’m proud of myself for continuing to show up and stay positive, even when I feel burnt out. I’ve taken every failure or rejection as part of my journey to success. Setbacks are inevitable and unavoidable stepping stones on any path. Along the way, I’ve also learned to escape my “zone of excellence” (where I was doing things that I was highly skilled at) and slide into my “zone of genius” where I’m enjoying what I’m doing, I’m fulfilled, and I’m flowing with ideas.
Pursuing a passion and turning it into a business is not an easy journey and there are no shortcuts. It takes discipline, a positive mindset and one very important thing: a willingness to always show up.