Founder Friday: Making Astronomical Aspirations Come True, with Terez Co-Founders
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
Zara Terez Tisch and Amanda Schabes Zeligman started Terez in 2012 with a galaxy-printed legging and astronomical aspirations. They were designing and manufacturing girls’ styles in vibrant, playful prints that soon caught on with women of all ages eager to express themselves through the brand’s unique designs. Today, Terez offers active lifestyle collections for women and girls. We caught up with these creative founders to hear more about how they support other female entrepreneurs and how to best channel creativity around the office.
Why did you start your company?
Zara: I love that this is how this question is framed, rather than “How did you get the idea for your company,” because the “why” behind Terez is so core to the brand. I knew that I wanted to do something that brought positivity and joy into the world. I wanted to create something that would help myself and would help others. I grew up around fashion – it’s what I knew – so it became the vehicle for spreading my message. But ultimately everything that we do at Terez is motivated by our higher purpose mission.
Tell us about yourself.
Zara: I grew up in Atlantic Beach, Long Island, where I met Amanda, who has been the best friend by my side since middle school. We used to spend our nights and weekends writing songs and screenplays that we performed in my basement, which, low and behold would become Terez’s first office (and warehouse). A lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t. We still unite in between meetings to sing renditions of catch up at the candy wall (the Terez water cooler, for all intents and purposes). Amanda and I have our Terez family, a group of talented, passionate people who work in Terez HQ in NYC, and we are both fortunate to have amazing families at home as well. I really love being an entrepreneur and a mother to two kids and three dogs. It doesn’t leave much me-time for relaxation or self-care, but I am working on that!
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
Zara: I grew up not only around fashion, but around entrepreneurship as well. My mother designed her own jewelry line, and my father ran a women’s dress business in the heyday of the Garment Center in Manhattan. In early days, my parents connected me with their longstanding partners in the Garment Center, from fabric suppliers to factories. To some extent, I felt as though I was carrying on their legacy by starting my own business in NYC. Of course, I had to forge my own relationships and demonstrate that I was serious about growing Terez, that I had a vision for scaling this brand. Though we have expanded our supply chain over the years, we work with many of these same vendors today.
What are some of the ways entrepreneurs today can help raise and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
Amanda: Support the next generation of women entrepreneurs with your time, and with your wallet. Answer the email from the entrepreneur just starting out. Tell her to push past her doubts, to trust herself. And shop female-founded businesses when you have the option.
I will use the fashion industry as an example. I think that there can still be an impression among outsiders, even insiders, that fashion is an extremely cut-throat industry, even catty. Taking the opposite approach — propping up other women whenever possible and being kind to one another — will not only change this impression, but it will help draw attention to those who are not taking this route. We will see a change in their approach when they understand that strong women will not tolerate women being unkind to or unsupportive of other women.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Zara: Loyal, compassionate, committed.
Amanda: Positive, independent, trustworthy.
What quality do you love most about yourself?
Amanda: I love how much I care. I feel deeply invested in our community, in feminist and humanist causes that are important to me, in my family and friends. I believe that this quality has allowed me to forge decades-long relationships that enrich my life every day.
When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
Amanda: My power-look is Terez leggings, a simple tee, leather jacket, combat boots, and one of my favorite (signature, some might say) hats. This is my uniform many days a week because it is the outfit in which I feel the most confident and true to myself.
When and where are you happiest?
Amanda: Aside from just anytime I can look around a room to find that I am surrounded by people I love, I would have to say Burning Man is my happy place. It is a feeling of ultimate freedom I have yet to experience anywhere else in the world. Freedom to create, freedom to escape, freedom to express yourself freely, freedom to be exactly who you are.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Zara: Time is your friend. When I started Terez, I wanted to do everything on day one. I wanted to be an overnight sensation – as though a slow build to the same milestones would not constitute success. In reality, it was to my, and Amanda’s, and Terez’s, benefit to crawl before we walked.
What's the top song on your playlist right now?
Amanda: “Thank U, Next” is on steady rotation at the office. We are big suckers for nostalgia, and that video was epic. Thank U, Ariana Grande.
What are the advantages or benefits of being a founder that many people may not realize or know about?
Amanda: Women really open up to us. We have an opportunity to connect with people who love the brand or who find our messaging inspiring. They tell us about their experiences, how they feel confident and comfortable when they put on their favorite pair of Terez, or how our Instagram video of the team Terez Halloween contest made them smile, I personally have learned so much from those interactions, not the least of which being that people really do want to talk, and make eye contact, and have human interactions.
What did success mean to you when you first started your company? How has your definition of success changed since then?
Zara: I wanted to build something that was going to help people, bring joy and positivity into the world. That meant having a brand DNA that evokes those emotions, and having a platform that was substantial enough to spread our message of empowerment and self-expression. This recipe still represents success to me, but the stakes are higher. At this point, we are focused on scaling to reach and impact more and more women.
Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
Zara: Female entrepreneurs, especially young female founders, are required to fulfill a burden of proof that they are serious about launching and growing a business, in industry, during fundraising – in many settings. Not surprisingly, women are often subject to unprofessionalism and condescension by these individuals who express “doubt” about the validity or potential of their businesses.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Amanda: This is a tough question, because in the aftermath of a fire drill, it’s easy to say that we would have done a dozen things differently to avoid the mishap. At the same time, it’s possible that learning moments like those have contributed to where we are today. What I am trying to say is; we wouldn’t change a thing.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Zara: Pilates, and…I really need to level up my self-care game.
Amanda: Meditation, sessions with my trainer, and blowouts as often as possible.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Amanda: Your intuition is your biggest superpower.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
Amanda: We know that we have made an impact in the lives of so many women and girls, and that we have the potential to inspire so many more. It’s extremely gratifying for us to be living up to the underlying intention of this business. And, of course, we are giddy every time we see “Terez in the wild,” as we call random encounters of our brand while out and about. That will never get old!