In our conversation today, my guest Ana Paula Tediosi shares the impact and the story behind her ‘side hustle’ as the founder of Birdhaus, which during the pandemic transitioned from a female co-working space to a writing and publishing community for women.
Ana wears many hats, including a mother of two, a pharmacist of education, an entrepreneur and an author. Her passion is to show women like her that it is possible to tap into all of your strengths in order to live out your life’s mission and your professional life without compromise.
The book that changed Ana’s perspective about what was possible for her was "Mrs Moneypenny’s Career Advice for Ambitious Women". The books that she recommends are 'Le Futur Des Espaces’ by Emilie Raffo, ‘Option B’ by Sheryl Sandberg, ‘Ines de Alma’ by Isabel Allende and "Just Breathe - Mastering Breathwork" by Dan Brule.The music that Ana listens to when she needs a boost is her favourite playlist that features music from Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and one of Ana’s biggest ‘power anthem’ recommendations is "Level Up" by Ciara.
Hello, and welcome to a new episode of Narratives of Purpose. My name is Claire Murigande and I am a scientist by training a TEDx speaker and your host on this show. This podcast is dedicated to amplifying social impact by renewing inspiring individual stories of ordinary people who are making extraordinary impact within their communities and around the world. So if you're looking for a programme that showcases unique stories of changemakers, stories of people who are contributing to make a difference in society, and at the same time, you want to be inspired to take action, then look no further. You are in the right place, get comfortable, and listen into my conversations.
My guest on today's episode is Ana Paula Tediosi. So fun fact, I share a similar background with Ana because we both have a scientific training. And we have both been life science professionals for at least the past decade. Ana on top of that, is the founder of Birdhaus Publishing and Writing, which is a digital community for women writers. In this discussion, Ana talks to me about her entrepreneurial journey from owning a social club and co-working space for women in Zurich, Switzerland, to becoming a writer. Please take a moment to give us a rating and review our show on your favourite podcast app. This will help other listeners find our podcast and further amplify the stories we share on Narratives of Purpose. For now, listen to Ana's journey, and her mission to advocate for gender equality.
So Hi, Ana, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?
Yes, hi, Claire. Thank you for having me, I'm doing great. Thank you
My pleasure. I'm really happy to have you today and to have this conversation because we met already a few months ago. And I've been meaning to have you on the show to share your journey with our listeners. And more specifically, we're going to speak a lot about your company Birdhaus and especially empowering women and your mission, if I could call it that for gender equality. And the other thing we have in common is we both have a scientific background and we both work in pharma. So first things first for our listeners, why don't you give us a short introduction about yourself?
Yes, interesting. I am a pharmacist of education. I am half Swiss, half Brazilian, and I've spent all my life in Switzerland, my main work where I always say "who is paying the bills?" it's really Pharma, I've worked in the pharma industry for over 10 years. But I am also very passionate about gender equality. This has been over the 10 years, and only has side hustle activity concerning gender equality and women empowerment. So it started with a women's NGO, I was on the board of the professional women's group, then I became the president. And I started on point also, it was not enough for me. So I decided to buy a business, which was a co-working space for women, and then still developing activities with Birdhaus. And beside all of this, I'm also a mom of two. I am married. And I could say they have the quintessence of life in the suburbs. With the two kids on top of it, I work full time and they have a side hustle.
So tell me if I start from the beginning, where does this passion come from? When you say, I do have my job, obviously, and you have your side hustle, but this is really also your passion, you want to empower women. Where does that motivation come from?
It was very unplanned of course. So I was reading one book "Career Advice for Ambitious Women," and it was over 10 years ago, and when I was reading this, I really understood the difference because as women, we needed kind of an extra book to tell us how to embrace ambition and how to move on. And then led me to also start networking, entering the professional women's group in Zurich and starting to have all those conversations around gender equality. So the more I was into the topic, the more I understood that we needed to do something so that there is a gender pay gap. There are plenty of gaps between women and men and from a career perspective, I was shocked, I'm like, "oh my god," I'm really starting with almost a handicap because I'm a woman from a career in pharma. So everything was summarised together. So and of course, the moment that I started to network with so many amazing women, I realised how much talent there is outside that is not fully exploited and the potential. And then I got involved in the women NGO, then I became the president of the professional women's group. And that, of course, opened my eyes to the topic. And since then I am passionate, meaning that I've dedicated so many days and weeks and hours volunteering for the cause. And of course, then it shaped completely the way I am, the way I am a mom and the way I'm also running my career in pharma.
So you mentioned volunteering, and you spoke about the professional women's group, you said that you have this side hustle, as you call it, which is Birdhaus. And you owned that in the beginning. So my understanding is that you bought this and it evolved into something else. So it started as a social network for women, correct. And now you're writing and publishing books. So you're encouraging women to write and publish books. So walk me through how that started, and how that evolved to where it is today
The founder of the Birdhaus coworking space Birdhaus Social, she approached me and she told me that she wanted to leave the country because she wanted to go back to the US and she was selling the business. And I was kind of "oh my god, this looks like the perfect business for me." And so after assessments, and also when we met with my husband, of course, I decided to buy the co-working space. Because I had already in my head a very clear vision of what I wanted to do and Birdhaus looked like the best way to kind of jump into this, and then really develop my ideas that I had for Zurich, and also for Switzerland. And also giving me the freedom to not think too much about branding and things and positioning that I really am not strong at, so all of that was already done. So I was really buying the business and then creating a concept and purpose that was really fitting what Zurich and Switzerland needed, then COVID happened. Like one year after I bought the business COVID arrived. And the business was mostly based on meetings, events, women working together within meetings. So COVID basically crushed it. I also was looking for investors and everything, so I was on the right path. But also because I'm a pharmacist when the COVID arrived, I realised very quickly that it was not here to stay for three months. So I knew that it would have been like a pandemic that would have lasted for years with huge consequences. So very quickly, I closed the co-working space. And in the co working space concept, I was basing my concept of things - on two pillars. One is really developing women with several workshops on communication, Investment Finance, I was very organised to provide a big like concept of okay, you as a professional woman come here in Birdhaus, and then you can find all the resources to bring you to the next level of your business or career. That was the idea. And I was really on the right path for that. And the second part of the co-working space for me was supporting women writers because I am a writer. At that time I've published one book, and I remember that there were really a lot of writers around so I started a full concept of bumper allows writers very quickly. I got like 12 women in the group. We were discussing how to write a book and how to publish it. I realised also that there were a lot of misunderstandings around the topics. So I started to have a series of events. Those two pillars of the Birdhaus were super interesting, but of course one was absolutely based on meeting people. The other not that much. So when I closed it the coworking Birdhaus writers remained because there was no need to have a space, we could actually meet anyway digitally. So then, very quickly, I said, Okay, you know what, I really just changed the concept. So let's transform Birdhaus coworking space into Birdhaus Writing and Publishing. And then I keep driving it on a digital setting and despite the COVID Actually, this initiative was flourishing. So now after two years that I closed it, I have helped over 20 Women with their books in publishing I'm still doing it, I'm still doing workshops. And this is now what the side hustle is about. So it's really now focused on young women writers. Of course, this needs to be also sustainable with my lifestyle, which is a full time job in pharma, plus two kids and a husband. So after all this time, I really found a sweet spot where I can combine everything.
Speaking about the sweet spot and how you support this group. Tell me more in detail, how would that work? Because I'm doing a podcast, I'm listening to so many great stories, and I want to write something about it. So how would that work if I want to join a Birdhaus writers group?
I always start with a little assessment of half an hour with whoever has this great idea, because I want to understand where this idea comes from, what it is and also get to understand. Most of the time, really, they agree, so I can say, "okay, let's work together" and then we start with one hour and a half, two hours of individual sessions where I really go through the Birdhaus method. So those first two hours really is a pillar of discussion about "what is your book, what is your idea? What is your audience?" so really the basics, so that somehow after two hours, there is kind of a plan. After that, if there is space in the accountability group, then I squeeze the new writer into one of the accountability groups, because I have two, we meet every second week. And then during the evenings, because it's an evening during those sessions, we go through different exercises. When we start, of course, it's mostly about writing motivation, outline, shaping your concept, then, when the writing is done it is going to be exercises on editing, self editing, and how the strategy is and then after that is going to be more discussion about what are the options for publishing? So the group grows together, the project evolves together. So the group helps you to keep track and then be accountable. And so far after one year, in this moment, I kind of do cycles of one year accountability, most of the women that are with me, one year after when they are all in a stage where they are looking for publishing. When we go to the publishing options, I also have plenty of material there, I have published two books in two different ways, I have helped other women to publish in different ways. So there is plenty of discussion on that level, too.
I'm not very familiar with the whole publishing and writing scene. But what I understand is that publishing is not always easy. And some people go on to the self publishing approach. Can you talk about that a little bit? And do you support publishing as well, from Birdhaus?
When I changed Birdhaus coworking space to writing and publishing. One and it still is, my main goal is to create a publishing house, that will be the dream. At this moment, what I'm doing, I am guiding women to find the best way of publishing. So there are plenty, I usually categorise this in three that is self publishing, there is the hybrid model, and then there is a classical publishing house. And my message is always that it's not good or wrong. It really depends on the writer's objectives. Everyone has their own objectives, someone needs recognition, someone needs to have the book very soon, because there is a deadline, someone needs to book because you need to promote a business, someone need to promote your coaching, others it's as hard as they say, "okay, look, I like to write novels, and they want to continue." So every writer has very different objectives. And when we understand this, then we can guide on the best way to publish. And now it's a wonderful moment, because there are plenty of options, but also, it's not like every option is good for every writer. And this is where also my initial two hours goes into. And we're also in the accountability group. We talk a lot about that. And in my experience now in the last few years, I have plenty of different options that the writers choose it and it's not like "this is what's not good or not" I have writers that have landed a publishing house deal and they absolutely the wanted and went for a hybrid model, or they went full on with self publishing because everyone has different options.
And coming back now to you and your own books. So you said before you've authored two books. And before we go into especially the second one, because I like the topic about it, tell me first how did that influence you as a writer? How were the books received? Or has that impacted your work? Tell me more about that.
My two books have very different stories. So my first book was like an emergency outlet. So I was pregnant. And as you can imagine, I am kind of hyperactive. And when I was pregnant, at a certain point, the head had early contractions, and my physician told me, "okay, now you need to stop and then you need to stay on the couch. And if not, then you're going to learn in the hospital." And for me, it was close to a hell sentence. I cannot sit and stay quiet on a sofa that doesn't exist in my life. So after one week off, like I said, "Okay, now I need to find something that I can do for my couch." And then that was when I started writing. So I started to write about this and so and then I had plenty of friends that visited me because I could not go around. And there were a couple of friends who were single that were telling me the most amazing story about their life as a single person in the city. So one day I said "You know what I'm going to write about that." So basically, my first book is about three people, they are single in Zurich, and they kind of have a life and then something happens. This is how the first book was born. I left the book for two years, I just had this draft without doing anything. After two years, I told a friend and she was like, "Oh, my God, you need to send me this because I really want to read it." And then after that, she told me, the story is great, you should really try to publish. And then I started the process. But the book was Italian, all the process of finding a publishing house, right. And so it took me four years from the moment that I kind of started to write until I really published the book. And my publishing method at that time was self published. Because I tried in Italian to find a publishing house, it was super difficult. And, as I said, at the beginning,for me, it was not important to be published by a publishing house. For me, it was important to have my book. So I basically decided by myself, it was a huge task, to self publish in quality, because they didn't want to have crap. So it was really quality, it took really long to look for all the experts, and a lot of research. That's why when I started to have Birdhaus and discuss it with writers, I was so knowledgeable, because I had like four years of searching and finding ways to do that. When I was in with the Birdhaus writers, everyone was writing a book, but not me. And then I decided I'm going to write a book too. And then I started to write a book based on my experience as a professional woman, working mother. I also had blog posts, from my blog, all the things was kind of easier. It was a different kind of book completely, because my first one was a novel. And the second was a nonfiction based on my experience as a professional mom. And yes, and then of course, when COVID arrived, I needed to close Birdhaus. I was in the middle of the book, and I was like, "Okay, what I'm going to right now" I felt like a failure, because it was absolutely not the purpose to close. So it took me a while, like two/three months of writer's block to kind of understand that I was not defined by failure or success of Birdhaus. It was just my story. And then finally when I embraced it, I finished the book. And yes, and I call it "Ambition Factor" because at the end it's about ambition, about life as our working mother and deciding what is important for my professional life and helping other women to do the same. So to embrace ambition.
And that's what I like about the title of the book, actually, as you say, it's called Ambition Factor. And it's rewriting the narrative or the stories of working mothers, and how to achieve your goal to the woman and the whole well being. So first of all, How was that received by the public?
Compared to the other one, no one knew about the book. I mean, it basically was kind of "Look, I have a book," and everyone was like, "Oh my God, you wrote a book." This was the first story. The second was very different because everyone knew that I was working on it because it was very public. Somehow I mean, the writers and so on. So of course, when you have this preparation, then it comes. So when I arrived it was through COVID. So you cannot really do a big deal of the launch book party, unfortunately. So it was very limited. Also, I was still working in the pharma. So I could also not spread the word because I still have a career to take care of. So that's also very challenging. But I'm happy because it's great to know that I have published something that really is helping, and it's helping a very clear target group, so it's not like any kind of women. I am speaking about women, they are highly educated, they have small kids, and they are in this situation where you don't really know any longer "Okay, should I really be a mom only? Or if I do if I'm too ambitious, and not a good mom? how I'm perceived and independent from the family? Oh, God, no, I'm too exhausted." So that target group is super specific. And I'm speaking only to those women. And those women, they're writing the book exactly, providing me the feedback around "Yes, thank you, I needed to read this". And to understand that
Do you consider that you achieved your goal, what you wanted to do with this book?
In a way the content I'm happy, and the way I've published and so on, also, because I went from a semi read, so meaning that there is a publishing house behind unfortunately, it's not where the Birdhaus writers, it's not my publishing house, but it's really a first step. But at the same time, I had full ownership of my content and the design. So the objective still not attained is like the number of books that I want, I wanted to sell within the first year, but also because you make a lot of plans, and then life goes along. And for me, my career at this moment is very demanding. And I need to focus on the year. So it's not like I can really focus that much now on the book. And also, I prefer to focus more on Birdhaus writers than my book. So I have plenty of priorities so I needed to rank them accordingly. And unfortunately, the book is not the super high priority now. The good thing is that the book doesn't expire. So it's still there.
I also like to understand your perspective, and how you see the future, so to speak, because you spoke about women having careers, highly educated and then families and it's always a question of how do I balance things? And my take is also that there is a certain degree of influence from society from the environment. So if I consider your book, do you think at some point, you will be also able to add into that discussion with your book and the story that you share in your book on how we can evolve awareness, mentalities and change the mindset?
Yes, so there is a chapter actually, on the environment that a woman is in. There is a full chapter because this is crucial. So your husband, the country you live in, and even your employer, or whatever profession you have chosen, have a major impact on your ambition and the way you are driving your life as a mother. So if you have a very understanding husband, like I have, it's completely different if you have a husband that actually thinks that you need to do everything on your own at home. And the same if you have an employer, we work in pharma, that's amazing. The majority of the Big Pharma are very understanding. Now we can have flexible work home offices, when you come back from maternity leave, you can actually negotiate time, plenty of women are also doing great careers in pharma. So, if you work in pharma it may be easier to embrace your ambition than if you work in an engineering company, where 80% are men, so this factor plays a huge role. And I speak about this in the book because even if you embrace your ambition is not like "okay, now I know and I can move on." So it's not about that, you need to have an assessment about what is around and your contribution to change this is crucial. If you are in this engineering company, 80% man, it doesn't mean that you need to just comply with the rules. You can be the first one to discuss with the management and HR and say, Okay, we need to kind of move on and come into the new era of work, flexibility and so on. And the majority of them in the company are going to embrace it because they are also going to take advantage of it. So there are plenty of things that somehow the environment it's important, but we also are key to shaping the environment. Most women start their professional life with so many objectives and rules. And then a certain point this, this stops, and I am my my question at the beginning of the books like "what happened?" I mean, remember you, when you come out from university, whatever your objectives are, you want to save the world, you want to win a Nobel Prize, you want to become a CEO, or you want to become the best mom in the world? What was your objective back then? And what's happening now, and then do an assessment analysis and it doesn't mean that "okay, my husband is like this, I live in a country like this." I mean, Switzerland is not an easy country, for example, for ambitious women absolutely not, doesn't mean that you cannot be one, it means that it's going to take more energy to kind of shape your career. Those are all elements. And then I am a strong believer that everyone can contribute to the change. So you don't need someone else to do that you can be the first one to start the conversation.
That's great. It's a good mindset, I think. And as you were saying, Switzerland is not easy, which sometimes when I speak to people, they kind of think, "really is Switzerland. So conservative?" it's true that, you know, even speaking about childcare, you know, it's not that easy as well. So a lot of people that I know as well who are highly educated had to at some point, work part time, because they had families that had children. And as you say, this is something to take into consideration in your environment, right. So every environment is going to be different. And sharing those stories and writing those books is also contributing to the discussion.
Yes, it is. And then also, sharing the stories in books or blogs or podcasts is mostly that you understand that you are not alone. So what I was in, I'm still living as a mother of more children, this is shared across so many countries, and so many women. And of course, there are countries that are a little bit easier if you're going from the Nordics, you kind of see that the system is happy, that it's easier, but maybe we are just behind 10 years. And if we make the right decision now, in 10 years a new generation of women with small kids are going to benefit from that. And then we are going to see a big change afterwards. So for me, it's all about "okay, there is a concept about myself as now what I need." But there is also the other concept, and this is where the mission comes in about gender equality. The other point is about, "okay, what can I do now that the next generation women within 10 years are going to have it easier?" because 10 years ago, 15 years ago, there were women that did some activities that now enable me to do what I'm doing now. So these are the two difference one is about, okay, what I can do by myself, for me and my family, but the other is all about, okay, what I can do, really to change the system. This is a slow change, but everyone contributes.
That's really great. And it reminds me of one of the quotes that you have on your website, which I really like from Martin Luther King, Jr. Which says that "life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" And from what I hear this is exactly what you're doing, right?
Yes. And everyone needs to find their mission. And I also think that because there are people "Yes, why only gender equality?" I'm like, "Look, whatever the mission, it's good. If for you is the plastic into the ocean, go for it. And if you are saving the koalas go for it. And if for me, it's gender equality, I will go for it." It doesn't matter what it is, but there is something that we can contribute to the world. It's beautiful, but there are plenty of problems. So focus on one, focus on that one, and then you can contribute.
Find your purpose and your mission and go for it. I like it. One question I was wondering is do you have any advice or something that you would like to share with our listeners? Because as you said, you're hyperactive? If I can say it like that, you've done so many things, and you're very successful at how you do it. Do you have any advice that you'd like to share something that has helped you throughout this journey and still something that you consider that is supporting you moving forward?
Yes. So of course, I was not always that confident like I am now. So it has been a long journey. So I will say that the first thing everyone needs to see is really okay, what is your focus? I still have a strong focus in my Pharma career. And I need to be so honest with myself and like "okay, I love my job as a pharmacist in pharma. And I've dedicated plenty of time to it. But at the same time I have a mission, which is gender equality." And I need to come to a moment that is kind of, it's fine. That's what I can do. And they will say to everyone, just sit a moment and see what it is. I don't like that much. "Yes, find your passion." And so it's not really about that, it's about a combination, not everyone can live out of the passion, I cannot leave out of the gender equality purpose, I understood that it's fine. I need to dedicate a portion of my time. And at the same time, I love my job. So I don't want to kind of leave my job for this. And this is probably the first most important thing about what is your goal and your purpose in life in general? And then sit and focus on one or two points and go for it, only that and then consistency is the key. Because I have been doing this for the last 10 years. So I'm now telling you "Yes, I have been a woman to this and books and so on." It didn't happen within six months, it happened within 10 years. And the same for my pharma career I had, and they still have a very clear vision of where I want to go in pharma. What I like, and I work every day toward that goal, doesn't mean that in six months, I'm going to achieve the goal, maybe it's going to take me five years.
I like it. I like the fact that you say keep your focus. And it also reminds me of another conversation I had on the podcast with someone else who told me that one of the best advice she was given as an entrepreneur is to focus.
Focus is key. I don't want to put myself into the Environment Initiative. That's not my purpose. Of course I can contribute. I will speak with my children about it, I will be a very conscious citizen in terms of you know, triage and waste and everything. This is going to be in life, but I'm not going to contribute now on a big project or environment or climate change.
So Ana we're reaching almost the end of the conversation. For those listeners who know at the end of every episode, I always ask the same quick three questions to have a sneak preview into what you'd like listening to or what you like reading. Perhaps you have some book recommendations as an author. Let's start first by what are you reading right now?
Two books I’m reading. One is about blockchain Because seriously, everyone is speaking about blockchain. I have no clue. I'm like, "You know what? Let's take a moment to read about that." And I found an absolutely lovely person. She's a Swiss woman, Emilie Raffo. I need to provide her some credits on that. So Emilie Raffo, she's Swiss, and she's an expert on cryptocurrency and she wrote a very interesting book in French about cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and stuff like this in a way that people like me and you that come from a completely different background, can understand. And the other is about breath work. I'm a strong believer of meditation and mindfulness. I do this every day. I meditate every day. And the book, "Mastering BreathWork" by Dan Brule really is helping me to kind of recalibrate my meditation techniques.
The second one is, do you have a book, perhaps music if you prefer something that was special to you at a specific time in your life? And why?
Yes, okay. This is really super feminist, inspiring book that I have. It's from Isabel Allende - Ines de Alma. She's amazing. She's super feminist. And also a socialist, she raised really all the values that I like Isabel Allende and also she's Latin American, which is also a little bit of my roots even though she's from Chile, and I'm from Brazil doesn't matter. So I like a lot what's your writing because you always write about strong women, and beautiful colourful landscape and Ines De Alma I think I was so passionate about the because it's really like in the 14th century a woman that designed to kind of be herself and then almost become the hero of Chile because she discovered Chile it was it's an amazing book they recommend to everyone that really like this mix between story and narrative and the strong woman character, that was a pivotal moment because I was like, "okay, when I grow up, I want to be or Isabel or Ines'' that was kind of my thing. And in terms of music, I have a playlist on my phone called "Women Power '', where I use that for workouts or when I am very stressed out at work and I'm like, "Okay, now I need a break". I put on this playlist and they're all the usual things like Beyonce and Ciara with "Level Up" and Alicia Keys, all the most important women in power anthems and they're all there.
And last question, do you have an all time favourite something that you would like to recommend to our listeners?
I think one of the ones they gave me the most was Option B from Sheryl Sandberg, that was so much better than Lean In. I mean, it's Lean In. So we don't talk about that. But Option B was amazing. And I recommend everyone to read this because that book is interesting because she speaks about her husband, she was really the icon. And I think the book is there, it's for everyone to understand. "Yes, you can be on the super high and be whatever, at a certain point, you just crash" and you need your time. And this book was amazing for that. It really helped me a lot.
Thank you so much, Ana, it was great to have you.
Thank you for having me, Claire. It's a lovely conversation and I'm also happy to be able to share my story with advice. I think what you're doing is amazing. I was listening to some of your podcasts. I mean, everyone that you interview with is like a "Wow".
Thank you so much. Thank you very much. And thank you for being part of these people who are as you say, "Wow", because this is also part of my mission, if you will, is to really share these stories and say that wherever you are in the world, whatever your background, you know, you can always be inspired with people who said, "Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to go there" and just share their stories to motivate others. So thank you for that. Thank you for being part of those people that will help others to follow their dreams,
Thank you Claire
I look forward to staying in touch with you. Bye bye.
I don't know about you but I still feel energised from this discussion. Ana is definitely leading the charge towards achieving gender equality in her area of influence. You will find two links in the show notes. Check them out to learn more about Ana and her work. The first one is for her personal website anajustana.com and Ana is spelt with one "N" only. The second one gives you a glimpse into the Birdhaus writers world. It's birdhouse.ch and pay attention to the spelling Birdhaus is B I R D H A U S Thank you so much for tuning in today. I appreciate you taking the time. That was episode number 36. A Conversation with Ana Paula Tediosi. Be sure to leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. If you like our show, remember to tell your friends about it and share within your network. You can also connect with us through our social handles or our website at narratives dash of dash purpose dot podcastpage.io Until the next episode, take good care of yourselves, stay well and stay inspired.