Interview with Paulina Tenner, author of Laid Bare

Paulina Tenner is an entrepreneur, angel investor, TEDx speaker and author of Laid Bare: What the Business Leader Learned from the Stripper, which is being released on January 31st. She is also a co-founder of GrantTree which aims to help tech start-ups navigate the complex world of government funding. 

Find out how the entrepreneur made the choice to become a burlesque dancer and what her new book has in store for her readers.

What are you doing now? And what inspired your book?

I’m currently an advisor to my company GrantTree, which has grown to a point that it doesn’t need me full time any more. I can focus on personal projects such as investing in startups and promoting my book. I wrote the book for aspiring business leaders aiming to implement a positive and refreshing change within their organisation.

How did you make the choice to become a stripper?

One night, I was passing the Café de Paris in Soho and when I looked in I saw a burlesque show about to start – I thought to myself, ‘how cool would it be to be a showgirl after hours’. The business was at an early stage, I was working over-capacity, and I desperately needed something else to keep me going.

I decided then and there that I was, somehow, going to be a burlesque dancer. I could no longer allow myself to develop in only one direction, it’s nowhere near as fun! Why live the life of a successful businesswoman or the life of a quirky and controversial performer when you can do both? 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?

In the beginning, being a girl with a strong eastern European accent (I’m from Poland), hanging around Meetups with programmers, looking a bit out of place was a bit challenging. Then again, I chose not to look at it as such. I never minded standing out a little bit.

When GrantTree started and I was talking to male tech leaders twice my age, some of them felt it was a bit weird to be speaking to a woman – they were expecting to speak to someone else! I made sure to use my personality and knowledge to win them over. Nowadays I’m more relaxed about it and don’t have as much insecurity about coming across as someone who is on a level playing field with them.

What are your next steps?

The next challenge will be the successful launching and marketing of “Laid Bare.” I’m aiming to have 1200+ copies pre-sold, prior to the launch date on 31 January. In the future I will have invested in a hundred technologically and socially innovative companies and helped them shape the future of the world we live in. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

I would encourage people to consider different perspectives and not just follow the path of their peers, or constantly compare themselves, like when you say to yourself that ‘X is working in banking and making three times as much salary as me.’ Be confident to follow your own path and base your happiness on what’s important to you.

There was definitely a time in my career when I wondered whether it was ok for me to work differently from my peers. For people who want to be entrepreneurs, I’d say it’s ok and great to have the confidence to redefine what work means to you. That’s something to be proud of. The whole startup scene is kind of becoming a social incubator for change – seize that opportunity! 

Also: learn to integrate both the feminine and masculine aspects of your personality (which we all have, regardless of gender) in order to become a more powerful leader. Where masculine is about ambition, drive and competitiveness, the feminine is about being rather than doing, intuition, creativity and creating a nurturing space for yourself and others. Using both sides of the spectrum will help you to become the kind of compassionate and authentic leader the world really needs right now.