When Tina Roth first set foot on Broadway she immediately realized that people here moved at the same fast pace she had adopted already back home in rural Switzerland. "Right away, I felt a sense of belonging." And the past 12 years have given her no reason to change her mind. Home means living in Brooklyn with husband Gary Eisenberg, five-year-old daughter Ella, and 17-month-old son Tilo.
Although, at present, their apartment resembles more a construction site than a family home. The young family has just moved in, and Tina is showing her new home for the first time to The Brander photographer. "Why, until last week, Tilo slept in a laundry basket," she tells us with amusement while leading the way to the roof terrace with its spectacular view over New York. Not surprisingly, the apartment has been planned and fitted in considerable style, with excellent taste and a lot of forethought. Tina Roth Eisenberg runs Swiss Miss, one of the most in-demand design blogs with over a million unique visitors to her website each month. But husband Gary has also contributed significantly to the apartment planning. A successful American kitchen designer, he is in charge of the building work at their new home on the 15th floor of the modern high-rise where they are converting two flats into a single spacious one.
I walk too fast, talk to strangers when I'm shopping, and ask too many questions.
On visits to Switzerland with his wife and children, Gary is amused to observe how completely his wife has adapted to New York customs during the 12 years she has spent here. The Swiss, a reserved people on the whole, often seem a bit overwhelmed by her behavior. Tina, who hails from a village by St. Gallen in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, laughs: "I walk too fast, talk to strangers when I'm shopping, and ask too many questions." Yet it is exactly this interest in people and things that has made Tina a sought-after style consultant and much-noted blogger who uploads a new product or idea to her site every single day of the year – some that make life considerably easier and others that simply brighten a dreary day.
Ranging from a 360° film camera for the iPhone to a teddy bear pillow for infants, software or a museum piece: there is space for everything and anything with the necessary degree of style at the influential Internet address www.swiss-miss.com. Tina places great value on the hyphen in the address, a definite nod to the old graphic arts' adage that small details often make a big difference. This is only too true here, as the Internet address Swissmiss.com without a hyphen leads to a supplier of bland chocolate food products whose idea of good advertising appears to be slogans like: "Pick up a Pudding Today!" Certainly their website could benefit from Tina's design expertise. As it stands, The Queen of Accidental Business – as colleagues have been known to call her – is definitely the Swiss Miss who rules the Internet. Propelled by her innate curiosity, she is always on the lookout for intriguing ideas and posting those that strike a chord with her. Usually these go on to elicit a similar response from her varied audience.
Tina rides her bike to work. It only takes her a few minutes to travel from Dobro (Downtown Brooklyn) to Dumbo (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) as the districts have been named – new contractions conjured up by urban planners determined to label New York communities in keeping with Manhattan’s Soho and Tribeca districts. Despite the success of Swiss Miss, Tina would no longer be able to afford a premium apartment in the sought-after district due to its rising popularity with bankers and business leaders. However, she has held on to and converted her gleaming white office with its impressive view of the Manhattan Bridge extending over the East River toward the skyline. But, the Swiss Miss blog is not the only enterprise run from its generously sized rooms: Tina also orchestrates several other operations from here, including TeuxDeux, a designy browser-based to-do app for iPhone and Internet, and Creative Mornings, a series of lectures with established names from the world of design, graphic arts, art, and innovation. In addition, the Swiss Miss is also establishing an online shop.
Quality is functionality combined with good craftsmanship.
What will her selection criteria be when deciding which articles to offer under her brand name? "Quality is functionality combined with good craftsmanship," says Roth Eisenberg. The shop will only offer products that meet Tina's high standards and that she uses herself. By now, she has a good feel for what her blog readers like. She considers the shop as an experiment: "If it goes well, fine - if not, then not." All the same, it seems quite unlikely that it won't be a success. For one thing, the echo to a blog entry makes it easy to monitor the response to an article, and, secondly, manufacturers and blog readers have been urging her to take this step for some time now. And it would in no way constitute a sellout of Tina's principles. "If you lose your approachability, your genuineness, your authenticity, you will ruin your reputation," Tina Roth Eisenberg states, and adds forcibly: "No one can buy me. No matter how often I get asked, I refuse to list things on my blog for a fee. If I don't like something, they can offer me as much as they want, I still won't do it!"
And, just as the young mother works on keeping in shape in real life, she makes sure that Swiss Miss remains attractive and continues to develop in the Web as well. Brands have a life cycle similar, in a way, to people. They are born, start growing, learn from their experiences, and, if feasible, try to make a name for themselves. "When people feel the infusion of energy, that something's happening, they stay with it." Certainly, observing the busy exchange between innovative minds, artists, and the designers that Tina interacts with, you feel like you are in the middle of a creative think tank. "Showing people all the things I'm involved in gives the blog more authenticity. I don't just talk about apps – I’ve created one with TeuxDeux. In "Creative Mornings" I invite my online community in cyberspace to come and meet me in the real world. And for those who want to measure their energy with Tina's unflagging enthusiasm, it’s possible to participate at one of the monthly breakfast lecture series in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, and Zurich.
My e-mail inbox has become my major guilt trip!
But, despite her incredible energy, a few months ago, Tina had to come to terms with not being able to reply in person to all the requests and suggestions made by her blog readers right away. The daily flood of e-mails that threaten to bury her are now answered by an auto responder requesting the reader to be patient. In a witty text Tina admits: "My e-mail inbox has become my major guilt trip!" And she goes on to say, if any e-mail is so urgent that the Internet might implode should it not get answered straight away, then try again in a couple of days. Tina knows her limits: "There's a clear line with regards to our privacy that I would never cross. My husband already suffers enough – he's the most private person I know! And he's married to a woman who has sold their apartment on her blog and invited blog readers to send in suggestions on how to name their soon-to-be-born son!"
Yet the Swiss Miss would certainly survive the Web's implosion – for example, by setting up a business in temporary tattoos. In fact, she has already had a first few promotional samples manufactured: A black cross in a black circle. No Heidi logo, this – this is Swiss urban chic.
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