#107 Our Shared Stories Need Platforms

Today's Guest: Trish Tonaj

Today, I interview Trish Tonaj. Trish was the firstborn, and her parents encouraged her to be herself, which meant a childhood full of art. She loved to paint anytime she got the chance. She even took classes in school. However, when she was reaching the end of high school and beginning to forge a path for her life, her father suddenly discouraged the idea of her becoming an artist, despite having paid for lots of classes and extracurricular art activities. He told her she would never make any money. Trish was shocked.

With that, she chose to go into marketing instead. She was still able to use it as a creative outlet, developing lots of programs and tools to help her clients succeed. In her corporate career, Trish never really had a problem speaking when giving presentations. She says that’s because she was talking about the company – she wasn’t sharing personal details about herself. She wasn’t speaking from her heart.

Later, she paused and considered her future. She decided to make a change and follow her passion to become an artist. She was going to be marketing something different: herself. She began facilitating storytelling outlets and rediscovering her love for art.

Trish got into photography, watercolor, oil painting, and drawing, and finally chose acrylic painting. She says the challenge as an artist is to connect your own heart to that of the buyer. You have to find the right way to create something that will bring joy to both hearts. It’s a psychological assessment of what the client really wants to see and why.

When she began her own projects and writing her own material, that’s when the stage fright crept in. She was putting herself out there in a truly personal way. She was afraid she’d forget what she wanted to say. She found that the best way to build her confidence was to “practice, practice, practice”.

Over the years as her programs and goals have evolved, her marketing has evolved along with it. Trish believes that everyone has a story to tell and that all we need is the right platform and the opportunity to share those stories. She believes that sharing our own life experiences helps others. She points out the importance of giving ourselves permission to revisit who we are and where we’re going, and to make changes along the way.


Trish Tonaj is an award-winning marketing consultant, author, and founder of ShareYourStories.online, and is following her passion for the arts and trading a pen for a paintbrush as an artist.
Trish started painting at an early age, exploring various mediums before committing to acrylics. Her work is best described as abstract and whimsical using pure color. She has introduced outdoor art, found in protected spaces such as balconies, porches, and entrance ways. Whether you hang her work outside or indoors, enjoy a splash of color to highlight your personal space.
She invites you to explore your own creativity in a series of workshops “Colour Outside the Lines”, designed for corporate teams and entrepreneurs. Her work is found in Europe, the United States, and Canada.

As a published author and speaker, she has two books: Breaking Barriers: 10 Entrepreneurial Women Share Their Stories and A Diary of Change: 12 Personal Tools.

Trish is the founder of shareyourstories.online, an international marketing platform featuring business stories and sharing great ideas. She is the host for Business Mentorship; Keepin’ It Real, live and unscripted interviews introducing you to the person behind the logo.

“You never know who’s reading your story and being inspired.”

Join Trish as she trades a pen for paintbrush.

Watch the episode:

Connect with Trish Tonaj

Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview


Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast


Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing


Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com


Episode #107 Trish Tonaj


“Our Shared Stories Need Platforms”




00:36 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing. And I’m excited to be here today with my new friend Trish tunai. And hello, Trish.


00:46 Trish Tonaj:

Hello, I’m so excited to meet your viewing and listening audience story and thank you for the invitation.


00:51 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Yeah, it’s amazing how we meet and never having met face to face. Here we are countries apart and hours apart. But we get to meet right here in the now thank you for joining me, I’d like to say a few things that I found on the internet to introduce you so that people know something about too.


Trish Tonaj is an award-winning marketing consultant, author and founder of share your stories online, who is following her passion for the arts and trading a pen for a paintbrush as an artist. And for those who are able to watch us today. I’m sure that painting in the background is yours. It is it is I would say I would if I had art like that I’d have it in a virtual background too. Let’s say Trisha is the founder of share your stories online and international marketing platform featuring business stories and sharing great ideas. She is the host for business mentorship, keeping it real, live and unscripted interviews introducing you to the person behind the logo. What a great phrase Trish, introducing, to the person behind the logo. And that’s so true. I mean, we have this idea that the logo is supposed to be authentic and represent us. But there’s nothing like the real human in the heart in the face and the person.


02:29 Trish Tonaj:

That’s so true. That’s very true.


02:31 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Thank you for what you’re doing and coming on today. Well, since this is about finding your voice. And there are all sorts of ways in which that happens for people in the fact that they didn’t have one, whether it was stage fright, or whether it was family circumstances, and they just got drowned out by older siblings. Or maybe it didn’t happen until later in life, like having been in a corporation, let’s say where they really didn’t get to be more free to be themselves and contribute their opinions. So there’s all sorts of stories. And today, we want to hear your story about how you didn’t have a voice and what the journey to find it. And now what you get to do. So let’s start early in life.


03:22 Trish Tonaj:

Well, I think in corporate, I had an opportunity to do a lot of presentations, but the presentations were not about me or about my journey, they were about the corporate message. So it was really easy, I found to share those messages with my colleagues because I was simply the voice for the organization. And you don’t really share any personal information in that format. So when I ended up writing my second book, I actually started more actively speaking about the book and the people that I featured in the book. And that’s when it really got interesting, because I found that like most people, I had stage fright. Oh, because you were really putting yourself out there. Right? It was then my story, my personal story, it was about Trish, or it was about, Doreen, if you were featured on the platform, so it became a totally different kind of messaging. And I really felt that, not only did I not want to embarrass myself and provide the wrong information, but I also wanted to be able to speak the truth about the people that I was sharing their stories for. So there was kind of a double whammy there. And I really felt that it was it took me a long time to get over that I still get butterflies to be quite honest. But when I first started speaking in 2016 it was a big barrier that I had to break going from a corporate environment to personal environment.


04:51 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Yes, a lot of my guests have been in corporate and I call it choked by the corporation.


04:58 Trish Tonaj:

Well, I always say that, if/when we work for Fortune 500 companies, it gives you a sense of confidence because you have that big logo behind you, they’ve obviously hired you to do a job that represents them in their organization. But when you have this little tiny logo that you’ve developed, that nobody really knows, and you spend a lot of blood, sweat and tears, putting all of your creativity and thought into creating an image, and then you go out there with your own logo, it’s a completely different feeling than having the sort of lines of folks that are behind you and a larger corporation that are there to cheer you on. It’s a completely different situation when you’re an entrepreneur.


05:38 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Yes, I totally understand. In fact, I have a little bit of a personal story about that. Just this last weekend, I broke through in I’m going to change my logo and have it be my name, rather than essential speaking, which I’ve had since I wrote my book in 2009. And this idea that you just said is for me first, it’s my name. Ah, yes, thanks. So that’s, I’m glad you mentioned that for folks here that that little tiny logo is something I’m really excited about sharing. Sure.


06:15 Trish Tonaj:

Well, I’ve been an entrepreneur since 1993. And I’ve always been a brand ambassador for other people helping them with their marketing programs. And I’ve changed my logo to be quite honest, three times in that timeframe, and most recently, to an icon that I use in both my personal brand as well as the share your stories dot online brand. So it is something that evolves. And I think we need to give ourselves permission to make those changes along the way. Because sometimes we think, oh, geez, I’ve put so much time and effort into that logo. If I change it, nobody’s really good to know who I am. But it actually gives us an opportunity to kind of revisit who we are and where we’re going. And I think that’s really important for the entrepreneurial journey, sometimes we get stuck behind the logo.


07:01 Dr. Doreen Downing:

That’s interesting, because that’s where we started today, when I come in and on your bio about the person behind the logo. And I think what you just said is important for people out there to hear is that we continually evolve, and that we can take a good look at ourselves and make changes of something that may seem to us like scary to do. So. I’m so glad you said that. And plus, I got a little, a little bit of coaching there.


07:30 Trish Tonaj:

And who knows, you may I mean, you’re certainly not going to change your name, but you may change the font style. Or you may change the color. So yeah, there’s lots of really wonderful ways that you can do some really terrific things with your logo.


07:44 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Okay, Trish, before we go into what you are currently doing now in the great work that I know, and I’ve been a part of it. So I want to share that with listeners. But where were you born? What was your family like? And how was it that you didn’t really understand you had speaking anxiety till much later in life? Because it must have shown up early on in schools or…?


08:08 Trish Tonaj:

I’m a firstborn child. And my mother says that I was born walking and talking. And I didn’t walk I ran. And when I was a young child, I actually started doing artwork on my parents big huge picture window in the house, four or five times a year, my mother would give me paint and I was able to paint murals for various different types of themes throughout the year. And it wasn’t until I was much older and in, high school where I took art classes, and then when I was getting ready for that big leap into, post secondary education. I sat down and said to my, my father, I think I would like to be an artist. Well, I mean, his face went like stone. And he kind of said, “Yeah, you’re gonna starve if you’re an artist.” And that kind of took me aback because I thought, wow, here, they’ve been encouraging me all these years to do, follow my passion being artist, they’ve been paying for all kinds of courses that I was taking, outside of school. And then I was ready to make the leap of faith into a career and all of a sudden, I reached this roadblock. So I decided to go into marketing, rather than being an artist. And so I put my creativity behind that sort of thing, like developing programs and various different marketing tools that would help my clients push the envelope forward. And it wasn’t until much later in life that I thought, Okay, now it’s time for me, and what do I want the next 20 years of my life to look like? And do I really want to continue to do what I’m doing or is it time for a change? And so I decided to trade the pen for the paintbrush, and follow my passion now as being an artist. And that’s really been a wonderful dynamic, a real change of scenery. As a change in attitude, and a change in a business model, because now I’m doing something that I love, but I have to say, it’s a totally different thing to market your art than it is to market your business. So it’s a different thinking cap.


10:18 Dr. Doreen Downing:

What I’m hearing along the way here, even all the way back to that conversation with your dad, is that you were finding your voice. And I think art is an expression, right? Your voice through with not just an idea, but though act to me, art feels like more of a full-bodied expression of self.


10:41 Trish Tonaj:

It is true. And I tried various different mediums. So I first tried photography, believe it or not, because my dad was a hobby, did photography as a hobby, and so I borrowed his camera, and I took a course of photography course. And those are way back in the days when there actually was darkroom, taught you how to process film and all that sort of thing. And so I tried every medium from photography to watercolor to, oil painting, life, drawing, still life, landscape, everything. And then in my adult years, I landed on acrylics. And so that’s the medium that I now use. But it’s a really interesting thing that you say that it’s a full body experience. Because, not only do you take a leap of faith to have something that you’ve thought of that you want to put onto the canvas, but I have to try to translate that and marry that to the person who finds it as exciting and wants to hang it in their home or in their office. So there’s a real meeting of the minds that has to happen, because artists, so personal, and color is personal and subject matter is personal. So it really takes things to a whole different level.


11:51 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Well, I’m going down the rabbit hole just a little bit more here, because I’m so fascinated with this idea of art being a voice. And then what you just said is that yes, you are expressing, but if it’s for somebody, then there’s a relationship going on there. And you have to be into listening to the person that you might be “arting” for.


12:15 Trish Tonaj:

Yeah, that’s so true. When I do commission work, I actually spend quite a bit of time with the person or the family that I’m doing the piece for. And if it happens to be a virtual conversation like this, they take their computer around the house and show me where they’d like to hang the piece, introduce me to their, the architecture of the home and the interior design. And then we kind of talk about what they like and don’t like, and the colors. And it’s really interesting, I do some workshops for corporations, and we talk about what color means. And so I asked people, what’s your favorite color, and then, I usually hold up the little, cheat sheet that I have that says, blue is this, and purple is that, and we talk about what’s your favorite color, and then they are actually quite shocked sometimes when they see what their favorite colors mean. And so we spend a lot of time trying to, peel away the onion to get to what they would really like to see. And that’s a really fun part of the experience.


13:12 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Okay, my favorite color is teal.


13:15 Trish Tonaj:

Teal! I don’t have my cheat sheet with me. Teal usually means calming, and nature, believe it or not. And so those things are probably incorporated into either the clothing that you like to wear, or maybe in the interior design of your home, or maybe even some of the artwork that’s in your house.


13:36 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Well, that there is a I do get so much response from people about my calming effect on them. So that’s that that first note, I think I’ll take before I go back and inquire more about this online that you do for and how you found your voice basically because you wanted to help others express their voice. So before we take on that, let’s take a quick break here.




14:12 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Hi, I’m back with Trish Tonaj. And I can’t wait to hear more about what she is up to around helping other women find their voice. And what she told us earlier today is that when she started out of corporation and into her own business and working with other women, that’s when she experienced her own stage fright. So Trish, let’s pick it up from there.


14:36 Trish Tonaj:

That’s so true. One of the things that I’ve noticed after sharing so many stories on the platform shareyourstories.online of which story and you wonderfully participated and given us your thoughts, light bulb moments and three words of advice is the podcast when we get to the podcast portion of it. So the first step is the guest blog. And then we actually have an opportunity to do what you and I are doing and have a coffee session. And that’s when the magic happens, I find because I’ve actually, believe it or not been the very first interview for some people, they’ve never actually shared their voice before publicly, they, they’ve never had the confidence to sort of step out of their comfort zone and talk a little bit about their own life and their or their own business journey. And that’s a really wonderful place to be because you can sort of see those electric moments happening, when you talk about the journey from usually from corporate to entrepreneurship, and it’s really a, I don’t know how to put it into words, it’s a it’s an emotional, emotional connection, and a feeling that you get with each of the folks that the written word is one thing, but the emotion in the expression and, you know, the human person really adds so much dynamic to their story.


15:51 Dr. Doreen Downing:

It also goes back to what we were talking about around painting and painting for other people, is that you are listening out of them something about their essence, I would say.


16:02 Trish Tonaj:

That’s so true. That’s so true. Very much like yourself, you’re trying to have a conversation and ask questions that make people comfortable enough to share their personal story, which is not always very easy to do sometimes.


16:17 Dr. Doreen Downing:

So as long as we’re getting a teeny bit personal here, when you did have stage fright or realized it, what was this, like, how did you know it? What was the symptom? How did it show up for you?


16:27 Trish Tonaj:

It was that butterfly feeling in your stomach. And then it was this absolute fear that I was going to forget what I was trying to convey to the audience. Because some folks have a teleprompter or they may have little cue cards, and I just sort of would get up and tell my story or tell the story that I was being paid to tell. And so there was nothing other than your memory. So if you were frozen in a place in time, and you kind of felt, Oh, I feel really overwhelmed, all of those faces that are looking back at me or looking at me for information. It can be really overwhelming. And you can kind of stumble upon the words that you want to share at the beginning, until you kind of get into the groove and you start to feel a little bit more comfortable with your audience. But when I found that I had to do believe it or not, I had to look over the heads of the people I was speaking to. So if I felt that butterfly feeling, and somebody had already handed me the mic, and I would say, “Hello, my name is Trish Tonaj. And today we’re going to talk about (whatever the topic would be, mentorship or sharing stories).” And if I started to feel that, oh, my goodness, I’m I may forget the next line, I would ask a question to the audience, and then get them to start to participate. And that would really sort of ease me into a level of comfort. And then the words just kind of came from there. But it was pretty frightening. The first few times that I actually appeared, I experiences that? Oh, I forgotten what I’m going to say.


18:00 Dr. Doreen Downing:

What a lot of courage, though, it actually takes.


18:01 Trish Tonaj:

It does. It does. It really does. It does take a lot of courage. And one thing that I found from from there on end is practice, practice, practice. I always say I have the smartest plants on the street, because they hear that the whatever it is that speech is going to be or that sharing of those stories, probably 100 times before I step on the stage, so that it just kind of rolls off your tongue and you have a real level of comfort. And I say it out loud. Some people saying I just keep reading my notes, that doesn’t do it for me, I actually have to hear the voice that goes along with the words so that it keeps the momentum going. So that’s how I’ve overcome this stage right now when I’m speaking on mentorship and sharing stories.


18:47 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Yeah, I like I like that idea of the talking to the plants, I have a park where I go around. And when I practice any of the speeches that I’ll be giving, what I notice is that while I’m walking, while I’m walking, new ideas come up about what I’m saying. And I realized that what I’ve started doing is take my pen and a little piece, but when I get back, I can’t really read it because and then suddenly going away. Next thing I did was to take my iPhone and try and record it, record it and then download what I’ve recorded. But what it taught me is that when I do get on a stage, what’s going to come through maybe like when I’m going through a park and it’s totally not totally different, but it comes out with new words or a new angle or it’s just more in the moment.


19:39 Trish Tonaj:

That’s true because you don’t want to be robotic, right? We all want to have a personality and make a connection with the audience. So you don’t want to have that monotone voice that puts everybody to sleep and they’re like looking at their watch thinking, Oh good grief, when is she going to get off the stage? So I agree you tend to you have the basic theme of what it is that you want to share, but then you give it yourself that grace to be able to add or subtract from the content based on the feedback that you’re really getting from the audience, which is important.


20:07 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Oh, that’s so beautiful. The grace, it’s so true.


20:11 Trish Tonaj:

You know, I have found in my mature years, I will say I was so hard on myself, even when I was speaking for corporate, if I, if I stumbled, or I made a mistake, I beat myself up for, days and days and days saying, you know, you’ve got to do better than next time, you’ve got to get that right. And I just think that with age comes grace. And with grace comes the opportunity to be more authentic and be a little bit more natural, and a little less robotic. So I just have tried to adopt that attitude. When I am speaking, whether it’s like us today talking in an online audience, or whether it’s actually speaking face to face to a group.


20:53 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Yes, and you just made a really important point that life is the stage and it doesn’t necessarily – your voice isn’t being crafted so that you can get up and give a speech. I think the people we work with, like some of the people that are on your podcast, for the first time, welcoming them into a world where they can be seen and heard.


21:17 Trish Tonaj:

That’s so true. And everyone is so grateful at the end, because I think that this medium gives people a little bit more comfort, because they’re in their own home, they’re in a place where they’re comfortable, they’ve got their own things around. And it doesn’t feel like there’s an audience, it just feels like you and I are having a coffee or a conversation, right? So I always try to get folks to think about don’t think about the people that the viewing and listening audience. Just think about what you would like to share and the conversation that we’re having, because we have conversations with strangers all the time, right?


21:54 Dr. Doreen Downing:

There you go. You’ve made so many wonderful points today. And we’re getting closer to the end. So I want to make sure you get to make the kinds of points and you want to be making today. So but before we go there, I just want to say so far, Trish, it’s been fun, and it’s been interactive. And I feel like the listening you do and then I do creates more of what wants to be said.


22:22 Trish Tonaj:

That’s so true. That’s so true. And what I truly, really truly believe that everybody has a story to share. And that we just need a platform or an opportunity to share that story. Because you just never know who is going to be able to take some of what you’ve shared and incorporate it into their own life or help them in some way. And that’s really what storytelling is all about sharing our life experience to help other people.


22:48 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Sharing our stories, sharing our lives. So then the resonance of our voices then reach and other people will go wake up I guess you might say or just are touched, inspired. So anything else about your stories online that you want to say?


23:09 Trish Tonaj:

That’s a really wonderful platform. It was something that I started after doing public speaking about my second book, which is Breaking Barriers 10 Entrepreneurial Women Share their Stories, and I kept meeting so many awesome entrepreneurs who said, “Oh, Trish, can you share my story?” And like you, I’ve written a few books, and I thought, oh, geez, Louise, I can’t keep writing books, I’m gonna have to find a new way to share these stories. So I started a guest blog. And in the first year, I shared 100 stories. And then I purchased the URL share your stories dot online, we transferred all the stories from my personal website into the new identity or the new brand logo. And now we have over 300 so far over 300 international stories, and we have over 150 podcasts. So my dream or my vision is to have 1000s of entrepreneurial stories on that website so that we can touch people from all over the world. And what’s been really interesting, and I’ve learned from each and every guest is that we’re so similar and yet different. We all experienced so many similar things, regardless of where we live, and our age and stage in life. And but people are people and they have so many similarities, that there’s so many wonderful ways that we can help each other just by storytelling.


24:27 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Well, then, if somebody wants to be one, share their story, how did they reach you? And how do they get involved?


24:36 Trish Tonaj:

Well, all they have to do is very easy. We’ve automated everything. So you just go to SHAREYOURSTORIES.ONLINE and in the top right hand corner it says “share your story”. And you have an opportunity to answer the three questions and add your bio and your headshot and your logo. And then the story will come to our team and we’ll fact check it and then from there send you an email to give you the date that your story will go live. And we blast the stories over social media and introduce you to folks on the various different platforms. And then you have an opportunity to participate in the interview series, and perhaps our quarterly networking events, which are also online.


25:16 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Wonderful, what an opportunity. And those listening today can find you at SHAREYOURSTORIES.ONLINE. I just wanted to repeat it because it’s so easy. And anybody who’s listened to Trish today know that being with her either on an interview, or whichever way you choose to engage with Trish, it’s so fun and easy. And those are really, in the marketing world. We need now is more fun and more easy.


25:53 Trish Tonaj:

For sure. Absolutely. We’ve all been through a lot, and we’re looking for new ways to connect. So please join us.


26:00 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Thank you. Any last words?


26:03 Trish Tonaj:

If anyone’s interested in some art, I mean, that’s my new way in which to connect with folks and you can reach me at TRISHTONAJ.COM. The SHAREYOURSTORIES.ONLINE platform is my passion project. So there’s absolutely no cost to participate. And we’d love to hear from you. And I look forward to connecting with your viewing and listening audience. Thank you so much for the opportunity.


26:28 Dr. Doreen Downing:

Thank you too.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.