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Image / Agenda / Business

My Career: Tonstix founder Denise Lauaki


By Denise Lauaki
17th Aug 2023
My Career: Tonstix founder Denise Lauaki

Determined to bring an effective solution to the market for children's sore throats and dry coughs, Denise Lauaki and Sinead Crowther founded Tonstix in 2017 as a complementary product to medicinal support. Here Denise tells us more about her career journey to date.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I think deep down yes. I was always fascinated by an entrepreneur’s story, how they built their businesses, came up with an idea and were able to make it happen. It seemed so out of reach but when you read their stories, they were just ordinary people that went relentlessly after an idea. The challenge to build something out of nothing is exciting to me.  

In college, I studied… mechanical engineering to certificate level only, as I knew it wasn’t the career path for me. I apprenticed as an audio technician and enjoyed a 10-year career in live sound. I went back to college after my third child to study online marketing and web development.

My most formative work experience was… found in every job I ever had! I believe you learn something from everyone you work with and every role you’re in, no matter how small. When I think back to my first job working in the local chip shop at 15 I learned what hard work really was, how to work well on a team and leadership from a manager who never asked you to do anything she wasn’t willing to do herself. There’s a lesson in everything. 

My first real job was… in a factory where we repaired hard drives.  

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… to always pass on the skills and knowledge you have learned along the way to others. This builds great teams and challenges you as an individual to keep learning. I’ve seen people who are afraid to do this in case someone takes their position but I was lucky enough to have had people in my work life share their knowledge with me and I soaked it up like a sponge.

A common misconception about what I do is… that I have one specific role. As a founder of a young company, you often wear a million different hats throughout the day as you respond to the needs of the business. You are the marketing department, tech team, HR department, logistics… the list goes on. I’m sure any founder can relate. 

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
Yes, this is so important. I really believe you shouldn’t do it all on your own. We are so lucky to live in a country that has so many entrepreneurial programs that you can plug in to and receive great mentorship from. You need to surround yourself with people who have done it all before as business can be a very lonely and overwhelming journey. 

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… walking away from a previous company that I loved and co-founded. I knew it was time to quit, which is not the advice you expect to hear in business, but for me, I’ve learned knowing when to walk away can be just as important as knowing when to dig deep and keep going. 

I wake at… 6:30am.

The first thing I do every morning is… have a cup of coffee and listen to a podcast.

My morning routine is… slow-paced with a coffee in hand. I try to get ahead before leaving the house by sending a few emails. I take the kids to school and then head into the office. 

I travel to work by… car.

I start my working day at… 8:30am.

The first thing I do at work is… check my emails and respond to the most pressing ones before checking in with the team. 

I usually spend the first portion of the day… going over my to-do list and getting the hardest items on that list out of the way early on.

I break for lunch at… 12 noon.

I save time by… not having any unnecessary meetings. The beauty of Covid is that it taught us all what needs to be a meeting and what needs to be an email!

The most challenging part of my day is… when things don’t go to plan and you have to respond and make decisions quickly. 

I usually end my day at… 5pm.

I switch off from work by… 9pm, but it varies depending on what is going on that day with the business

Before I go to bed, I’ll… scroll through socials. This feels like the only time to catch up on what everyone else has been up to in their day

I often prepare for tomorrow by… writing out my tasks for the next day. It’s amazing how getting it on paper can clear your head. 

After a long work week, I destress by… watching a movie with the kids. I also love to get out for a hike with friends when I can.  

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… building a brand that people recognise and a product that people love using. Developing a product is really tough, so it is extra special to see it on shelves around the country.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is… to contact your local enterprise office if you have a business idea and you aren’t sure what the first step is. The local enterprise is a great first step. 

I’ve just finished working on… our new product Tonstix Travel Pop and at the moment I’m working on a strategy for our launch into the UK market.