World Reimagined

How Aura Telman Is Harnessing Her Leadership Skills to Transform Companies Into Vibrant Communities

Aura Telman

Aura Telman, Founder of Thirteen Thrive, is on a mission to infuse more joy into the workplace by supporting companies in curating environments that embrace each employee and leave a positive mark on the world.

After immigrating to Canada at the age of 13, Aura learned first hand the importance of values such as inclusion, belonging, and openness. Thus, the work she does today through Thirteen Thrive is anchored in those personal experiences and encourages a culture filled with mindfulness and community. Combined with her more than decade of experience in HR, Aura is committed to transforming the companies she works with from the inside out to modernize the workplace and design meaningful employee experiences.

We asked Aura about the most impactful lessons she’s learned since starting her company, how she celebrates her successes along the way, and how her upbringing contributes to how she operates as a leader.

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Thirteen Thrive?

A: I created Thirteen Thrive about a year after leaving a successful and growing career in corporate HR. At the time I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, or had a life changing vision for my business, but I knew that I wanted to do the type of work that could change the world, that could make people’s lives better, and I wanted to start in the workplace. So I Googled “business plan template” and “how to create a business.” Within a month, I had put it together. I put myself out there on social media and let my network know I was starting a consultancy business that focused on building community at work, impactful wellness, and bringing joy back into the workplace. 

Q: What are some of the most meaningful impacts Thirteen Thrive has had so far? 

A: The most meaningful impact my business has had so far is helping companies and leaders create workplaces where people feel included and cared for, that they feel like they’re part of a community, that burnout and stress are reduced, and, most of all, that they feel good at work. 

Over the past two years, we’ve improved companies’ retention rate by 10 percent to 20 percent, through wellness strategies, culture shifts, and a focus on micro changes that positively affect people’s everyday life at work.

After implementing our signature mindfulness and gratitude programs that focus on giving employees 10 minutes of mindfulness per day, people always tell me they feel like they can manage their work day better and they feel closer to themselves. 

Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

A: My family and I immigrated to Canada from Romania when I was 13. We all had to learn a new language, adopt a new culture, and integrate into a new country with its own customs. I remember how excited I was to start a new life and live like the people I saw on TV in American sitcoms.

When we got to Canada and the excitement wore off, I realized how out of place I felt, how different I was, and how hard it was to communicate. Over time I assimilated and Canada felt more like home. However, I learned at a young age how important community and belonging were. 

As a leader I carry this experience with me, making sure I play my part in making people feel like they always belong in the room, they are always heard, and that our differences are our strengths. 

Q: What were the most difficult and most impactful lessons you’ve learned starting and running a company?

A: The first lesson was learning to listen to my own voice and trust it. If you’re a new entrepreneur launching your first business, there will be lots of advice, opinions, and experts who will tell you which path to take, what worked for them, or what they think you should do. It’s so important to listen to yourself and make decisions you feel good about—sometimes against “expert advice.” Making decisions you personally don’t feel good about usually ends up in money or time lost. 

The second lesson is to not be afraid to make investments in your business and outsource tasks that are not in your wheelhouse. You don’t need to do everything by yourself. This was something I used to pride myself on and it burned me out earlier this year.

The best investment I made in the business was working with a marketing agency on the branding for Thirteen Thrive. I saw a return on investment within a month of launching the new brand identity and messaging.   

Q: Have you struggled with self doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

A: Self doubt has been one of the biggest mental roadblocks in my journey, and it’s something I’m still working on. I’ve used all these strategies to build my confidence and show up as a powerful CEO: 

  • Sticky notes all over my workspace reminding me “I belong here,” “I’ve earned this,” and “I am great at what I do.”
  • Every month I have a CEO date that includes a reflection time on what I and the business accomplished for the month. Then, I celebrate it.
  • I don’t take failure personally. I tell myself it’s part of the ebbs and flows of running a business.
  • I limit my social media scrolling time, especially if I’m mindlessly scrolling or finding myself feeling down because of the content I’m taking in. 

Q: How do you celebrate successes along the way?

A: I love this question. Not enough of us celebrate our successes. We have mini celebrations in fleeing moments and then move onto the next milestone. 

I celebrate by taking myself out on a CEO date every month. I take myself out to a fancy restaurant, get dressed up, have a delicious meal, and reflect on the wins for that month, what I accomplished, what real-life impact I had on the people in my life, how I felt doing the work, and what my mindset was. I look forward to this outing every month. It’s such a special and unique time to honor and celebrate myself and my work.    

Q: Have you discovered any underappreciated leadership traits or misconceptions around leadership?

A: I’ve discovered that we’re too rigid with our idea of a leader. I have met so many people in workplaces who don’t see themselves as leaders because they don’t manage people in a traditional sense, they don't have the right title, they don’t have a degree, or many years of experience. None of those things make a leader. Anyone can be a leader and have a positive impact on the people they work with. Job descriptions, titles, company structures—all these have created rigidity and limited people from seeing themselves as leaders. Meanwhile, they’re influencing change every day by being the person who facilitates collaboration, making sure everyone has a voice in meetings,  bringing humor into a tense situation to lighten the mood, being the person who people turn to for support when they’re having a tough day, and being the unofficial team cheerleader on a failing project. All of these people are leaders. My hope is that one day, we see a leader in everyone. 

Q: What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

A: Look at your entrepreneurial journey like the seasons. There's a season for growth , a season for rest, a season for change, and a season for fun. Trust that you will know which season you’re in and that the next season will come.   

Q: What’s next for you and Thirteen Thrive?

A: Continue focusing on wellness at work. That’s where I foresee the biggest need—in mental and social wellness—as well as meaningful work and community. 

Growing the team is an exciting next step I look forward to, as well as brand partnerships with companies who uphold our vision of transforming workplaces into communities that honor people, their work, and how that work is done.   

Aura is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Gesche Haas

Gesche Haas is the Founder/CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through visibility opportunities, resource exchange, and collective support.

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