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Trauma Was Running My Business (w/ Tereson Dupuy, Trauma-Informed Business Coach)

Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:00:00]:

One of the worst things we can do as entrepreneurs is forget our why. Why we get out of bed in the morning. Why we care about making a difference, not just about making money. But for those of us who've experienced trauma, the past can get in the way of our why all too easily. It can make us question our businesses, ourselves, everything really. On the surface, Tereson Dupuy has led a pretty good life. She successfully ran her business, FuzziBunz Diapers, for almost 2 decades and kick started the modern cloth diapering movement. All in all, she sold $32,000,000 worth of product. And today, she's a sought after business coach and consultant who teaches copywriting, team leadership and more. But beneath the surface, it's a different story.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:00:50]:

Tereson's dealt with trauma ever since she was little. Trauma which bled into her entrepreneurial life. She's battled abandonment and lost her son to suicide during the pandemic. At times, Tereson forgot who she was. She buckled under the influence of money, which ultimately led to the demise of FuzziBunz and nearly her own demise. But Tereson hasn't let these traumas define her. In fact, they've actually unlocked her ability to lead with love both for herself and those around her. The death of her son Eden in particular spurred her upcoming memoir titled The Return of Eden, which details how he has guided Terrisen along her healing journey from beyond the veil.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:01:37]:

In this episode, I sit down with Tereson to explore her story. What impact has trauma had on her life as an entrepreneur? How has she learned to lead with love even after experiencing terrible pain and heartbreak? And how can we make sure that trauma isn't also negatively influencing our decision making? I'm Katherin Vasilopoulos, and this is And So, She Left, the podcast about incredible women entrepreneurs and the wisdom they gained beyond the corporate world. In many ways, Tereson's late son, Eden, is at the center of her entrepreneurial journey. Even though he recently passed, he's still helping her to heal from trauma. More on that later. And way back in the late nineties, Eden was experiencing a diaper rash that would forever set Tereson on a winding entrepreneurial path.


Tereson Dupuy [00:02:47]:

I had a child in 1998. His name was Eden, And he was born with severe diaper rash. He was born with a lot of challenges. He was also autistic. And as a mother, this pained me greatly that I could not solve this child's diaper rash. And it was it was severe. It was bleeding. It was just, it was awful.


Tereson Dupuy [00:03:06]:

And I felt incredibly powerless. And a friend recommended I try cloth diapers. And I'm like, no. But I loved this baby so much. And I did. And I found all these problems with them. And I can remember sitting in my living room floor in the year 2000 thinking, you know, nobody's done anything more to solve this problem. And so I did.


Tereson Dupuy [00:03:31]:

And I had that, you know, that Oprah moment that I can do better than this. And I set off to fix this problem. I had 3 electives that I took in college, which were sewing, pattern design, and textiles. And those 3 electives made me millions of dollars because I did solve the problem. I did create a product that not only solved his problem, but solved the problem for millions of families. So it was a product called FuzziBunz Diapers, and it solved a lot of the problems that old fashioned cloth diapers could not. They were easy to wash. They were easy to use.


Tereson Dupuy [00:04:15]:

And in a nutshell, I modernized cloth diapers.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:04:19]:

What do you attribute the success to? What were the steps involved in that?


Tereson Dupuy [00:04:24]:

I think it was a a timing thing for me. The world was ready for that product, and the process, you know, I just I don't I don't understand how that happened. I don't understand how I knew how to invent this product. I didn't understand how I knew how to build a manufacturing facility, one sewing machine, one employee at a time. But I did, and I led with a lot of heart, and I led with a lot of love and authenticity. And I think when I look back on my entrepreneurial journey, that is what attributed to a lot of my success. I was just going with the flow. This was supposed to happen.


Tereson Dupuy [00:05:03]:

This was bigger than me. There was a bigger plan for this product and the environment in general. And I played my part, and I just went with the flow. When I stopped going with the flow, I started having problems.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:05:17]:

So what do you mean by that?


Tereson Dupuy [00:05:18]:

Well, my business grew very quickly. It was multimillion dollar status in about three and a half years, and I couldn't I couldn't believe that. And when I started the business, I was a little Birkenstock wearing, crunchy granola mama, you know, that just wanted to do something good for my child, you know. I wanted to make money too. I wanted to be self supporting. And about 5 years into rapid growth in my business, I was realizing a lot of success, and I was making a lot of money, and that changed me in a very profound way. And, you know, I traded in my Birkenstocks for Louis, Gucci, Prada, Fendi. I got lost.


Tereson Dupuy [00:06:02]:

I got lost, I lost who I was. I lost that vision, and my business started really shifting because of that, and I didn't understand why.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:06:13]:

What were the challenges with developing the product and then this rapid success? I mean, all that together, you said it changed you. It shifted everything for you. Describe that process. Like, where did you start with and how did it get there?


Tereson Dupuy [00:06:26]:

Well, I started sewing diapers in my spare bedroom with my baby, you know, in a sling. And, you know, one diaper turned into 8, 8 turned into 16, and it just, it started multiplying. And I barely had time to nurse my child, which I did. And it was it was constantly keeping up. Like, I you know, I felt like this business was running me, and it it was. And it was it was a beautiful, beautiful process, and it was an amazing journey for a long time. Somehow, I just would figure everything out. You know, some people have business plans.


Tereson Dupuy [00:07:03]:

I never had a business plan. I just I was incredibly resourceful with figuring out what I needed to do next in the journey. Okay. We need to make a 1,000 diapers today.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:07:14]:



Tereson Dupuy [00:07:14]:

How am I gonna do that? You know, how many machines do I need to add? I moved buildings 4 times in 2 years before finally settling in in on one big manufacturing facility. I never outsourced until I needed to. And that was a big shift for me too, having to start outsourcing our production and going overseas. And that broke my heart in a lot of ways. I had to lay people off. And, I kinda feel like I sold my soul to the devil. You know, quality suffered. My relationship suffered.


Tereson Dupuy [00:07:46]:

And what I realized well after I left my company was that trauma was running my business. I had a lot of childhood trauma. I had a lot of sexual trauma growing up. I'm an adoptee. I have a pretty severe abandonment wound, and that followed me into my business. Yeah. I never knew how to run a solid business from a place of true leadership. You know, I it was one trauma response after the next, and I probably was in the state of PTSD for for much of it.


Tereson Dupuy [00:08:26]:

But it worked. It worked. You know, I sold $32,000,000 of cloth diapers over the span of of the lifetime of that business.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:08:34]:

How long did you have the business for? How many years?


Tereson Dupuy [00:08:37]:

I exited in 2013, so I had it for 13 years.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:08:42]:



Tereson Dupuy [00:08:42]:

I should have had it for 5. I should have sold it at 5. You know, that's that's my one big regret, but I ran it for too long. I pivoted a lot, but I couldn't pivot in the ways that I really needed to pivot. And I pretty much dug myself into a hole of not not being able to dig myself out of that hole.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:09:03]:

Yes. And that's a theme that we don't hear about very often is this whole the entrepreneurial journey, but then when is it time to leave it? When is it time to actually sell or close shop? Or when is it not working anymore because of whatever reason, lack of passion, lack of funding, or the the product isn't relevant anymore? It could be any number of things. I'm really curious to know more about how the abandonment issue came into play as an entrepreneur. And then maybe we can, transition into your experience with Shark Tank as well. Love to hear about that.


Tereson Dupuy [00:09:34]:

Right. Right. Well, when someone has severe attachment wounds, and I did, you want everybody to like you. You don't know how to set boundaries with people. You are somewhat of a perfectionist, because if you're perfect, nobody leaves you. You know, I befriended my retailers. I befriended my manufacturers. I befriended my employees.


Tereson Dupuy [00:09:57]:

And that had some pretty severe consequences for me. It opened the door for a lot of manipulation. The other thing, and it was a big thing, is I never knew how to really protect myself. You know, as a survivor of trauma, you don't really know how to do that. You know, I didn't learn how to do that as a small child that followed me into my business very unconsciously, and I was easily manipulated. People saw me as a meal ticket, you know, as a as a cash cow, as the goose that laid the golden egg.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:10:30]:



Tereson Dupuy [00:10:30]:

And they wanted a part of that. And I never knew how to say no. And I never saw it coming. That filter of maybe this person's motives aren't really solid with me. Maybe they don't really want to help me. Maybe they wanna take everything that I own, and they did.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:10:47]:

Yeah. They did. Because we think that everyone operates from the same position as we do. If you're a good person and you have good intentions, you'll never think that someone else wants to do those bad things to you because you would never do that to them. People were either riding your coattails or wanted to be part of it and actually were trying to. Now what did they try to take away from you, if you don't mind me asking?


Tereson Dupuy [00:11:07]:

Oh, goodness. Well, let's start with my ex husband. I got a divorce in 2005. This was 5 years into my business and which cost me $2,000,000. Mhmm. And, you know, this person that I thought was my friend really saw me. Yeah. It was that term was used in court.


Tereson Dupuy [00:11:25]:

You know? She's the goose that laid the golden egg. And I felt like just a meal ticket. This is what I was there for, is to make everybody else money, you know, and have it be taken away from me. I have been involved with business partners that have taken my product, sent it to China, manufactured their own, and executive assistants that had an agenda. And lastly, you know, there was a business partner that I partnered with after Shark Tank that manipulated me out of my intellectual property to invest money. And so I was left with pretty much nothing. Yeah. The business ultimately failed because of that.


Tereson Dupuy [00:12:06]:

I never knew how to protect myself. I do now.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:12:12]:

Yes. Yes. I was gonna say there must be a learning in there somewhere where you, you've wizened up and you've decided, okay, I need to put either protective measures in place, or I need to do things differently or trust people differently. There's no other way to get out of that. Right?


Tereson Dupuy [00:12:26]:

Right. No. And, you know, I wanna mention, you know, I was not a dumb person. Like, I was an intelligent, creative, driven, tenacious woman. You know? I led with so much heart, and trauma doesn't care how intelligent you are. You know, I spent a long time beating myself up for what was a perceived failure. I didn't fail. I made a big difference in the world, but that's what that voice was telling me and beating myself up for that.


Tereson Dupuy [00:13:00]:

You know, there are a lot of intelligent women that are are running beautiful businesses, but this will be a problem for them if they don't address it.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:13:09]:

I like what you said there were trauma doesn't care. It's what you bring from your childhood into your adult life and then also figuring out ways to overcome that, especially as a business person. It comes out of left field. Right?


Tereson Dupuy [00:13:23]:

Right. Right. And I always knew I had trauma. That was not something new to me. I knew I was in therapy, but I, for some reason, didn't see how it would impact my business, and it did. You know, the business was its own entity. It had its own life. It hadn't been impacted by trauma, but it it was because I was at the top of it.


Tereson Dupuy [00:13:45]:

You know? I was at the top of the food chain, and it was. Trauma was holding an executive office in my business.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:13:57]:

I would love to hear more about your Shark Tank experience. Tell me what year was it, and what transpired there.


Tereson Dupuy [00:14:03]:

That was in 2012, and I was doing, I did very well financially with the company for about 10 years. But at 10 years in, I started experiencing some real problems. You know, I I was having manufacturing issues. There was a boatload of patent infringement. China was starting to get into the game and selling cheap look alike diapers on Amazon, which was not an issue I had to face when I first got started. And, you know, for the first time, my business was starting to not grow. It was starting to go in the opposite direction. And then I get this call from the producers of Shark Tank.


Tereson Dupuy [00:14:45]:

And I knew about the show. People had told me, oh, you should go on that, you know, that new show, Shark Tank. I'm like, no. And I told the producers that too, which is incredible that I said that, you know, given that people would give their left toe and their right arm to be on that show. And I'm like, to me, it was a it was a show for startup businesses, and I was not a startup. I had been in business for a long time. I had this huge debt to my ex husband, which made me kind of not investable, and I had a boatload of patent infringement. Like, I didn't think I would be appealing to an investor, neither would they.


Tereson Dupuy [00:15:19]:

But they encouraged me to audition, and I did, and I got on the show. When I went on, you know, I pitched as a professional. I was honest about where I was in my business, but then one of them said something to me that brought me to my knees. I wasn't expecting to hear and not from this shark because he was supposed to be the nice shark, the kinder, gentler shark. But Robert Herjavec looked at me and said, Tereson, I think the problem is you. I think the problem in your business is you. And he said it with kindness and compassion, but it was like, oh my god. I wanna die.


Tereson Dupuy [00:16:05]:

I wanna die right here on this oriental carpet. And Barbara had said too, you know, you remind me a lot of myself, but I question your judgment. It took me a good solid year after that show to figure out what did he mean? Why why was I the problem in my business? But it was something I needed to hear, and I thank him so much. I have so much gratitude for that negative honesty. That is what I came to realize after a lot of onion peeling. I went home, I stepped down as CEO for my business because if I was the problem, well, I was gonna remove myself. And I appointed 2 people under the age of 28 to run my business.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:16:46]:

That takes guts. It is your company, and you've been running it for over a decade, and then you say, I have to remove myself as the head of my company Yeah. In order for it to continue thriving and replaced by someone who has less experience than I do. Wow. So what happened after?


Tereson Dupuy [00:17:02]:

That lasted for not long. The people that I appointed were very good. They were very smart. One had an MBA. You know? So it wasn't, I didn't appoint children to run my company, but they didn't have, you know, the passion and and the creativity. And the hole was pretty big by year 12. You know, you're not gonna stop China from making $5 diapers. And how do you out innovate that? You know? It was it was time to walk away.


Tereson Dupuy [00:17:30]:

So I went into really big self care mode. You know, I was drinking entirely too much. That's how I coped with a lot of things. That was my coping mechanism for a long time and started realizing, yeah, I was the problem. I couldn't set boundaries. I would let people manipulate me, and I couldn't move with the changes. You know? I was single. I'm gonna sell this business for $50,000,000, and I think this is a common thing that entrepreneurs do.


Tereson Dupuy [00:17:59]:

But if I would have exited at 5, I would have been in a whole lot better situation. I was attached to the business. I thought it was gonna last forever. I was kinda delusional. And, yeah, so I did a lot of work to fix the problem, which was really fixing me, and then that took a lot of self compassion. It took a lot of courage to look at those wounds and those traumas and put things in place so that that wouldn't happen again. And that's what healing from trauma looks like. The trauma will always be there, but you can mitigate those risks in your life and in business by learning the tools.


Tereson Dupuy [00:18:36]:

And self love and self compassion and self forgiveness was a big part of that.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:18:41]:

Self forgiveness. That is a huge one. That is a huge one. Because we could sit there and and beat ourselves up over and over and over for not having known better or for not having had the wherewithal to make the decision earlier. It could be any number of things. But that self forgiveness piece is what propels you to the next level. So what happened after? Tell me about the the next step after the diaper business.


Tereson Dupuy [00:19:05]:

You know, I had a little bit of money from the exit, and I got to take a year off of life, which I needed. That business almost killed me. You know, I had a suicide attempt at year 5 when I was going through my divorce. And, yeah, I needed to breathe. I needed to breathe. And I always knew that creating a leak proof underwear for people with incontinence would be my next step. You know, taking all of the resourcefulness and, and creativity from the diaper industry and using that to really make a good product for people that are struggling with incontinence. That product was invented.


Tereson Dupuy [00:19:41]:

The funds were raised, and that was in 2019. And then the pandemic hit and, you know, I suffered another severe trauma and we lost our funding, you know, that the investor pulled out. He's like, I don't know what's gonna happen in the world, but, you know, I wish you all the best. And and that just that all of the air left the balloon at that point, and I went into severe self care mode after that.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:20:09]:

Yes. The pandemic sucked the life out of a lot of things. And just as people were gaining momentum at the end of that decade, you've got this big global thing that just dumped itself on everybody. And what did self care or severe self care look like for you? What did you have to do?


Tereson Dupuy [00:20:27]:

I had to put myself in the bubble, and I and I will tell you, you know, why that is. I lost one of my children during the pandemic, at the beginning of the pandemic, to suicide. And, I'm okay, but I had to give myself space to grieve, and that changed my life. Thank God I did all of this work to recover from some of those early life traumas because I had the tools to survive. And I just took space, you know, and and I surrendered and let spirit, whatever that is, put me back together again. And, you know, I did one thing at a time. I took one breath at a time. I gave away all of my belongings and put everything I had left in my car and took off.


Tereson Dupuy [00:21:15]:

And, went on pretty much a 2 year long nomadic adventure just healing and being led to the places that would heal me.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:21:24]:

Can you tell me more about your the child that you lost? Is that something you're you're able to talk to with us about?


Tereson Dupuy [00:21:30]:

Yes. And and I did write a book about it. So Eden was my inspiration for my diaper business. And, he was a beautiful child. He was autistic, which presented a lot of challenges in our life and a lot of struggle for him because, you know, he struggled with depression, not ever fitting in, and, you know, never being able to effectively communicate when he needed help, and I had always feared that for him. You know, he had a a suicide attempt his senior year in high school. And, you know, I think the pandemic was just a lot, a lot for him, a lot for his Katherin. And, yeah, just yeah.


Tereson Dupuy [00:22:13]:

That experience knocked me to my knees. But in a really interesting way, that healed me, and he healed me because I could feel him. You know, there's something called a shared crossing, and I don't know if you're familiar with that. I was not familiar with that. No. But I'm I'm highly sensitive spiritually, And I could feel him, and he started speaking to me from across the veil. And this kid saved my life by telling me exactly what I needed to do to put my life back together. It's a lot of the the self care, you know, but when you're in that traumatic state, you forget to connect with yourself.


Tereson Dupuy [00:22:57]:

You forget to have gratitude for the things that are good in your life. You forget that you're not running this show. Something else is running this show. And if you don't let go and flow with it, you are gonna struggle and you are going to suffer. So, you know, his instructions to me, which maybe it was in my own mind, maybe it was really him, I don't know. It doesn't matter. What matters is that was my path to healing, and that's that's what I wrote a book about, our experiences in the afterlife. So it's been a beautiful journey through grief.


Tereson Dupuy [00:23:33]:

It has been incredibly, incredibly painful, but it's also been beautiful. You know, you have to find the beautiful moments to make the hard moments livable sometimes.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:23:46]:

What messages did you get from Eden? I'm curious to know what what you're able to capture from that experience.


Tereson Dupuy [00:23:53]:

To have compassion for myself. You know, and and first too is is to connect with my own divine source. You know, for some people, maybe that's God, maybe it's the universe, but to connect with that ultimate loving force that runs through every single human being. And I had to, you know, I couldn't look to other things to heal me or to make me feel better. I had to dip into my own divinity and my own source of love. And I was able to connect with him, but I was able to connect with me too. Now I couldn't lose myself in this process, and I think a lot of people do. They get lost in grief, and they get lost in the trauma of everything.


Tereson Dupuy [00:24:33]:

And I had to surrender. So if there's one thing that I did, it was connect with that part of myself and surrender to the intelligence that that was going to lead me to the next right thing. And humility. There's something bigger going on. I don't know what it is, but I'm going to trust and have faith that it is working out for my greatest good. And it has, because I'm happy. I'm living a very happy life. And, you know, I like to think that there's miracles and and everything, and I don't have to suffer.


Tereson Dupuy [00:25:07]:

And that was a huge message too, was that suffering is a choice. I can sit in my grief. I can sit in my suffering. I can sit in self blame and self hatred and non forgiveness, or I can go in the other direction. So I chose that. I chose not to suffer. I chose that this was not going to kill me. And there was 6 months where I thought it might, but it didn't.


Tereson Dupuy [00:25:32]:

And I am really grateful that he's on my team. We wrote a beautiful book together, and it's called The Return of Eden. I think it's gonna help a lot of people, not just through grief, but through the suffering of life.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:25:44]:

Do you have any kind of advice for entrepreneurs who have been traumatized, who are going through or suffering through trauma right now? And then if you're having a really tough time just like you did.


Tereson Dupuy [00:25:55]:

Yes. And, you know, one of the first things I wanna say is there is healing. It is not a life sentence. Trauma is not a life sentence, and it will always be there. But you can learn ways to heal and where it's not running your life all of the time. And for entrepreneurs, you know, that self awareness piece, just being self aware that, hey, I have trauma in my life. I am running this business. I don't want it to affect the success they can have.


Tereson Dupuy [00:26:25]:

Most people can attain a certain amount of success, but it might not be sustainable if they don't address those core wounds and integrate it into their leadership style. And it can be done. So, you know, self awareness is the first part of that and learning ways to take care of the self, engaging in self care, building a community of support, other entrepreneurs, other visionaries, other founders that have those same challenges that so they can lift you up. It was lonely at the top. I used to say that all the time when I was running my business. It's lonely at the top. I'm a CEO. I have the top seat.


Tereson Dupuy [00:27:03]:

My employees are not there to support me. My retailers are not there to support me. My children are not there to support me. I was a single mom. I did not have a partner. Get support from other people that are swimming in that same pool so that they can lift you up and support you. It is incredibly important. And be easy on yourself.


Tereson Dupuy [00:27:24]:

You know, you don't have to control everything. Sometimes letting go of control is the best thing that you can do.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:27:31]:

I'm listening to you speak, and I'm thinking there's so much wisdom in the life that you have lived and are living right now. And I just wanna get a sense from you of, like, why it's so important now for you to be doing this?


Tereson Dupuy [00:27:43]:

That's a really great question, and I don't think I realized this until recently. I've never fully, I think, embraced that 32 year old Tereson that was this beautiful, driven, creative founder that wanted to change the world, that struggled the entire time. And by helping other females that have trauma in their history, that helps me. You know, it it it is wildly healing to be able to make a difference in someone else's life, to maybe save them, which I can't save anyone. Right? They save themselves. But to support them in that journey so that they can have that business that they're meant to have. They can have all of the success that they're meant to have if they address that presence of trauma in their business, and they can. I wanna help people reach their full potential and live a life of purpose.


Tereson Dupuy [00:28:38]:

I do it for other women, but I do it for myself too. And that's part of my purpose here. Every single life experience I have had has got to go to helping somebody else, and it will.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:29:04]:

Thank you so much to Tereson Dupuy. You can learn more about Tereson's memoir, The Return of Eden, through the links in the episode description. If you like the show, please rate, review, and subscribe to And So, She Left wherever you listen. Your feedback helps us to better serve current listeners and reach new ones. We also have a new website. Head over to for full episodes, transcripts, an application form to be on the show, a list of upcoming guests, and more. And so she left is made by Cansulta and Ethan Lee. Cansulta connects entrepreneurs and leaders with a global roster of over 150 pre vetted consultants and experts like Ethan and I who can help organizations in any business area from HR to finance to sales and marketing and even coaching.


Katherin Vasilopoulos [00:29:51]:

We'll be back next Wednesday with a new episode. Our music is by Correspondence and Chris Zabriskie, edited for your enjoyment. You can find a list of all the songs you heard here in the episode notes. I'm Katherin Vasilopoulos, and thanks for listening.

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