Tania Luna, She Has Built Multiple Companies, Including LifeLabs Learning, a Leadership Development Resource That Serves Thousands of the World’s Most Influential Companies

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TANIA LUNA is an entrepreneur, psychology researcher, and author of LEAD TOGETHER: Stop Squirreling Away Power and Build a Better Team. She has founded and grown multiple companies, including Scarlet Spark, a nonprofit that creates human-friendly workplaces for organizations that help animals; LifeLabs Learning, one of the world’s fastest-growing leadership development companies; eLab, an accelerator for edtech entrepreneurs; and Surprise Industries, an organization that designed surprise experiences. Her other books include THE LEADER LAB and SURPRISE. Tania is also a writer for Psychology Today, co-host of the podcast Talk Psych to Me, and a TED speaker on the power of perspective. Across her work, she strives to inspire interconnectedness among all living beings, humans included. She lives in a micro-sanctuary with rescued pigs, goats, dogs, roosters, cats, and the love of her life. To learn more about her work, visit TaniaLuna.com.

Q: Tell us about your childhood and moving to the United States. What surprised you the most when you came here? Did your childhood impact your career as a leader and entrepreneur?
TL:
My family received asylum status in the U.S. after we were impacted by the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine. I was six years old when I got on my first airplane, saw my first supermarket, and tasted ketchup for the first time. In fact, the entire memory of my first year in America (New York City, of all places) tastes like ketchup packets because we got them for free and couldn’t afford much else. But I never felt poor. In fact, it wasn’t until our 10-year anniversary in the U.S. that we tried to rent a room at the “hotel” we stayed in when we first got here and found out that it was a homeless shelter.  

Everything back then was full of surprises, wonder, and possibilities. The only significant downside was that we moved to a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was xenophobic all the way down to the kids on the playground. School was also a struggle because I didn’t speak English; plus, I had dyslexia and a rebellious streak. 

But even these painful experiences came with silver linings. As an outsider, I learned to do things my own way – the ultimate entrepreneur education. And I developed constant vigilance and compassion for anyone who is ever left out – a tendency that has served me well when it comes to building inclusive and collaborative workplaces.

Q: You recently founded the nonprofit Scarlet Spark. What is its purpose? Why did you start the organization?
TL:
Scarlet Spark (scarletspark.org) exists to help build human-friendly workplaces for organizations that help animals. We offer free leadership workshops and people systems consulting to pro-animal companies and nonprofits.

Each year, there are more animals living miserable lives in factory farms than there are people on earth. Their suffering is intertwined with the horrible conditions of farm workers and the devastating harm factory farms cause to our health and our planet. There are trillions of wild animals suffering from habitat loss and the spread of new diseases. 

As an animal lover, I felt overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such unimaginable suffering. I boycotted animal products by eating vegan, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do. Little by little, I learned more and realized that there are hundreds of wonderful organizations all around the world helping to create more compassionate laws, corporate practices, and cultural norms. The trouble is that most of these nonprofits don’t have the necessary skills and resources to build strong, sustainable organizations. As is the case with most companies, these nonprofits have inefficiencies and people problems that hold them back from reaching their missions.

My co-founders and I wanted to help eliminate these obstacles and spark the full potential of the animal protection movement. This is how Scarlet Spark was born – with the company name inspired by our late dog Scarlet. Scarlet was a scarred-up pitbull with a painful past who managed to melt the hearts of everyone she met and spark community among our neighbors in Harlem. Inspired by Scarlet and the tireless efforts of animal advocates around the world, our mission is to help create a world where all animals can flourish, humans included.

To read more of our exclusive interview with Tania Luna, click here.

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