Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast


The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 35: Choose your journey to better health

Rachel Tonkin

Co-Founder True Woo

July 26, 2022
Navigating the challenges of business and motherhood can be a wild ride. That's why we hold wellbeing as such an important pillar; supporting our personal wellbeing is crucial to keeping everything afloat.Rachel Tonkin has created a business that celebrates the uniqueness of our individual wellness journey, from what she learned overcoming her own experience with cancer.


Kate Christie

True Woo


Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Rachel Tonkin

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Episode 35 Transcript

00:03:28:19 - 00:03:55:04

Carrie Kwan

Navigating the challenges of business ownership and motherhood can be a wild ride. That's why we hold wellbeing as such an important pillar; supporting our personal wellbeing is crucial to keeping everything afloat. Our guest on Mumbition today has not only created a business that celebrates the uniqueness of our individual wellness journey, but was created from what she learned overcoming her own experience of being diagnosed with cancer.

Shortly after giving birth to her first child, Rachael Tokin’s courage and tenacity saw her not only thrive during cancer treatment, raise her son Ashy, but also found the passion to create her business, True Woo, all while living away from her family in the U.S.. She joins us on Mumbition today to share some of this extraordinary journey and how it has impacted her working life as a business owning mum. Rachel, welcome.

00:04:25:04 - 00:04:35:03

Rachel Tonkin

Thank you so much. Wow. Just listening to that opening remark, I was like, wow, what? I just, you know, you have to pinch me. I just can't believe that some of that's actually true.

00:04:37:00 - 00:05:05:11

Carrie Kwan

You've had such an incredible journey since I think we first met back in 2018. I know we want to dive into that because I think you were actually one of our amazing pitch competition judges that were powered, hosted by Mums & Co, in our very first annual conference. I know you've had so many pitches in your previous role as an investor, but I'm so excited to share your pitch now because I think it's actually changed a little bit hasn't it? Can you give us a bit of a pitch about True Woo?

00:05:10:00 - 00:05:32:04

Rachel Tonkin

Well, I must say it's actually a different experience for me being on this side of the table, normally I am hearing the pitches and so having to really think about my own pitch, it's actually more difficult than what I had imagined. So I'm so thankful for Mums & Co who do have a course around pitching because it truly is a skill.

It’s a skill that can really hold you in good stead as you're out there in the market trying to promote your business. So for me, hi, Mumbition listeners, I'm Rachel Tonkin Dur and I'm passionate about sharing my knowledge and connecting others and to support them where I can. I'm lucky I can do that, with two hats that I wear.

I'm an investor for a VC fund and I'm also a co-founder of True Woo, a wellness destination founded on spirit and science to educate and inspire proactive choice. How did we go?

00:06:13:07 - 00:06:42:03

Carrie Kwan

You had me. I kind of think that sort of journey that you've been on and just in terms of knowing both sides, I think you bring such a huge empathy as well. So you had me! Yeah. I emotionally connected with you, which I think is always the aim of, you know, I'm like on the edge of my seat kind of going, “OK, I want to hear more like that.”

That sort of first few seconds is all you're actually trying to aim to do; I want to hear more. So we're going to hear a lot more in the next hopefully 20 minutes of our conversation.

00:06:55:16 - 00:07:12:22

Lucy Kippist

I also really liked your cadence, Rachel. It's like a beautiful flow between the beginning and your end, very even. I also love the line about truly being a business that connects spirit and science. What a beautiful way to describe that combination!

00:07:13:11 - 00:07:45:21

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah. And for me, that was really important to the business, because science can say so much and provides us so much insight. But there's a lot that science doesn't yet know. And that's not because there aren't brilliant minds trying to figure that out. It takes time. And I think there's a lot that we can learn from our own intuition, from our own heritage, our ancient wisdom, and being able to combine the two into a wellness platform for me just really kind of brings that holistic together.

00:07:46:24 - 00:08:14:07

Lucy Kippist

Absolutely! So, True Woo is a business that really celebrates wellbeing. I love how you described in your pitch that it takes it on a very individual level and I was reading on your LinkedIn profile that you describe yourself as a wellness enthusiast; another great term there. I love it! What's one thing that you do yourself every day that helps support your own wellbeing as you're growing a business and being a mum too?

00:08:15:15 - 00:08:38:18

Rachel Tonkin

Well, Lucy, I can't actually take credit for the wellness enthusiast tagline, I have to actually acknowledge my twin sister Sam, hi Sammy! She actually had it on her LinkedIn profile and when I read it I was like, “Yes, that's exactly what I am as well, a wellness enthusiast!” So I shamelessly stole it and put it on my own LinkedIn, so thank you for picking that up!

And thank you Sam for letting me borrow it. But there are actually quite a few things I now do as part of my day to really support my wellbeing, and the first thing I do is actually take a morning walk. So the first thing I do when my son wakes up is hand him over to my husband and I put on my runners and out I go. I take a 45 minute walk and that's really the time for myself where I can listen to a podcast if I'm in the mood to learn or I respond to messages with voice memos back to my family, or I listen to 90s pop music, whatever I'm feeling.

That morning walk is sort of what I do, and that really helps set the tone for me for the day and really start my day right. Sometimes that's just not possible. My husband works a global rolem and so some mornings he's up at, you know, 6 a.m. on a phone call, and so I just wait until he finishes and then I take that morning walk. But I really make sure I get that in every morning.

And the other two things that I really do in my day is sleep and nutrition. So I make sure that I get seven or eight hours of quality sleep each night. When you've got a young child, that can be difficult at times, but I'm very thankful that my husband prioritises my sleep over his sleep so that I can get that energy for the next day.

And nutrition. I really focused on our diet. For me, it was really changing the mindset about how we eat when we eat, when we eat, and not seeing nutrition and cooking meals as a chore, but really as an investment in our wellbeing and in our health.

00:10:27:22 - 00:10:44:06

Lucy Kippist

Love that! I saw something on Instagram yesterday, it said If there's any place to pinch pennies, it's not your health and well-being. Do it somewhere else in your life, but not your health and wellbeing, because obviously without that, what's the point?

00:10:44:16 - 00:10:46:16

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, exactly. I couldn't agree more.

00:10:49:01 - 00:11:11:18

Carrie Kwan

Carving out that space too, it sets the day off in the right way, and sets our intention in so many ways. Now we know that marketing is one of the most common challenges for our community of business owning mums and the wellness industry I know also has had this wonderful boom over the last few years.

What questions were you asking yourself as you created True Woo and something that from a differentiation point of view, what could set your concept apart from the others?

00:11:26:17 - 00:12:00:03

Rachel Tonkin

The wellness industry really has boomed over the last couple of years and it's set to continue to grow and there are lots of players in the wellness industry and lots of players doing incredible things for the space. So for me, it wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel, it was about bringing the ecosystem together when I was faced with two life events that collided at the same time when I gave birth to my son and then I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to really learn and relearn a lot of things.

And what I realised as I was actually starting on a wellness journey and I became increasingly frustrated with how difficult it was to access wellness and to access the right products and to swap things out of my house, and to be able to work with different practitioners in a trusted way that was timely.

So I felt that there just wasn't something like this on the market and I bounced off a few people, and I just thought, this is so simple, surely someone's done this and that. Even with this idea or other ideas, I always ask, you know, sorry, I can hear my son crying in the background.

00:12:42:13 - 00:12:47:15

Carrie Kwan

Oh, that's OK. We welcome those little voices if you need to.

00:12:48:22 - 00:12:51:10

Rachel Tonkin

I'm sorry, can we start that one again?

00:12:51:10 - 00:12:54:00

Carrie Kwan

No need to apologise. We are very accustomed to interruptions, and questions, and “can I get something from the pantry?” It happens all the time. Do you want me to take that from the top again, Rachel, or do you want to just pick it up? I can ask the question again.

00:13:17:12 - 00:13:20:24

Lucy Kippist

That was a beautiful answer.

00:13:21:08 - 00:13:26:11

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, I'm just wondering if I can hack that.

00:13:27:02 - 00:13:29:21

Lucy Kippist

We can definitely hack that because it's like, yeah.

00:13:30:11 - 00:13:52:18

Rachel Tonkin

I think for me, with any idea whether it's just one, it's, why hasn't this been done before? Like, what are you really bringing to market? This platform really solved a problem for me and I thought I can't be the only one that's going through this experience and wants to be able to access wellness in an easier way, in a trusted way, in a non-judgmental way.

00:13:53:05 - 00:13:54:23

Rachel Tonkin

And so we launched True Woo.

00:13:57:04 - 00:14:10:19

Lucy Kippist

So you're in the really early stages of True Woo. That was the beginning of 2022. So this year. What are you loving the most about this particular business at the moment so far in the journey?

00:14:12:02 - 00:14:46:19

Rachel Tonkin

Well, there are two things that really bring a smile to my face, and the first one really is the feedback from the wellness community and being able to share the story as to why we founded True Woo. Just how purpose driven the story is and really being able to support the wellness ecosystem to come together and to thrive, because they are doing incredible things for people on planet, and to be able to provide that space and for people to trust me and able to deliver that and trust the team, it's very humbling and quite overwhelming.

It's a lot of responsibility there, and I feel very appreciative that we have that trust. The second thing for me is actually being able to use the platform, and even though I'm here in the US and the platform was initially launched in Australia, the practitioners, you can access no matter where you are because they're all online.

To be able to book in sessions with the various practitioners and to continue to do my work and learn new modalities of healing, new modalities of wellness and, and feed that curiosity has been really incredible for me. Even as recent as last week when I was going through quite a difficult time, I had a yoga nidra session booked in with Tara and 10 minutes before the actual class, I was on the phone to my sister, and I wasn't even sure if I could actually join my session with Tara because I had just received news that my cancer had returned.

And my sister said, this is probably the best thing for you. And I got on the call with her and she explained what yoga nidra was, which is essentially a deep relaxation. You do a body scan and it's a guided meditation and has a positive mantra. For me, that mantra was, I am cancer free. That half an hour with Tara really reset my mind and kind of got me out of this suffering that I was in and maybe realized that my body felt good.

I feel really good and yeah, like, yeah, we got the news, but I am cancer free right now and it's going to be OK. So I love that time with her, even though we're on opposite sides of the world. To be able to connect and to be able to get that support and have her included in my care team was so valuable.

It's actually a gift that I would actually like to pass on to some of the Mumbition listeners here. And if I could say that for the first five people that reach out, I would love to book you in for a complimentary session to learn about yoga nidra and to do a session with Tara. Because for me, when I got to the end of my session with Tara, I said to her, “Why don't more people know about yoga nidra?”

How do I not know about this? And she said, “Yeah, I practice this every day.” And I said, “Yeah, I've got to get this into my routine.” I couldn't wait to walk into the next session with her, so I'd love to be able to pass that gift on, and I think that might resonate with some of the Mumbition listeners here.

Who just need a half an hour of deep relaxation to connect with their body and to have a positive mantra and do some breath work so anyone that's interested, please reach out.

00:17:36:23 - 00:18:02:12

Carrie Kwan

I think that is such a generous offer, thank you so much, Rachel. I know that you might get more than a few, the five that you've offered, call out to them because I don't think I know of any mum who doesn't want that. You know, there's so many aspects you know, I love what you said about hearing that feedback from the people that you're helping at the moment, navigate their own wellness journey.

And that is something that I hope that love will continue for a long time, it's almost a continuous relationship there. So I hope that continues to inspire you. I know that so many of our members are always sharing feedback, and it really does make even the simplest day feel like you're actually making a difference for other people.

And that really fuels you, so amazing. And you are an Australian, but as you mentioned, living in the Silicon Valley area. So what's something positive that living in another country has taught you about combining motherhood and business life?

00:18:47:24 - 00:19:22:01

Rachel Tonkin

Well, when I moved to Silicon Valley, I certainly didn't think I would be combining motherhood with business life. I thought I'd be well and truly back in Australia surrounded by my family, but COVID and border closures had other plans. So, here we are in Silicon Valley and then obviously my health, which kind of kept us really restricted. But I feel now being abroad and motherhood and business life, I mean, especially where my health is, you know, setting boundaries and actually asking for support were two of the biggest things that I learned over this last year and a half.

Previously I was someone who would never say I need help and I need support. But there is no way I could have done the last eighteen months without the support of a nanny and when I was thinking about just how enriched our lives from her being around, not only to help take care of our son and to help keep the healthy meals on the table, but to really support me as I was going through cancer treatment, which at times was incredibly debilitating, I was thinking, “why did I think that this help was never available?”

Like, why was I thinking that I could push through being a mum without this support abroad? Because my husband said we should get a nanny. My first reaction was, “No, I can do it. It's totally fine.” And now I look back and think, gosh, like, thank God my husband didn't listen to me and we got that help that we needed.

And, you know, I never think about it from a professional perspective, but whenever I'm working on a transaction and I need legal support or technical support, I reach out and I get that help. But when it came to my personal life and reaching out to get support at home, it didn't cross my mind to actually get that type of help.

I'm certainly no expert in being a mum as a first time mum, I don't have any experience, so I love that my husband said, “No, we're getting help.”

00:20:48:01 - 00:21:08:10

Lucy Kippist

It's such a brilliant thing to share, Rachel, because I'm thinking as he's speaking, you know, all of us have different areas of our life where we insist on using the word can, but we don't necessarily take the time to go, “But should I?” I think it's a really, really important thing to bring up. Thank you for sharing that.

You spent, is it correct to say around 19 years? You seem too young for me to say that. In the really highly charged environment, is how I kind of feel it is in the investor world. And then you were diagnosed with cancer in January 2021. What have these experiences brought to your relationship with the idea of risk in the context of your life now as a business owner?

00:21:38:02 - 00:21:58:08

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, risk is definitely something that's front of mind, especially in my professional career. In the investor world, we're always thinking about risks when we go into any transaction, and then once we do the transaction and we take a board position and we're over managing our position, we're always thinking about the risks and we're always thinking about the downside.

Even prior to becoming an investor, my role at KPMG, I was in the restructuring world and so I was working with a lot of distressed companies that sometimes ultimately failed. So I learned a lot about risk, and what I learned is that burying your head in sand and not facing risks is not a mitigation strategy, that you have to rip that Band-Aid off and bring awareness to risk.

The way I do that with True Woo and with any of the businesses where I sit on the board, is to really instill a culture where discussion of risk is not a negative thing, it's actually a positive. We should be really welcoming that conversation and seeing that as an opportunity to strengthen our business. We can definitely do risk registers and have 100 different risks.

But really at any one time, there's only a handful of things that you really need to be focusing on. Either having a plan or talking to or just understanding what risks you are taking on. And for me, with my cancer diagnosis, obviously I didn't want to become a bottleneck in wanting True Woo, in running True Woo.

I'm not the CEO of True Woo, we've actually got a team in place so that I don't become a risk to the business as you know, what we label as human risk. So having the systems, people processes and so the business can continue on with or without me is really important.

00:23:33:14 - 00:24:01:13

Carrie Kwan

Those scenarios that we don't like to think of but we definitely have to think of and have sort of steps in place. It's really quite an interesting process to go through and a valuable one in many ways because you would be surprised in terms of how many aspects you've actually already got in place. I think as mothers, as parents, we always have this risk radar anyway.

So just working through what would happen if, I think we're actually really well placed to do those types of assessments, and I think it's a really wise thing to do. I love your quote in terms of burying your head in the sand is not a risk mitigation strategy.

00:24:19:08 - 00:24:38:12

Rachel Tonkin

It might serve you well for a few days or a few weeks, but at some point, it's just not going to serve you well. So at that point, it's time to face up and put a plan in place or talk to somebody, get that off your chest, get the people around you to help you work through it. Rachel Tonkin


00:24:41:22 - 00:25:03:11

Carrie Kwan

Someone's been through it before. Like, really, it's you know, it's a bit like motherhood. I know in the thick of it and the first time, a beautiful analogy there. Because first time business, and interestingly a lot of our business women actually have had prior experience, a lot of them have actually run a business before.

And you know, they have that entrepreneurial spirit to try it again, so there's always someone to ask. Now your beautiful Ashy still quite young, what have you found is the most challenging aspect of building the business whilst also caring for him? Are there any tips that you might like to share for those that are also navigating you know, I've just launched a business.

I've just had a young child. Interestingly, we know that a third of our community actually launch their business whilst on maternity leave and one in nine launch whilst they're pregnant. So obviously have young ones in tow!

00:25:51:10 - 00:26:16:16

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah. If someone could help me teach my son Zoom etiquette, that would be amazing, because that's certainly a challenge sometimes. I'm pretty clear on boundaries when I'm wearing my mum hat, so that I can have the space to be able to focus on work and I'm not doing so much in the evenings, obviously my health is my number one priority.

So for me, you know, boundaries and really understanding where I'm investing my time. I'd like to give a big shout out here to Kate Christie, who was on one of your earlier podcasts. I loved that episode so much that I went and got the Me First book, Lucy I think you're a contributor.

You know, for me it's understanding time, and the relationship we have with time, and what we value and where we're thinking about time as an investment really helped me understand what's actually really important and I only focus on the things that actually really matter and the rest just kind of falls away. So for me, it wasn't so much about trying to find 30 hours a month. It was like, how do I want to actually fill the time that I have today?

00:27:11:17 - 00:27:20:12

Lucy Kippist

Such a powerful realisation that one, isn’t it? It's like we can’t actually create a lot more time, but we can certainly be focused in the bit that we have.

00:27:20:19 - 00:27:35:11

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, and so for me, it really is about focusing on setting those boundaries, and really understanding what I value, and driving my decision making from that space.

00:27:35:11 - 00:28:00:19

Lucy Kippist

Rachel, you spoke a little bit about your husband throughout the interview today in a beautiful way that he's encouraged the support for you. Can you describe for us the rest of your co? So the community around you, the men or the women, the family, the partners, I think you mentioned your sister, friends and clients and how they support you to do the work you're doing, while also caring for your health and your son.

00:28:01:21 - 00:28:23:15

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, I have to give a shout out also to my son here because he's actually taught me a lot. What he's taught me is about how to be present. There's nothing like a screaming child to keep you in that moment. When you're in the now, you're not thinking about a conversation that happened a few hours ago.

Or last week and getting buried in that rabbit hole. You're not thinking about the fears and the anxiety of what the future may hold. So, I want to thank my son for teaching me about how to be in the present moment. Obviously my sister, my twin sister, and also I shamelessly stole her LinkedIn tag of the wellness enthusiast.

I think she should really add oncologist to her LinkedIn profile, because she really dives so much into understanding how the body works and understanding wellness. She was an incredible support to me through this last year, but also throughout the last 37 years that we've had together. My girlfriends, who, even though I'm on the other side of the world, still include me and still make me feel like I'm part of their lives, their day to day lives.

Like nothing has changed, like the ocean between us is no distance at all. To some of the practitioners that I'm working with that are now on True Woo, their support, their encouragement, their insights and their gifts have really helped change my mindset and get me to a position where I can thrive and go through treatment for a chronic illness.

00:29:47:18 - 00:30:32:05

Carrie Kwan

You always speak with such grace and warmth, Rachel. Even doing this interview, I know that our listeners can't see, but you have this beautiful smile and always this consideration to pay it forward. So it's a lovely, lovely shout out to all the people that are a part of your CO at the moment. At Mums & Co we talk about this concept of harmony, you could probably replace that with a more common reference to the juggle, and this triangle of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing.

All these parts are really, really important to us and we tried to harmonise them. So can you describe the shape of a good life for you?

00:30:39:15 - 00:31:00:22

Rachel Tonkin

I love this question and  whenever I listen to other guests on the podcast to answer this, I always think yes, that's exactly how I see it as well. And I think a few weeks ago, Carrie, you made the comment about a mad conductor, and I just had to giggle to myself. I thought that was hilarious!

Yeah! Sometimes it feels like we're just this mad conductor, you know? But for me, when I sit with this question, it feels like a river that's flowing and sometimes it speeds up and things get away from you and you play catch up. But it's all in a flow, and it's about getting into that flow. So for me, it's, it's running water.

00:31:35:18 - 00:31:47:11

Carrie Kwan

That’s a beautiful reference. Sometimes it's a trickle and sometimes it's a torrent, and we're just kind of riding along with it, so thank you for sharing that.

00:31:48:07 - 00:31:50:03

Rachel Tonkin

Yeah, just strap your lifejacket on.

00:31:50:09 - 00:32:09:05

Carrie Kwan

In the spirit of women supporting women, and I know you're a fierce supporter there, since the very first meeting that we had, more than five or six years ago. Who were the Mumbitious that you would like to say hello to? So those that are unapologetic about blending their motherhood and ambition.

00:32:10:19 - 00:32:42:00

Rachel Tonkin

I have to really give a big shout out here to Dr. Lena Suhalia, who's my integrative oncologist. She's launched a business, Naturally Well Within. And, you know, she just does incredible things for people going through a really difficult time in their lives, and she has just made me feel really empowered about getting to the bottom of what's going on with my whole body and understanding me through data and being an absolute support.

So I want to say a big hello to Dr. Suhalia, and I want to say a big hello to all of the Mumbition practitioners and product owners on the True Woo platform. They're doing incredible things for people and planet. I just want to say thank you so much for allowing me and my team the opportunity to be able to bring the ecosystem together and allow it to thrive.

00:33:09:04 - 00:33:13:15

Lucy Kippist

What yoga pose do you find the best to help you fall asleep?

00:33:13:22 - 00:33:36:12

Rachel Tonkin

This sleeping on the couch on my husband count as a yoga pose? That's really the position that I fall asleep in as soon as we unwind for the day, and we reset the living room, then the kitchen's reset and our son’s asleep. I'm usually passed out on the couch next to him, so I have to find a name for that yoga pose.

But if I was having trouble sleeping and I wanted to do something, my wellness coach actually told me quite a good move. It's called the legs off the wall, which is literally just legs up the wall. It's an inverse position and it's a classic restorative pose that supports the nervous system and encourages relaxation. So if it's not lying on my husband, it's legs up the wall.