We first met Tess Willcox a decade ago, right at the beginning of The Village Markets journey.
From the get-go, we were drawn to her highly intelligent, innovative, mover and shaker vibe.
When she wasn’t setting up shop at TVM peddling her Moroccan wares sourced during her latest exotic overseas jaunt, she was cruising the streets on her self-carved ‘soul deck’ or doing the 9-5 hustle as PR and Marketing Manager of World Resorts of Distinction.
What really stood out for us, though, and still continues to do so today, is her ability to be a damn good human – voicing her passion for our planet and using her platform to make change.
Here we chat to Tess about how to run a successful business and be socially conscious.
TVM: Tess, after many years of blood sweat and tears you’ve recently acquired your company, World Resorts of Distinction and you’re CEO! You are the true definition of girl-boss and it seems entrepreneurism is in your blood. Did you study PR, how did you come to work for such an amazing brand and did you always plan on running your own company?
Well firstly, it takes a legit girl-boss to know one, and I’ve always been so incredibly inspired by what you ladies have done and continue to do!! Now, the process, which one would anticipate was a lot more intentional than my own. I did study PR & Journalism back in my heyday. I went to university with the intention of becoming a broadcast journalist with a dream to work on Getaway (didn’t we all!?), however quickly discovered that back then I hated being in front of a camera. I also struggled with the concept of writing about topics I wasn’t 100% invested in. So, the journalism side of things didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would, but I’ve always been an avid writer, creative and traveller. Somehow a fusion of all of those things managed to manifest themselves into the dream job all those years ago. My first ‘career’ job out of university was as a Sales Executive for World Resorts of Distinction, which I now own. I never intentionally set out to become CEO and owner, but a serendipitous succession of life events led me here after 15 years on and off with the company. Being incredibly invested in creating an intentional life, it still blows my mind that I get to do what I do every day, and I’m daily amazed at how the universe served this up for me.
TVM: Tell us about World Resorts of Distinction, has the focus always been on sustainability and socially responsibility?
No, definitely not. That is a pure emulation of who I am and a passion project that I have been injecting into the business since I became a partner 3 years ago. When I took over as sole owner on 1 July 2018, that was the number 1 goal – rebrand and restructure the company to be the ONLY brand of its kind to solely focus on sustainability and social responsibility. My predecessor ran the company with a very different focus and concept, which was still very successful in its own right. However, for me to personally sit comfortably in what I do every day (which is a dream come true), I need to know that I am effecting positive change in this world. I have a deep-rooted craving to save the planet and to effect change in every way possible. I want to be an active participant in creating this world and know that I am here to be a part of the revolution.
TVM: Your profile says you are a ‘peripatetic eco warrior’. I recall you having your own Instagram account in this area a while back to raise awareness on caring for our planet and your company WRD is very active on this – is this an area that you have been passionate about since an early age?
In many ways yes, but I wasn’t as vocal with it when I was younger. It grew within me as I grew as a person and learnt to be less self-involved. I think when you grew up the way I did, in a small country town spending a lot of time on the land, and in the ocean, it is instilled in you. It isn’t a separate entity to us, the planet, so I don’t understand the ignorance towards it.
TVM: If you could share five tips for small businesses, so that they too can be more sustainable and socially responsible, what would they be?
- My dad always taught me to infiltrate from the inside out. So, first point of call is to inspire your team. Running a sustainable business starts with the people you directly impact first – your staff. So, it is important to first effect how they live their lives and inspire them to do better daily. It’s about progress not perfection
- Plastic Free Policy within the office – I personally think the fact that we even still discuss this is despicable. It’s quite simply the quickest and easiest way to have a positive effect on the environment. No one should be using disposable plastic, period. But beyond that, we need to be educating consumers and small businesses that green-washed solutions like Bio-degradable plastic isn’t the answer when the lifespan allows it to be sitting in landfill years later – compostable packaging is the key which YOU need to be responsible for composting in your back yard. The simplest way to reduce your impact is to re-use your ceramics / glass / steel from home.
- Encourage carbon neutral commutes or working from home – encourage staff to walk to the office, ride, catch the bus or the train, ride-share with other staff. This isn’t always an option, but when it is, we should be utilizing it. Allow staff to work from home in order to avoid daily travelling and offset any carbon from flights via the right kind of programs (directly with the airline and with companies like 1% for the planet etc).
- Climate Activism Involvement – Get involved in climate change activism on a business level. Use your platforms to educate your clients, followers, customers, database. Give them the information and make it simple for them to act. Outline HOW they can write to local government bodies, participate in protests and actively work within the community to save our environment.
- Support a clean Energy Provider as a business. I use POWERSHOP at home and for the office, who offset all of your carbon emissions, are advocated by Greenpeace and support 100% clean & green energy!!
TVM: What is the greatest piece of wisdom somebody has shared with you, that has helped shape the way you are today?
In hindsight I wish I had made a note of all the good advice I’ve been given. However Margaret Mead’s quote always rings in my ears when I feel hopeless; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
The time is now and we need to act as if it is our personal responsibility to save the world via whatever platform we are gifted.
Lastly, a few quick ones:
Fave podcast – 1. Green Dreamer 2. Live Awake 3. Offline, The Podcast
Fave book – The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfern
Fave show – Anything David Attenborough, and currently obsessed with The Bold Type
Fave movie – Out of Africa, Something’s Gotta Give
And just for fun:
Fave Gold Coast/Brisbane restaurant – Long Time
Fave GC/Brisbane coffee haunt – Stable Café (obviously)
Connect with Tess and World Resorts of Distinction:
Thanks so much for sharing Tess! x
Inspired by Tess' journey and ready to plunge into the business world? Check out our eBook - How to Launch your Startup for insight, tips and advice on starting your business from TVM Cofounders.