Meet Everyday Edisons Guest Judge Tiffany Norwood!

Meet Everyday Edisons Guest Judge Tiffany Norwood!

Serial global entrepreneur Tiffany Norwood has to her name a staggering seven start-ups, two IPOs, and one patent. Her sector- and globe-spanning accomplishments include co-developing the first one-strap backpack, pioneering the first wave of digital broadcasting and satellite radio, cofounding the Ethiopia Healthcare Network, and creating Tribetan, an education startup that fosters entrepreneurial literacy.

And lucky for us, later this month, she will add to her credits the title of guest judge on Everyday Edisons!

Raising a hand

Tiffany is often asked for the recipe to her success. For starters, she says, “you’ve got to be the person who raises their hand in class.” And beginning in middle school, her hand has remained high in the air. “I was always starting things—the proverbial lemonade stand, selling greeting cards or seeds.” By high school, she had founded her first start-up, a concert ticket sales company.

“You’ve got to take yourself seriously.” With an innate faith in her vision and the support of her parents, Tiffany excelled in Junior Achievement and began to receive regional business excellence awards. Her ticket sales company began to bring in more money from one concert than some of her friends’ parents would take home in a month.

When applying to colleges, Tiffany realized that entrepreneurship was not widely valued among the Ivy League schools that interested her. Thankfully, Cornell University was the exception, having launched a brand-new program, Entrepreneurship@Cornell. Tiffany enrolled as part of the first cohort and her skill set found a natural home. She also studied electrical engineering and computer science, and gave her parents a heart attack by shifting streams her junior year to reapply, this time to the School of Arts and Sciences to study economics, statistics, and premed.

Her studies took her to London, where her already substantial knowledge of finance and coding landed her a position working on derivative products for AI in the banking industry. Here, she found herself in a position that would become familiar in the years to come: being the first woman, the youngest, the first African American to do something.

A better, different way

Realizing that as a nineteen-year-old college student she was performing tasks previously handled by a professional in his mid-thirties, Tiffany relied on another ingredient that has been a constant in her success recipe: faith. She credits her mother with instilling in her a powerful belief in God that has remained with her. “Innately we’re all creators,” she says. “There’s a little bit of God inside of us that makes us all have the possibility to create a new, better, different, way.”

“A better, different way” describes perfectly her next business venture, the one-strap backpack, which sprung from a partnership with other students she met in London. With an architecture student who designed the backpack and two other friends, she raised the capital to produce it with him and two other friends. This achievement netted her the Mariani Award for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise for Best Business Proposal from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell. By the time she entered Harvard Business School, Tiffany had more entrepreneurial acumen than many who were decades further along in their career.

“In the world right now, we’re so divided, and there are big things we’re trying to solve. With 7 billion of us, in someone’s imagination, there’s the solution. Everyday Edisons acts as a catalyst.”

In her twenties, Tiffany continued to spread her wings, raising $670 million to fund the global satellite radio start-up WorldSpace, which today still exists as part of Sirius XM. She brokered digital content licensing deals with the likes of Michael Bloomberg and collaborated on digital technology with the Fraunhofer Institute. By the time she was in her thirties, she was being invited to give keynote lectures at elite conferences and author book chapters on the future of broadcasting.

Astounding yourself

Success didn’t always come easy, however, and Tiffany encountered her fair share of failure and resistance to her ventures. This is where the third component of her success comes in: endurance. She finds common ground in the ability to endure shared by entrepreneurs and mothers. “There’s no better training ground” for entrepreneurship than motherhood, she says. “It’s more about personal traits and qualities, not so much about business skills—you can learn or hire others for those. But you can’t hire someone to endure for you.”

Tiffany adds that she “adored being a judge” on Everyday Edisons. She loves the “Everyday” in the title, noting that its meaning is transformative. When viewers watch the innovators on Everyday Edisons, they think “that person seems like someone I know—that could be me.”

“In the world right now, we’re so divided, and there are big things we’re trying to solve. With 7 billion of us, in someone’s imagination, there’s the solution. Everyday Edisons acts as a catalyst.”

Tiffany sees Thomas Edison as the perfect icon for the alchemy that occurs when confidence and vision collide. She often thinks of a famous quote from Edison: “If we knew or did everything we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” “That sums up what the show was for me, and why I want to continue participating,” she says. She loved being a part of an environment that helps people “astound themselves.”

“When you astound yourself on a show like Everyday Edisons, the narrative inside your head is a narrative of astonishment, and the main character is yourself. Just keep building on that story.”

Invention and reinvention

She emphasizes the importance of being able to reinvent your vision and pivot, to adapt to what the market wants rather than quit. In other cases, “It’s not so much about there not being a marketing opportunity as about someone realizing it’s not for them. I usually end up pivoting toward a customer in the market versus leaving a startup altogether.” Now, with her company Tribetan, she strives to help individuals and companies develop the entrepreneurial skills and confidence that Everyday Edisons also champions.

At the end of the truly impressive multihyphenate string in Tiffany’s bio is a descriptor she considers perhaps the most important of all: storyteller.

“Storytelling is so critical,” she says. “Narrative defines everything. When you astound yourself on a show like Everyday Edisons, the narrative inside your head is a narrative of astonishment, and the main character is yourself. Just keep building on that story.”

2 Comments Meet Everyday Edisons Guest Judge Tiffany Norwood!

  1. Veronica

    Love that statement-she credits her mom with instilling in her a powerful belief in God. 🙂
    Thank you for posting.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *