As the eldest child in her family, Taryn Rose was expected to become a doctor like her father.
Years after she and her family came to the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War, Rose did become an orthopedic surgeon.
But medicine was to be just the first of several careers.
After surgery shifts, she would reward herself with new shoes. Seeking comfortable footwear that also was stylish, Rose started Taryn Rose International in 1998, a year after leaving medicine. She sold the multimillion-dollar company in 2008 and is on to her next venture, an online clothes-shopping site called The Black Rose Network Inc., which she plans to debut later this year.
Rose, 47, talked with the Los Angeles Register about coming to the U.S. as a child, the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs and the “immigrant gene.”
Q. How did you come to the United States?
A. We got out of Vietnam and were stationed on Wake Island in the middle of the Pacific (Ocean). And my parents were asked, “Where would you like to go?” And they said, “California.”
After hours of flying overseas, the plane finally landed. When it opened, we were so happy, except for we were in Arkansas.
My dad, he knew no one there. … And yet he had to find someone who was going to sign that they would be financially responsible for our family.
We were in a refugee camp. (This was) 1975. So he went to the phone booth and went through the Yellow Pages and started cold-calling doctors – he’s a doctor – thinking that the affiliation with doctors would help.
He got hold of the wife of one doctor … and she said, “I’ll call you back.”
So he had to go back the next day and try to convince people to stay off the phone … and she ended up calling.
Q. What happened when you told your parents you wanted to change career paths?
A. They didn’t talk to me for two years. And even after my business was very well into $20-some million dollars, my mom was like, “OK, now that you’ve had your little fun here, go back to being a surgeon.”
They feel like (being a doctor) is a very honorable profession, and it is. It’s just that my passion is in creating new businesses.
Q. Is there something about you that makes you an entrepreneur?
A. I think it’s literally in my DNA. There’s a certain gene that they call the “entrepreneurial gene” or the “immigrant gene,” and it makes you able to face risk much better.
The reason they say that it’s also an immigrant gene is that people with this genetic makeup, the theory is that they are able to take the risk to leave their home.
Q. What did you take from the medical field into business?
A. It’s very systematic. You go head to toe and look at all the systems, just as you would in a business. And also you’re taught to have an assessment, but also a solution.
I learned how to make very tough decisions and be able to take the emotions out of it.
For example, my first-ever amputation was done with me … as the lone surgeon, and I’d never even seen one. But I had to do it because the patient was dying. If I did not take off his leg, he would’ve died.
That’s a really good skill in business … to remain calm in a crisis.
Q. What advice do you have for women who are starting out in their own business?
A. Try to save as much money as you can at the very beginning. Improve your concept, and then go out and get the capital.
And it’s OK to start small. I started out in my garage with the shoe company. I just started with one suitcase full of samples, and I went around and sold the shoes myself. I didn’t have a staff.
Even with this startup, I don’t have a staff. But that’s how you have to be at the very beginning.