Joanna Auburn is the co founder and CPO of Trace, she is an experienced product manager with a passion for sustainability and user experience. She has recently taken the leap to full time entrepreneurship after a career across a range of industries including renewable energy and fintech.
Trace is a brand on a mission to make every purchase, home, trip and employee carbon neutral. Whether you’re a jetsetter or an eco-warrior, Trace’s monthly membership helps you take climate action by offsetting your footprint from just $3.50 per week. And better yet, you can see exactly where your money is spent, read stories from the projects you support and see your impact grow over time.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
A hunger to learn fast and have a meaningful impact. I have spent most of my career in agile, startup like cultures so knew I liked the fast pace. I was curious to see if I could do it myself.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
2 years ago I started my first business with my co founder Cat Long alongside our full time jobs and absolutely loved the experience. We built a sustainable fashion brand, Est2026, after personally experiencing a gap in the market. We loved the challenge and wanted to try our hand at being full time entrepreneurs. In January this year we touch the plunge to leave our jobs and join Antler, a VC backed accelerator programme, and this is where trace was born.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Working on something you are passionate about is really important, startup life can get really tough but if you’re working towards something that is meaningful to you then you have a drive that is unexplainable.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Be resourceful
- Have empathy & a high level of self awareness
- Ability to prioritise
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
Anyone who has made something from nothing is an inspiration to me. This journey has shown me how hard it is to go from 0 to 1. It takes real grit and determination so I generally think there is something to learn, from anyone who has been on that journey.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
Actually some advice about advice – just because someone gives you advice it doesn’t mean you have to follow it. This may sound obvious but when you are surrounded by people who have more experience than you it is easy to follow the advice you are given. Take the advice, park it and think about it. Don’t necessarily act straight.
And you can get too much advice, it can be distracting. There is definitely something to be said for trusting your instincts and just going for it.
What do you think your key to success has been?
Finding the perfect co founder, statistically one of the most common reasons startups fail is a breakup of the founding team. My co founder brings out the best in me and I learn from her everyday. Finding a cofounder is the hardest part, but when you know, you know. You need to be different but also the same – how confusing! Cat and I are both integrators, that means we “value connection and draw teams together” we have the same energy levels and complementary skill sets. We became known in the Antler programme for our ability to laugh everyday, the 3pm slump meant the giggles for us. We both really value the journey, as long as we are having fun and learning we both see that as winning. Make sure your cofounder can pull you out of stressful moments, make you feel valued and give you energy!
How have you personally measured your success?
How much I am enjoying, learning and growing as a person. If I stop learning at a rate that feels good then it is time to mix things up. If I stop enjoying the journey then it is also time to reassess.
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?
It depends :). This depends on a few things, cost, time and value to you in the long term.
How do you generate new ideas?
I love talking to other people and understanding their problems. I usually find this the best way to generate ideas. By letting a conversation flow naturally around the topic area you are interested in you can nearly always gain useful insights that help you generate ideas.
I have noticed that it is hard to be creative if I feel stressed, my brain just doesn’t seem to work in the same way.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Waking up everyday knowing I am working on something I care about is really motivating.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I admire companies that have managed to be successful whilst having a positive impact on the world. I think this is the future as consumers are becoming increasingly discerning of the consumer goods they buy, services they use or the company that employs them.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
In 10 years I would love for Trace’s mission to be a reality and for the World to have turned a sustainable corner. Our mission is to fuel a sustainable future, and I would love to see us make a dent in mitigating the climate crisis.