“The Real Housewives Of Atlanta” Star Tanya Sam Dishes On What It Takes To Create A Tech Start-Up (& On Her Fellow Cast Members!)

Tanya SamPhoto Credit: Tanya Sam

Tanya Sam may be one of the newest cast members of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” but she’s already established herself as one of the most successful. Sam, a tech start-up business guru, initially was brought onto the show as a friend of Nene Leakes (which quickly imploded, as life with the “Housewives” is wont to do) but developed a friendship with “America’s Next Top Model” winner Eva Marcille, and thus her contribution to the show carries on. We chatted with Sam about the show, her multi-million dollar business ventures and how she’s doing after a major car accident shook her world in June. Tanya SamPhoto Credit: Tanya Sam/Instagram

First off, how are you doing/feeling since your accident? Are you OK?

Thankfully, I am 99% recovered! I’ve never been in an accident and it was really scary. I saw the other car coming at such a fast pace and I knew our driver wouldn’t be able to slow down in time. The impact was really hard, and the docs say it was compression from the seatbelt that caused intestinal bleeding. I am feeling much better and back to my normal zany self. That said, I have a bit of PTSD on the roads now and nag everyone to slow down, be cautious and always buckle up.

What made you decide to join “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”? How did you get involved with the show?

I got involved with the show when I popped into Nene’s boutique one day. We started chatting and she invited me to hang out with some of the other girls. What really propelled me into joining the show was the idea of presenting a different side of Atlanta, the tech and startup side.

How do you get along with all the other ladies?

I love making new friends and have had a blast getting to know all the ladies. I come from a big family and have three siblings, so I grew up with so many family dynamics that I know the ups and downs of squabbles and strong personalities. I tend to always want to keep the peace.

Tanya SamPhoto Credit: Tanya Sam/Instagram

How realistic is everything we as viewers see on the show?

100% realistic!! I get this question a lot! It’s real! Everyone thinks we have scripts or are coached but we literally show up and just be ourselves every day!

You are currently running a few successful tech businesses. Is there one you’re the most passionate about?

TechSquare Labs is an incubator, seed fund, and corporate innovation space that I am the Director of Operations for. TSL is driven to “Build Something From Nothing” with companies ranging from two founders and a laptop to established enterprises looking to stay ahead of the pack and build new innovative, scalable business models. It reaches its goals by combining experience in patents, research, and inclusive team building with a network that spans from freshman coders to Fortune 500 companies. TechSquare Labs portfolio and incubated companies have raised over $250 million in venture capital and created over 500 jobs. I am grateful to love what I do, getting to work alongside my fiancé and help budding entrepreneurs build their dreams. Currently, I am working on my third cohort for Ascend 2020 which is a 6-month pre-accelerator designed to scale and launch high-growth minority and/or female-led startups in the Atlanta area. Applications will open up in August 2019, so stay tuned!

You started your professional career as a nurse. How did you get involved in the tech world?

Frankly, I met my fiancé and started hanging out deep in the startup and tech scene. My background prior to that was in Hematology-oncology as a registered nurse. At the time he was starting his third cybersecurity startup, Pindrop. It was a lean startup operation and although I wasn’t technical he kept giving me jobs and tasks that grew into managing large projects that were integral to the growth of the business. He really encouraged me to find a place for myself in the tech world.

Tanya Sam
Tanya and husband Dr. Paul Judge

Photo Credit: Tanya Sam/Instagram

What advice would you give other women who are looking to run their own businesses?

Don’t be afraid to fail! Just get out there and do it! That sounds simplistic, but a lot of women are held back by their fear of failure. There is a narrative these days that “failure is not an option” and I think that is horribly paralyzing to a lot of people – they don’t even start the business or endeavor. Every, and I mean every successful entrepreneur has failed several times along the way. The key is having the drive and perseverance to pick yourself up, learn from it and keep going.

Do your “RHOA” cast members ever come to you for business advice? Who if so, and what do you tell them?

Porsha and her sister have an amazing hair company called GoNaked Hair. Last year they underwent a rebrand of the company so that they could take it to the next level. It was natural that we talk business because as a founder owning a business it’s not a part-time job, it’s 24/7. We talked about their sales funnel, driving sales on her website and rebranding.

Can you tell us about serving on the board of directors of the non-profit, Kate’s Club? What made you want to be involved?

Kate’s Club is an Atlanta nonprofit whose mission is to empower children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling. By creating friendships with kids and young adults that share their experience, Kate’s Club guides children through their grief journey in a comfortable, safe, and uplifting setting. This organization and all the children we touch hold a special place in my heart as I also experienced loss at an early age, losing my mother at the age of 12. I have been serving on the board for the past year and I was actively involved for several years prior to that. It’s a true pleasure for me to give my time, blood, sweat, and money to this organization because I know first-hand the value of what we do in the children’s lives. There was nothing like this around for my sister and I when we were kids.

Tanya Sam Photo Credit: Tanya Sam

What sets Atlanta apart to you as a tech destination and as a city of culture?

Atlanta is a unique city because it has such a strong music background that influences so much of modern and urban culture all over the world. We also have some incredible colleges here that feed our tech and startup ecosystem. The two combined really push Atlanta to be a great place to create and build companies that the world needs.

What are a few of your favorite spots in the city?

Ecco Buckhead
Bar Margot
Barry’s Bootcamp

What’s next for Tanya Sam?

I like to think that I am constantly evolving and working on new endeavors. This fall I am getting ready to open applications for the third cohort of companies in Ascend2020, a high growth accelerator program for people of color that operate small to medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs based in Atlanta. I am really excited about this cohort because we are opening it up to a broader business type. The last cohorts have focused specifically on technology startups and this time we are widening our reach to include companies that have a great business and customer structure but need to focus on becoming technology enabled. I believe the future is in technology and I want to ensure that people of color, women, and the LGBT communities are a part of that.Photo Credit: Tanya Sam