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Theresa Evanoff, Founder of Gift-It-Forward, Confesses Being an Avid Reader Her Entire Life

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Theresa Evanoff is a social entrepreneur, founder of Gift-It-Forward, a Singapore-based startup that aims to change the way people celebrate by incorporating charitable elements to personal events.

Originally from Canada, Theresa lived for more than 13 years in Singapore. A former corporate warrior, she holds an MBA from HEC School of Management in Paris and a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and Management from McMaster University in Canada.

Theresa previously worked as a strategic management consultant, with international experience spanning across 4 continents. She took a career break to focus on her family (she has three sons). She wanted to have more control over her schedule and spend more time with her family, so, instead of returning to the corporate world, she designed for herself a lifestyle that’s more flexible.

The idea behind Gift-It-Forward was born after she noticed how much waste resulted from the birthday parties her kids were attending almost weekly. With the intention of teaching her kids and others’ about social responsibility, about giving and the true meaning of sharing, Theresa envisioned a way that gift giving would be meaningful for the receiver, simple for guests, good for the environment, and beneficial to local charities. She founded Gift-It-Forward two years ago.

Keep on reading and you’ll find out more about the books that impacted Theresa, what lessons she learned from them, and whose words helped her cope with the need to be a perfectionist.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 6 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

It’s hard to choose a favourite, as I love to read. One that recently stands out is “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris – a combination of business, personal stories, and philosophies. It’s an interesting read as the author summarizes some of the lessons he learned through his own work and life trials, as well as from many successful people he has met along the way. A memorable quote for me was, “You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it.” No truer words!

One of my favourite non-business book is “Pillars of the Earth”, by Ken Follett. I have read this many times over the years, and still enjoy eit ach time. I love how the characters are all very complex, strategic, and how the story weaves together on so many levels.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

As a first-time entrepreneur, I have to say “The Lean Start-Up”, by Eric Ries. It taught me a lot about the need to constantly test one’s vision and to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. This was extremely helpful because as a perfectionist, my propensity was to launch the Gift-It-Forward platform only when it was “perfect” (which we know never happens!). The book convinced me to launch with a Beta or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that was good enough for launch, allowing me to validate my concept and site early with real users, which was invaluable.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

I’ve been an avid reader all my life, but one book that stands out on a very personal level is “Heaven is Real”, by Lynn Vincent and Todd Burpo. While the story and writing style might not be Pulitzer material, I read this right after my mother passed away and it really moved me. It gave me a strange sense of comfort that she is in a better place, and that she would be looking down on me and my children in the future (I had also just learned I was pregnant not long before that).

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

Here are some of my favourites around purpose, positive habits, positive thinking, and business goals.

I’m a firm believer that subject expertise can be learned, but character-building traits, like perseverance and purposefulness, must be honed.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I love to read, but with the day-to-day of business and family obligations, I certainly don’t do it as much as I would like to. I usually read on my Kindle in transit or in the evenings before bed, but definitely still love the feel of a physical book.

How do you make time for reading?

I love browsing at bookstores whenever I get the chance, even though I consume most of my books on my Kindle. I choose whatever catches my eye, and usually jump from fiction to unwind, to non-fiction for learning. My friends and professional contacts are also a great source for recommendations too!

Links where you can follow Theresa Evanoff or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Theresa Evanoff in this interview:

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