Speaking with Tory Archbold for my Perspectives podcast, launched May 20, was like standing under a fireworks display and watching it unfold: dazzling good fun that was choreographed brilliantly but not staged, and left me feeling as lit up as Tory.
For those who don't know her, the former Sydney schoolgirl launched PR powerhouse company Torstar two decades ago when she was in her twenties, and what followed was the stuff of bestselling chick-lit.
Girl has big dreams and strong values but no money. Acting on intuition, girl launches company—and it becomes so successful it draws global A-list clients including Zara, Victoria's Secret and Nespresso.
Girl—now grown into woman with coveted little black book and reputation of being able to get anything, anything, done—has beautiful daughter Bella and they live happily ever after.
All of that is true, except for Tory there is also a traumatic chapter between the glamour of having Drew Barrymore and Megan Gale as clients and the bit where mother and daughter have been enjoying lockdown together at their Sydney home.
In 2019, Tory revealed exclusively to Marie Claire magazine that for more than a decade, behind the scenes of her "very glamorous high profile life" she was enduring a private hell that only a handful of family and friends knew about.
“When Bella was nine months old I decided I was going to leave her father, and what happened was very unexpected," Tory told me.
"It started a decade-long traumatic experience … and it wasn’t until 2017 that situation was resolved. To put that into perspective, at one point in time I was receiving up to 100 phone calls, text messages, emails a day.”
During her long ordeal, Tory felt ashamed of her lack of power and the realisation that while those in her orbit thought she had everything, “actually I had nothing.”
But then during a court battle, Tory was "pushed" by her daughter, now 15, to change her situation: "She said, 'Mum, you're the only one who can resolve this.' And I decided to step into my true power and potential."
And she did. If it sounds simple, Tory made it very clear that the trauma cost her dearly but that something really wonderful and life-affirming came from it.
Her new empowerment platform Powerful Steps.
It was launched after Tory's Marie Claire revelations saw a rush of support from people she knew (executives at Zara and other global retailers) and total strangers who reached out to thank her for her strength.
In one way, the pivot was a natural progression for Tory, who already had the business expertise, vision and creativity to pull it off, and had moved instinctively from helping brands find their identity to helping individuals find theirs.
It all came back to what she relied on when she started Torstar: her values of passion, integrity and delivery.
“It’s a no brainer," said Tory, who only took on clients whose values aligned with her own.
"If you live your truth and are aligned to your values then 90 per cent of the time nothing can go wrong. And that was how I lived my life and started my business."
She told me how she cold called to attract retail giant David Jones as a foundational client, and it took me back—I got my first million dollar contract with a cold call almost two decades ago.
Happy to share her business strategies, Tory said while she "isn't afraid" of the word no, she also believes people say no to you for a reason and some opportunities are meant to go elsewhere.
“If that door isn’t opening gently for me, I say to myself, ‘You know what, I’m not meant to experience that or have that in my life at this time," she said.
"That experience, that project, that deal, is meant for someone else. And as soon as you let go and live your life in flow and don’t get upset about things, that’s when everything starts coming into your life.”
During our conversation, Tory revealed not just some of her business secrets and how sharing her story changed her perspective of people, but a daily shower ritual involving lavender oil given a decade ago by a Buddhist monk ("Sharon, it’s brilliant") and how she makes decisions based on intuition, not profit.
"In life, money is not everything. Money buys you opportunity but money comes, money goes, and I’ve never been worried about that.
"We all have highs and lows as an entrepreneur."
I was intrigued how Tory, no matter what she is going through, seems very attuned, very curious, very open to other people and how the values that helped her live her external life are now being lived internally.
“When you listen you understand and the journey becomes clear," she said.
“In life we have so many opportunities and so many challenges we face. The best advice I could give to anyone is to view those challenges as opportunities because once you do, more doors open, and when more doors open more choices come into your life.”