From Triumph to Transformation: Tatum Ronco’s Journey of Resilience and Grief Support

  • Published on:
    September 12, 2023
  • Reading time by:
    6 minutes

Tatum Ronco’s journey is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, a narrative that traverses the peaks of success and plumbs the depths of despair. In the span of just two years, Tatum’s life underwent a profound transformation, taking her from the helm of a thriving motorsports business to the throes of grief and loss, and ultimately, to the birth of a new venture dedicated to helping others on their own grief journeys.

Two years ago, Tatum was riding high with Tatum UTV, a business she had nurtured and grown month by month. It seemed like the world was at her feet, and she had found not only success but love as well. However, the tragic car accident on March 26th, 2022, forever altered her trajectory. In this article, we delve into the significant changes Tatum has faced, the lessons she’s learned from selling her business, and the remarkable evolution of TATUM THE LABEL, her newfound mission to support grievers and their loved ones.

Through this candid and deeply personal interview, Tatum Ronco shares her journey of grief, resilience, and reinvention. She offers insights into the challenges she faced while coping with profound loss and the valuable wisdom she has gained along the way. Tatum’s story is one of transformation, from a successful entrepreneur to a compassionate advocate for those navigating the uncharted waters of grief, determined to bring solace and understanding to a world that often shies away from discussing the topic.

What’s new Tatum? What has changed in the past 2 years?

Thank you for having me back! Two years ago, we chatted about my company, Tatum UTV and how I got into the motorsports industry. (Read here).  A lot has changed since then. Tatum UTV remained successful month over month, reaching more customers and vendors since the article came out. We were on a steady pace to reach the short term and long term goals we had set in place. All things were going great for us! Since the article, I had found the man of my dreams and he worked alongside me and my family at our shop.

On March 26th, 2022, he and I were in a fatal car accident where he lost his life. I took a step back from work at Tatum UTV and life in general. I was learning to survive this new life I never saw coming – one that I was not adequately equipped for. A few months after his passing, I started to work from home. Business stayed steady and my employees stepped up BIG to help keep the ball rolling. The best thing about being a small business is that your team really does become your family. They had all quickly grown to know and love Keith as their own. 9 months later, when I had no intention of selling the company, I was approached with an undeniable offer. It was a huge decision to make at a time where making huge decisions seemed harder than ever. 

It is an understatement to say “a lot” has changed in the last two years. Everything has changed. My whole world flipped upside down and I had to adapt to this new world and new life – grief. 

The entrepreneur in me couldn’t stay quiet for more than a few months. I learned so much about the grief community that I was blinded to before. I saw a gap in so many areas and decided to start filling them! TATUM THE LABEL re-launched just 4 short months after the accident.

Can you share any lessons you learned from selling your business that you would pass on to other entrepreneurs?

If it’s not right for you, it’s not right for the future of your business. The sale needs to align with your current wants and needs as well as your future AND the future of your business. It was a long and thorough process that took a lot of time, research and consideration. This was my first time selling a business so it was a big lesson for me as well. I had dynamic conversations with my tax professional, lawyers and business consultants to ensure the sale aligned with my current and future goals. 

I learned that nothing needs to be rushed and every aspect of the business needs to be looked over carefully. There are so many moving parts in a sale that you can get lost and overlook the minor details. But in a sale, no detail is minor. Assets, intellectual property, branding, employees, wages, taxes, inventory, social channels/accounts, etc.

From the beginning of Tatum UTV, organization and workflow processes were a top priority to help manage growth and on-boarding. I had a strong goal to grow at exponential rates and wanted to make sure I was prepared to do so. In doing this, it made for an extremely smooth transition to the new owners. 

All in all, my advice would be: start off on the right foot, take it slow, do your due diligence, stay organized and stand for what you want. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. This is your company, so you lead the sale. You draw the line on what you expect and what you’re willing to offer. 

I am proud to say I built something in 2 short years that was worth acquiring and continuing.

You’ve started a new business called TATUM THE LABEL, a place for grievers and non-grievers to learn about grief. Tell us more about this, how is this going? 

TATUM THE LABEL, or as we call it TTL for short, was actually a side hustle I’ve had since 2018. I hand-painted custom jean and leather jackets for some side cash before I started Tatum UTV. Once Tatum UTV started, TTL was put aside so I could focus strictly on growing my career and the brand. When Keith passed away, I quickly learned that it was challenging to find the grief resources I was looking for. 

I searched high and low for every grief book, group, and camp that I could find surrounding grief and widowhood. I took months away from work and spent my time learning about my new and very unexpected and uncomfortable reality. During the first 3 months after the accident, I was learning as much as I could and sharing it with my Instagram friends. I was getting asked left and right, “where did you get that book? I lost my mom, but do you think I’d learn anything from it? My neighbor just lost their son, would it help them?” 

I started to put together a list of resource recommendations when my entrepreneur brain started firing and I thought, “why don’t I just make a website to send to everyone so I have everything in one place?” From there, ideas for TATUM THE LABEL took off in my head. Shortly after, I re-branded and shared this new chapter for the brand. I now offer an online community of grief support, understanding, and resources. This is paired with our grief apparel to bring awareness to the raw and real struggles of grief. I focus on helping the griever AND the grieving adjacent – the supporters who are grieving beside us. Society has done a poor job at educating us on grief and how to support a griever. It is my mission to help change that narrative.

How did you cope with the tragic loss while running a business? What advice can you give to people?

If there’s one thing I learned in early grief, it’s that it foundationally changes you as a person and everything you’ve known will be altered. A grievers’ world is truly seen from a different lens than before, and it never goes “back to normal.” We as grievers never go “back to normal.” Learning and accepting that has been a huge and very hard part of this journey. I think it translates to all aspects of our lives. When we experience something, whether it be great or horrible, we will never know a life without that experience anymore. 

When Keith and I got in the accident, I didn’t just experience deep grief but trauma from being in the accident as well. Being a business owner allowed me to take the time I needed to step away from the business, without pressure on a timeline of when I needed to go back. That would not have been possible without my exceptional team at Tatum UTV.

During those early months, I spent a lot of time learning about my grief and how it affects others. How and why others respond to it and how us grievers should aim to respond back. I spent time reading every grief book I could get my hands on and immersed myself into the grief community, learning from others and their first hand experiences. This isn’t anything society teaches us, but I think it’s detrimental in allowing us to navigate our new reality. 

Many don’t realize this, but grief changes the biology in your brain. Focus, comprehension, and memory are altered in deep grief. Learning just that, really changed how I approach work, life and relationships moving forward. 

Once I better understood my grief, I could better understand what helps me cope and start “living” again. Mindfulness, talk therapy, grief groups, EMDR and being a part of the grief community has been my “go-to’s” for healing.

After going through something so tragic and life changing, my advice to EVERYONE is: all you have is this moment. Stay present. Stay by the people who make you feel yourself. Set boundaries and stand up for what you believe you deserve. You only have one life. Love every second of it – and if you don’t, make the change you need.

How do you prioritize and manage the different aspects of the business, such as product development and customer service?

At TTL, I am a one-woman band. Going from working with a team to working by myself has been an adjustment – neither good or bad. 

The methods I use to prioritize and manage the different aspects of the business haven’t changed. What has changed is the ways I manage myself and my time. I have learned that product development can’t be on a schedule for me. I design and create all the apparel, branding and marketing for the company. In order to do this, I schedule out my meetings, tasks, emails and order fulfillments in detail. Prioritizing what needs to be done today vs. what doesn’t, allows room for my sparks in creativity and I take them as they come. 

At TTL, customer service is so much more than that. We are a well-connected community and we have changed the definition of customer service altogether. I am not just facilitating the exchange of items, or helping with an order. I am also exchanging stories, coping mechanisms, resources, support and memories. 

What is the long-term vision for TATUM THE LABEL and how do you plan to achieve it?

The long-term vision for TATUM THE LABEL is to reach as many grievers as possible in those very early stages and support them as they walk this journey. Sharing grief resources with the public, for grievers and non-grievers, is my very first order of business. I want grievers to feel seen, heard and supported in their grief, no matter how long it’s been since their loss. There is such a lack of education on grief in our society that when death touches your life, you quickly realize NO ONE has prepared you for what to do next. We learn about almost EVERYTHING except grief. Death is the one thing that is inevitable for all of us – yet it seems no one teaches us about it until it’s already happened. 

Starting a foundation in Keith’s name is another long-term goal of mine – being able to give back to the community that so desperately needs the support. I will do this by teaming up with hospitals, funeral homes and other grief organizations to support grievers long-term. I am working tirelessly to change the world, encouraging society to see grief through a different lens and to truly understand how to help our friends and family who are grieving.

I’m here to have real and raw conversations about the challenges we face on this everlasting journey, share my experiences, and bring education & awareness to the world of grief. I am here to help the loved, the lost, the lonely and everyone in between.

Together we can change the world and bring light to the darkness inside of grief.

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