We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalia Tafur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalia, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
How many times have we heard to always follow your intuition or your gut? Sometimes making a decision based on your gut makes sense. Oftentimes it is a good way to save time – something we never have enough of. Other times these decisions lead us to the path of least resistance allowing us to simplify our complex lives. Bottom line…. Gut decisions are convenient decisions. But I think we can all agree that not all decisions are alike. The way we arrive at those decisions should also differ. Making a decision regarding putting in an offer on an expensive family home versus deciding where you are going to have dinner with a friend are vastly different types of decisions with immensely different ramifications. Taking a pause and checking in with others may help you uncover nuances or outcomes you hadn’t yet considered. I’m fortunate enough to make a living by helping companies reach informed and complex decisions by conducting market research, helping them understand the needs and attitudes of their target audience.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Before starting my own Market Research firm, I built an 18-year career working directly for a major automaker. But my beginnings were a bit accidental. I went to college in a region with a harsh winter climate. Honestly, it was too much for me to handle. After graduation, I leaped at the first opportunity to work where I would never need to wear a winter coat. Luckily that landed me in Southern California. I put my new college grad pride aside and accepted an entry-level job as a customer service representative to get my foot in the door. This job proved to be mentally taxing, but little did I know I was a qualitative researcher training program in disguise. Each customer had their reason for calling in and it was my job to understand them and hopefully remedy their situation. I easily knew more about our customers than 99% of the employees. I enjoyed many promotions and got to experience many facets of the business in the years that followed. I serendipitously ended up in research when my position was absorbed by Market Intelligence. Everything felt like it fell into place. I was definitely in my element. And thanks to the Great Recession of 2008, my employer trained and certified me as a qualitative researcher. But like all good stories you reach a crossroads.
I reached a point when I couldn’t close my eyes and envision the position where I wanted to end up. I realized that climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t in the cards for me. I desired to take everything I loved about my job and create my own ladder. I didn’t want to manage a team of people who managed the vendor partners, I wanted to roll my sleeves up and BE THE VENDOR PARTNER! EUREKA!! This was the beginning of my current chapter.
Keyhole Research & Consulting was born! A little story about how I landed on the name — I had once read that companies that start with the letter K have a higher recall rate. I scanned hundreds of K words looking for one that I could connect with. Keyhole immediately resonated with me because of a very famous keyhole in my favorite city, Rome. You can read all about this famous keyhole on my website at keyholeresearch.com. When I founded Keyhole Research, I reached out to people who had worked with me in the past and asked them to tell me what they recalled most about working with me. Engaging communicator, accountable, results-oriented. It is upon these qualities that I have built Keyhole Research. Because I worked on the client-side for so many years, I understand the challenges my clients face daily. I’m here to lessen those challenges and give my clients the insights they need to make critical and involved decisions. And I do it in a way that brings positive energy to any project.
Each day there is a new lesson to learn. There will be setbacks, but as long as you walk away learning something from the experience, then you walk away as a winner. Don’t shy away from projects that feel a little scary. By the end of the project, these are the most satisfying because you have a higher mountain to climb. As a solopreneur, my biggest obstacle is myself (I can’t blame it on ‘corporate leadership’ anymore). I continuously push myself into new territories and new challenges if I want to grow. There’s not much room for self-doubt in this space. I make sure to surround myself with other successful entrepreneurs for motivation.
I absolutely LOVE my job. I get to work with some amazing brands and research partners. In addition to being a researcher, I get to wear so many hats from bookkeeper to creative director, storyteller to business developer.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My San Diego itinerary would be filled with sun and surf (actually just views of the surf).
Day 1 – Kickoff the day on top of Mount Soledad where you can see from Mexico up the coast into Orange County. A lunch picnic would go down at nearby Kate Sessions Park where we would enjoy more incredible vistas and superb people-watching. An afternoon cup of joe would be enjoyed in Bird Rock and then we’d catch an amazing sunset at Windansea Beach in La Jolla. My favorite place to grab dinner in La Jolla is not an obvious choice. I love grabbing some bites at Estancia La Jolla at Mustangs and Burros. It feels like a secretive little hideaway with a rustic patio vibe and an outdoor fireplace.
Day 2 – After an urban stroll through the Gaslamp District and East Village, we’d grab pizza and salad at BASIC just across from Petco Park. Next, we’d score some bicycle rentals. After riding up along the waterfront through the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, USS Midway, and Waterfront Park, we’d hop on the water taxi (with our bicycles) to Coronado. We’d cruise down Ocean Blvd taking in the breathtaking views of Coronado Beach. And no visit to Coronado is complete without visiting the jewel of Coronado —- The Del Coronado Hotel. A leisurely stroll through the lobby and shopping areas would go down, making sure to take in all the history lessons this hotel has to offer. A nice afternoon appetizer and spritzer would be enjoyed on the deck breathing in the ocean breezes before heading back to San Diego.
Day 3 – After a brisk mid-morning walk on Harbor Island, lunch would go down at Coasterra with spectacular views of the downtown skyline, the harbor, and perhaps a few harbor seals. Next, we’d head down to Point Loma to Cabrillo National Park, the most southwestern point in the continental United States. A visit here always begins with views of downtown San Diego and Coronado Island from the visitor center. Next a visit to the historic lighthouse followed by grandiose views of the kelp forest of the Pacific Ocean. But it’s not over — a drive down to the tide pools is always in the cards! There’s no better place to watch the sunset than from Sunset Cliffs. This jaw-dropping view from tall cliffs is a true national treasure. If we feel invigorated, we would make this experience a hike and if we are in a chill mode, we’d bring our beach chairs, charcuterie board, and sparkling wine. After sunset, we’d head to Ocean Beach with all its authentic beach community grit. The night would wind down at Hodad’s with their famous burgers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Behind every success story, there is always a village that deserves credit for the part they played.
Of course, the foundational elements begin with my parents. As a child, my family moved around a lot for job opportunities, and this allowed me to live in many states and even overseas. The only way I can explain what these diverse living experiences did for me was like elevating my brain from a 2D operating system to a 3D operating system. But it also drove me to be inquisitive.
I have a handful of amazing bosses and professors who believed in me and pushed me to do better!
Since becoming a solopreneur, there are two key groups that I lean on regularly for support. The first is Hera Hub, a woman-centric co-working space and community. Whatever I need, there’s always someone in my network who can offer advice or provide me with resources. QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultant Association) is another group that deserves a mention. They bring together qualitative researchers from around the country and globe. Unlike many professions, being a qualitative researcher can get lonely because you are typically the only one of your kind on a project. And let’s face it, there aren’t just a ton of us. Leaning on QRCA has been a way to build my researcher toolbox while providing me with a tribe from whom I can seek research-specific advice. I consider both to be essential support systems for my continued success.