Powerful Steps CEO Tory Archbold on her glam PR career, secret health struggles and new ventures

Tory Archbold was dealing with a life-threatening illness when she was PR to the stars but it was a simple photo with Drew Barrymore and her daughter that saw her throw it all away

  • CEO and business coach Tory Archbold was once a PR powerhouse
  • She started her global PR agency Torstar in Sydney when she was 26 years old
  • During her career she attended glitzy events and rubbed shoulders with A-listers
  • Behind the scenes she was dealing with a life threatening illness
  • But it was a photo with Drew Barrymore that made her throw it all away
  • She launched Powerful Steps in 2019 to empower women in business 

From helping a supermodel through a panic attack backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to pulling together a last-minute runway on board a luxury cruise ship in just 12 hours, Tory Archbold saw it all while working in PR for some of the world’s most prestigious brands and celebrities.

On the outside, Tory’s life seemed incredibly glamourous but behind the scenes she was living an ‘indescribable hell’ dealing with a stalking ex-partner and serious illness that almost cost her life. 

Her health struggles coupled with a simple photo she took with Drew Barrymore saw her throw it all away to start her own business Powerful Steps helping women in business pave the road to success.

She opens up to FEMAIL about her tumultuous life and how she is using her experiences to empower women. 

CEO of Powerful Steps Tory Archbold (pictured) has opened up about her glitzy PR career and her personal struggles with a harassing ex partner and a life threatening illness

CEO of Powerful Steps Tory Archbold (pictured) has opened up about her glitzy PR career and her personal struggles with a harassing ex partner and a life threatening illness

Tory said she always wanted to ‘go out and conquer the world’.

She moved to England in her early twenties where she started in public relations and built up an impressive black book of connections. 

When she moved back to Australia years later she had a dream of building her own agency based on her values and self belief, which she calls her ‘superpower’. 

‘I had no money, no media connections, all I had was self belief… When no one else backed my idea I backed it,’ she said. 

Tory knew she wanted to be selective about who she worked with after witnessing a traumatising incident at a large global brand during her short stint working at an ad agency.

During a meeting Tory claims the CEO asked his female assistant to get down on her hands and knees in front of everyone, which she described as ‘really degrading’. 

‘I don’t want to be in an industry that treats women like that. I want to work with brands that respect people are doing things the right way,’ she said.

‘No one wants to work with a***holes and all my life I’ve had a no a***hole policy.’ 

Tory launched her communications agency Torstar in Sydney at just 26 years old.

As head of her own PR agency Torstar, Tory would attended lavish celebrity-riddled events but would always don a 'little black dress' and 'blend into the background'

As head of her own PR agency Torstar, Tory would attended lavish celebrity-riddled events but would always don a ‘little black dress’ and ‘blend into the background’

Through a UK connection Tory won a job launching a David Jones campaign with Megan Gale, who at the time was making waves on the fashion scene in Italy, and from there Torstar took off. 

Tory was attending some of the world’s most glamorous events and rubbing shoulders with A-listers but said her job was to be ‘invisible’. 

‘I was the one in the little black dress always. My role was to blend in behind the scenes,’ she said.

She recalls one time she was backstage in her signature LBD at a Victoria’s Secret show interviewing the models when she noticed one angel on the brink of a panic attack.

‘I could see what was unfolding and simply asked “Are you OK?” She said no and I took her hand and said “It’s OK, I will clear this space for you” and I did,’ she said.

‘I gave her some lavender mist which grounded her energy and took the time to listen so she could step up and into her power again. And yes, she rocked that catwalk like the Queen she is.’

Torstar hosted star studded guest list at an Alex Perry fashion show with aboard the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship which Tory and her team had to pull together in just 12 hours

Torstar hosted star studded guest list at an Alex Perry fashion show with aboard the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship which Tory and her team had to pull together in just 12 hours

Torstar also hosted a star-studded guest list at an Alex Perry fashion show on board the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, which Tory and her team had to pull together in just 12 hours. 

‘Alex Perry was my client at that time so I called him and we worked together to create a show, a powerful guest list and experience that would be talked about for years to come,’ she said.

‘The ship was docking in Sydney for 24 hours and they had to disembark guests through customs to see the city while we had to go through customs to set up and create the show. We had 12 hours to pull it off and make it a team success.’

Tory was at the top of her game as a PR powerhouse but behind the glamour her personal life was suffering. 

She had her daughter Bella in 2004 and when she was only nine months old chose to leave her partner.

Tory ended her PR career when she broke her golden rule of never taking photos with celebrities after her daughter Bella (right) wanted to get a selfie with Drew Barrymore (centre)

Tory ended her PR career when she broke her golden rule of never taking photos with celebrities after her daughter Bella (right) wanted to get a selfie with Drew Barrymore (centre)

What is septicaemia?

Septicemia, or sepsis, is the clinical name for blood poisoning by bacteria. It is the body’s most extreme response to an infection. 

Sepsis that progresses to septic shock has a death rate as high as 50%, depending on the type of organism involved. 

Sepsis is a medical emergency and needs urgent medical treatment. 

Without treatment, sepsis can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. 

These infections are most often associated with sepsis:

  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin infections
  • Infections in the intestines or gut

These 3 germs most frequently develop into sepsis are:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (staph)
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Some types of Streptococcus

Source: hopkinsmedicine.org

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In 2013 Tory got appendicitis and subsequently septicaemia, a life threatening complication which put her in intensive care for five days. 

‘I heard it snap, felt it burst and was home alone as my daughter was being looked after by a friend. I was rushed to hospital and operated on at 2am,’ she said.

‘I lost eight kilos in five days and contracted septicaemia as they had been unable to flush out all of the blood which was poisoning my body during the operation.’ 

Tory was told she wouldn’t fully recover from the surgery for six months but put on a brave face and continued working.

‘When the surgeon said six months, I just didn’t believe him and thought my body and life would bounce back automatically,’ she said.

‘The reality was it took three to four years and a lot of key learnings along the way to bring my life into alignment as I learnt very quickly that our health is our wealth. Without it we have nothing.’ 

After 12 rounds of antibiotics, Tory’s illness and lengthy recovery prompted her to reassess her outlook and said a ‘happy heart’ got her health back on track.

‘The surgeon just looked at me one day and said “Tory, a happy heart is a magnet for miracles. Stop placing everyone else first, you are the priority here and every day I want you to place yourself first,”‘ she recalled. 

‘I thank my lucky stars for his tough love advice as it transformed me into the women I am today.’

A brush with death would be a forgivable reason to want to turn your life around but for Tory it was a simple photo with Drew Barrymore that saw her end her PR career. 

Tory said Bella had never been interested in the lavish events or celebrities her mum was dealing with but when Torstar partnered with Drew’s company Flower Beauty, she asked to meet the actress.

‘She also wanted a photo and my golden rule in business has always been to blend into the background of what you are partnered to create and never ask for a photo with a celebrity – they are and should always remain the star,’ she said. 

In 2019, she launched Powerful Steps to empower woman in business as well as a podcast that has 15,000 monthly listeners

In 2019, she launched Powerful Steps to empower woman in business as well as a podcast that has 15,000 monthly listeners 

‘As Bella was having her photo with Drew, Drew asked me to come into the shot too – that was the moment I broke my golden rule and the universe signalled my time was up and a new chapter was waiting.’

After almost 20 years representing some of the world’s biggest brands including Zara, LancĂ´me, Adidas and Nespresso Tory shut down Torstar and embarked on a new journey starting Powerful Steps in 2019. 

Tory said Powerful Steps is her ‘passion project’ and her mission is to empower women in business to achieve their goals using the skills and lessons she’s learnt through her career and personal struggles. 

She equips women with a ‘roadmap to success’ and the tools to assert themselves to get ahead with things like networking, asking for a pay rise and overcoming impostor syndrome. 

‘We created the Business Attraction Program for women who have had great success in life but are questioning what next? How can I level up? Find my happy heart and propel forward in business and life?’ she said. 

‘The results are extraordinary as they come into the program feeling invisible and walk out feeling seen, heard, and valued.’ 

Tory's experiences have armed her with an impressive repertoire of tools to 'pay it forward' to the next generation of women in the workforce

Tory’s experiences have armed her with an impressive repertoire of tools to ‘pay it forward’ to the next generation of women in the workforce

Tory’s Powerful Steps podcast has more than 15,000 monthly listeners and has featured an array of inspiring guests including Melissa Doyle, Pip Edwards, Camilla Franks and even Oprah’s spiritual guide Marianne Williamson. 

The business coach is now showing signs of slowing down and is set to release a tell-all book next year. 

Her experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, have shaped her into the person she is today and armed her with an impressive repertoire of tools to ‘pay it forward’ to the next generation of women in the workforce.

‘As women we must lead by example, and as humans we are not perfect. That’s OK, what we can do is not be ashamed of our experiences, embrace them so we are anchored to our truth as someone somewhere in the world may be going through a similar challenge or trauma,’ she said. 

‘I consider us ‘lucky’ as through what we experienced we are now able to shine a light for others. Show them that challenges will always become possibilities. It’s a mindset switch, why play the victim when you can become the warrior.’ 

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