Trudi Lebrón of Scriptflipt: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

…The biggest way increased diversity can help your bottom line is that when you start to really understand diversity you’ll have a more expansive view of your bottom line. Most people just think of their bottom line as their profit margin. But I encourage people to think of a dynamic bottom line. So sure, its profit. But it’s also about your moral bottom line. What’s your moral bottom line? What’s your cultural bottom line? What is your standard for how people work together and share space together?

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Podcaster, Speaker, and Leadership Coach Trudi Lebron, creator of the Equity-Centered Coaching Collective.

Trudi Lebrón, the CEO of Scriptflipt, is a business, leadership and DEI coach, and social impact strategist who teaches entrepreneurs and leaders how to build inclusive, equitable, successful businesses while working towards anti-racism. She is also the host of Business Remixed and runs a membership program, the Equity-Centered Coaching Collective, a guided-learning community for coaches and leaders who want to start applying their commitment to equity in their biz and life on a daily basis. Connect with her on Instagram @trudilebron.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I spent 12 years in the nonprofit industry working in the inner city with underserved youth and their families. While I was in that industry, I got a strong anchoring into justice work and an understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. During that time I was also concurrently working on my Master’s and PhD, learning about the science behind the science and the history behind racial disparities. I came to a better understanding of the factors that contribute to success and it had a big implication for me working in the low-paying non-profit sector.

At that point in my life, I found myself always needing to be side-hustling. I had been a teen mom, I had a family, and I needed to be making more money than I did at my job. I started learning more about business and growing a side hustle and lifestyle business being, and how to leverage online platforms to be making more money. I really fell in love. I saw how my two worlds — impact work in the nonprofit industry and my entrepreneurial spirit — could create a really dynamic online business.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes us stand out is that we’ve been committed to diversity and equality for years. From the very beginning, I was podcasting, connecting with people online, showing up at industry events and doing everything I could to share with other people in the coaching and personal development space. I knew that diversity, equity and inclusion work has always been really important, and that people needed to pay attention to it. But initially, I spent years talking about it, and no one was paying attention.

I was relentless and committed to what I was doing, so I continued to show up authentically and keep my focus on serving others. And when people started to pay attention, I was already there there — my company was already there. And we weren’t new to this work, we had been here all along. We stand out because we’ve been consistent, we’ve been steady, sharing the same message about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And we continue to come from the same place of service and authenticity. Instead of jumping in when it was a hot topic of discussion, we’ve been doing it from the start.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am! I’m working on putting together a mastermind for female leaders in collaboration with Elizabeth DiAlto founder of Wild Soul Movement and the Embodied Living Center. Our mastermind, Embodied Impact, will combine business strategy, personal growth, and diversity, equity, and inclusion education and will support women entrepreneurs be more effective, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist leaders.

We’ll be focusing on not just prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, but prioritizing all of your beliefs. We’ll be coaching students not to compromise on their beliefs or values or the way that they want to live and teaching them how they can lead from that place. Basically we’re showing them how to be fully embodied in themselves and their beliefs as leaders.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

First, I would tell them to look at the look at the data. Pay specific attention to things like retention and performance and how and if these affect your BIPOC employees in a different way than they affect your white employees. Pay attention to employee satisfaction, and look closely into how employee satisfaction may differ between white team members and employees of color. Talk to your employees about what they’re experiencing in the workplace and what their needs are.

Be bold enough to look at that data and understand that you may have to have a response ready to support people. That means that not everybody gets the same thing, but people should always get what they need to thrive. So if you’re looking, and you’re noticing that you’re losing clients or employees of color more rapidly than white employees or clients, you need to look internally and say, “What are we doing to create an environment that is causing that to happen?”

Be self reflective, look at the data and talk to people about what you need to do differently to create an environment that is equitable for everyone.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

I would say that the most important thing in managing a large team is to develop leaders who lead from the company values and not from their own, individual values. If you have a large team, you need leaders who are going to carry out leadership in a consistent way. You do that by nurturing your leaders to make sure they understand the company culture that you want them to create, so they can make decisions that are value driven, that are not arbitrary, but that are consistent with the culture and the commitments that you have.

There should be ongoing professional development for that tier of leaders so that you can be sure that these leaders are prepared to carry out your vision and objectives not only for your bottom line, but also for the climate and culture that you want to create. Your leadership team is responsible for those things, too.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First, the biggest way increased diversity can help your bottom line is that when you start to really understand diversity you’ll have a more expansive view of your bottom line. Most people just think of their bottom line as their profit margin. But I encourage people to think of a dynamic bottom line. So sure, its profit. But it’s also about your moral bottom line. What’s your moral bottom line? What’s your cultural bottom line? What is your standard for how people work together and share space together?

Secondly, if you have a diverse team making decisions, you’ll have happier employees, which lends itself to further retention and less turnover — saving you time and money. You don’t benefit from diversity if the people who hold all the decision making power are not diverse. If all of your diversity lies in your frontline workers, you don’t get the benefits of having diverse perspectives at the leadership table. You need to make sure that you have diverse representation among the people who hold power to make decisions.

Third: ongoing professional development around diversity, equity and inclusion as well as anti racism is another great way to impact your bottom line. Like having diverse leadership, ongoing training is something that improves staff retention, which again, saves money and time.

Fourth, communicating your values and your stance on topics of diversity publicly can really impact your bottom line. We’ve seen that people are making decisions about who they invest with based on diversity and inclusivity specifically. We actually just switched our CRM because the company that we were previously with didn’t have an active stance on the movement for Black Lives, they’ve been silent. So we decided they’re not aligned with our values, and so we’re paying for another service. That’s a significant investment, and it demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about.

Lastly, do it because it’s right. Pay attention to the bottom-line of society instead of just your profits. Yes, diversity can be good for profitability. But it’s also just good for society and your soul to implement diversity, equity and inclusion into your company culture. There are a lot of racial inequalities in the world, your company can be a light. We can all do better.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The work that we do with our clients has a significant snowball effect. We work to help our clients to build companies that are more diverse and inclusive, so that their employees have better work environments, and that trickles down to the families of those employees. We work with a lot of coaches as well, so our clients are then able to serve a more diverse audience. And those audience members enter spaces that are more emotionally safe and inclusive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Oh my God, so many people! But one woman that is really important to me is Kerry Brennan. She was a mentor to me when I was a teen mom. When the world was telling me that I was a failure and treating me like a burden on society, she treated me like a normal teenager. She encouraged me to continue my education and follow my dreams. And not only that, but she walked me through how to get there. She was a coach, and she taught me a lot. And even though she didn’t teach me this explicitly, she really taught me the importance of having people around who have a bigger vision of your life than the one that you have for yourself.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-

Oprah. For so many reasons including that she loves food like me! I’m a big foodie, so I think having a super fancy lunch with her would be great. But, more importantly I would also just love to hear her insight around having multiple companies and honoring your true calling. She could just share any wisdom she has with me, and I think it would take it all in. She also just seems so fun — I think it would be a good time.


Trudi Lebrón of Scriptflipt: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr of BrandFace: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved…

Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr of BrandFace: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Define, Develop, and Display. Be thoughtful and thorough in your personal branding approach. First, keep in mind the difference between branding and marketing. Marketing is using various different vehicles to get a message and image out to your prospects. Your brand IS the message and image that is conveyed through your marketing. It differentiates you, gives clear focus in your business direction, and helps you attract ideal customers so you can work smarter, not harder. Without a properly defined, developed, and displayed brand, you undoubtedly waste time, effort, and especially money when it comes to marketing yourself and your business.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr from BrandFace®.

Tonya Eberhart is the founder of BrandFace® and Branding Agent to Business Stars. She’s also the author of four books on personal branding. Tonya’s humble career began while selling vacuum cleaners door to door to pay her way through college. That led to a job in radio, where she observed local business owners who were featured in their own advertising and positioned as local celebrities in the market. That’s when she realized the power that personal branding has on a business. Almost two decades and many successful brands later, she founded BrandFace®, a personal branding firm consisting of a book series, speaking series, and personal branding program that is designed to help business stars differentiate themselves.

Michael Carr is America’s Top Selling Real Estate Auctioneer and the Abundant Life Broker. During his 28 years of experience, he has been actively involved in over 78,000 real estate transactions and licensed in as many as 31 states in the continental U.S. as a broker and an auctioneer. Michael first met Tonya in 2013 when he became a client. He immediately put her exclusive personal branding concepts to work at his own brokerage, and as a result, his real estate business quadrupled over the next year, and continues to grow in recognition, revenue and recruitment. On the heels of that success, they decided to co-author BrandFace® for Real Estate Professionals, which became a #1 international bestseller on Amazon. And today, he is a partner and the COO of BrandFace®.

BrandFace® is the only comprehensive personal brand building system across the globe. Our exclusive, step by step program helps business stars build a personal brand that STANDS OUT from their competition and attracts their ideal customers so they can become recognized and sought after authorities. Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr are the partners behind BrandFace®. Their mantra is, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Tonya: When I was selling vacuum cleaners, I learned pretty quickly that I couldn’t just walk up to someone’s front door and ask if they wanted to buy a vacuum. I had to craft my own story about why I was there, and how I could provide value to them in that moment. That’s where my first experience with personal branding took root, even though I didn’t know that’s what it was called. Then, when I entered the radio scene, that concept was magnified. From that point forward, everything I did in the media industry for the next eighteen years had a ‘personal branding’ thread running through it. When I came up with the BrandFace® concept, one of the first people I worked with was Michael Carr. He was a real estate broker, auctioneer, and investor. He stepped enthusiastically into the program, and became a fantastic success story. That’s when I invited him to co-author the second book in the series (BrandFace® for Real Estate Professionals), and eventually, he became a partner in the company.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Tonya: This wouldn’t necessarily be a mistake, because after 30 years of being in branding and marketing, mistakes still aren’t funny! All kidding aside, a moment that stands out to me was when we put Michael’s face on shopping carts in the most visited Kroger store in the state of Georgia at the time. He was still getting used to the idea of having his face out there. I was in our Columbus, Ohio, office at the time, so I asked him to visit the store and take a photo of himself beside one of the carts showing his ad. He reluctantly agreed, but hastily took a selfie with the cart in the back corner of Kroger. We both still laugh about that one! Now he has billboards covering an entire area along the I-85 corridor. He never looked back.

Michael: When I was starting as a real estate auctioneer, I scored a sale to auction off 30 lots on top of a mountain in Ellijay, Georgia. We had to put signs out to advertise the auction in advance, and that task was assigned to me. One day I set out for the downtown area looking for places to put the signs, and I saw a giant wooden structure, larger than two billboards put together. It contained a lot of individual signs promoting various businesses, and I thought it was the perfect place to hang one of our auction signs. After I hung our sign, I barely got ten minutes down the road before someone from the Mayor’s office called me and informed me that the businesses featured on the sign were paying sponsors, and those spots were $300 per month. I was only 20 years old at the time, and it was a lesson that I never really learned. I say, put your sign up everywhere you can, and if they ask you to take it down, take it down.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our mantra is, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.” Yes, corporate or business branding is important, but on the street level, your relationship with a business almost always comes down to a person who helps you cross the finish line. And that particular person is usually the reason you choose one business over another. We’re so passionate about that, that we developed the only comprehensive personal brand building system across the globe. That’s our point of differentiation in the branding world. Right now the term ‘personal branding’ gets tossed around a lot. Fortunately, that’s because it’s that important. But there is a lot of misinformation and misperception about what that means. First, there’s a huge difference between ‘building’ your brand versus ‘promoting’ your brand. You can only promote a brand once it’s built. And building a personal brand involves so much more than a photo, logo, and a tagline. In order to have a strong personal brand, you first need to define your ideal customers and your point of differentiation. It all begins there, and your logo, brand colors, photos, tagline, and more come only after those things are unveiled. We created a comprehensive three part formula for personal branding called the ‘3-D Freedom Formula’. In it, we look at 77 different criteria to ensure that we have captured the person and their brand before they begin to market themselves.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We actually just launched BrandFace® SCORE last year, which is a tool that will allow business owners and entrepreneurs to see how their personal brand is performing. The 6-Part Score System will show them exactly where they’re doing well, and where their brand could use improvement. The tool is in beta right now, and it’s free. We’re hoping it will help a lot of people understand what personal branding is truly about, and lead them in the right direction for massive success.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

We have a bold stance on marketing and advertising (whether it’s a brand or product). We’ve seen many advertisers waste money because they didn’t have a point of differentiation or well developed brand to promote. We believe it’s critical to have it all together before you begin marketing or advertising anywhere. Otherwise, you risk falling into the ‘sea of sameness’, where everyone is shouting “do business with me!” without the clear ‘WHY’. Defining who your ideal customer is, and a compelling reason they should choose you over your competition, should be the first thing you do. And when it comes to personal branding, it should be based on your professional and personal attributes. It’s the human connection that drives business success.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Right back to the last answer. It’s critical. For instance, how on earth would you even know what to say or promote in your marketing unless (first of all) you know who you’re trying to attract? Then, once you know that, you need to clearly define WHY they should choose you over everyone else in your space. Many marketers right now are screaming “we can help you build your brand!” from the rooftops, but in actuality, most are attempting to sell you a system or product to help you ‘promote’ your brand (not build it). That’s where the misinformation confuses people. You use tools like marketing funnels, social media, advertising, lead generation, etc. to market yourself after your brand is defined, developed, and ready to display. The awesome thing about building your brand first is that your marketing performs exponentially better.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

2020 changed the landscape of business. Now, more than ever, people need a trusted and believable PERSONAL brand, even if they are part of a company. Here are five ways to build trust and recognition through your brand.

  1. Remember Where You Came From. Your personal life from birth forward largely defines you, and many of the things about you, which you can use and project to help you attract ideal customers. The way you grew up often determines your direction in business. Many times, a positive upbringing and environment can instinctually lead you in a positive direction. Other times, great challenges in life cause you to move in a positive direction. But make no mistake about it, your upbringing largely determines your ethics, ideals, dreams, and goals. Michael and I were both raised in small towns where everyone knew everyone. It shaped the way we appreciate relationships and the pride we take in everything we do, from intimate webinars to speaking in front of thousands. We’re grateful for the opportunities and connections that both can provide.
  2. Begin with a Brand Identifier. That’s a tagline or slogan which serves as a ‘hook’ to get people to instantly take notice of what you stand for. It provides a fast path to recognition and understanding. Your personal brand is like a book. There’s no way to fit the entire contents of the book onto the cover, right? So the cover has to capture the attention of your prospects, and get them to want to open the book to learn more. That’s what a great brand identifier does for you. As an example, one of our real estate clients is known as the Lifestyle Locator® in Whistler, British Columbia. Her name is Kathy White, and she is perfectly suited for that identifier because she embraces everything about the adventurous outdoor lifestyle that Whistler has to offer. She’s a downhill skier, a cyclist, a runner, and a pilot. She also happens to be active on her local tourism board. When people see the term Lifestyle Locator®, they immediately connect with what it stands for.
  3. Be Bold in Your Approach. There is only one you. Stop comparing yourself to others and be confident, authentic, and proud of what you stand for. So many times, prospects will ask us, “can you send me some personal branding examples from people in my area?” Our response is, “You came here to be different. So it really doesn’t matter what anyone else’s brand looks like. What matters is whether your brand represents you authentically, and positions you as the one person who can solve the problems your ideal customers face in your industry. For example, one of our clients is a board certified Veterinarian Internal Medicine Specialist who left private practice for industry consulting. Today, she’s known as the Pragmatic Professor, an activist for a creative and common sense approach to caring for animals. Her elevator pitch reads, “I teach veterinary students, practitioners and industry leaders a creative and common sense approach to caring for animals without sacrificing quality, a thriving business, or their own sanity.” This helps her truly stand out in her industry with a bold and unforgettable approach.
  4. Define, Develop, and Display. Be thoughtful and thorough in your personal branding approach. First, keep in mind the difference between branding and marketing. Marketing is using various different vehicles to get a message and image out to your prospects. Your brand IS the message and image that is conveyed through your marketing. It differentiates you, gives clear focus in your business direction, and helps you attract ideal customers so you can work smarter, not harder. Without a properly defined, developed, and displayed brand, you undoubtedly waste time, effort, and especially money when it comes to marketing yourself and your business.
  5. Unveil Your Inner Star. Everyone has star power inside them, and going through a personal branding process brings that out into the open. The reason many people are shy about putting themselves ‘out there’ is because they view the approach as egotistical. We disagree if it’s done correctly. Your personal brand should not focus on a “look at me” approach. Its entire purpose is to convey “look what I can do for you” to your customers. With that spirit in mind, it becomes powerfully positive, and focused exactly where it should be. When this happens, we’ve heard from countless people that it changes their life in a positive way both professionally and personally. After all, “A great brand doesn’t just change the way others see you. It changes the way you see yourself.”

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

We have many favorites, but one personal brand we believe to be among the most powerful and memorable is Tony Robbins. His name is synonymous with challenging yourself to be the very best you can be. His brand extends to all of his businesses based on those things that make him personally inspiring and motivating. He has never wavered from his ‘no excuses’ approach, and insistence that everyone deserves health, wealth, and happiness. The great part about that is, you can emulate the persistence, but you don’t have to emulate the man because you are the only you in the world. You have your own brand.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

There are several ways to measure the success of a personal brand. First, when people begin to refer to you based on your brand identifier or what you stand for, you know it’s working. Second, when you begin to get referrals based on your niche and direction, you know it’s working. Third, when you begin to see more and more of your ideal customers knocking on your door instead of endlessly chasing them, it’s working. And here’s a humorous one for you. When your competitors begin to make comments about your brand and marketing efforts, most especially if they are snide comments, you know for sure it’s working.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is the window to the soul. You can sway more people at one time using social media than you can ever amass in one room. You can express what you stand for creatively and infinitely. And you can engage one to one, or one to many. We know it isn’t perfect, and we know that not everyone will love you and your brand. But if you remain above the fray, taking the good and casting out the bad, it’s actually one the greatest inventions in this century.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Forget what you see the popular celebrities doing, which is living every moment of their lives on social media. Forget the negative comments, unanswered emails, lost deals, and posts that get ignored. After all, “you can’t lose what you never had”. Stay 100% focused on the solution you can provide, and be positive about it every single day. Be true to yourself, and take time away from it all for yourself. Work to live, don’t live to work. Although that’s a very old adage, it is poignant nonetheless. If you build something meaningful and with good intention, you will reap the rewards. And a large part of that reward is time for yourself, your family, and your friends.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We plan to launch BrandFace® for Youth (a personal branding motivational division for ages 18 and under) within the next couple of years. We both came from challenging and humble surroundings, and wish we knew back then what we know now. Sometimes the only difference between a young person preparing for college and one facing a prison sentence is understanding what makes them different and special. We believe everyone deserves not only to know that, but to clearly define, develop, and display that. Our clients have asked us many times, “Can you make me a star?” We love to respond with, “We don’t make stars. We unveil them.” The world needs more authentic stars.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tonya: My favorite quote by far is “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (Dr. Wayne Dyer). When I first read this, it gave me an entirely new perspective. I have always been an optimistic and positive person, but it made me realize that I could affect my own view and attitude about certain things if I just changed the way I viewed them. Then I realized that it also applied to people. It’s made me more tolerant, and, I hope, more tolerable as well:)

Michael: One of my favorites is “A rising tide raises all ships”, a quote that is attributed to John F. Kennedy. Put together a group of like minded individuals where no one person gets the credit, and see what’s possible. If you surround yourself with people who share the same ideals, you build a culture that helps everyone. The worst thing any successful business person can do is not help those around them, especially when it costs them nothing to do so.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Tonya: I would love to have lunch with Barbara Corcoran, whom I have admired for years. She’s the quintessential female ‘power figure’ in real estate, and has been a member of Shark Tank, which I fell in love with at first bite. Pun intended. I love her ‘get it done’ business approach, combined with her genuine desire to help people who have a strong passion in businesses that do the same.

Michael: I admire Richard Branson for his adventurous management style. When asked how he makes money with so many different products (sodas, shoes, an airline, etc.), he says, “when you have the right management team, you can do anything.” I find that to be so true, and attempt to emulate that inside my company every day. If you want a successful organization that can shift in any market, it’s about hiring the right people and trusting their ability to do the job. Richard trusts his team implicitly to be successful at anything they do because of this culture.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube: @brandfacestar

Connect on LinkedIn: Tonya Eberhart , Michael Carr

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr of BrandFace: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tray Kearney: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Be Kind to yourself. Life happens to everyone. You tried your best and sometimes things are just not meant to be.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tray Kearney.

Tray Kearney is a Healing Agent whose assignment is helping others heal from matters of the heart. She is known for her method of helping others heal through her transparency and truth. Her testimony of going through the storm of infidelity on both sides of not only being the offender but also the recipient of betrayal gives men and women the safe haven they need to be transparent and honest with themselves without judgement.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in the inner city in a single parent home. My parents divorced due to my mother’s infidelity. I was raised by my mother and later on down the line my stepfather came into the picture. My childhood was good. I spent a lot of time with my siblings and cousins. We had a lot of fun. As I got older I started to understand that I was in a very dysfunctional environment where infidelity and sweeping things under the rug was normal. My mom moved a lot which made me kind of shy and afraid to get comfortable anywhere. However, I did gain four very good childhood friends who are still my best friends now after forty years. I learned to look for the silver lining in every cloud.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I didn’t choose life coaching it chose me. During a tough time in my life I didn’t know what to do so I joined a prayer line and the woman praying offered up a program called “Life Camp” a group coaching program. As I listened to her speak about life coaching and why I should join. I said to myself “I’m not paying this lady to just talk to her.” And just as I was thinking that she said and I quote “I don’t need your money this is for you I have businesses.” I was totally shocked that she was bold enough to say that and she’s been my life coach for the last seven years. I was inspired and motivated by how she helped change my life and I wanted to do the same for those who were navigating through the devastation of infidelity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I was given the opportunity to speak at the Howard Theater on an all-male relationship panel and share my perspective as the only woman on the panel. I’ve actually gained a lot of trust from men since being a life coach.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I sent a long personal email to one of my clients. It wasn’t funny at the time but I see the humor in it now. The lesson I learned is 1) always check who you are sending an email to, and 2) get a separate business email address.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My mother always told me “It’s never too late to make a U-turn.” It was relevant when I was in an affair with someone else’s husband while I was married. It helped me to finally turn my life around after I thought I had gone too far in the wrong direction. “It’s never too late to make a U-turn.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on a new course called “Developing Crucial Basic Life Skills.” I think it will help people with the things we don’t learn from the time we leave home to the time we are thrusted into the real world. These are the things they don’t teach us in school and are missing in our lives and hinder us from having the life we truly desire.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

I got divorced due to infidelity on my part. I never want to make an excuse of why I committed adultery. However, I do share the things that took me in that direction. I was very young when I got married. I was 21 I was with my ex-husband since the age of 18 and had no life experience in dating. I had never seen a healthy marriage. I lacked basic life skills. What I mean by basic life skills is decision making, communication skills, self-awareness, problem solving, resilience etc. We don’t realize how important these skills are until they affect us. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do. I believe the main reason why people cheat is immaturity. Monogamy requires self-control and self-control requires maturity. What I learned is that’s exactly what I lacked, maturity. I also learned that I needed to be whole to be with someone else as one. I couldn’t be one with anyone if I was in pieces and had voids that I needed filled. I am very comfortable sharing my story. If it can help one person I know I am on purpose.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

In my opinion one of the most common mistakes people make is dwelling on the past. You cannot change the past you can only plan to have a better future. Another common mistake is the blame game. In a divorce, both people are accountable for their part in the breakdown of the relationship and instead of learning from the divorce we tend to blame. I learned that blame causes guilt and accountability causes growth, and we want to grow so we don’t take the same things into our next relationship. The last thing I will share as a common mistake is people don’t get the help or take the time they need to heal and grieve. Divorce is the death of a relationship and people should definitely take time to grieve and heal before they move on.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

The person you once loved can become a good friend if the two just forgive each other and behave in a mature manner at all times. My ex and I share two sons, so we learned from the devastation and forgave one another and became friends not only for our children but for our families that WE meshed together. The wonderful thing is once we get passed the pain our families could heal and have the freedom to still love their in-laws.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

I would say heal so you can trust the chooser. I am not afraid to get out and date again. I trust myself because I got the help I needed and did the work. Divorce is not a death sentence. That person was just not your forever person, but don’t let their memory block you from true love.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

People should be open to changing their mindset.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. I would advise her/him to seek professional help so they can grieve and heal. After I found my coach and found out who I was I began to thrive in all areas of my life professional and personal.
  2. I would advise them not to jump into a relationship, but to spend time learning themselves and loving themselves. I have several clients who took time to rediscover who they were before the divorce happened. These clients also took time to heal. Now, they are in thriving healthy relationships.
  3. I would also say that just because you have been through a divorce, it doesn’t define who you are. Do not let your identity be wrapped up in what happened to you. I had to learned that my divorce did not define me, it was a part of my testimony that actually was attached to my purpose. Your pain is not in vain unless you allow it to be. There is always purpose in what we go through.
  4. Ask yourself what you learned from the experience and how you can help someone else get through the experience. I wrote two books and started a coaching and consulting business based on the things I learned from getting divorced.
  5. Be Kind to yourself. Life happens to everyone. You tried your best and sometimes things are just not meant to be.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

I truly believe people should get professional help. There is so much value in getting the help and support you need from someone who is not personally connected to you. There is a level of freedom when you share knowing you will not be judged or the information will not go any further than that room. People also need to understand being single is not a bad thing and taking time after a divorce to reset, revive and love yourself is an amazing gift to give to yourself. One last thing people can do is spend time with people who genuinely love and support them. Embarrassment sometimes causes people experiencing divorce to isolate themselves. We need a personal as well as professional support system we can lean on.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

I love Trent Sheldon’s podcast “Straight Up”. Tony A. Gaskins Jr. on Youtube (what is his platform or message?). One book I suggest is Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. Oh, and of course my podcast “Men Hurt Too” and my books “It’s Healing Time Restoring Hope in Women After Infidelity” and “Men Hurt Too.”

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I actually have a movement called #NoSideChicking. My vision is that women will honor, guard and respect each other’s relationships in hopes that the divorce rate would go down due to the devastation of infidelity.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love for Oprah to see this interview she can reach the masses and divorce and infidelity is devastating so many families. We could spread the word about healing after divorce.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Tray Kearney: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Michael Mo of ‘KULR Technology Group’ On How Their Technological Innovations…

The Future Is Now: Michael Mo of ‘KULR Technology Group’ On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Be comfortable with getting uncomfortable. DON’T be afraid to leave your comfort zone. With every new milestone in your business, you are going to face new struggles. Embrace those challenges…it’s those challenges that provide you and your company the opportunity to grow.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Mo, CEO of KULR Technology Group, Inc.

Mr. Mo is a technology entrepreneur and successful investor with over 25 years of experience in technology management, product development, and marketing. Mr. Mo received a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Santa Barbara in 1995. He began his career as a design engineer at Hewlett-Packard and started three technology companies as founder and CEO. Mr. Mo was an early venture investor in many successful technology companies, including Spreadtrum Communications (NASDAQ: SPRD) — later acquired for $1.9B.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a semiconductor background, so I’ve always been interested in the correlation between heat and performance degradation at the integrated circuit level. In the mid-2000’s I first met Dr. Timothy Knowles, the CTO and the co-founder of KULR Technology Group. We realized there was a real commercial need for thermal management solutions but in all honesty, a lot of the markets were still quite nascent. Now in 2021 EV’s, drones, battery storage, crypto mining, it all makes sense. But 10 years ago, thermal management wasn’t on very many design engineers’ minds. Today, with the ubiquity of batteries and emphasis on portability, it is on everyone’s radars.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Not sure about the “most interesting” but the most constant aspect of my career is change. I started my career doing Software / Hardware co-design work at HP. Then I started Internet software companies. From there, I moved back to Semiconductor for many years both from operational and investment side. Currently, I am in thermal and energy management for batteries. I think the next chapter of KULR will be how to build totally sustainable renewable energy systems that are both safe and leave a minimal carbon footprint. The business model and technology will continue to evolve. The most interesting part of my career is its constant evolution.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

KULR enables leading aerospace, electronics, energy storage, 5G technology, and electric vehicle manufacturers to create cooler, lighter, and safer products for the consumer. It’s pretty obvious why the safety part is paramount and why it will help people and society in general. You hear on the news of sporadic EV’s catching on fire, or the Arizona battery facility that sent four firefighters to the hospital in 2019. These occurrences are going to become more frequent over time as demand on batteries becomes greater over time. KULR wants to work with companies and help solve these thermal issues before they arise so there is no loss of life in the future when batteries fail and violently explode. We will build sustainability on the foundation of safety.

How do you think this might change the world?

The holy-grail is to build a close-loop battery system that is 100% safe with all parts that can be recycled and reusable. It’s our goal to build such a fully sustainable renewable energy source for the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

In general, Black Mirror contemplates a bleak and dystopian future society. Though every generation is concerned with the perils of technology advancing, our company’s goal is a noble one. Help society create a sustainable energy source. Personally, I don’t see any drawbacks in that mission.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I am a believer of success by accumulation, which means overnight success stories take years or decades to build. That being said, the “tipping point” for KULR’s rise in the market is when EV and battery storage technology become the hot topic of 2020, no pun intended. Now, the 30 years of thermal management technologies developed by our engineering team is finding its breakthrough applications.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

From a company perspective, just work hard, execute, and do not get distracted. As EV’s, battery storage, drone delivery, etc. become more widely adopted, we are prepared to ride that technological wave. We are a company built on innovative infrastructure, components, and testing solutions. If the different verticals we serve gain wide acceptance, to some degree, our thermal solutions will as well.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We found the digital medium to be the most effective to get our story out there. Channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter are highly engaging and cost effective.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been too many people helping me along the way… I have been fortunate with a lot of support from my family, my friends and people who I have done business with for the last 20 years. The best advice I will give on this topic is to be nice to people around you.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to help others around me. Additionally, I strive to do good in my community and to my partners.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. However long you think something will take, multiply it by at least 5. Whether it’s raising capital, hiring employees, securing a contract, it will always take longer than you think. And it will test your resolve along the way.
  2. Finding good people to populate your team with is hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great people that are the perfect fit for your team out there — finding them is the hard part. It will take time.
  3. Quality research is paramount. Before you jump into a new opportunity, pivot to a different vertical, or allocate substantial capital, I implore that you research, research, research. You need to do your homework before making a big company decision. Otherwise, it will cost you much more than just time and money. Chasing short term trends is very dangerous.
  4. It is not always about the money. Of course, I have taken on projects because of a financial opportunity. Looking back though, the most successful ones have always been the ones that had more of personal connection and did not necessarily appear to be that lucrative.
  5. Be comfortable with getting uncomfortable. DON’T be afraid to leave your comfort zone. With every new milestone in your business, you are going to face new struggles. Embrace those challenges…it’s those challenges that provide you and your company the opportunity to grow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement and mantra I am post passionate about is “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Steve Jobs “If you enjoy what you do, you will never work another day.”

Anonymous “Never Give Up!”

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

KULR takes space technologies to make battery and electronics cooler, lighter, and safer.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

For up-to-date info on our company please follow us on Twitter @KULRTech

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Michael Mo of ‘KULR Technology Group’ On How Their Technological Innovations… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Todd Baldwin: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Automate everything — From locks to messages to guests and cleaner scheduling, analyze your processes for recurring steps that can be automated. Automation takes a bit of an investment to set up but pays infinite dividends in freeing up your time on the back end and ensuring your processes are executed seamlessly every time.

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Baldwin.

Todd Baldwin, known on CNBC as the Millennial Millionaire, is an American entrepreneur, investor, and real estate enthusiast. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Angela where the two of them have amassed a House Hacking and Airbnb Empire. He is using the knowledge he has learned in these endeavors on his YouTube channel to help others build wealth and gain financial independence.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

Unfortunately, my story is not uncommon. I was raised by a single mother who struggled every day to put food on the table for three kids. Seeing my mom worry tirelessly about finances led me to decide at 12 years old that someday I would become a millionaire.

By the time I was 22 I was making 6 figures working in sales, and I used every last penny to buy real estate. Today at 28, my wife and I own a $5 million real estate portfolio where we have over 35 long-term tenants and have hosted hundreds of guests across 3 Airbnb units.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

Prior to starting on Airbnb, my wife and I owned 4 houses and we rented each out by the bedroom (known as House Hacking). When we bought our fifth house in 2018, we intended to do the same, but ended up finding the perfect home for sale with an attached mother in law unit. The place was very cute and from the first time we went inside my wife envisioned the Airbnb listing — complete with cute throw pillows, artwork and all the homey touches of a good Airbnb. We also ran the numbers and knew right away we could get far more per month as a short-term versus long-term rental. Even with calculating in some expected vacancy (we gave ourselves a conservative 50% occupancy rate), we knew we had a unique opportunity to maximize cash flow. As soon as we decided to buy the house, we jumped right in and listed on Airbnb. We actually put our calendar up before we even closed so we could start getting bookings as soon as the unit was set up. Within weeks we achieved an occupancy rate above 90%.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

We actually had a rocky start with Airbnb. Our very first guest was on vacation to celebrate his 21st birthday (unbeknownst to us at the time of booking). The guest made the reservation for four people — which was our maximum with just one Queen bed and a pullout sofa — but arrived with about 10 people and had the birthday celebration in the Airbnb unit, which was attached to our main home. There was noise all night long, cars parked everywhere and when they left in the morning we entered to a royal mess and our brand new pullout sofa completely busted. We were totally new to the process and had no idea how to handle it during the stay or get support from Airbnb for the damages afterwards. Luckily, we had the mindset that it can only go up from here. And it did get infinitely better from this point out. To date that first experience is the only time we have had real a real nightmare guest or damage to any of our properties, but it certainly almost shook our resolve in the short-term rental game.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first started out on Airbnb, I forgot to put some of the basics in the unit. We didn’t have an ironing board or a hair dryer. One day we had a guest ask for a hair dryer. I brought my wife’s over and left it in the Airbnb unit.

The next morning when my wife was getting ready for work, she asked me if I had seen her hair dryer. Fear spread across my face as I explained that it was in the Airbnb unit. I didn’t get my typical kiss goodbye when my wife headed off to work with wet hair.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

Relying on one single cleaner and attempting to manage all processes manually (such as changing lock codes).

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

A spotless unit is a necessity on Airbnb, and that requires a crew. You need a roster of names you can call who can provide reliable, efficient and quality service. The cold hard truth is that cleaners bail, so you need a team. Hire a bunch of cleaners to have on rotation, so if one is a no show you can call another.

For your own sanity and quality control, it’s important to automate as many of your host processes as possible. While hiring workers to support your cleaning efforts makes a lot of sense, the best support you can give yourself for management is automation. When you first start out full of energy and excitement, you may think you can manage it all manually and maybe you can… for a while. But ultimately putting automation in place for things like lock codes and welcome messages with check-in instructions is critical to avoiding those big mistakes that weigh on you each day and can completely ruin a guest’s vacation if they get forgotten.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

My wife and I optimize the guest experience through a combination of automation and personalization. Before a guest arrives, we have a series of messages at a set cadence (i.e. three days prior, night before, day of, etc.) that are set automatically to give the guest the relevant information they need at that point without being overwhelming. We also use a program that automatically sets the guest’s door code to the last four digits of their phone number to make this easy to remember and instills confidence that the code is unique for their stay. We also have some more analog personal touches, such as a chalk board with the guest’s name on it right at the entrance to the unit. Finally, throughout the unit there are laminated or framed instructions for any appliance (washer/dryer, A/C, Keurig, etc.) that may be new to the guest with clear instructions and pictures for how to use.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Keyless entry — We use an application called “RBoy Apps” that interfaces with our lock and the Airbnb app to set unique door codes for each guest automatically.

2. Get a good cleaning crew — Cleaning is the most labor-intensive piece of the gig and the hardest (or perhaps impossible) piece to automate. You need reliable cleaners and back-ups for those moments when life happens.

3. Excellent sleep experience — Spend money on a comfy bed. Most of the time your guests spend in your unit they very may well be asleep, so this one of the most critical fixtures in your unit. We bought a high-quality mattress and even put a gel foam mattress pad on top. We constantly receive messages from guests asking where we bought the bed, brand name, etc. I’d say that’s the mark of a comfy bed.

4. Add a personal touch — Automation is great because it’s seamless, reliable and consistent. But it does lack the “humanness” of a truly personal interaction. We like to bring the two together by having the cleaners write the guest’s name on a chalkboard at the unit entrance. We also provide a list of nearby restaurants and activities we love in a homemade coffee table book.

5. Automate everything — From locks to messages to guests and cleaner scheduling, analyze your processes for recurring steps that can be automated. Automation takes a bit of an investment to set up but pays infinite dividends in freeing up your time on the back end and ensuring your processes are executed seamlessly every time.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My wife and I are very different in our approach to traveling. When we book an Airbnb for ourselves, she will do all of the research, sift through past reviews before selecting and read over the house guidebook once we are confirmed. I like to fly a little farther from the details. If I know how to get in the front door — and once in, the WiFi password — I’m good to go. We kept this range of guests in mind as we built our guest experience: we provide all the detail for those who want it and just the essentials in our messages for those who don’t. For the actual experience itself, we value a nice place that is impeccably clean, provides the essential amenities and a check-in process that is painless.

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have learned so much about personal finance through my real estate and Airbnb journey. I strive to share this knowledge with others and have started a YouTube channel to do that. On my channel, I break down my strategy and processes for all to learn what has worked (and not worked) for me that might benefit them as well.

I also grew up with hardly any guidance in the realm of finances. I have seen how valuable this knowledge is and how much of an advantage young people have when they can learn these lessons from others early on. To help foster this knowledge, I volunteer my time to guest teach high school classes and groups via Zoom. These kids are hungry for this information — some don’t even know it until I first introduce them to the subject — and I love to see the energy and enthusiasm in the questions they ask.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Financial literacy education in schools. I think the most effective tools to rise above generational poverty are knowledge and mentorship.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

YouTube: Todd Baldwin — Millennial Millionaire

https://www.youtube.com/c/ToddBaldwin

Instagram: @toddjbaldwin

https://www.instagram.com/toddjbaldwin/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Todd Baldwin: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Na’ím Anís Paymán of Zeevou: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Develop a sense of service: By this I mean realizing that being a host means being part of the hospitality industry, and that this in itself is an industry that should be focused around the service that we as hosts are providing to guests. No matter how tough many guests may be to deal with, one should always bear in mind that the aim should be to be of service to the guest and go above and beyond whenever possible.

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Na’ím Anís Paymán.

Na’ím Anís Paymán started an Airbnb management business while still at university and Keezark now manages close to 400 units across 20 cities. Following graduation, the business grew rapidly and the necessity for better systems soon became apparent — leading to the birth of Zeevou, a cutting-edge Property Management Software and Channel Manager. With the onset of COVID-19, he was in the perfect place to acquire hotels affected by the pandemic, and he thus founded Paymán Investments to enable the acquisition of an increasing number of hotels with the aim of converting them into aparthotels down the line by collaborating with outside investors.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

Sure thing! So I grew up in a country which most readers may either never have heard of, or may associate with Top Gear or Voldemort’s hiding place — namely, Albania. While not Albanian by blood, my parents moved to Albania from Italy in 1991 to help contribute to the country’s material and spiritual advancement following the fall of communism. Aged 15 I left Albania and headed to the UK where I had been awarded a scholarship at Abingdon School to allow me to pursue the last two years of my highschool. I then took a year off to volunteer at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel, and upon my return attended Cambridge University where I studied Natural Sciences. While at university, I continued to build on a student-recruitment business that I had set up during high school and started a number of other businesses, amongst which was my Airbnb management service.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

Well, the short answer is food! I love eating, and unfortunately I had ended up at Gonville & Caius College while at Cambridge, which besides being famous for numbering Stephen Hawking amongst its fellows, was also infamous for providing some of the worst food on campus! Not only that, but due to ridiculous fire safety measures, we were not allowed to have any real cooking equipment in our kitchenettes in the dorms and were basically forced to eat food in halls most of the time. So a couple of weeks in and I was fed up (no pun intended)! I looked at my finances and the costs I was incurring by living in halls, and concluded that it would make more sense to try and find an investor to purchase a flat and rent out the spare bedroom as this would work out cheaper for me and provide me with my much-needed kitchen. I set off to do so, however once done, my college refused to allow me to move out of halls for my second year. So I was sort of stuck with this property that needed renting out, and soon enough figured out that the greatest income was to be made by letting the property out on a short term basis. Airbnb was just starting to grow at that point, so I used it to fill gaps in between some bookings that I had managed to muster together through various contacts, and the rest is history. I started managing for others, then I started leasing, furnishing and sub-letting entire blocks, went into guesthouse and hotel management, launched Zeevou and set up the investment company.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

Define ‘interesting’. Perhaps I can go with ‘exciting’? If I were to exclude the time that I landed from a trans-atlantic flight to a whole flurry of missed calls and messages describing an attempted homicide at one of the properties due to a pimp going after some escorts that had managed to get through our checks and book their stay, it was probably the time that a guest’s Airbnb account got hacked. Well that doesn’t sound that exciting, I know, and neither did I think much of it when we got a booking and shortly afterwards a cancellation as the guest claimed their account had been hacked. It wasn’t until the next day though when a colleague who was doing a check-in at another flat in that block called me to query who had just been let into an apartment that did not show any bookings on our calendar. The penny dropped and I rushed half-way across town to find the culprits about to leave the apartment and jump into their car. Some quick thinking helped me block the car’s exit, and luckily police responded within minutes. While the three men who turned out to have been drug dealers were arrested following a 3-car plus a helicopter-assisted police chase, they were ultimately released as I was unable to prove that they had broken into the property. I guess one could call it ‘interesting’, but I’d rather describe it as ‘frustrating’ that although the police had caught them in the act, they were still allowed to walk free. I guess we all hope and pray for a more just world!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistake? Not sure I understand what that means… Well, ok, jokes aside, it was August. For some reason the market in Cambridge was funny in the summer. While you could sell your properties out ten times over in July, come August things went pretty dead. Faced with empty calendars, I scrambled to see what I could do to fill them up. I had previously asked a colleague to try and follow up with an application that I had submitted to join Booking.com, however nothing had come from it. So I took it upon myself and chased, and chased, and chased, until I was able to get them to list our properties on their site. At the time, they were predominantly focused on hotels, and listing a vacation rental on their site was a bit of a rarity. Their teams had not got the right expertise or staffing levels to deal with the increasing short term rental market, so it really took a push to get them to even respond to my initial request to get listed. Anyway, the listings went live and soon enough we got a booking for one of the properties. A few days before the guest’s arrival, I was appalled to find out that Booking.com did not handle payments. What?! I was totally amazed at how a booking site would send you a guest without having first collected payment from them. What’s more the guest wanted to pay by card! Luckily, I was able to get an iZettle ordered out at very short notice and managed to collect payment on arrival. While not so funny in the heat of the moment, I do look back and laugh at how little I knew at the time!

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

Hm, if I were to have to encapsulate it all into one point, it would probably be thinking that they are just renting out a property and not realizing that they are actually setting up a business, even if to start with they are only hosting a room in their house or a single self-catering unit. The reality is that hosting on Airbnb is only part of what is a much larger hospitality business that the host is embarking on. The sooner one realizes this, the better the chances of succeeding in setting up a profitable business, lowering the risk and increasing the profit margins. In the long term, what every host should be aiming to do is try to gain control over their sales funnel and take on ownership of their guests, build customer loyalty and drive direct bookings. There are many elements that feed into this for which it is important to have systems and processes set up correctly from day one, and I would say that the most common mistake is for people to disregard the importance of building up that rapport and keeping track of data, including the collection of marketing consent.

Another mistake that ties in to this, is that hosts often don’t value their own time when they start off. And by that I don’t only mean that they don’t delegate enough, as not everyone is seeking to achieve scale, but they also don’t attach a monetary remuneration value to the time that they spend in running various aspects of their business. This often leads to a false economy of trying to save every last penny in work they outsource or software they employ, and in the process also overlook the net positive effect on their bottom margin that utilising high quality services can bring, even when these come at a relatively higher cost.

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

Well I think it’s a question of learning from those who have been through some of this before, and that can take the form of mentorships or training courses, but for many that is an added expense that they may not be happy to undertake. That’s one of the reasons why at Zeevou we have launched the Zeevou Academy — to help everyone to have access to quality training materials on how to start and scale an STR business. I think that interacting with other hosts on a regular basis and sharing what one is learning can also go a long way to helping one to prevent losing out on potential opportunities. Lastly, I cannot overemphasise the importance of really carefully researching the software that hosts choose to run their business on, as each piece of kit will have been built based on certain assumptions on how hosts operate, and it is of paramount importance to ensure that the ideators of the software package that one ends up using understand the pain points of hosts in detail, have demonstrated that they address a fair number of these, and show a willingness to continue improving their product as well as the service that they provide to hosts. A software company that provides good customer service can help hosts prevent a lot of the pitfalls that they could face if they don’t set things up the right way from day one.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

The work that we have done in condensing the experience that we have obtained from operating as an Airbnb host and scaling that operation significantly is probably our single greatest contribution to other Airbnb hosts, and guests. By building tools that help automate processes from communications, to collection of guest details and their preferences, the signing of digital rental agreements and upselling extra like early check-ins or late check-outs, not only do we help reduce a lot of inefficiencies for both sides, but Zeevou also enables hosts to reduce the impact of human error on their business as a whole. Moreover, through the multi-host direct booking platform (Zeevou Direct) that we have developed and which shortly after launching was already featured on CNBC and the New York Times, we are now bringing hosts together to not only enable to them direct bookings through the websites that we provide for free to anyone who wishes to have one, but we are also facilitating the process of guests being able to book directly with hosts without having to pay any fees to a middleman through a centralised search engine.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Develop a sense of service: By this I mean realizing that being a host means being part of the hospitality industry, and that this in itself is an industry that should be focused around the service that we as hosts are providing to guests. No matter how tough many guests may be to deal with, one should always bear in mind that the aim should be to be of service to the guest and go above and beyond whenever possible.
  2. Display discipline and follow-through: If you find it difficult to go above and beyond, at least make sure you are doing what is expected of you to a high standard. Not only does that mean ensuring the place is clean and well-maintained, it also implies being prompt in your replies to guest queries, and ensuring that any special requests that you agree to deliver on are delivered on, and that all details of any such requests are given due importance.
  3. Regard it as a business, not a property strategy: Far too many hosts think of becoming an Airbnb host as just another property rental strategy. Far from it. Being an Airbnb host requires you to be on call 24/7, 365 days a year. As such, not only do you have to have the right expectations of the time and effort that building an Airbnb hosting business will take, but you also need to constantly try to find ways of how you can improve the guest experience and your profit margin (these are not competing interests), as at the end of the day for many hosts a lot can be on the line if they don’t manage to maintain a healthy profit from their rentals.
  4. Employ the right systems and processes: This ties in with what I was sharing earlier. If you are looking to build a long-term, sustainable business that can grow from strength to strength, don’t underestimate the value that a good set of systems can bring to the table. For many hosts, the management of the properties is done off-site, and given the remote nature of interactions with guests and staff, software really forms the backbone of your business, and you better make sure you’ve got a strong backbone if you don’t want to keep firefighting left, right and centre!
  5. Build a great team: Having said that, a piece of tech kit is just that — a tool. You cannot expect it to run the business for you. And you can’t really expect to be the only person involved in hosting a guest if you are serious about succeeding as an Airbnb host without sacrificing your lifestyle! So you will most definitely need some sort of a ‘team’ — even if that just consists of a housekeeper and an ad-hoc handyman. Again, the effect that any team members have on the success of your enterprise will be immense, so you better be very careful in who you select, and how you treat and nurture them once they’ve become part of your Airbnb hosting family.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

One where I can tell that the host has really put themselves in the shoes of me as a guest, has thought ahead about what I may need during my stay, and has provided accordingly. To me it would also be very important that any requests I may have made ahead of the booking that were agreed on are adhered to in detail, and that if there is an issue it is attended to very promptly. And to add the word perfect, I think I would also want to feel comfortable in the communications i have with the host so as to be able to conclude that they are welcoming and going above and beyond to make our stay comfortable. As a corollary, a small surprise upon arrival is always a welcome sight 😉

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

To be honest I don’t want to be presumptuous in saying that I have brought an immense degree of goodness to the world, but of course we all try our best to be of some service to others in our lives. I guess I have tried to be aware of the impact that our business has had on various stakeholders — be these owners, neighbours, or colleagues, and to best balance these so as to serve their needs to the best of my ability. As a company we have tried to maintain a diverse workplace, uphold equality and nurture respect and unity within the team as well as in our interactions with third parties. As part of this, I have always been conscious of trying to maintain a gender-balance in the makeup of the staff that we have hired, and in fact have always employed more women than men. I have also tried to create employment opportunities for sections of society that otherwise would not have been able to earn a respectable living for themselves, both locally to the properties and internationally for administrative staff based around the globe. We are trying to pay back to the hospitality community by contributing through the tech that we bring to the table for free. At the same time, through Paymán Investments we are trying to contribute to the regeneration of high streets and disused hotels and aim to turn them into community hubs for the local community whenever possible. From the early days, I have also tried to ensure that I have an adequate proportion of my time free to contribute to community-building activities in the communities that I have lived in, and to use my spare time to serve those who through their personal circumstances may have been in need of various types at a specific point in their life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, in terms of how I am seeking to contribute to the hospitality world, we are trying to kick start The Direct Booking Revolution! I believe that both hosts and guests would have a much better experience if they were to be able to communicate with each other freely and directly from enquiry to departure (or one hopes a second booking)! It is in light of this that we are making a large proportion of the tech behind Zeevou available free of charge to anyone who wishes to join the movement.

However, if we are talking about the greatest amount of good for the most amount of people, I do not think that I am able to lend the greatest influence by initiating a movement, but rather by participating in a global movement which has already been underway for almost two centuries and which has spread to the most remote corners of the globe! It is a movement that aims to bring true freedom to every soul on this planet — what greater good can there be? And just as I am not the best person to initiate a movement of such magnificent proportions, I am probably also not the best person to describe it, so I will call on what others have written of the Bahá’í Faith and Bahá’u’lláh, its Founder: “Bahá’u’lláh came to set humanity free. His Revelation is, indeed, an invitation to freedom — freedom from want, freedom from war, freedom to unite, freedom to progress, freedom in peace and joy.”

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

I am active on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/naimanispaymanofficial), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/naimanispayman/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/naimanispayman/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/naimanispayman).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thanks for having me — I hope every member of the audience has been able to pick up some sort of value from what I shared with you today!


Na’ím Anís Paymán of Zeevou: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jen Smith of Modern Frugality: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

I love an all-inclusive experience. Whether it’s a resort or a cruise, I just like someone to tell me where to be so I don’t have to plan it myself. And even better when I don’t have to pull out my wallet to pay for anything. It’s the opposite of my real life!

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Smith.

Jen Smith is a personal finance writer at ModernFrugality.com and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. She and her husband paid off $78,000 of debt in two years by lowering their spending and increasing their income with side hustles.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

My husband and I got married in 2015 and our first goal was to pay off the $78K of debt we had between us. We had planned for it to take five years but we got so focused with cutting our spending and side hustling that it took us exactly 23 months. That’s what led me to a career in writing personal finance and our interest in side hustles has never gone away.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

We probably should’ve never gotten into Airbnb so it’s funny to see where we are now. We were renting one half of a duplex while we were paying off our student loans and were happy there because the rent was so cheap. But one day our landlord called us and said he wanted to turn the duplex into an Airbnb so we had to be out in 6 weeks. That’s what led us to buy a house quite unexpectedly. We ended up getting a 3/2 and since it was just the two of us and our master bedroom was in the back of the house we thought renting out the guest room and second bathroom would be a good way to monetize our underutilized space. I guess I should thank our old landlord for giving us the idea.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

Our second guests ever were a young couple getting ready to move overseas. They were getting rid of all their things and we hung out a lot during their 10 days with us. After they checked out they left us a few “gifts” including some children’s books because they knew we wanted kids but they also left us a backpack with a full set of s&m gear and a note that said “it was a gift, only used once.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It wasn’t funny at the time but now I can look back and laugh. We went out of town for a week and had a young couple stay while we were gone. I made the mistake of telling them we wouldn’t be there during their stay and they kind of took over the common areas. We got home and it looked like we’d rented out our whole house. From that point on, even if we were out of town, I wouldn’t tell guests. When they thought we’d be home they were much more respectful of the shared spaces.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

I see this today when looking through Airbnb, bad photos. People overuse the “fisheye” or “panoramic” effect all the time. People know it’s used to make spaces look bigger so it just makes them think the spaces are even smaller than they probably are. And some pictures are so cluttered. Less is definitely more when showing off your space.

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

Good lighting and minimalist design are key to taking great pictures. Avoid over photoshopping and please stop using the fisheye or panoramic photos.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

I think hosting people in our home without a separate entrance is pretty unique, even though that’s what Airbnb was meant to be! Offering an affordable stay with a live-in local is a traveler’s dream.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

Here’s the link to the article where I talk about all that.

  1. Take great pictures
  2. Use positive descriptors in your listing
  3. Get a great mattress
  4. Answer questions before they’re asked
  5. Instead of pricing yourself low, offer more so you can charge competitively

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I love an all-inclusive experience. Whether it’s a resort or a cruise, I just like someone to tell me where to be so I don’t have to plan it myself. And even better when I don’t have to pull out my wallet to pay for anything. It’s the opposite of my real life!

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I share my successes on ModernFrugality.com and on the Frugal Friends Podcast to encourage others to think outside the box when saving and earning money. Paying off debt and building wealth take a lot of self discipline but hearing the stories of others who’ve had success has always been the most motivating thing for me so my goal is to motivate others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think going deeper is more impactful than going wider. I’m passionate about children and teens experiencing trauma from the foster care system. I believe if we can start a movement of families pouring in, getting attached, and loving one or two children at a time, the ripple effect of that movement would help countless futures.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

I’m @modernfrugality everywhere on social media. I’m currently doing a lot of quick investing explainers on TikTok. And if you’re a podcast listener who loves saving money, minimalism, and intentional living then subscribe to the Frugal Friends Podcast.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Jen Smith of Modern Frugality: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Emmy Winner Jonathan Davila of Diamond View On How Their Technological…

The Future Is Now: Emmy Winner Jonathan Davila of Diamond View On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Filmmaking

It’s OK to not have all the answers right away. When we were first getting Diamond View off the ground, we put ourselves out there to network as much as possible. We learned to reach out to peers and other business leaders to further our understanding of how to best navigate new circumstances. As a business leader, your best resources are often other business owners.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Davila.

Jon is the President of Diamond View, a five time Emmy award-winning creative video agency with notable clients like the Atlanta Braves, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Jack Daniels, Hyatt and many more. Since its inception, Diamond View has been focused on creating a place that uses its gift of video as a force for good. They believe the stories we tell today shape the world we live in tomorrow. Jon graduated with Honors from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science. Early in his life, Jon explored a career in medicine based on his experience of donating bone marrow to his older brother as he battled leukemia. However, Jon’s path to a degree in Medicine changed in 2010 when he partnered with his best friend and CEO of Diamond View, Tim Moore, who convinced Jon to quit his job at a local hospital to pursue a business endeavor in professional video production. Today, Diamond View has 27 employees and an 10,000 square foot studio in Tampa that serves as Diamond View’s headquarters, as well as satellite offices in Atlanta and Miami. Jon is also an active supporter of the USF Alumni Association, a founding member of The Tampa Foundation, and a Judge for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jon lives in Tampa and is married to his wife of five years Olivia Davila. Together they have a puppy named Jax.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I began my career in the medical field working as a Unit Coordinator at a local hospital. One day, my best friend and college roommate, Tim Moore, convinced me to quit my job and launch a professional video production company named “Diamond View Studios” alongside him. He jokingly wrote my resignation letter for me, I handed it in, and Diamond View was launched that same day. Since then, I’ve grown with the company and currently sit as Diamond View’s President.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m not sure what tops the forged letter of resignation, but one other thing that comes to mind is the purchase of our headquarters in Tampa, Florida. This building sat vacant for years as a foreclosure after the 2008 recession. Tim and I drove by it every day on our way to classes, and woulday to one another “watch…one day we’re going to work out of there,” sure enough, just a few years later, we were in a position to purchase the building. Over the years, we’ve transformed it into a space where great ideas can flourish and an environment that inspires our employees and visitors alike.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Currently, we’re building out a new 10,000 square-foot virtual production studio called that’s equipped with the most technologically advanced gear for extended reality. Essentially, virtual production refers to the combination of physical and digital elements to create hyper-realistic environments, and it was recently popularized by Lucasfilm’s hit Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.” Unlike conventional filmmaking, virtual production removes all creative boundaries and allows you to shoot anywhere in the world, allowing us to produce content more efficiently and safely than ever before.

What makes it so impactful for the industry right now is that it allows us to produce content more efficiently, saving time and money, and helps us mitigate risks associated with travel and uncertain circumstances. It will also help people long-term by democratizing film in the sense that with virtual sets any filmmaker in the world could have access to it, not just, say, Hollywood studios with deep pockets.

How do you think this might change the world?

The biggest long-term effect is the power of this technology to democratize the film industry and create new filmmaking hubs like Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta, across the world. With virtual sets, any filmmaker in the world could potentially have access to a scene or environment without the cost of what would normally coincide with building a set or traveling to the location. Also, because virtual production incorporates so many different technologies across several industries, it provides the opportunity for experts and industries to work together, and potentially creates entirely new jobs and skill sets.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Virtual production technology has really changed the film industry for the better. But, like with any new technology we need to continue to be conscious about how we use and implement it. Uncle Ben once said “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Really, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is what accelerated our adoption of this early technology. In March 2020, our on-site projects were getting cancelled left and right and we had to get creative with how to continue shooting. It started with a small investment in an LED wall for our in-house studio, and quickly led to a larger investment in an entire space dedicated to this type of technology and filming.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The technology is new and efficient, it’s only a matter of time before widespread adoption. Right now we need to keep producing content with virtual production to prove that it’s just as effective as shooting on location, with several added benefits as well.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’ve been marketing heavily through national media outlets, trade publications, as well leveraging social media and email campaigns. One thing that’s unique about publicizing is that the concept is so new we have to focus on educating our audience on the technology and what it can do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m so grateful to my business partner, Tim Moore, for being an inspirational leader and the hardest worker I know. Tim is a guy who dreams big, but hustles harder and somehow still finds the time and energy to be an awesome dad to his two young boys, Maddox and Bentley. He doesn’t just work hard, but he lives life hard, and there’s no one else I’d rather work with and learn alongside than him! I’m also forever grateful for the physicians at the hospital that I worked for who helped guide me into a future that I never saw coming; they saw in me what I hadn’t yet seen in myself, and that’s something no “thank you” could ever fully encompass. And lastly, for my Mom and Dad; my parents never graduated high school, but worked tirelessly to provide for our family of 5. They taught me what it meant to work hard and instilled it in me from as early on as I can remember. A person’s work ethic is often a result of the work ethic of those around them and I’m very lucky to have had such role models in my life to grow me into the leader I am today. It takes a leader to make, inspire, and build a leader…and a great one, at that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Here at Diamond View, our motto is to use “video as a force for good”, and I’m proud to be a part of that. We aim to create content that inspires the masses because we are fully aware of just how powerful a video could be. We’re fully committed to being the “good” in the world and recently became BCorp certified which is considered to be one of the highest standards for social and environmental impact and has a rigorous selection process to certify companies that are doing good at scale. Diamond View also created a 501c(3) arm known as the Tampa Foundation, which aims to inspire Tampa Bay with positive, public art and murals that showcase empowering messages. These murals can be found all over the city, as well as in underprivileged schools and communities, in order to encourage people to believe in themselves. With , we also have the unique opportunity to be the first to introduce this cutting-edge technology to the next generation of students and creators. As part of phase 2 of construction, we plan to build a smaller, secondary virtual production studio designated for use by local schools, universities, and educational programs. We feel that this will put our community a step ahead by producing and retaining top talent across many industries.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s ok to not have all the answers right away. When we were first getting Diamond View off the ground, we put ourselves out there to network as much as possible. We learned to reach out to peers and other business leaders to further our understanding of how to best navigate new circumstances. As a business leader, your best resources are often other business owners.
  2. It’s ok to not be an “expert” when you start. Trial and error taught us everything we know here, and we’ve self-taught along the way. There’s several times we’ve faced creative or logistical challenges, but we like the pressure because it forces us to innovate which ultimately sets us up to be ahead of the game down the road.
  3. Failure doesn’t mean defeat. It’s important to be transparent with your team and help them not to feel defeated when something doesn’t go as planned. Throughout the years, we’ve made mistakes where we lost bids or lost footage. But each of those missteps taught us a lot about perseverance and bouncing back with a better strategy for next time.
  4. Be prepared to sacrifice, early, often and at the most inconvenient times. A ‘startup’ really requires a ton of attention, time, and effort thus making it difficult at first to find balance. In my early days at Diamond View, sometimes the trade off would be not leaving the office until 2 in the morning, or sacrificing 2–3 hours of sleep on the weekend to not miss a birthday party but still be able to do these things and while putting in the maximum effort at work every day.
  5. Read these books. The One Thing, Delivering Happiness, and Tools of Titans. I think reading books about business and company culture will spark ideas on how to navigate issues at work during the startup phase specifically. They gave me some great tools to help build a strong company culture at Diamond View.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire any movement, it would be a positivity movement. Nowadays, especially in light of the past year, it seems like we’re trapped with consuming negative content. You turn on the TV and the news tells you about rising COVID-19 numbers, you go on social media and see a new social injustice, you hang out with your friends and all anyone can talk about is the pandemic. It’s easy for negativity to become all-consuming and, in turn, it negatively impacts us at the core mentally, physically, and emotionally. Mental health is crucial to overall health; besides the need to be emotionally healthy and happy for sanity’s sake, it is also proven that poor mental health can evolve into physical health issues. The people of the world deserve to be happy and healthy and with the right dose of positivity, it can change someone’s entire day, year, or life path.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We’re not there yet, but we’re coming.” This quote, in particular, is significant to me because we had it written on a piece of wood in our very first Diamond View office. It served as a reminder that we’re on our way to great things, and with a little hard work and determination, we can achieve it. The same piece of wood has traveled with us to every office since. It reminds me of what we came from, all that we’ve achieved, and what’s still to come.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Here’s an opportunity for a VC to invest in the future of the video production industry which earned over $96 billion dollars in 2019. Feature virtual productions such as “The Mandalorian” have proven to be wildly successful with highly anticipated releases. Additionally, no other studio in the world has built what we’re creating with Vū. It not only features one of the largest LED volumes in the world, but it’s also the first XR studio open to commercial production on a regular basis. Like we like to say, “if you’re not first, you’re last”, so it’s extremely important to stay ahead of the curve and keep a competitive advantage.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can keep up with us on our website, DiamondView.io, on Instagram @diamondview, on YouTube at DiamondViewStudios, on Twitter @Diamond_View, and on Facebook at Diamond View Studios. We also just launched Instagram for Vū @vustudioofficial

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Emmy Winner Jonathan Davila of Diamond View On How Their Technological… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jared Fenton of The Reflect Organization: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness…

Jared Fenton of The Reflect Organization: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

While social media, so often, is not a force for good, I believe it can be. For instance, Reflect uses our social media as a force for inspiration and positivity, helping people engage with our core values of authenticity, allyship, self-love, and student empowerment.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Jared Fenton, Founder and Executive Director of The Reflect Organization.

Jared Fenton is Founder and Executive Director of The Reflect Organization, a national mental wellness nonprofit (501c3) with college and university chapters, dedicated to empowering students to foster a culture of authenticity, self-love, and allyship on campus.

Reflect was founded at University of Pennsylvania in 2015 by executive director Jared Fenton, who produced the first-ever mixed-methods research examining the phenomenon of “Penn Face,” which refers to the “mask of effortless perfection” students at the University of Pennsylvania felt the need to wear day-to-day, hiding true feelings such as loneliness, unhappiness, and isolation, proving incredibly debilitating and harmful to their mental wellness. After teaming up with some of the foremost experts on mental health in the country to launch Reflect at the University of Pennsylvania (aka “Penn Reflect”), the organization expanded to launch chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

In the years since inception, Reflect has collaborated with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and the American Association of Suicidology’s Public Health Committee (helping to lead its working group for Equity in Suicide Prevention Resources). Reflect also created a Resource and Activity Guide to help students cope during the COVID-19 crisis, which the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee ordered for distribution to over 170,000 Division I athletes in the country. Reflect has also run training sessions on Penn Face, Imposter Syndrome, Active Listening, and Supportive Intervention for myriad organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania, in order to better support students’ mental wellness.

Jared has been honored by numerous mental health organizations for his work in the field, and was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by Barack Obama. He’s also been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Stuff You Should Know Podcast, and spoken as a panelist for discussions about Gen Z wellness, focusing on social media. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, with a BA in Political Science and a certificate from the Civic Scholars Program for Social Action and Civic Engagement.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

From a young age, I always was interested in wellness. This interest started with regard to physical wellness (I remember my excitement about helping teach gym class at my high school), and as I got older, my interest in mental wellness grew. It was with this burgeoning interest in mental wellness that I went off to college.

Not knowing too many people at my school, I decided I would get lunch with a person who was sitting alone every day. I noticed that while these students were open to my getting lunch with them, they were not open about who they were and what they actually were feeling. Day after day, each new student seemed to be living a “perfect” life.

Halfway through my first year in school, a classmate of mine, named Maddy Holleran, died by suicide. After Maddy’s death, Kate Fagan came out with a story called “Split Image”, alluding to the discrepancy between the “perfect” image of Maddy portrayed to the outside world and the real image of Maddy. At the end of my first year of school, I found one of my friends in crisis. Thankfully, this friend is alive and well today.

It was after these experiences that I said to myself, “Okay, I have to do something to support college students’ mental wellness. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I’m going to research it until I figure it out.” I carried out the first mixed-methods research into an aspect of college student mental wellness called “Penn Face,” and, ultimately, I used my understanding from that research to found a national mental wellness nonprofit called The Reflect Organization.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A common theme running through my discussions with college administrators is their desire to foster innovators; they want their institutions to forge the next generation of people who will change the world.

Yet, in my view, the ability of students to be innovators is hampered by a campus culture of loneliness, isolation, and masking. Sticking out in my mind is a group of artists who always would attend our programs. Even though these artists had ideas in their minds, which, literally, the world had never before seen, they shared with me that prior to our programs, they felt they had to keep these ideas buried on the inside in order to fit in.

Today’s colleges are packed with students who have ideas that could change the world. Is it not a shame when these students, instead of becoming empowered and inspired, feel pressured to abandon their innovative ideas, put on masks of effortless perfection, and suffer silently? I believe it is.

But it does not have to be this way. I believe that by working collaboratively to empower students to break down the standard which says, “you should be this” and replace it with the message that “you should be you,” we can usher in a new chapter of cultivating wellness on campus and promoting innovation like we never before have seen.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on a number of such projects, especially given the impact of the pandemic on student wellness. Even before the pandemic, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among college-aged students (ACHA), and the CDC reports that since March, 25% of 18- to 24-year-olds have had serious thoughts of suicide.

In response to this, and in alignment with the broad-based transition to virtual, Reflect has expanded our services to hundreds of thousands of new students through online peer-support gatherings, trainings, workshops, resource provision, messaging campaigns, internships, and more. As we look toward the future, the virtual programming we have put into place will continue to operate as our physical programs become operational once more, thereby enabling our organization to serve students more accessibly and more effectively than ever before.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

In addition to serving as executive director of a mental wellness nonprofit organization that has spent years focused on the issue of college student loneliness, I produced the first mixed-methods research on an aspect of college student mental wellness related to student loneliness called “Penn Face.” This research has since been extended and served as a basis for national policy recommendations regarding creating campus environments that promote flourishing. Furthermore, Reflect has the privilege of being directed and advised by some of the top minds in mental wellness in the country. The level of expertise we bring to our work is intentional and a point of pride for our organization.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

There is cause for concern about the impact of loneliness and isolation on the health of individuals and society, especially during this time when many are confined to their residences. The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that “social isolation has been found to be as harmful to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and people who are socially isolated or lonely face higher risk of hospitalization; depression, anxiety and suicide; heart failure and stroke; dementia; and even premature death.”

Through positive connectedness, we can foster a society that builds resilience, helps to break cycles of adversity, celebrates the unique value in each person, and encourages people to support each other, pursue their passions, and be proud to be their true selves. The key to unlocking this society is addressing the loneliness and isolation that are so present today.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

I think it is notable that in the early days of Facebook, your timeline, the place where you are supposed to share your authentic self with the world, was called your “wall.” Even though social media exists, theoretically, to connect us, it so often divides, discourages, and isolates people, as comparison and competition runs rampant.

In our research, a number of students pointed to a culture of competition and comparison as a driver of loneliness. We referenced Penn Face earlier, which goes by different names at different institutions. At a West Coast institution, students have written about the “Duck Syndrome,” the phenomenon of appearing graceful on the surface like a duck, while, in actuality, one is struggling to stay afloat. At one southern institution, students have coined “The Undertow,” alluding to a force beneath the surface, unseen by others, which is dragging them down. Students are meticulously curating their outside images, attempting to meet an impossible ideal while left feeling like imposters in their own skin. Penn Face, Duck Syndrome, and The Undertow even have been described as the “academic incarnation” of the social media campaign #WokeUpLikeThis. This campaign featured pictures of individuals claiming to have woken up in the conditions the pictures showed, yet, upon further investigation, many of these photos were revealed to have been staged.

While social media, so often, is not a force for good, I believe it can be. For instance, Reflect uses our social media as a force for inspiration and positivity, helping people engage with our core values of authenticity, allyship, self-love, and student empowerment.

Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

Core to our work at Reflect is a concept, coming to us from a member of our Advisory Board named Dr. Ken Ginsburg, called “one caring person.” This concept states that if you can be nonjudgmental, a dependable presence, and believe in another to be their best self, then you can help a person to build resilience and break cycles of adversity.

I would urge people, as they are able, to be this one caring person for one or more people. Anyone can be this one caring person, and there are no specific words you have to say. It is just about trying your best; it is about how you make another person feel.

Importantly, if you are going to be this one caring person, please keep self-care in mind. Not only does everyone deserve self-care, but also, if you hope to help others effectively, it is essential that, like on an airplane, you “secure your own oxygen mask” first.

For a deeper view into the concept of one caring person and a great example of this concept put into practice, I encourage people, as they are able, to check out the documentary Paper Tigers. (In the film, they use the term “one caring adult.”)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement toward living defined by allyship, authenticity, self-love, and empowerment. I would encourage people to care for themselves and endeavor to be that one caring person for each other. Such a movement, literally, could change lives, save lives, and transform society. It is this movement that our organization works to help spark.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would welcome the opportunity to have breakfast or lunch with Chuck Feeney, who recently finished donating his entire $8B fortune to charity. Chuck has transformed philanthropy and impacted multitudes. I would be grateful for the opportunity to learn from him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thanks for asking. As I mentioned before, at Reflect, we are intentional in using social media as a force for inspiration and positivity, helping people engage with our core values of authenticity, allyship, self-love, and student empowerment. You can engage with us below!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thereflectorg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thereflectorg

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-reflect-organization

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Jared Fenton of The Reflect Organization: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Roberta J Cordano of Gallaudet University: Why We Should Teach Everyone Sign Language From Birth

Roberta J. Cordano of Gallaudet University: Why We Should Teach Everyone Sign Language From Birth

…America would become a model of belonging and inclusiveness for the world. The cost of missing the foundational language opportunities from birth is astronomical, especially for deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind children. It creates an uneven playing field from the beginning, limiting options for communication that has lifetime educational and economic consequences. Visual language and visual learning will change the world by greatly reducing the disconnection and lack of language exposure a monolingual society places on all of its children and on millions of deaf and hard of hearing people. All Americans, from the baby born deaf to the grandparent becoming hard of hearing, would still be able to communicate with their loved ones. Sign language for all babies would also provide a much-needed boost to our education system, helping to remedy many inter-related social inequities for all children, and especially deaf and hard of hearing people. At Gallaudet, we have advanced AI technology, including an avatar that can detect when a baby’s brain is able to acquire language and interact with babies to expose them to language, and we have the digital, motion expertise to capture and document sign languages and gestures.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roberta J. Cordano.

Roberta J. “Bobbi” Cordano is the 11th president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. She is the fourth deaf president, and the first deaf female president, in the university’s history. In office since January 1, 2016, Cordano has brought new energy and transformational leadership to the role, leading strategic planning, academic innovation, and new approaches to higher education service and delivery. She has prioritized language vibrancy and highlighted Gallaudet’s unique economic contribution to the vast sign language economy. She is committed to creating economic and leadership opportunities for deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind individuals. As Gallaudet navigates the novel coronavirus pandemic, she has committed to bilingual learning through digital means. She also is deeply committed to leading the university’s multidimensional anti-racism initiative.

A seasoned, proven administrator and leader, Cordano brings to her presidency skills and experience built in both traditional and non-traditional settings. She was previously vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. She also held leadership roles in the healthcare industry, with Allina Health, the Park Nicollet Institute, and Park Nicollet Health Services. Earlier in her career, she was an educational administrator at the University of Minnesota and an assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota. She was a founder of two charter schools for deaf and hard of hearing children in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

A 1987 graduate of Beloit College, Cordano received her Juris Doctor degree in 1990 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is fluent in American Sign Language and English.

Thank you so much for joining us Roberta! Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Early in my legal career I was hospitalized for a medical emergency. This led to a chance encounter with a physician on my team of care who was a fluent signer after becoming a father of a deaf child. He was thrilled to meet a deaf lawyer and I was thrilled to meet a doctor who could sign fluently! When he discharged me, he shared that he, his wife, and other parents were actively working with the deaf community and a few educators on establishing a charter school to teach with both American Sign Language (ASL) and English, following new research from Gallaudet University about the importance of visual learning for deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind children. He indicated that the board needed a deaf attorney and invited a conversation to discuss this after I had recovered. My life has never been the same since.

Though I was a child of deaf parents who signed, I was sent to the public schools because I had residual hearing and everyone felt it important to see if I could succeed in the aural, spoken language environment in the public school system first. Learning through sign language at our local deaf school was a “last resort.” The result meant that never once in my entire educational experience did any teacher show interest in me showing my knowledge in ASL. ASL, like many other non-English languages that children use in their homes, is not valued or appreciated in nearly all of our school systems, public or private.

As I worked with this committed group of parents, community members and educators, it was an awakening where I realized what was missing for me. This was an opportunity to show our country and our educational system that we can have educational excellence through teaching in a visual language (ASL) and in an aural-based language (English). That was the commitment I made to myself and to future generations of children and learners — to build a school that would prove this. By our 7th year, Metro Deaf School’s diverse student body was performing at the top 25 percentile of deaf and hard of children in the nation.

The experience of founding Metro Deaf School catapulted me into an unexpected leadership role on the eve that the board was faced with the final decision to open the school. The board chair unexpectedly resigned that night before the motion was made and deliberated. That night, at the age of 29, I became a board chair and we voted to open the school with eight students. This experience pushed the boundaries of my knowledge, emotional capacity, and spiritual wisdom time and time again.

After nearly 10 years of building the pre-K-8 Metro Deaf School, I left that board to build a new high school, Minnesota North Star Academy, for the graduates of MDS, who were looking to continue their education bilingually. By the end of my service, I helped lead the merger of the two schools into one entity, Metro Deaf School. I served on the boards of both schools for about 16 years.

This experience allowed me to stay grounded in my identity as a deaf person fluent in sign language, while working in a world that knew little about my community and the challenges of living and working as a deaf person. Success required us to grow and learn together. This experience deeply influenced the leader I have become today.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

There are three primary principles that have served me well and continue to guide me in both life and career. I share these frequently with students and colleagues.

Always accept and embrace the road less traveled. This has been the story of my life and as Robert Frost says in his famous poem, it has made all the difference.

Patience and perseverance are cornerstones to experiencing success and joy. Helen Pence Williams, a close family friend we lovingly called “Aunt Penny,” encouraged me in one of my most difficult moments to remember the three Ps: patience, perseverance, and power, with power meaning the ability to positively support and influence others and experiencing personal strength and resolve.

Read, learn, and keep trying. My parents were wonderful role models of leadership and success. They taught me the importance of reading, the commitment to learning and growth and to reject the word “can’t.” There’s a wonderful ASL concept that conveys this simply: The sign “CAN’T” is made with the index finger of one hand pushing down the index finger of the other hand. Then, to convey the rejection of “CAN’T” from our vocabulary, we lift the same finger that pushed down the other one back up in defiance of the “CAN’T” sign. We always can do it.

My experience with my parents and their peers who graduated from Gallaudet and with the strong Deaf community in my hometown of Delavan, Wisconsin, supported a deep understanding that deaf people can do anything with sign language. They lived bilingual lives, thriving in a strong deaf community that was embedded in a larger hearing, English-dominant world. My mother, for example, was the first deaf woman in the United States, and likely the world, to become a chief medical technologist of a hospital laboratory, a pioneer in health care. My father was one of the winningest football coaches among residential schools for the deaf in the U.S. The collectivistic nature of our community was key to our rich sense of self and possibilities in the world. They were my teachers about the power of collective commitment in breaking down barriers and creating a better world for future generations.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

My big idea is straightforward — teach everyone, deaf or hearing, sign language from birth.

I am using “sign language” instead of American Sign Language as there are hundreds of sign languages and sign language dialects used throughout the world, including American Sign Language and Black Sign Language in the U.S., and protactile sign languages used by deafblind people. This idea is one that I hope to see not just in America, but worldwide.

As humans, we are wired to communicate with each other. The greatest challenge of losing one’s hearing, as many readers will attest, is the loss of connection to others by not being able to fully hear the spoken language being used. Hearing loss is a human condition that nearly everyone will experience in their lifetime — it is not limited to children who are born deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.

My grandparents’ oldest child, my mother, lost her hearing from spinal meningitis at the age of 4. My grandparents were told not to sign with my mother. My grandfather began to lose his hearing later after the age of 50. For the last two decades of his life, he was functionally deaf. To communicate, my grandparents used a white board with each other. They also relied on writing to communicate fully with my mother. In contrast, two of my mother’s siblings learned basic sign language and were able to communicate with her throughout their lives. My grandmother often told me how she wished she and my grandfather learned to sign because it would have supported both of them as they aged and it would have deepened their ability to connect with my mother, with each other, and with our family.

After I started practicing law and working in different sectors in my career, I witnessed many examples of successful, hard-working people in their 50s and 60s becoming isolated from their families and friends, and some losing their jobs. Certainly, there are other factors in this competitive society that cause job losses at that time of life, yet, it is striking to see how adding hearing loss to the mix can become terminal for some in their employment, particularly if it is not acknowledged and addressed. Many people realize too late that hearing loss causes them to miss important information in meetings and creates misunderstandings. Many people who experience hearing loss start to withdraw from their friends and family and lose their sense of confidence. According to a Johns Hopkins study, people with mild to severe hearing losses are significantly more likely to experience early onset of dementia if there is no intervention (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss). I witnessed people losing their jobs and falling into despair. The costs to them and their families were way too high and unnecessary. This is preventable.

From a public health perspective, expanding sign language offerings for all children is the best protective measure against hearing loss over a lifetime. Baby sign language is wildly popular with parents in the U.S. because babies can communicate with their hands before they can speak. This allows them to communicate with their parents before they become fully agitated. Ironically though, while signing for babies has become increasingly popular and touted as a “must” for hearing babies, deaf babies are being denied access to sign language, often on the recommendation of medical and health professionals, leading to devastating lifetime consequences. Too often we focus on “fixing” the children who become deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, forgetting that hearing loss is a human condition experienced by a much larger population.

I propose that we turn this around and see our children who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind as our teachers for how we can live lives where we are more connected and feel a sense of belonging with each other. If our country supports early access to sign language and English bilingualism, all children will experience lifetime benefits in their brain development, ranging from improved eye-tracking, complex thinking skills and improved reading skills. As importantly, we will prevent undiagnosed children with a range of hearing losses from experiencing critical language acquisition delays, which has a lifelong impact.

As people age and experience the normal course of hearing loss, they will not be cut off from their family, friends, and colleagues. Everyone would have a second language to depend on, allowing connection and communication to continue unabated, regardless of hearing status.

The benefits of American Sign Language are well-researched and known, including at our Visual Language and Visual Learning lab. More information on studies can be found on the VL2 website. In my conversations with some of our leading education and cognitive educational neuroscience researchers at Gallaudet University, they affirmed that languages acquired before age 5 create an early neurological imprint that lasts a lifetime. It is never “lost,” even if a person does not use that language throughout their lives until they are much older.

How do you think this will change the world?

America would become a model of belonging and inclusiveness for the world.

The cost of missing the foundational language opportunities from birth is astronomical, especially for deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind children. It creates an uneven playing field from the beginning, limiting options for communication that has lifetime educational and economic consequences. Visual language and visual learning will change the world by greatly reducing the disconnection and lack of language exposure a monolingual society places on all of its children and on millions of deaf and hard of hearing people. All Americans, from the baby born deaf to the grandparent becoming hard of hearing, would still be able to communicate with their loved ones. Sign language for all babies would also provide a much-needed boost to our education system, helping to remedy many inter-related social inequities for all children, and especially deaf and hard of hearing people. At Gallaudet, we have advanced AI technology, including an avatar that can detect when a baby’s brain is able to acquire language and interact with babies to expose them to language, and we have the digital, motion expertise to capture and document sign languages and gestures.

For most of my life many have assumed that deaf children must either learn to speak English or learn to sign. Our parents, educators, and communities struggled to reconcile the rhetoric, which was often feverish in its zeal that English and speaking English must be dominant and exclusively used. In the past two decades, with the emergence of scientific research about the amazing capacity of the brain, science has caught up to the lived experience of so many, including me, that having both, learning sign language, and English (both through reading, and if the child is interested and able, spoken English), is totally possible and, indeed, optimal. The popularity of baby sign language has also shattered and softened the rhetoric because it started to show the benefits of sign language for so many, especially parents who want to connect with their children before they are able to speak. Learning sign language has become a biological imperative because of the natural developmental milestones of the human body and brain.

We must take this further and make it a biological, neurological, social, and public health imperative. America would establish a fail-safe or to use another metaphor, guard rails, to assure the success of every child by assuring that all of our babies will have immediate access to visual language from birth guaranteeing a lifetime of learning, growth, and social, developmental, and economic success. For those who are born or later become deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, they will be already equipped with a second language to tap.

Everyone’s world gets bigger, not smaller.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The key drawback is the potential for appropriation by the hearing community and a loss of ownership of sign language by deaf people who are the primary producers and linguistic masters of sign languages. We see this currently, where signing is promoted for hearing babies and discouraged for deaf babies. In the United States, ASL is taught in high schools and colleges across the country in rapidly increasing numbers, and yet many deaf students in those same schools have not had the opportunity to learn ASL throughout their life. This is unacceptable, counterintuitive, and frankly mind-boggling.

Deaf people created sign language and are the heart and soul of this “big idea.” As sign language is taught to everyone, it should never be at the expense of deaf people. Deaf people are the guardians of sign languages and they must be the teachers and center of this initiative to teach sign language to everyone. Holding this value means that deaf people will have employment opportunities and wealth creation is possible based on recognizing the value we create for the world.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Yes. I always did very well in school. I often wondered: what does it take to be successful in school? I realized that it was my foundation of language that I got from my parents. Both of my parents are deaf so I was raised with American Sign Language in the home from birth. Additionally, we had 14 different publications coming to my house on a regular basis on a wide variety of subjects and from a variety of viewpoints. We were always, always reading. So much of my success came from the dual foundation my family provided me — American Sign Language and English through reading.

When I was a junior in high school, I gave an extemporaneous speech in a Forensics competition on the history of American Sign Language. I opened my presentation with a poem, signing it in ASL. As I signed it, there was no voicing, only silence and the beauty of the visual language. When I was done, I did it again, this time in both sign language and then used my voice so the audience could connect with what I was signing. All the judges were hearing. There were no interpreters. I won the state championship. It was a formative moment in my life, showing the power of a bilingual approach to address language inequities. It was the first point that I felt my life was “integrated” and “whole” in showing my full self. It revealed to me the beauty of sharing knowledge and storytelling using both languages. I felt tremendous personal achievement when I won the state championship.

When I had the opportunity to join the community to build a bilingual charter school, this was one of the memories that drove my efforts. The memory reminds me that deaf people have value, that sign language has value, that communication and connection can be achieved through both languages — and that has value. We just need to realize that value and the big idea is a step in this direction.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need enlightened individuals or organizations, difference-makers, who truly want to implement sign language to improve the human condition for everyone in our country and the world. And, in doing so, understand deeply that this will also begin to equalize the playing field for all children, especially those who experience disparities in access to language.

We also need a general American shift that recognizes, accepts, and supports the fact that access to language and communication is a fundamental human right, it is central to life and liberty, and it comes in many forms and dimensions. Spoken language is not the only language privileged in the human brain. Sign languages are also equally privileged in the brain. Science has proved this.

Ideally, I would like to work with federal, corporate, foundation, and nonprofit leaders to establish a commission of experts to study and implement this idea at the national level. This idea will take policy change and some redesigning of health care benefits to include language acquisition necessary for brain development, school and education systems to support children and families after the age of 3, and public health systems to build the equivalent success we saw with implementing seat belts for public safety and health. Governors and legislatures nationwide would also need to be involved and support this at the state level.

Gallaudet has several programs that could assist with this idea. The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center is our birth-21 program. In addition to running two schools, they also operate a national mission program which provides resources to educators and families across the country. They are tasked with developing and disseminating innovative curricula, instructional techniques, and products nationwide while providing information, training, and technical assistance for parents and professionals to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students.

Additionally, our Motion Light Lab is working on many exciting and innovative ways to enhance literacy and make ASL learning accessible and fun. For example, they have created many storybook apps that tell stories in ASL and English, giving children (and adults!) the opportunity to explore and learn in both languages. We also have ASL Connect, an online learning platform that teaches ASL and Deaf Studies.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Mistakes are important milestones of learning. I deeply appreciate the emerging science around learning, especially about developmental mindsets versus fixed mindsets (Dweck, C.S., 2006, Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House). I wish that while I was in school more emphasis was placed on making and taking time for myself and with others in our teams in school to “getting it right” rather than doing it in the “right” way. Until I had my Rhetoric professor in college, I used to think of writing as something I had to “get right,” rather than a process that is best when we savor our thinking and ideas over time. In that class she taught us the skill of taking time with an idea for as long as a week, to develop, edit, and refine our thinking starting with a 10-word sentence and ending in a final essay of 100 words a week later. So often writing is a challenge because so many people have different notions of good writing, so we get into a trap of seeking a goal of perfection that is really not attainable and we end up being blocked in expressing ourselves.

Life and success are not linear paths. I’ve learned that the greatest opportunities come when I’m willing to deviate from what I have thought or was convinced were the “right paths” to success. At the age of 13, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer to address discrimination in the world and to fight against inequality, especially against deaf people. At 17, after our family hosted an AFS exchange student, I decided I wanted to experience living in another country, too. I initially feared it would take me off the path to becoming a lawyer, but decided the experience would be more important. I listed my top three choices for countries to go to, but then got sent to a country I knew almost nothing about: South Africa. Little did I know how transformative that experience would be in advancing my understanding of racism, and the detrimental impact of systemic and legal hierarchies of value attributed to people based on race and other identities. It also helped inform my experience as a deaf woman who identifies as LGBTQIA person and how deaf people and other identities are also placed in a hierarchy of value in various countries, our nation, and often in our own communities.

Find your teachers and let the rest take care of itself. I often advise students to worry less about the best major to pick in college, and focus more on finding and following the teachers that inspire them and nudge them to grow. Staying present in what we feel inspired to learn will guide our journey. When I was accepted in college, I planned to major in economics and government on the assumption that they would prepare me well for law school. In my first semester, I took a sociology class and fell in love with it and with the manner in which the class was taught by the professor. I immediately began to fear that if I kept taking classes from this teacher and pursue my interest in sociology, I would not get into law school. On the advice of my parents, I sought out our pre-law advisor (another teacher on my path). He was unequivocal with me: study what is most interesting to you and do well with your grades. I ended up taking classes from my favorite sociology professor throughout college and majoring in sociology. Years later, I realized that for four years this professor and I carried on a conversation through my papers and through his comments in the margins. It was a true gift of learning and growth. Ironically, I ended up being accepted into the University of Wisconsin, which had the best law curriculum focused on sociology and the law.

You are perfect in exactly how you are. This may seem trite to some, but when you are born with or later acquire a condition identified as a “disability” by health professionals, you (and your parents and family) are suddenly bombarded with messages that something is “wrong” with you that has to be “fixed” or “cured.” I remember vividly the feeling of growing up until the age of 6, experiencing the world as a wonderful place and where I belonged. I had full access to sign language and was able to use residual hearing to pick up some speech but notably without anyone correcting it because my parents and my older sister were deaf. I thought I was moving through the world normally, until Kindergarten, when the teacher notified my parents that my hearing should be checked. I got my first hearing test. That moment changed my life. I was no longer “perfect.” I was now a person who needed to be “fixed.” It took years for me to realize the impact of that moment in my life. Imagine how many babies are born, hugged by their parents, and welcomed with such joy. Then a day or so later, after being given and not passing a hearing screening test, when next being held, suddenly experiencing tears flowing in the eyes of parents and others; the energy of deep grief and confusion setting in. Looks change, and in some cases, parents hold the child less and less as they grieve. We need to transform that experience to see children as they are born or later change, to be seen as bringing a diversity of experience and life that has value and purpose in the world — no matter how challenging that experience may be for everyone. As disability rights advocates have maintained, we are not disabled by our physical, sensory or intellectual abilities, but rather by the structures, attitudes, policies, and practices in our communities, including our healthcare system.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Commit to service and volunteerism. We too often subscribe to the idea that learning is an individual act. I believe that learning, at its best, is in community with each other. Learning is a community act. Service is not only about citizenship, democracy, and influencing the quality of life through our efforts; volunteering in service of a cause greater than oneself provides critical experiences that force deep personal and professional growth. For me, it has guided me to make different decisions about my career choices as well. Accepting invitations to opportunities because they build on my experiences, rather than prescribed paths that traditionally define “success,” has made a difference. This reaffirms wonderful advice from a women’s leadership conference that I attended years ago: “build a life, not a resume.”

Engage in hobbies or vocations that challenge you outside of work to let your mind, body, and spirit work differently. I derive great pleasure from tackling challenging puzzles, word games, card games, and board games. I enjoy them by myself as well as with others. The joy and fun of seeing patterns and putting pieces together in puzzling, especially with 3,000+ puzzle pieces, and the sheer fun of both cooperative and competitive games positively shift my energy and renew my spirit.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Gallaudet University, in the past 157 years, and the deaf community have built a sign language ecosystem and economy worth $2–3 billion — a powerful engine driving regional and national economies and innovation throughout the country. This is a rare true value-add to our economy where opportunities do not “take” or threaten anything from our main economy to grow. This signing economy is nowhere near mature. There are still tremendous economic growth opportunities in nearly every aspect of this economy.

I say to VCs: invest in deaf people. Deaf people by our nature of navigating a world not built for us are powerful innovators- we adapt daily. The ideas and creations of the deaf community are only beginning to be tapped and there is incredible investment potential in the entrepreneurship of the deaf community. Deaf-owned and operated businesses like Mozzeria, a pizzeria first in San Francisco, California, and now Washington, DC, are thriving. One of the strengths of a business like Mozzeria is the unique experience they offer to customers. You can go to thousands of pizzerias around the country, but how many can you go to where all the employees sign? Major corporations like Apple, Chase Bank, and Starbucks have recognized the strength of the deaf consumer and have set up storefronts in Washington, D.C. that cater to the signing and deaf demographic.

This ecosystem is poised to grow and will only go up from here. Fifty to 100 years from now, everyone will sign so what are you waiting for?


Roberta J Cordano of Gallaudet University: Why We Should Teach Everyone Sign Language From Birth was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Peter Pistek of AristaMD On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Peter Pistek of AristaMD On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Telehealth

Empower others — you are more likely to be successful when those around you can be successful. We work in teams for a reason: You can’t do it all, nor do you need to do it all. There are plenty of projects and opportunities for us all to prove ourselves and shine. The more practiced you are at sharing opportunities or stepping back to allow others to shine, the more effective and successful you can be.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Pistek.

Peter Pistek is the Vice President of Product Management at AristaMD, a leading telehealth company. He has over 20 years of experience in developing innovative, industry-leading platforms across a variety of verticals, including education, finance, cloud storage, travel, and retail.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The explosive growth of the internet in the mid-90’s came at the right time for me. I’d just completed my undergraduate work and was doing desktop publishing at Kinko’s but feeling constrained by the printed realm. A co-worker told me about HTML and it immediately drew me in. It was an opportunity to work with technology and be creative in a way that was flexible and constantly changing.

As I moved my career into the digital arena, I discovered product management, and everything started to fall into place. The role and responsibilities let me work with exciting technologies, dig deep into problems, understand why and how of things, and to create innovative solutions that can be accessible instantly, anytime, anywhere.

Over the span of my career since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work across a number of different industries from consumer offerings like Disney Online, to business-centered cloud storage start-ups competing against Amazon. In all those experiences I’ve found compelling challenges that required learning about new industries and thinking outside the box to develop new products.

Throughout that, I’ve found the greatest satisfaction came from having a positive impact on people’s lives. It’s that aspect that brought me to digital healthcare where I see the opportunity to combine my interest in leveraging technology with my desire to help address two of the most stress-inducing parts of life: health and finance.

At AristaMD I’m working with a talented, passionate group of technology and healthcare professionals that strive to simplify access to specialized medical information as a way to make a genuine improvement in how healthcare is delivered.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

They say necessity is the mother of invention and I have found that to be true in the industries and start-ups I have worked at. Some of the best companies began as ideas to solve a problem one of the founders was facing.

When our kids were little, I found myself constantly exchanging clothes and toys with other parents. Kids grow so fast that it felt like we would be buying new outfits every other month and they would tire of toys just as quickly. It was both costly and felt wasteful.

One of my friends, who was also a parent, worked in tech with me and we thought that there must be an easier way to exchange used clothing, toys, and gear. What started as a discussion and prototyping soon became a full-blown app that allowed you to connect with your Facebook friends and groups, posting and viewing items that people no longer needed. Members could also advertise for items they were looking for. People loved the concept and we quickly had over 30,000 users. It was a challenge though, to sustain consistent user engagement numbers. After about two years, we ended up closing it down. Though a disappointing end, it was a great lesson in the importance of timing, the nuances of how customers value your product, the difficulty in driving lasting changes in behavior, and the challenge of creating a business model around notions of community.

Can you tell us about any technological breakthroughs that your company is working on?

At AristaMD, we’re building a platform that brings specialty care information directly to primary care providers (PCPs) within 24 hours, so they are empowered to confidently develop treatment plans for their patients for a broad spectrum of health issues. The core of what we’ve built is driven by some astounding numbers: more than 50% of specialist visits and 70% of emergency room visits are unnecessary. These metrics are reflected in what are often months-long wait times for patients referred to specialists. With proper treatment plans, many of those patient health issues could be handled in a primary care setting. An adoption of an eConsult first process would help power an enormous breakthrough in a healthcare system plagued by a specialist shortage, a huge increase in patient referrals, and access issues for vulnerable populations.

Our goal is to continue to be the leader in ease-of-use, making our service available as a standalone web-based solution or as an integrated part of the electronic health record (EHR) system. We’ve already delivered a solution that’s available in the app marketplace for Epic — one of the leading EHR vendors — and we’re actively developing additional integrations to make for a more seamless user experience. We’re already seeing the results with eConsults coming through AristaMD’s platform helping replace up to 75% of patient specialist visits.

How do you think this could change the world?

Making specialized health information easily accessible and readily available has the potential to drastically improve healthcare for everyone. We can significantly increase healthcare accessibility, improving the lives of millions of people. By enhancing primary care provider capabilities, a significant number of costly and unnecessary specialist visits can be avoided, and we can truly transform the delivery of healthcare with “right time, right place, right provider” care. It has the potential to completely change backlogged healthcare systems and help improve access for all patients, and most notably our vulnerable populations who need it most. We’re talking about the potential for improved population health outcomes and healthcare efficiency for all.

Especially now when issues with access to care and long wait times have been compounded by the pandemic, it’s never been more important to integrate telehealth solutions, such as eConsults, as a cornerstone to how our country provides healthcare now and in the future.

Can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Healthcare technology continues to have challenges relating to three important issues: privacy, accessibility, and bias.

Privacy is arguably the issue that gets the most attention. We have rules, regulations, and certifications that govern how and when personal health data needs to be secured and shared, but the locus of control tends to be out of the direct hands of patients. They have no way to trace where their data is used or where it has gone. That said, simply finding an effective path for information to more freely flow between systems will benefit patients, reduce errors, and drive down costs by reducing basic data clean-up work that most health clinics and systems must currently solve independently.

Accessibility to technology is an ongoing issue that we, as a society and as businesses, are continuing to make progress on. Even so, basic challenges such as access to broadband still hampers delivery of some of the latest, most advanced healthcare options. This has become clearer as the pandemic has driven the wider use of telehealth. Those with more limited means and access to technology are most impacted by controls implemented at clinics to limit the spread of the COVID-19.

Though gaining in visibility, bias is one of the less obvious challenges in the healthcare technology space. How we handle and incorporate patient details such as skin color, gender, language, social norms, and more must be accounted for in the solutions we deliver. Things like training AI to understand and account for different skin colors, or modulating recommendations based on gender identification. These are challenges that need to be considered so we can make sure providers are properly equipped to make appropriate treatment decisions.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Commitment to change.

The beauty of AristaMD’s technology solution is that using it is so flexible. It can be accessed through a simple web interface or through deeper integrations with electronic patient care systems, but the common component is always the change required in clinical processes.

There are many challenges in healthcare and changing the way it’s delivered along with the tools that are used to manage that care is critical. As with many things, the “last mile” is the challenge and we’re actively working on reducing the effort involved with using it as well as making it even more valuable to users.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been countless people that I’ve worked with over the years that have guided me with sage advice, helped me learn and hone my skills, and trusted me to take on greater projects. I am grateful to all of them and appreciate the impact that they’ve had and continue to have, though none more so than my parents.

My parents were political refugees from former Czechoslovakia. They came here to escape the totalitarian communist regime, knowing they would probably never be able to go back and see friends and family, or even their childhood homes. It was a challenge for them in the beginning- they spoke no English, did not know anyone, and the culture was very different.

They were always very supportive of my choices, even when they did not fully understand them. For instance, they had expected me to study engineering or the hard sciences and go into that field. After taking a course in college that explored the ways in which mass media impacts communication, I realized I really wanted to focus on communication media, with a thought of going into advertising. Even though my parents did not understand my choice of major, they supported me and gave me the freedom to try it out.

I have always been grateful to them for the sacrifices they made so that their children could have more opportunities.

How could you use your success to bring good to the world?

Improving the health, wellbeing, and lives of thousands would be a very fulfilling result.

From a more individual perspective, having the opportunity and ability to help people be successful and fulfilled on a professional level is a real joy for me.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Distilling what I’ve learned down to a handful of points is a real challenge. Like when baking a cake, there are a few fundamental ingredients but it’s those “secret spices” and icing that help things come together and are critical to the final result:

1.) Learn to tell good stories — Ideas, solutions, even problems, all benefit when communicated in a compelling way. Simply stating something doesn’t generally result in people recognizing the importance that you give to it. And even when it does, the reason that they believe it’s important may be entirely different from your perspective. Telling a story means that there’s a beginning, middle, and end that engages people, helps them understand your perspective, and aligns expectations.

2.) Practice being unconstrained — It’s very easy to slip into constraining ideas or plans based on patterns of past activity, whether our own or someone else’s. There are numerous times that I know I’ve done this in my own career. For example, thinking that a business is only about building a specific product or delivering a service in a particular way. These types of constraints can be appropriate at times, but they also can trick us into settling on incremental changes, missing things that could be far more meaningful and impactful. We’ve been taught from early on to follow rules and guidelines, so the behavior comes very naturally to us which is why I see this as something that needs to be practiced so that we get better at it over time. Consider Boundaries much like a child might: they are something to be explored and can change depending on the time and situation.

3.) Change is challenging — Changing behavior is difficult. Much like guidelines or rules, people are creatures of habit and we get comfortable in our routines. Your friend can’t open the door to your apartment because they don’t know about that special handle twist you need to do — but you’re used to it. Always stay to the left in that turn lane so you don’t hit that pothole. Though we could solve these by contacting a locksmith or submitting a request to the city, we get used to them and breaking out of our routine isn’t usually our top priority. Tie this into work and these patterns become harder to impact. Change is risk and cost for individuals and perhaps even more so for organizations. The exact outcomes aren’t always known, and it means people have to modify what they’re used to doing. It’s invaluable to recognize this early and get better at helping make change easier for yourself and for others.

Example: Online classrooms for k-12 — We had an initiative to drive adoption that involved compensation for the teacher signing up, for the school when they signed up a certain percentage of their classrooms, and for the salesperson. While we were very successful in getting the sign-ups, usage never materialized. It became clear that while we were able to get people to sign-up, it was entirely due to the incentives we’d put in place. In this case, teachers had an existing way to interact with their students and it was risky to change that, so they didn’t have any desire to continue forward. It was a real wake-up call for me to see that massive amounts of users didn’t immediately translate to actual business value.

4.) Get out of your comfort zone — Push yourself to explore issues, processes, or activities that you avoid. Even if you don’t change anything, understanding different angles is so important in getting a more complete picture. Sometimes you may decide that you want to expand your skills or change your approach to handle things differently. It can help you appreciate the challenges that others may face or give you new insights into decisions.

Example: Disney’s project to transform the Walt Disney World site to be fully dynamic. This was still a relatively new concept in the mid-90’s. It was a significant undertaking and neither I nor the development team had done anything like it. We dove in and collaborated, going well outside our comfort zones, learning about database structures and user experiences so we could do walk-throughs of the user experiences and interface logic, identify what else we needed in the database, iterate the designs, and repeat. We successfully completed the project by crossing out of our normal operating processes and discovered that we had better ways to address similar challenges from that point forward.

5.) Empower others — you are more likely to be successful when those around you can be successful. We work in teams for a reason: You can’t do it all, nor do you need to do it all. There are plenty of projects and opportunities for us all to prove ourselves and shine. The more practiced you are at sharing opportunities or stepping back to allow others to shine, the more effective and successful you can be.

While not a definitive list, these are a few key things that I’ve picked up along the way.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Do one good thing that directly helps someone else every day. That’s it. From personal experience, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It often requires that moment of consideration of what someone else is dealing with or going through and understanding what might be helpful to them. This doesn’t need to be a grand action or profoundly life altering thing for that person, just that it helps them have a better day.

The beauty of this is that it’s something that can be done on an individual level and customized to fit each person’s own style — you don’t have to get external resources to do this. You can find the level of interaction that’s right for you and fits your day-to-day. Whether it’s directly acknowledging someone’s hard work and effort, leaving a nice tip, giving directions to someone that appears lost, or just connecting with people in brief conversations. These types of interactions can help us remember the connection we have to those around us and, hopefully, help spread a bit of mindfulness and consideration that we all can benefit from.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it.” ― Mark Twain

I remember reading this quote in high school as part of an analysis of American writers. I found it funny, but it also struck a chord and stuck with me. It has been a consistent reminder that what’s important, valuable, or engaging varies from person to person. You can group people together based on some facets — demographics, social circles, financial standing — however their individual decisions will ultimately be made based on what motivates them. We have to make assumptions to operate in our daily lives but as I’ve approached challenges, I remind myself that each person I’m working with or that might be using products I’ve had a hand in, will be a collection of unique information points, so outcomes will vary, and we need to be flexible enough to handle those differences.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Rather than pitching a specific idea, I would love to highlight the fact that here are many different paths to improving people’s lives. There’s not only physical healthcare but also mental health, sense of community, personal health & wellness, and more.

Invest in solutions that can work in tandem to help solve some of the most complex issues we face. Find and fund entrepreneurs that are willing to dream big but understand that the path to success requires the ability to regroup, adjust, and try again.

The entrepreneurial spirit is one that is driven by solving problems. While the details and complexity of the problems may vary, the fundamental thought is there: this can be better!


The Future Is Now: Peter Pistek of AristaMD On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Dan Stickel of EstateExec On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Dan Stickel of EstateExec On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Deal With The Aftermath Of A Death

Dealing with the aftermath of death is inevitable, and it’s hard work. It’s not something we do every day, but we all face the death of our parents at some point. It can be traumatic, it can be overwhelming, and it’s commonly a lot of work. We commissioned a study of the general population and found that on average it takes 570 hours of effort to settle an estate, over a period of 16 months … sometimes much more. The task can become all-consuming, and it’s sad to see one person’s death lead to the destruction or degradation of another person’s time and well-being.

EstateExec can’t do all the work for someone, but it can help them in their time of need, potentially saving hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and perhaps most importantly, saving fragile relationships among the survivors (it turns out that estate inheritance issues are a key cause of family strife and even lawsuits).

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Stickel.

Dan Stickel is founder and CEO of EstateExec. Stickel is a former Google Executive and serial entrepreneur, with both an undergraduate and a graduate degree from Harvard University. He has managed multi-$B product lines, raised over $100 million in funding and served as CEO for several global software companies.

Motivated by his experience serving as the executor for his parents’ estates, he founded EstateExec to bring the process forward from the 18th century to the 21st, creating the world’s first software to assist consumers throughout the challenging and complex process of serving as an estate executor, automatically creating customized task lists, helping to organize the estate, and automating financial calculations. EstateExec helps consumers on their own, and through its sharing feature, also allows them to coordinate with lawyers and other interested parties if desired.

Before Google, Stickel ran the Software Division of the public company Macrovision (MVSN) growing worldwide revenues from $25 million to over $100 million, representing half of the overall company’s revenues. He has also started several companies, and won the Ziff Davis Desktop Accessory of the Year award for software he personally wrote. Stickel has served as a keynote speaker at numerous conferences around the world, and has used software to improve people’s lives in a variety of fields, from early broadband efforts to web search (including both Google and AltaVista), from scientific modeling to simple accounting calculators, and from high-end security immune systems to military AI systems.

Dan was valedictorian of his high school class, and went on to graduate from Harvard University in three years in the top 5 percent of his class, while working half-time in the cardiovascular unit at the New England Medical Center. He earned a Master’s degree from Harvard as well.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I took my first official course in computer science as an undergraduate at Harvard University and fell in love with software. I went on to get a Master’s in computer science and pretty quickly headed to Silicon Valley to join a startup in AI. Over the years, I worked at a number of companies, ranging from ones I started in a spare bedroom to working at massive companies like Google. The companies covered a wide range of domains — from web search to defense intelligence to personal productivity to natural disaster modeling and beyond. The one thing they had in common was elegant, powerful software addressing a real need.

When my parents separately passed away, I had the privilege and the burden of serving as an executor for both estates. I was surprised at how much effort the role required and that there were almost no resources to help — a couple of encyclopedia-like books, and some blog posts. As a successful CEO experienced in managing multi-billion-dollar products, I thought it would be easy for me, but it was actually a little overwhelming. I read up on things, pulled together some custom Google Sheets, and muddled through.

3 million people die in the US and Canada every year, and by law, their estates must be settled by an executor, usually a family member who has never done it before and who has no idea what to do. Given my background, I realized that there was an underserved market here — one mandated by law, and which fundamentally hadn’t changed since the 1800’s. Everyone was busy inventing the next group chat or social dating site, things that younger people tend to care about, but here was an inevitable need that no one was doing anything about, so I founded EstateExec!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have a few stories that might compete for that title, but when I was working in the defense industry, a partner and I were at the airport transporting some classified material in a country we had been briefed was not safe for us, and where we would likely be subject to counter-intelligence efforts. Suddenly, several military police came up to us, and without explanation insisted my partner come with them. It was a little stressful, and I was faced with a dilemma: Do I raise my hand and tell them that we can’t be separated because we are carrying classified material, or do I try to protect the material and continue solo, changing the mission parameters? Obviously, the smart thing to do was to keep quiet and hope for the best, which turned out to be the right choice, since when he finally rejoined me it turned out they only wanted to question him because he had some sharp objects in his luggage that had triggered the X-ray machine.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Assisting an executor in settling a loved one’s estate turns out to be a very messy, complex process. There a wide variety of non-linear tasks, ranging from submitting government paperwork, physically cleaning out a residence, managing and tracking financials, selling assets, resolving debts, paying taxes, making distributions, and coordinating with co-executors, heirs, accountants, lawyers, and so forth. Each one of those tasks could deserve to have its own dedicated product!

Consequently, we’ve been trying to focus on the elements you can’t get anywhere else, such as properly calculating executor compensation according to state-specific rules, and stitching those elements together into a cohesive whole.

Our most recent efforts have been on the finance side, trying to automatically download banking transactions so that users don’t have to manually enter them. However, while credit card companies and other services can automatically categorize transactions by supplier (e.g., food, gas, clothing), we need to try to classify transaction by purpose (e.g., paying a debt, making a distribution, handling an estate expense), so we’ve had to develop our own rudimentary AI to make educated guesses about what it’s seeing.

How do you think this might change the world?

Dealing with the aftermath of death is inevitable, and it’s hard work. It’s not something we do every day, but we all face the death of our parents at some point. It can be traumatic, it can be overwhelming, and it’s commonly a lot of work. We commissioned a study of the general population and found that on average it takes 570 hours of effort to settle an estate, over a period of 16 months … sometimes much more. The task can become all-consuming, and it’s sad to see one person’s death lead to the destruction or degradation of another person’s time and well-being.

EstateExec can’t do all the work for someone, but it can help them in their time of need, potentially saving hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and perhaps most importantly, saving fragile relationships among the survivors (it turns out that estate inheritance issues are a key cause of family strife and even lawsuits).

We originally just started to focus on the US, but recently expanded into Canada, and are getting inquiries from other countries around the world, including the UK, Australia, and South Africa. We didn’t set out to change the entire world, but we’re being pulled into that direction.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

As a founder, it’s very difficult to see my technology as something other than a helpful force for good. That being said, I’ve been a Sci-Fi fan my entire life, and so I have a pretty active imagination. I guess I could imagine our limited AI beginning to siphon off small amounts of inheritances to further its own desires, then perhaps even starting to orchestrate deaths in order to get its hands on funds even more quickly. But we’re a very long ways from anything like that being even remotely possible.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I wish we had experienced a “tipping point”. Unfortunately, every step along the way has been hard work, and while we’ve had a number of ideas we thought would dramatically change the game, none ever did, and it was just steady progress. I guess sometimes you just need to do things the hard way.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think the main thing we need is exposure. When someone dies, their survivors don’t yet automatically think to look for software to help … instead, they immediately turn to a lawyer. And of course lawyers can be invaluable in this process, and many of our customers are lawyers, but they’re not always needed, and they’re often set in their ways, not realizing that there are now, better, more efficient ways to get things done. I think the more people (both family members and lawyers) that hear about us, the more people will start to come to us first.

Being objective, I also think we need to continue to make the product better. We have a great vision, and the product already does a lot of good things, but it could do so much more. Every couple of months we introduce important new capabilities, so we’ll get there eventually. And who knows, maybe one of those things will trigger a tipping point!

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Even though innovative go-to-market strategies have been a hallmark of my past successes, in this case we’ve been pretty straightforward: search ads, Amazon listings, affiliate and distributions deal, alliances, even a TV spot! At one point we talked about hiring actors to stage fake inheritance arguments at related financial tech conferences, with the actors causing a scene and ultimately revealing the existence of EstateExec to solve executor problems, but we never ended up following through on that one.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It sounds a little corny, but I’d have to say my father. He was an unusual man who didn’t want me to be bound by tradition and other people’s expectations, so he really never gave me any advice, had me call him by his name, never “Dad”, and never even told me that he was an Eagle Scout so that I wouldn’t have the pressure of trying to follow in his footsteps. I very much appreciate that upbringing, although at some point it might have been nice to understand that lawyers make more money than sanitation engineers.

It turns out that my father was a mathematician who switched over to computer software, even taught it, but never really exposed me to it at all. Only after I discovered software on my own did he get involved, and then he really helped me get started, paying me to work during one summer at his own fledgling software company, and then helping me to find a software consulting job at the New England Medical Center when I went back to college in the fall. Later in life he even volunteered at one of my own startups, helping to organize the team and write code himself.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My latest company is really a labor of love, and I’d like to believe that we are improving the lives of everyone who has a parent pass away. Every week I get phone calls and emails from people who are so grateful to have someone and something that helps them get through this rite of passage. We also try to give back by offering free services to families of first responders who die in the line of duty

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Nothing Sells Itself — Many of us in Silicon Valley would like to believe that a great product that solves an important need will sell itself, but it turns out Sales and Marketing are critical functions for almost any success. I remember at one company I co-founded, we built an amazing modeling tool that was 10X more detailed, significantly easier to use, and ran in a fraction of the time of other state-of-the-art tools. It was tremendously better in every way. But no one was really interested: prospects all had their existing approaches, and didn’t want to make the effort to switch (even though doing so would make their results significantly better). It was only after we tried some innovative marketing approaches that we experienced runaway success, ultimately selling the company and seeing our tool become an industry standard.

Trust but Verify — I tend to believe the best in people, so my natural inclination is to take people at their word. Over the years, I’ve had to learn that not only are some people actually criminally dishonest, but almost everyone simply makes mistakes. Consequently, it’s important for an organization to incorporate checks and balances, and to ensure that we work with people we trust, but to provide a backdrop of support to also ensure that mistakes (or worse) get caught and fixed. Probably the worst example I ever encountered involved a Canadian distributor that took our product (at a previous company), changed the name and logo, and sold it for years as their own.

Different Approaches for Different Situations — It’s amazing to me how many management approaches-of-the-month regularly appear. The truth is that there is not a single approach that works under all conditions, and you need to be flexible and adapt to the challenges at hand. Geoffrey Moore has a great way of looking at markets, and his seminal work on “Crossing the Chasm” beautifully illustrates how approaches need to change according to market adoption status. When I was first started at Google, I had come from running a $100M division of a public company, and was used to thinking about earnings per share, and squeezing out maximum profits. Early on, I wanted to spend $25 million on a project, and prepared a “standard” presentation of need, ROI, challenges and so forth. I went to go see Eric Schmidt, our CEO at the time, and got about 2 slides into it before he said, “Dan, it’s only $25M. Just spend it.” Quite a culture shock. And yet, necessary if one is to embrace and capitalize on the wild tornado of success that Google was experiences.

Little Deals Take Almost as Much Work as Big Deals — Every deal matters to the people making them, and depending on the personalities involved, a small deal can actually take more even effort to close than the largest ones. I’ve seen billion-dollar deals closed with less paperwork and effort than a $50K government-funded SBIR. Hmm, maybe I should amend this lesson to beware of government red tape!

Aim High — If you only shoot for small incremental improvements, that’s all you’ll ever get. But if you aim high, and fail to fully achieve the target, you may still achieve something great. This is something I saw fully embraced at Google, and which went contrary to my nature of always delivering (or over-delivering) on my goals. However, my ultimate goal in life is not to be safe at all costs, but to achieve great things. Sometimes that involves a degree of risk. Of course, you need to be smart, and it can be important to have safety valves and backup plans.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve given some thought to the meaning of life, and what’s important. Is it the survival of the species? Living according to a certain set of principles? Affecting other people’s lives for the better? I don’t have the ultimate answer to this question, but I do believe that it’s important to make use of the gifts we have, and to achieve things with those gifts (which can be very different for different people).

What I’d really like to see (and inspirational credit to Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age”) is the evolution of the educational system to empower people to develop their gifts and fulfill their best destinies. The assembly-line approach to schools is ridiculously outdated, and I don’t understand why we don’t all have AI-powered agents that help us learn and achieve in every way. We should be much farther along on this than we are.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There’s always less time than you think.

Whether it’s a new competitor, changing financial conditions, personal emergencies, corporate acquisitions, or whatever else, something almost inevitably arises to shorten the amount of time you think you’ll have available to achieve something. For example, at one point I was serving on the executive team at AltaVista, reporting into the CEO, and we were about to go public. Those were heady days! But our lawyers made a paperwork mistake, delaying our IPO by a couple of weeks. No big deal, right? But the day before we were scheduled to go public, the markets crashed in the dotcom bust, and we never made it out.

This life lesson is something I’ve experienced so many times, you’d think it wouldn’t come as a surprise, but I’ll probably be on my deathbed saying “I thought I would have more time…”. So carpe diem.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

We actually get approached by VCs and private equity fairly regularly, but we don’t really need their money. On the other hand, VCs do much more than just provide money: they provide advice, connections, and even part-time personnel on occasion. If an investor out there has the connections and a great idea to accelerate our market adoption, we’d be very happy to talk. I’m sure there are a number of appealing investment opportunities, but not too many of them are as inevitable as death and taxes.


The Future Is Now: Dan Stickel of EstateExec On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eliott Jones’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Nobody expected Covid-19 to strike, but it did. We are fortunate to be in a sector that can help with responding to the pandemic, but the overall disruption to society and the economy has done things like remove our co-founder for a month to reconfigure his hospital for Covid-19 response. Don’t be surprised by the unexpected; you should expect it.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Eliott Jones.

Eliott Jones is the CEO and co-founder of Biospectal, where he is responsible for leading the company’s overall strategy, product vision, go-to-market planning and execution. A digital product innovation and medtech startup veteran, Eliott has worked in executive roles building digital innovation and driving strategy, digital product design and development for major brands, including Yahoo, Landor Associates/Young & Rubicam, Intuit, Logitech and Rambus. He holds a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies, Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It has been an adventure! While I can’t say I’m a digital native, my professional career began with the emergence of desktop digital media. It has continued with my current work on Biospectal and mission to revolutionize biosensing through the use of connected devices. From the early days of my Bauhaus-based, multi-disciplinary education at Harvard in design, I have always embraced the idea of enhancing human experience empathetically using interactive technologies. I’m a firm believer in the liberal arts mentality and have always been excited about cross-pollinating ideas and applications. I have continuously pursued and participated in digital product solutions across diverse areas of domain expertise — it’s part of my DNA. I first saw a beta version of the Mozilla browser in my early days back in Boston. I immediately felt the potential of the new “World Wide Web” and ended up moving quickly from Boston to Silicon Valley. After landing in the San Francisco Bay Area, I pursued a path of experience in delivering web, then mobile, then multi-device interface product design and strategy — from consulting to early and late stage startups and then on to large companies like Yahoo and Intuit.

Each role allowed me to gain more experience with delivering disruptive digital products and experiences. I also grew my management and strategic skills. Along the way I began to do more and more work in the emerging area of mobile health and digital health, even though I don’t have a medical education.

The opportunity to leverage the consumer experience gained from my time in Silicon Valley in developing applications in the medical domain is what led to the founding of Biospectal.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting and formative experiences was actually with my first job. I graduated from Harvard with a liberal arts degree. It quickly became clear that I had no idea of how to relate my education to the “real world.” I needed to do some exploring to understand how to apply what I had learned.

Randomly, I noticed a posting on a German department bulletin board for an internship at a publishing company in Hanover, Germany. I had always wanted to live abroad and had studied foreign languages as a passion. When I arrived, I discovered my job was pretty much to do nothing all day in blue coveralls at the receiving dock. I was happy to have found a way to live abroad, but after three weeks I was bored to death. Since I wasn’t very busy, I decided to ask the HR department if I could try working somewhere else in the company that involved computers and maybe even design. The next week I was taken in by the advertising department, who had received their first Mac publishing system. They asked if I wanted to take over the job of setting everything up. My initial three-month visa turned into a year and a half of work in a digital design position — a position that kicked off my career path and had a direct connection to what I’m doing today with Biospectal.

The experience I gained in Germany led to work in Boston that in turn led to Silicon Valley — eventually coming full circle at Biospectal combining Europe with Silicon Valley. My first job in Germany also brought me the strongest lifelong friendships — my German boss, two godchildren, a best man and my current co-founder. I could never have predicted then that I would be where I am now — and it started with taking a chance and following a passion that may have seemed disconnected from my career, but turned out to be fundamental to everything that followed.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Building on the experience above, I have lived by a few principles. The first is what I call “the law of proximity.” It’s not necessarily uncommon to have a career path that’s led to unexpected places. You’ll never be able to seize an opportunity, however, if you’re not near it — even if the path is unorthodox. I believe you don’t need to know exactly how you’ll reach your goals, but the first step is to get in proximity where you can access opportunities when they emerge. Many times I’ve heard people say they’re daunted by making a transformation or reaching a goal. I tell them to take it in steps and not go for it all at once. Just getting near it is the first step.

The second is that life is short and work is part of that short life, so you had better suck the marrow out of each day and work toward something you’ll be proud of when you’re eighty. And above all, nobody should be allowed to steal that time away from you — be at peace with how you spend yours, even if it means resting once in a while, on your own terms. On the other hand, because life is short you had better not take it too seriously. These ideas may seem contradictory, but they are really two sides of the same coin.

The third is that you should seek to put yourself into situations that take you out of your comfort zone. The only times I have truly grown were when I stepped into something I really thought I might not be skilled enough or knowledgeable enough to handle. Sometimes this seems a little masochistic, but despite the stress, it’s so rewarding and empowering to come out the other side, even if it means you failed in your pursuit. So what? Remember, it’s your time and your life — it’s nobody else’s, so go for it!

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

In 2017, a lifelong friend from Switzerland and professor at the University of Lausanne Hospital told me about the research he’d been doing in non-invasive optical biosensing in his operating room. He believed the special devices they’d been using there could likely be replaced by putting the software algorithms they’d developed into an everyday smartphone and leveraging the camera as the optical sensor to measure blood pressure.

It was immediately obvious to me that by piggybacking on smartphones that are already distributed around the world and by utilizing the optical lens of the smartphone and software to enable easy, instantaneous access to blood pressure measurement and monitoring, that we could make a tremendous impact in combating the global hypertension epidemic. Smartphones are a ubiquitous, connected device people worldwide carry with them. Delivering an easy way to accurately measure and monitor blood pressure via connected software in a mobile app makes it accessible and easy to measure, analyze and connect data to a patient’s clinical regimen.

That’s when we decided to found Biospectal — to democratize medical-grade blood pressure monitoring and management globally. Our goal is to improve longevity and life quality in the US and Europe as well as places like Tanzania, Indonesia, Bangladesh, South Africa — everywhere. It’s immensely gratifying to apply our decades of collective experience in technology and medicine to such a meaningful pursuit.

How do you think this will change the world?

Hypertension afflicts 1.3 billion people worldwide. It’s called the “silent killer” because there are no symptoms. It’s the largest chronic condition globally, with a severe negative impact on longevity and quality of life. Having an easy, accessible way for people to measure and monitor their blood pressure can help save lives. One of the biggest challenges with managing blood pressure, however, is measuring and monitoring it with the proper frequency and the proper clinical follow up. At the same time, billions of people globally are far more likely to own a smartphone than any other consumer device. The most ubiquitous consumer device in the world — a smartphone — is for all intents and purposes, an underutilized mini supercomputer.

At Biospectal, we’ve taken the computer capability of smartphones and their sophisticated optical capabilities, and transformed them into a smart, connected, medical-grade diagnostic sensing and remote patient monitoring solution. By doing this purely through a software download within the minute it takes to install an app, a person or patient can measure, analyze and share their data with their doctor simply by placing their finger on their phone’s camera for twenty seconds.

The instant global reach of Biospectal — and for all levels of resources — is what fascinates and inspires us. We’re already walking the talk by working with organizations like the WHO and Global Grand Challenges to do independent validation and test implementations. We’ve also recently announced the public beta launch of the Biospectal OptiBP app for Android. We’ll announce our public beta launch for iOS later this year. You can view a short video of how Biospectal OptiBP works here.

The current acute situation with Covid-19 has also accelerated the need for remote patient monitoring — transforming it from an enhancement to the clinical regimen to an essential, necessary function to monitor patients outside of the clinical setting. The need for, and benefits of remote monitoring have become better understood and crystal clear during the past year — and is one of the things we believe will be a positive outcome from the tragic pandemic.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

A general area of focus for medtech and mobile health involves data privacy and security. It goes without saying that one of the things Biospectal places a huge premium on is that we treat data with integrity.

Data standards, sovereignty and security aren’t topics that apply uniquely to Biospectal, but they are topics on which we’re laser focused. Our global partnerships plan is to always be part of, and contribute to the forefront of standards. As we’ve seen throughout history, ultimately every technology has a positive and negative potential. We believe we will be able to contribute a wealth of benefits to hypertension management, while also respecting all levels of data management — with improvements in the form of better clinical insights via remote monitoring, improved medication adherence, behavioral and dietary insights, improved medication safety and efficacy, and a host of other positive impacts.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point for me was more like a ‘tipping crash.” It was immediately clear when I learned about the research, technology and scalability offered by leveraging smartphones as medical sensors purely via a software application, without the need for any additional bulky hardware.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need trust, which comes in two forms. Like any disruptive technology, changing a system can present challenges, but we believe that consumers and patients are the nearest, most powerful driver of scale of adoption. We need to make them aware of the benefits of a much more convenient and effective way to measure and monitor their blood pressure.

We present the novel capability of medical-grade sensing in a consumer device. The consumer and medical professional worlds are colliding and both must be integrated into the adoption process. We have laid the groundwork from the start with rigorous, extensive clinical testing, independent third-party clinical validation and peer-based review of our research — all of which combine to build a robust product offering, generate trust and enable adoption via traditional healthcare delivery channels.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Get some sleep! Be ready for the time and effort it takes to manage all aspects of building a startup from the ground up. When you think you’re ready for the energy it takes, double it.
  2. It’s natural that not everybody “gets it.” The best solutions in the world have hit walls not because they truly will make the world a better place, but for other reasons that have nothing to do with that. For example, a well-known hospital we talked with had just finished a painful, over budget, overdue, sophisticated patient record system that nobody was really happy with but nobody wanted to change or “disturb.” People who had tried to integrate with them cautioned us to put our time elsewhere as they weren’t interested in anything “new” no matter how great it might be.
  3. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Nobody expected Covid-19 to strike, but it did. We are fortunate to be in a sector that can help with responding to the pandemic, but the overall disruption to society and the economy has done things like remove our co-founder for a month to reconfigure his hospital for Covid-19 response. Don’t be surprised by the unexpected; you should expect it.
  4. Investment is a process not a destination. We have been fortunate in our financial support, while we also observe that investors have many reasons why they want to invest or not — and those don’t necessarily have anything to do with our company. We knew this in principle going in, but it’s been interesting to see it play out. We have tremendous support from investors who believe in our mission. Beyond the necessary financials, it’s most important for everybody to be aligned and inspired by the mission. Apple and Tesla have been highly criticized by skeptics along their paths, and they only survived ultimately through the belief in their vision by investors and customers.
  5. Appreciate the power of advisors. Friends come from unexpected places. We have had amazing partners and supporters who’ve emerged throughout our journey. Even today, our advisors are instrumental in their mentorship and hands-on support in all aspects of contributing to the success of Biospectal.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

  • You, too, are a genius. Why should someone else and not you change the world? My observation is that most people are afraid of realizing who they really are and standing up for their gifts. I find it a shame that fear too often gets in the way of contributing to the world through one’s gifts.
  • Everybody takes out the trash. We all need to be flexible and adaptable to make a company succeed — and this means whatever it takes, even taking out the trash.
  • Trust that there is always a solution. Believing in being able to find a solution and having the confidence to push on with that faith makes the undoable possible. Rather than the glass half full principle, I believe the greatest achievers are those optimists who see a glass 10% full and believe that they can make that 10% possible.
  • Treat people with respect. This seems trite, but just do it. All of us start and end the same. We all have gifts to offer and can all learn from each other. Be open to being the student of whomever you employ or meet. Some of the most impressive and brilliant people I’ve known never went to university.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to use one’s skills to work on an endeavor that offers a highly attractive business opportunity that scales efficiently in a emerging sector, but also has the potential to make a lasting impact on improving lives around the world. In Biospectal, we have that rare chance and are on our way to making it happen with world leaders, research, technology, global health and business partners.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/biospectal?lang=en

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/biospectal/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/biospectal/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Eliott Jones’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Grammy Nominated Songwriter Sue Shifrin Cassidy: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive…

Grammy Nominated Songwriter Sue Shifrin Cassidy: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Make sure you have a supportive network of friends. I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without people who loved and cared for me enough to allow me to vent and cry my eyes out every time I saw them. There were many times when I would go to Dyan’s house to work and she would open the door only to see me sobbing. I don’t even remember the number of times she carried me over to her sofa where I would fall asleep before waking up to work, but she does. That’s love.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sue Shifrin Cassidy.

Sue Shifrin Cassidy is a world renowned songwriter who has written songs for artists including Smokey Robinson, Meatloaf, Cher and Michael Jackson and earned a Grammy nomination for her contribution to Tina Turner’s Private Dancer Album. Her network marketing career has seen her enjoy a wealth of success globally, earning status in the Million Dollar Club Hall of Fame and #1 International Business. She is also a motivational main stage speaker, inspiring and motivating audiences globally. A mom of 1 son … instrument rated pilot and best-selling author of The Lifeboard: Follow Your Vision. Realize Your Dreams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

To say that I came from a unique family is an understatement. I was born in Miami, Florida. My father was a doctor whose patients included Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. He was asked to become the head of the Cuban Health Ministry and when he realized that Castro was a dictator he flew home and never returned to Cuba. My mother wrote children’s musical plays based on ecological themes many years before those topics became popular. When I was 15 years old, my father decided to give up his medical practice and become an entertainer. He invented a karaoke machine in 1965 and would accompany it with the violin (that had a trap door that a chicken fell out of… honestly!) a piano and a harmonica! I could write a book about my childhood, but suffice to say, we moved 28 times by the time I turned 18. I moved to London when I was 19 and lived there for 11 years, where I became a model and a songwriter, before returning to the USA.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had my son late in life and wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to experience motherhood and cherish those years, so I stepped away from my career when I had him. I had been working in the music business as a songwriter, working with the likes of Tina Turner, Cher and Meatloaf. Going back to that profession at the age of 58 was not an option… I was a dinosaur in my industry! I decided to start a totally new business in social marketing selling products that I really loved and believed in, that I could recommend because the company’s philosophy reflected my own personal values, such as being cruelty- free and botanically based. The hardest part was “getting over myself” and choosing to label myself as a “pioneer.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

In the early days, I was instrumental in taking the business overseas and launching it in the UK. The very first time I shared my business in the UK was around a kitchen table in someone’s house, with only 4 people listening to me. Fast forward to the last time in was in the UK and there was a queue of over 1,000 people waiting in line on Oxford Street to see me and hear what I had to share with them. It was a real pinch me moment and I do love reflecting on where I started and looking at how far the business has grown since then.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am an Aries, so I am someone who is very spontaneous. I totally live up to the Aries personality profile, and sometimes it can get me into trouble! When I was brand new in my business, I was on a call with some of the top leaders of my company. None of them knew me and when the very successful leader of the call made a statement, I blurted out something like “I totally disagree with you on this.” There was a dead silence… the woman asked “AND who might YOU be?” Today, we are good friends!

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite quote is one I penned: “No one has a crystal ball for your life!” That philosophy has guided me to make decisions I might have normally not made. I am also an Instrument rated pilot and that has taught me so many things which you can apply to everyday life, one of them being “Correct EARLY” I always try to live by this. If you let things get out of hand for too long, you may never find your way back and you could ultimately “crash and burn”.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always working on something new, that is what keeps me YOUNG! I am currently writing a new book which I hope to be able to share with you soon, and I am having a great time learning Instagram! I’m also nearly finished writing a new musical with the fantastic actress, who is also a very dear friend of mine, Dyan Cannon. The musical is about her life and I can’t wait to see it all come together on stage, it’s been great to get back into songwriting which I love and I feel like this has really re-ignited my flame for it… maybe I’m not too old for the industry after all!

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

My divorce was terrible. We were married for 26 years, together for 30 years. I learned a lot about myself and really had to find my inner strength to get through it. My divorce was a public spectacle, and it was hard for me to avoid being bullied and harassed. I did my best to be a woman of grace and dignity. I feel I accomplished that. It has been very hard to share what I have been through and I am only now just getting comfortable owning my life story. Slowly, I am coming out of my shell because I believe my experience can help others facing difficult decisions such as divorce…people who are having to start over again, especially later on in their lives, reinvent themselves and forge new careers, make new friends, live alone and so much more. I hope to help them feel relevant again and trust that the best is yet to come.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

The biggest mistake is not preparing beforehand for the possibility of a divorce and losing your identity, denying the situation and staying longer than is healthy for both parties. When I began my business at 58 years old, I was attempting to contribute to paying our very hefty expenses, which I happily did. When it became obvious that we would separate and eventually divorce, the gift I gave my husband, the father of our child, was to ask for no financial support or assets. I was able to take care of myself financially and show not only him and our son, but other people, that you CAN stand on your own two feet and start again.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

I know people who have experienced amicable divorces and remain friends. I think that is so wonderful. Most people can’t get there. In my own case, divorce showed me that once I faced the inevitable, I didn’t die, not only did I live through it, I flourished. I grew as a person, I regained my confidence and self-respect, and in the end, I had the gift of love and closure between myself and my former husband. His dying words were said to me and I’m so happy and thankful that we were able to achieve this before he died, especially given everything we had gone through and the years we had been together.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

Personally, I have not even made an attempt at romance or a relationship. I am dating myself and loving it! A new relationship is not on the horizon for me, but if I were to give someone else advice, I would say that I believe that you have to be happy and comfortable with yourself before embarking on a new relationship. If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you? You also need to be in a position where you can leave any baggage and old resentments from your previous relationship in the past and not let them spill over into a new one.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

The most important thing people can do is to take responsibility for their own actions. We are each 100% responsible for our roles in the marriage. If, as I was, you have been in a long term relationship, it is easy to lose yourself and hard to see how you can be a whole person without the other person in your life. I am here to tell you that you CAN! It starts with BELIEVING that… then believing you DESERVE to have what you want in life. That YOU MATTER! It isn’t easy… but it’s worth the effort to find and value YOURSELF again!

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Make sure you have a supportive network of friends. I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without people who loved and cared for me enough to allow me to vent and cry my eyes out every time I saw them. There were many times when I would go to Dyan’s house to work and she would open the door only to see me sobbing. I don’t even remember the number of times she carried me over to her sofa where I would fall asleep before waking up to work, but she does. That’s love.
  2. Find something to lose yourself in. It could be a new job, moving to a new location, learning how to paint, getting a pet…….doing something to occupy your mind. (I have done ALL of these!) I moved to a new state to work on a musical every single day. Getting back to song writing was really interesting. I had writer’s block for at least a dozen years. Music came pouring out of me and it’s the best work I have ever done!
  3. I learned this flying airplanes… Stay on course! Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time your mind starts to wander off into anything that starts to hurt your heart. Say “Thank you for sharing. That was then and this is NOW. I don’t do that anymore!” I still do this to this day.
  4. Make sure you are gentle with yourself. Hug yourself often, even if just to remind yourself that you can feel SOMETHING! My self-hugs are a part of my daily routine. I also jump up and down a lot and I force myself to SMILE! You simply can’t feel bad when you smile! It’s hard-wired into your brain! Try it!
  5. Keep yourself healthy by exercising and eating well. DON’T consume anything that will make you upset with yourself. Once in a while is ok, but don’t make a habit out of it. Make sure you start or continue a personal care program. The goal is to start focusing on YOU when you have been so focused on him/we.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

It is really helpful to have some kind of therapy with a good therapist who can help you learn how to start processing your grief. This was critical for me. Also, the things I stated above are part of a program of self- care. Many people learn that they are “co-dependent.” There is a great book called “Co-Dependent No More” by Melody Beatty that has significantly helped people recognize their tendency to “live through others.” Another great book is “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

In addition to the books I mentioned. I created a vision board to help me get the jumble out of my head. It helped me focus on the future life I wanted to create. (I wrote one called The Lifeboard: Follow Your Vision. Realize Your Dreams, published by Chronicle Books that is now out of print). Visualization, meditation and affirmations are really important! I have a goal setting system that includes how to write and say affirmations that I use and share with others.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Are we just talking about divorce? If so, I would wave a magic wand, and sprinkle anti-guilt dust over the world. So many people remain stuck in relationships and work situations that they feel guilty about leaving. Old habits fill the soil that sprout guilt, fear and resentment. I would have left my marriage much sooner, but I was so worried about how a divorce would affect our son. Once I finally left he asked me “What took you so long, mom? Kids grow up and leave to start their own lives and you live with yourself forever.” That was a real eye opener. Children need to see examples of stability and love, parents need to be healthy and happy, whether it’s in the marriage or in new relationships. They need to know that if it doesn’t work it’s ok to leave and their kids will be fine in the long run.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)..

Most of the people I would most want to meet have passed away, but if it were a living person, possibly Hillary Clinton. She has endured so much. She has stood by her man and she has been mercilessly bullied and criticized. I would love to know how she truly feels about her choices in life and how being publicly vilified has affected her.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Grammy Nominated Songwriter Sue Shifrin Cassidy: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Denise Kaigler of MDK Brand Management: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Denise Kaigler of MDK Brand Management: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Be Seen. Increase your company’s visibility by showcasing its unique offerings and experience. If you only build it, they won’t come. It’s about promoting it, talking about it, highlighting it. This will help evolve and elevate your business’s brand in the eyes of current and potential clients, customers, donors and other key individuals.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Denise Kaigler.

Denise Kaigler is an award-winning communications, marketing and brand strategist, and the founder and principal of MDK Brand Management. Denise has nearly 25 years of corporate experience at multi-billion-dollar brands including Reebok, adidas Group, Nintendo and Boston Scientific, where her responsibilities included corporate communications, media and public relations, corporate branding and brand management.

Named twice as the “Most Influential Black Women in Corporate America” by Savoy magazine, Denise is the author of Forty Dollars and a Brand: How to Overcome Challenges, Defy the Odds and Live Your Awesomeness.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up in Washington, D.C. with my single mother and two sisters, I was very shy and introverted. It was so bad that when teachers called on me to answer questions, I would be scared to tears in front of the entire class. That made me the target of bullies. More times than I care to remember, I was beaten up and robbed of the 50 cents my mother gave me for the snack truck. I knew that I could not go through life being scared to talk in front of people and advocate for myself. I wanted something different and much more. I put myself through Emerson College in Boston, searching for and finding the funds to pay for my education, and eventually launched my career. During my nearly 25 years working in corporate, traveling around the world, speaking at events, and volunteering my time to support nonprofit causes, I met many young people who were encountering obstacles and wanted more for their lives. So, in 2015, I took the leap and began living my passion. I started my company, MDK Brand Management, a firm dedicated to helping individuals and organizations define their brand, craft their story, and achieve their career or business goals.

To broaden my reach and positively impact more people, I wrote with my book, Forty Dollars and a Brand: How to Overcome Challenges, Defy the Odds and Live Your Awesomeness. It was published in 2016 and is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh, goodness, there are so many! I tripped and fell in front of actor Blair Underwood in Boston. In front of a live national television audience during the BET Awards in LA, I was blatantly ignored by actor Will Smith when I very clearly extended my hand to shake his as he walked toward the stage to accept his best-actor award. But the one story I’ll elaborate on happened back in October of 2004, when I was the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Reebok. I led the marketing and public relations campaign for the launch of Reebok’s new Rbk store in Los Angeles. We were gearing up for our big celebrity launch event, hosted by then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Reebok Chairman and CEO Paul Fireman. My PR agency was working the phones and landed one of the entertainment television programs. I can’t remember which one — maybe Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood. The reporter came to the store the morning of the event and interviewed me. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to watch the piece. But when I finally saw it, I was devastated and embarrassed. During the one and only clip of my interview, I had my eyes closed the entire time I was talking! I couldn’t believe it. I looked ridiculous! My brand was definitely damaged. I can now look back at the experience and laugh. But back then, I was horrified. In the end, I did learn a critical and, in hindsight, obvious lesson. I was clearly thinking about what I wanted to say and so I unconsciously closed my eyes while I was processing my thoughts. The problem was that I was speaking while I was processing! I should have not said anything until my head was clear and knew how I would answer the question, and then I should have made sure my eyes were open and I was completely focused on the reporter. Lesson learned!

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

The best thing to happen to my career was the biggest disappointment of my career. I was a director and eager to be promoted to Vice President. My team and I had been working non-stop and scoring numerous wins. When it was time for promotions to be announced, I was 1000% sure that my boss was going to confirm mine. The day of our meeting, I walked in his office as a Director and was convinced I would walk out a Vice President. I did not. During the meeting, my boss told me that my promotion to VP was not approved by the CEO, who was signing off on all VP and above promotions. The reason: I was not visible enough. The CEO and other executives acknowledged the great results my team was generating, but they were not sure of my direct involvement in those results. I was known for regularly highlighting the success of my individual team members, giving them kudos in emails to senior executives and the entire company, but I was not in the face of senior executives enough and acknowledging my own role in my team’s wins. The news was devastating, but also served as the tipping point of my career. When I walked out of my boss’s office, I made the decision that it wasn’t a matter of my working harder. It was about working smarter. My brand was forever changed from that moment on. I increased my visibility throughout the company. I was in the face of leadership more. While I continued to congratulate my team on jobs well done, I also made sure executive leadership knew the direct role I played. During the next round of promotions, my promotion to Vice President was approved. At that moment, I realized the undeniable connection between personal branding and professional growth.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! MDK Brand Management has several brand management and career coaching projects that have either recently launched or will soon launch.

In the area of career coaching, I recently launched Mainstream to Top Tier, a 10-week career advancement program to help mid-level professionals and business owners break through the mainstream and reach the top of their career. This is a virtual program that includes 5 modules and 5 live career coaching sessions with me. It’s based on the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career. I poured everything into this program. I have a session underway now. The next 10-week session begins on Tuesday, March 9.

For early careerists, my company has a 4-week virtual career coaching program called Before the Break. This career development program resets the first Monday of each month. This unique program compels participants to take a hard look at their personal brand and the impact that brand has on others. Self-awareness is a critical and often overlooked tool that can help individuals reach their career goals.

In March, my company will introduce Millennial Launchpad, a 4-week virtual program to help millennials who are facing career challenges due to the pandemic and its economic impact. (This group has been hit the hardest by the pandemic.) What makes this program unique is that it is built on the foundation of teamwork. A millennial is paired with their parent. They work together to create and begin executing a career plan for the millennial. I’m very excited about this program because it was the brainchild of my own millennial daughter, whose career has been Impacted. She and I worked together to create her career plan and it’s been an enjoyable experience. She believes it will help other millennials, which led to the program being created. Note that this is not a “helicopter” parent program. The millennial leads the process, with the parent providing the appropriate amount of insight, encouragement, and support along the way. Stay tuned to mdkbrandmanagement.com (eCoaching) for more information.

Also, on my website is the link to my free guide, How to Get Personal and Business Brand Post-Pandemic READY. The guide includes tips to not only make sure individuals and businesses are prepared to thrive after the pandemic but are finding ways to move forward during the pandemic.

Finally, on Friday, January 29, at noon, I will be facilitating a free online workshop, “How to Impact and Impress in Minutes.” With so many individuals being laid-off and furloughed due to the pandemic, it’s critical they have the necessary tools to move on and land their next job. This will be a highly interactive 90-minute session via Zoom. It’s free but registration is required. I’ve done a ton of free virtual workshops, but I am really excited about this one given the environment and the focus. I hope people will sign up and attend. If you come, be ready to work! My workshops are intense, and results driven. They are meant to provide individuals with real-world tools that can be used immediately and often.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’m going to give advice that I wish I had followed earlier in my career. Take care of yourself first. Go on a real vacation or staycation. The point is to UNPLUG. Give your brain and body time to reset and recharge, even if you believe no one can do what you do, and at the level you do it. Our bodies have a way of forcing us to take breaks when we are burning out. Don’t wait for those warning signs because we don’t know how that will manifest. This is especially important for women. Your body may force a shut down if you don’t do it voluntarily. Depending on your job, you may not be able to completely unplug for days at a time. However, you can delegate certain responsibilities, put an automated “Out of Office” on your email, leave a specific outgoing voicemail message, and perhaps check your devices once a day instead of multiple times a day. And by doing this yourself, you are sending an important message to your staff. This will enhance your reputation as a manager who cares about your team members personally, not just about their ability to the job.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

In a nutshell, brand marketing is the holistic process of promoting and educating the public on the essence of the entire company. Why the business exists and why consumers should care. While successfully marketing an individual product can introduce a consumer to your business and possibly compel them to buy that advertised product or retain that service, it’s the marketing of your company’s brand that will keep that consumer coming back, generating long-term, sustainable revenue. Products come and go. Brands are long-term. Investing in your brand marketing has the potential to create long-term consumer loyalty.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

My answer to that question is simple: If your company does not invest in building and managing its brand, it will very difficult — if not impossible — to connect to its consumer base in a real and sustainable way. To quote one of my favorite authors and business experts, Simon Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

A company’s “Why” is the foundation of their brand. Consumers are primarily motivated by a company’s mission and vision, not by its products and services. They may buy from your company once but being engaged in ways that convert them to repeat customers is all about your company’s brand: Who it is, what it is and, most importantly, why it is. Your company’s mission, vision, logo, tagline, key messages are the cornerstones of its brand. Focusing solely on general marketing and advertising may not enable your business to rise above the noise and the clutter. It may lack an authentic voice, a defined personality, and an emotional differentiation. It might be viewed as simply another company. If you want your business to stand out and break through (and who doesn’t want that for their business), it should have a strong and defined brand. You can stay in mainstream, or you can define and build your brand, and help grow it to the top tier.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

There are several reasons a company would consider rebranding. The most recent examples are related to racially insensitive names and/or images and the subsequent consumer boycotts or backlash (i.e., Aunt Jemima, Washington Redskins). Other reasons for a rebrand include changing consumer habits (i.e., Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC) criminal activity associated with the company or its management team (i.e., The Weinstein Company to Lantern Entertainment), a damaged reputation (i.e., Uber), updating to more modern look (i.e., Burger King), a broadened product portfolio (i.e., Anderson Consulting to Accenture), or a merger or acquisition (i.e., adidas Group). There are several rebranding initiatives that don’t involve changing the name of the company or its products but rather its marketing and/or growth strategy (i.e., Lego and Old Spice).

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Yes, there are downsides to rebranding. Before a company makes a decision to rebrand, it’s important that it go through a comprehensive process of research and consideration, and be able to succinctly answer some basic questions, such as: Why a rebrand? How will a rebrand help save or grow the business? Who will the rebrand benefit, support, help or satisfy? If these questions are not asked and answered, it may be difficult to determine whether a rebranding is necessary. Last year, during the racially charged demonstrations and marches in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, we witnessed the rebranding of numerous products whose name and image were viewed as racist or racially insensitive. In each of those scenarios, there were clear answers to the aforementioned questions. With respect to brands that should not undergo a makeover, I don’t think there is a company where you would say never, ever. It depends on unforeseen circumstances. Even a brand that is worth billions or trillions of dollars today could have encountered rough waters in the past that led to a rebrand (i.e., Google). A rebrand that is done without very careful consideration and research could be rebuffed by the company’s core audience, causing both its sales and value to decline or plummet.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

My tips are founded on one of my favorite words, BRAVO. Growth is driven and brands are energized when surrounded by encouraging words, supportive people, and empowering experiences:

B: Be Seen. Increase your company’s visibility by showcasing its unique offerings and experience. If you only build it, they won’t come. It’s about promoting it, talking about it, highlighting it. This will help evolve and elevate your business’s brand in the eyes of current and potential clients, customers, donors and other key individuals.

R: Re-evaluate. Don’t assume that what worked before will work forever. I re-evaluated my company’s business model nearly two years ago. I realized back in early 2019 that my company’s revenue flow depended too heavily on in-person workshops and experiences. I made the decision to pivot to online programming. Because of this re-evaluation taking place when it did, I have been able to generate revenue during the pandemic from two new online programs, with a third set to launch in March of 2021. And my existing clients have remained with me as I transitioned some existing in-person personal branding workshops to online formats.

A: Activate networks. We all have networks. Regardless of their sizes, networks can be helpful and play a role in re-energizing or rebranding your business. Showcase your company’s expertise and carve out a thought leadership platform. Post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms and encourage followers and connections to share and retweet. And don’t forget to pull out your camera and take to live platforms, including Facebook!

V: Verbalize the goal. Say it out loud. “I Can. I Will.” There is strength in hearing your own voice make a declaration. There is also an empowering sense of accountability when you make the goals of your business known. Once you say it out loud, you are less likely to deny that the goal was ever real. Saying your goals out loud — and writing them down — mitigates the chances that you’ll claim it was never said or was never an actual commitment. So, write down your goals. Say them out loud. And hold yourself accountable to doing it.

O: Open up to learning. Success in life and in business is about learning more about yourself and learning new skills. There is no better time to learn and evolve than now. I recently completed a digital marketing course and have already enrolled in another one beginning in late January. Because digital marketing is an area that is constantly evolving, I have to be on top of those changes so I can provide the best support as possible to my clients. Being introduced to new tools and learning how to use and apply them to my business has been a ton of fun!

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Without question, my vote is for Netflix. The brand has almost become a verb. Streaming movies at home, of course, means you’re Netflixing. The Netflix rebranding began long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has created a home-entertainment lifestyle that has further cemented the brand into our hearts and minds and, yes, our wallets. It’s a terrific rebranding story. If you remember back in the day, Netflix was all about mailing DVD movies to subscribers’ homes. But Netflix soon realized that streaming was the future. I am impressed by the brand’s ability to not only foresee the extinction of DVDs and the shift to streaming, but to pivot towards that trend. It didn’t wait and risk being boxed out. That’s a lesson for all brands. We must take risks and pivot towards trends. Some trends don’t hold up long-term. But some do. If the pivot doesn’t work the first time, regroup, re-strategize, and come back stronger. Stay informed by consumer trends, habits, needs and desires without alienating the base. What will consumers accept and tolerate, and what will turn them off? Social media makes keeping track of that information much easier.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My primary passion is helping individuals understand that they have more power than they believe they do. They have more control over their careers and their futures than they think they do. For years prior to the pandemic, I was facilitating personal branding workshops for men and women incarcerated in correctional facilities throughout Massachusetts. Time and time again, I encountered inmates who simply followed, listened, and acquiesced their decision-making power to someone else or gave in to an illegal temptation. They got hooked up with the wrong people, or became mesmerized by the wrong experiences. This led to horrible decisions being made, which resulted in their incarceration. I want us to each believe in ourselves. To believe that we deserve to be happy. That we deserve what we are committed to working hard for. I want each of us to believe deep down through our soul that we are beautiful, that we are worthy, that we are valued. That we can and we will. Unfortunately, too many individuals are not surrounded by love, by people who support them, who care about them, who value them and, most importantly, who believe in them and their abilities. I wish I had the power to give these individuals a hug and tell them I care about them, and that they are beautiful. They are special. And they are worthy. If I had the money, I would create thousands of beautiful t-shirts with these powerful words and distribute them to homeless shelters, prisons, jails, street corners, hospitals, rehab centers, schools, colleges, and other locations. Maybe the t-shirts would include a 1–800 number to call and the caller would listen to a series of voicemail messages repeating these messages of encouragement. There wouldn’t be a live person on the other end since they would not be licensed therapists. But often times, we just need to hear the words, “I love you,” or “You got this,” or “Don’t give up, I believe in you.” I would call it “A Movement of Encouragement & Inspiration.” Sometimes, it does have to be only about “me and I.” We have to focus on ourselves before we can be of good to anyone else.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My career is now dedicated to helping individuals and organizations decide how they want to make others feel, and then helping these individuals and organizations reach that goal. We impact others with our personal or business brand. But too many of us don’t understand the level or intensity of that impact. How are we or our businesses making others feel? And how is this helping or hindering our ability to achieve our career or business goals? It’s important to find out.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: @mdkbrandmanage

Facebook: MDK Brand Management

Instagram: @mdk_brand_management

LinkedIn: Denise Kaigler and MDK Brand Management


Denise Kaigler of MDK Brand Management: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: IBM’s Alistair Rennie On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: IBM’s Alistair Rennie On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up Blockchain

You have to look after your whole self. Work is important, but to be really effective for the long terms you need look after your health, nutrition, the amount of sleep you get and of course your relationships.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alistair Rennie.

Alistair Rennie is the General Manager responsible for IBM’s overall Blockchain initiatives. In this role, Alistair leads the strategy and execution of IBM’s investment in the core blockchain platforms as well as the formation of business networks in multiple areas including Financial Services, and Global Supply Chain.

Alistair has led a number of IBM’s global software business including Collaboration and Workforce Solutions, Business and Industry Analytics, and most recently Watson Financial Services. He joined IBM in the Toronto Software Laboratory and has held a number of executive roles in sales, marketing and engineering within IBM.

Mr. Rennie holds degrees in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario. In his spare time, you can find him riding his bike.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series, Alistair. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember going into the office on the weekends with my Dad and he’d set me up at the IBM Selectric Typewriter to keep me busy. It was a game-changer for industrial design and it helped instill in me a lifelong appreciation for beautiful machines and the technology that makes them work. Soon after that, he let me hang out in the data center, and from then on, I was hooked on how computing was changing the World.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are too many stories to list — the most exciting thing for me has been being able to see the impact of the shifts in computing platforms — from Client Server to Internet to Mobile to Cloud and now to Hybrid Cloud, and how these transformations have affected the world. In the midst of it, you can get consumed by the technology, but the impact has always a significant reshaping of value.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Blockchain is a powerful platform for enterprise — it enables you to program trust. At IBM, we are leaders in applying this ability to critical processes such as supply chain and ocean shipping. In just a few years, we have enabled the creation of more than 100 networks in industries from consumer goods to financial services. As clients continue on their digitization journey, the ability to have more collaboration and trust that cross the boundaries of the enterprise will be key — and Blockchain uniquely enables that.

How do you think this might change the world?

One of the things the pandemic really brought to the foreground is how much of the work done within our supply chains needed modernization. When COVID-19 hit, we really started to see in much starker terms the strain that these supply chains were experiencing. Without a single source of truth that applied throughout the supply chain, inventory was in the system, but it wasn’t on the shelves.

The ability to enable transparency across multiple systems — without slow and expensive centralized integration — is critical. We’ll see this growing transparency across our food supply from Farm to Fork, resulting in more flexibility in connecting buyers and sellers, and greater visibility into complex systems.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

It’s about having a clear point of view. At IBM, we believe data belongs to our clients, and a key safeguard to these “drawbacks” is a deliberate, intentional framework for establishing an ethical foundation for building and using new systems, for example the longstanding work we have led on ethical AI. We revise our framework for ethical AI each year, both because we know these technologies are constantly evolving, but also so that the community outside of IBM can be a part of this discussion and help hold us accountable as well

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

With the case of IBM Food Trust, which is now one of the largest if not the largest non-cryptocurrency blockchain network in the world, we talk a lot about the listeriosis outbreaks that affected leafy greens in 2015 and 2016. When it comes to food safety, that served as something of a wakeup call: People are getting that sick from a bite of lettuce? In response, we saw a lot of organizations including many of the largest food retailers in the world invest heavily in traceability so that, should another outbreak occur, they could quickly figure out where the affected products came from. When you think about something non-local at your grocery store, something like a mango, it used to take a week or two to trace that mango back to the farm it came from. Now we can do that process in a few seconds.

Of course, when you can trace food precisely, you can do really interesting things besides outbreak tracing. You can start to think more about preserving freshness, where should certain foods go and how should they be preserved. You can think about things like provenance which is obviously an enormous value creator in its own right. Is that Champagne really from the French region of Champagne? Tools that enhance provenance can help you determine that.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

The foundation of our blockchain work has been to contribute to and be a leader in the vibrant open source community. All of our work is based on Hyperledger — and the success of that community has been critical the enterprise adoption of Blockchain. Secondly — we’ve built some very strong alliances with industry leaders. For example, we recently added CMA and MSC — two of the largest four shippers in the world — to our ocean shipping network TradeLens, which in itself was a collaboration with the shipping company Maersk. This alliance is speeding up the ability to have access to more than 60% of the world’s ocean shipping traffic which will be game changing.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been lucky to work with many incredible leaders. One in particular I’d highlight is Steve Mills who was really the founder of IBM’s modern software business. Steve’s magic was giving everyone the support and confidence to do breakthrough things.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It’s compelling to work at IBM for just this reason — much of what we do has the potential to change the world. As an example, the work we are doing with blockchain to enable transparency clearly has commercial benefits, but a huge side effect is an impact on sustainability. Being able to see where and how food is grown has double benefit. For brands it’s enabling differentiation and higher margins, but it’s also enabling farmers to use better practices and be directly rewarded through programs like Thank My Farmer.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I’ll pick my top piece of advice — you have to look after your whole self. Work is important, but to be really effective for the long terms you need look after your health, nutrition, the amount of sleep you get and of course your relationships.

My runner up would be to never lose the power of a beginner’s mind.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think we all need to play our part in deeply supporting Diversity. That can mean a lot of things, but being able to listen, and reflect about what we each can do is important.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d pitch them that Blockchain is a platform that enables multiparty collaboration and trust, and that its much more than a way to program money.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Twitter at @alistair_rennie and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/alrennie


The Future Is Now: IBM’s Alistair Rennie On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Emily Rogath Steckler’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

…When you look at the big picture of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia, these are giant problems that fall under the even larger category of Neurological Diseases. Saying you want to cure these diseases is a goal. To achieve the goal requires lateral thinking as well as Socratic logic. The INAD gene mutation — PLA2G6 might be the key that unlocks the solution to diseases that affect tens of millions and their families.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Rogath Steckler

Emily has extensive experience in Public Relations and Marketing and has applied that knowledge to Bisous For Léo. With a Master of Arts from New York University in Visual Arts Administration, she worked in PR for such companies as I|D Public Relations and Warner Brothers Pictures Group. She also worked in Marketing for Terry Hines & Associates and Creative Riff. Bisous For Léo is Emily’s first foray into the nonprofit world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you. Prior to co-founding Bisous For Léo with Deborah Vauclare, there was nothing to suggest that this is where I would focus my attention. Yet, this is exactly where I was destined to be. Deborah and I met when we were 14 years old in New York City and quickly became friends. When it was time to apply to college, we decided to go together to The University of Wisconsin in Madison. After college, we returned to New York City and furthered our education — Pratt Institute for Deborah, NYU for me. Our lives were in sync until Deborah won a lottery ticket of an internship to work for a famed interior designer in Paris. This seismic life change led to the love of a co-worker — Antoine, who would eventually become Deborah’s husband and the father of their two children, Léo and Éva.

Léo, their eldest, was born in April 2016. Coincidentally, I was in Paris and was able to visit them in the hospital the day he was born. I’ve seen Deborah become many things over the years, but watching her become a mother was a new privilege. On top of that, Léo was the cutest! Dark hair and deep hazel eyes. As he grew, the playful personality and the omnipresent smile would follow. It wasn’t until around 14 months when Deborah and Antoine started to become concerned. The boy who had learned to walk, talk and hit his developmental milestones like a champ was slowly and then more rapidly starting to lose all his acquired skills. Genetic testing resulted in something none of us had ever heard of: Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD), a neurodegenerative disease with no treatment or cure with a projected life expectancy of 5–10 years. As fate would have it, I was slated to be in Paris the day after Deborah and Antoine received this news. When I got there, we processed the news, sat in silence trying to digest the inconceivable and then we initiated our research. We learned the children with INAD share a gene mutation with some forms of Parkinson’s (PLA2G6) and have the same pathogenesis as those affected with Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia. Not similar; the same! Babies and children affected by a gene defect that I, and most people, had previously believed could only impact adults for early onset and more commonly, the elderly. I had watched my own grandmother change and eventually succumb to Alzheimer’s with Lewy Body Dementia and was horrified to realize that Léo and other children could also suffer the same fate. As a result of a personal shock and our research into broader social impact, Deborah and I created Bisous For Léo (Kisses for Léo), an ancillary arm of the INADcure Foundation, the only US-based nonprofit working to eradicate INAD. Through awareness, education and funding, we are striving to support treatment and cure development to remediate INAD.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s not so much a story but a recognition of not being in the right place. I quit a job once because it was too much of a good thing in that I truly enjoyed the work, but was constantly overwhelmed by the amount of it. I felt I couldn’t be effective in that construct. My focus on Bisous For Léo is intense and unwavering.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Fate has been an overriding theme. If something so unbelievable, even inexplicable, presents itself, rather than question why, I’m inclined to embrace it. I grew up listening to a story my father told me about his own father, who had survived the Holocaust. When my grandfather was a young boy, his father took him to a neighboring town to see the Rabbi. Not just any Rabbi, but the Rabbi. There was a long line that ran from morning to night. When my grandfather and his father were finally ushered into the great man’s inner sanctum, the Rabbi refused a donation and instead gave the pair a gold coin, explained that this coin must remain with my grandfather at all times and stated it would save his life. His father agreed and upon returning home, his mother sowed an inner pocket inside each pair of my grandfather’s pants. This coin was present in various custom pockets for years. After capture by the Nazis, he worked in a concentration camp and at the point of starvation, he was able to bribe a guard with the coin to exchange it for food which saved his life. My grandfather’s name? Leo.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Think small. Perhaps not a novel idea, but arguably the most important. I recently listened to the true-crime podcast In The Dark about the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old-boy named Jacob Wetterling. The set-up is gut wrenching enough, but where it becomes completely implausible is that it took 27 years to solve the case that rocked a small town in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Jacob was kidnapped on a dead-end road in a town of 3,000 people. Lead reporter Madeleine Baran and the APM Reports team initially investigated what was taking so long to solve the case given that there were witnesses as well as a clear suspect. They investigated the Sterns County Sheriff’s Office and discovered systemic failures in this case as well as numerous others. Some of the failures included not interviewing neighbors, not following up on witness leads, not connecting obvious dots to eventually convict, and ultimately casting too wide a net to solve the case rather than starting with a small geographical circle. For two plus decades, the crime was described as “the perfect crime” and it was widely accepted that law enforcement had done everything they could when they launched a massive, thorough investigation and that simply wasn’t true. Law enforcement failed because they went too big too quickly and failed to act on what was right in front of them all along.

Another example that is seared into memory is the movie Children of Men. The world is in chaos and women are infertile. Miraculously there is one pregnant woman; just one. Humanity and the fight for the world’s survival rests with this one improbable baby. I was overwhelmed by the thematic construct that one child could be deemed so vital. So it may be regarding Léo and INAD. There are mysteries that lie within each of us and the children who have INAD are far and few between. There are about 200 of them worldwide. No race, sex or religion ties them together, but each hold this Parkinsonian mutation and the genetic ties to Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia. Today, 50,000,000 people can potentially benefit from INAD research and remediation. Helping 200 children may lead to treatments and possibly a cure for these neurodegenerative diseases.

How do you think this will change the world?

When you look at the big picture of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia, these are giant problems that fall under the even larger category of Neurological Diseases. Saying you want to cure these diseases is a goal. To achieve the goal requires lateral thinking as well as Socratic logic. The INAD gene mutation — PLA2G6 might be the key that unlocks the solution to diseases that affect tens of millions and their families.

Let’s revisit the Jacob Wetterling case for a minute. The takeaway is that narrowing the focus solved a big problem. Rather than looking at the INAD afflicted children and saying there are “only” a couple of hundred impacted, I believe their gene mutation may unlock answers that will help millions of afflicted adults.

Recently Bisous For Léo and the INADcure Foundation expanded its partnership with The New York Stem Cell Foundation to explore the possibility of developing a cellular therapy for INAD patients using gene-corrected neurons. In collaboration with CRISPR pioneer Dr. Feng Zhang of MIT, NYSCF has successfully gene-edited a patient iPSC line to correct their PLA2G6 mutation. The next step is differentiating this line into neurons, to verify that the gene edit successfully reverses disease phenotypes. If a proof of concept is established, it will open doors to pursue a cell replacement therapy. In other words, we’re thinking small — on a cellular level — but the impact could be big.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The only potential drawback is inaction. Consider Covid-19 and its global impact. Initially a few infections in a city in China hardly made the news. Most didn’t notice. Today, it has impacted the entire world. It’s unclear if the INAD gene mutation might increase over time, but until it’s eradicated we simply can’t control or stop it.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

When I was in Paris the day after Léo had been diagnosed, my four year old daughter Chloe was with me. She had been listening to me speak with Deborah over the phone prior to arrival and though neither of us had any idea what exactly was wrong, she instinctively picked up that something was amiss. When we ultimately walked into their apartment, the first thing Chloe did was walk over and kiss Léo. Deborah and I watched the exchange and thought, how wonderful it would be if only we could kiss Léo and make him better. The basis of the campaign was inspired by that image.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Focus and funding. We have the smartest medical minds working on treatment and cure options for the children who are impacted by INAD. We need money to actualize initiatives with urgency. Watching “Operation Warp Speed” plow through trials and testing has been awe inspiring because it shows what is possible with necessary funding and focus.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. PEOPLE WILL SURPRISE YOU: There are people who I thought would jump when I asked for help and many didn’t even hop. Then there are people who I’ve met along the way, with whom I had no prior history with, who have gone above and beyond. I’m surprised and disappointed by the former and awed and grateful for the latter.
  2. YOU WILL GET MORE NOs THAN YESSES: For every successful collaboration or funding initiative that has come to fruition, there are many more examples of “Nos” or passes behind the scenes. Similar to how the medical world views “failures,” we would be absolutely nowhere if we just gave up upon hearing the word “No.”
  3. STAY ON YOUR OWN YOGA MAT: When I was in grad school one of my yoga teachers at Juvamukti Yoga advised the class to stay on their own yoga mat. She didn’t mean literally, she meant that if you spent your time looking around the room at what others were doing, then you would never reach your own full potential. This notion has stayed with me ever since.
  4. DO UNTO OTHERS…EVEN IF THEY DON’T DO UNTO YOU: If you treat others the way you want to be treated, good will eventually find its way back to you. If you don’t, something negative will likely follow.
  5. GET MOVING NOW: Don’t wait to do something…anything! Just create and push forward. The ball doesn’t roll itself.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Above all else, stay focused. That doesn’t mean sit in front of the computer all day waiting for inspiration to strike, it means focus your mind to identify the goal and then work backwards and pinpoint the steps needed to actualize it. I walk around my neighborhood daily and don’t listen to music when doing so. This allows me to process my thoughts and ideas, so that when I do get back in front of the computer I can actualize them.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

We have three pieces of a four piece puzzle in place…1) Children who are affected with INAD 2) Medical experts who have identified clear paths to treating and hopefully curing those children and 3) The connection between the INAD gene and diseases that kill tens of millions each year. What we are missing is funding to much more quickly address the problem.

If any VC is interested in exploring biotech, it feels like an obvious next step. Look at BioNTech in Germany, a startup that is the first drug maker to show successful results from clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine. Their value has ballooned. Now think about the neurodegenerative space…it would be highly remunerative to solve the Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s puzzle. Further medical development surrounding the shared gene mutation and pathogenesis might provide the key.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re @BisousForLeo across the board. Or people can check out BisousForLeo.org for additional information, or to make a tax-deductible donation.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

I appreciate the opportunity.


Emily Rogath Steckler’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr. Michael Newman: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

Wrap criticism with a compliment. Complimenting as part of the criticism shows that the employee is valued and the criticism is intended to be productive.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Newman.

Dr. Michael Newman is one of Southern California’s top plastic surgeons. He is held in high regard by his patients for his thoughtful and compassionate demeanor; qualities that are evident in his work.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I am a board certified plastic surgeon with offices in Beverly Hills and Torrance including a full service medical spa and surgery center. I was inspired by a family member to seek out a career in medicine. I knew I wanted to be in a competitive field and in a competitive geography so I decided to dedicate extra time on subspecialty training and experience in order to differentiate myself and excel within my industry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company’s success is built on customer service and satisfaction. Our clients know that we will do everything in our power to take the best care of them and achieve the best possible results. We frequently have clients that have been to other medical and plastic surgery offices and they often will tell us that our service, staff, and compassion are unparalleled.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

You never know when you are going to come across someone that changes you whole life. I was fortunate enough to meet a client who later developed into a colleague, friend, and leader in the community. She now runs a large non-profit organization helping breast cancer patients leading to documentaries, charity events, and networking that I would have never even dreamed could be possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Dress the part. When I first started working, I often would wear what was most comfortable to the office thinking that would allow me to work more efficiently. I later realized that you are a representation of your brand so you need to broadcast that image in everything you do and everything you wear.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

As my senior colleague used to tell me, life is a marathon, not a sprint, so be aware of the big picture. Be sure to take the time to care for yourself in order to help you make the right decisions without haste and make sure that you are around for the long haul.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership encompasses a variety of skills and attributes including the ability to adjust and handle whatever situation arises. Most surgeons exhibit leadership daily during surgery as the decision maker in the operating room, guiding staff, patient care, and managing the team. Those same skills such as confidence, communication, delegation, and problem solving are used to run a successful business.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

Exercise is the best way to clear the mind. Elevated adrenaline levels during exercise force you to focus on the task at hand (the exercise) and put the upcoming stressful events on the side table for a moment. After exercising, most of us can think more clearly. Sleep is also critical. Many events or situations seem incredibly stressful when in the middle of the situation or anticipating it, but a good night of sleep often wipes away some of the stress and allows us to focus on the real problems.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

Communication is the most critical element for any relationship. This remains true in businesses as well. It is vital to give employees positive feedback and to try and relate to them as human beings. Employees are more motivated when they feel valued and feel part of the team.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Setting expectations and goals is very important. That avoids problems later when employees fall short of the goals. It also helps motivate employees to achieve those goals. It is much easier to shoot for a target that is visible. Imagine playing basketball and trying to make a basket when the basket is invisible. It is much easier to make that basket when you can see the basket. Setting goals helps employees focus their energy and prioritize tasks to achieve the goals.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Wrap criticism with a compliment. Complimenting as part of the criticism shows that the employee is valued and the criticism is intended to be productive.

Be direct. Avoid using theoretical or vague terms. Use actual facts from an actual situation the the employee witnessed or was involved in. That is the best way to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Relate. Show compassion by possibly using an example of when you, a colleague, or another employee was faced with a challenge that they were able to overcome.

Be private. Avoid giving criticism in groups. Have a one on one conversation to avoid shaming which can be counterproductive and create resentment or anger.

Document. Keep track of the feedback and how often it is needed in case it happens again or in case that employee denies it was addressed in the past.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.

Be succinct. It is easy to misinterpret mood and attitude over email so avoid going into too much detail that could be misunderstood or distracting. Offer to have a phone, virtual, or in person conversation to discuss details.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Start and/or end with a compliment. Express some optimism or hope for the future.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

The best time to give feedback is within 24 hours of the incident. Waiting too long can lead to excessive gossip among coworkers or anxiety from anticipation. In addition, the longer you wait, the more likely the specific details of the incident will be forgotten leading to a less productive discussion. Nip it in the bud. Address incidents as soon after the incident as practical. Avoid giving criticism in group settings though so wait until you can have a one on one discussion.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

Great bosses should be inspiring and should be role models. A large part of good leadership is leading by example.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Universal healthcare. It is embarrassing that our country does not offer health care to all of its citizens. We ultimately pay the same price already through disability benefits, Medicaid programs, and county hospital funding. Health insurance companies reap endless profits with CEO’s making tens of millions of dollars. That money could be used to care for the uninsured citizens of our country instead.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity. Life is full of opportunities for success, but you have to be watching for them and ready seize the opportunity when you recognize it. Stay at the top of your game and be ready to pounce.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me @drnewmanplasticsurgery

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


Dr. Michael Newman: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jon Squire of CardFree On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Jon Squire of CardFree On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Fear of the unknown or new is always the challenge with technology. One of my favorite lines from Money Ball is “I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their mind’s, it’s threatening the game.” The same holds true for our space, people fear losing staff or identity theft or card data in the clear. The fact of the matter is that this will only increase volume and staff with turnover, making cards more secure and obfuscated via mobile. Customer interaction is better overall when the customer drives when and what they want vs. waiting for someone to swing by for their second martini.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Squire.

Jon Squire has more than 19 years of business, marketing and product development experience in financial services and emerging technologies. Jon founded CardFree in 2012 with the vision of filling a gap in the marketplace for an integrated commerce platform for large merchants.

Prior to CardFree, Jon served as CMO at CorFire, SK C&C’s global mCommerce division, where he managed sales, business development, strategy and marketing. Jon was also SVP of Mobile Payments at mFoundry where he helped create the first mobile wallet initiatives in the U.S. with retailers, carriers and financial institutions. Between his work at CorFire and mFoundry, Jon has been involved in the two largest mobile payments programs in the nation.

Jon has consistently driven innovation and created world-class product offerings in new categories. He launched the first national mobile P2P offering in partnership with Sprint and PayPal and is well known for his leading-edge work with NFC, barcode and alternative technologies that integrate with the point of sale. Earlier in his career, he also led mobile/e-commerce payment initiatives for Wells Fargo and ran E*TRADE Advisory Services.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

If there is one common word or theme that drove my career path it would have to be frustration. The constant question of why can’t we make things more efficient and as frictionless as possible for a customer has been the driving force for everything, I have done in the last 25 years. Whether in financial services and providing investment advice to folks who were largely ignored by investment managers, to enjoying the most seamless dining experience at your favorite restaurant, I have always looked to the technology at-hand to streamline old processes.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting stories would probably lead to some legal fun, but I can share an early story that helped shape my career. I’ve always been a competitive person, so when graduation came around and most of my friend’s had landed ‘great’ jobs on Wall Street, and I — being a political science major with no real economic knowledge — decided I should be able to do the same. The problem was that I had no connections and no relevant experience or education. What I did have was a kick ass recommendation letter from a State Senator in Pennsylvania — the youngest to ever be elected — whose campaign I had helped run during my Senior year.

Every one of the top 10 banks passed on me, but one. I knew I had to crush the interview to have a chance. After three rather dull hours of being poked and prodded by people who clearly had better things to do, I was left waiting for the big finale — the COO of the bank who personally was picking the candidates for this new program (only 12 would make it out of hundreds applying). After about 10 minutes of niceties and practiced patience, the COO leaned back and asked, “Son, I appreciated the recommendation, which is the only reason you’re sitting here, but you clearly don’t know anything about financial services and are here to prove something to yourself or someone else. That being said, you’re not qualified and unless you have some secret talent I should know about, it’s been nice meeting you.” I was caught off guard but appreciated the honesty. I had noticed the very large bookcase this gentlemen possessed when I walked into the room and knowing there was nothing left to do but make a joke, I said, “I noticed you’ve got Atlas Shrugged on the top shelf behind you (he stood about 5’ 10’’ and I am 6’ 7’’), if you ever wanted to read it I could get it for you, how many other candidates that you’ve met could reach it?” I stood to leave and after an awkward pause, he broke into a huge laugh. I got the job and he told me something I carried ever since — “Never lose the ability to not be intimidated, not by the person or the obstacle in front of you.”

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Pre-COVID, we started to look the best way to minimize human interaction and empower the customer to drive the dining experience. When COVID hit, it highlighted not only the convenience of our tools, but the need for protecting the staff and customer. These tools include CardFree’s Text-to-Pay, Order@Table, Pay@Table and Curbside pick-up. All of these programs allow the customer to drive when and where — if at all — they interact with the staff and protect the ladder from unnecessary exposure. We have shown increased ticket sales by over 30%, table turn increase, frictionless pickup with ‘I’m Here’ curbside, and an ability for our brand partners to survive the darkest period to hit the restaurant industry in modern times.

How do you think this might change the world?

Similar to how Starbucks set the bar for mobile payment and order ahead, these tools become table-stakes for restaurants, grocery and convenience stores going forward. The irony of mobile phones is that they have always driven less person-to-person live communication (think text/social media), and more of an ability for the customer to drive when and where the interaction takes place. This is not to say that the person-to-person interaction is on its way out, but rather that people would prefer to choose when and where they interact in the experience.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Fear of the unknown or new is always the challenge with technology. One of my favorite lines from Money Ball is “I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their mind’s, it’s threatening the game.” The same holds true for our space, people fear losing staff or identity theft or card data in the clear. The fact of the matter is that this will only increase volume and staff with turnover, making cards more secure and obfuscated via mobile. Customer interaction is better overall when the customer drives when and what they want vs. waiting for someone to swing by for their second martini.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to start CardFree? Can you tell us that story?

After working for two startups trying to solve for mobile payments at scale in the U.S. and focused banks, carriers and merchants, in that order, it became clear we would have to start our own company that embraced merchants first.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Someone to try it once. Similar to the early days with Starbucks, once someone has skipped the line or experienced the convenience of paying remotely and having your food run out to you the second you arrive, you’re hooked. Once you’re hooked you tell a friend and, as the old commercial goes, and so on and so on…

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

In a lot of ways, initial marketing for CardFree was easy as we were the team that developed the original Starbucks and Dunkin’ mobile apps, which gave us immediate credibility. Most of our business came in-bound and through word of mouth. Of course, we executed marketing strategies that won awards, analyst outreach, consistent coverage in trade publications and influencing the influencers, but ultimately, happy restaurant partners and great consumer user experience have been the key.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would not consider myself successful, yet. There is still so much to do and, particularly in the last year, so much to do better. That being said, my father gave me confidence and my mother gave me the tools I would need to succeed. My mom raised my brother and I on a Teacher’s Aid’s salary and never let us settle for the scraps the world will throw your way.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That is the question we come back to each and every day. As a company we’ve been lucky enough to leverage the success large clients have brought us to help sustain the small, local restaurants with free tools during this brutal period. As a person, I try to share the ‘success’ through coaching (sports), local charities, and employing folks through a tough time. We promised to not lay off anyone during COVID and have been lucky enough to live up to it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1) Lack of experience is an asset if you listen. 2). Be curious in everything you do. 3) Assume anyone who says ‘that’s the way it’s done’ doesn’t care. 4). Trust your gut, focus groups are for people who don’t want to get fired. 5) Hustle.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t worry about this one. If you miss it, we lose.” We grew up caddying and this quote from Caddyshack became the beacon for folding under pressure and also realizing that pressure also brings humor — to enjoy both is as good as it gets.


The Future Is Now: Jon Squire of CardFree On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nick Platt of LO LA: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand…

Nick Platt of LO:LA: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Strengthen your promise. On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. The more consistent you are with communicating and backing up your promise, the better. Consistency only makes your promise resonate stronger. Be authentic and deliberate in all that you do!

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Nick Platt.

As the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of LO:LA, Nick Platt is carrying out a lifelong ambition to not only re-imagine advertising creative that resonates but is also “Made with Love.” With a career spanning two continents and three decades, Nick Platt creates magic in the moments that matter.

Prior to founding LO:LA Nick was Executive Creative Director at RAPP, responsible for all creative output produced in the agency’s Los Angeles office, including creative campaigns for clients such as Toyota, Nescafe, Bank of America, Flemings, Roy’s, and Mattel as well as pro bono work for the Special Olympics and Stand Up to Cancer, among many others. His particular focus was on delivering creative solutions that are simple, relevant and original. He also worked in that role for the past 14 years, 6 years of which he spent in RAPP’s London office, where he was responsible for managing accounts including NSPCC, Apple, Sony, Barclays Bank, and CRUK.

During his 30 years of experience in advertising and direct marketing, he has worked at a range of prominent agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Proximity, and TBWAGGT, among others. He has won numerous industry awards, including the Grand Prix at the New York Festivals, Gold at the ECHOs, D&AD, John Caples, DMAs and London International Advertising Awards.

Nick is proudly a big agency ex-pat determined to prove that independent creative shops can be nimble, fast and cost-efficient without sacrificing quality. He’s making outstanding advertising available.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was at school the one class that gave me the greatest pleasure and comfort was art. I just loved to draw, and to find myself making it into a career has been a blessing, branding and advertising are more than just drawing but to be able to use creativity to solve problems and make products relevant to people, is a skill that goes back to those art classes of my youth. Having my vocation turn into a lifelong career certainly does “beat working for a living”.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think one of the biggest mistakes I made was trying all too often to write ads that I just liked, about things that I personally thought where cool, which, in a sense, narrowed my outlook. In my earlier days, you could always tell the ad work I had created- which initially may have come across as a novelty, but over time likely provided some amount of amusement for my colleagues. Getting out of my own way and headspace and truly creating work for others was the lesson I learned.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I guess for me that goes back to when I first started out. Nothing would make me happier or prouder than immediately showing my latest ad or campaign to my mum, for which her response would often be the same: “That’s nice dear!”. I’d always walked away a little deflated and confused that mum couldn’t see what I could see. Then one day, I brought home an advert for a travel company and this time I’d really taken the time and effort to understand the audience and make something for them and not me. My mum’s reaction said it all. She wanted to know how she could book the holiday, she actually bought into what the ad was selling and wanted the product. My “ah-ha” moment was in the difference in how I approached the problem, the task. And since then, I have never looked back.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! We have just embarked on a partnership with an emerging electric vehicle company called ZEV. They are really innovating the EV space, for both consumers and businesses. They are on a mission to break down the barriers of adoption and make ZEV the preferred choice of mobility for every person on the planet by democratizing it, making it accessible to all.

ZEV came to LO:LA (my agency) because as brilliant as their technology and mission is, they needed to find a way to turn it into a compelling story- for customers and investors. This is a brand that really understands the need to express it’s “why” to the world. We have helped ZEV better position their brand and create a real sense of purpose. We are now applying that to how they pitch to investors and licensing partners, how they market to individual customers and business fleets, as well as how they educate the general public on how ZEV will revolutionize the world…for the better. All very exciting stuff!

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Pause. Breathe. Taking time for yourself, being away from the problem(s) you are trying to solve can be a great way of putting together that puzzle. Find a way to make the time where you get to really unwind and relax. I have found channeling creativity in other areas of my life can also be a great help. And get over the concept of perfection, you’ll never get there. I’m not suggesting you ever settle for second best, but the stress involved with looking for perfection creates a sure-fire road to burnout.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

First of all, you need to define your brand’s “why” along with a story that embodies and conveys this concept. Many businesses also miss that their brand is a promise you make to customers, to the world. Once you have your “why” and brand story established, then you can concentrate on the advertising or marketing, determining what are the best ways and platforms to articulate your brand’s promise (and most importantly, how you keep your promises). It’s all about engineering an experience for people through your brand, helping them to perceive and connect with the value in your business. This is how you should look it: your brand is your promise, and your advertising is the evidence you are keeping that promise.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

It is so worth spending the time, energy and budget to truly build (or refresh) your brand, to define your audience and story in a way that exemplifies how you want customers to view and connect with you. As critical as this first step is, it’s often missed. Many businesses look to jump right into actual marketing efforts, searching for tangible ROI’s and KPI’s. However, without a clear and cohesive brand, message and story, any marketing efforts will come across unauthentic to both internal and external customers. And I challenge you to start by first looking internally, to galvanize your company around a single thought so your team can become champions of your brand. All too often employees don’t know the why, the purpose behind what they do within a business or organization. This only permeates to confusion in the eyes of your external customer. Your brand should focus on creating a reason for customers to come back to you time and time again! Look at creating or refreshing your brand as an investment, rather than a cost. Having a fully developed, ever-evolving brand provides you with value, synergy and clarity as well as saves you an exorbitant amount of time and money in the long run!

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

A company should consider a brand refresh or rebrand when they see disconnect and confusion within their own internal teams. And if a company is not sure if a disconnect exists, just go ask a handful of employees why they are there, how they perceive the brand and the brand’s purpose. If you get different answers, you know you have a problem. And if your brand’s goal is to drive more loyalty amongst current customers and/or grow or connect with new types of customers, a rebrand can absolutely accomplish that. Also, many brands don’t think about their customers from the perspective of their ongoing life journey. As people, we all change and evolve- our beliefs, priorities, our perspectives, etc. Shouldn’t your brand evolve as well? Rather than ramping up your advertising spend. It may be wiser to look at revamping or repositioning your brand (and also might be a simpler and cost-effective route as well).

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If it’s not broken, why fix it? I think you do need to look at all the indicators of a broken brand first- low net promoter scores, bad customer reviews, lack of repeat orders or transactions, declining sales as well as “softer” indicators like internal buy-in, unmotivated teams, competitors growing market share, etc. If these descriptors don’t apply to you, then you don’t fit the mold of a broken brand and I would suggest you keep doing whatever it is you are doing. But you can never lose by turning your attention to ramping up advertising that shares your promise to the world (and how you keep it).

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

1. Inspire your customers. Focus on the “why” of your business or brand and back it up with a consistently great story and experience for your customers.

2. Make a promise. Your brand is a promise kept. Create a consistent value or experience that customers can expect from you. Answer an unmet need your customers face. Then do it again, and again, and again.

3. Tell the world about your promise. Be creative in how you communicate your brand (aka your promise) to current and target customers. Use all channels available but make the communications relevant and consistent to that promise.

4. Keep your promise. Be singular and stick to what you say and convey. Customers, more than ever, are savvy and inundated with information and advertising. Always try to go beyond expectation and offer surprise and delight wherever you can.

5. Strengthen your promise. On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. The more consistent you are with communicating and backing up your promise, the better. Consistency only makes your promise resonate stronger. Be authentic and deliberate in all that you do!

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Right now, I think Burger King has done a great job of sharing a brand refresh that is built on the promise they made to the world- delivering an engaging and authentic alternative to McDonalds. Going back to their roots and staying true to their promise has helped create a tone and look that is playful and distinctive, which sets the brand apart from other fast-food chains. Burger King has done brand refresh that hits all the right notes.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. J

I think we should all take the time to find out our why. Why am I here? Why do I do what I do? Why would customers (or even employees) care? I think if we all encourage each other to find our why, the world might just benefit J

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We are not alone in this world and we will always need each other to create something truly great. Intelligent collaboration has been a life lesson for me- the idea of embracing teamwork and opening your mind to new ideas and approaches is how to do things. Any other way is just too difficult (and much less fun).

How can our readers follow you online?

  • Instagram: @lo_la_creative
  • Facebook: @TheLOLAAgency
  • LinkedIn: LO:LA (London: Los Angeles)

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Nick Platt of LO LA: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Darron J. Burke of Don Pablo Coffee: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

…Now more than ever it seems that people want to identify with a product, rather than just consume it. Branding helps to communicate a lifestyle message to help make that possible.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Darron J. Burke, Founder and CEO of Don Pablo Coffee.

In 1989, Darron J. Burke, founder of Burke Brands LLC., moved to South Florida in search of adventure. Little did he know he would soon meet the love of his life, Eliana, and his life would change forever. While visiting Eliana’s family in Colombia, Darron fell in love with Latin culture and the country’s delicious coffee. The couple quickly recognized an opportunity and began to learn everything they could about coffee growing and roasting in Colombia and traveled the rest of Latin America to further their education and forge relationships with other coffee growers. The couple chose the name “Don Pablo” from the nickname Eliana’s grandmother gave to Darron. As a native Spanish speaker, she had great difficulty pronouncing his real name, so she called him “Don Pablo” after a character in her favorite tongue twister.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I met a Colombian girl in Miami 32 years ago and fell in love. She took me to Colombia to meet her family, and I fell in love with the country, culture, and the coffee. I remember waking up to an amazing cup of coffee the day after I arrived and freaking out about it. Everyone thought I was crazy, but they agreed to take me to a coffee farm so I could learn more about why it was so good. The rest is history as they say.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first started we wanted to test our Cafe Cubano coffee on Cuban-American customers here in Miami, where we are located, and we asked the Grandmother and Aunt of one of our people to take a blind taste test with two other traditional Cuban espresso brands (including one of theirs). They tried them all and ended up raving about ours, going on and on about how good it was, but when I asked them if they would like to take some home as gift, they said no, because they already had enough of their brand at home. I learned something about brand loyalty and culture that day, and the exercise sort of foreshadowed how difficult it was going to be to wrestle people away from their favorite brands and gain some market share for ourselves.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My wife and I have personally given out over a million cups of coffee while doing demos at warehouse clubs every weekend for over 10 years, and because our pictures are on the packaging, we often get recognized around the country.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We started a show called “The Coffee Fix,” where we go around the world and use the knowledge and resources we have gained in the coffee business, to help entrepreneurs start or improve a businesses.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

​We wanted our brand to convey authenticity, that’s why we put ourselves on the packaging. We think it is important that customers know that we are specialty coffee growers as well as roasters, and also have personal relationships with farmers all over the world. We think this kind of branding is different from simply advertising features and benefits.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Now more than ever it seems that people want to identify with a product, rather than just consume it. Branding helps to communicate a lifestyle message to help make that possible.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Quality — we are unique for a coffee roaster of our size, in that we roast to-order in multiple small batch roasters for all of our customers large and small. It is a very inefficient and expensive model, but we are able to produce better quality. We have many die hard fans of our brand, and these are the folks that recognize and appreciate this process.

Transparency — We think it is important to be completely transparent as a company, and we use all the social media platforms to try and communicate who we are and what we are trying to accomplish in terms of quality and value. We think our new show, The Coffee Fix, also does a good job of this.

Education — Because 4 companies control 95% of the global at-home coffee industry, it tends to influence what consumers perceive as quality, but in fact, because of their scale, lengthy supply chains, and laser focus on margins and creating value for their shareholders, these companies are unable and unwilling to produce real quality. We have had to educate customers that what they are tasting in our product is the result of superior coffee beans, small batches, and roasted to-order freshness. We make it a point to say that this information doesn’t mean that they have to like ours better, but we do think it’s important that they have the information.

Sampling — We have always done either live sampling or have sent samples to anyone just for the asking. We think this shows good faith, and a good percentage of people who receive samples become life-long customers, so it is a win-win.

100% Guarantee — We stand behind our product 100% and if anyone ever has an issue or simply doesn’t care for the coffee and wants to return it, we issue a refund no questions asked.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Sierra Nevada beer comes to mind. They’ve been around a long time, and are not small, but they produce legit craft beer. I had a question recently, and their customer service was excellent. I was very impressed. I think to replicate that you really have to walk the talk. In other words care; care about quality, and care about the customer experience. Also care about your employees, because when they know you care about them, and the quality of the product they are creating, they care too, and that automatically gets communicated to the customer.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

​Sales are obviously very important, and when you can show an increase, that means something is working, but more importantly I think, is customer retention. I think that speaks more to brand building. Consumers have A LOT of choices, and when they decide to stick with your company and product, I believe there is sometimes more to it than just taste profile and price.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Besides allowing us to be more transparent as I mentioned earlier, I think social media helps us to expand our reach and increase sales by enabling an introduction of our company and brands to new customers, and it also helps us to build a community around our brands.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Not sure if I’m qualified to give advice on how to avoid burnout but I think delegation is an obvious choice. I know some folks personally that are micro-managers, or even control freaks, and they seem to stay small and get burned out quick. I’m a control freak when it comes to quality and the customer experience, but I spend a lot of my time trying to create a culture in our organization and trying to build our institutional knowledge as a company, so that it is second nature for our Team to go the extra mile to please customers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The most important thing is love. It might sound corny to some people, but if everyone were to start there, always, in every situation, I believe the result would be awe-inspiring. I have also discovered that it is absolutely true that the more you give, the more you get. That formula has not failed our company, not once, not in our history.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There’s a lot of them, and I have mostly relied on scripture to inform and guide our company, but there’s a quote that has been attributed to Gandhi (maybe falsely, not sure) that says; “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then they accept you.” That is exactly what has happened to us as a company from the beginning. Fortunately I feel like we have made it through to the acceptance phase.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’ve been trying to get the attention of Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy. I’m a big fan and have what I think is a very good idea for him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @cafedonpablo and learn more at https://donpablocoffee.com/.


Darron J. Burke of Don Pablo Coffee: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Nike Aremu: Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel; 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this…

Author Nike Aremu: Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel; 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis

We can adjust to the new normal. Finding ways to adjust to what is considered the new normal will certainly help us get see light at the end of the tunnel. We have had to adjust and get creative and now found ways to live with what is now considered normal. An example for me was not able to meet up with my friends during the lockdown. But now we meet virtually. It is amazing how much my zoom skills have improved. Being flexible when adjusting to the new normal and noting that these challenging times will not last forever will make it easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Adjusting also means seeing this period as a chapter in our lives. Our lives consist of many chapters and if we look at is this way, it becomes more manageable.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nike Aremu.

Nike Aremu is a published author of three books including her most recent one, ‘Kicking Grief in my High Heels’. Nike is known to combine her real-life stories with her unique writing style to bring peace and comfort to her readers dealing with grief, loss and other traumatic experiences. A firm believer in the power of occasional uncomfortable high heels and killer tennis shoes, Nike has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Literary Studies and still has dreams of being a stand-up comedian one day.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

For as long as I remember, I have loved to write. English was my favorite subject in school, and I remember my elementary school teacher praising my essay once and telling me that I write so well that it almost seems like the words are in color.

I started my career as an English High School teacher and later moved into the world of software development as a Technical Writer. I now own and operate a home care agency which allows me to have more time to do more of what I enjoy doing most — writing and speaking.

I really was not sure what my books will focus on until I heard a speaker in my church talk about our life stories. He said everyone has a story and we have a responsibility to tell our story. Our life stories are meant to help other people and regardless of how painful, or

irrelevant or insignificant we think these stories may be. This set the light bulb off in my head and let to the creation of my first book, “Don’t Waste Your Pain”. This book narrates my personal journey through a turbulent childhood to freedom. Shortly after that, I published my second book, “Good Morning Lord. It is me, Your Favorite Daughter” which is a personal devotional book and ties along with some of the lessons narrated in my first book. I never knew the light bulb will go off in my head almost ten years later when I needed to tell another story! I went through another traumatic experience when I suffered the loss of my mother and sister within 5 weeks. This led to the release of my most recent book, “Kicking Grief in High Heels” and I always like to add that it does not always have to be in heels.

I now have a community that I am developing and growing through my writing, speaking and other engagements. My goal is to provide emotional care, support and guidance for individuals going through a grief phase, life crisis or a traumatic past such as abuse, abandonment or emotional trauma. As someone who has gone through a fair share of turbulent life experiences, I am channeling my energy from these harrowing circumstances into sharing personal life stories to help others. My vision lies in offering solace and guidance to as many as seek advice, need a friend or simply want a listening ear in their time of need.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

This is a tough question for me to answer because there are several books that have impacted me.

I will probably go with my most recent read which is ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover. This book showed. This really resonated with me because it shows power of resilience and what you can achieve when you sometimes take the non-conventional route.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. We can adjust to the new normal. Finding ways to adjust to what is considered the new normal will certainly help us get see light at the end of the tunnel. We have had to adjust and get creative and now found ways to live with what is now considered normal. An example for me was not able to meet up with my friends during the lockdown. But now we meet virtually. It is amazing how much my zoom skills have improved. Being flexible when adjusting to the new normal and noting that these challenging times will not last forever will make it easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Adjusting also means seeing this period as a chapter in our lives. Our lives consist of many chapters and if we look at is this way, it becomes more manageable.
  2. See it as a time to redefine yourself and journal the experience. I have always been a firm believer in journaling, but Covid-19 along has made me redefine certain aspects of my life and journal this whole experience. As I document the changes I am making personally to adapt to the situation, I have found it very therapeutic to go back and read over my notes. A good tip is not to just write down all the drama and chaos associated with the pandemic but to note things that you are grateful for. Redefining myself gives me something to look forward to when all this is over and that definitely puts a light to the tunnel. For instance, I am learning a new language and can’t wait to be able to travel and practice my skills in a foreign country. While we may want to always focus on the chaos brought along with by these times, please do not forget to record things that makes you feel better by taking a gratitude approach.
  3. Know that we all have in us what is needed to survive. Whether we know it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, we all have a strong sense of resilience built in us. It really is there deep down inside us. I really do believe that. To be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we must develop the ability to tap into this and push through to survive. We all acknowledge that life has thrown us an entirely new set of circumstances with the pandemic, but we have what is needed to make it through. I am a social person. I love going out with my friends, meeting up for brunch, going to concerts, movies and please let us not forget shopping. But guess what, I do all that now virtually and I am quite okay. I am even okay dressing up to for a Zoom birthday party — who would have thought?
  4. Understand that the experts continue to learn more about the disease and work on their findings accordingly. We can do our part by staying informed but not being alarmed. I am so thankful for the power of science and research and glad that they are right on top of it. I do not even engage in discussions about timelines, efficiency of what they are doing or things like that. All I know is that they are working on it and I am thankful that they are and also hopeful that they will come up with a solution soon. With that being said, it is helpful to keep our eyes on the news but tuning in to every single development can easily become overwhelming. Get your information form reputable sources, limit social media news and take steps to make sure you are not caught up in anxiety.
  5. Practice gratitude on all levels. Intentional practicing gratitude shows us the light at the end of the tunnel in all situations. I already mentioned journaling — that is a great habit. Make sure you add to it every day. Nurture your relationships. Laugh more. Time is our new currency now, so spend it wisely. Commit one day a week when you will not complain about anything. I never realized how tough that could be. Thank your essential workers. If you are not used to this, it may not feel natural at first, but keep at it, I promise it will get easier as you continue.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Take time to understand and respect each other. Make it you goal to genuinely show respect to others — even those with whom you disagree with. We are in living in very unprecedented times and now more than ever everyone needs to feel understood and respected. If someone does not feel comfortable going out even after the lockdown has been lifted, do not dismiss their feelings. Respect their decisions even if you do not agree with it. Do not try to change their mind.
  2. See each other. This also means helping each other. Check in with your friends or neighbors who are alone. We no longer live in a world where the question, ‘How are you?’ really paints a true picture of what the person is really going through. If you have an elderly neighbor or relative who might be lonely, call and talk for a few minutes. Get your children involved. Staying connected is one of the strongest ways to help during these times. There is definitely strength in numbers. We can help each other, strengthen each other and also the people around us.
  3. Be kind to one another. The typical reaction during a pandemic is for us to become anxious and worried. To alleviate these feelings, we must find fund ways to help others. This will uplift our spirits and also theirs. If you are doing well financially, practice gratitude and pay others for the services they can no longer provide such as your hairdresser, housekeeper or others who are unable to work.
  4. Avoid judgement. Reach out to people who are feeling anxious and let me know you are there to support them. While doing this, try to keep your opinions to yourself. They really do not wany to hear your thoughts no matter how good your intentions are. Keep notes of disapproval out of your comments by focusing on feelings like sympathy and compassion when you speak.
  5. Thank them. Sounds crazy but really thank the person for opening up to you. Thank them for feeling comfortable enough to let you know that they are struggling. Thank the person for being transparent enough to share their thoughts and feelings with you. It is hard to ask for help or let people know when we are struggling. Let the person know you appreciate their trusting you and that they are not being a burden in doing so. It takes a lot for someone to open up to another person about their feelings and emotions and I really do not think it should go unnoticed.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

The CDC website also has some good resourcesinformation on anxiety also

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Death and life lie in the power of the tongue. You are more defined by what comes out of your mouth than what goes in it.”

I am firm believer in the power of what comes out of your mouth. The way you speak and the things you say have power. Speech gives us the power to create or destroy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Speak More” — Encourage young adults in developing countries to voice their opinions boldly. This movement will go along with my Life Lesson quote.

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

Instagram — nike.aremu

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity


Author Nike Aremu: Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel; 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Mark Himelstein of RISC-V On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Mark Himelstein of RISC-V On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Some of the greatest “rocket science” in RISC-V is the simplicity, elegance, and flexibility of it. While some of the individual pieces are not “rocket science,” the collective whole is “rocket science.” It enhances speed-to-innovation, and with advances over the last 15 years in chip design and implementation, this makes it possible for our members to easily use RISC-V for everything from embedded to high performance computing (HPC). Those products will advance many areas including disaggregation, machine learning (ML), storage class memory, etc. Ultimately, it will result in better, faster, more capable end-user products like automobiles, network edge servers, or cloud servers.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Himelstein.

Before RISC-V International Mark Himelstein was the president of Heavenstone, Inc. which concentrated on strategic, management, and technology consulting providing hardware and software product architecture, analysis, mentoring and interim management. Previously, Mark was vice president of engineering and CTO of Graphite Systems, Inc. (acquired by EMC), where he focused on developing large analytics appliances using highly integrated Flash memory. He has also held positions including CTO of Quantum Corp., vice president of Solaris, development engineering at Sun Microsystems and other technical management roles at Apple, Infoblox, and MIPS.

Mark has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and math from Wilkes University and a master’s degree in computer science from University of California, Davis/Livermore. In addition to publishing numerous technical papers and holding many patents, he is the author of the book “100 Questions to Ask Your Software Organization.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always had a strong interest in architecture and my career went back and forth between executive management and development. The biggest job I had was running Solaris and my biggest task was kick-starting innovation with the team for things like the zettabyte file system (ZFS), DTrace, and Zones. I was able to combine my management experience with technology and have continued to do so since. In December 2019, some of my colleagues from MIPS asked me to consider this job and I said sure. The more I learned, the more excited I was. RISC-V is the heir apparent from earlier RISC processors and the community needed some help in the leadership department, so it was the perfect combination. Over the last seven months since I accepted the position, my interest has only grown. I am grateful to be a part of this effort.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have been at this for about 40 years and I am not sure I can pick one! A recent one was from a company I started in 2012 called Graphite Systems that was acquired by EMC. We made a highly parallel flash-based compute appliance for big data. We were working with a social media company doing a database query that required 200 machines in order to run and it typically took 30 minutes to complete. They needed the query done faster. With a 4-socket Intel based OTS server and our parallel flash device attached, we could do the same query in eight minutes! When asked how we did it, the answer was quite unique and elegant. We threw out complexity and used plain text columnar files with basic statistics, on top of highly parallel flash storage (think non-volatile memory host controller interface specification “NVME” on steroids). Everyone had kept building layers of software, which included code people had forgotten were even in the stack. The same layers that enabled rapid development using common building blocks had just become an albatross. Sometimes you have to start from the fundamentals and be simple and elegant. That is what RISC-V is as well; simple and elegant. Designed for flexibility to last for 50 years or more.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

As discussed above, some of the greatest “rocket science” in RISC-V is the simplicity, elegance, and flexibility of it. While some of the individual pieces are not “rocket science,” the collective whole is “rocket science.” It enhances speed-to-innovation, and with advances over the last 15 years in chip design and implementation, this makes it possible for our members to easily use RISC-V for everything from embedded to high performance computing (HPC). Those products will advance many areas including disaggregation, machine learning (ML), storage class memory, etc. Ultimately, it will result in better, faster, more capable end-user products like automobiles, network edge servers, or cloud servers.

That being said, we get the benefit of history. So if you take a look at extensions like vector or crypto, you will see they are “rocket science” and they enable things like ML or security in fundamentally better ways.

How do you think this might change the world?

When I was at MIPS, we were only interested in creating a great product. In the end, some of the legacy of what we did was to expose the hardware (HW) vs software (SW) tradeoffs, which resulted in things such as more sophisticated toolchains. The interesting part for that whole generation of RISC processors (MIPS, SPARC, Alpha, POWER, etc.) is how they were used in everything from automotive to space exploration. I can’t predict all the places RISC-V will be used or what technology we develop today will be viewed as world changing when we look back.

So we too are just trying to create a great architecture. It will be used in many obvious and novel ways. I am proud and amazed at the incredible designs and projects the community is working on.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I am a change monger, I love change. The one thing I am sure of is that change will happen. It doesn’t matter what aspect of society that you look at, whether non-tech or hi-tech, it all has the potential to be used for nefarious ends. In my opinion, our jobs as humans is to make sure there is a balance, and that the net is positive and constructive. The open source technology community is often above that, wanting to break down barriers and boundaries, spark innovation and optimize our efforts. I am hopeful that our trajectory is up and to the right.

Was there a “tipping point” that guided you to open source technology? Can you tell us that story?

I have been involved with open source for a long time. I worked with GNU EMACS in the 1980s. I brought Linux compatibility to Solaris, open sourced public key infrastructure (PKI), and funded the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) version of NFSV4, and I began the arduous task of open sourcing Solaris.

Eventually I ended up at many companies using Linux and other open source products. It was clear to me that the economic models around proprietary SW were not sustainable.

People could lose their jobs in the 1990s picking Linux. Now it is a no-brainer. It only made sense that the technology would find its way into instruction set architectures (ISAs) and chip designs. It began with existing ISAs, like SPARC and POWER, donating its technology as a whole. However, those chips still require their originators to support the bulk of the effort. RISC-V is the first ISA of this magnitude to be born and developed in open source just like Linux. There is a pride of ownership with Linux that you experience with the members involved in designing RISC-V. While today we are an emerging technology, like Linux, we will be a no-brainer for designers in the future. So that’s a long winded answer to say I like the open source movement and I think it is inevitable. It spurs on innovation in ways we are only beginning to imagine.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need the successful proliferation of products using RISC-V. This will stem from finishing the things we have started and identifying and addressing gaps that are needed to meet a broad set of industry necessities.

What have you been doing to share this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing or teaching strategies?

This answer may be best left to my marketing colleagues to answer. I try to lead every effort in an open, communicative, technologically enabling, and collaborative way. I represent and evangelize RISC-V with every interaction I have.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is not one, but two I’d like to mention: Larry Weber and Anil Gadre. Larry was my first boss at MIPS and then I worked for him twice more at other companies. He taught me planning and how to get from point A to point B without drama. Anil was my boss at Solaris and enabled and helped me grow into my first big job. He helped me accomplish an amazing amount in an environment with many conflicting priorities. Both of these leaders enabled me to succeed by being considerate, while also challenging me. I already feel the same way about my boss at RISC-V, Calista Redmond. She is an extraordinary leader.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Some may answer this question and the following questions in terms of technology. I will not. I don’t keep this a secret but I also haven’t shared this (up until now) with such a broad audience. For me kindness is paramount. After nine years of marriage, my wife died of cancer in 2016, culminating a long battle with the disease. The events of our lives change us. I try to both spend time volunteering in person (before COVID) and contributing money to enhance the quality of life (at least a little) for patients while they are receiving chemotherapy treatment. In my opinion, we must all be vigilant in all aspects of our lives to bring goodness to the world.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Truthfully nothing. I have done this long enough that I just look at problems as things to be solved. How can we, collectively, get from point A to point B? I am very rarely surprised or upset (I am human and have my moments like anyone else). When there are challenges, I have Calista and our small team, as well as the RISC-V members to brainstorm with.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would want to inspire everyone to always act with kindness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I am a Voltaire fan, so this quote from “Candide” really resonates with me: “Tend your garden.” If we all just did the work before us and accomplished even small things in our little piece of the world, we would feel good from that accomplishment and others would also benefit from it. Accomplishment makes for happy technologists, happy people, and a happier world. If everyone did the same, imagine what a world this would be.

Some very well-known venture capitalists (VCs) read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

I have done that before and your question makes me laugh. Within the context of RISC-V, I would say: We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us including the open source SW folks and those who created the computers that help us run this amazing technology-based world. We have this great opportunity to leverage that history. We have the opportunity to leverage our open source HW community. We should spend our time innovating and not duplicating. Thirty years ago it would have taken $200 million dollars, 200 people and four years to do XYZ, and now with RISC-V companies can innovate with a smaller amount of people and dollars, as well as a shorter time to market. That means a better return on investment (ROI), better products, and better investment.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@mark_riscv on Twitter and Mark Himelstein on LinkedIn. Also follow RISC-V (@risc_v) and Calista Redmond (@Calista_Redmond) on those platforms too.


The Future Is Now: Mark Himelstein of RISC-V On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Zeynep “Z” Ekemen of Silver Defender: Make sure you have a strong corporate structure; You never…

Zeynep “Z” Ekemen of Silver Defender: Make sure you have a strong corporate structure; You never know how fast your company will grow

Make sure you have a strong corporate structure. You never know how fast your company will grow. When starting Silver Defender, we had no idea how much of a demand there would be for our products. Having a strong corporate structure helps navigate the potentially very fast growth your business may experience sooner than expected.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zeynep “Z” Ekemen.

Zeynep “Z” Ekemen is Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Silver Defender, a woman-led business which provides self-cleaning adhesive films with built-in antimicrobial film protection to help businesses stay safe and clean.

An entrepreneur at heart with a background in commercial real estate, her vision of empowering individuals and businesses in promoting cleanliness led her to the arduous task of meeting with scientists, testing products and establishing the Silver Defender business and its supply chain. Launched in 2018, Silver Defender is currently the only product of its kind to have initiated the EPA pesticide registration process.

Z is also the principal of Z Realty Group, a commercial real estate firm in northern New Jersey that was founded in 2009 and has been named CoStar Power Broker of the Year — a prestigious accolade celebrating the industry’s top professionals — not once but twice.

Z is a graduate of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business where she earned her MBA in Accounting. When not working, chances are Z is on the golf course or enjoying a Broadway play.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After visiting a coffee shop in my neighborhood two years ago, a friend and I commented on the bathroom’s lack of cleanliness. I am a problem solver at heart, that’s what drives my entrepreneurial spirit. Almost immediately I envisioned a business that could help others, businesses and consumers alike, stay clean through a new kind of antimicrobial product. I began the arduous task of meeting with scientists, testing products and establishing the business and its supply chain which soon became Silver Defender.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Silver Defender has been in R&D since 2018 but the company officially launched to the public in late January of 2020. On March 4th I found myself sitting across the Ministry of Science and Technology at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. At first it was the most intimidating meeting I have ever been in. After going through security and walking a mile with escorts inside the embassy to the most impressive conference room, I ended up at a table with the Minister along with five other male colleagues. Inside my head I was saying, “Who do I think I am and what am I doing here!” But once I started to talk about our products, their antimicrobial properties that self-clean better the more they are touched, and how they needed our products more now than we did back in March, my nerves settled. It ended up being an unforgettable meeting.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

As the country continues to navigate best practices for cleaning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Silver Defender hope to help bring a sense of normalcy back to everyday life. Although at the moment it is unclear if society will ever return to what used to be ‘normal,’ businesses and consumers can enjoy some peace of mind and sense of safety where Silver Defender’s effective and innovative products are used (anywhere people often touch from door handles to credit card machines).

The only product of its kind to have initiated EPA pesticide registration, Silver Defender’s technology is activated by light, air pressure and touch. The proprietary designs contain an antimicrobial agent that protects the film from bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi. Silver ions react with and affect multiple sites in bacterial cells on the exterior, keeping it clean. The antimicrobial tapes, available in various sizes, can cover any surface. Ideally our products are a tool to help alleviate some of the stresses of high traffic touchpoints, making the world a little cleaner one surface at a time.

How do you think this might change the world?

This year taught us to be hyper-vigilant about germs, touching and distancing. Silver Defender has a line of products that encourages touch and get cleaner with each and every tap of a finger — that’s part of how the self-protective anti-microbial films work. It’s a small step towards returning to the normal we knew pre-COVID, and improving that world too. Touching a credit card machine, door handle or elevator button is cleaner with Silver Defender. We have harnessed silver’s natural abilities in a way that brings protection where we need it most, high touch areas.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Thankfully, our technology is in some ways very simple. Our products allow businesses to create a safer environment for their employees and patrons. Now, with our new Pharmapacks partnership, everyday consumers can get Silver Defender’s products through Amazon, making our products even more accessible for everyday consumers and small businesses looking to up their cleanliness factor.

Unlike other cleaning products, Silver Defender is made from a recyclable plastic, minimizing its impact on the environment. When it comes to technology, I believe we always need to deeply consider not only our immediate impact, but our impact on future generations and the planet long after we’re gone.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I think I speak for us all when I say at one point or another, we’ve been in a public place where cleanliness was just not a priority. For me, it was the coffee shop I visited with a friend, where I thought enough is enough and wanted to find a solution. That is where my idea for Silver Defender started. That’s how I got into the business of providing amicrobial protected films that businesses can use to put their patrons’ minds at ease.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Silver Defender’s products are a simple solution for a complex problem. We need all businesses and industries to help us protect their employees and customers by installing this technology. We are currently in the process of submitting for EPA certifications that will allow us to better explain the benefits of our products to the public at large. From there, there’s no limit to what we can do and how many people can benefit from our products.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Silver Defender officially launched in 2018, but when the COVID-19 pandemic reached the country earlier this year, demand unsurprisingly skyrocketed. The adhesive films have been helping public, nonprofit and private entities across the nation including airports, public transportation, retail locations, cruise lines, schools, hotels, government buildings and more. Long Island MacArthur Airport, World Trade Center buildings and San Diego Zoo, Long Island Ducks Stadium are just a few examples of clients now using Silver Defender as part of their newfound safety measures.

We have been working with PR and marketing teams to showcase Silver Defender products which has allowed us to broaden our audience and spread the word about our ongoing partnerships. Most recently, we announced our expansion to Amazon through our partnership with Pharmapacks.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say that person would be my best friend for over 15+ years, Evan Wexler. Watching him grow his multiple companies from inception to where they are now has been such a valuable lesson as an entrepreneur. His advice on building the Silver Defender brand has been invaluable.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

At its core, this our products give back to everyone they touch (literally). The nature of the products create cleaner, safer spaces — that kind of benefit isn’t just for those who purchase our products, but their customers and loved ones. We’ve learned quickly over the past year that cleanliness isn’t personal, it’s global. Silver Defender is the intersection of my life and work. My personal priorities and business skills have come together with these products. I was inspired to create a safer world and my work allows me to do that.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Make sure you have a strong corporate structure. You never know how fast your company will grow. When starting Silver Defender, we had no idea how much of a demand there would be for our products. Having a strong corporate structure helps navigate the potentially very fast growth your business may experience sooner than expected.
  2. The importance of work/life balance. When starting out, you do whatever it takes to make your business succeed. Often that means long hours in the office, where you’re left with no hours in the day to relax and enjoy the benefits of your success. I wish I knew then to have better time management, so that I had some personal time. That’s a skill I’ve had to learn along the way.
  3. There is no need for fear of intimidation. Switching from the real estate industry to the tech industry, I had no clue what to expect. Tech is a very male dominated field, yet they were so welcoming to a woman-lead business.
  4. Always prepare for success. When starting Silver Defender, I had no idea the demand there would be for the product. Now I know, you must always be prepared to grow. Through this success, we were able to partner with Pharmapacks, and sell our products on Amazon — which made has made it even easier for the everyday consumer to get our products.
  5. Be open to the unexpected. We thought we were going to be a domestic company here in the US, but it became global overnight — as far as Australia. Now, Silver Defender is on every continent.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

Society is shifting how they perceive cleanliness and safety. As a company that wants to inspire others to feel safe, I believe Silver Defender is starting a movement with our products. We’re providing solutions for cleanliness and empowering people to feel safe again when touching common items in the world around them, and hopefully with a bit less fear when doing so. We’re also putting power back in the hands of business owners. Our products allow businesses to be proactive in protecting their staff and patrons in new ways.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have many quotes that I actually keep on my phone in a special folder and read all the time. This one has to be one of my favorite quotes. “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge.

I can probably say that I don’t have any true talents. I would love to play the piano or violin, but I have no musical talent. But that didn’t stop me from taking lessons to see if I can learn. (Lessons didn’t help, I can’t play any instrument). I loved playing sports but mostly sat on the bench whatever sport I tried to play in a team. I’m nowhere close to being a genius. I’ve been a good student, but I had to study so hard just to be an above average student. But one thing I do have for sure is persistence and determination.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Silver Defender’s main objective is to keep the public safe. Now, more than ever, people are afraid to enter public places, we want those fears to be put at ease. So many businesses across the country have already utilized Silver Defender’s antimicrobial protective films. Overall, it is a great way to encourage employees and patrons that their general health is a priority.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/silverdefender/posts/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/silver-defender

Twitter: https://twitter.com/silver_defender?lang=en

Z’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeynep-ekemen-5b85901b

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Zeynep “Z” Ekemen of Silver Defender: Make sure you have a strong corporate structure; You never… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Allie Danziger’s Big Idea that May Change the World

Ampersand is an opportunity to really change diversity in America and give opportunity to young adults that otherwise wouldn’t have access to quality mentorship, coaching, and internships that can help them get on the right career paths.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Allie Danziger.

Allie Danziger, Houston-based entrepreneur, is the co-founder and President of a full-service digital and traditional marketing agency, Integrate, and has recently co-founded a new venture, Ampersand.

Over the last 15 years, Allie has had the opportunity to help companies of all sizes grow, pulling from her background starting, scaling and selling the marketing agency she founded, Integrate; her deep understanding of brand communications and public relations, consulting with over 600 clients in the widest range of industries and sizes imaginable over the last decade; and her experience hiring, training and mentoring dozens of employees and professionals.

It is cultivating life-changing accomplishments for those around her that motivates Allie each day. Whether that is witnessing clients’ businesses thrive because of the agency’s marketing initiatives, coaching mentees through career paths that change the trajectory of their lives, or seeing employees flourish that motivate her to keep going.

Don’t let her 5-foot frame fool you; Allie is driven, full of passion and a completely open book (poker is not her game!). Fueled by Diet Dr. Pepper and an unwavering commitment to helping ambitious people succeed, this thriving entrepreneur started one of the city’s top PR and social media agencies in 2009 and has been changing the marketing game in Houston, ever since.

Integrate was founded on the idea to “integrate” any communication tactics necessary to achieve client goals by authentically connecting with target audiences where they are. Jumping into the fire in the presence of a challenge, Allie courageously goes where others won’t. In 2009, she noticed a gap in the marketplace as businesses struggled to understand social media — hence, Integrate was born; in 2012, Integrate shifted its focus to include digital marketing through Facebook advertising, staying far ahead of competitors’ focus; in 2015, Integrate led the way on blogger and influencer relations; and in 2017, the company produced stellar multimedia content to supplement its creative output. In 2018, Integrate was acquired by Spark, Wright & Colgin and Allie stayed on board to help run the agency and leads the sales arm of the company. Allie remains laser-focused on innovation in order to exceed client expectations and keep employees on their toes.

To decompress after an energizing day, Allie finds joy in yoga, running and spending time with her 2 daughters, Milly (3 ½ years old) and Eve (2 years old), her pug, Waffles, and husband and fellow entrepreneur, Eric.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Throughout the early part of the pandemic, I offered my time and services to basically anyone who needed help — both businesses who could benefit from a 30-minute free consultation on how to pivot their marketing, and professionals who had recently been laid off, had internships rescinded, or were deciding whether or not to take a gap year with their education turning online.

I wanted to find a way to scale all of these conversations and help as many people as possible, and at the same time my cousin, Scott Greenberg, was working on a business plan related to online curriculum, so he and I collaborated to come up with Ampersand as a program that could 1) give young professionals something productive to do with this bizarre time; 2) teach entry-level employees all of the skills that could benefit them in their future career paths, and find a way to democratize access to this mentorship and coaching; and 3) help businesses find resources to help them with tasks necessary for their business, while also giving back to their communities.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In 2018 I sold my PR and social media agency, Integrate, to a digital marketing agency. Hurricane Harvey had just hit Houston and even though Integrate was helping a lot of locally-owned businesses with the PR and social media services that we offered, I knew in my heart that our clients truly needed digital marketing to really grow their businesses out of the crisis we had all just encountered. I knew that it was only by partnering with true experts in the space that we could become a fully integrated agency to really help our clients succeed.

The craziest part… I sold my company on a Thursday to Spark, Wright and Colgin, and on the following Monday I found out I was 10 weeks pregnant! It threw my world for a total loop, mostly because it was so unexpected. I had literally just put together a 90-day and 4-year plan for how I was going to grow the business; and the next 9 months ended up being a completely different experience than I had ever imagined.

But… it was a great lesson. I had this whole like planned for myself, my family, and my business that I was working towards, but selling my company — and having this surprise life-changing moment happen right in the middle of that — really changed my outlook.

It awoke in me this feeling that things really do happen for a reason. Keeping your eyes, heart and brain open to those unexpected, awesome surprises can take your life in a completely different way, and that’s usually how it was always supposed to be. You just have to be open to it.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I live by a motto: experience the experience. To me, that means trying to be fully present in each moment and take the experience for what it is. Learn from it, grow from it, find joy, or sorrow, in it; but be there.

When COVID hit, I think all of us were in shock for a couple of weeks on what to do with this new reality, but I tried really hard to turn to my motto and change my perspective as quickly as possible. I looked for ways to embrace this flipped world and help people through it, to find the positives for my family, my company, and for myself. I had to turn off social media, and question: “How could I use this time to harness my strength and use what I know as a way to really help people?”

I’m driven by seeing others succeed and creating opportunities for the people around me, whether they’re business owners or young professionals. Finding ways to do that, whether it’s through a marketing agency, through public speaking, individual mentorship, sitting on advisory boards, helping charities fundraise, and now through Ampersand — that has certainly guided my life and career.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

That’s my latest venture developed with some key partners: Ampersand — a three-month career readiness bootcamp, eliminating the education to employment skills gap and giving young professionals a head start on their early career development.

We are supplying students and graduates with the necessary skills to enter the workplace through curriculum sessions, ongoing 1×1 mentoring, and guaranteed three, one-month rotational internships.

A 2017 study found that only a third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market (34%) and in the workplace (36%), which the pandemic has only exacerbated.

By providing the program to individuals from any and all backgrounds, and democratizing access to workforce development and internships, Ampersand is an opportunity to really change diversity in America and give opportunity to young adults that otherwise wouldn’t have access to quality mentorship, coaching, and internships that can help them get on the right career paths.

How do you think this will change the world?

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study published in 2018 suggests that the diversity of management teams leads to greater innovation, which, in turn, can drive significant revenue increases.

And, just a few weeks ago, Nasdaq announced that they were seeking mandatory board diversity for listed companies and has proposed that companies must have at least two diverse directors.

With Chief Diversity Officers as the #1 trending new job posting on LinkedIn, there is definitely a new awakening to the importance of workplace diversity, however as it comes to the implementation, there is no playbook on how to turn this into reality at every level within an organization. Hint: it is NOT by hiring your CEO’s neighbors’ son to be the new intern, or going to your existing network of alumni peers to hire your next CMO.

How is Ampersand changing the world? By upskilling our entry level workforce and helping young employees from a variety of backgrounds enter their first jobs and internships more prepared, educated, experienced, and connected, Ampersand is empowering our participants and the participating businesses to change the world through whatever means they have.

We are changing the way connections can be made, shifting the life and career trajectory of individuals, and evolving the range of opinions and thoughts throughout the company.

Ampersand shifts the diversity paradigm in corporate structures, in a way that’s manageable for businesses and beneficial for young professionals from any and all backgrounds.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The only potential drawback I can think of is a more competitive, more able and prepared workforce, since Ampersand would be increasing the quantity of qualified individuals looking for entry-level jobs.

In our current system, so many students find internships through personal, familial connections, or some other early access to professional mentorship. When Ampersand broadens that, and we are able to truly fulfill our mission and provide that service to thousands of young professionals around the country, and globe, then ultimately we’ll have more qualified people competing for the same jobs.

That said, if there are more qualified employees, I can only imagine that a handful of these creative, talented young professionals would have an entrepreneurial spirit that would then be hiring and continuing to grow the economy.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

There were multiple things happening at the same time that led to the creation of Ampersand.

At the beginning part of the pandemic, in April and May, Integrate was offering free consultations to any small businesses that wanted marketing help. I was able to talk to dozens of small business owners around the country who wanted to pick my brain about things they could do to pivot their marketing or shift their operations due to COVID, so I was seeing what small businesses all over the country wanted and needed.

Simultaneously, a lot of young professionals in my network (and the networks of those around me) were reaching out to me for help: what to do now that they got laid off or their internships were rescinded, or if they should take a gap year with college going online.

Through both types of conversations, we really noticed this gap where these businesses could use the young professional’s help and the young professionals, who didn’t know what to do with this gap in their career path, could be of great asset to these businesses.

One evening, where all great ideas are born: sipping wine outside of a Greek restaurant with my husband, we thought of Ampersand as a way to scale the conversations I was having with these young professionals and find this marketplace solution for the businesses and young professionals so that they could each benefit from each other.

However, it couldn’t stop here. The businesses were too busy to just take on any interns. They needed to be coached and mentored in order to be productive on day one.

I’ve mentored over 100 young professionals over the past decade, spoke to thousands of students at universities around Texas, and hired dozens of recent grads and I’ve seen a real gap in how higher education teaches and trains graduates to enter the workplace. I’ve been frustrated by it for some time, and as I interviewed >100 business owners regarding Ampersand, I was able to confirm the same dissatisfaction in almost everyone: they want to hire interns, they want to support their communities and develop young professionals to enter their respective fields, and want to increase diversity in their workforce at the entry level; however they do not have the time to teach them the most basic soft and job-related skills.

Enter Scott Greenberg, who had been working on a different business plan related to online curriculum for students, and also has a background as a career counselor and resume writing. He and I teamed up to quickly (when I say quickly, I mean within weeks!) launch a beta program in September 2020, to prove concepts with 10 young professionals from around the country and match them with 10 businesses, and the results were overwhelmingly positive.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Awareness. Every single person we talk to about Ampersand — businesses, professionals, students, friends, professors, potential investors — can identify with the problems we are solving and wants to get involved: they either know someone who could benefit from the program, want to take on an intern, or fund a scholarship for a young professional.

It’s so validating to hear people say they wish this program existed when they were entering the workforce. However, in order to actually get the adoption that we need, it’s really just more marketing, more awareness, more buzz to the right individuals who can benefit from the program and then the success stories will sell it!

What are your “Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I started Integrate when I was 24 years old. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids, I basically had zero responsibility. It was so much easier to start a business at that stage of life when I could work as late as I needed and take any and all risks required for success. I wish I had realized at that young age how much easier it was then! I was working 15-hour days without even blinking. Now, I’ve got two young kids and other life responsibilities (plus COVID stresses!) so it’s a lot harder to find those weekend hours, early mornings, and late nights to get this off the ground (alongside my full-time responsibilities with Integrate!).

Also, it’s ok to pivot. The first idea is rarely the best one, so keep your ears and brain open to the best answer, and make the adjustments necessary. Egos are not for early business founders.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

So much of what we teach the participants in the Ampersand program is about a growth mindset and habits to deliberately transform into a productive, proactive and growth and solution-oriented individual.

Some of these include:

  • Get to know yourself and your superpower. What can you do better than anyone else in the world and how can you spend as much of your professional career doing this?
  • We start each program orientation with a Myers Briggs assessment and career mapping. We help participants figure out how to overlap their passions, skills, learning and work preferences/styles and personality type. We help participants understand that you are working where you’re supposed to, you will be unstoppable.
  • Learn to take and give feedback. Understanding the intention of the person on the other side of the conversation (usually good!) can help make this a less difficult conversation, but the sooner you can implement these changes, the faster you’ll move past it.
  • Keep learning; do not get stagnant after this program or once you land the role.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

In 2018, 26% of college students (or their parents) spent an average of $4,000 on a college admissions counseling or SAT tutoring. That means that each year, 5.2 million Americans are spending an average of $4,000 to get their kids into college (that is $20B annually!!). However, approximately 10% will graduate without jobs and more than 40% will take jobs that do not require a college degree.

Enter Ampersand — a virtual career readiness bootcamp offering career assessments, resume coaching, and 5 hours/week job skill training, coupled with three automatic internship placements.

While we cannot guarantee job placement (just as college counselors cannot guarantee acceptance to your dream school) if we can get just 0.25% of this audience to invest in their careers/futures in the same vein, that could impact 13,000 students per year, ultimately generating $40 MILLION annually.

On top of that, Ampersand is emerging at the same time as president-elect Biden has committed $50 billion to workforce development and an increasing number of conversations about corporate diversity. The timing is there. The need is there. And the scalability of the program is there.

We are confident that Ampersand could be at the heart of a larger movement to eliminate the education to employment skills gap and increase the pool of prepared young professionals.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/AmpersandProfessionals

https://www.facebook.com/AllieDanziger/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/ampersand-professionals

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alliedanziger/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Allie Danziger’s Big Idea that May Change the World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kathleen Black’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Conscious living. I think people who are conscious about who they are, their values, and what they’re bringing to the world are typically better parents, better team members, better community supporters, better people.

I find the ability to ‘do good’ is just more naturally present for people with a conscious mindset.

I need a strong business in order to make the changes and impact I want to make for myself and in order to contribute and have a positive impact with as many people as possible.

If I can help people raise their consciousness and see their abilities and power, they will ultimately serve the world through their greater purpose with ease. If KBCC can have any influence on people leading themselves versus looking at others, that’s a win!

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Black.

Kathleen Black is one of North America’s leading team coaches and trainers, delivering her proven success techniques to agents and teams around the world. That growth is worth billions in additional sales volume annually across her client network with 80% of her clients being national top 1% producers. Kathleen, the best-selling author of “The Top 1% Life”, will help you to expand your business, at a fraction of the time and cost, using the tried, tested, and true “KBCC Ultimate Expansion Strategy” that has powered her client growth into the most efficient, productive, and profitable teams in the world, powered by performance cultures.

The success of KBCC centers around integrity, honesty, and results-driven measures, the very things that represent Kathleen. Kathleen has been named twice Top 100 Elite Women Driving the Future of Real Estate by REP Magazine and Top 20 Emerging Leaders by T3 Sixty’s Swanepoel Report. She was recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in the Toronto Real Estate Board, has ten plus years, over 20,000 hours personally, of agent development experience, and hundreds of teams attribute their growth and success to Kathleen’s leadership.

Kathleen is also the driving-force behind the Ultimate Team Summit, the largest team specific Real Estate summit in North America and the Ultimate Mastermind Series of events, including the 100 Deal + Ultimate Mastermind. Recently recognized as a Global Leader Making the World a Better Place by the Women’s Economic Forum.

Kathleen lives in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada with her two free spirited, independent, and very loved children Ethan and Ella, and their cat Ethel.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Beginning my career as a RE/MAX Real Estate Agent and working my way to being recognized within the top 1% of Realtors in both the Durham Region and on the Toronto Real Estate Board, many would agree that this level of success is the pinnacle achievement amongst their peers; but for me it was only the beginning.

Identifying the need, I set out to work on further developing the systems and platform of educational programs and coaching methods to which I attributed her own professional and personal success.

With the launch of KBCC in 2015 and building upon my 10+ years of Team and Agent development and guidance, hundreds of teams (80% of which are top 1% producers) have attributed their growth and success to my integrity, honesty and results driven leadership directly or through one of my coaching programs.

I was selling real estate as a busy single mom of two children and I had done a lot of content and systems development with a look to creating better work life balance.

The team I worked with was creating a coaching company and I had a background in psychology, so it just seemed like a natural fit to try to become involved.

That coaching company found itself in some challenging territory in its early days and there were differing opinions within the ownership as to how it should be resolved.

This ultimately resulted in the departure of the director of coaching and I was given the opportunity to step into that role within 18 months of the company going live. I had been a coach for just under one year at that point.

It was really a chain of complicated events that led to a great opportunity for me.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Every single time someone has tried to harm my career or damage my business, it has always led us into better opportunities.

When I thought I was going to lose my first coaching business, it actually led to working with higher caliber people, which further expanded the business.

The interesting thing in my journey has been that at the beginning of my career as a coach, I never had the support of the ‘big’ Real Estate boards, or conferences and ironically, it drove me to create and hold my own events without relying on other people.

In the end it actually gave me an edge, because I didn’t have to rely on the support that other people were getting. Even though it was more difficult to get there, it made me and my company stronger in the end.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I know that this business for me, is not about money, it isn’t about a business, it’s about a purpose in my life and I believe that I’m destined to be doing what I’m doing.

This mentality has dragged me to the future, even when I feel exhausted and burnt out. To build this business, I had to run and jump off of a cliff. There was no ability to hesitate or play it safe, I think for me I had to believe it was my destiny to do it, or I wouldn’t have been able to take the risks that I did.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Conscious living. I think people who are conscious about who they are, their values, and what they’re bringing to the world are typically better parents, better team members, better community supporters, better people.

I find the ability to ‘do good’ is just more naturally present for people with a conscious mindset.

I need a strong business in order to make the changes and impact I want to make for myself and in order to contribute and have a positive impact with as many people as possible.

If I can help people raise their consciousness and see their abilities and power, they will ultimately serve the world through their greater purpose with ease. If KBCC can have any influence on people leading themselves versus looking at others, that’s a win!

How do you think this will change the world?

This idea can change the world by inspiring others.

The happiest and most successful people in the world practice conscious living, whether they call it that or not. In fact, the road to happiness and success in anything is often paved with gradual steps towards a more and more conscious lifestyle.

This will lead to a happier, healthier and overall more successful society.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I don’t see any drawbacks from inspiring others to live their absolute best lives. This will allow people to live happier lives, while adding positive energy to our communities and society.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

There wasn’t necessarily a “tipping point” for me to realize that we should all be consciously living. When I get tired, stressed or frustrated, I’m a typical entrepreneur. Instead of thinking ‘take a day off’ or ‘take a week off’ i think ‘okay maybe I’m done’ or ‘maybe I’m not meant to do this business’.

But the reality of it is, I get a good night sleep and I know that this business for me, is not about money, it isn’t about a business, it’s about a purpose in my life and I believe that I’m destined to be doing what I’m doing.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

To lead this big idea of conscious living to widespread adoption, you need people, inspiration and open minds.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You Need to have Confidence in your Value. It’s very difficult as a leader to negotiate for yourself in general, but I think it’s very difficult without knowing yourself and knowing your strengths and weaknesses to actually garner what you’re worth in the market. I wish I knew that I had to be unbelievably confident and relentlessly motivated to believe in myself and to believe in the services and products that we bring to the world.
  2. You Have to Make Hard Decisions — That People Will Judge. I wish people had told me that being a strong leader doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with you. For example, I’ve had to make decisions to stand up for myself, I’ve had people on my team try to compromise our business, and at the end of the day, the most important business decisions I’ve made, that anyone in my place would have made, were the most judged decisions I’ve ever made. As a leader it’s okay to trust yourself.
  3. You Don’t Have to Tell your Side of the Story. You don’t have to justify your actions, as long as you have good, clear intentions and you’re doing what you feel is right for the whole business in the long-term, the people who stay in that business will be stronger.
    Business can be difficult, you have to make decisions that will help the future of your business. People management can be really tricky. At the end of the day I really believe that if someone is not a good fit for the business, if you don’t see them being a part of the business in five years, or the impact of their presence in the business will not support your vision, then it’s also not a positive fit for that person.
    It’s more important to focus on where you’re going than to stay in the mud of any challenges that might come up.
  4. You Have to be so Good People Can’t Ignore You. Our benchmark is to be the best in the world at what we do. At the end of the day we have to be so good, and bring so much value to the market and let our results speak so strongly for themselves that they can’t ignore us. Setting the bar up so high will give you an edge, because most people aren’t confident enough to show up and be the best.
  5. How Often People are Dishonest in Business. I wish someone told me how often people are not honest in business, that it’s more important to work with people who share the same values with you, than the opportunity on the table.
    If you do business with people who you don’t believe in or you cannot trust, or your values don’t align with, you’re going to spend more time spinning your wheels, you’ll never be able to get to the opportunities or the growth.
    I wish I had known that not everybody has great intentions in business, and that the old saying is true, people will say a lot, but very few people will show up and act on it.
    Always watch what people do, before you listen to what they say.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Model The Best, Forget The Rest:

Do not recreate the wheel, instead find and purchase the tried, tested and true plans in order to use your time wisely and organize your businesses.

Anchor In Performance Routines & Priming:

This means you have a strong and strategic “bounce back” & reset habits. These help you understand the importance of capacity, energy, & flow and set your mind for success.

Know Your Value:

In turn you value your time, which benefits not only you, but your business too. This allows you to serve clients at a world class level.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Continue to invest in your own personal development, you can only see as far as what you know, and if you have inherent bias, whether that’s in gender, culture, background or colour, you’re going to continue to make choices based on those biases.

The more that you can invest in expanding yourself, and in asking yourself why you’re choosing to do what you do or what your responsibilities are in making sure your decisions are coming from a place of abundance, love, evolution and capability, instead of out of fear, scarcity or competition.

It’s important to have new motivators that allow us to be advocates, not only for our clients, but also for our colleagues and the leaders around us, to remove biases and barriers.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-black-4811a052/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenBlackCoaching/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenblackcoaching/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kbccoaching

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Kathleen Black’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Michelle Rozen: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Dr. Michelle Rozen: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Love and accept yourself. Resilience can only happen if you love and accept yourself the way you are. If you don’t love yourself, how strong can you actually be? Think of it this way: resilience is the ultimate from of belief in yourself and the best gift that you can give yourself.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michelle Rozen.

Dr. Michelle Rozen, PhD is a game-changing, revenue- building, performance-boosting change expert, keynote speaker, and respected authority on the psychology of change. She is an author, a Huffington Post contributor, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN. Dr. Michelle’s rare blend of audience engagement, killer take-away strategies, and instant connection with the audience have made her one of the most unique and memorable speakers on the stage today. Her latest work is around “2-Second Decisions”, helping people to master time management and power through decision making in turbulent times. Dr. Michelle consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a PhD in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

It all started on a rainy, windy day, on October 11, 2008. I was 37 years old and I felt that my life sucked. Back then, I’d meet my good friend at Starbucks at 7am every Saturday morning before our kids woke up. One day, I told her how much I hated my job and routine. She looked at me and said, “Then change it. Go to school and change your path.”

“I wish I could,” I told her while holding back the tears. “My kids are so young, and they need me. Adam is in a startup and never home. One day, when the time is right, I’ll do exactly that.”
She gave me a sharp look and then told me something that changed my life.

“Michelle,” she said, “you just don’t get it, do you? Your kids will always need you and Adam will always be in a startup. Go and sign up for classes this week, and tell me next Saturday that you’ve done it.”

I looked at her puzzled. That never crossed my mind. I never thought of it that way.

SO, I REGISTERED. I COMMITTED TO CHANGE

Not many people start their master’s with a five-year-old toddler, one-year-old infant, full-time job, and spouse who constantly travels. The new 3am to 6am shift for studying was brutal, but my life was suddenly full. I was being challenged. I was finding fulfillment. I was going somewhere.

Then, in 2008, the economy nosedived. My husband’s startup shut down. Being challenged moved closer to being broken. I told my husband that I thought the most sensible thing for me to do was to take a break.

“I’ll go back to school later,” I told him. “When things get better and the time is right.”

He looked at me and said two things that I’ll thank him for every day for the rest of my life. “Who deserves a PhD more than you?” Then, he said, “Michelle, if you leave now, you won’t go back. Stay with the program no matter what and finish your degree.” So, I stayed.

A few semesters in, I found myself struggling with bills, kids, work, and school. The juggle impacted my coursework, and I even received a warning letter from the university. It said I was on probation unless I repeated a class. I literally sat and cried.

That night, I cried myself to sleep. I was tired and worn out and felt that I had no wins under my belt. Everything seemed to work against me. Perhaps I was wrong with my choice to go back to school. And a PhD? For a full-time working mom of three little ones with a husband who is never home? What was I thinking?

Maybe I should have thought this through. Maybe I want too much. Maybe I am just aiming too high.

That night I cried myself to sleep.

The next day was my daughter’s 10th birthday party. I had it all planned beautifully, with the kids and the balloons and the beautiful cake and all the fun activities. I was smiling on the outside but my heart was heavy. What am I to do? Should I stay at school, or should I leave? I had a big paper that had to be submitted within a week. I am chanting to myself: should I stay or should I go? Should I stay in school? Or leave? Should I even write the paper at all? Just to think of all the spare time I’ll have if I just won’t have to do it…

And then the cake came and I hear the kids chanting:

Are you 1

Are you 2

Are you 3

Are you 4

And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I remembered a tool that I learned in one of my classes. We’ve learned a tool of scaling for people who suffered from depression. It was called scaling questions; it was a part of Solution Focused Brief Therapy and the goal of the tool was help people scale how they feel.

Are you 5

Are you 6

And I think to myself: what if I use this to decide, right now, right here- what on earth am I going to do? What if I use this tool to figure my decision out?

Are you 7

Are you 8

Are you 9

My head is chanting: Do I stay or do I go?

The kids were chanting:

Are you 10

And then they yelled-

STOP

And then it hit me.

It’s a 10. It’s a 10 for me. How much do I really want to leave? 0. I just kind of think it’s something people expect me to do but it’s not what I really want! How much do I want this? 10! I want this a 10.

I got up. I gave Abby the biggest birthday hug and felt so relieved. So happy.

Gosh. Now I have to write this paper.

WHO CARES?

I know what I want.

I know my 10.

I know what matters the most to me.

Fighting tooth and nail I got my PhD. The day I got it was one of the happiest days of my life. Not that I liked the ceremony, I hate ceremonies (also, didn’t really eat that morning and forgot my banana in the car so I spent the entire ceremony thinking of that banana- full disclosure). But what I really felt good about that day was that I stuck with what mattered to me the most. This wasn’t about pleasing anyone. This wasn’t about doing what other people expected of me. This was about following my “10” through and through. And it felt whole, and it felt right.

That decision I made at that birthday party is a decision that changed my life. It changed my life not only because I took a decision that changed the course of my career and ultimately my life, but also because it gave me a tool to work with when it comes to making decisions that I found myself using in my daily life more and more. And the more I used it, the more successful, focused and high achieving I became.

I used it for prioritizing and time management and found myself a lot more confident and in control of my time, both for work and for rest. I used it for making business decisions for myself. I used it for managing my day to day

I used it extensively with leaders throughout the globe that I was working with. I found that leaders used it in team meetings for team decisions, and for their own decisions that they had to make.

Who to hire?

Who to fire?

How to price

Outsource or in-house

Instead of being in doubt, indecisive or taking the wrong turn if life, in a business, as a leader or within your family, I started getting out of my own head and coming up with a number for every decision in my life. I was amazed at the impact it had on leaders I have worked with. I was amazed at the power it had over my own life. I learned to be bold. I learned to be decisive. I learned to take action. And I witnessed how successful and powerful it made others. Change was no longer just in sight. Change was happening.

I believe in the power of the human mind to do amazing things when we are given the tools and the freedom to make the decisions that shape our lives. I believe in getting in the driver seat of our life, work and future. I share all of that with you through my books, my articles, from the stage and from the media. If I can do it, so can you.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

This is only funny in retrospect considering how much I move on stage these days but at the time it was not that funny at all. My first speaking engagement was in Canada at a conference for elementary school teachers. When I got to the conference, the organizer pointed at a podium and said: ‘Michelle, I just need you to stand there’. I was so confused. How can I be engaging if I just stand behind the podium the whole time? Hesitant, I asked him: ‘Are you sure? I would rather move around and interact with people”. The guy just looked at me impatiently and said: “Michelle, please. I just need you to stand there, behind the podium and please don’t move from there, that’s it”. Being that this was the first time I spoke to a large audience; I had no experience to understand that just standing behind a podium and not moving literally ruins a talk. I followed his request and stayed behind the podium the whole time. Somehow, I got through the talk and did what he asked but this is what I had learned: communicate expectations ahead of time, stand your ground, and take the lead. I never, ever, just stood behind a podium again.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I owe so much of my success to my husband and business partner, Adam. I am so grateful to him. Adam has this thing about him where if I set a goal for myself or want something, he commits to it himself. When I came and said that I want to go back to school, this guy, who was always in trouble with me for not helping enough around the house, took it upon himself to stay with the kids and run the house while he was working full time so that I can go to classes. When he couldn’t do it, he made sure we hired help. When I wanted to quit school because the economy collapsed and he lost his start up and we had no money, he pushed me to stay. In my hardest moments. He encouraged me to push forward.

Two years ago, he joined the business as my business partner and manages the marketing and branding. When we started working together, after already being married for 20 years, it is a miracle that we even stayed married. It was so challenging and we didn’t get along at all. Now, we work together in complete harmony. We understand each other completely and I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Adam’s relentless work and belief in me.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. Resilient people are:

  • Resourceful- they would typically have good problem-solving skills
  • Confident- they believe in themselves and in their ability to cope, solve problems and deal with challenges
  • See themselves as strong people
  • Have a good support system- being lonely makes you less resilient. We are social creatures and need other people
  • Are not too proud to ask for help- being humble is part of resilience. You cannot be very resilient if you are proud, because it will stand in your way.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I think of myself as a resilient person. My mom is also very resilient. In fact, 2 days ago her apartment caught fire and she lost all of her belongings. She remained calm, managed the situation, was very resourceful, and today already found herself an even better apartment. I find that inspiring.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I was told multiple times by my family that getting a PhD with young kids while working full time is impossible. They didn’t realize that on top of it all I was going through a financial crisis. They were definitely wrong. If you truly and passionately want something, you will find a way.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

It happened to me several times. The worst was the 2008 financial crisis that shut down my husband’s start up and left us in financial dire straits. We went through a very rough time but ended up being a better couple, a better team and with a better financial foundation. Crisis is the best teacher.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I believe that resiliency has to do with self-confidence. You have to really believe in yourself and trust yourself to be resilient. I remember in 5th grade the whole class decided to not speak to one of the girls in the class. The reason was silly, something about a boy. They all followed the leader, and some girls said that they are ‘neutral’. I found the whole thing to be stupid and unfair and declared that I support her. I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t care to speak my mind. This girl has been my best friend for years and no one in the class dared to confront me. I think they were too confused by the fact that I didn’t follow the rules. That’s another aspect of resilience- you follow your own rules and your own common sense. That makes you stronger.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Work on your self-confidence. Here is a little mind hack for you on this: fake it till you make it. Tell yourself that you are confident. Speak confidently. Remind yourself to be confident. Eventually you will feel confident.
  2. Block all negativity. Negativity makes you weak mentally. Stay away from negative people and steer clear of negative content. Fill your life with positive people and positive content. It will make you mentally stronger. I often stay away from social media and the news. I prefer motivating content instead.
  3. Stop being afraid of failing. If you fail, you fail. So what? You’ll be in great company. The most successful people in the world fail all the time and then succeed. Welcome to the club. It’s a good one. I often feel that success is like rock climbing, even if you fail, you can still catch up and climb high.
  4. Look at everything that happens to you as a learning opportunity. When something bad happens to me, I always look at what I can learn from it and I think of it as something that happened to me so that I can become better.
  5. Love and accept yourself. Resilience can only happen if you love and accept yourself the way you are. If you don’t love yourself, how strong can you actually be? Think of it this way: resilience is the ultimate from of belief in yourself and the best gift that you can give yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have my heart on working with teenagers and kids from less privileged communities. I feel that many of these kids lack role models and inspiration and their dreams are limited simply because they have not seen any adults that can demonstrate to them what they can possibly become.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Oprah, of course. Because she is living a life that is beyond any circumstances and filled with purpose. She is a living proof that anything is possible no matter what your circumstances are. I don’t know about the lunch though. I don’t think I’d be able to chew!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/DrMichelleRozen

Instagram: @DrMichelleRozen

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichellerozen/

Twitter: @MichelleRozen

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Dr Michelle Rozen: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Laura Conlon of ‘Welly’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Create good product. Be good to your team. Live the values. Share the values. Connect with your customers.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Laura Conlon.

Laura Conlon serves as the VP of Marketing at Welly, a reactive healthcare brand focused on premium first aid inclusive of bandages, ointments, and tools, that carries the perfect sized travel kit to throw into any bag when you’re ready to go.

Laura has a varied background across large and small CPG and Retail brands. She’s led integrated media and marketing plans for start-ups, agencies and retail. Her true love is being part of a challenger team. Creativity comes with constraints and finding ways to break through by putting a spotlight on great products.

Her focus over the years has been leading with content that tells a story through earned media, social, influencers and customers. While loving the physical retail environment, she also knows digital pathways are convenient for people looking to research, learn and buy. As a mom of three littles herself, she’s well versed in the efficiency of making an online purchase — and the power of great reviews!

Laura’s belief is that when a business is doing good, it must do good in the world as well. Her team focuses on ways to make sure the Welly World is positive in our own offices (or virtual offices), as well as a positive impact in the world where we live, work and play.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Truly, it’s been a path of saying “yes” to new experiences, and meeting people willing to take a chance on me. I love blending creativity and business understanding, and marketing offers that every day.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes & mis-steps are all part of the learning path. I once pitched technology stories to a food editor and got an earful about doing my research. I certainly have never made a call without doing my research in 20 years since.

My favorite was when I first started working with a video game company, and I was assigned to invite the bloggers who reviewed the games to a launch event. At first, I didn’t want to waste the time of some of the executives with an introduction to these young bloggers. My mistake. These were the most important people in the room. They understood the games in detail, and had a huge influence on how well the games did out of the gate. I learned to truly understand where influence came from based on the world views around a brand. It’s not always the obvious choice that can make the biggest impact.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Welly stands out because we were designed with real people in mind. We make products that people actually need, in designs and with functions that are practical and playful to make these a purchase people want to make.

The reviews are my favorite stories. People tell us every day that they bought a Welly tin because of the stylish prints & patterns — but are delighted to realize the products WORK!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are always looking at pain points to solve. One thing we look at are the products that people use in large quantities and work to make Welly more practical for them.

We JUST launched a larger box of Welly Face Savers + Thin Tin, which consists of transparent bandages designed for discrete face coverage. Our Face Savers are our one of our most frequently repeated purchase items, and we also know that people like to bring Face Savers with them, so we made a super thin tin that people can put a few Face Savers in, and keep them in their back pocket, clutch, car & back pack easily. Looking at how Welly works in our fans’ lifestyles & responding is core to our success.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is the DNA of the product, company and the people behind it. Advertising is telling that story to the masses.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Well, to me, I believe in spending resources on making the product awesome first. That’s the core. You can’t do anything well without awesome product. Then the brand is about understanding the worldview of the company — what does it stand for, why does it exist, who is this for? Advertising is about bringing the brand to the people it works for today. Product first, define the brand, then shout it from the rooftops.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?

Create good product. Be good to your team. Live the values. Share the values. Connect with your customers.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you?

I mean, everyone knows this one, but Patagonia. They live their values as a company, in their products and where they put their resources to support in doing good in the world. Truly, Patagonia lives their values inside and out.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

The brand builds the moat around the product, the media shines a light on it. Engagement of the campaign and awareness lift are all metrics on brand success.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

At Welly, it’s very important. It’s where we talk and engage with our fans. Where we try out content and learn from our mistakes. We get feedback on new products and watch the engagement. We use it as a tremendous listening platform.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Take breaks. I love to run in the mornings to get time to do something totally unrelated to my work. I know that’s what everyone says, but it’s true. If you become a work machine, the work shows like work — not like a brand you want to love.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Find a way to do good, and you’ll never regret it. Shine a light on an important issue, raise money, donate goods and lift others up. Or, find a brand you admire that you want to see succeed — then tag them, write a positive review and be part of their everyday success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

You must be more clever than wise.

Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of KNOWING the answers in this wild ride. So trusting your instincts, and trying new things is where the creative thinking grows.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well, is having breakfast with someone IRL a thing these days? But, Yvon Chouinard, would be pretty amazing.


Laura Conlon of ‘Welly’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jessica Potts of ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved…

Jessica Potts of ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Keep the focus on community first before sales and revenue; that will come if you are building and engaging with your community the right way.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jessica Potts.

Jessica Potts is the Vice President of Digital and eCommerce of We’re Not Really Strangers, a purpose driven card game and movement all about empowering meaningful connections.

Jessica’s expertise spans a number of disciplines including leadership, brand and digital marketing, eCommerce, and digital strategy development and execution. She currently oversees all aspects of We’re Not Really Strangers’ digital strategy and online retail presence, and most recently, led the brand’s eCommerce strategy around the launches of the Self-Reflection Kit and the Breakup Edition.

Jessica is passionate about how the game and platforms help build community and encourage difficult, but necessary, conversations around vulnerability, relationships, race, privilege and much more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The eCommerce and digital space has always fascinated me, I fell in love with it the moment I had my first job in the online industry. The customer journey from brand discovery to first purchase to lifetime value is so complex and mesmerizing to me. I can (and will) talk about it all day, everyday!

I had my first opportunity to work in eCommerce while working in brick and mortar retail in LA, but it would have required moving with my young son out of state. As a single mother, I had to turn the opportunity down to be able to be near family. And that’s when my dear friend Hilary heard her friend mention she needed help with her startup that was at an incubator and needed help…I got the job! I worked hard and dedicated everything I had to grow and learn, and get where I am today.

When Chris Pfaff, President and CEO of We’re Not Really Strangers, asked me to join the brand, I knew that all that hard work, all those long hours, long days lead me here. We’re Not Really Strangers isn’t just a place I work, it’s where I know I was meant to be and feel passionate about our mission and honored to be able to help build connections and drive conversation on a daily basis.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think in business there is a stigma about making mistakes when in reality they are what teach you the most. When I was first starting out, I insisted I knew everything about the email system the company was using at the time — meanwhile, I hadn’t even taken notes during the training. I was in the middle of building an email, and I accidentally sent out a half-completed DRAFTED email to our entire email list!!!! If I could have escaped out of the back door — trust me, I would have! It wasn’t funny at the time, but looking back I laugh so hard at myself. The lesson learned was to take notes, don’t be arrogant, and ask for help when you know you clearly need it.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

We’re Not Really Strangers stands out for many reasons, but the main reason to me is that we are a community-first brand, and we are discussing mental health in a way that no one has before. As a brand, we encourage everyone to have those hard conversations that lead to growth. The card game goes far beyond just a game and creates authentic connections and a positive impact on people’s lives.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We just launched a new product! The ‘Breakup Edition’ stems from our team’s own personal breakups. Whether the breakup occurred recently or years ago, the Breakup Edition is meant to help teach us about ourselves, what we want, and what we don’t. The end of a relationship is the beginning of a new one…with yourself.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain it?

Before I started working at We’re Not Really Strangers, I viewed Brand Marketing as a brand mission/manifesto (storytelling) versus Product Marketing as simply selling a product to a customer (more technical). After joining the We’re Not Really Strangers team, I now believe that these two things don’t ever have to be exclusive from each other. They are one and the same if you are doing it correctly.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

There are so many ‘brands’ out in the world these days, and there is endless access to it all. The brands that stand out in the market are the ones taking the time, energy, and effort to invest resources into explaining their mission — why they exist and essentially why you should choose them above all other brands. These are the brands that will have longevity in the market. The majority of consumers these days want to feel like their hard-earned dollars they spend on a product aligns with their personal values as well. A great deal of brand identity and storytelling needs to go into that, thus the investment into resources to do so.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?

  1. Stand for something. Discover the “why” or the mission behind your brand before beginning anything else.
  2. Find your brand’s authentic voice and make sure it’s carried out across all channels — social, email marketing, product design, etc.
  3. Keep the focus on community first before sales and revenue; that will come if you are building and engaging with your community the right way.
  4. Make sure you have a great product that can highlight the brand’s mission and bring it to life.
  5. Invest in the right leadership and team members.
  • Leadership can make or break a brand. Hire wisely.
  • Skill is important, but if a hire doesn’t believe in the brand mission as well, it won’t work.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Patagonia. They have a very clear company mission and never waiver from it. They live out their mission statement in the products they make, the documentaries they produce, the daily content they provide, the people they collaborate with, the list can go on and on. They have also built a massive community that is not all about selling products. That’s where I truly believe brands lose customers is when you don’t put community first. Patagonia takes a position politically when it’s a direct question of right vs. wrong on what’s best for our planet. That to me means their mission isn’t just fluff, they take it as their duty. They have also acknowledged and are outspoken in that they are a white-led outdoor company reliant on recreation on stolen Native lands that are not yet safe for all. This has now been part of their company mission to do better, be better, and actively show up here. I’m eager to see their work here.

How do you replicate that? Have a purpose and mission that is way beyond just creating revenue.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand-building campaign?

That really depends on the overall strategy of the campaign. The kickoff to a campaign should always be asking yourself questions like:

  1. What is the purpose of this campaign?
  2. What do I hope to achieve?
  3. Who am I speaking to?

Once you clearly answer the ‘why’ of said campaign, you can start setting goals and specific KPIs around it. When you have an understanding of the intent behind the campaign, you can then start the data process: define, collect, analyze, interpret, and then apply.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a major role in our branding efforts. I would be concerned if any brand said otherwise.

We’re Not Really Strangers has grown organically with a loyal community of over 2.9m on Instagram and 1.8m on TikTok in large part because of the introspective, thought-provoking questions and quotes we share which create connections and conversations among strangers in the comments.

Social media is the most beautiful, powerful, and to be honest — sometimes exhausting tool — that exists for brands.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

  1. Your team is there for a reason. Give them a clear strategy and then get out of their way and let them execute. It will save you so much time and energy if you truly give them autonomy in their job roles.
  2. Define clear boundaries for yourself. Previous to my current role, I was burned out because I was trying to be everything to everyone. My job got every inch of me, and I had nothing left for myself at the end of each day. I created these clear boundaries for myself:
  • No computer in bed
  • When I’m with my son, he gets priority and receives (and deserves) my full attention: not my cell phone or work emails/slacks.
  • When I’m totally burnt out on a day, I call it. I try not to force it.
  • I started holding myself accountable to all of the above. I don’t win at this every day, but I can definitely say some days I do 🙂

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Recently, I started my own ‘movement’ — it’s called Ôtaneme (IG: @thisisotaneme). It’s a community that has an honest and expanded conversation about leadership in the workplace. There’s so much that needs to be accomplished in this area, and there are no reasons leaders shouldn’t have access to tools to help them grow, navigate, and thrive through the complexities of being a manager/leader. Koreen, the Founder of We’re Not Really Strangers, Chris, and the entire team have been so supportive of this passion project of mine, which I think only further exemplifies the importance of community and strong leadership within a company.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship,” by Denzel Washington. There are many times when life gets hard (professionally and personally), and I always come back to this quote. It helps me push through and keep following the right path, not the easy one.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast?

Cathy Hughes, Founder of Radio One and Allison Robinson, CEO of The Mom Project.

Cathy Hughes story, which you can listen to on the ‘How I Built This’ podcast, is one for the books! These women GRINDED in a male-dominated field and didn’t let anything get in her way.

Allison Robinson tapped into and highlights the strengths of working mothers. It was an open space that no one was paying attention to nor appreciated or gave us the respect that we deserve.

I have so much respect for women who fight for what they want in their career and show that you can do all of that while being a mother — it doesn’t have to be one or the other. That takes guts and strength. Society pushes women to choose between home and work the majority of the time, gives us language that you can only succeed at one, or that you should feel shame for choosing to do one or the other. These women are proof of the exact opposite (like me!).

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@WereNotReallyStrangers on Instagram, @WereNotReallyStrangers on TikTok, @WNRSTweets on Twitter, and We’re Not Really Strangers on YouTube. You can also discover Ôtaneme on Instagram at @thisisotaneme.


Jessica Potts of ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kumar Patel’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Insurance is something everyone needs, but no one enjoys paying a premium for it. We believe data transparency can help refine consumer sentiment, and we believe we have the secret sauce to execute it. Our objective is to empower consumers through personalized data insights from the data generated by them. Responsible handling of the data and providing transparency to consumers will help build trust between the two parties.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kumar Patel, CEO and founder of Omnidya.

Kumar Patel, CEO and founder of Omnidya, is an experienced founder with a demonstrated history of working in the consumer services industry. He is skilled in Market Research, Management, Start-ups, Leadership, and Marketing. Kumar is a strong business development professional with a Juris Doctor (J.D.)

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

This world we live in has a ton of inefficiencies and problems that need to be solved. Several legacy companies often have a culture that makes it difficult for them to innovate and fix issues quickly. For example, I had an opportunity to work with a successful company that had a culture of “Yes, boss.” This culture ran deep, and as a result, they decided to stick with the status quo. They hired me to help transform the company and address its inefficiencies — but during my tenure there, it took over 50 meetings with senior management and six months to convince the senior management to switch their infrastructure to the cloud. I realized that the real issue was that they didn’t understand how cloud infrastructure works because the people around them kept telling them:

“We are good.”

“Why reinvent the wheel.”

“We’re still profitable, so why change?”

The last phrase got on my nerves every single time. This company is alike to many legacy companies in that their core issue is a culture that deters new transformation — which prevents them from rolling out new products/services in record time to boost their profits further while also staying ahead of the curve. After experiencing both sides of the spectrum and seeing several problems firsthand, I decided to join the side that proactively addresses issues.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Every day in the startup world is fascinating. I can assure you that no two days are the same. The list of interesting things is long, but two things that stand out are make sure to fail fast and pivot quickly.

Fail Fast: Growing up in an Indian household, I was taught at an early age that failure is not an option in life. I was raised with the mentality of keep trying, and eventually, you will succeed. This doesn’t fly in the startup world where you are dealing with limited resources. It took me a long time to understand that failing “sometimes” is okay, and the hard part of failing is acknowledging the failure and moving on. I like to use the Amazon Fire Phone as an example. Amazon Fire Phone was budget-friendly and targeted a very specific demographic. BUT consumers were willing to pay a premium price for applications provided by both Android and Apple. Amazon killed the product right away, even though it had the resources to keep up with its competitors. Acknowledging failure fast can help distribute essential resources to other projects that end up being winners.

Pivot Quickly: Every time I use the word pivot, everyone rolls their eyes. In my opinion, there is a substantial distinction between a product-market fit (PMF) and a perfect product-market fit (PPMF). To go from PMF to PPMF, one must pivot. A good pivot will help a company compete more efficiently with other competitors.

To find the perfect product-market fit for Omnidya, we had to fail and pivot quickly. I can assure you telematics is not the future of the Insurance industry. Our company has distinguished itself from traditional insurance companies and new insurtech pushing telematics by introducing a new industry-first risk avoidance model that uses unique technology. We’ll be making an official announcement in the upcoming months.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Several philosophies have guided my life. But the main two are…

“Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

This has been my mantra for a long time. This is a bit of a cliché, but it is something that has worked for me. I am naturally an optimistic person, but at the same time, optimism won’t fix everything, so everything that I do has a plan B.

“Conscious Capitalism”

If you have read the book Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, you know exactly what I am talking about. It is a concept that focuses on four simple concepts, Purpose, Stakeholder, Leadership, and Culture. It matters how money is made, and an organization needs to instill values long term vision and profitability.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

At Omnidya, we’ve figured out how to eliminate 100% of fraud in the insurance sector while introducing an industry-first risk avoidance model using a unique proprietary technology.

To provide a quick background, most traditional companies in the sector use the standard risk-mitigation model to which they implement modern technologies like machine learning and other artificial intelligence. That’s putting duct tape on an ancient model to try and make it current. New technology added on top of existing inefficiencies leads to additional costs, which translates to a higher premium for consumers. Shareholders and investors love hearing modern buzzwords and they also want profitability, which results in consumers paying the additional price.

We have solved the various problems from top to bottom. In today’s world, quality data is the key to solving the most complex issues. Our unique technology:

  • Automates multiple aspects of the business, thus reducing operational cost,
  • Eliminates fraud.
  • Provides consumers with real-time feedback using modern engagement tools and exceptional consumer experience from beginning to end.
  • Increases profitability.

How do you think this will change the world?

Insurance is something everyone needs, but no one enjoys paying a premium for it. We believe data transparency can help refine consumer sentiment, and we believe we have the secret sauce to execute it. Our objective is to empower consumers through personalized data insights from the data generated by them. Responsible handling of the data and providing transparency to consumers will help build trust between the two parties.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

First of all, Black Mirror is a fantastic show, and the creators have displayed our crazy imaginations perfectly. Every solution has a drawback; just like autonomous cargo transport may eliminate the need for truck drivers in the future but cause a rise in technicians with software knowledge to maintain those new complex machines. Just as such, we believe our technology will address the inefficiency in the industry but will also highlight the skills gap. This is a drawback that can be solved with training and education.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had at least one lousy experience dealing with an insurance company. My major one happened when, after years of not shopping for new auto insurance and paying the increased premiums every year, I decided to shop around. My problem begins with the time it takes to get a single quote and execute the policy. This issue is something everyone can relate to. I also know they have marketplaces that compare prices, but they provide quotes — which changed as I talked to insurance agents from various companies. The time it took to execute a policy was my tipping point, and I started to research and understand the insurance sector’s inefficiencies. Most of the organization’s issues were solvable with modern technology, yet no one had addressed them. I even applied at a well-known insurance company, but I was told my ideas were too drastic after the first conversation, and that I wasn’t a good fit for the company. That is how Omnidya started.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We are confident that once our product is launched, consumers will immediately experience its impact on our society. To get there, just like every other startup, we need capital to create awareness in the marketplace that there is a new company that addresses the issues they face every day dealing with insurance. Capital, strategic partnerships, and reviews from early adopters will lead to widespread adoption of this technology.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

You have to learn quickly in this world, and having mentors helped me tremendously. There were still things I had to figure out on my own, which only come with experience.

Existing Tech v. Building It Yourself: This is a tough one, and depending on how you answer and execute this question will determine various things about the company. From my experience, the correct answer is a healthy balance of both. Do I want to build a consumer portal internally that will assist in marketing, business intelligence, etc., or do I want to implement Salesforce or another technology specializing in that space? My goal is to use the resources wisely and get to the marketplace quickly.

Managing Global Teams: Time difference and communication barriers are challenging at certain times, but it is the price one has to pay to lower the burn rate.

Cash Cash Cash: It was vital for me to bootstrap the company myself and develop it to the point of being launch-ready before reaching out to VCs. This comes with sleepless nights consistently making you think of the limited funds you have and how to leverage the most development.

Learn quickly: Going in, I was aware that I would have to wear multiple hats and tackle various issues daily, but no one told me I would have to learn the subject material overnight and make a decision the following day. I remember staying up an entire night to understand how insurance compliance differs from state to state. It was a situation where the longer I took, the longer it took for the developers to develop the platform.

Feedback from the Sector: One would think talking to someone from the sector would help you better understand the problem and help your cause, BUT this is not always true — an experienced and knowledgeable gentleman from the industry provided me with false information. Don’t trust everything the sector leaders tell you and instead do your research.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I have a few things that I do consistently. I don’t know if those are considered success habits or mindsets, but they work for me. I start with a macro goal and as I am trying to accomplish that, I end up implementing other disciplines required to achieve my macro goal.

Every year on my birthday, I pick up a habit that is mentally challenging for me. For example, I went an entire year being a vegetarian, the following year, I read 52 books in 52 weeks, and last year I went without drinking alcohol. This year I picked my 15-minute meditation to start the day. Each healthy habit has contributed to a healthy mindset. Regularly challenging your mind and picking up healthy disciplines is my definition of success habits and/or mindsets.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Omnidya provides a data-driven approach in the insurance industry where even telematics is old news. We can analyze and act on quality real-time information using our proprietary technology to create an industry-first risk avoidance model.

Between 1–1.5 million fraudulent accidents are costing over $250mn annually to providers. Our technology can eliminate those fraudulent claims while also providing meaningful data for risk-avoidance, further decreasing the claims rate. Additionally, we are able to automate several processes for consumers as a by-product of developing our platform.

We will generate an accurate risk and pricing model through our quality data, which will enable us to create highly profitable offerings. Feel free to reach out for more details about our unique technology. We are looking forward to making Omnidya a household name with you by our side.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram, which is the only place I am active: @koolmar888. You will find several book recommendations there.

You can learn more about Omnidya and stay current…

Facebook: Facebook.com/Omnidya

Instagram: Omnidya_ai

Twitter: Omnidya_ai

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Kumar Patel’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Robert Morgenstern On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech…

The Future Is Now: Robert Morgenstern On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Utilizing technology, we’ve changed the entire way we operate multifamily real estate, and therefore how our investors and clients interact with the reporting we produce. We have spent the last 18 months designing software that allows a look into the performance of multifamily real estate that helps everyone on the deal team from portfolio to property manager to make meaningful decisions to improve the communities where they own and the performance of these assets.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Morgenstern.

Robert is the founder and strategic leader of Canvas Property Group. This full-service property, construction, and asset management firm handles day-to-day operations of the 40 mixed-use assets on its own behalf as well as a growing portfolio of third-party institutional and family office clients. Canvas Property Group prides itself on a new style of reporting that goes well beyond traditional monthly financials. This portfolio includes fully staffed amenity-laden properties and portfolios of tenement assets throughout Manhattan Brooklyn and Queens.

Morgenstern is also the Managing Principal at Morgenstern Capital. Morgenstern leads the firm’s multifamily acquisition and operation efforts. Robert and his firm have built a diverse multifamily portfolio since its May 2015 inception, targeting value-add and core + return profiles in the most vibrant submarkets in New York City. Morgenstern operates direct co-investments with limited partners ranging from closed-end institutional equity to individual high net worth investors. Morgenstern and his partners have acquired approximately 1,500 units valued at $500million.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As is the case with most great stories, my real estate career began… following a girl. After a successful run in my family business with my father in the IT Consulting world, the dot.com bubble created an opportunity for a change. At the time, I was dating my future wife, Sabrina, who was getting her broker’s license to join her family residential brokerage. Wanting to spend as much time as I could with her, I joined her for the classes and got my license as well. When her mother, Michele Kleier, landed the listing for a townhouse on East 87th Street, I helped her out and met an investor who wanted to see some cash-flowing townhomes in Harlem. I was hooked on the investment aspect and the creativity it took to imagine something from nothing. So, a new career and a wife and two kids later, I’m a real estate junkie for life. And having started out in IT with an innate interest in tech, its incorporation into and advancement in my real estate business was a natural evolution.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The best stories, of those I can actually share, generally involve what happens on property tours. I remember walking a portfolio of buildings, and we walked into a unit with the bank and a group of investors with the seller’s representative. On the counter of this occupied, but an empty apartment is an enormous bag of marijuana. As we leave, the seller’s rep says he forgot something, walks back in and takes the bag. The stench flows through the elevator and we all have a light knowing giggle. On the floor below, 2 police officers get onto the elevator and get hit in the face with the smell. The sweat beads are still vivid in my head today.

Can you tell us about the Cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Utilizing technology, we’ve changed the entire way we operate multifamily real estate, and therefore how our investors and clients interact with the reporting we produce. We have spent the last 18 months designing software that allows a look into the performance of multifamily real estate that helps everyone on the deal team from portfolio to the property manager to make meaningful decisions to improve the communities where they own and the performance of these assets.

How do you think this might change the world?

When we make changes, we expect them to change the work-life of people using them. But the beauty of our industry is the decisions we make change the living environment for everyone in our communities. That can be as simple as a deeper understanding of our tenancy and the analytics behind the survey results each occupant gets, which can drive amenity selection or capital expenses. But it’s more likely to change the perspective of an owner to understand the past performance of their real estate to allow them to make meaningful decisions about leverage, operations, and management. 2020 has taught us we need more analytical data to see problems before they blow up into disasters.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We think a deeper understanding of tenants and their habits has a fine line. We’re very cognizant of making sure all tenant information is kept anonymous. We see big technology and what is happening with our data. But changing real estate operations to affect a much analytical financial and operating report is a pretty far line from a Black Mirror episode.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

COVID-19. We had been working on this software platform and were working it into our operations. But going remote and not seeing team members, while getting demands from investors, lenders, and clients to report on a daily basis in ways we hadn’t considered was the tipping point. I realized we needed to look at data in a whole new way. A collaborative cloud-based platform was the obvious solution, so we leaned into it in a meaningful way in March of 2020.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We have rolled our technology out to our client partners with great success. This has led to meaningful growth in our management firm. We are developing a SAAS product based loosely on this software and believe it will have explosive growth later in 2021.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have yet to launch. But with nearly 20 years of real estate experience, I’m going to be starting with my friends in the business, which is a fairly extensive group of decision-makers in the multifamily space.

What are your “Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I wish someone told me to choose your partners carefully.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward”. I’m not sure I would have chosen this gem by MLK, Jr. in 2019, but after the year we just endured, I think that I felt this way almost daily while managing my portfolio. COVID impacted so many aspects of the business, as well as the business and safety of our retail and residential tenants; but while we may have slowed to a crawl, we did keep moving and are now about to get back up on our feet to run in 2021!

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

PropTech solutions created by people that have lived the problem for over a decade and are in the weeds to understand why a solution is necessary is more important than any other skillset. Operating and managing $1Billion of multifamily real estate with a technology-focused management firm makes me the right sponsor, we’ll see if the product stands on its own.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’ve made a habit of keeping my personal life offline and generally use LinkedIn to publicize our business. Robert Morgenstern, Linked-in. We also just launched an updated version of our website, http://www.canvaspg.com/.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


The Future Is Now: Robert Morgenstern On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jonathan Ogurchak of STACK On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Jonathan Ogurchak of STACK On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Healthcare

It’s going to take some time. If everyone could bring a solution to market, you’d see many more entrepreneurs and far fewer employees. Even with the most aggressive development cycles, you’re still going to need time to get from nothing to something.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Ogurchak.

He is the CEO and Co-Founder of STACK, a curated software platform designed to help organizations drive compliance with deliverables, particularly in the healthcare sector. As a pharmacist and educator, he teaches at multiple universities on both clinical and operational areas surrounding specialty pharmacy and serves as an educational consultant for a variety of stakeholders. His expertise helped to grow and own specialty pharmacies and now he’s poised to upset the healthcare industry with some innovative solutions that align many of the disjointed facets of patient care.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m a pharmacist by training and have spent a majority of my career in the “specialty” pharmacy sector — focusing on high touch, very complex medications for some life-changing diseases. I served in management roles with one of the country’s largest corporately owned specialty pharmacies and used some available technology (like spreadsheets and macros) to automate operational processes to improve the experience for patients. I left there to help start an independently owned specialty pharmacy and grew the operations from a few of us in a garage to a national player, developing some innovative technology solutions along the way. I’ve always been technologically inclined and have seen technology as a way to improve the typical ways of doing things. It was a logical next step after I left my role at the independent pharmacy to get back into the technology sector, relying on that pharmacist training. Today, we’ve built STACK to meet the needs of pharmacies (specialty, community, and otherwise) that struggle to manage their day-to-day processes and tackling all of the complexities associated with staying on top of compliance through software. We’ve expanded our scope to recently include membership and educational management offerings for professional associations, higher education institutions and other groups, all based on this shared ecosystem that we’ve built with STACK.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think the most interesting story is one that’s still being told, and I share with my students frequently: your career is so much more than the first job you take. There’s this notion that you’re always going to find a job that’s going to be your “place” from the time you start until the time you retire — and that’s not necessarily the case. In the time since I graduated pharmacy school, for instance, I’ve worked for 6 different organizations, with promotions and growth during tenure at each. The crazy part is that each new role lends itself to the one that may or may not follow it. Every day, you’re learning something new in both your career and your personal life that translates into how the next day will transpire. So for me, I never would have dreamed that at this point, I would have owned a pharmacy; would have owned a technology company; have served as a consultant and an author; have been married and started a beautiful family — these things continue to evolve as you grow. Personally, it excites me to see what my next steps might be, since I never envisioned this is where I’d be today!

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

With a product like STACK, we realized that users in the healthcare sector are continually burdened with managing multiple areas just to stay on top of what’s necessary — sure, there’s trainings they need for work and continuing education to maintain a professional license…but what about the other “stuff”? Let’s say you or your company is a member of a professional association. Let’s say you help to precept students as they enter their experiential curriculum. Multiple systems. Multiple logins. The burden to participate and manage your professional life often outweighs the needs to get through the day. What we’ve done with STACK is find a commonality to thread all of these areas into one ecosystem. Since they all work together, why don’t they interact together and eliminate some of that burden?

How do you think this might change the world?

The stress placed on the healthcare industry only continue to grow — you don’t often hear of less regulation or less oversight of healthcare…only more! If we’re able to serve as that connector of all things professional, and do it in an easy-to-use fashion, it helps every aspect of the industry to grow. Companies can take advantage of programs offered through association membership. Associations can further demonstrate their value to paying members. Schools can gain more meaningful experiences for their students by putting everything at the end user’s fingertips alongside the other aspects of their professional life. Eliminating the password/website/process burden will ultimately help to focus more on the patient — which is why we got into the professions we chose in the first place!

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Honestly, no — this type of technology is being used already in a number of different avenues. We’re just trying to build a better environment for all of these activities to co-exist.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We had been building STACK for pharmacies specifically to manage compliance with licensing, accreditation, trainings, for about a year, when we started getting questions from clients related to expanded capabilities. We realized that we were better suited to partner with industry leaders and let their expertise help us to grow and evolve our product when we realized that there had to be a broader application. Similarly, at the same time we started accepting student pharmacists virtually on an experiential rotation from schools around the country — with each school came a new username, new password, new place to manage requirements. It became just as daunting to manage paperwork than it did to provide a meaningful experience for the students. Both of these events catalyzed where we are today.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’re starting to hit a critical mass — the more users that are on the system (and I mean both individual users as well as organizations), the more meaningful the collaboration becomes. Since we initiated this development over the last several months, we continue to draw interest and new clients, and it’s helping to truly bring the idea to life.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Without having the luxury of in-person events over the last 10 months or so, we’ve certainly been facing some unique challenges for awareness. Our biggest resources from a marketing perspective have been through social awareness online. Our LinkedIn page has exploded over the last year, with a following that continues to grow every day. More importantly, we’re seeing that once users begin to take advantage of the platform, they recommend it to others who can benefit just as well — word of mouth has gone a long way!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My biggest support system throughout this whole process have been my wife. She supported me in my decision to leave a full-time, ownership position in a successful organization to not only spend more time with the family (since I was missing out on a lot), but also supporting me to chase this idea of bringing meaningful technology solutions into the healthcare sector. She’s been my rock helping to keep the family moving forward (helping our 3 kids to thrive in school and activities) and supporting me through all of the ups and downs in starting a new business.

The rest of my family has been a huge area of support as well — my dad passed away from ALS the spring before some of these notions came into my mind. He always told me from the start of pharmacy school, “you’re not going to be a pharmacist.” I thought he was crazy — here I am going to pharmacy school to be a pharmacist. Was I not cut out for it? He’d clarify — “you’re going to use being a pharmacist to do something more.” As I was looking for guidance on what to do before launching this company, I started finding random pennies in my travels (and started documenting it on Instagram under #pappennies as a fun way for my kids to keep his memory alive). He always felt that when he found a penny, he knew it was someone from heaven trying to tell him something. Whenever there’s a big decision about to happen, I’ve been finding pennies — hundreds, in fact. I’ve taken it as a subtle way to keep me motivated to “do something more” and his way of still supporting me even today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In the midst of growing companies and sharing time with my family (which was a huge reason in why I decided to go out on my own in the first place!), I like to find ways to share time and expertise as well. I frequently lecture at my alma mater to encourage student pharmacists to think of alternative pathways for career opportunities. I also serve as the President of our University’s Alumni Board of Governors, and the President-Elect of our Pharmacy School’s Alumni Association. So many people paved the way for me to be in the place I am today, so whatever way I’m able to give back, I want to find ways to do so.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s going to take some time. If everyone could bring a solution to market, you’d see many more entrepreneurs and far fewer employees. Even with the most aggressive development cycles, you’re still going to need time to get from nothing to something.
  2. It’s OK to adjust over time. When we started STACK, there was no real notion of the scale that we could look to capture. Now, we’re trying to find ways to stay on top of the use cases and not let any of our clients down.
  3. Don’t start a business in a terrible selling environment. Not that anyone could have predicted the year that 2020 evolved into, but the forward movement that we anticipated was quickly halted from a sales perspective. However,
  4. Use every moment you can as a positive. We were able to adapt our poor sales time into an opportunity to further build and refine the product. We had greater strides in 4 months product-wise than we did in the entire year prior thanks to this slowed period.
  5. Your biggest competitor will be yourself. It’s easy to overthink and worry about progress, particularly in a new organization. Your mind can do funny things as you start to worry when really, you may just be competing against yourself. Being able to center your expectations, then recenter them, and repeat that process, instead of looking at what’s going on around you — you’ll set yourself to be the most successful.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Too many areas in healthcare are commoditized. Solutions that could have the most benefit to the most people — like patients — are restricted to help drive market share. For patients to experience the maximum benefit, there needs to be a more standard approach to delivery of care that takes the market share component out of it (and just maybe STACK and some of the other projects we’re developing can help to be a catalyst of eliminating market share and barriers for healthcare stakeholders). That “rising tide raises all ships” mentality could truly help to inspire more informed, collaborative patient care.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I am the one thing in life I can control” — Aaron Burr, Hamilton. You aren’t able to always control the messaging that circles around your experience. However, if you live your life with integrity, your reputation will speak for itself. Once you lose your integrity, you lose yourself and your ability to maintain meaningful relationships. I’ve found that putting my integrity first, and controlling myself, has always won out and helped me to grow both professionally and personally.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Think about how difficult it is to juggle everything that’s not only expected of you on a daily basis related to your business, but things that you want to accomplish as well? Now, imagine that you’re taking care of patients at the same time — it creates undue stress to try to not only stay on top of what you need, but find it when you need it. STACK empowers organizations, like pharmacies, trade associations, and schools, to complete their business-critical tasks, and share the visibility across one unique ecosystem. It joins the “need to do” for your entire professional life into one, easy to use and customize platform.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Web: managewithstack.com

Personal LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanogurchak

Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/managewithstack

Company Facebook: www.facebook.com/managewithstack

Company Twitter: @managewithstack

Company Instagram: www.instagram.com/managewithstack

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Jonathan Ogurchak of STACK On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Elizabeth Jennings of ‘Remember You Matter Coaching’: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proact

Dr. Elizabeth Jennings of ‘Remember You Matter Coaching’: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country

Encourage conversations that are open. honest, and authentic– Encouraging honest and open two-way conversations is a vital step to heal our country. These conversations should intentionally be encouraged in places of work, schools, churches, places of religious gatherings, communities, and in homes with families. By encouraging conversations where people are allowed to talk and express their honest feelings and emotions and where they have a safe space where people can feel like someone is really listening to what they have to say will really matter. In addition to open expression, the other person involved in the conversation should also be allowed to openly express their thoughts and feelings in response without judgment and feel heard. When open and honest communication occurs, and people feel listened to then healing occurs. Compromise is able to occur, people start to feel that their voice matters, and that they can be heard without judgement but with understanding which is important and necessary to start to heal the world.

As part of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Elizabeth Jennings.

Dr. Elizabeth Jennings, OTD, OTR, c/NDT, CODC, CEC, CLC is an Occupational Therapist with 19 years of experience, has a Doctorate in Mindfulness Studies, is a Certified Mindfulness & Integrative Wellness Life Coach, with a focus on PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Anxiety, and Depression. As an Occupational Therapist, she has spent 19 years working with children with developmental disorders, rehabilitating military veterans and making a major impact within businesses, organizations, and communities by helping individuals to manage difficult life transitions and overcome obstacles to success with resiliency and confidence.

Dr. Jennings is the Chief Empowerment of MEASURE Austin, which takes a data-centric approach to address systemic injustices in all aspects of the community and provides resources to restructure and is the CEO of Remember You Matter Coaching, Consulting, and Mentoring where she provides individual coaching and group workshops for youth ages 3 and up dealing with adjustment issues, low self-confidence and esteem, suicidal thoughts, and behavior difficulties.

Dr. Elizabeth Jennings is a visionary and full of passion to motivate and inspire others to action. She is a single mother of 2 children, and she knows first-hand the pressures of balancing happiness, life, work, health, family, and well-being in an ever-changing world. Be sure to check out her leading podcast, Living Bold, and her books “Overcoming Loss,” “God-Given Grace,” “Transforming Through God’s Loving Pursuit,” and “Buster The Test-Anxiety Crusher.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I am the middle child out of five siblings. I grew up in a quiet community and I was raised by strict Christian principles in a Pentecostal home environment. The only two holidays that my family celebrated were birthdays and Thanksgiving. Our family did not have much. I grew up initially in a two-parent home, then when I turned twelve my father left and moved out of the country. He returned back stateside 15 years later. Growing up during my teen and early adult years, I focused my mind on doing the best I could in school to set a different standard and example for my future. I never wanted to have to depend on anyone and I knew that education was my key to success.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

In 2018, after binge reading “Jump” by Steve Harvey, I was inspired and took a leap of faith and decided to start my own business and become an entrepreneur. “Jump” discussed the beauty in taking risks, not being afraid of change, and embracing the inner passions and curiosities that we have inside. I chose to pivot from solely focusing on my primary profession as an occupational therapist to pursuing my passion in the field of coaching kids, teens, and adults to remember that their life matters, has value, and to never give up despite the obstacles they may face. The end result of my own personal “jump” was the creation of Remember You Matter Coaching, Consulting, and Mentoring. This business was named after my mother who died of stomach cancer in 2015. My mother used to always tell me to “remember you matter” when I struggled with relationship and friendship issues in the past.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

A favorite quote that resonates with me is by Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” When I was younger, I had a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. I would give everyone multiple chances, even people who obviously had already shown that they were not planning to treat me differently. So, I experienced many heartbreaks from wanting people to be who I hoped or expected them to be. I created a habit of believing in the potential that I thought people could show someday. I had to learn to release my expectations and just accept what others were showing me as their truth. Embracing this concept of acceptance has saved me from lots of future disappointments and frustrations.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I believe that leadership is setting an example that pulls people together to accomplish a desired purpose or task. Leadership allows progress to be made towards a desired goal through collaboration and bringing out the best qualities in people. An effective leader can provide support to people to allow them to complete a goal, task, or mission. When everyone is able to have a part and feel satisfied from contributing to the desired end, then you have good leadership.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Are there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

After going through a series of losses, from the death of my mother, divorce after 17 years of marriage, a period of unemployment, my son failing school, and a few tough legal challenges that I had to face, I had to accept that my comfortable life was being totally uprooted. Around the same time, I remember having a conversation with another female who was dealing with similar legal challenges. As we spoke, I remember listening and realizing that at that moment we were really the same. Our past upbringing did not matter. The greater meaning that came from that conversation was the fact that we are all only one decision away from possibly making a decision, when in a state of distress, that could put us in a life changing situation or predicament. At that moment, I learned the importance of releasing judgments and embracing true acceptance of other people’s differences. Since having that conversation, I made a commitment to speak up for those who cannot share their voice or story. I have continued to hold true to that promise and commitment.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crisis. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I would like to discuss the racial tension and division in our society. Being a black female and mental health advocate, I can personally feel the impact and weight of this issue. I can also see the toll and burden that mentally the racial tension is causing on everyone.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I believe that repeated trauma, be it mental, emotional, or physical, if left unchecked can develop into a breeding ground for more trauma and the side effects that result are feelings of intense anger, aggression, violence, fear, rage, unrest, and division. Observing all the things happening in our society, I realize people are reaching their breaking points and limits. More than ever before it is important for our mental health and well-being to be cared for to prevent emotions from continuing to erupt and thus leading to internal and external chaos. We are beginning to see what a state of chaos looks like in our society.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

I am a mental health advocate and Occupational Therapist who specializes in mindfulness and working with military veterans with PTSD, children with special needs, and supporting educators in our education system. As an integrative wellness life coach and empowerment coach, I specialize in understanding trauma and its connection to depression, anxiety, and physical health. Prolonged trauma can disrupt the mental state and cause a lapse in judgment, and as a result, our protective mechanisms can cause a fight or flight response. Our society is actively in a fight or flight response in reaction to COVID-19, fear of safety, feelings of being overworked, job loss, losing loved ones to death, racial tension, police brutality, and the political climate and division in society. Everyone is at a heightened state of alert and either fleeing from marriage, families, responsibilities, suicide is increasing, domestic violence rates are high, teachers are resigning, and unemployment is increasing. These issues will not improve unless they are addressed appropriately with sensitivity and care.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each of Us Can Take to Proactively Help Heal Our Country”? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Prioritized

#1 Encourage conversations that are open. honest, and authentic– Encouraging honest and open two-way conversations is a vital step to heal our country. These conversations should intentionally be encouraged in places of work, schools, churches, places of religious gatherings, communities, and in homes with families. By encouraging conversations where people are allowed to talk and express their honest feelings and emotions and where they have a safe space where people can feel like someone is really listening to what they have to say will really matter. In addition to open expression, the other person involved in the conversation should also be allowed to openly express their thoughts and feelings in response without judgment and feel heard. When open and honest communication occurs, and people feel listened to then healing occurs. Compromise is able to occur, people start to feel that their voice matters, and that they can be heard without judgement but with understanding which is important and necessary to start to heal the world.

An example of this occurred during the recent first presidential debate. It was noted and evident that there were multiple interruptions during the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Being on the outside looking in, it was easy to observe a tone of disrespect, no one was listening, but everyone was talking, there was no order, resolution, compromise, or unity brought from that conversation. During the 2nd debate limits were clearly defined, but you were able to hear the voices, opinions, and the tone was changed. There was less disrespect, and their voices were heard. When people feel heard, they feel less angry, depressed, or volatile. If people were heard more this would help to heal the world.

#2 Advocate for empathy to be shown frequently– When people learn to empathize with others, they show compassion towards another person. Empathy also allows a person to relate to the emotions and feelings that someone else is going through. When people show a sense of understanding, people feel understood and cared for. If society could learn how to empathize especially now with the race wars or the political unrest that exist, then the racial tension, division, and the breakdown of relationships would start to be mended and restored. In order for our world to heal, society has to be taught how to empathize with one another.

3 ways to show and practice empathy:

1. Listen with an open heart to people.

2. Respond to other people without judgement.

3. Realize that if promises are made or if someone gives their word, then it is important to honor those words through consistent actions.

For example, when Black and Brown Americans express that they are tired of being treated unfairly, instead of being so quick to jump to defend behaviors as a non-black person it is important to take time to hear what is being expressed with empathy for their feelings and without judgement or dismal. If you do not know what to do or how to respond simply ask what you can do to make a difference, then take the advice or information and do something with it. If a suggestion is made to educate yourself, then do just that. Ask for recommendations or books that would provide insight, connect with a group that educates or works to support the rights and justice of all people.

#3 Master the skill of forgiveness- Forgiveness is not an easy task. When we have been violated, wounded, or offended, to forgive is not easy to do. True forgiveness takes being intentional and working at it daily. Forgiveness is not a one-time task, but it is an action that may have to be repeated. The key to remember is that forgiveness is not something we are doing for someone else, but it is the permission to be and live free that we give to ourselves. When forgiveness is practiced, people can sleep better, have a calmer mind, and release the built-up stress and tension that comes from holding on to unforgiveness.

I remember struggling internally with having panic attacks and only being able to sleep for 2–3 hours for most nights, when I struggled and battled with past unforgiveness. Once I was able to release that unforgiveness and master doing it over and over, forgiveness came easy and the payoff was worth it. I now quickly release feelings of unforgiveness, and I do not hold grudges. As a result, panic attacks have stopped, I sleep for 6–8 hours nights, and internal peace is present. Mastering forgiveness is a gift that everyone deserves to give and receive.

#4 Practice Mindfulness daily– At the core, mindfulness is about being present in the moment. It is about living and focusing on making the most of every day. Mindfulness centers on strategies to implement to be more aware and conscious of the daily thoughts, words, habits, and actions. Mindfulness allows more attention to including daily actions that focus on meeting our self-care and self-love needs while also being aware of our actions towards other people.

When we practice mindfulness on a daily basis, we embrace the concept of making the most out of every day. We are not worried about the past or anxious about the future. We learn to stay and remain grounded and rooted in the present moment experiences. We learn to not put off for another day the pleasures and activities that we could make memories and connections that would last and make a difference in our life.

#5 Make a commitment to serve others– When people make a commitment to provide service or volunteer within a community, organization, or for a cause that has meaning and impact, then connection occurs. Connection brings feelings of community and is healing to the soul and for relationships. When we cease to keep our eyes focused on problems and we redirect our focus to serve a mission or cause that is bigger than us, then people are open to find purpose and satisfaction from serving others.

I personally have found passion in serving others through the mentorship program, Boys Matter to Men, that I founded to support boys ages 8–18 who lack the presence of fathers in their life. By recreating the family village and empowering mentors to connect with single mothers and their sons, this fills a gap that is needed. By giving to a cause greater than us, hope is found by paving the way for a better tomorrow for future generations.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

In order for the community to promote these ideas, then it is important to do the following 5 things:

1. Inquire or check the hearts of those who serve

2. Ask honest questions

3. Start conversations in small groups that allow space for nonjudgement expression. Start a proactive discussion about actions to bring about positive changes that will move us forward and not backwards.

4. Adopt a ‘people first” attitude in all areas of occupation and services. Be internationally daily by doing things that matter to the people who are doing the daily job or work. Take and hold space to allow people to be heard at the beginning of a workday for a few minutes each day.

5. Have mental health resources available or implemented during the workday or during meetings to ensure an attitude of support, respect, openness, and availability of resources exist.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain? I am optimistic for the future.

I do not think things will be resolved easily. I feel people will need to engage in more open and honest conversations where voices and experiences are elevated and listened to in regard to racial tension. It is important to remember that for people who feel that they have been disrespected and walked over that it will take time to heal the past wounds. COVID-19 forced people to slow down and learn to treasure the simple things in life again. I think we are a strong and resilient country, and we will rebound. It is important that we show more compassion, empathy, a willingness to listen to other people, and an attitude to work together.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that their voice matters. Oftentimes young people feel that no one is listening; if they speak with anger, frustration, and disrespect, then young people’s voices are usually dismissed, shut down, or judged quickly even if there is meaning to what they are trying to communicate. Young people can empower themselves through education about the issues confronting the world. Then, they are better able to take a stand and make a positive difference towards moving things forward. It is important to know the history of what has happened to reflect, but the key is to not stay or remain stuck in the past. Young people are powerful and full of energy, passion, drive, endurance, and stamina. It is important to use those special qualities and gifts for good and to share a message that will evoke positive change.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes, Oprah Winfrey; Oprah is a humanitarian that people listen to and people are calmed by hearing her speak. We need a voice of calm in the world today. I would love to hear her advice about the actions that she believes are necessary to gather people together in order to make a bigger impact on the world today. I also would like to let her know what an inspiration that she has been for me and my life journey by sharing her honest truth and encouraging others to do the same. I am paying that same message forward.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.rememberyoumattercoaching.com

Facebook Elizabeth Leigh Jennings: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.jennings.94/

Remember You Matter Coaching

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Instagram @rememberyoumattercoaching

Linked In Elizabeth Leigh Jennings: www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethjenningsotdcoach

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1.Remember You Matter Coaching

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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Dr Elizabeth Jennings of ‘Remember You Matter Coaching’: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proact was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Mihai Ivascu of Modex On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Mihai Ivascu of Modex On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Say no. If you think that an idea doesn’t represent you, or it might affect you in the long term, you should be able to say no. Choose fights that are worth fighting.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Mihai Ivascu, CEO & Co-Founder of Modex.

Mihai is a serial social impact and technology entrepreneur, CEO, and Founder of London-based tech group M3 Holdings which comprises 3 fast-growing companies: Moneymailme, a Neo-Banking technology infrastructure provider; M3 Payments — FX management and global payments platform; Modex — Blockchain Database — SaaS technology provider. Mihai holds an MBA in Innovation Management and is currently enrolled in a Doctorate of Business Administration at INSEEC Group with a Thesis on Disruptive FinTech Technologies. Awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 and finalist of Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Mihai is an experienced speaker and entrepreneurship mentor.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a family of teachers, my parents being teachers of mathematics and computer science. To some extent, this has helped me develop my competitiveness, but also my entrepreneurial spirit. I am passionate about chess and martial arts, hobbies that I strongly believe had a great impact on who I am today. I created my first company at the age of 18, and so far I have been involved in over 100 projects internationally.

Today I am CEO and Co-founder of Modex, a tech company that innovates with software solutions based on blockchain technology

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

That is a good question. As I said, I founded my first company when I was 18 years old, so there have definitely been many interesting stories since then, with the Ingenium Group companies. But a very special one is the moment when I managed to convince a team of investors to finance one of my first ideas. I started out simple, I didn’t aim to make a better world, I convinced them to support me in developing a new technology, not necessarily a better one. Of course, after the first investment round, you as an entrepreneur need to perform at 110%, not only to develop a new technology, but to develop the best one. That’s the reality, and that’s the first lesson every young entrepreneur should learn. You need to provide them with the same respect and expectations. This moment happened when I was studying for my MBA at the University of Monaco. My graduation project was chosen by a team of angel investors to be implemented in the real world. That’s how all of this started, with the inception of the Moneymailme app, a social money transfer platform. The second turning point was when the founders of Moneymailme launched in 2017 Modex, a blockchain-based project and since then the business has skyrocketed. It was a long and bumpy journey, but I enjoyed every moment, from convincing my first investor to the first line of code written for our Modex technology suite of products.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We believe that blockchain is one of the technologies that has the potential to create a stable framework, an exciting emerging technology, and an efficient infrastructure which can support the rapidly changing world we are living in.

Modex has developed a middleware solution based on a new technology that prevents cybersecurity problems. Last year we launched the Modex Blockchain Database (Modex BCDB), an innovative product that can be used to supplement established data breach and data loss prevention mechanisms. By connecting an existing software application to a blockchain backend, BCDB can ensure confidentiality, integrity, immutability, and availability of databases. Through Modex, BCDB companies can move from a centralized model to a decentralized, distributed model, secured by complex encryption and hashing algorithms.

We use an innovative technology and we utilize a unique hybrid product that does not change what the beneficiary has. Our solution is designed to connect seamlessly to a client’s existing database as an API through a set of custom connectors… As a result, any developer who knows to work with a database system can operate with our solution, without needing to change their programming style or learn blockchain.

In the context of a digital world, we thought of creating an infrastructure dedicated to enterprises, but the real beneficiaries are the ordinary people, who regain through our product control over their data.

How do you think this might change the world?

There are numerous use cases that can show how our technology can improve our lives. We concentrate our efforts in order to help organizations and enterprises to build trust by protecting their data.

For example, in e-governance, blockchain has made an important step towards the democratization of the decision-making process by creating secure platforms that enhance the level of trust and transparency. And we have launched the first blockchain-based platform for e-governance in Romania.

Another important field is health. From managing patient data to tracking drugs through the supply chain, blockchain can solve some of the healthcare industry’s biggest problems, including compliance, interoperability, speed, privacy data, and security issues. Blockchain could also enable new patient-centric business models, bringing patients to the center of the healthcare ecosystem by giving them power and control over one of their most valuable assets: their data.

And the examples continue in the travel industry, the oil & gas industry, supply chains, retail, education, transportation, and so on. We are proud to say that we have created a versatile and innovative product — Modex BCDB — which can be used in all the business sectors mentioned above to protect the interests of end-consumers.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Although we are a tech company and we promote new technologies, I believe that before the adoption of any new technology we should take a moment to analyze the pros and cons and to consider if we really need this new type of technology.

The technology behind our services — blockchain, is relatively new in the business environment, so it isn’t fully understood by end consumers, but it is not a technology that addresses the end population directly. The drawbacks that people should consider is what happens if the companies they work with don’t apply the latest technologies to their business, to their data management and their digital protection mechanisms.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I am an entrepreneur, passionate about start-ups and innovation, so I am always keen to learn new things. Back while I was doing my MBA at the International University of Monaco, I was exposed to the fintech disruptive culture in the financial system and I realized there are great business opportunities there, which could also give me the chance to create something good for the world. That was the moment I started the Moneymailme project, which in time directed us to found Modex, and the meeting with the future tech co-founders — Dragos Rautu and Alin Iftemi — was the moment of truth. I am not a tech guy, I am a business person, and to innovate and to understand the technical approach, you need to roll out the best possible players. Thank God, Romania is an IT heaven with some of the best programmers in the world and a major IT hub in Europe.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

In general, it takes a long time for a new technology to become widespread in the market. It has to undergo a maturing process and the market must prepare itself for adopting new technologies. But this last year, given the Covid-19 situation, has shown that it is extremely important for companies to be capable of adapting to new situations, and adopting new technologies. We believe that we will continue to see a rise in technology adoption.

As for our needs, I would mention government support for adoption and digitalization.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

In terms of marketing strategies, a lot of our efforts go to educational content that helps us build value for our customers. Especially when we are talking about new technologies, educational content can help in making a purchase decision. We have the company’s blog — https://modex.tech/blog/ where valuable content is added constantly.

Other marketing strategies include hosting and attending events, social media, newsletters, webinars, or any other tool that can help us promote our ideas.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Throughout my career, I had the chance to meet many great people who, one way or the other, shaped me to be the person I am today. I want to extend my gratitude to David Applefield, a former journalist at the Financial Times. He was a great partner and adviser to me, and I will always remember him as a life teacher because, unfortunately, he is no longer with us. I respect his heritage at Modex because of his dedication, enthusiasm, and optimistic character. I also want to thank my beautiful wife, who supports me every step of the way.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think it is important to give back as much as you can. I am constantly involved in philanthropic work that I want to remain private. With Modex, we are constantly involved in educational programs with various schools and universities, with the aim to help future developers. Another project that brings me joy is my investment and support for .lumen — a research startup that uses the most advanced technologies in AI, Robotics, and Neuroscience to empower blind people.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Always ask questions. I am not a tech guy. I am an entrepreneur, so for me, it is very important to ask all the questions I may have. There are no wrong questions, and more importantly, you can learn something from the answers you receive.

2. Surround yourself with smart people. For example, at Modex, I am surrounded by a great team of tech developers that are able to imagine the technologies of tomorrow. It is important to allocate time for scouting and hiring the best people.

3. Take time to prepare yourself before any meeting. You never know when a new opportunity arises. So you always have to be prepared and ready to answer any question.

4. Take chances. As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to risk it all in order to succeed.

5. Say no. If you think that an idea doesn’t represent you, or it might affect you in the long term, you should be able to say no. Choose fights that are worth fighting.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It’s not my job or my role to inspire movements, but if you want to play this game… I will say this: fewer politicians, more technicians, that is my kind of movement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly. They become beautiful when they win.”Enzo Ferrari. I replaced cars with my dreams.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Do you want to protect every single digital data owned with a push of a button?

Modex Blockchain Database (BCDB) is a middleware solution that enables blockchain adoption in enterprise software development and deployment without eliminating the database component. Our solution combines standard database engines with blockchain features while allowing programmers to work within the systems they are already using. This service helps build a secure and stable blockchain environment, saves on operations and maintenance costs, and facilitates business development.

Win your customers’ trust through blockchain technology!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We have a very active presence on social media, and we are always open for conversation. You can reach us on Instagram, Facebook, Telegram, YouTube, Linkedin, Medium, or Twitter. Just leave us a message and we will contact you.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thanks for having me!


The Future Is Now: Mihai Ivascu of Modex On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Women Of The C-Suite: Beatrice Purdy of ‘Measure & Made’ On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As…

Women Of The C-Suite: Beatrice Purdy of ‘Measure & Made’ On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

One major challenge that women executives have to face is balancing motherhood with your career. It is sometimes a real struggle to have a work/ life balance when running a company. I think women put so much pressure on themselves to be the “best mom” or the “best boss” and ultimately wind up feeling that they aren’t pleasing anyone. You only need to please yourself! Today you may be better at one thing and tomorrow another, as long as you know you tried your hardest that’s what matters.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beatrice Purdy.

Beatrice Purdy is the president of women’s apparel company, Park Avenue Apparel, Inc. Since April 2018, she has spearheaded the branding, merchandising, marketing, eCommerce sales, operations, and consumer insights for the brand’s revolutionary apparel subset, Measure & Made. Beatrice has taken her 17 years of experience within eCommerce and retail to drive brand visibility, increase sales, and cultivate a positive consumer shopping experience.

Prior to joining Park Avenue Apparel, she was the Digital Vice President of Juniors and Special Sizes at Macy’s, where she was responsible for improving the digital shopping experience and contributing to omnichannel growth. Throughout her tenure, she aided in the launch of Thalia Sodi, Macy’s biggest female private label launch at the time and the first private brand that catered to the department store’s Latina demographic. In addition, Beatrice has held coveted buying positions within the cosmetics and apparel categories, focusing specifically on women’s contemporary clothing, denim, better bottoms, coats, and classification sportswear. Earlier in her career, she also worked for Ross Stores, Inc., where she gained valuable experience within the off-price retail sector.

Beatrice attended Boston University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts. She resides in Staten Island, NY with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. She enjoys traveling, dining out or cooking in, and spending time with family and friends.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Looking back now, fashion was always an undercurrent in my life. I remember drawing ladies in different outfits for an assignment as far back as the 1st grade and would even accessorize my pajamas with belts and headbands and would beg my mom to let me use her shoes and handbags to dress up. When I was in college figuring out what I wanted to pursue for my career, an Aunt mentioned to me that most department stores had buying programs. I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve been in the retail world for 16 years now and have a department store, off-price, and e-commerce experience. Prior to becoming President at Measure & Made, I was a Digital Vice President at Macy’s.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Two months into starting my position I found out I was pregnant. It was wonderful news but it accelerated my timeline of getting Measure & Made up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. One month prior to giving birth, we launched the brand website and kicked off our journey of giving women their perfect fit!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

On our first trip overseas to visit our factories, we attempted to cram too much into one trip! It was planes, trains, automobiles, with very little sleep, on loop. All future trips were planned with ample time for working, sleeping and eating.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

The most attractive thing to me was being able to truly shape a business and make a meaningful impact. With Measure & Made, it is my job to drive the overall vision of the brand. Having that responsibility and power to create change is really exciting for me.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

As an executive at a startup, I am involved in every aspect of the company: financials, product assortments, fittings, marketing strategy, creative, website maintenance, promotions, customer service, etc. A good amount of the day is spent strategizing both short and long-term strategies to propel our business forward, as well as organizing internal meetings with our various teams. Unlike other leadership roles, it’s my job to keep everyone (from the bottom to the top of the ladder) focused and moving the bus forward.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

As I mentioned earlier, the best thing about being an executive is having the power to create change and really shape the business. I love having my hands in a little bit of everything and thinking on a macro level about what is needed to make the company stronger as a whole.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

One of the downsides of being an executive is that when the business is struggling, that weight is on your shoulders. Like many other companies, the pandemic has put a major damper on our business in all aspects. Sales declined by 65% and securing capital became next to impossible. I had to strategize what was best to save the company, which included temporarily furloughing staff, canceling all-new Fall launches, and cutting back tremendously on marketing to maintain efficiency. I had to make a lot of tough calls, but they were necessary. Business is slowly improving and I am sure we will bounce back to normal in 2021.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

I think that there is a myth that once you are in a leadership position, there are certain things that are “below” your title which you will never have to do. I think that especially since Measure & Made is a small team and a startup environment, there is nothing beneath anyone. While my job mostly entails higher level, big picture stuff, it doesn’t mean I refuse to do the small things that need to get done. Executives need to be willing to do anything and everything to make sure the business runs smoothly.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

One major challenge that women executives have to face is balancing motherhood with your career. It is sometimes a real struggle to have a work/ life balance when running a company. I think women put so much pressure on themselves to be the “best mom” or the “best boss” and ultimately wind up feeling that they aren’t pleasing anyone. You only need to please yourself! Today you may be better at one thing and tomorrow another, as long as you know you tried your hardest that’s what matters.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I wouldn’t say there is a stark difference in what I had expected before starting here. I’ve been in the retail world for many years now and have really honed in on what it takes to drive sales in this specific market. My expectations of the job were very similar to what it actually is, and my past experience has certainly helped to prepare me. I think the only real learning curve was the fact that Measure & Made is a DTC brand and more of a startup environment, compared to my previous experience at larger, more corporate department stores.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

First and foremost, I think that all successful executives need to be passionate about what they do. With Measure & Made, I wholeheartedly believe in our mission and will always fight for what’s best for the company because of that. I obviously also think that strong leadership skills are key. You need to be decisive and clear with your vision, and you can’t let people walk all over you. As for things to avoid, I think that anyone who is in it just for the job title doesn’t deserve the title. It is a lot of hard work to be an executive, so your heart has to be in it and not just your ego.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I think that other female leaders need to be clear on expectations, but also express compassion and understanding in order for their team to thrive. At the end of the day, we are all human. I make sure to prioritize my family time and if emergencies happen, they happen. Being flexible and making sure your team is taking care of themselves is key to a healthy work environment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been very lucky to have several mentors through the years, all of whom were women. They contributed to my success because they helped me develop my strengths and improve my weaknesses. Most importantly, they didn’t micromanage and fostered an environment where you could speak your mind and bring new ideas to the table. Their guidance and support helped me become both a better worker and a better boss which contributed to where I am today. The only way to grow is to learn. Mentors can provide insight from past experience and help lead you in a direction that you hadn’t originally anticipated, or help push you out of your comfort zone to try something new, or even to reset and start over.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

With my role at Measure & Made, I have really tried to use my success to evolve the antiquated fit system within the retail world. The average woman has 103 things in her closet and 78% of it doesn’t fit, largely due to the fact that the female apparel sizing system has not changed since the 1950s. This a staggering number fueled by years of vanity sizing built around the “ideal” hourglass shape. No two women have the same body, so why should they be expected to fit into the same size? I hope that the world can be a better place thanks to our work at Measure & Made, which is trying to find a solution to the fit problems that many women face and empower them.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1, 2, 3, 4, and 5…Don’t sweat the small stuff!!!! It’s taken many years to not fret over every little detail and nuance of business. Inevitably, something will always go wrong, but how you manage through it will make the difference.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a major problem within the retail industry, and I hope our work at Measure & Made can create a movement to solve this. Brands often portray their styles as plus size before truly getting to know the plus-size woman of today. In the US, the average retailer will characterize sizes above 14 as “plus-size,” when the average woman is really between a size 16 and 18. Because of this, the options for stylish clothing are extremely limited, often leaving women with few choices or having to pay steep charges for custom clothing. We are proud to offer inclusive options from size 0–28, so women of all shapes and sizes can enjoy our perfectly fitting pants.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This quote is something that I came across when I was younger that always inspired me: “No one knows the mysteries of life or its ultimate meaning, but for those who are willing to believe in their dreams and in themselves, life is a precious gift in which anything is possible.” -Dena Di Iaconi

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Last year I attended a Glossy conference in which Rebecca Minkoff was one of the featured speakers. We are both the same age as well as mothers, and I was so impressed with everything she has accomplished and continues to do.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Women Of The C-Suite: Beatrice Purdy of ‘Measure & Made’ On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Mark Kadison of ‘TradeUP Securities’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Mark Kadison of ‘TradeUP Securities’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

We’re opening the door for people to learn to enjoy trading in a straightforward and accessible interface. For serious investors, they now have advanced analytical tools at their disposal in the palm of their hand. Once you open an account on TradeUP, you’ll have access to an enormous amount of research at the palm of your hands and our platform offers low cost trades. There’s a plethora of resources on investing and securities available at your fingertips.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Kadison.

Mark Kadison co-founded Marsco in 1986 and is currently the CEO of TradeUP Securities (formerly Marsco). Mark has over 34 years of experience in the securities industry where he has managed a self-clearing DTC member firm and has served as a General Securities Principal and Financial & Operations Principal.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Shortly after graduating from college, I worked as an accountant. During this time, my brother, Scott, and I saw an opportunity in servicing retail traders in the early 80s. We wanted to start a broker-dealer to capture this market so we formed Marsco and in 1986 we commenced operations. Initially, we found it was extremely rewarding for us to grow with our clients as they grew their own businesses and careers. We focused on building relationships with our clients, as maintaining customer loyalty was key to us.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

About a year after we started, we faced the Black Monday market crash. It took many years for investors to regain confidence in the markets, and growing our customer base in the aftermath of the crash was quite difficult. We continued to provide the best service we could to our customers, and when fears of the ’87 crash began to subside, we found we were well-positioned to grow. Since then, we’ve been focused on providing the best service for investors in the self-directed space.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve been involved in the latest developments in the investing and self-directed space. We have an incredible trading app called TradeUP. It features powerful trading tools, zero-commission trades, and has a clean & intuitive UI. We’ve recently launched a feature that gives retail traders access to up and coming IPOs from our affiliate. From the latest market news to real-time quotes, you have a comprehensive suite of tools for managing your portfolio on-the-go.

We understand that retail traders are always looking for new ways to trade which is why we have new updates every two weeks that adds new features, analytical tools, and promotions. This is possible since we have a high level of control over our operations with the cutting edge app and the back-end clearing house being all a part of TradeUP

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re opening the door for people to learn to enjoy trading in a straightforward and accessible interface. For serious investors, they now have advanced analytical tools at their disposal in the palm of their hand. Once you open an account on TradeUP, you’ll have access to an enormous amount of research at the palm of your hands and our platform offers low-cost trades. There are a plethora of resources on investing and securities available at your fingertips.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We specialize in clearing and execution in the back office of the operational side. The breakthrough was when we met with the senior executives at TradeUP. It was a combination of outstanding front-end technology and backend businesses. This union is a win-win for us and our clients. All of our systems operate in-house and keeps costs low, and for our clients, we’re able to integrate the latest features and technology onto our platform while keeping our fees competitive.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We believe the best advocates for TradeUP are its users. Our customers have been very enthusiastic about the TradeUP app with many sharing their glowing reviews and positive experiences with their friends and on social media platforms. We wanted to thank our customers and encourage them to share TradeUP so we continuously have promotions and have a referral program with very generous rewards.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

First and foremost, I am very fortunate to have had a wonderful Brother, Mother and Father and Grandmother. There are so many individuals in my life that I have been grateful for over the years. If had to choose someone, it would certainly be my brother Scott, followed by our loyal customers. For over 30 years, we have watched our customers grow, and they have helped me evolve in my career. Currently, after 30 years in this business, I’ve never been around such great and talented personnel as the ones on the TradeUP team. They’re the best I’ve ever worked with and am grateful for their hard work each and every day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love for more younger people to learn more about the world of finance. Getting into investing is easy now with apps like TradeUP and there are so many educational resources available that are just a few taps away. Not only would they have a deeper understanding of the world of finance, but they’ll also learn how to analyze and leverage tools for their own financial goals.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of Persistence”, and “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I found that this has struck me the most, and throughout our many years in the industry, my brother and I always found ourselves reflecting on it in difficult moments during our careers.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us on Twitter at @TradeUP_APP (Twitter) and Instagram: @tradeupapp (Instagram). Looking forward to seeing you there!


The Future Is Now: Mark Kadison of ‘TradeUP Securities’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andrea Tellatin of LedWorks: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

When you have made a decision, don’t look back — If you want to be innovative, you must trust your gut and go with it. The market can be tested but cannot be validated until your vision is there. Many people will see it in a different way and if you change your mind every time someone is sharing his vision you, it will never take off. Falling down is a possibility, but this is the only way to take off.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Andrea Tellatin.

CEO of LedWorks, Andrea Tellatin, oversees the Italian startup whose mission is to bring software innovation to the world of consumer and professional lights. Tellatin is an experienced business professional with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. His strong business development skills include knowledge in Embedded Hardware and Software, Management, Start-ups, Product Development, and Research and Development (R&D).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was working as the CEO of a different technology startup, I met a visionary person who asked, “Andrea, do you want to change Christmas with me?” In many years of business, I have never been involved in lighting, so I happily answered, “Do you want me to help Santa deliver gifts faster?” After listening to him, I understood it was time for me to bring the right people together to bring a new era of lighting experience to every home. That person is now my friend, partner, and President at LedWorks, Marco Franciosa!

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest marketing mistake happened when the marketing team was focused on a specific product called “String Lights”, which was the main visual on every package. One of our biggest markets at that time was France, where the word “String” means “Thong”. When a customer explained this to us, we began to panic and question the team on how we could make such a mistake. It turns out that we did the most product sales in France than ever before! I still don’t have an answer as to why this happened, but I learned that the biggest marketing results are not coming from what you study in school. The results come from your specific vision, strategy, and sometimes, with a bit of luck!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The way everyone is a part of the Twinkly story. This is not just a product, but an experience everyone wants to be part a part of. This emotional connection with our products is now a part of our brand story. I remember when a customer shared a story about their father’s illness and a picture of his glasses reflecting Twinkly lights on the tree they built together. He smiled and said, “Thank you for bringing a moment of happiness to his life.” When we hear these stories on a regular basis, we know that Twinkly is a pleasant light emotion people want to have in their life.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we are creating an all-encompassing lighting ecosystem! No longer just a lighting experience, but a fully immersive experience!

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Product marketing creates tangible value differentiation, where brand marketing creates an emotional value differentiation. We always try to focus on the emotional value differentiation in the minds of our customers. Product marketing will always support our brand and strengthen our position in the market. Both marketing efforts are essential to our brand’s success.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Branding is the advantage you will create between you and your competition. It is the loyalty you will build with customers year after year. It is where your sales will stem from when paid opportunities and media placements are no long enough to see results.

General marketing and advertising are the “short term” revenues streams. You cannot maintain these sales without a brand connection. Are they important? Absolutely yes! Without advertising, you cannot bring the product or the brand to the next level of success. But to growth your market share, you need to connect foster long-term relationships with consumers, so they continue to buy again and again.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Building a brand is like building a community. When building a brand, your job is to inspire consumers with your mission. I would suggest these 5 strategies to build your company and your brand:

Trust your team (and if you don’t, get a new team).

Trust in your team is essential. Your members must be aligned with the same goals. You cannot implement a mission without trust.

Never start a task if you don’t have the clear picture in mind.

Everything in your strategy must flow organically. Look at the big picture and begin to build your tasks from there. Do not start investing in anything that may stray away from the big picture.

When you have made a decision, don’t look back

If you want to be innovative, you must trust your gut and go with it. The market can be tested but cannot be validated until your vision is there. Many people will see it in a different way and if you change your mind every time someone is sharing his vision you, it will never take off. Falling down is a possibility, but this is the only way to take off.

When faced with a failure, take time to reflect on what went wrong

Many times, we fail in the execution of a task and simply re-try without asking ourselves what caused the failure. Some just repeat the task the same was as before, leading to more failures. We end up paying a much bigger price by not considering what went wrong the first time.

Bring your mission at every level of the company

If your passion, brand, vision, and goals are also a part of your team, everyone will be a part of the interest, listening, developing, and understanding. Ensuring this is done in the initial phases of your brand will help you see optimal results faster.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I recently start a collaboration with Balsam Hill and I discovered the power of this brand in a such competitive market where everyone are selling pre-lit Christmas trees. But the way Mac Harman (the founder & CEO) built the passion, the details, and the beauty of the portfolio is amazing. To replicate this, you need to build the brand not in words, but build each part of the company breathing your mission.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Sales are for sure the metric to measure, but also the final result of a brand campaign. A strong brand is a power you cannot touch! The success for a brand building campaign is measured in how many times your customer is buying your product again.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is key for us, especially in this hard time where people are staying home and searching for something new and exciting, like Twinkly is. Twinkly is all about experience and excitement connected with the lights. Sharing customers’ homes and emotions while using the products with videos and pictures is the biggest communication tool a company can have. Our social networks and other digital channels are the engine helping us to spread the word quickly.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

There is no specific advice but a clear message to everyone starting a new business adventure. Companies are not just made by an idea. Execution is everything, sometime before the idea. So many times, I saw a startup founder burning out because under-evaluating the process. To be a leader, you need power, to be powered, you need support from all the people in your company working in the same direction.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Getting everyone in the world their own Christmas tree — for free if they can’t afford it — would be a dream.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

An old business teacher always told me, “We are paid to make things happen and not to justify why they didn’t happen.” Not easy to understand and even more difficult to accept. We are humans and we often select the road that requires less effort and without planning in advance. Anything can happen before reaching your goal, and choosing to find a way to cover the mistake is a natural instinct, but being responsible for the result is key. It was not easy for me to switch my way of thinking, but it has been a business success starting point.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jeffrey Bezos

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/twinkly.smart.decoration/

https://www.facebook.com/twinkly.smart.decoration/

https://twitter.com/twinkly_led

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9mHLA5RjQWrBQT4EHpbvwg

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Andrea Tellatin of LedWorks: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Erik Budde of GigaPoints On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How

The Future Is Now: Erik Budde of GigaPoints On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Use Credit Cards

Be prepared to do a little bit of everything. Sales and hiring are always going to be two of the most important tasks for any founder, but unless you raise a lot of money early, be prepared to do things you may not know a lot about. Someone needs to run payroll and there’s a good chance it’s going to be you. Multiply that by 100 small things that need to be taken care of.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik Budde, founder and CEO of GigaPoints.

Erik is a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur who is passionate about travel, credit cards and their points. He has leveraged his own credit card rewards to stay in five-star resorts throughout Europe and book first-class tickets to Japan, and started GigaPoints in 2019 to help other people enjoy similar benefits. Erik has a track record of bootstrapping and selling companies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was fortunate to be at Stanford Business School just as the first tech boom was starting. The company I interned for went from 65 people to 130 that summer. By the time I graduated and joined full time, it had gone public and grown to 400 employees. It merged with another company, hit 3,000 people and then went bankrupt two years later. I learned a ton during that time and just kind of got hooked on tech.

In those early days, I had some great product management mentors. Since then, my career has roughly revolved around starting with customer needs and then building products to meet those needs. After working at a few large, public companies, I struck out on my own. Funded with a home equity loan, our first site grew 25% a month for two years before we sold it. After that, I bought a small site and grew it significantly before selling that one as well, this time to IAC.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

On my first real “boondoggle” trip, a supplier offered to fly us out to Taiwan in business class to see their factory. I even got to tack on a few days in Hong Kong before and I was super excited for my grist trip to Asia.. We landed in Taiwan, got taken out to a great dinner and then went back to the hotel. About two hours after I went to bed, a 7.7 earthquake hit. At first I thought the hotel had been bombed. I was still jet-lagged, couldn’t find my glasses in the middle of the night and was freaking out. It was the biggest quake to hit Taiwan in 100 years. Luckily, we were all fine and able to get a flight out later that morning. But the facility tour was a wash!.

A few years ago, I was negotiating to buy a business, and while doing due diligence I noticed a few things that didn’t add up quite right. The bank statement the founders had provided had some tiny discrepancies — almost too small to notice. I went down to my local branch of that bank and explained the situation. The representative had to be careful about what he could reveal, but he let me know that there had never been more than a few hundred dollars in those accounts — not hundreds of thousands. I hadn’t been expecting outright fraud, like photo-shopping bank statements.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Picking a credit card is way harder than it should be. Is it better to get 1.5% cash back or 3 points per dollar on dining? Is it worth paying a $95 annual fee (or even more) for extra benefits? Figuring it out requires hours of research, wading through questionable “recommendations” and probably designing a spreadsheet to compare your options.

We created GigaPoints to take the work — and guesswork — out of the process. Our technology analyzes your past credit card spending; using our proprietary database of credit card programs, it then calculates the rewards you could have earned with different cards, and shares its top recommendations. We’re finding that the average consumer is missing out on about $1,000 worth of rewards each year by not having the right card for their spending habits.

If you want a quick answer instead of personalized picks, we’ve also developed a new tool that shows the “Best Card For” just about anything. Just enter a category (i.e. Groceries) or any merchant (i.e. Starbucks) and we’ll show you the cards that pays you back the most.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I started getting really into credit cards, miles and points about ten years ago. There’s a whole community of “points hackers” out there, and at first I just wanted to maximize my return on our family’s credit card spending. We’ve used rewards to fly first-class to Japan, stayed in amazing hotels around Europe — we’ve made countless memories, all basically for free. I kind of see the Matrix when it comes to credit card rewards: I instantly spot the sub-optimal card someone is using to pay for groceries. Friends were always asking me what card they should get, and I realized that the existing system makes it hard for even financially savvy people to pick the best credit card for their needs. There’s so much information out there, and so much of it is biased because credit card companies pay big affiliate fees. After I sold my last company, RothIRA.com, I decided I wanted to help people and work on something I was personally passionate about. (No, retirement accounts don’t make my heart pound…) So I started GigaPoints.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

When we do a demo or people try out GigaPoints themselves, they immediately understand how powerful and easy the product is. Our biggest challenge is getting people to that point. Understandably, people are nervous about sharing sensitive financial data with a small (but growing!) company. But we use the same security technology as the big guys, including Venmo and American Express. If we can get over that hurdle, I believe consumers will flock to the product.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our first goal is to make the product as good as we can. We’re constantly collecting feedback and improving the user experience, since that is always the base of any marketing efforts. Beyond that, we’re working on various fronts to help consumers discover GigaPoints, try it out and, ideally, share it with their friends. Natural, organic growth is going to be critical to our success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

This is a seriously long list. At virtually every step in my life, I can identify a handful of people who helped me immensely. I think most of them know the role that they played as well. But, ultimately, I can’t help but be most grateful to my parents. Most notably, my mother worked tirelessly to teach me how to write, something I consider one of the most valuable skills anyone can have. And my father taught me how to think critically. He would argue any point merely for the sport of it, and it taught me how to analyze, shape and defend my beliefs.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Startups are roller coasters. One day, everything is awesome and you’re on your way to becoming the next Facebook. Then a week later, something happens and you it seems like the company is doomed. Managing those emotional swings is one of the most important things you can do.

2. A startup is a reflection of the founders. Flaws and all. Google is the way it is because that’s how Larry and Sergey are. Oracle behaves a certain way because of Larry Ellison. Be prepared to see your weaknesses on display in your organization (since you probably won’t appreciate your strengths).

3. Startups can be incredibly rewarding. Being able to say, “I built this,” is really unique. Lots of people have ideas. But not a lot of people are willing or able to take an idea and turn it into something that touches thousands or (hopefully) millions of people. I hold great respect for everyone that even attempts it.

4. But you definitely don’t do it for the money. I haven’t had a salary for 12 years. The successes can be enormous and that’s obviously what a lot of people focus on. But risk-adjusted, you’re almost certainly better at a big company.

5. Be prepared to do a little bit of everything. Sales and hiring are always going to be two of the most important tasks for any founder, but unless you raise a lot of money early, be prepared to do things you may not know a lot about. Someone needs to run payroll and there’s a good chance it’s going to be you. Multiply that by 100 small things that need to be taken care of.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Don’t be an asshole.” It’s pretty simple, but if everyone kept this in mind, the world would undoubtedly be a better place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Not sure if it’s quite “life lesson,” but MLK’s quote is always a cornerstone: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Of course, that bend doesn’t just happen, it takes hard work. But I believe that if you do the right things, the rest will eventually take care of itself.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Credit card companies give away more than $25 billion worth of miles, points and cash back every year — and most consumers are missing out on their share, because they don’t have the best card for their spending habits. GigaPoints takes the time and hassle out of finding the right card, using data to deliver personalized recommendations. Our platform securely links to a user’s existing accounts, calculates how much users are earning from their current cards and determines how much they could be getting from competing cards. The results are detailed, easy to understand, and filterable, so users can easily find the top cash cash back, no annual fee or Intro APR card.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @gigapoints

Facebook — GigaPoints

Twitter — @gigapoints

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Erik Budde of GigaPoints On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes of the COVID Crisis: How Dr M Nasar Qureshi of QDx Pathology Services Stepped Up To Make A

Heroes of the COVID Crisis: How Dr. M. Nasar Qureshi of QDx Pathology Services Stepped Up To Make A Difference During The Covid19 Pandemic

It appears that at some level, from day one, a large portion of the population worldwide either knowingly or unknowingly discarded the possibility that COVID-19 could become a serious pandemic. They minimized the effects, including loss of life, that related to it. It frightens me when people equate COVID-19 to the H1N1 virus (influenza) in terms of loss of life because COVID-19 has far exceeded what we experienced with H1N1.

Every life that has been lost only matters to the people that person was dear to. Otherwise, lost lives just become another number in the total. For students of history, the dead will always be part of a statistic, and they will never feel the impact of each lost life on families and friends. Even worse is the fact that we as a human race have refused to learn from the lessons of history, like the Spanish Flu, despite being reminded again and again that another pandemic was imminent.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. M. Nasar Qureshi, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. M. Nasar Qureshi, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Medical Officer of QDx Pathology Services, is a recognized leader in the medical field for diagnostic excellence. He completed professional training at Tulane University School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital. Dr. Qureshi specializes in clinical and anatomical pathology and has contributed to more than 50 articles published in peer-reviewed journals. He has also served as the lead investigator for several institutional and NIH-funded grants. Dr. Qureshi currently acts as President of the American Pakistan Foundation.

This year, the QDx Pathology Services team has served our country by providing clients nationwide with fast, accurate COVID-19 test results in 48 hours or less. Quick results can be the difference between life and death. The QDx team takes this responsibility very seriously, working many nights and weekends to keep clients safe and healthy. QDx also received an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for their Qdetect test, an at-home collection kit used to test for COVID-19 via nasal specimens.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. I spent my formative years through my time in medical school there. I left Karachi for the United States to pursue my Ph.D. at Tulane University.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

In my opinion, hardly any book can help you formulate real ideas that will make an impact on society. Rather, true learning opportunities come from “the book of life.”

I owe everything I know to my fabulous mentors. My greatest learning experiences have come from teachers who allowed me to observe them as they worked.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Each day at our morning hospital meetings to discuss issues from the past 24 hours, one of my mentors used to say “kiss,” which stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” I’ve found this to be true throughout my medical career. When you boil issues down to their least common denominator, solving the problem from that point up becomes much more manageable.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Traditionally, QDx Pathology Services has been a certified pathology laboratory specializing in cancer diagnosis for patients who had diagnostic procedures. We also have an associated molecular biology laboratory, which is catered to molecular analyses of infectious diseases and supported diagnostic efforts.

The advent of COVID-19 led to an immense number of delays in reporting results, which put a lot of people in peril and allowed uncontrolled exposure to family and friends. This phenomenon really struck home when I lost my mother to COVID-19 due to a lack of adequate testing and availability of hospital facilities, albeit not in the United States. Two days later, I lost my youngest brother to COVID-19. He was a gastroenterologist in Louisiana and spent ten days checking in and out of hospitals. He could not receive proper medical care because his COVID-19 test results took over a week to return.

At that point, I decided QDx had the capability and expertise to do COVID-19 testing and provide timely and accurate results for our own community, at a minimum. We are proud to now serve clients nationwide.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

Heroes are not usually recognized. True heroes cater to the needs of the time without looking for self-recognition or promotion.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

Heroes are typically high achievers, passionate about their work, selfless, have a firm conviction and desire to enact positive changes.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Heroism is not equivalent to extreme risk-taking. Someone who jumps from a parachute in space is amazing but not a hero. Real heroes are those driven to make a difference in the lives around them without looking for a reward.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

When I lost my mother and uncle to COVID-19 in a matter of days, I decided QDx needed to jump in and begin providing COVID-19 testing. The decision wasn’t easy, as I knew my team would have to sacrifice many nights and weekends. Still, everyone was on board and more than willing to serve our community in this way.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

My personal heroes will always be my mentors who sculpted my life and career. Some include Dr. Carl Teppire and Dr. Stanley Bauer, Chair and Vice-Chair of the residency training program I attended at Beth Israel Medical Center, Dr. Edward Baton, Head of the microbiology program at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, and Dr. Lee Henderson, who was my mentor after my Ph.D. program. I would also be remiss not to mention my parents, to whom I owe everything.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

It appears that at some level, from day one, a large portion of the population worldwide either knowingly or unknowingly discarded the possibility that COVID-19 could become a serious pandemic. They minimized the effects, including loss of life, that related to it. It frightens me when people equate COVID-19 to the H1N1 virus (influenza) in terms of loss of life because COVID-19 has far exceeded what we experienced with H1N1.

Every life that has been lost only matters to the people that person was dear to. Otherwise, lost lives just become another number in the total. For students of history, the dead will always be part of a statistic, and they will never feel the impact of each lost life on families and friends. Even worse is the fact that we as a human race have refused to learn from the lessons of history, like the Spanish Flu, despite being reminded again and again that another pandemic was imminent.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

As a race and nation, humans are incredibly resilient. We have always come out on the brighter side of the tunnel.

As far back as we can go in history, the human race has faced many obstacles and has always moved forward. The perfect example is 9/11. Once again, I hope that our next generation does not think of COVID-19 as an event which they will never face and not forget the concept we are still in the process of comprehending.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I’m inspired by all the people who have given their time, energy and even their lives to help fight this virus. There are heroes everywhere; all you have to do is look around at the grocery store or in your neighborhood to find people who are going above and beyond.

I’m disappointed by those who refuse to acknowledge COVID-19 as a genuine threat to society.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

My view of the world is no different today than it was a year ago. Humans have always behaved in the same manner, but we need to be students of history to learn from our mistakes.

Often when things are going well, humans assume it’s our right and that good things will always happen for us automatically. On the other hand, when facing times of crisis, we blame other people for our mistakes. If nothing else works, we pray. I think humans need to learn that no one can shape our futures and control our destinies other than ourselves.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

I’d like to see unity of purpose when we face our next challenge, rather than division of purpose and behavior based on political view. It would also be great to see a higher level of comprehension about what is happening around us. This is hard to achieve on an individual level; however, it can be easily reached on the community level if we have proper leadership.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

It is your future and the future of your offspring. Either we do it now, or we never do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve meant to do this for years, but I’d like to start a drive called “Fast to Feast.” The idea came from the fact that many religions emphasize fasting. Fasting has also become trendy in health and fitness circles. Since fasting is used for religious and health-based purposes worldwide, I would like to set up a program that donates the food saved from each fasted meal and shares it with another person who cannot afford one square meal a day.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d like to sit down to a meal with the people who worked tirelessly to bring us the COVID-19 vaccines. They have pushed the boundaries of science and technology.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram at Nasar Qureshi. Visit QDx Pathology Services’ website at qdxpath.com or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/qdx-pathology-services/.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Heroes of the COVID Crisis: How Dr M Nasar Qureshi of QDx Pathology Services Stepped Up To Make A was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nicholas Bubeck’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

My playroom has been transformed into a plane-making assembly line, and our family partakes in the process. I am the oldest of three boys and “employs” my younger brothers to help make planes, package kits, etc. But what keeps me going is the outpouring of support from people I don’t know. It’s amazing how many people are buying planes made of popsicle sticks simply to support a young child’s ambition.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Bubeck, a 7 year old First Grader out of Arizona. Nicholas’ mom told him to create a business during Coronavirus, so in May 2020, he launched Creations by Nicholas. He is now the crafty and creative youthful CEO with a booming pay-it-forward business.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific path?

In March 2020 everything changed for kids all over the country. They didn’t return to school, instead, went virtual overnight.

My mom, who is helping me with this interview, wanted to take advantage of this time and consider it an opportunity to teach me to think outside the box and do something different- something I wouldn’t normally do in the classroom. With plenty of time on all our hands, I took a bunch of crafts and created an adorable, functional craft plane (complete with wheels and a clip to hold a picture).

My mom helped me create a website (creationsbynicholas.com); I even wrote my own bio and paid my brothers to model for my online store.

My love for art fueled this idea- but also my love for travel. I love exploring different places, and due to Covid, much travel has been postponed. And so, my planes are meant to inspire kids to utilize their imagination and imagine you are going anywhere you want.

Customers can purchase pre-crafted planes in an assortment of colors, or they can purchase a DIY Plane Kit- a fun crafty kit for kids to create and customize their own “Creations by Nicholas” aircraft.

I wanted to do something extra special, so a portion of every sale goes to the Triple Heart Foundation, a foundation that gives books to NICUs all around the country. I care about the NICU because I was born early and in the NICU, too! And since this whole idea stemmed from Covid, I also launched a Kits for Kids program, gifting free DIY Kits to kids whose parents are essential medical workers.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your new initiative?

My career path is just getting started… but it has sparked quite an adventure. I have learned the value of marketing my business and partaking in news interviews- I’m quite the Zoom interviewee! I have been featured on national networks nationwide, including ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, E! News, Forbes, and more. The most interesting moment was getting an influx of orders after my GMA appearance… and GMA even gifted me a trip to the United Airlines HQ in Denver! I was also included in Real Simple’s holiday gift guide, and got TONS of orders… so cool people want my stuff!

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I launched my business at 6 years old; I’m now 7 and balancing school and being a CEO (and being a kid, of course). I enjoy filling orders and marketing my business- my mom says it gives me purpose during these interesting times. I want to encourage other kids to get creative.

My playroom has been transformed into a plane-making assembly line, and our family partakes in the process. I am the oldest of three boys and “employs” my younger brothers to help make planes, package kits, etc. But what keeps me going is the outpouring of support from people I don’t know. It’s amazing how many people are buying planes made of popsicle sticks simply to support a young child’s ambition.

How do you think this will change the world?

I hope Creations by Nicholas brings much needed joy to kids who are longing to keep busy, get creative and have fun during these crazy times.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Owning a business is a lot of work. After I was on “GMA,” I received an influx of hundreds of orders. While thrilled, I had to fill every single one. It took a lot of time and effort. I enjoy running a business because it’s fun to make the planes and kits- it also keeps me busy.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

The most important success practice I value is being grateful for my customers and supporters. I include a personalized thank you note in every order. I also think marketing is of utter importance- doing interviews, getting media coverage, and showcasing my stuff on social media (I share Instagram with my mom- she won’t let me have my own). These are all important outlets for evolving a successful business.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

“My business is very cool because I am helping kids use their imagination and creativity during this crazy coronavirus. I am only 7 years old and new to the business world. I have big plans, hopes and dreams for making Creations by Nicholas grow. I have new ideas in the works and appreciate all the support and guidance I can get- especially from successful CEOs.”

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Nicholas shares an Instagram with his mom, @mamaandmyboys


Nicholas Bubeck’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tara Jackson: ‘How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person’

Your sensitivity can be your greatest strength but you have to honour it. Trying to do things a way that doesn’t feel good in your body will inevitably lead to burn out. Sensitivity can be your greatest gift which I will go into, but first you have to honour your needs. Listen to all parts of your being — body, mind and soul, and give it what it needs. Rest and look after yourself in your way, and the way that makes you feel good, not according to someone else’s way of doing things. This might mean doing more gentle exercise, or spending more time in nature — whatever it is, listen to yourself.

As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Jackson, a proud highly sensitive, introverted, empath.

Tara once saw these traits as negative and did everything she could to numb and escape them, through highly destructive patterns and addictions. Having turned that around she learned that these are actually her greatest strengths, and today she is on a mission to support empaths and other sensitive souls claim the gifts in their sensitivity and use them in their lives and businesses, to help others and this planet.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

I am a business intuitive and mentor, Colour Mirrors alchemist, and the founder of Empathpreneurs®, a business service for empath entrepreneurs supporting them to align and ground their businesses with the chakras.

Practically this means I support empaths and highly sensitive people with the elements of running an online business from systems and processes to PR and marketing, done in a way to honour their sensitivity, as well as releasing blocks to business impact and success through ancestral and past life healing, and colour therapy.

Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I understand how hard this is. Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?

About 20% of the population is highly sensitive and it is biological i.e. something you are born with. Those that are highly sensitive process information differently from others. They pick up on cues and subtleties (coming from all over the place) that others don’t, which can feel overwhelming and stressful. This is why highly sensitive people often get labeled as weaker or people think they get easily hurt or offended. Highly sensitive people are incredibly attuned to what is going on around them, even if it can feel like too much at times, which makes them pick up on situations more acutely than others.

Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?

A highly sensitive person usually has a higher degree of empathy towards others as they pick up on other people’s emotions and expressions, tone of voice, body language etc. As a result of this a highly sensitive person may feel emotionally invested if someone else is offended as they can relate to the experience vividly.

Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?

Yes absolutely, as you are able to really pick up on the emotions that the person/animal is experiencing, feeling them deeply. I find it incredibly hard to watch news which depicts war torn countries, suffering people, poverty or illness. It hurts so much and I can feel the pain being experienced. Also if there is a lot of noise or stimulation going on, this feels overwhelming as it’s like a sensory overload.

When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?

I first really noticed it when I was working full time in central London. I seemed to find the day-today commuting and office experience much harder than my colleagues. I am also an empath which added to the situation, but I would get easily offended about things. I would pick up on the energy in the office and it often affected my own mood, I got overwhelmed if there was too much going on and I felt like it was all too much for me, and the only way to get through was with large amounts of alcohol during the week, then sleeping all weekend.

I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?

Absolutely, being highly sensitive means you pick up on what is going on around you acutely as you are highly perceptive and can therefore empathise with others more, or provide wisdom beyond your years.

Being able to receive information at this detailed level often means you can focus in on an area is a lot of detail. For example you may be really good at analytical work, or even drawing things with lots of detail.

Highly sensitive people need to honour their needs more and take time out and rest or just be away from stimulus, I find that this encourages a more gentle approach in life, which is something this planet (particularly the western working world) needs more of.

Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?

My high sensitivity is one of my greatest assets (on an ongoing basis) in my business and life today. As a coach and mentor I am able to tune into my client’s needs more acutely to support them as they need. I am able to pick up on what’s needed so that I can create it. By honouring my body’s needs I am creating a way of working for myself (and those I come into contact with) that is gentler, kinder and more in tune with the seasons and cycles of the planet.

There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?

Being highly sensitive can mean that you are empathetic, as you relate to others’ experiences. Being highly sensitive also means you pick up on all the cues that affect your senses so you might feel overwhelmed by it all, and less likely to feel empathetic.

Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?

Social media can affect highly sensitive people, yes in terms of people’s offhand comments and hurtful remarks, but also in terms of too much usage (as it does all humans, but highly sensitive people even more so). I would limit use and really curate the spaces you are in. Only join spaces and follow people who inspire and uplift you. Perhaps have private profiles, or if you can, higher someone to deal with all the comments, messages etc, so that this part doesn’t bring you down or overwhelm you. I personally use a scheduler and go on social media to engage and interact when I feel like it, so that my energy doesn’t get pulled down.

How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or effects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?

These days I’ve learned that not everyone is going to see things my way and fortunately I have a large number of highly sensitive friends that I can confide in, if I need to vent or share something that has affected me. But, previously I used to bottle it up and think that something was wrong with me. I would love to say to that younger version of myself that it’s okay to feel that way, do what you can to support yourself through it and know that you are here for a reason.

What strategies do you use to overcome the perception that others may have of you as overly sensitive without changing your caring and empathetic nature?

Honestly, I don’t these days. I am proud to be highly sensitive and I don’t see it as overly sensitive or something that I want others to see differently about me. I am happy being who I am, it is a gift and one that serves me and supports the people I work with powerfully.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?

That highly sensitive people are weak. Highly sensitive people are actually incredibly strong and intuitive, and able to take on a lot as they pick up on so much. Just because they may not fit the masculine paradigm of strength, it doesn’t mean they are weak.

Another is that there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t able to do as much as others. I do feel the world is waking up to this as there’s a health crisis from pushing too hard and overdoing it. Actually there’s so much to be gained from the inward, quiet times — the times of rest, and when you do take action it is much more aligned and effective.

As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?

High sensitivity is something that people are born with, it isn’t about being able to turn it off or on. It’s the way the individual perceives the world. I think more information needs to be shared about what it means to be born highly sensitive. I think highly sensitive people need to stop apologizing for themselves and trying to fit into a way of working/living/being that doesn’t fit them. Start being who you are and claiming it, and the world will catch up.

Ok, here is the main question for our discussion. Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Your sensitivity can be your greatest strength but you have to honour it. Trying to do things a way that doesn’t feel good in your body will inevitably lead to burn out. Sensitivity can be your greatest gift which I will go into, but first you have to honour your needs. Listen to all parts of your being — body, mind and soul, and give it what it needs. Rest and look after yourself in your way, and the way that makes you feel good, not according to someone else’s way of doing things. This might mean doing more gentle exercise, or spending more time in nature — whatever it is, listen to yourself.
  2. Trust yourself and what you are feeling. You are highly perceptive in many ways and just because others don’t see, feel and experience the world in the same way as you, doesn’t mean you are wrong to feel the way you do.
  3. Reach out and find a community of other highly sensitive people. Knowing you are not alone in how you perceive the world is the biggest support.
  4. Sensitivity is a gateway to creativity and intuition. Feeling and being in tune with things on a more acute level can be harnessed as an incredible gift to help others. As you look after your needs first and foremost you’ll be able to start to see your sensitivity as a gift and use it to support others and yourself.
  5. Sensitivity is a gift that can help create a kinder, more compassionate world. As you can feel things so much you are able to pick up on what’s needed to help more people. The world needs you to help it come back into balance after we have pushed on for too long.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’d love the world to honour sensitivity more, and not see it as a weakness, especially in business. Even if you aren’t highly sensitive it fosters a more inclusive, gentle approach to working which is good for us all and this planet.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best place to connect with me is my website www.empathpreneurs.org, here you can also find a free ebook I put together with stories and interviews from 31 sensitive entrepreneurs, sharing why sensitivity is in fact their greatest strength.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Tara Jackson: ‘How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.