Air Quality Monitoring 2.0: Meiling Gao’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

It all starts with public awareness. The more people that understand the importance of air quality and begin to advocate for clean air, the sooner we will implement the policy and technological solutions that are needed to begin to improve air quality worldwide. And the more people understand how air pollution impacts their health, the more they will begin to demand air quality data that is local and relevant to them.

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 Meiling Gao.

Meiling Gao is the Chief Operating Officer at Clarity Movement Co. where she is building relationships with government and corporate partners to transform how air quality data is collected and used. She was previously a USAID Global Development Fellow in Colombia and a Fulbright Scholar in China where she conducted research on the impacts of urban development on air quality and health.

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

Since starting my work in air quality and health, I’ve appreciated how similar the human stories and concerns are around air pollution no matter where you are in the world. The specifics around sources, types of pollutants, policies, etc. may differ but the health concerns, the need to take care of families and communities, the need to feel heard, and the desire to live in a healthy environment cross cultures and languages. This common goal really does help the clean air movement by increasing the need and desire for collaboration in the air quality and more broadly the climate space.

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

Leaning into the unknown and finding humor in tough situations have always served me well. Always learning keeps work and life interesting no matter where I go.

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”?

People are often surprised to learn that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death globally (and fifth among all causes of death), contributing to 4.2 million premature, preventable deaths every year by WHO estimates. We find it unacceptable that a preventable environmental condition causes so much global suffering, which drove us to found Clarity Movement Co.

We’re changing how air pollution is monitored and managed — making it easier, cheaper, and more accessible to measure air quality at the local level. The future of air quality monitoring — we’re calling it Air Quality Monitoring 2.0 — is made possible with new low-cost environmental sensors that are small, compact, and easy to use. But we’re not trying to replace the existing monitoring technologies out there but rather, supplement them and use this technology to fill in the gaps.

These existing monitors that make up our existing networks are big, increasingly expensive to operate and maintain, and are already often decades old. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), for example, released a report in December 2020 highlighting that US air pollution monitoring networks have fallen into disrepair due to aging equipment and budgetary constraints.

Because of their size and cost, traditional monitors can’t be installed everywhere but only at select sites. This was effective for reducing the types of pollutants that were most harmful to public health during the late 20th century — think coal plants and refineries. But today’s air quality threats tend to be more localized in nature — for example emissions from cars — and require more localized data to help solve.

As a flood of evidence-based research continues to unveil the massive public health costs of local air pollution, public awareness is growing and citizens are demanding access to better, real-time air quality data. In 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that citizens have the right to go to court to challenge how authorities monitor air pollution. While increased awareness of air quality issues is undoubtedly a positive development, it comes with increased public accountability for air quality managers.

The future of air quality monitoring networks, what we call Air Quality Monitoring 2.0, presents an elegant solution to this problem by encouraging air quality managers to adopt new technologies that complement their existing air quality monitoring infrastructure. This means they can continue to use the technology they are legally obligated to maintain while using low-cost, highly-scalable sensors to complement existing regulatory air quality monitoring equipment and fill in the spatial and temporal gaps that exist with these networks.

The best part is that these low-cost sensors are so affordable that air quality managers can deploy hundreds of sensors at a fraction of the cost — the annual cost of a Clarity sensor is less than 1% of the cost to own and operate a traditional reference monitoring station. So they can save money while expanding air quality monitoring coverage with this approach, which we have worked with cities such as London and Paris to implement.

If we want to make a dent in the 4.2 million preventable deaths caused by air pollution each year, this has to start with awareness. The only way to spur people to use their power as citizens to drive change in this space is through education, and that education must be founded on verifiable, relevant air quality data.

How do you think this will change the world?

We’re making air quality data more accessible by making it easier and cheaper to measure it. Governments at all levels are facing budget constraints. These new technologies allow them to do more with less by modernizing our air monitoring networks.

And we’re also democratizing air quality monitoring — it’s not just something limited to governments and academics now. Communities are organizing to set up their own monitoring networks that can help fill the gaps in understanding air pollution at the local level, especially in underserved communities where there may not be any air monitoring infrastructure nearby.

Having more accessible air quality data can also garner local support for action around climate policies. Climate policy impacts may not be felt for years, but air pollution in your neighborhood is often something that you can see, breathe, and feel in terms of immediate health impacts. Policies targeted at reducing greenhouse gases can often also target and reduce air pollutants in the air we breathe.

During our transition to a net-zero emissions economy, we need to make sure that already disadvantaged communities don’t continue to bear the burden of climate change. And climate policies such as cap and trade have historically ignored or not measured the impacts on marginalized people. As our current air monitoring network is failing disadvantaged communities, access to these low-cost sensors has helped fill in a gap and allowed these community groups to organize and start monitoring the air themselves. It also gives them more of a seat at the table with policymakers to make sure their concerns are heard.

Solving the global air pollution and the climate crises will require a new coalition beyond just policymakers and scientists, so making air quality data more accessible for all is a first step to creating a more equitable future.

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?

As with any technology, I do think about who we are trying to serve and what our ultimate goal is. Having more monitors out in the world is a good use of resources in some cases but not always useful to just have more data. There also needs to be the political will, a coalition of governments, communities, scientists, and citizens who can turn that information into effective action. Focusing purely on the data without thinking about the context of the communities in which these data are situated sometimes leads us to optimize for technology and data rather than action to improve our environment and health.

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

Clarity was founded by a group of students with backgrounds in engineering and environmental science out of UC Berkeley in 2014. Since there wasn’t an easy to use low-cost particulate matter (PM) sensor out there, we decided to make our own. This was an intriguing engineering challenge but once we had our prototypes and started field testing, we realized while the challenge to build and manufacture a functional and easy to use sensor was intriguing, we were more interested in how this technology could change environmental monitoring.

To do that, we had to make the technology easy to use out of the box and to operate independently so it could be deployed anywhere easily. By reducing all the time needed to figure out how to use and install an air quality monitor and making it easy to access the data, we’re making it easier to focus on the implications of the data, rather than figuring out how to get the data. So that’s how the Clarity Node-S, originally released towards the end of 2017, came to be.

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

It all starts with public awareness. The more people that understand the importance of air quality and begin to advocate for clean air, the sooner we will implement the policy and technological solutions that are needed to begin to improve air quality worldwide. And the more people understand how air pollution impacts their health, the more they will begin to demand air quality data that is local and relevant to them.

The other element is having some successful projects to point to as a proof of concept for other cities — and this is an area we are making headway in. For example, our partnership with London represents the first time that a city has formally adopted low-cost sensors using public funding to holistically integrate them as part of their air quality monitoring system. We believe that London can serve as a blueprint for other cities that want to learn how they can leverage low-cost sensors to cost-effectively increase the resolution of their air quality monitoring data (and perhaps even save some money in the process).

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

This is similar to my personal philosophy that I mentioned earlier, but acknowledging that there is always room for improvement and growth has been valuable for me personally and also as a core value at Clarity. We’re working in a space that is actively evolving so we need to evolve just as rapidly with the needs.

And during this evolution, it is very powerful to know that all of us in the company — and the entire air quality industry — are working toward the same goal of reducing air pollution even if the pathway to get there may change. This creates an atmosphere of trust, an element that is essential for any organization to function effectively (especially when dealing with a remote work environment!).

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 🙂

Clarity helps our customers reduce economic losses and save lives by enabling actionable air quality insights for revolutionary air quality management. Municipalities, industries, and communities pay an annual subscription fee to access our turn-key air quality management solution. Our proprietary, state-of-the-art air quality measurement instrument, the Clarity Node, scales seamlessly to enable networks of dozens to hundreds of sensors. Once deployed, our hardware works seamlessly with the Clarity Cloud to deliver calibrated, accurate, and high-resolution air quality data.

Clarity is the leading low-cost sensor provider, with the Node-S deployed in more than 50 countries across 6 continents thanks to our global distribution network. We were also selected by London and Paris to power two of the largest air quality monitoring networks in Europe through our Sensing-as-a-Service model. This high-growth market is only just beginning, and we believe that early adopters such as London and Paris will serve as a blueprint for the deployment of affordable, high-resolution air quality monitoring in cities and communities around the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

For more information and the latest news from Clarity, readers can visit our blog at clarity.io or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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


Air Quality Monitoring 2.0: Meiling Gao’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.

Resonance Global: Steve Schmida’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Being an entrepreneur is incredibly lonely, at least at first. No one understands your business idea or the challenges you face as well as you do. It is only after you grow a team that you can have others who really understand what you are trying to do.

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 Steve Schmida.

Steve Schmida is the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Resonance, an award-winning corporate sustainability and global development consulting firm. Resonance clients include Microsoft, Unilever, Pepsico, the US State Department, Oxfam and the Gates Foundation. Steve has worked in more than 50 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. He is the author of Partner with Purpose: Solving 21st Century Business Problems through Cross-Sector Collaboration.

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?

In the early 2000s, I was running an American foundation in Kazakhstan in Central Asia. I was approached by an executive of the oil company Texaco, one of the world’s largest companies at the time, who was having workforce and local supplier problems at one of his company’s most promising oil fields on the Caspian. He asked for my help in designing a program to solve these problems. It just goes to show that even huge successful companies cannot always solve these problems themselves.

It was at that moment I realized the business world was facing new types of problems in the 21st century, environmental and social problems that were extremely complicated. Companies were not going to be able to solve these problems on their own. They needed the help of nonprofits, governments, and communities, with the expertise, networks and funding companies that were needed. However, just because they needed each other, did not mean it would be easy. Working across sectors is extremely hard to do well. Business, government, and NGOs have different goals, structures and culture. Even the lingo they use is completely different.

It was that insight that led me to move back to the U.S. and establish a consulting firm in 2005 to help clients tackle sustainability and global development challenges through cross-sector collaboration.

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

In 2006, I was in Kabul, Afghanistan designing a new project for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). My client asked me to travel outside of Kabul to meet with an influential warlord to explain the project and to determine whether he would support it.

That is how I found myself in the backseat of an ancient Pakistani Toyota, traveling down the Jalalalbad Road to meet with the warlord. As we made our way, we saw a group of young men with AKs blocking the road in front of us. It was just the driver and me. We were unarmed and no one was going to be coming to rescue us if things went badly. It goes without saying that I had a very bad feeling about this. In life, few stories with happy endings begin with a group of young armed men flagging you down.

A pit in my stomach formed. As we approached the roadblock, the fighters shouldered their Kalishnikovs, smiled and waved us through to a small side road. We drove through a dusty village to a large compound, where again we were waved through.

I nervously got out of the car and was unexpectedly greeted by a woman in Afghan dress, who spoke fluent, native English with an American accent. It turned out she was American and married to the warlord. She had come to Afghanistan in the late 80s, met her husband and stayed through the Afghan civil war, the Taliban and the US invasion following 9/11.

She led me to a tree-covered chai-khana, a raised platform where folks lounge on pillows and enjoy tea and fresh fruit. There, I met the warlord, a ruggedly handsome man with penetrating green eyes. He greeted me with a warm smile and motioned for me to sit.

Over the next two hours, I would come to learn this couple’s amazing story and the work they were doing to help Afghanistan rebuild and revitalize after decades of conflict and strife. They also shared with me a number of ideas for the project I was designing. It ended up being an incredibly productive and fascinating conversation.

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

I am not sure who said it, but I’ve always tried to live by the following idea, “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” I think that is a wonderful life principle to follow — seize opportunities, live with passion, verve, and joy.

There is also a great quote from Robert de Niro in the 90s spy thriller, Ronin: “You are either part of the problem, part of the solution or just a part of the scenery.” I decided early in my career that I wanted to be part of the solution. I wanted to make sure that my career contributed to making the world a better place.

Last, as an entrepreneur, I try to abide by first principles thinking. What is the essence of the problem that needs to be solved? I try to take my ego, my assumptions, and the expectations of others out of my reasoning.

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 2050, the global population will hit 10 billion right at the time when climate change will be at its very worst. This is the biggest challenge we have faced as a species since we climbed down from the trees and began roaming the Savannah some 2 million years ago.

To meet this challenge, we must transform every aspect of how we live and, more importantly, how we conduct business. Companies, investors, and consumers need to transform business models, strategies and practices to minimize their negative impacts and maximize their positive impacts on the planet and on humanity itself.

While the challenge is tremendous, so is the opportunity. The UN has forecast more than $12 trillion in new sustainability opportunities that will emerge in the next decade alone. That is an enormous opportunity for businesses that embrace the sustainability agenda.

This process of business transformation is incredibly difficult and companies, even the largest and most successful brands, cannot do it on their own. Companies must collaborate across sectors with non-profits, governments, and communities to make sustainability work for all stakeholders.

How do you think this will change the world?

Put simply, if we succeed at making markets, business and consumers behave more sustainably, we will ensure that our children and grandchildren will live in a prosperous and verdant world.

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 biggest drawback is inaction, or a wait-and-see attitude on sustainability. Choosing to wait-and-see will make it much more difficult and expensive for companies to transform themselves.

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

A few years back, I was in a coastal fishing community in Ghana and I met an old fisherman who told me when he was a young man, he only needed to travel about 3–4 miles out to see to find fish. Today, his son needs to travel more than 200 miles to find fish because the fishery is totally depleted.

That moment really stuck with me. We are depleting resources faster than they can renew themselves. This isn’t just about poor fisherfolk in Africa. Talk to the CEOs of the world’s agriculture companies — they will tell you the same thing. It is getting harder and harder to sustain yields and meet the demands of a growing population.

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

We need business leaders who are ready to take their businesses to a new level. We need business leaders and investors willing to look beyond the next quarter and think about the longer-term. We need governments and regulators that support and encourage businesses to become more sustainable.

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

  1. Being an entrepreneur is incredibly lonely, at least at first. No one understands your business idea or the challenges you face as well as you do. It is only after you grow a team that you can have others who really understand what you are trying to do.
  2. Never, ever burn a bridge. People have a habit of re-emerging in your professional life. Therefore, no matter how badly you have been treated, try not to burn bridges.
  3. Timing is really important. In our case, we were probably 5–10 years ahead of the market. Fortunately, we were able to survive and use that time to learn how to be a sound business.
  4. Hire only the best people, who also happen to be good people. Period.
  5. Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to pause, reflect and learn from those mistakes.

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

  1. Preserve optionality. I try to design business decisions that keep options open. I am rarely an ‘all-in’ person. I am an 80% in person, who keeps 20% in reserve in case things do not go as planned.
  2. Read broadly. I read 2–3 hours a day. Usually, I have a couple of books going, some for work, others for fun. I also read news from across the political spectrum and I try to understand an issue from multiple perspectives.
  3. Pay it forward. Karma is real and I believe that if you can do a kind deed — provide a reference, make a connection, etc. — you should do it. It can pay huge benefits down the line.

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 🙂

Sustainability will be the single largest, most secular business trend of the next half century. Getting sustainability right is hard, which means it is an incredible business opportunity.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin: Steve Schmida

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


Resonance Global: Steve Schmida’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.

Rising Through Resilience: Nicole Henderson of ‘Unstoppable Nicole’ On The Five Things You Can Do…

Rising Through Resilience: Nicole Henderson of ‘Unstoppable Nicole’ On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Identify your meaning and purpose. For everyone, this may look different but first, you need to identify your “why.” My “Why” are my children. I have to succeed in life because I want them to succeed in life. Then I had to find my purpose, my calling, and then help others, specifically single moms. By helping them navigate through life and help them persevere. What I am currently doing by walking in my purpose helps build resiliency.

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 Nicole Henderson.

Nicole Henderson is the CEO and Founder of Unstoppable Nicole, LLC, and is the Amazon Number One International Best-selling author of “Take It Back — Your Strength, Your Mindset, Your Finances.” She is a veteran of the United States Army, a Registered Labor and Delivery nurse for the U.S. Department of Defense assigned to the United States Air Force, a single mother raising 3 children, who uses her own real-life experiences to help women who have been victims of abusive and toxic relationships, gain mastery over their life. Through virtual and in-person workshops, Nicole teaches women how to push through the toughest setbacks, obstacles, and roadblocks they face day-to-day. She is a Certified Master Life Coach, Certified Master Spiritual Life Coach, Certified Master Business Coach, Certified Resilience Practitioner, and Women’s Wellness Mindset Specialist and offers a Resiliency Course for women as well as a training program to individuals who desire to become a Certified Life and/or Spiritual Life Coach.

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?

I remember I got pregnant in college and I was paying for college myself. There was no money from my parents or a college fund set up for me when I got pregnant and in my junior year of college, despite how challenging my situation was, I knew I couldn’t drop out because of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to financially support my child.

I kept holding study groups with my classmates. I kept showing up to my clinicals with my big belly. I worked as a student nurse on the spinal cord unit at the VA Medical Center, up until the 8th month of my pregnancy, and then was transferred to the OR unit. The pay was good but not enough to support a child. I saved all the money I could. Once my son was born I only missed one week of class. During that week I was still holding study groups in my townhouse. I went back to class the next week with my one-week-old son in hand because I had to take my finals but I was still breastfeeding every 2 hours. I breastfed him in the middle of the final. Then my professor took him and burped him, put him to sleep, and laid him back in his car seat. He must’ve known a lot was riding on this because he never made a peep, he never made a sound, no one ever knew he was there. I spent the summer months that year with my son, not working and living off of the money that I had saved. However, when school started in the fall of my senior year, I resumed my routine. I would work at night, go to school and clinicals during the day. There were many overwhelming times. Despite being in a toxic relationship, I never stopped. I knew I had to earn my degree. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and was accepted into a fully paid ICU internship. After a year I cross-trained in labor & delivery and postpartum. I became the youngest charge nurse of the 24 bed postpartum/GYN unit. As for my personal life, I had two more children with different fathers.

As of today, I have left the toxic relationships and am now a single mother of 3 children. Although things did not work out with my children’s fathers, I always stay positive through it all. I’m always mindful of what my children saw and heard. I still always encouraged others around me and have been a help to others even when my days were hard. I realize, at that point in my journey, that’s when I exemplified perseverance. I was known to push through no matter what life threw at me — I faced it and I never gave up!

Now, I teach other single moms how to do the same. When I wrote the book,” Take It Back,” I thought about all the things that were taken from me and all of the power I gave away to men who treated me terribly. I began to ask myself, with all that women and mothers deal with, how can a woman truly be well? How can a single mom be well? How can she be independent until she gets in the right relationship or the right marriage that she desires to be in? How can she show her children how to be resilient? The answer to those questions is how Unstoppable Nicole came to be. I am determined to teach women what I know so they can be unstoppable. I know there are thousands of women in the place I used to be. They need guidance on what route to go. I seek to give them the skills and tools to persevere. I strive to give support and be their example, so they won’t allow the difficulties to hold them back. When connecting with me early or at any stage, I can help them get through obstacles and setbacks life throws at them, so they can get “unstuck.”! My motto is “It’s OK not to be OK, but it’s not OK to stay there.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting story from my career is when I launched my book Take It Back- Your Strength- Your Mindset- Your Finances (July 2019). I remember doing a Facebook Live and the support that I had from so many family members, friends, old coworkers, current coworkers, people I used to be within the military. Having that amount of support was overwhelming. To see how many people throughout my life were excited for me, proud of me, and inspired by me — the little girl from the projects of NYC. The next morning my book was Amazon’s # 1 Best-Seller in multiple categories like Single Parenting, Parenting Morals & Responsibility, Family & Personal Growth, and Inspirational Personal Testimonies. Then, immediately a few weeks later, I was asked to be interviewed on national television, on NBC Palm Springs, “Tipping Point” in California! The feeling of people wanting to hear my story and to learn from me was so fulfilling. To top things off, when I read the reviews of my book, I saw how many lives I had touched and inspired and brought hope to. The lesson I learned from this experience was by never giving up, even when life hits you hard, there are people who need to see what not making excuses looks like, and you never know who is watching, but they need you to succeed so they can do the same. But you have to show up so they can know that the help they need exists.

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

My company stands out because our team is transparent and non-judgemental while we serve. This makes it easy for us to work with a wide range of single moms to accomplish their goals in a stress-free environment. We are versatile in that we have worked with newly single moms, seasoned single moms, and working, stay-at-home, and CEO-level single moms. I have a client who allows me to share her story. She was left to be a single mom with a four-month-old and a five-year-old. Her husband just walked out one day and left her alone, to raise two young children. When this client came to me she was beyond overwhelmed and scared. She didn’t know what she was going to do about childcare, she didn’t know how she would be able to continue to work as an active duty shift worker( working 12-hour shifts.) She was stressed out, she said her hair was falling out, she was overweight, stress-eating and she just didn’t have the support or a plan. We immediately worked out an individual plan for her and her children. Today, she is more resilient, she is out of debt, her hair has grown back, she is at a comfortable weight, she eats clean and she and her children have their own place. She was able to get out of the military and go back to school and pursue her career as a registered nurse. She put in the work that I and my team planned out and now she is ready for her next level of goals. She told our team she was at the lowest point in her life when she came to us and she felt ashamed and a failure but we made it easy for her to get through it because we didn’t judge her situation or her previous choices. Also, we shared examples of our setbacks and that gave her hope that she would be able to come through this with our guidance.

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?

Yes, I am grateful for my mentor Chris Holder. The day I met him, he was speaking on financial literacy. He took down my email address and phone number. The week after that conference he contacted me and began to work out a plan to build my savings account. Within three months I had saved $10,000. At that time he told me I should write a book. I told him I didn’t want to write a book. I wanted to help people but I am the type of person that wants to be in the room and help people. Chris told me my story could save someone’s life, and I could reach so many more people if I put my story out there. He also added that my book could go so many places faster than I could and places I will never set foot in. He was absolutely right because the book became an international bestseller in places that I had never been to. He is still today my business mentor. I am grateful for his advice, and his sense of helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for both themselves and their family.

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?

I would define resilience as the ability to withstand adversity by adapting well and bouncing back from life-changing situations and difficulties. Some characteristics and traits of resilient people are problem-solving skills, optimism, strong social connection, keeping calm in stressful situations, past successes, engaging to support others, faith, coping with stress, sense of humor, strong sense of purpose, not easily discouraged, and work to attain specific goals.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience the person that comes to mind is my Nana, my mother’s mother. My grandmother was born in 1913 and she had 10 children, six boys, and four girls. I have a lot of aunts and uncles cousins. My grandmother, standing at 4’10, wonderfully raised 10 children. Her sons stood from 5’10 to 6’5 but yet they all feared and respected her, even though she came up to some of their waists. My grandmother also kept our family together. She didn’t allow any mess. She always made everyone feel like they were family even after some relationships broke up, people remarried, everyone was welcome to our family function and still felt part of the family. Three of my uncles were drafted for the Vietnam war. I could not imagine how my grandmother held it all together; all three of my uncles did make it back, but two of them came back with PTSD, which was unknown and undiagnosed at that time. My grandmother loved and supported them through the hard times and still keep our family together with my one uncle PST was so bad that he would live on the streets because he felt camouflaged as a homeless person I remember seeing him Countless times when I was walking to another neighborhood where my friends live and I will tell him to go home. My friends were asking me if I knew him, and I’m like, yes that’s my uncle. I was not ashamed because I knew he had a home and we, his family, loved and cared about him even though I didn’t understand at that time the war did this to him and there was no help for those soldiers back then. Whenever I would tell him to go home he would, and my grandmother would wash his clothes, get him a haircut, and nicely shaven. He would look normal on the outside but sometimes forget he was home and start yelling and speaking as if he was back in the war. My grandmother would just redirect him and she never gave up on him. My grandmother faced something a mother/parent should never experience. She lived longer than 4 of her sons. I was present for 3 of the funerals. It pained me to see my grandmother crying, which I never had before. She grieved, but she coped and still kept a sound mind through those horrific and sad times. She told me it was because of her faith in God that she could go on with life. Her strength and resilience to keep going with an abundance of love still to give even though life wasn’t fair. Her strength and resilience to overcome adversity and loss helped me to know that having resiliency skills is key to getting through any tough times I would face in this life.

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?

Society told me as I was growing up that I would never aspire to do anything else but to live in the projects my whole life, be on welfare, have babies, and the cycle will repeat itself for generations! I particularly remember standing in a long line that wrapped around my block. They were handing out blocks of cheese. I overheard some of the people handing out the cheese saying those things about how this would be the rest of our lives living in the projects waiting for our cheese. They said we would forever live off of government assistance and not be anything more than that. Not only did I, but I and all my siblings are successful. Three of the four of us graduated from college, me with my bachelor’s, my brother with his master’s, and my sister with her Ph.D. My other brother is a supervisor of a medical transportation company. I bought my first home at 25 years old on my own, with no co-signer, and in a great neighborhood. I am a registered nurse, CEO, # 1 best selling author and I chose to turn back and help others instead of degrading them. Once I was in a position to help I chose to use my position to encourage others instead of discouraging others. I chose to be a positive change.

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?

One of the biggest setbacks in my life was right before I gave birth to my daughter. I was in a toxic relationship that I was trying to save and keep afloat and financially loaned too much. I take full responsibility but this took my household and my children to unnecessary hardship that I caused. Before this relationship, I had two children and I and my two sons would go on a vacation for eight days every year as soon as they finished school. This was our time together somewhere fun. As a single mother with all the financial responsibilities and work commitment with busy lives, it’s always renewing and refreshing to spend alone time with your children and our stress-free fun environment. This was crucial for their well-being and our bonding. When I love I love hard and as a woman, I’m a nurturer by nature I would never like to see anyone without especially if I had enough to help but with that, you can help too much you can help to the point where I was financially in a bind maxing out credit cards my credit score dropped bills were late but I still helped and kept loaning more. I wasn’t in a place financially where you could take my son’s on a yearly vacation for three years in a row that hurt me so bad each year when the time came around and no matter how hard I tried to save up enough money for us to go something always came up. The day that my daughter was born, I held her hand and looked into her eyes, and my strength was renewed. She reminded me of how powerful, focused, and impactful I’m supposed to be. I knew that whatever I accepted, she would accept, whatever choices and decisions and the way I would be treated she would be watching, she would be learning and coming to think that was the standard of how she is supposed to be treated. She would think that was the norm. That is when I begin to make better decisions and take my life back. I learned not to lend money. I, unfortunately, had to leave the toxic relationship. I was able to get out of that debt. I made smart investments. I started to be able to pay my bills on time. I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck. I was able to take my sons on that vacation. I know my daughter mimic’s everything that I do and I’m now proud that she is seeing the best of me. She is growing up in a healthy environment. She is seeing her mom as an entrepreneur, CEO and she tells people her mommy is Unstoppable Nicole and that I help other moms and their children! She’s in-ear shy of mostly all my zoom calls adding her opinion and praying for others. Before the Covid pandemic, she was able to get on stage with me while I was given an award and that is the best comeback ever. Having all three of my children seeing the impact I’m making in the community so they can do the same.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I was born and raised in New York City, Spanish Harlem to be exact. When most people here I am from Manhattan, New York, they automatically think of “The City that never sleeps,” or New York, New York “The city so nice, they named it twice. ” They think of Times Square, Broadway shows, Wall Street, Skyscrapers, and luxury high-rise buildings. Most people have no idea that New York has projects. Growing up in a rough neighborhood was very challenging but it gave me StreetSmarts it increased my commonsense. Although I lived in a bad neighborhood and lived in poverty my mom was able to put me in a Catholic school because of the low income. I received a good education and was able to learn in a safe environment unlike some of the public schools that were in my neighborhood. Also, my mom put me in a program called the fresh air fund when I was five years old. It’s a program where inner-city youth go and live with family in the suburbs for two weeks in the summer. I know a lot of people cringe when they hear that I was only five years old, but that is how bad and unsafe my environment was. Being in an environment where I lived with a family in a house bigger than I’ve ever seen before and within walking distance to the beach was incredible. They belong to a yacht club therefore I belong to the yacht club. They taught me how to swim, play the piano, I could go outside and walk the dog and play in the front yard without fear of being harmed. Being in that environment showed me there was better and I didn’t have to stay where I was. I adapted to the change of environment so easily. I adapted to the family whom I love and they loved me as well. The next summer I stayed for a month and then the rest of the summers I would stay for two months. We didn’t even use the program anymore, they just would come to the city and get me because I was their family.

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.

The first step is to build optimism. A few years ago management came and told our staff that they would be closing our unit and we would no longer have that job. For some this was very devastating, some looked for different jobs, others left and went elsewhere but I looked at the glass half full. I still came to work grateful that I had a job I knew it wouldn’t be a short turnaround time should the unit closed therefore I came to work and gave the best patient care as I had before I stayed courteous to my coworkers. I kept telling my coworkers that I didn’t think we were going to close that our unit was much needed in the community and tying would reveal that I visualize us still being there and being a service to our community I kept my coworkers calm and reassuring them that no matter what happened we would end up in a better position should this one end. I always spoke positivity over the situation while being grateful that we were in the loop of the changes that could possibly occur. I was mindful and aware of the need to focus on the positive. I was successful by being optimistic and seeing the bright side of things. I was able to recognize the obstacles and difficulties ahead but I remembered a situation that happened in the past as they had tried to close the unit before. I remembered what I did back then, how I didn’t worry, how I stayed grateful, I focused on the positive and things worked out before. I knew they would work out again. They didn’t close the unit and we still have our jobs. Having optimism allowed me to persevere through this difficult time of uncertainty and helped me build resiliency.

The second step is to build social support. When I had my son in my junior year of college I knew I could not finish and graduate without support. My nursing class rallied together around me. Literally, my son was a community baby. Whenever I have clinical which last 12 hours, my son would be with one of my classmates then when I had an actual class he would be with his godmother which was also one of my nursing classmates. We did this rotation for a whole year. When I started my first nursing job my coworkers rallied around me and did the same even when I had another child and was a single mother again. They would pick up my sons from school when I couldn’t because I was still on shift at work they would take my son to their basketball games and football games and cheer them on when I couldn’t because I was on shift they would keep them overnight whenever I had to work the night shift. I am forever grateful for the support system that I’ve had through these years and that I still have even now as a single mom with three children. It’s secondhand nature for me to give social support any time I can. I know how important social support is. I expect nothing in return, I’m just grateful I can be of support for others. Having social support helps build resiliency.

The third step is to identify your meaning and purpose. For everyone, this may look different but first, you need to identify your “why.” My “Why” are my children. I have to succeed in life because I want them to succeed in life. Then I had to find my purpose, my calling, and then help others, specifically single moms. By helping them navigate through life and help them persevere. What I am currently doing by walking in my purpose helps build resiliency.

The fourth step is learning to cope with stress. I was very disappointed when my relationships didn’t work out and that was very stressful but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t give up, so I had to learn to deal with the stress so why ask for help when I needed it I rested when I could. I accepted the situation I focused on the things I could change. I stayed grateful for the things that were going well. I changed my eating habits and ate cleaner. I started an exercise regiment. I took responsibility for my choices and made the necessary changes and this helped build my resiliency.

The fifth step is having Faith. When things are hard and difficult and your life knocks me down. My faith in God always helps me deal with a difficult situation. I make it a priority to forgive others. I pray for myself and others. I meditate and read The Word and study to see If I’m in alignment with what God has told me to do. I journal the positive aspects of my life. I write down what I’m grateful for even though I’m going through this hardship or trial. Having faith restores my hope and this helps build my resiliency.

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 I would inspire would focus on real-life learning for all children in school. It would be to teach them how to balance a bank account, teach them about credit, teach them skills early online that they will be able to use right out of high school such as coding, video technology, first aid, cooking full healthy meals, learning serving size, age-appropriate resiliency classes and being skilled by the end of the eighth grade in these. An educated child, a healthy child, a skilled child, a resilient child will bring greater good for our future generations.

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 🙂

I would be honored to have a private lunch with Mrs. Michelle Obama and Mr. Tyler Perry. Mrs. Obama exemplifies resiliency and she empowers others every time she speaks. She takes actionable steps to help communities. She would definitely be a great resource to guide me into helping single moms and their children with resiliency programs which would, in turn, reduce stress, lessen crime, lessen bullying, inspire and impact change for the betterment of the household and communities.

I would also be honored to have lunch with Mr.Tyler Perry because he understands women at a whole different level. His plays, TV shows, and movies speak to the heart of what women go through — the heartache, struggles, and successes. His advice as Madea is hilarious but true. The lessons his characters’ learn are life-saving and real. I can see myself in a lot of characters in everything he has produced. He empowers people with resources so they can empower others. I know working and being mentored by these two leaders would allow me to have a greater impact on my community and worldwide.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/unstoppablenicole

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxxu5hJRPxcv25SVO0sF0QQ

https://www.facebook.com/PerserveranceExpert/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009490606386

http://linkedin.com/in/nicole-henderson-769023192

https://www.unstoppablenicole.com/


Rising Through Resilience: Nicole Henderson of ‘Unstoppable Nicole’ On The Five Things You Can Do… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Quinn of ‘Activate Care’ & Karen Zangerle of ‘PATH…

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Quinn of ‘Activate Care’ & Karen Zangerle of ‘PATH Illinois’ are Helping To Support Some Of The Most Vulnerable People In Our Communities

Start somewhere, even if it’s small. You never know when a global pandemic will strike. With data sharing agreements in place, communities are able to exchange social services data and public benefits data and share this with the case managers from a range of different organizations. This helps them actively cultivate a culture of collaboration and sharing and make data-sharing and collaboration the norm. No matter when you make that kind of investment in systems change, you will be very grateful you did at a later date.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Quinn, CEO and Co-founder of Activate Care and one of their Partners, Karen Zangerle, Executive Director of PATH Illinois.

Ted Quinn is the CEO and Co-founder of Activate Care, a digital health company helping everybody engaged in the healthcare system — clinicians, patients, families, and communities — act together to make health happen, wherever they are.

He co-founded Activate Care alongside Ken Mandl, MD and Zak Kohane, MD, both nationally renowned healthcare informatics experts. They wanted to start the company as ACT.md, which was a play on words for the concept of ‘Accountable Care Transactions’ which is a way of thinking about those handoffs happening in a more reliable way. They also saw the relationship between healthcare organizations undertaking value-based contracts and needing to rethink how they delivered integrated care with all their health and social care partners. Integration can be built around accountable care transactions, with their platform at the center. So, they created the company, now called Activate Care, as an operating system for team-based care that drives action across health and social care systems, toward improved outcomes and reduced costs.

Activate Care® provides a platform for social workers and doctors to easily collaborate and determine a patient’s needs. It also considers the patient’s Social Determinant of Health (SDOH) to help stay on top of outliers with a high risk of impacts of physical and mental health.

Throughout the interview series, Karen Zangerle will share insights on the homelessness crisis in the state of Illinois and how working with Activate Care has benefited the community.

Karen Zangerle has worked at PATH since starting as a volunteer in 1984. In 1985 she was hired to start a new outreach program for seniors. Currently Executive Director, Karen oversees operations that provide a 24/7 crisis response, information and referral hotline, services for the homeless and adult protective services for those age 60 and older and for individuals with disabilities ages 18–59. Over the years Karen has been a part of community changes in the areas of domestic violence, homelessness, sexual assault, prisoner reentry and mental health court, sits on a number of boards and task forces and has received a numerous award including the Women of Distinction and the National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Chapter, 2008 Public Citizen of the Year. Karen has been actively involved at the state and national level with the development of 2–1–1, an easy access number that connects a caller to local information and referrals. The state of Illinois selected PATH as the first 2–1–1 center to operate in the state.

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 personal background, and how you grew up?

Ted: I grew up on the upper foothills of Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range. In the winter, snowstorms roll across the Great Salt Lake Valley and dump massive amounts of snow all over the region. When my 11 siblings and I were kids, my father never bothered to buy an automatic snow blower, but he did make clear that it was our automatic duty to shovel the driveway with each passing storm. When my youngest brother moved away to college, one of the first things my father did was purchase an automatic snow blower. After all, his students had graduated. I didn’t fully realize what he was teaching us until I was older. That gives you a sense of my strong family upbringing and how it has informed my life.

Karen: I have lived most of my life in central Illinois. I am the oldest of seven children and had the role of helper early on. Due to my experience growing up and acting as a leader in my family, I was heavily influenced to make the decision to pursue a career in social services. I developed an interest at an early age to work with the local community and help others.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

Ted: Early in my professional career, I worked in New York City and had an experience in understanding the challenge of homelessness. One particular gentleman — I will call him John — left an impression on me. John was homeless and showed up at our community center looking for support. Part of our mission was to help those in need and provide all the support we could. Working with a small group of dedicated individuals, we began a process of providing food, clothing, shelter, and other personal needs for John. Our initial engagement and support were welcome, and it felt like we were making real progress in his personal situation.

After a few weeks of support, John decided that the setup wasn’t what he wanted, and we lost contact with him. I’ve come to believe that we were working based on what we thought he wanted and the life situation we interpreted would be the best for John. I’ve looked back and thought about that experience — particularly when I think about our Whole Person Care customers working to end homelessness.

Karen: Throughout the evolution of my career, I grew more aware of the ongoing homelessness crisis which further drew me to the impactful work I was doing but cannot name a single incident that propelled my interest — truly it’s been something that started early in my life and has been a growing desire and motivation to help over the years.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

Karen: I don’t think there is a simple answer to how our country has enabled the homelessness crisis. Those experiencing chronic homelessness may have a behavioral disorder, mental illness, substance addiction or been faced with challenges related to social determinants of health… the list goes on. People in the United States affected by these issues often are unable to maintain housing. On a federal level, the current trend is not to build new shelters, but to house people.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

Karen: It’s not a question of housing; it is a question of functioning with long-term behavioral problems. The issues with homelessness may be financial, but more often than not, a deeper issue is present. So, until services are provided to assist the whole person, or perhaps a mental illness or behavioral problem, the homeless won’t be able to come up with the funds for housing.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

Ted: Imagine if our health and social care systems could seamlessly coordinate together to meet all our physical, behavioral, and social needs as unique individuals. The impact of this approach to care is clear: higher-quality care, more humane service delivery, reduced costs and duplication of efforts, and better outcomes for all. Those who stand the benefit the most are those who experience complex, chronic health and social needs — especially those who are homeless in our communities.

Combining community coordination, referral management and data analytics, Activate Care offers a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), called the Activate CareHub. For nearly a decade, we have providing our software to large organizations like hospitals, health care systems and insurance companies so they can coordinate a patient’s needs seamlessly. Activate Care also partners with local social service agencies like school systems, homeless shelters and hunger organizations to provide a well-rounded health care plan.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Ted: We have never experienced a large-scale human tragedy like COVID-19 in contemporary history. While the illness presents an immediate medical crisis, public health strategies like social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine are keeping us apart when we need each other the most. These strategies, while necessary, will, unfortunately, cause long-term and persistent disruption to people’s lives. Given the scale of this crisis, it is time to look deeper at the impact of the pandemic on the social services that we will need in our communities, now more than ever.

A community’s ability to coordinate care is a key social determinant of health. New research published this month in the American Journal of Public Health identifies a clear line between the strength of relationships between health and social care organizations in a given community, and the health of residents in that community. “Cross-sector fragmentation is a powerful determinant of health, because it can lock in inequality and prevent communities from steering available resources to the people and problems that need these resources most,” said Glen Mays, Ph.D, professor in the Colorado School of Public Health and senior author of the study.

The work of creating a fully functional cross-sector ecosystem can be daunting, but it’s important to note that this work takes several years. California’s Whole Person Care program is an example of a cross-sector effort that has achieved strong and lasting outcomes for people in need, especially those who are chronically homeless. Strategies like Whole Person Care, which deliberately integrate medical with non-medical services such as housing, social services, and long-term services and supports, are better positioned to meet their goals and help individuals in lasting ways.

Karen: Unfortunately, the number of shelter beds have been limited in an effort to keep social distance measures intact to help curb some of the virus spread amongst this specific population.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

Ted: For the past several years, one California initiative has been undertaking this challenge. California’s Whole Person Care (WPC) pilot is a five-year, $3 billion waiver program that includes 25 counties working to integrate care for specific Medicaid beneficiaries in their communities. These programs most often serve individuals who have multiple chronic conditions, as well as those who are experiencing homelessness or other social and behavioral health crises.

One lesson that our work has taught us is that poverty can be overcome. It is expensive, laborious, and time-consuming work, but communities are making progress. In Marin County, California — where they have a goal to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2022 — their system of care has already reported dramatic improvements in some of poverty’s leading indicators:

  • 28% reduction in chronic homelessness across the county.
  • 40% decrease in homelessness among people with a serious mental illness.
  • 28% decrease in family homelessness, and 10% decrease in youth homelessness.
  • 10% decrease in homelessness among people with substance-use disorders.
  • 54% decrease in the use of emergency medical service personnel by the chronically homeless who have been housed, and 86% decrease in 911 police calls.
  • 44% reduction in hospital stays among the homeless.

Karen: We developed a day center for people experiencing homelessness with the business, religious, education and social service communities. A local shelter was not a 24/7 facility, and people had to leave at 7:00 a.m. We opened the service and kept it open for seven years until a new facility was built. It was a place to drop-in, take classes, do laundry, eat lunch, visit with a therapist, etc.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

Ted: The team at Marin County, California’s Whole Person Care pilot put together a really impressive video that tells their story. I’d encourage readers to check this out on YouTube.

Karen: I connected with a person who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and his world had relatively no ties to reality. He would not stay in a shelter because of paranoid delusions. When the temperatures dropped, I would go out looking for the individual in their favorite haunts, making sure he had a sleeping bag or blankets, and provided food from their favorite fast-food restaurants. I worked very hard to place this person into an apartment, and I felt on top of the world. However, he taught me the hard truth about mental illness and homelessness. Within weeks, the individual was certain there were people living in the walls waiting for him. He threw a TV out a second-story window because of what the voices were telling him. As I watched him worsen every day, I knew that simply providing housing, even with support, was no match for the power of mental illness. He ended up setting a fire as a punishment to others and was evicted. Here’s the great part — we stayed connected for the next 20 years until that person’s death five years ago. I took care of what I could but lived with the knowledge there were no permanent answers.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

Karen: Pour funding into discovering treatments that work for mental illness and substance abuse. Increase the number of people working with people with severe behavioral disorders, e.g., ensuring medications were taken, problem-solving day-to-day issues. Increase disability dollars to enable a person who is homeless to have enough food, rent, and medical care.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

Karen: It’s impossible to walk away, knowing you truly are making a difference, although sometimes small — in someone’s life.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

Karen: I have hope that organizations work to continue to lean on support systems to connect people to facilities for proper care, such as Activate Care. Most healthcare organizations spend countless hours building their own community networks and resource guides, which need to be regularly updated, costing time and money. Organizations like PATH Illinois offer an entry point to help. It takes a community to help our people in need. We have to work together to improve capacity of social services and track people through the system, until they get the help they need. Because of this, I believe Activate Care offers huge value to the healthcare system. To be able to work with a company that is willing to expand a hospital’s ability to follow through is wonderful. Simply put, we want more people to find answers to their problem before it negatively impacts their health. Leaning on platforms and other services to help provide best possible care is start, but I’m not sure I will see these issues “solved” completely in my lifetime.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Karen:

  1. Not all problems can be solved but not at the expense of hope; see the above scenario.
  2. The extent that serious mental illness keeps people from meeting necessary needs. One person, who had money, would only live-in abandoned cars. He refused to accept that he had a trust fund and could buy food or a home. I asked him how he kept fed and warm. He would visit restaurant dumpsters and collect what was thrown away. He would take it back to the vacant car lots, get in his favorite car to sleep in (he varied it), ate some of the food but would place it around his body. The cats would come to eat, and their warmth got him through Illinois winters.
  3. People do live on the streets and survive. One person has been on the streets for more than 20 years. She is in her 80’s. She would come and see me when she needed something. We haven’t seen her for a long time and will probably never know her fate, but she was a positive person and quite innovative in her own thinking. She did not want to be called “homeless” but rather “street person.”
  4. Substance abuse is a cruel fate. A person, drinking from their teens into their late forties, desperately needed oral surgery. He had rotting teeth that needed to be pulled. We worked very hard to keep him sober so that the dentist could do the surgery, even hiring someone to sit with him in a hotel room to keep him from drinking. Nothing worked. Ultimately, he used pliers and pulled out some of the teeth. He eventually passed away in a nursing home at age 49 from complications of alcoholism.
  5. A person’s history cannot be denied. I knew of a woman who was sexually abused from a young age by guardians and siblings. They started drinking at age 12. I met this person at age 18. She had already had two children with fetal alcohol syndrome who were taken when born. She was a prostitute, had violent episodes, would go with anyone who promised a drink — multiple suicide attempts including having to be talked down from a high structure. The only time she could stop drinking was when she was in prison. Filled with undeniable rage, she could not sustain efforts towards change. Subsequent health outcomes eventually landed her in a wheelchair in her 40’s. She still drinks.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

Ted: The challenge is so encompassing. I have a great deal of respect for the efforts of our partners who daily work to take on the challenge of homelessness in their communities. This makes me think that three things are needed:

  1. Move from a fractured service network to a coordinated care ecosystem. Going into this work, we know that it’s hard to get everyone working together. It takes a huge amount of culture change and systems change work to get to the point of true collaboration.
  2. Put in place a central “command center” that can convene stakeholders across the community. The team that sits in the center of a community effort can act as a “command center.” One of the most important things they can do is make possible the legal and compliance permissions, the release of information (ROI), and data-sharing agreements among agencies that allow them to use an innovative platform like Activate Care in daily operations across all these different organizations.
  3. Start somewhere, even if it’s small. You never know when a global pandemic will strike. With data sharing agreements in place, communities are able to exchange social services data and public benefits data and share this with the case managers from a range of different organizations. This helps them actively cultivate a culture of collaboration and sharing and make data-sharing and collaboration the norm. No matter when you make that kind of investment in systems change, you will be very grateful you did at a later date.

You are both people of enormous 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. 🙂

Ted: For too long, the status quo in our healthcare system has been to screen people for mental health or social service needs, then simply refer them out to other providers in the community. Numerous peer-reviewed studies now show this fails up to 80% of people in need.

We know for a fact that its rarely just food insecurity affecting someone’s health, or an anxiety disorder, it’s almost always more than one issue facing a family. And when we look to the future with a keen eye on how the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will certainly increase incidents of homelessness, food insecurity, mental health, and many other SDOH, deploying large-scale interventions to these intersecting challenges will require an integrated ecosystem more than ever. It’s time to prepare for these predictable challenges to actually make a positive impact for our vulnerable populations.

We believe the intervention is everything, so we launched our Screen-to-Intervene initiative to engage communities in all 50 states in an effort to link these systems of care around the individual patient or client, rather than just the activities of the care coordinator or case manager.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Karen: Former President Barack Obama. I would like to learn his vision of how we can make changes in human issues, be it racism or homelessness.

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

I have a quote that I often recite in the office: “Done beats perfect.” I assume some people will naturally agree with that statement. But some people need to be reminded that speed is a virtue in start-ups.

We placed a long bet on Activate Care, and we have a long time to make our offering more perfect. But at the end of the day, we are here to continually ship a product that people can use right now to improve the health and well-being of their community. That goal is too important to leave to the whims of perfection. We’ll never be accused of not moving swiftly.

How can our readers follow you online?

Ted:

https://twitter.com/activatecare

https://www.linkedin.com/company/activate-care/

https://www.facebook.com/ActivateCareTechnologies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge54dVJcuKg&t=76s

Karen:

https://www.pathcrisis.org

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Quinn of ‘Activate Care’ & Karen Zangerle of ‘PATH… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Danielle Ingenito: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

The positive side of divorce is rebirth! You get to start over, and as scary as it sounds when it first happens, you can have a much better life if you allow yourself to. When my divorce happened, I thought everything was over. My husband had just reached top pay in his job, which we had been waiting six years for. Top pay meant we were finally okay, I did not have to work as much, and things were about to get more comfortable for us financially. Which I thought meant our marriage would get better, without all the stress. Well, two weeks after he hit top pay, our marriage fell apart in one night; after years of fighting for it, one night is all it took.

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 Danielle Ingenito.

Danielle Ingenito, The Expert in Healing After Toxic Relationships helps women turn their pain into power.

She is the creator of the Let it Go Method™ which is a step-by-step process of helping women awaken their true self worth & let go of the constant feeling of needing validation from other people.

Danielle is a Certified Intuitive Reiki Master, Psychic, Medium & Life Coach and has helped thousands of women take their power back in her challenges and transformational programs.

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 a divorced family. My mother and father divorced when I was about 7 years old. I would go with my father every other weekend, until I was about 9 or 10 years old. Then one day a disagreement between my mother & father broke out and I did not talk to my Dad until I was in college. I was completely heart broken and confused, so I distracted myself by focusing on my studies. I was incredibly angry, I didn’t understand why my dad wasn’t around, and I wanted to prove that I didn’t need him in my life. I was going to succeed without him. I was very driven, and even got a 4.0 GPA in college. I had lived with my stepfather since I was 8 years old but didn’t have the best relationship. The lack of loving relationships from men in my life, led me to my devastating divorce.

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

I would never have thought I would be helping women heal themselves after toxic relationships, I was a CPA prior to this. I had my own accounting business for 10 years. During that time I was married and had 2 kids. Although I looked happy to everyone else, I was miserable, numb and felt very alone. I kept trying to make my marriage better, I went to therapy, tried eating healthier, exercising, but it just seemed as thought nothing was working. I realized that I could not do it all alone, and my husband at the time wasn’t taking accountability to try to help make our marriage better either. One night our marriage took a devastating turn for the worst, and he was with someone else within a week. This literally broke me, and I started a downward spiral of trying to numb the pain. Until the Solar Eclipse of 2017, where I heard “whatever your doing now, will last for the next 7 years.” That day I made the decision that I had to help myself and do better for my children. I broke things off with a toxic guy that I had been seeing, stopped drinking, and started watching a lot of YouTube videos. I spent hundreds of hours learning about narcissism and codependency, however I still did not feel any better. Until one day my friend suggested energy healing, I had tried therapy, but it wasn’t helping, I already knew I had “Daddy” issues but I didn’t know how to fix them. In one session of energy healing, I had released so much, that I left feeling like a weight had been lifted off me. From that moment I knew I had to learn how to do it, so I did. I became a Reiki Master and a Psychic. Knowing that people were suffering just like I was, I had to share my knowledge and my journey with others. Helping people heal, and feel better about themselves became my passion. I took my healing journey of 3 years and condensed into a 8 week healing journey, so other people could start feeling better without years of therapy.

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

So many manifestations have happened to me since I started this career. Healing myself and my energy has allowed me to magnetize things into my life. I manifested the exact house I live in now. I had moved states from NJ to NY and moved into a townhome in the town I went to high school. After my divorce I had to sell our house and rehome our dog. I had always promised my kids that we would get another dog, but I was renting and we weren’t allowed pets. After a year of living in the townhome, I knew I was ready to move into a house where we could have a pet. So, I started my manifesting rituals walking over to the development I wanted our new house in, and had my specific requirements of our new home. I had taken a generic picture of the house I wanted off google, on the smaller side, a yard, etc., and put it on my vision board. I had an idea which houses were coming up for rent, so I was focused on those. However, the pandemic hit, and nothing was on the market. So, I signed an extension on my lease, and just waited. To be honest, I started losing hope, but within in 2 days of losing hope, 5 houses came on the market. None of the ones I knew where coming up for rent. Someone had bought all 5 houses to rent them out. We went to see them, and the first one we looked at, we knew it was our house! It was everything I asked for, specifically even down to the price. Now this is where the story gets interesting. We moved into the house, and a month later my brother came up to visit, and I showed him my vision board with the house that looks just like the one we were living in. He made a comment that it looked just like mine. I told him that yes, they all look remarkably similar. He said, “No I think it’s exactly this one” so we went outside and compared the picture. It looked exactly the same. There was only one way to find out, I went to the computer and zoomed in on the number of the house that was on my vision board. Low and behold it was the number of the house I was living in. Without knowing it, the house that I put on my vison board 6 months prior, was the same house I moved into! Even though I knew the power of manifestation, my Mind was still blown!

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 I first started my healing business, I made a mistake when I hosted a launch party for my monthly membership program. I had decorated my room, planned the whole night out, music, drinks, giveaways. I was so excited! The party started, and everyone was having such a good time, and then suddenly, I received a message that my live video was going to be shut down. I did not realize that I could not play music that wasn’t mine on social media.

So about 20 minutes into my launch party, we got shut down. I was extremely disappointed, but looking back now, I can laugh at this. Moving forward today, I am very aware of the music I use.

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

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back. So, you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future” ~Steve Jobs

I recently just heard this quote and it has now become my favorite! It makes so much sense, because the whole time I was going through my divorce and all the pain, I never understood why. I could not see it when I was in the moment. But looking back now, it all makes sense. I can connect the dots. I had to go through toxic relationships, my Dad leaving, the divorce for me to be exactly where I am right now. Without ALL of that, I would not be helping my clients heal their own lives and sharing my experiences with them, making them feel less alone.

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

Yes! I am working on writing a book teaching people all about their energy. Our energy holds our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. My book will help people realize that their energy is causing chaos in their lives and relationships and teach them how to fix it. I always knew I deserved better, but my energy was saying something quite different. Therefore, I kept attracting toxic people into my life. Understanding my energy and being able to release energy that was trapped around certain events in my life, is what changed how I felt about myself. Sharing this information with people who suffer with toxic relationships will help them realize it’s not them, it’s their energy. Once they release it they can bring in healthier relationships into their life.

Okay.

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 am incredibly grateful that I went through a divorce. I would not be who I am if I had not. I was the most broken I had ever been, but I needed to be that broken so that I could build myself back up the right way. Through that time, I learned that I was holding onto so much pain from my childhood that I kept trying to find the love I did not have for myself in others.

Therefore, I would go above and beyond for my husband and accept things I should not have accepted. I was always trying to make him happy so that I would feel loved. I did not see my Dad for nine years starting when I was about 10 years old. This caused me to believe that I was not enough. If I were enough, he would have stayed or fought to see me. However, as that young girl, I did not know this is what I thought. I was just furious about the whole situation. Since that day, I started seeking validation and love outside of myself to feel good enough. Through my divorce, I was forced to look at all of this during my healing journey. Now I have the love within myself, and I do not need others to validate that I am enough; I already know I am.

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 first most common mistake that people make after going through a divorce is getting into another relationship right away. In a 2013 survey, they found over 9 million Americans had been married three times. This is most likely because they jump into another relationship right away, and it is usually not with the right person. After a divorce, they need time to find themselves again, but many people are looking to fill a void because of the pain they feel. They can avoid this by giving themselves time to grieve. Divorce is the death of a marriage. Give yourself time to process it, and understand what went wrong in the first place, so it does not happen again.

The second most common mistake people make after a divorce is blaming their spouse and not healing themselves. I see it all the time. People resist healing. I get it; I was there. It is not fun work. However, it is the best work you will ever do. Many people go to therapy to get help processing the divorce but not realizing there is something that lead to their divorce. Some part of that divorce was their fault; if they look hard, they will see that. Some examples of this are ignoring red flags, staying in the relationship too long, not setting appropriate boundaries, or always giving too much of themselves. Yet a lot of the time, we blame the other person and forget about the part we played in the marriage.

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 positive side of divorce is rebirth! You get to start over, and as scary as it sounds when it first happens, you can have a much better life if you allow yourself to. When my divorce happened, I thought everything was over. My husband had just reached top pay in his job, which we had been waiting six years for. Top pay meant we were finally okay, I did not have to work as much, and things were about to get more comfortable for us financially. Which I thought meant our marriage would get better, without all the stress. Well, two weeks after he hit top pay, our marriage fell apart in one night; after years of fighting for it, one night is all it took.

To me, it was like someone took a baseball bat and brought me to my knees. I felt like everything I had been waiting for, everything I was excited for, was taken away in one night. I was all on my own and had to make it work for the sake of my kids. I had to sell my home and rehome my dog to move into an apartment I could afford. At this time, I could never imagine having what I was going to have when I was married. Yet three years later, I have more than I could have had in that marriage. I have a beautiful home, a fantastic dog, my kids are happy, and I make more money now than ever before. I am a completely different person; my anxiety is gone, my confidence is up, and I don’t seek validation outside of myself anymore. I could never have imagined back then that I could thrive after my divorce, but I did, and I keep continuing to do so.

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?

Oh boy, I could share some horror stories with you too, but that should not stop you from having a new beginning of love. My best advice is to make sure you are ready. I teach my clients that they are ready when you love your life so much being by yourself that you won’t settle for anything less than you deserve. If you are at a place that you have healed and want a partner to share your life with, you are ready. You deserve the love you want, and when you are ready, you will make sure it’s with the right person.

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

Themselves. Take the time to find yourself again. What do you like to do? For many years you were with someone, maybe had kids, and lived your life for other people. After a divorce, you should try new things and discover who you are at this point in your life. I guarantee it is not who you were in the marriage.

Okay, 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?

5 Things I would advise in order to survive and thrive after a divorce.

  1. Learn about narcissism & codependency.

Even if you think you know what these two words mean, like me, you probably have it all wrong. Diving deep into the process a narcissist brings you through will blow your mind, especially if you have been married to one. Things will start to make sense, and your whole life will be a lot clearer.

  1. Stop focusing on your ex. My ex was with someone a week after we broke up, and I focused on him and her for way too long. Why was she better than me, what were they doing, how could he do this to me? Staying in these thoughts only hurt me more. I had to start asking better questions. Why did I marry someone like that, why did I stay for so long, etc.? I had to focus on myself and heal the parts of me that led to the divorce.
  2. Get out of the victim mentality as quickly as possible. The longer you sit in the “poor me” thinking, the longer you will suffer. Allow yourself time to grieve, but after a few weeks or months, start taking your power back and realize you have control over your future.
  3. Focus on you. Take care of yourself; if you are good, then your kids will be good. You have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others. This is not selfish, it’s survival.
  4. Start Energy healing right away. After years of therapy, energy healing helped me feel better right away. It lifted burdens from me that I had been carrying from the age of 10. It was the only thing that helped me heal and become who I am today.

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?

A few things you can do to alleviate the pain:

  • Energy Healing is excellent for alleviating the pain and anguish of divorce. You leave a session feeling lighter and relaxed. Energy healing was a gamechanger for me.
  • Eliminate your alcohol or drug intake, I know this seems counter-intuitive, but this will only cause you to suffer longer and cause you to make poor decisions.
  • Journaling is an excellent way to get your feelings out. Writing letters to your ex, with everything you want to say, then burn the letter, especially on a full moon night. You will feel liberated!
  • Detach from your ex, limit your contact, and make sure to stop following anyone that is associated with them, so you are not frequently seeing them in your feed.
  • Give yourself time to process and feel the feelings. It’s okay to get mad, cry, laugh all within a few minutes. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve a marriage. There is also no time limit.

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

Few books that helped me through my divorce were:

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle~ This book changed everything for me. It taught me how to look at things differently and that what I thought was not valid.

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie~ This book made me realize that I had to change myself to be happy and stop seeking validation and love outside of myself.

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. 🙂

A movement I would inspire is the “Let it Go” movement. This movement would teach people the 5 steps of my let it go method I use in my From Pain to Power healing program. It allows you to release the energy around childhood trauma that causes chaos in your adult relationships. It also teaches you how to reprogram the limiting subconscious beliefs that hold you back in your life, such as I am not good enough. Teaching people how to shift their energy and change their way of thinking can change this world.

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 to have breakfast or lunch with Gabby Bernstein.

I love her work, and she inspires me every day to keep sharing my message. She has helped so many people shift their perspective and believe in the Universe’s power, and I am looking to do the same with the power of energy healing. Many people do not know about it, and I believe it can shift the way we deal with mental health. I would love to hear about how she did it.

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


Danielle Ingenito: 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: Stephen Phipps of Effusio On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Stephen Phipps of Effusio On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Wellness

You will fail, learn from it. You would think as a researcher this would have been a given, but it took a while to get comfortable with failure. For anything from product development to complex problem-solving, failure helps drive progress forward and gives you knowledge along the way if you take the time to learn from it.

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

As Chief Innovation Officer, Stephen is responsible for creating and implementing innovative new product development plans in collaboration with internal and external science, manufacturing, marketing, and regulatory experts. He provides strategic counsel and assistance as appropriate to the company to launch products and drive revenue generation through an exceptional portfolio. In addition to this, he reviews areas of innovative growth that align with, and may complement the existing portfolio. Prior to his role, Stephen was a practicing Naturopathic physician in the Seattle, WA area. His emphasis and clinical training was in clinical education and community health. He completed a two-year residency at Bastyr Center for Natural Health where he led student teaching shifts, taught classes including Basic Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology and Drug-Herb Interactions, and participated in clinical research.

Prior to becoming a practicing physician Stephen received his PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences where his studies and doctoral research focused on bio-guided fractionation of plant extracts used for medicinal purposes, specifically in mental health. Afterwards he focused on medical writing for supplementation formulation, claim substantiation, clinical research design and statistical analysis for the betterment of industry standards. Stephen’s research experience has been ongoing since his undergraduate studies when he began his research career in integrative pest management at the USDA-CMAVE facility in Gainesville, Florida. His diverse research experience allowed for him to gain knowledge in both analytical techniques as well as clinical based science. Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Botany at the University of Florida, a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Florida, and his Naturopathic Doctorate at Bastyr University. He is also a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Naturopathic Academy of Primary Care Physicians.

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

It was a zig-zag across various science focuses in school, as well as working as a chef in restaurants and learning about various cultures. At the end though, the first real moment where my brain was like, “This is something amazing!” was my first Ethnobotany class. Learning about the relationships we have had, as humans, with plants and plant-based compounds, since probably before civilization began, was incredible to me. Each group, or culture, had a slightly different spin, but for the most part there was a lot of cross-over, even in medicine. So, for me I wanted to focus on medicine in a way that brought food and natural products into people’s lives to reinforce health and wellness.

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

Honestly, the Effusio project is the most interesting thing that has happened. Building out the product line and seeing a project we have worked on at the bench level for three years move toward full-scale production has been the most interesting thing to date.

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

Right now, we are working on several different things. One involves new product developments in the immune support space. We are focusing on a bioavailable quercetin with additional supporting vitamins and minerals, like vegan vitamin D3, with the hope of supporting an optimal immune response in areas like respiratory support. With increased bioavailability, we should be able to really see how bioflavonoids, like quercetin, can have a huge impact on immune function. On the other side, we are busy working on personalization in a way that can really be sustained at the smaller level, not just large buckets that sub-group the population, which is what we see now. Lastly, we are working hard with our sustainable-packaging partners to get to a place where our line will be totally home-compostable.

How do you think this might change the world?

I think there are a lot of ways we could see these breakthroughs change the world. We could see new ways to deliver nutrients to areas with the greatest need. We can deliver efficacious complex nutrient offerings to individuals with difficulty swallowing capsules. We could begin to economically look to create wellness plans that support health care at home. As personalized recommendations from at-home testing become a larger part of a person’s wellness journey, we can work to bring about a product that meets their needs and changes as the person’s wellness goals change. And all the while, we would be creating packaging that limits the shipment of water and relies on materials for packaging that move away from detrimental plastics that dominate the environment.

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

With personalization, I could see one “Black Mirror” moment, with the minimization of the collective and an increased push of narcissistic behaviors becoming normalized. We could drive ourselves farther apart by focusing on our slight differences, and over time forget that the subtle biochemical differences we focus on to optimize are still collectively working, in the general sense, the same as everyone else’s. So, over time, one could see potential social classes coming out — much like the social media episode at the begging of Season 3. On the flip-side, all the discord from the constant focus on personal differences could shift to a more “Harrison Bergeron”-like feel, where personal optimizations are controlled and placed to the same levels.

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

It started to coalesce when a bunch of us sat around toying with the idea. First came the potential to deliver nutrients in a dissolvable disc format, then we really started to expand into the sustainable packaging. We really got excited at the potential this idea could bring. As we talked about it more and more, the idea just snapped into place, and we jumped onto the bench and got started. Getting back the first analytical readouts that we could do it and do it precisely — that was the icing on the cake.

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

Because we have a great partner with Thorne, we just need time and outreach. The products have been well received and are efficacious, so continuing to deliver these unique products will increase the adoption rate over time.

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

When telling the story of Effusio, we focus the narrative in four core areas. First, reconnecting consumers with meaningful health outcomes. Second, having the challenger brand mentality and drive to disrupt the functional beverage industry. Third, we are focusing on advancing our sustainable and tech-driven business. When marketing a new digitally-native brand, we see video as a primary tool for education and accelerating awareness. Beyond brand content, we want to show Effusio enhancing consumers’ daily lives. Finally, we want to leverage Thorne’s relationships and building on partnerships with voices that continue to foster our credibility.

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?

For me, it’s my wife Lindsay, hands down both my number one fan and my biggest motivator/driver. She is an amazingly intelligent individual who put her life on hold to help support our family. From the time we dated, she has always been someone to push me to be the best version of myself. Without her sacrifices and her support, I would not be here to share these things with the world. I truly am grateful for that and for her. I know I would not be here without her support, and I hope I can show her my gratitude by providing the same.

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

I have mainly been trying to support the community around me, with COVID-19 restricting so much of how we interact and do business, especially in the service industry. So, donations to groups like Pay It Forward Charleston, which helps the food and beverage community, local farmers, and other suppliers who have been hit with the decline in business. Also trying to give as much as we can to support local food banks and shelters. My family and I feel lucky to call the Charleston area our home, so we believe it is important to make sure we do our part and support our neighbors.

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 will fail, learn from it. You would think as a researcher this would have been a given, but it took a while to get comfortable with failure. For anything from product development to complex problem-solving, failure helps drive progress forward and gives you knowledge along the way if you take the time to learn from it.
  2. Listen to the people around you. Everyone is creative in some way and solves problems differently. Learning from this can help solve broader problems.
  3. Tap into your life experiences. They are unique and shape how you see things. Being able to bring those unique things to solving a problem will help set you apart.
  4. You will need help, and that is okay. Finding help takes more than just increasing a headcount. You should focus on the things you know are weaknesses for you. From there you get to round out your team and learn from them as well over time.
  5. Take a moment to switch off. Even if your passion is work, being able to step away from a problem to solve and switch your mind to somewhere else helps you process and potentially solve it faster than just focusing on it. For me it is cooking, focusing on the small repetitive tasks with muscle memory away from my job allows for space to process and work through roadblocks.

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 small steps movement. As we move through life, it would be amazing if we could just be mindful to take the small steps everyday to leave this place better for the next generation. This would be for everything, from how we take a moment to help someone, help yourself, make someone feel special, or take a step to help the environment. It is no surprise that we will leave this place; we just don’t know how many days we have on it. So, if we all had this philosophy, then I think the forward movement we would see in a lot of different areas would be surprising.

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

“Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist.”

To me, this has been relevant because it helped me shape that we all have our paths. With our unique paths we find greatness, we find happiness. But going alone, we also endure some of the hardest failures. In the end, we have something to give that is an expression of ourselves. Knowing this also helps frame how we see other people and their own journey through the madness of life. It gives the space for personal happiness through what you do, but also empathy for those around you. We all are striving to figure it out. While each path may be different, there is something to learn from those around us that could be useful for our own.

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 are here to be disruptors, to use high-quality ingredients with efficacious dosing in a way that helps the end-user create a beverage-like experience they don’t just enjoy, but they also feel the difference.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

At the moment, it has been crazy busy getting everything set up for Effusio and Thorne. If you are interested in seeing more and following along with the new products and how we are looking to reshape health and wellness, then you can follow here:

Effusio — Instagram @Effusio, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest

Thorne — Instagram @Thorneresearch, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest

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


The Future Is Now: Stephen Phipps of Effusio 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.

Sprout World: Michael Stausholm’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Building up a business is hard work but things will work out in the end. Starting out by packing pencils in the backyard of my house with the help of the kids (Luckily it was summer and clear skies) was hard work but a great experience. You need to be prepared to do the hard work yourself, especially in the first few years.

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 Michael Stausholm.

Michael Stausholm is the founder of Sprout World — the company behind the first pencil in the world that can be planted and grown into herbs, vegetables and flowers.

Michael Stausholm began his career in the shipping industry, working for A.P. Møller/Mærsk. Withinterests including green entrepreneurship and sustainability, he worked for companies such as Nike and Walmart, helping them establish more sustainable and responsible textile production processes from 1996–2006. In 2013, he founded Sprout as a company and launched the Sprout pencil. Today, he owns all the patents to the company’s products, and is a a principal shareholder and chairman of the board.

Michael Stausholm is an experienced public speaker who has spoken on behalf of the United Nations, at the Sustainable Brands Conference and at a number of public and private events. He has provided commentary to CNN Money, Forbes, Fortune, Huffington Post, the Daily Mail and Business Insider, and a wide range of other international outlets. He also contributes to the Huffington Post.

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?

In the late 90’s / early 00’s I was based in Asia and working in the textile/garment industry. Back then, the industry consisted mainly of sweatshop-like production facilities. The working conditions were horrible (and in some instances probably still are). Human rights abuse were rampant in places like China, Indonesia and Thailand.

I was young and inexperienced but still it made me wonder every time I was in one of these “sweatshops”, how is it not possible to provide decent working conditions even if it cost a little extra?

Slowly companies started to demand better conditions because their customers (the consumer) started demanding it. This made me realize that change was possible even though it should not come from the consumer but from companies wanting to make a difference. Not because they were pressured but because of a management desire to do better. That has improved over the years, but still today, corporations often make sustainable changes reactively rather than proactively.

All of this gave me a deep interest in sustainability and how we can all be a part of the change, even with small everyday improvements.

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

When I founded Sprout World in 2013, a lot of people including friends and even some entrepreneurs, told me that it would never work. After all, despite a patent, this was just a pencil and some seeds. I listened but my gut feeling told me that the Sprout pencil was so much more than just a pencil with seeds. To me it was about the message it could communicate. To use a product and instead of throwing away after use, give new life (literally) by planting it. The Sprout pencil was sustainability made easy to understand for all — children and adults alike.

It is common sense to listen to other people, although you should mostly listen to people who have experience within your field and have tried what you are doing (i.e. other entrepreneurs). However, in the end, listening to your gut beats everything.

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

Originally I started out with the global shipping conglomerate Maersk Line and the owner and CEO Mr. Maersk McKinney Moeller had a saying:

”Take care of today, actively prepare for tomorrow.” As a core value, this means, forward thinking, planning and execution. Being informed, innovative and seeking out new ideas. Looking for changes in the environment.

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”? How do you think this will change the world?

A Sprout pencil is not going to save the world, however we believe our products can be part of inspiring people to think about their consumption and how products are used. And not only used, but also what happens to products after you are done using them. It is about reflecting on your daily needs and how you can make small positive and sustainable changes in your every day life. Even the small ones add up and can make a big impact on all of our lives.

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?

No drawbacks at all. On the contrary, a Sprout pencil is also about taking time away from a very hectic life often consumed with smartphones and computers. It is so important to handwrite something and to draw and focus on slow living sometimes.

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

When I first came across the idea of the Sprout pencil in early 2013 I thought it was a great idea but I had no idea if there was a market for it. There was simply no existing market to compare to.

Quickly however, the innovation and the patent got a lot of media attention. By the first year, we started taking pre-orders of over 50,000 pieces from retailers, and the momentum never stopped. Before we knew it, we were selling in multiple countries and that is when I knew it was worth my full attention and established what is today SproutWorld.

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

Almost since the beginning we have been fortunate to get receive positive media attention from all over the world, and still continue to receive. This is a tremendous help in spreading the idea.

This means we get hundreds of enquires every week from corporations all over the world wanting to purchase our products and to work with us. We also get messages every day from people who purchased, used and have now planted their Sprout pencil and are excited to see basil sprout in their window sill. I love that!

But most importantly, every time our message is spread and a company is sending Sprout pencils to their customers or employees, the idea is spread and sustainability is in 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. Building up a business is hard work but things will work out in the end. Starting out by packing pencils in the backyard of my house with the help of the kids (Luckily it was summer and clear skies) was hard work but a great experience. You need to be prepared to do the hard work yourself, especially in the first few years.
  2. Don’t listen too much to the opinions of other people. A friend of mine told me in the early days that I should forget about those pencils and get a real job making money so that I could provide for my family. I had to think that over for a few days, as he was, and is, a successful entrepreneur and very old friend. But I decided not to listen and to forge ahead. Fast forward two years and the company was growing very fast, and that same friend invested close to $1 million for a minor stake in the company.
  3. Prioritize time off to prevent stress. Something I’ve learned along the way is to take long walks during the day, exercise, and make sure to relax with friends and family and sometimes just yourself and a good book. I meditate every day and that helps me to abstract from things.
  4. Believe in yourself and your idea and other people will believe as well. It is too easy to be distracted from your goals if you listen to people with no actual knowledge of the journey you are on.
  5. Building a business is like sustainability. It is a journey, not a destination. Too many people are so focused on the goal, that they forget to enjoy the travel or to celebrate the many small and big successes along the way.

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

Success is never a straight path, but one of the most important points is to keep a positive mindset at all times, no matter the challenges you face.

As an example, a lot of people including entrepreneurs, have fallen to negative thoughts and even outrage during the pandemic because they feel governments are not doing what they should to help. While understandable, negative thinking gets you nowhere. Instead focus on what you can do something about and try your very best to ignore things you cannot.

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 🙂

Sprout products like the Sprout pencil may be a simple yet very powerful product which importantly, is covered by a global patent. It is being sold in more than 80 countries around the world, and since founding the company in 2013, we have sold more than 35 million pieces of Sprout pencils to companies using it to communicate their own sustainable messages, as well as to individual consumers.

Customers such as Ikea, Disney, Bank of America, Porsche, to name a few, as well as Michelle Obama, Gordon Ramsey and Richard Branson, have all purchased Sprout pencils in bulk with their own logos/messages to communicate and promote their own sustainable projects.

There are many green companies out there, but none in the space which Sprout World owns — the combination of sustainability with communication and education

We are furthermore exciting to announce the launch of a new product to the market — -The Sprout Liner. The Sprout Line, also patented, is a makeup eyeliner you can plant after use. The makeup liner global market is huge and needs to change towards sustainability.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On Linkedin or Facebook:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelstausholm/

https://www.facebook.com/michael.s.christiansen.9

https://www.instagram.com/sproutworldofficial/

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


Sprout World: Michael Stausholm’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.

Pierluigi Mantovani’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Our mission is to create accessible and innovative technologies to assist and enhance mobility and other motor functions. With our innovations in both the hardware and software end, we are able to combine our technology with fully remote physical therapy. These innovations help make our technology significantly less expensive than existing devices, and helps improve accessibility not only to the device, but for physical therapy by enabling improved remote care. As our algorithms improve, we will be able to target different muscle groups and assist and enhance other parts of the body. Eventually, we hope to be able to use our device and platform to help rehabilitate all muscle groups and mobility issues, or even help healthy individuals learn new motor movements.

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 Pierluigi Mantovani.

Pierluigi Mantovani is the co-founder and CEO of Evolution Devices, where they are helping people with Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological diseases rehabilitate their walking with a remote physical therapy program enabled by a smart nerve stimulation wearable device. Specifically, Evolution Devices is helping people with foot drop pick up their foot to trip and fall less, and walk with more confidence. Pierluigi is a healthcare entrepreneur and former Neuroscience researcher at UCSF. Pierluigi received his BA in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley. He was inspired to build Evolution Devices initially to help his father, who struggles with Multiple Sclerosis. Pierluigi and The Evolution Devices team have been recognized by the NIH, NSF, the Toyota Mobility Foundation/The Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge for their innovation.

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?

I grew up in Santa Clarita, California, and was raised by my parents who immigrated from Peru. When I was in high school, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and started to lose his ability to walk, along with a few other symptoms. At that age, it was tough to understand what exactly was happening to him, especially since MS has many “invisible” symptoms like fatigue, vision problems, and numbness. Shortly after his diagnosis, my dad was not able to work anymore. This took a toll both economically and emotionally for my family. I started working at 16 years old and went to community college to save up money and transfer. I chose to study Cognitive Science, and was accepted to UC Berkeley. Once I got to Berkeley, I started learning more about neurological problems, and dedicated myself to figuring out how technology and science could help create accessible solutions for people living with these diseases. While at Berkeley, I helped my roommate at the time, Pierre Karashchuk, start the club Neurotechnology at Berkeley (Pierre later became Chief Science Officer and one of the co-founders of Evolution Devices). We spent a lot of time playing around with biosensors and building different assistive and augmentative technology in our spare time. After graduation, I worked at a startup, Mightyhive. I learned a lot about the ins-and-outs of an early stage startup that was growing fast, and I credit a lot of my interest in how a startup can make an impact by seeing Mightyhive grow. Although I enjoyed my time there, I knew I wanted to get back into Neuroscience. A couple of years after graduating, I started working at UCSF as a research engineer for the Chang Lab in the Neurosurgery department. Here, I learned about neuro-stimulation and how it could directly affect the brain and how people function. My work experience, combined with my previous experience as a neuro-hacker, as well as my father’s walking problems getting worse and worse, led me to the idea to create Evolution Devices.

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

With our first ever clinical pilot, we worked with our friend Jon, who is a stroke survivor and Precision Rehabilitation in Long Beach, CA. Jon went through an 8-week rehabilitation program using our prototype, with the goal of walking his first ever 5k post-stroke. He ended up improving his walking speed, completing the 5k, and doing so in record time!

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

I believe that inspiring others is one of the most important things I can try to do. I try my best to understand the opportunities I was given, and to allow my unique experiences guide me in helping as many people as I can, and to lift up and inspire others to use their experiences, talents and opportunities to do something good and make the world better. I value honesty and family. My family is extremely important to me and is always in the back of my mind for whatever I do.

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”?

Evolution Devices is creating assistive and augmentative technologies for improving mobility. We believe freedom of mobility is a fundamental human right. Our vision is to lead the evolution of movement therapy by developing cutting-edge, affordable technologies that enable anyone, anywhere to receive personalized rehabilitative care, empowering their independence. We are currently building the EvoWalk platform, where we aim to rehabilitate walking for the millions of Americans who struggle with walking impairments due to injury, disease, and age, including the 15 Million Americans who experience falls due to walking problems. Initially, Evolution Devices is focusing on rehabilitating walking for neurologically impaired patients, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, or spinal cord injury. We are dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of lower-limb impairments, and use state-of-the-art motion capture technology and machine learning techniques to develop the EvoWalk platform, which blends a smart, rehabilitative stimulation device with remote physical therapy.

How do you think this will change the world?

Our mission is to create accessible and innovative technologies to assist and enhance mobility and other motor functions. With our innovations in both the hardware and software end, we are able to combine our technology with fully remote physical therapy. These innovations help make our technology significantly less expensive than existing devices, and helps improve accessibility not only to the device, but for physical therapy by enabling improved remote care. As our algorithms improve, we will be able to target different muscle groups and assist and enhance other parts of the body. Eventually, we hope to be able to use our device and platform to help rehabilitate all muscle groups and mobility issues, or even help healthy individuals learn new motor movements.

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?

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

My dad’s walking was getting worse, and he was falling much more frequently. He was prescribed an assistive device to use, but it was extremely expensive. He was then given an alternative, cheaper device called an ankle-foot orthosis, which is essentially a bulky brace which would not help him rehabilitate at all. I would consider this the tipping point — knowing there was potential to rehabilitate walking problems, but recognizing there wasn’t an effective and accessible solution. That is when I along with my co-founders Pierre Karashchuk and Juan Rodriguez decided to start Evolution Devices.

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

We need to scale up our production process and continue to gather data on how our technology improves walking.

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 will get rejected — a lot.

Not everyone will see your vision. The process for a startup to grow is tough, especially when you’re early and don’t have much more than a vision and maybe a prototype. You need to find the people that believe in you and your mission.

2. Don’t take these rejections personally.

People have their reasons for saying no, and your job as an entrepreneur is to find the people that will support you to grow the company. Move on from the “no’s” and keep searching for the people who are looking for you.

3. Your experiences are unique — use them to your advantage.

What makes your company unique at the beginning is the team. Each person on your team has their own unique experiences which motivated you all to develop the company. Competitors will exist, the product will change, and your experiences are the unique value that will drive the company to success. This will help in building up confidence when doing sales and speaking with investors, as well as building confidence to run the many other parts of your company.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask a. This was tough at first, especially when doing something new like fundraising. If you don’t ask for what you are looking for, you may not get it. There’s a constant theme of not being afraid of rejection, and it applies here too. Ask for the partnership, ask for the money you need, ask for help, the list goes on. If you don’t ask, you probably won’t receive.

5. Have fun with it. There’s immense pressure all the time while running a startup — but remember why you started it in the first place. If you believe in what you’re doing and are surrounded by people that are complementary and make you better, there’s no need to stress. Have fun with it and enjoy the process — remember it’s what you signed up for 🙂

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

Never give up. Seriously. If you have the energy to keep making progress and you still believe in yourself and your business, just keep going and stay positive. If you are open to change and you never give up, you’ll find success in some way. Something else I believe is really important is to not compare yourself to others. Each person defines success in different ways, and many companies and entrepreneurs’ paths are glorified, meaning they don’t always show the entire picture of how they achieved “success”. Everyone is going to have a different experience, so don’t compare and don’t give up — keep learning and improving every day.

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 are building the future of how people learn to move. We are now creating what will be commonplace in the future, starting with assistive technology, so if you’re the right fit join the ride now if you can because we are about to take-off.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @evolutiondevices
Linkedin: ​https://www.linkedin.com/company/evolution-devices/
Youtube: ​https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCznNWNOBnq1jOFx4bp1tDIg Facebook: Evolution Devices

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


Pierluigi Mantovani’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: Janer Gorohhov of Veriff On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Janer Gorohhov of Veriff On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

The key to success is to earn people’s trust. But to earn trust, you need to be honest, truthful and transparent.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janer Gorohhov, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer.

Janer is in charge of Veriff’s product and innovation to make sure that our verification engine is a trend-setter and outperforms every other solution on the market. He is a tech-savvy innovation enthusiast who started his career as a full-stack developer. Before joining Veriff, he gained experience in project management, and worked with fundraising and finance. He holds a degree in computer and information science from the University of Tartu.

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’ve always been interested in learning what is beyond the horizon to better understand how things come together. It started when I found my first job writing software as an engineer at university. The next stage in developing my career was becoming a project manager to understand customer value and learning more about the business. Every step that led to starting Veriff in 2016 was driven by a constant need to develop myself, until I found out that building a startup allowed me to always learn on-the-go.

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

Sure, I think the most interesting story is that I almost did not join Veriff. In 2016 when I was graduating from University of Tartu (the oldest University in Estonia, founded in 1632), I was planning to move back to Tallinn and transition to a different company. I signed a contract with another Estonian startup and gave two months notice to my previous company to give me enough time to do a proper handover to the person taking over that role. However, during the two months I met Kaarel, the founder and CEO of Veriff. After Kaarel told me about the vision for Veriff, I knew that I had made the wrong decision to join the other startup. I even made a SWOT analysis, and the only thing that held me back from joining Veriff was that I had given my word (with a digital signature) to the other company, something I do not take lightly. Luckily, after having explained the situation to the startup they understood my decision. Fast forward to today, one of the founders of that company also decided to join Veriff. Now I know that joining Veriff was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

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

More and more businesses are moving online, especially now as a result of the pandemic. This means that more and more people use services online — from voting, opening a bank account or buying goods — to save them time and money. In the center of it all lies proven identity. I would call giving people an online identity a pretty big technological breakthrough as it opens up a world where people can control their data. This month, we announced an improved Self Serve platform that expands access to our identity verification platform for small- and medium-sized businesses, a critical tool for these organizations to stay competitive and compliant in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.

How do you think this might change the world?

Our mission is to create a single global identity for everyone on Earth so people will have equal access to services. We are working towards becoming a home for people’s identity online. By 2025, we hope that beyond governments, Veriff will be issuing Veriff IDs or “passports,” which will allow consumers to have full control over where and why their data is being used.

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

The decisions relatively young companies make can have a lasting impact. One of our values at Veriff is that we are a force for good, which plays an integral role in keeping us on the right track. Especially looking at Black Mirror’s episode about social scoring, and having an example of a country who has implemented this already, we see the potential for negative impacts. That is why it’s important to have a “people-first” mindset — giving everyone a possibility to opt-out and be transparent about the use of data.

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

I think the turning point for me and Veriff was joining Y Combinator accelerator in San Francisco in 2018. Kaarel Kotkas and I, two young ambitious guys from Estonia, were working side by side with other YC companies from over the world in the Bay Area. This experience showed us that no matter where you come from, whether it be Harvard or Tartu University, you can build products and services that can improve lives.

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

The key to success is to earn people’s trust. But to earn trust, you need to be honest, truthful and transparent.

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

First, we need to prove to our clients that our trust is bulletproof, every day and always. You can lose trust with one wrong decision but building up global trust takes years. It’s staying true to your values and standing by your promises and words.

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?

One person that I definitely look up to is my mother. She raised me alone while being relatively young. I was never spoiled but if I wanted something I needed to work towards it. For example, when I was 10 years old and I had my summer holiday, I earned my weekly allowance by working from 9–5 ordering paper invoices numerically, one by one. This taught me that no matter the task in your hand, persistence and grit gets you through life.

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

Early on in the pandemic, we pledged to support nonprofits and foundations by donating one million free identity verification. Although face-to-face interactions were limited, confirming identities was crucial. Beneficiaries could use the free verification in a variety of ways, from universities needing to verify students taking exams online or marketplaces to sign up and register volunteers.

Additionally, I make an effort to visit local schools to share my background and story to encourage students to follow their entrepreneurial instincts and show that there is no need to be afraid of failure.

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

First off, the people you are working with are the key. Luckily we got it right with Kaarel from the very beginning of Veriff. The most important thing as a founder is to attract people who are smarter than you to join the team. That’s something we have been keeping in mind when building Veriff and recruiting new team members. Secondly, the world is imperfect — especially when you are growing as fast Veriff is today. The constant need for perfection causes stress and doesn’t make a strong end result. Finally, it’s important to remember that the only thing limiting you is yourself and your imagination. I realized this working side-by-side with other startups at Y Combinator.

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 believe that having a great education is the foundation of a person’s future success. I don’t necessarily mean a university degree, but the benefits start early at the elementary school level. Therefore, I would encourage education leaders and the education system to make learning robotics and programming mandatory the same way we require math and reading. It’s something I always say when I go to schools to talk to kids about the start of my career as an entrepreneur.

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

“All startup advice is only useful in context, and I am a firm believer that the only good generic startup advice is that there is no good generic startup advice,” by Elad Gil in “High Growth Handbook.”

There are times when you should not be reinventing the wheel and asking for advice, but then there are times when you are the first person solving the problem — it’s better to fail fast and concentrate on moving forward.

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 🙂

There’s no trust online, it’s hard to tell who or what is real. Fake accounts, fake news, and fraud have created a glass ceiling that limits the full potential of the digital economy. The Internet that was considered anonymous before, but has made businesses to bear losses totaling $200B each year due to identity theft. Today, this money comes from charging honest people more, to cover up the cost of the fraud. The core of online trust lies in proven identity. Veriff is building infrastructure for trust online. We allow any website and mobile application to match the person with their government-issued ID, and can verify more than 9,000 IDs across 190 countries. It’s clear that businesses need to verify their users to comply with regulations and to build up trust. Veriff enables online businesses to meet the increasing demand for regulatory requirements and build trusting relationships with their clients.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Absolutely. I am most active in LinkedIn, please follow me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/janergorohhov/

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


The Future Is Now: Janer Gorohhov of Veriff 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.

Victoria Branson: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand…

Victoria Branson: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Create a stunning visual representation. One of the most powerful aspects of any business is visual representation. It’s proven that we form an opinion on whether or not we like the brand within seven seconds. Your visuals are the very first contact you have with your clients that either establishes positive feelings and trust or turns them off. If your potential customer doesn’t connect with your visuals (i.e., your brand), you lose them, and it becomes nearly impossible to sell them your services.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Victoria Branson, Personal Branding Expert.

When Victoria works with her clients, she strives to understand their personality and their main values in life. With a deep understanding of these components, she then develops powerful brands which are aligned with those values.

Her main drives in life are the realization of her full potential, beauty in the world, and inner harmony. The stunning brands she creates for female entrepreneurs worldwide are the highest expression of these passions.

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?

I’ve been working as a life coach for women, and I saw that they were going through a powerful inner transformation. Once this occurred, they found themselves unsure of what to do next. They had a strong new sense of self and needed to change their outer representation to match. They were wondering how to brand their personality in the physical world, and thanks to my previous career in marketing — I had the answers.

I decided to create a total transformation process from the inside out. That’s how my Platinum Branding Program was born. It included psychological assessments and deep inner work followed by the visual brand creation (personal style, logo, website, social media, etc.).

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?

As a newborn life coach, I needed branding myself. I wanted to save money, and I was sure that I could do everything on my own. So I purchased a very inexpensive logo in one place, chose the colors, and bought a basic website somewhere else. The final result of this “branding” reminded me of Pablo Picasso’s cubism period painting. When I looked at this “painting”, I realized that it had very little to do with me and it didn’t reflect who I was at all.

I concluded that a personal brand shouldn’t be an eclectic painting by someone else. It has to be a holistic process that is done intentionally and in a coherent way. The final brand should be a mirror that closely reflects the inner world of the person for whom it’s created.

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 “tipping point” point in my career was realizing that good branding should be directly related to the complex psychology of the person for whom it is being developed.

This discovery serves two important purposes:

  1. It allows me to build a brand that reflects my clients accurately
  2. It helps my clients understand their value system on a deep level and fully express their potential through the brand

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

The difference between branding that is successful and branding that falls short is that ineffective branding is like a prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear), while effective branding is like haute couture (high-end fashion).

Ready-to-wear is mass-produced clothing in standardized sizes, while haute couture is tailor-made, quality clothing.

When I do branding for a client, I “tailor” it to uniquely express her beauty, values, and potential with the highest precision possible — paying attention to every detail.

Right now, I’m working on perfecting my high-end branding program where I unite more top-level experts to serve my clients better. I do psychological assessments and coaching, as well as orchestrating the entire brand development process. I also have a stylist, a brand identity specialist, and a web developer on my team. The idea is to create a white-glove service a-la-carte where female entrepreneurs can find all the solutions to realize their brand aspirations.

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

Do only what makes sense to you

I believe that people who build their work in accordance with their values rarely burnout. As a famous quote says, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I obtained three higher education degrees and tried several professions until I found something that reflects all my values. It gives me plenty of life energy, and this compensates for even the strongest fatigue.

Switch gears

We think that the more we work, the better we perform. That is not always the case. We need to give ourselves time to restore and recharge. Do activities that allow you to let go and switch gears (golf, knitting, cycling — whatever works). Even if we love what we do, our body and mind need a rest from it.

Avoid monotony

Changing the settings in which we work is very useful as well. For those who can do so, try to find new inspiring places to work. For example, I am more productive in sunny weather, so when winter starts in Switzerland, I usually take a trip to California or the South of France for a few weeks to recharge.

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 a process of uncovering a company’s or individual’s big “why” (values, mission, purpose, impact), followed by the expression of that “why” in the visual representation (name, logo, colors, fonts, etc.). Branding shows potential clients why the company is unique and makes them want to buy the service, and stay loyal to it.

Advertising is a paid promotion, the goal of which is to attract and persuade an ideal customer to buy the product or service, thus boosting sales. It’s usually done through different media types (TV, Internet, radio, magazines, etc.).

The purpose of advertising is to tell prospective clients about the benefits of the product.

The purpose of branding is to create interaction between clients and the creator of the product or service based on the values that are transmitted through the brand. This creates loyalty towards the product. It’s about making people feel and think a certain way about you and what you offer. Like Jeff Bezos famously said, “Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

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?

When we build a personal brand, we solve two important challenges:

  1. Everyone wants to leave their legacy. When we have the right personal brand, it is a beautiful reflection of ourselves. Through the brand development process, we embark on a journey of deep self-discovery. This transformative process and the final brand result allow us to express our personal meaning and life purpose fully.
  2. Our personal brand tells the story of who we are and what we value. As clients connect with our brand, we build deep, trusting relationships with them through this shared value system.

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

When a product does not inspire trust — the main goal of any brand, then it is necessary for the company to do rebranding.

Also, if there is a change in the head of the company — the person who stands behind the brand, then the rebranding is necessary to reflect this new person’s values. A striking example is an inherited business where the heir has different values from the previous owner and the business stops being successful.

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

Before doing a rebranding, here are three things to consider:

  1. Rebranding should always reflect the values of an entrepreneur or a company. When that isn’t the case, it feels empty. Even if it is beautifully made, it will not resonate with clients and won’t inspire trust.
  2. The company should conduct market research to learn about their target audience.
  3. Effective branding requires an investment of both time and resources. Be prepared to invest.

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.) Know your “why”. I really resonate with inspirational speaker Simon Sinek’s idea that people don’t buy your product or service (your “what”); they buy your big purpose (your “why”).

Lots of entrepreneurs start a business because it seems like a great revenue generator. They are very clear about their “what” but often unclear about “why” they are doing it. If you don’t know your “why”, it will be impossible to establish customer loyalty and create a long-lasting successful brand and business.

Steve Jobs pushed his developers and designers until the smallest details were perfected. His big “why” was to create impeccable, top quality products for clients and “revolutionize the way people work, communicate, and live their lives.”

2.) Know and connect with your target audience. I’m very inspired by the example of Coco Chanel, who created her collections exclusively for modern, emancipated women who were ready to change. She was leaving behind those who wanted to conform to old norms and traditions.

She was a daring woman who wanted to establish new fashion rules (pants, flap bags with chain straps, and little black dresses, etc.) that went against the fashion traditions of that period. Starting with the way she carried herself and through all of her collections, she showed what kind of women she wanted to work with and create for. She knew her target audience perfectly and was not trying to be everything to everyone.

3.) Create a stunning visual representation. One of the most powerful aspects of any business is visual representation. It’s proven that we form an opinion on whether or not we like the brand within seven seconds. Your visuals are the very first contact you have with your clients that either establishes positive feelings and trust or turns them off. If your potential customer doesn’t connect with your visuals (i.e., your brand), you lose them, and it becomes nearly impossible to sell them your services.

A great example of highly appealing visual representation is the luxury jewelry company, Van Cleef & Arpels, which personally makes me want to buy everything they offer!

4.) Be consistent. Being consistent with your branding is another key aspect of good branding. Make sure that your main color palette, logo, business cards, website, emails, social media accounts, advertising material, and any other visual components are coherent and match the overall brand.

My favorite meditation app, Headspace, is doing a fantastic job at that. Their app, website, animations, and marketing materials are all cohesive and aligned.

5.) Create unique stories of your brand. The brand loses its purpose if people don’t understand what is behind the brand. Visual branding on its own doesn’t have much value. It has to be permanently fed by actions — it only comes alive when there are stories happening behind it.

A great example is Elon Musk, who is always creating stories and events that reflect his values. When a new product or service is about to be launched, we already know that it will carry his values (entrepreneurship, innovation, vision, impact) and will be done in a certain manner. By creating stories regularly, you show your clients which values are behind your actions, and people then transfer these values to your product or service.

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?

McDonald’s has done a great rebranding. Before, their communication was about fast food, accessibility, and low price, which is not the way they aim to appear anymore. They now want to be seen as healthier and more “upscale”. We can see it in the menu, which now offers more vegetarian options — they’ve even added salad bars in some of their locations! The design of their restaurants is more organic, thanks to the use of wooden furniture. They also made their packaging brighter. They added a lot of green colors, which are often associated with being fit and healthy, and brown colors that indicate that the company cares about recycling and ecology.

This rebranding campaign had great success, and McDonald’s now appeals to a much larger target audience.

In order to replicate it in another business, we also need to take into consideration the overall trends in the world, hear our customer’s needs, be flexible, and have a team of experienced professionals who would use this information wisely in rebranding.

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. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, my values are maximizing my potential, expanding beauty in the world, and discovering inner harmony. So I would inspire a movement aimed at self-development, self-realization, and the nurturing of beauty and harmony of all women on this planet.

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

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a famous Russian novelist, wrote the profound statement: “Beauty will save the world”. The author certainly filled this with his own meaning, but the way I apply it into my life is that a beautiful person with an impactful brand that reflects her values is the biggest gift to all of us. Helping women transform on the inside and outside is my mission, because I truly believe that beauty will save the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.victoriabranson.com

www.instagram.com/victoriabranson.coach/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-branson-3084a090/


Victoria Branson: 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.

The Future Is Now: Marc Oczachowski of EDAP TMS On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up

The Future Is Now: Marc Oczachowski of EDAP TMS On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Healthcare

Setting investors’ expectations is key. Giving investors transparency and detailed status of the company’s performance helps build their trust. Even if the updates are not always what they want to hear — and they have not always been delighted with the news I have shared with them — they know they can count on us to deliver reliable information. In dealing with investors, you do not have anything if you do not have honesty, integrity, and credibility. And we have been fortunate to have long-time investors supporting EDAP who have trusted us and remained confident, even during tough times.

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

Marc Oczachowski is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of EDAP TMS, a high-tech medical company which develops, manufactures markets minimally invasive therapeutic ultrasound solutions for urology, tumor removal, localized prostate cancer, and infectious diseases. Marc joined EDAP TMS in May 1997 as Area Sales Manager. From 2001 to 2004, he was General Manager of EDAP Technomed Malaysia. In November 2004, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of EDAP TMS based in Lyon, France, and became Chief Executive Officer of the Company in March 31, 2007. On July 1, 2012, he managed US operations and lead the FDA approval process of the Company’s HIFU devices for four years. On March 25, 2020, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors. He is graduated from Lyon University (Molecular Biology), and from Institute Commercial de Lyon, France.

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

I started my career as Area Sales Manager for Sodem Systems which develops power tools for orthopedics. In 1997 I joined EDAP TMS, which designs minimally-invasive medical therapies using ultrasound technology for diseases of the prostate, kidneys, female reproductive organs, and other diseases we continue to research to apply our technology. I started working at EDAP headquarters in Lyon, France as a sales representative and became so fascinated by these technology advancements and excited to introduce such life-changing innovations to doctors and patients around the world.

After holding various sales management positions in most regions around the world, I became EDAP COO in 2004 until I was promoted to CEO in 2007. Since that time, I have led the company in developing and perfecting focal robotic HIFU (High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound), which is an incisionless and radiation free device that employs ultrasound technology where soundwaves heat up and burn (ablate) diseased prostate tissue. It is an alternative to traditional prostate cancer treatments such as radiation and radical surgery, which both can cause urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. I am proud to say our HIFU technology has been used to successfully treat more than 60,000 men worldwide.

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

Our journey to bring HIFU to the U.S. to get it through the regulatory approval process and reach the point where it would be covered by insurance was challenging and at times painful. Many medical device companies never achieve market success because they fail to anticipate the long, arduous process involved. We had regulatory approval in other countries and about 40,000 men had gone through the procedure. But this had no bearing on the FDA approval process. Luckily, we started this process with our eyes open and knew we were in it for the long haul. It took more than 10 years to finally achieve FDA clearance for our first and second generation of HIFU devices.

Even with FDA clearance, the HIFU procedure, which men preferred to surgery and radiation because of their life altering side effects, was not covered by private insurers and Medicare covered a very small portion, which did not include the doctor’s fee. Our next hurdle was to obtain a Category 1 CPT code from the American Medical Association (AMA). This would help facilitate reimbursement from payers. But it’s a process that can take several years.

We partnered with our top competitor as well as the American Urological Association and jumped through several hurdles, including getting HIFU clinical studies with different patient populations published in five different clinical journals. With our due diligence, we were able to win approval from the AMA in the first round of our application. The AMA established the new Category 1 CPT code for HIFU which went into effect on January 1, 2021.

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

What makes focal robotic HIFU technology a breakthrough in robotic therapy is its intelligence in carrying out the precisely targeted ablation of diseased tissue. This is true robotic surgery. The urologist first plans the navigation to the diseased area then inputs the plan into our Focal One® system which automatically directs the probe toward the location of the tumor, destroys only this designated area and adjusts as needed, in real time. The urologist can stop and readjust manually if necessary so he is always in full control. Our robotic technology is similar to a pilot flying a commercial aircraft. He first enters the flight plan and coordinates into the navigational system and the jet uses sensors and makes adjustments to fly safely to the chosen destination, with the pilot maintaining full control in case intervention is required.

Because our device is so precise in destroying only the diseased portion of the prostate, with no damage to surrounding tissues, men get to maintain their quality of life. Unlike radical surgery and radiation — current standards of care for prostate cancer — which tend to damage nerves, effecting urinary and sexual function. Both side effects can be a great burden in work and social situations, and often devastate relationships. The HIFU procedure gives men a future they can enjoy.

How do you think this might change the world?

About 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but it is one of the most curable diseases, because it is one of the slowest growing cancers and can be caught in the early stages due to annual testing. And we now have safer, effective therapies and treatments backed by years of research. And thanks to new innovations in precision technology, such as Focal HIFU, prostate cancer is no longer an unfortunate quality of life “sentence” for men. They can avoid the disruptive side effects associated with radiation and surgery, and take advantage of a safer, noninvasive medical procedure through hospitals that are leading the way. Others can avoid the unbearable process of watching and waiting, knowing there is cancer living inside their bodies. This gives more men the chance to live a long, healthy, and quality life.

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

Undergoing robotic HIFU therapy may still sound like a sci-fi novel for some, even though this method is an advancement in traditional robotic technology. But our robotic technology actually avoids incisions and organ removal, and associated complications.

The HIFU device is equipped with many automatic safety features and the treatment parameters can be monitored in real time for maximum safety and effectiveness. Devices like Focal One are designed for the doctor to easily and precisely operate and control. With Focal One, urologists execute instructions, then the device produces movements within a millimeter of accuracy.

The main drawback has been the out-of-pocket cost which averages $25,000. Most patients have had to borrow the money and accrue debt to have the procedure. This expense should be mitigated by the new CPT code that the AMA assigned HIFU and which went into effect on January 1, 2021.

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

We knew that we had to tap into the US market to really create a “tipping point” for HIFU technology. Penetrating the US market was always part of our global expansion plan, but we knew it would take work. Now that men are eligible for reimbursement, I believe that brings us to that tipping point right now. The clearance of HIFU for prostate ablation has given our technology world class recognition and acceptance, and we continue to innovate using our ultrasound technology.

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

We have already been successful in commercializing and delivering our technologies throughout the world, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, and North and South America. However, in the U.S. HIFU is not yet the standard of care, unlike surgery and radiation. To achieve widespread adoption is a matter of education and outreach, making sure as many patients and urologists as possible are aware of HIFU and understand that in many cases it is a better option with better outcomes, most importantly preserving the patient’s quality of life. I believe the more published research that demonstrates HIFU’S positive outcomes, the more urologists will become aware and will push hospitals to acquire the device and recommend the procedure to patients with localized prostate cancer.

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

We have always used the same strategy to spread awareness of HIFU. First, we break into the market by partnering with medical and academic institutions to gain scientific and clinical support for HIFU. We also leverage these institutions’ studies by sharing with top urology journals, medical device publications, and consumer health media outlets to spread awareness. Hospitals that acquire our device receive a 6-month marketing and PR plan from EDAP and they work with our PR firm to spread local, regional and online awareness of the hospital’s new offering for prostate cancer patients.

During the pandemic we put together a communications plan to help our urologists communicate with prostate cancer patients and allay fears of treatment delays. We created videos, email patient letters, blog posts, etc. for hospital patients. EDAP customers have recognized the company as a true partner and market leader during this challenging period.

We have also been partnering with U.S. robotic surgeons, urologists, prostate cancer advocacy groups, and patients who have gone through the procedure to share their stories about HIFU, why they chose this procedure and how it has benefitted them in their lives.

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 three groups of people to thank:

  1. The EDAP employees: A lot of EDAP’s employees have been at EDAP for many years (like me, 24 years) and have participated from scratch in the development of the HIFU technology. I would like to thank all of them for their consistencey, commitment and engagement to the company and the technology, without which we could not have brought HIFU to where it is today.
  2. The clinicians and investigators: They have believed from the beginning in the added value of our HIFU technology and the strong interest for their prostate cancer patients. I would like to particularly thank the first investigators Professor Dubernard, Professor Gelet from Lyon and Professor Chaussy and Dr. Thuroff from Munich with whom we initiated the first treatment, the first studies and their publication, and who have continuously, for more than 20 years, supported the development of the technology, both clinically and scientifically.
  3. I have huge gratitude for our EDAP shareholders for their continuous support and confidence in our ability to bring the technology to a point where its commercial development and marketing success begins. Their patience and consistent faith have been key in a long process. We are happy to see now that all stars are aligned the story can really start!

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

More men across the world (now nearly 60,000) are able to choose HIFU over surgery and radiation and preserve their quality of life — avoiding the life-altering side effects of incontinence and impotence that can result from other treatments. This definitely brings goodness to the world.

We have also been ambitious in developing different HIFU applications with different types of probes for use in other specialty therapeutic areas. In fact, the FDA registered our Focal One HIFU device as an ablation tool for destroying diseased tissue rather than registering it as a prostate cancer treatment. It shows HIFU and our Focal One device are truly the tools of the future to replace invasive surgery for numerous clinical applications: rectal endometriosis, pancreatic cancer and liver tumor, just to name a few that we are currently investigating.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?

  1. Do not let naysayers throw you off course. Often when you are bringing something innovative to market there will be a small army of people lined up to say why you will not, cannot or should not do it. I cannot tell you how many naysayers we have proven wrong. Coming from a sales background, I am comfortable with intense scrutiny. I know we did our due diligence, and our technology is bulletproof, and its ROI is undeniable. Surely all innovators have faced the naysayers — only, for us, they are energizing. If we would have listened to them, we would not be delivering life-changing technology that has improved the quality of life for so many men with localized prostate cancer around the world.
  2. Making progress every single day adds up. We are very clear on our goals at EDAP and they have remained clear and consistent. We have committed to driving a huge paradigm shift in the way prostate disease is treated — the end result is like night and day for patients. I believe that making progress every single day — taking key steps and making difficult decisions — propels us forward and leads us to huge accomplishments. Bringing EDAP’s HIFU technology into the U.S. market was a decade-long project. But making consistent progress and hitting key milestones has brought HIFU to a whole population of American men who will, and who already have, been able to receive treatment and go on with their lives without the life-changing side effects that are common with standard treatments like surgery and radiation.
  3. Tenaciously staying the course pays off. Some business endeavors can take years and require a tremendous amount of due diligence. Some roadmaps are not always smooth, and success is not always a straight line. That being said, the pressure and impatience from investors is always present — and we are grateful to our long-term and supportive shareholders who strongly believe in EDAP. To be successful takes grit and tenacity. With EDAP, we simply did not give ourselves any other way out than to keep moving ahead and staying committed. We commercialized HIFU in Europe, and since have tenaciously brought it to other countries around the world — including to the U.S. Now, at another significant step with the establishment of the CPT code and insurance reimbursement, we will tenaciously pursue insurance companies to make this procedure something that is more accessible to the greater male population versus only those who can afford to pay out of pocket.
  4. Do not be afraid to fail, go for the big idea! Understanding that failure is inevitable when going for the big idea is important. Too often people see failure as a personal slight or as an indicator they should not push forward. That is when it is critical to regroup and move ahead. Setbacks teach us important things. The lessons we have learned as a result of small failures at EDAP have carried us to where we are today.Our path with FDA to get this technology approved took us through years of ups and downs. The day we received a negative vote from an advisory panel was an all-time low which could have led a lot of companies and projects to an end. And I must admit the temptation was strong. In retrospect, this has given us the strength to fight back and find ways to achieve our ultimate goals: to make this life-changing technology available to all patients in America.
  5. Setting investors’ expectations is key. Giving investors transparency and detailed status of the company’s performance helps build their trust. Even if the updates are not always what they want to hear — and they have not always been delighted with the news I have shared with them — they know they can count on us to deliver reliable information. In dealing with investors, you do not have anything if you do not have honesty, integrity, and credibility. And we have been fortunate to have long-time investors supporting EDAP who have trusted us and remained confident, even during tough times.

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 am so honored to be a part of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation that was established to improve the lives of millions of people with serious medical conditions by accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound, which is the gentlest way of treating previously untreatable diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, pancreatic cancer, brain tumors, and prostate cancer.

EDAP is one of the forerunners in this movement, bringing focused ultrasound from concept to reality, overcoming the technological, economic, regulatory, and reimbursement hurdles that are driving this entire class of therapeutics forward. Every day that we succeed in bringing this technology forward, prove its efficacy, clear the obstacles and drive adoption, we feel proud and excited that we are part of a greater mission to make this medical breakthrough more accessible to patients and their families who need it. And all of the lives we have improved along the way — and all the steppingstones we have set for other focused ultrasound companies to follow in our footsteps gives us great pride.

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

In the past few years in my career, EDAP has overcome many obstacles. Most small medical device companies fail to realize the long term commitment involved in bringing their products to market, often lose momentum along the way and in the end fail to realize their vision. Bringing our HIFU devices to market all over the world has been a battle I have never thought I would experience but it has been so worth the effort. We are seeing incredible progress, transforming the way patients are treated in a non-invasive way — and the quality of life they can preserve as a result. “Teamwork makes the dream work” has never been so true!

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 🙂

Every day well-meaning urologists treat localized prostate cancer with radical prostatectomy and radiation that can leave men incontinent and impotent for a long time — primarily because they are either not aware of less invasive options like HIFU or because it is the standard of care and guaranteed reimbursement by Medicare and private insurers. But it is not always in the patient’s best interest.

Focal One HIFU is an FDA-cleared, minimally invasive, radiation-free robotic device programmed to “search and destroy” only that portion of the prostate using high intensity sound waves. These sound waves heat up and burn the diseased area of the prostate, while sparing other parts of the gland and potentially reducing the risk of side effects like impotence or incontinence. Also, a new Category 1 CPT code for HIFU reimbursement in the U.S. went into effect on January 1, 2021. EDAP HIFU technology has been used to treat more than 60,000 patients in the world with remarkable results in terms of both survival rates and quality of life.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Marc LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marc-oczachowski-4829955?originalSubdomain=fr

EDAP LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/edap-tms/

EDAP Twitter: @EDAPTMS


The Future Is Now: Marc Oczachowski of EDAP TMS 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.

Bob Weiler of Brimstone Consulting: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

I prefer coaching to feedback; coaching is about advocating for optimal performance. It’s about the delivery — it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s important to not just outline what behavior needs improvement, for example, but it is also important to share what someone can do to improve. As a leader, I need to coach on the how, and I need to make sure the person has what they need to be successful.

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

Bob Weiler, Managing Founder of Brimstone Consulting, partners with CEOs and their leadership teams on accelerating business results and large-scale change initiatives. Much of his work focuses on advising CEOs and C-suite executives on methods to achieve short- and long-term results, while simultaneously achieving alignment, developing leaders, and energizing the organization. Before launching Brimstone, Bob served as: President and COO of Grand Circle Travel, an industry leader in direct marketing of travel to mature Americans; Associate Director of the Global Leadership Program, a renowned executive development program at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan; and EVP of Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, the largest Outward Bound School in North America.

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?

Shortly after taking on the role of Executive Vice President of Hurricane Island Outward Bound, I went to Crotonville, GE’s management training center, and knocked on Noel Tichy’s door. Noel was the then-famous change management guru hired by Jack Welch to transform Crotonville into an engine for change. I invited Noel and his Crotonville teaching staff to Hurricane Island, a small island off the coast of Maine, to participate in a three-day action learning program. Noel initially said no, but I finally convinced him.

When Noel and his team of 24 arrived on the Island, I was off on a business development trip. When I returned, I found that the program had been a disaster, and Noel and his team had left. I immediately went to Crotonville, and I sat outside Noel’s door for close to seven hours. When he opened his door, the first thing he said was, “Where do we start?” My answer was, “With an apology.” For the next three years, I worked closely with Noel, Hiro Takeuchi, and the team at Crotonville. This experience was foundational.

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

Our people. Many of us have worked together for decades and in multiple contexts. We’ve hiked the wilderness together, traveled around the world together, and spent time everywhere from boardrooms to Bali.

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

Maybe not the most interesting, but something many leaders can relate to. Crammed for time, a CEO invited me to talk strategy with him on a flight to London. As I was boarding the plane, I got a call from another CEO asking to meet in Chicago the next day. I did some quick math and said yes. As soon as I landed at Heathrow, I said good-bye to the CEO I had traveled with and then raced across the airport and caught a direct flight to Chicago. No one was ever the wiser.

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?

We were in the final stages of negotiating a $1 million contract when the power went out and stayed out. In the dark and unable to use the phone or fax, we could not continue contract negotiations. The prospect thought we flaked and awarded the contract to another company.

Just months before I had gotten quotes to install a generator because I knew power outages were frequent in the winter in what was at the time, a fairly rural part of Maine. Rather than pay $10,000 for the generator, I decided to take the gamble — and I lost.

That experience taught me that small investments can have huge returns and to always have a back-up plan.

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

Take time off. Taking time off not only gives you, as a leader, time to recharge, but it also demonstrates to the organization that taking time off is important. At the same time, encourage people to take time off. If someone should take time off and who is not, make them take the time. Even an afternoon or just a couple of hours can be helpful.

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

There are three components to leadership: getting results, aligning your team, and developing other leaders. A great leader needs to figure out how to make things happen (get results). They need to align their leadership team and their organization to help achieve the results or goals, and they need to develop the leaders in their organization.

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?

I take the time to learn and understand the meeting’s goal, the “owner” of the meeting, what everyone needs to be successful, and the roles of everyone in the meeting. Once I do this and any other preparation required, I typically go for a run or good physical workout.

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?

The most important thing for managing a team is being clear on goals and roles and understanding what needed to be successful as a team. We call this Goals, Roles, Process, and Interpersonal (GRPI).

I prefer coaching to feedback; coaching is about advocating for optimal performance. It’s about the delivery — it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s important to not just outline what behavior needs improvement, for example, but it is also important to share what someone can do to improve. As a leader, I need to coach on the how, and I need to make sure the person has what they need to be successful.

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?

Coaching helps one improve at a sport or a game. The same is true off the field. Coaching is a valuable tool to use to help develop your team and to help your people improve.

As we see in most professional sports, athletes are coached as they come off the field in real-time. The faster people can raise critical issues, highlight positive behaviors and actions, and give each other feedback, the faster the business will grow and deliver results.

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.

Be timely. I was recently working with one of our consultants on a client project, and I felt the consultant could have approached a situation differently than they did. I let schedules get in the way and didn’t share my feedback until a week later. Because so much time had passed, it was hard for that person to recall that situation, so I had to spend a chunk of time recreating the situation with them. What took me more than 30 minutes to get through then would have taken me five minutes if I had connected with them at our first break.

Be clear. I was recently talking with a client about how to engage a particular member of their leadership team. I shared the importance of communicating what success looks like; communicating expectations. I gave the example: “success is renewing the contract with X company.” Being clear on expectations makes it more likely that the expectation will be met.

Never used the words “we, others, etc.” I was recently giving feedback to a member of my organization, and I accidentally said, “a few of us.” As soon as I said that, I could tell the person I was talking to was trying to figure out who else had the same feedback instead of listening to me. My mistake was that I brought other people into a feedback conversation.

Focus on the why. Feedback needs to be helpful and focused on progress — it should not be based in anger. When you’re coaching or giving feedback to someone, you have to be clear on how you’re helping the person develop as a leader and helping them become more effective in their job. The challenge is to take something they did poorly, something that you may be disappointed with or upset about, and find a way to have that conversation in a helpful way for them and not negatively emotional for you. I believe that most everybody wakes up every day trying to do the right thing and therefore they were doing their best, which didn’t turn out to be the case, so you need to help them get better.

Take your time. Take your time when delivering feedback. If you don’t have time to devote to the discussion and developing an action plan, find another time.

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

I would only use email if there were no other options. I prefer to use an environment where there can be real-time discussion and back and forth. Zoom, Teams, WebEx, or even a simple phone call are preferred to email.

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 is immediately after the incident, as this ensures that the incident is top of mind. In many cases, feedback only needs to be delivered once. However, if required, regular intervals of communication can be established to help and support change. What is most important is making sure that the person receiving feedback creates a list of actions they will take on how they are going to fix the issue. And that you, as the leader, are aligned with these actions.

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

A great boss sets smart goals (specific, measurable, obtainable), helps to define clear roles, establishes a process around meetings, and then they let you do your job. They have an open-door policy, they inspire, provide accountability, and help you develop as a leader.

When I was a young broker with EF Hutton, I wanted to pursue commodities with a big client. I discussed the strategy with my boss, and he laid out all of the reasons he thought I shouldn’t pursue the strategy. At the end of the conversation, he said that while he wouldn’t do it, the decision was up to me at the end of the day. I pursued commodities and, just as my boss had said, it was a big mistake. The learnings from this experience were immense.

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 number of children who are homeless and who do not have enough to eat is staggering. If I could start any movement, it would be to ensure that every child has food and shelter.

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

One of my favorite quotes is “Come my friends, it is not too late to seek a newer world,” by Alfred Lord Tenneson. I grew up in a challenging family situation but had a very strong mother who taught us to overcome adversity and embrace change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

People should follow Brimstone on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and via the articles written by Kate Lee and others in our organization.

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


Bob Weiler of Brimstone Consulting: 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: Annika Bansal of Immersionn On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Annika Bansal of Immersionn On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Speak your mind and don’t be afraid to claim what is yours: your opinion. I learnt that I am not doing my job properly unless I speak about my mind to something that I think matters. Without realizing, I had once told my CEO that she is wrong during a meeting. Weeks later, the 3rd person on the call pointed it out to me personally and said that it was in fact a really great thing that I had done.

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

Annika Bansal has lived in seven countries (including Sweden, USA, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore and Spain) which has allowed her to understand different cultures and business environments, developing strong interpersonal skills to deal with multicultural challenges. Apart from being committed to being a global citizen, Annika’s passion is to help people through her continued commitment to volunteering opportunities. From a young age, Annika was able to accumulate 890,000 followers on her personal blog, leading to her interest in digital marketing. She recently graduated with her Business Administration Bachelors degree from IE Business School and pursued portrait photography throughout her studying years. Annika had an internship at AgenciaB12, where she operated in various areas of the company alongside a team of experts: IT and Development, Data Science, Performance Marketing, Web Design and Content marketing. Annika Bansal is currently the Sales & Marketing lead at Immersionn, a content discovery company.

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 graduated from my bachelors degree in the early times of COVID-19, which shifted my perspective of the type of work I want to invest my time into. Firstly, it was quite clear to me that I wanted to be surrounded in a startup environment which would allow me to explore almost every aspect of a business and work closely with people. Secondly, I took time apart from my normal studies at the time to research the implementation of specific subsets of Artificial Intelligence in businesses and specifically Digital Marketing. Furthermore, I was watching the world move into this new era of digital transformation and sustainability leading me to find Immersionn and resonate with the vision. Immersionn is a start-up that is redesigning the standard 2D website into an experiential and immersive 3D experience. Entering this specific career path has already given me a lot of space to learn, grow and stay curious.

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

I started my career completely virtually without ever meeting my team, which has made the whole experience of entering the working world quite challenging yet very interesting. Now, my team and I have created a very good bond even without ever meeting each other and I don’t feel like it inhibits our developments together in any way.

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

Currently, the majority of websites are short transactions that are focused on responding to a customer’s immediate need. However, customers have the potential to stick around for longer and buy more products if the websites aim to establish an emotional connection with customers. With the unprecedented times of COVID-19 and the consequential lockdowns, this gap is even more obvious. Immersionn creates discovery maps that increase customer knowledge and maximise brand advocacy. We unblock blind spots for customers that increases cross-sale opportunities for companies. As a result, customers stay 3 times longer on websites to browse freely and be more explorative. A web-twin is a digital experiential channel. In the blink of an eye, customers get to connect with your brand on a human level. The Web-Twin is created using XR technology and is 5G ready.

How do you think this might change the world?

The Web-Twin aims to redesign the way people explore and navigate through the internet and websites will become more of an immersive experience and serve businesses a higher purpose in connecting with their customers. Furthermore, the concept of a 2D website does not serve humans the way they learn/collect information in the best way yet and takes us a further step into the future of the Cyberpunk Movement. This is not the finality of what Immersionn aims to do in the future, this is just the first step and contribution into the XR industry.

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

The dystopian future with artificial intelligence is no longer just science fiction, as it is rapidly becoming our reality. In a world where freedom is constantly trying to be achieved, we may feel that we are very free in the world of artificial intelligence where there is an ease of life and decisions are made for us, perhaps we are chained to it after all. This leads me to believe that the dependency on artificial intelligence and subsequent tools by humans might increase too much and it will create an unhealthy level of technology addiction. It is a serious risk and we need to keep asking ourselves how to help people by enhancing their lives rather than simply making them addicted. It is quite important for everyone inside the XR industry to think more deeply in how we design technology and with what purpose.

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

It was in my final year of university, during one of the first sessions of my class “Critical Thinking Management”. The class was being asked about the risks of the implementation of technology for this world. People started raising their hands, moving onto the edges of their seats as they expressed how scary the future of technology is as they are scared all their data will be collected and they will be constantly watched. As one person was speaking, others were nodding their heads rapidly in agreement and raising their hands further up in order to express the same thing even further. I stayed quiet, I observed and one of the first things that struck me was: every single person in the classroom has their own phones resting next to their personal laptops. Some people were even wearing iWatches and other technological accessories and devices. Already in this time and space, they are being watched and their data is being collected. That was my tipping point. I realized that people are so obsessed with spending time on their gadgets and social media, but they are worried about the potential future of what already exists. There is a huge lack of consciousness in the general public about what is already happening, and I found it in myself to want to educate my classmates, make them realize what is already happening and make sure that I have a personal contribution in the safety, security and future of technology.

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

5G and the potential that 5G brings to the power of the Web-Twin in terms of having lower latency and a higher connection. Creatives within the XR industry will have great possibilities to create things together with the different use cases of 5G. Additionally, there will be a time where there will be a great willingness for people to have deeper digital experiences.

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

In order to promote having deeper digital experiences, we aim to be a part of every possible conversation about it. This means having the conversations with clients and customers, but also with close friends and family. I find it very important to show people variations of different digital experiences and have them be more comfortable with the idea of it to ensure there will be a bigger movement in the increased confidence the general public has for technologies.

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 conversation that took place between my CEO, Alexandra Huseenot, on Friday the 18th of December 2020:

Me: I am realizing day by day I suck at creativity within video editing, but I’ll get it done!

Alexandra Hussenot: You don’t suck! Never talk to yourself badly. Your inner self listens to it and believes it then. It sends negative feelings via your brain neurotransmitters. This will only increase your insecurities, lower your confidence and direct you towards an imbalance in your brain chemicals. Be good to yourself. Focus on one that is working and do more of it.

Me: Well, I am just comparing myself to the previous Immersionn videos. Even though I understand I am new to video editing, I wish I could be better. I am super glad you’re letting me do this and showcase my learning curve.

Alexandra Hussenot: Tell yourself “I found this great tool and it’s working really well. I am so glad I have a job where I can challenge my creativity.” You can learn anything, and so can I.

Alexandra has not only been my first boss, but one of my first friends from any working place. She has given me the space to learn and make mistakes, and has helped me realize that growth doesn’t come without the effort. The greatest thing I have developed about myself at my time in Immersionn is my drive to learn new things and to exercise my brain in new ways, all thanks to her.

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

Since I am just at the beginning of my career, I cannot say I have success in my workplace that has brought goodness to the world. However, for now, I would define my success as the things I learn on a daily basis and how I am able to share that around with people near or far to me. I always intend to create a collective dome of knowledge and information which ultimately helps people connect with themselves and others.

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

  1. First days of work are not like they are in movies. My first day of proper work in my entire life was September 1st of 2020, I woke up at 8am, wore my favourite clothes, had my new notebook ready with 4 new pens lined up next to it. I waited for 4 hours to receive my first email, notifying me that the weekly Monday meeting had been cancelled that day. I packed everything up and went to sleep later that evening. However, in retrospect, it would be great to have a working day like that now where there truly is nothing to do.
  2. You don’t need to be scared of those who have more experience than you. The reason why you are hired is because they want you and they see potential in you. They believe in you as much as you believe in them, and that is why you are there in the first place. While entering the working environment alongside my friends, they expressed their lack of confidence on a regular basis to me. It was only in retrospect and time that I realized it was only a natural part of entering an environment that was unfamiliar and had a pre-existing hierarchy. Once I became more confident in my position within that hierarchy could I realize my potential and perceive the room that exists around my role in order to interact with different members of my team and expand and grow in different directions.
  3. Laugh about your mistakes. Within my first week of work, I was sharing my laptop screen with the entire team as I was taking notes of the meeting. Everybody saw me misspell something so basic: instead of ‘C-Suite’, I wrote ‘Sea-Sweet’. They all laughed and corrected me. I laughed as well. But now I know.
  4. Take advice and inputs from people, but cancel out the noise. It will always be important to act on what you know is best intuitively. When looking for advice in your personal or professional life, there will be a moment where you need to draw the line and take a moment for yourself. If you are healthy, your gut will tell you the correct thing.
  5. Speak your mind and don’t be afraid to claim what is yours: your opinion. I learnt that I am not doing my job properly unless I speak about my mind to something that I think matters. Without realizing, I had once told my CEO that she is wrong during a meeting. Weeks later, the 3rd person on the call pointed it out to me personally and said that it was in fact a really great thing that I had done.

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. 🙂

Geoggroy Hussenot is initiating Vous-etes-super, a non profit organization that will deliver high quality connectivity and VR experiences to patients in palliative care of public hospitals. The idea expands and honors the legacy of Gregoire Hussenot who generated half a million followers with this inspiring movement and went on to produce a popular TV program with France 5. Gregoire’s initiative and personality was described as “a bubble of positive energy”.

Anything in relative terms does not bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, but this brings the most amount of good to the people who are close to me.

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

“Do a little better than last time”

Everytime I do something: talking, walking, working, exams, interviews, writing, cooking, sleeping, and the list goes on; I always make sure that I do just a little bit better than last time. I believe in having a small marginal increase everyday no matter the activity I am doing. Creating an exponential growth is powerful, and simply trying to change overnight will never actually persist.

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 are Immersionn, a content discovery company. We created the WebTwin, a 3D web experience that helps companies present complex products. It also heightens user engagement on websites and generates a steady stream of leads to CRM Systems.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Anybody can reach out to me on my LinkedIn account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annikabansal/

Immersionn’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/immersionn/

Immersionn’s Website: https://www.immersionn.com/

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


The Future Is Now: Annika Bansal of Immersionn 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.

Celina Nogueras of Muuaaa Design Agency: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Be honest, have a defined brand voice, and show what you stand behind. Brands that communicate clearly and transmit their personalities connect much more than those who don’t. If you can connect with your audience, not only are you building a brand, you’re building a community.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Celina Nogueras.

Celina Nogueras is an entrepreneur, Brand Strategist and Founder of Muuaaa Design Agency. She possesses over ten years of experience conceptualizing and implementing efficient brand growth and recognition strategies for new or existing brands or companies. Her career as a passionate brand growth strategist led her to develop a proprietary traction methodology for companies to stay culturally relevant and achieve economic success. Over its ten years of existence, Muuaaa Design has helped launch more than 300 brands.

Celina has a kickass reputation as a goal-getter that can visualize a project or a business and create the strategies needed to make it happen and take it to the next level.

In 2019, she launched the Jefas y Jevas Podcast. As a promoter of wealth creation in women and connector of millionaire women, her mission is to create a network of one million millionaire Latinas.

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 so many interests! During my Masters and Bachelors I studied almost everything available in the Social Sciences and Humanities departments, and that was the start of my career as a cultural entrepreneur. I created a Contemporary Art fair, Graffiti Festivals, Design Symposiums, Art Books among others. At that moment my goal was not to create a business but create a culture. After a few years and with my life and business partner Miguel Miranda, we pivoted from a culture studio to a design and branding studio. We create a multidisciplinary model which integrates architecture, branding and marketing — and that’s when Muuaaa Design Agency was born.

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?

Just thinking about it makes me burst into laughter! Before creating a brand growth strategy for a client, we conducted a strategic session with the client that helps us understand the operational details of the brand and business in order to establish the objectives based on their needs and build the strategy. In this case, our client was a medicine delivery service company and they told us they had a 100 vehicles to get the job done, and so, we built a strategy with those 100 cars in mind! In the end, the client only had two vehicles!! Mind you they had to spend a lot of money to get the initiative running since they pretended their business was bigger than it was at our session… they got VERY frustrated and cancelled the initiative in one month!

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

Our company is made up of multidisciplinary talents. None of the founders come from advertising or marketing backgrounds, nor have we ever worked at an agency! We come from the world of arts and culture, which gives us a different edge when it comes to design and marketing strategies. Our model takes a lot from the architecture discipline and its process: lots of research and iterations… we simply don’t believe that inspiration is a magical thing that just pops up while playing ping pong, creativity is worked on and nurtured.

On the other hand, we are research and concept based, from the creation of a brand, to the conceptualization of a photoshoot, the media strategy, stems from a concept and extensive research. This gives a lot of dimension, depth and storytelling to our work.

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

As a company, our main purpose is to help the economy grow and we achieve that working with Small Business Owners, from those who are starting their business to those who have been in the market for many years. We bet on Small Businesses as a big part of global economic development. We help them become successful. Our client’s success makes us successful.

On a personal level, I aim to Create a community of 1Million like-minded women with my podcast Jefas y Jevas. The Podcast encourages women who want to learn about how to achieve a turnover of their first million in their companies or in their personal finances. As Latinas we are a fierce workforce but we need to formalize our tools to reach those goals, and what better way than seeing the example of others who have achieved it.

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?

I always like to ask people: Why do you think Starbucks can charge $7 for coffee? Why would a person who is thinking of investing in a business consider buying a franchise of burgers instead of creating their own brand?

The answer to this is called the Power of Branding or Brand recognition. Branding is what makes your brand get recognized as the first in the mind of the consumer in its category, that the person knows the attributes of the brand, and that they prefer to align themselves with its values ​​and are willing to pay more for. Without branding, businesses do not generate brand loyalty. Advertising or product marketing is advertising aimed at moving a specific product or service, for example you have a new product launch and you want to sell it in greater quantities, so you build advertising strategies aimed at that objective.

Branding is a long term game, while product marketing is short term.

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’s like spending money and energy building a car and not spending money on gas. The car would look beautiful but wouldn’t run! Brand building is a process that requires continuous efforts and investment, it is ongoing and will define your growth as a business. Wondering why your business or brand is stalled? Take a good look at what and where you’re investing on! Surely branding and marketing will come up. It’s time to change the conception they can exist separately.

When explaining this, a wonderful analogy comes to mind: “If Marketing is the equivalent of asking someone out, Branding is the reason they say yes”.

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.

1.) Be honest, have a defined brand voice, and show what you stand behind.

  • Brands that communicate clearly and transmit their personalities connect much more than those who don’t. If you can connect with your audience, not only are you building a brand, you’re building a community.

2.) Be conscious

  • Understand the context your brand is operating in, and provide a service, product and experience that reflects on it and excels.

3.) Take a stance on social causes

  • Again, social responsibility brands build stronger communities! Giving back as a brand and being a voice behind causes is more important than ever. They are part of a bigger picture and are not afraid to get involved. Mega Brands like Nike are a good example of how brands can get involved while maintaining consistency.

4.) Be consistent

  • Not only does your brand need to be consistent visually, but in purpose, message, and execution. Evolving with time takes skill and is necessary for growth, however, your brand’s essence needs to be preserved! Keep your purpose in mind at all times and protect it as you navigate through.

5.) BRANDING!

  • A visual identity takes your product or service and sends it on its way to become a BRAND in capital letters. This includes refreshing your image from time to time and staying dynamic for generations to come. Now more than ever companies are seeking to keep up with new consumer trends and that includes visual projection.

Replicating these strategies can be achieved by defining your brand purpose, having a kickass brand, investing in meaningful marketing strategies that CONNECT! And place innovation first when it comes to products and services. No easy task, but achievable nevertheless.

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?

When you do branding, you aspire brand recognition and that is not something you create in a year or two. It needs time and budget. You need to connect with the client on an emotional level, your service or buying experience needs to be good.

Success is measured with Brand Recognition and Brand positioning.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Today, brands that are not on social media are losing a large segment of the market. The Digital Native generation (who grew up with a device in their hand) are known to move primarily in the world of the web, so the traditional advertising outlets like newspapers, magazines, TV or radio advertisements have lost a lot of ground. We can say that if your product is aimed at millennials, or Zillenials, even Gen X’ers it is essential to be on the platforms they are on. Right now, it is increasingly difficult to keep up with all of them, since we are in the generation of content creation, you have Tik Tok, Club House and each one has its own public!

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

For me, physical and mental health are super important. It’s important to be well aware of how we treat ourselves, because in this industry it is very easy to fall into a burnout. I for one enjoy working a lot! The passion for the things that I do drives me. I am thinking and strategizing about work all the time. While I don’t see it as a burden, I understand the burnout is real. That’s why I make time for myself… I exercise five days a week, I visit a psychoanalyst regularly, I journal, I listen to classical music every night to unwind, and most importantly, I constantly visualize my goals. On Sundays, I rather stay at home to think, cook, and read by the pool.

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. 🙂

Through Jefas y Jevas, I aim to create a network of one million millionaire Latinas. I want to empower them in their personal finances as well as their business journeys. As women, we are not taught at an early age to delve into finance as an interest. Understanding and having a good relationship with money, helps us be more independent. Jefas y Jevas challenges the notion that finances are a playground designed only for men.

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

There are two quotes that have definitely helped shape the path for me and they are “Hay que tener ganas de comerse el mundo” which translates to “you need to feel the urge to devour the world!” and “El que trabaja duro no tiene derecho al fracaso” which means “Anyone who works hard doesn’t have the right to failure”.

Both quotes speak to me on a personal level as I carry them like mantras. Hunger for the world is what drives every single one of my endeavors and I am a firm believer that if you work hard success is going to come to you. I live by them every day.

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 have a list of many women that I admire a lot, especially in the world of politics, but definitely my first choice is Emily Weiss. What she has built with Glossier in terms of branding is something that I admire and respect a lot. For some time now I have observed their branding and growth strategies, and they are definitely a fan favorite! As a beauty and skincare brand they challenged a very competitive industry. She set a great precedent for a generation that did not feel identified with any of the brands, even though there were hundreds of brands in the market. She identified the need and knew just how to tackle it. She is definitely a Jefa y Jeva I want to meet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thanks so much for the interview, you can follow me on FB or IG and listen to Jefas y Jevas on your favorite podcast platform.

Web

Muuaaa.design

Jefasyjevas.com

FB

@celinanogueras

@muuaaa

IG

@celinanogueras

@jefasyjevas

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


Celina Nogueras of Muuaaa Design Agency: 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.

Vincent Lee of ‘Can You Brand Me’: 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and

Vincent Lee of ‘Can You Brand Me’: 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

A makeover requires investment of money, time, and energy to ensure a rebrand is done right. If you don’t have enough resources or are unwilling to reallocate resources, the attempt will do more harm than good.

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

Straddling between two countries he calls home for the last twenty years, Vincent’s residential status as an Oklahoman and his citizenship as a Singaporean have earned him an unofficial title; Okieporean. He is a self-taught graphic designer who found his passion in brand strategy during his career as an in-house marketing professional and later, as a solopreneur; a career move driven by a desire to spend more time in Singapore with his aging parents. Having worked with clients in Africa, North and South America, Vincent enjoys working with small business owners in crafting memorable brands and currently working towards expanding his reach as a brand evangelist.

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?

Thank you for the opportunity to connect with you and your readers!

I call two countries home and my story starts in the land of the “Crazy Rich Asians”.

Going to a graphic design school in the 80s was cost prohibitive for a working class family in Singapore. Instead, I channeled those artistic energies into community art competitions and art projects in primary & secondary schools. I even bought an Apple computer with money made waiting tables to learn the tools of the trade.

With a full-time job as a twenty-something, I decided to pursue a Mass Communications degree from Oklahoma City University while in Singapore. It was during those evening classes when I began to see the possibility of applying my passion in graphic design into various industries like advertising, broadcasting, and journalism.

In 2000, I moved to Oklahoma to complete my senior year as a full-time student on campus. That marked the beginning of my full-time career as a creative professional in the U.S.

While my career path has not been “glamorous” with big budget campaigns and high profile clients, working in-house as a graphic design guy and marketing assistant have sharpened me as a brand designer and fueled me as a brand strategist.

I have grown to appreciate the depth of a truly powerful brand; one that goes beyond the visible and tangible like a logo, a website, or a product. I like to tell potential clients, “I can make you look pretty but let’s make you matter first.”

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?

Three to four years into my first job as an immigrant in the U.S., I got a chance to form an in-house design team within the structure of my employer.

The goal was to establish some in-house capabilities and provide graphic design and marketing services to the many businesses my employer has across various industries.

I decided to name our team DS9HSE. Well, as you can tell, it’s not a name that you know how to pronounce immediately. The six-character acronym is supposed to look like what you would see on a vanity license plate representing a longer word or phrase.

It stands for Design House (DS9 = design and HSE = house) simply because we, two college interns and I, are in-house resource providing design solutions that “drive” the business goals of our various subsidiaries.

The name works for an in-house entity because we see and talk to the people we serve internally on a regular basis and we can easily explain the spirit and purpose for our existence.

When the global financial crisis of 2007–08 shut down my employer’s operations, I moved on to another job while keeping DS9HSE alive as a side-hustle. That’s when promoting myself as a freelance graphic designer got more challenging. Spelling DS9HSE (often in International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabets) and explaining to people what it stands for got old pretty quick.

My takeaway? Don’t get too creative with your brand name if you don’t have a plan to properly educate people about it.

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?

As a self-taught graphic designer, the approach early in my career has been perusing printed materials and online content for inspiration when designing a logo, brochure, or website. As such, my design solutions were mostly an imitation with a touch of personal aesthetic.

Designers can be egoistic. And since I don’t have a proper design education, I have something more to prove. I wanted to make sure every completed project was reflective of my style and my arrogance robbed me of the joy I used to have.

It was a brand design project for Endiro Coffee, an Ugandan business, that triggered a change in my approach. As I got to know the founder; insight into her dream, purpose, and culture for the business became the inspiration to my brand development process.

While I want to offer my clients timeless design aesthetic, it became more important to fuel my process with relational intentionality. Brand design became a much more collaborative and immersive process as I learned to ask more questions.

I want my solution to be a reflection of my client as a person and human organization. A design element is no longer just an aesthetic expression or preference, but a strategy for my client to make the desired impression on their target audience.

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

Branding is an expensive process. As such, many start-ups and small-to-medium sized businesses are not investing the needed time and finances to do it right from the get-go.

And I am not even talking about paying for professionally designed logos, websites, product packaging, and many other visible elements people tend to associate with branding. In fact, I would advise against spending money on the tangibles until one has a good understanding of the brand from within.

Branding is a complex process. I want to empower business owners and leaders, especially startups, with an easy-to-remember system to do branding right. I have an upcoming a book titled “One Game Changer to Boost Your Business. Using the B.R.A.N.D. System to Go Deeper so you Can Go Further.”

I will also be incorporating the B.R.A.N.D. System into two workshops at the OIC Business Academy. This is part of a 12-week program by OIC of Oklahoma County for adults wanting to start a business.

After interviewing its Executive Director, DesJean Jones for a webinar in 2020, I was moved by her passion. This non-profit organization seeks to elevate people both in spirit and in academia, and I am excited for the opportunity to invest in the work and people of OIC.

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

Avoiding burnout is an on-going effort for me and so, I will take this as an opportunity to preach to myself.

I can get hyper-focused on a project and lose track of time. What might appear to be a productive day ends up depleting my mental and emotional capacity to genuinely connect with people.

Carve out time regularly to nurture healthy relationships with family and friends. We are relational beings and so, this is critical.

Self-care in the form of exercise is also a non-negotiable for me. Unless I am sick and bed-ridden, I will try to hit the gym. It’s an opportunity to unplug or listen to a podcast while getting a workout.

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?

I am glad that you are asking this question because branding and advertising are often misunderstood.

A brand is what people remember about a person or a business. That can include a cause, a value or a belief system. And people remember your brand if it resonates and means something to them. For example, TOMS Shoes is remembered for their one-for-one business model, which reflects their belief in improving lives.

Branding or brand marketing is therefore the strategy to achieve a desired impression for a particular brand. That impression or reputation is built over time. TOMS Shoes built that reputation since 2006, from giving a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair sold, to giving a dollar towards a grant for every $3 made.

Product marketing or advertising, on the other hand is the strategy of promoting a tangible product and its functions and benefits to potential consumers. It is driven by measurable results, like the number of sales, the growth to an email list, or the number of inquiries.

TOMS Shoes wanted to reward her customers for shopping by launching their Passport Reward Program. The success of this effort is measured by the desired number of signups, the volume of purchase by members, and the amount of rewards redeemed.

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?

I like to start by asking this question; “What are you in the business of selling if you own a mattress company?”

Selling mattresses is the obvious answer that comes to mind. And as a mattress company, advertising the product and how it meets a functional need (eg. from sizes to functionalities) make sense.

However, if you focus on just the product, differentiating yourself by price and/or features, consumers will always be able to find a cheaper and better mattress somewhere else.

Let’s say you are in the business of selling a good night’s sleep. That will change the way you conduct business. First and foremost, you are no longer limited to selling mattresses. You have a whole array of products or services that promote a better sleep.

More importantly, you are saying that you value a good night’s sleep because it improves productivity, energy level, physical and mental wellness, and the list goes on. You are now meeting an emotional need (ie. the higher levels of need in Maslow’s hierarchy) of consumers.

These are values that your company can invite consumers to embrace and promote together, like providing a good night’s sleep to the homeless population in your community, the region, and the world.

This is building a brand that consumers can be inspired to stand by and support for life. And when they purchase your product, they know they are involved in something greater than themselves.

Product marketing or advertising alone only brings consumers to you for a day. Brand marketing or branding nurtures and secures advocates for you for life.

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

A company should consider rebranding if there is not a clearly defined brand that unifies everyone in the company beyond selling a product or service. If meeting sales targets is the only “gospel” you preach, it will disillusion your team at some point. Defining a brand that’s rooted in a greater purpose will cultivate devoted employees who are motivated by more than a paycheck or bonus.

A more established company may find a formerly defined brand to no longer be differentiating them in the marketplace. Any business should regularly evaluate its operation against its ultimate purpose and core values. Unless the existing brand purpose is no longer practical or values have changed, the rebranding effort will be more about finding ways to better amplify its cause and mobilize people towards it.

Needs of consumers are constantly evolving and a new product or service may meet that need. However, if the new offering does not immediately make sense to the existing brand, a rebranding may be needed. The benefits of that product/service must be evaluated against the existing purpose and values of the company. If they aligned, rebranding will revolve around introducing the offering while reminding consumers of how it fits the company’s purpose. If they don’t align, the offering must not be released under the brand. Rather, a different company may be formed to capture that new market.

The next possible reason for rebranding can be triggered by a merger and/or acquisition, which usually caused a change in leadership. New leadership needs to get on the same page about where and how they want to lead the company, and communicate it in a timely manner to both internal and external publics.

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

There are really no downsides to rebranding if (and this is an important “if”) the reason for doing so is sound.

A makeover requires investment of money, time, and energy to ensure a rebrand is done right. If you don’t have enough resources or are unwilling to reallocate resources, the attempt will do more harm than good.

A company should not attempt a brand makeover if the only reason is you (ie. leadership and shareholders) are getting tired of the look of an existing logo, packaging, website, storefront, etc.

If the goal is to update and make a logo more versatile across different media, it is really just a visual brand refresh. For that matter, you must still be aware of all the necessary touch points (online, onsite, and on print) that the old logo must be replaced.

Any changes, be it a makeover or refresh, must also be communicated clearly and in a timely manner. A lack of a communication plan will lead to confusion amongst staff and consumers.

A company should also avoid a brand makeover just to cover up a public relation crisis. Overcoming a tarnished reputation is an opportunity to evaluate the company’s purpose and values, take ownership of the mistakes, make right with consumers, and reorganize for a stronger team. That is a true brand makeover. A makeover without due diligence is thus a cover-up attempt.

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.

When embarking on a brand makeover, I like to think of a brand as a tree with visible and invisible components. In order for a tree to produce desirable shade and delicious fruits, it has to have a healthy root system planted in fertile soil.

Similarly, in order to upgrade and re-energize a brand, I like to break down the strategies into five questions to examine two invisible and three visible aspects of the company seeking a makeover.

  1. What are you in the business of selling? The rebranding effort must start from within where you re-examine the ultimate purpose of the company. This is about the seed sown at the beginning of your business and the soil in which you are rooting yourself in. The result of this question should lead to a recommitment to or renewal of your company’s vision and mission. When I was first approached by Endiro Coffee back in 2011, the founder simply wanted to help children in Uganda affected by AIDS and/or abandoned by parents, through her business. The company’s vision soon grew to embrace a global perspective while staying true to the founder’s original goal. Endiro is in the business of ending child vulnerability. They just so happened to be selling coffee.
  2. What drives you to excel? This is more than sales volume and profit margins. This is about knowing your true north; core values that will keep your eyes affixed on a purpose-driven trajectory. One that keeps you going despite challenges like lack of sales, conflict amongst employees, and inefficient & costly workflow. This is the root system and it must be healthy. The founder of Endiro did not originally understand much about coffee, much less operating a cafe. However, her passion to use the business as a vehicle to mentor youths hired to work at the cafe kept her going. I visited Endiro in Uganda in 2015 and caught a glimpse of that passion. An employee was found to be dishonest in her job but the founder did not immediately fire that person. She chose to continue loving her staff and encourage her managers to do the same.
  3. Who are you trying to reach? People will only care about your brand if you are able to continue solving a problem they care about. If you are trying to recapture the market, it is not just about evaluating the functional value of your product and/or service. Consider how you can better resonate with people on an emotional level (ie. what’s the “good night’s sleep”). The other often neglected target audience is your employees. Consider how you are motivating them beyond a regular paycheck and a year-end bonus. They are your best advocates and will be instrumental in helping to steer and communicate the rebrand. For most coffee drinkers, they reach for a mug of joe for a caffeine fix. Endiro peels away the layers of a coffee cherry and invites people to be part of a greater story. Both employees and customers are made aware of the processes and the people responsible for a cup of brew. They are also encouraged to join the company in helping organizations serve vulnerable children in the community. Endiro resonates with people who care about ending child vulnerability. The people just so happened to enjoy coffee too.
  4. What is your niche in the market? Original ideas are few and far between. While you may have dominated a segment of the market in the beginning, losing market share to competition is inevitable if your “niche” is simply price- and feature-driven. Understanding the shade and fruits you are offering is a given. Innovating to make the shade and fruits more desirable is a given. Denise Lee Yohn, author of Fusion said this, “Better is unsustainable, unique is unstoppable”. Your niche should be found in the natural talent, industry expertise, and a unique culture of people within your company. Endiro understands that they are entering a fairly saturated market when planning their first cafe in the U.S.. With their vision and mission in clear sight, Endiro recognizes that child vulnerability exists everywhere. They continue to mentor their employees and train them to realize their potential. They identify local organizations helping vulnerable children in order to partner with the community for greater impact. They continue to educate their customers and open their eyes to see the good they can do through their purchase and participation. Connecting people through quality coffee to serve a greater purpose is Endiro’s niche, no matter where they operate.
  5. How do you act every day? People experience your company through one or more touch points; online (eg. website, social media, email), on print (eg. brochure, packaging, print advertisement), and on-site (eg. store front, office, in-person interaction). This question prompts you to re-evaluate all the ways you interact with people you hope to reach. From words to images, from sight to sound, and from smell to touch, are your day-to-day action telling a consistent, memorable, and powerful story? Endiro always aims to tell a story. Visual cohesiveness (eg. logo, color, and imagery) is essential across all media to help set the stage for story telling. More importantly, Endiro recognizes that their employees, farmers, and customers each have a different story. The beauty and power of a memorable brand is how these unique stories weaved together organically through a shared purpose of ending child vulnerability.

To make this strategy easy to remember and apply in for branding or rebranding, the questions have five keywords that spell out the word ‘BRAND’:

  • What are you in the BUSINESS of selling?
  • Who are you trying to REACH?
  • How do you ACT every day?
  • What is your NICHE in the market?
  • What DRIVES you to excel?

Check out this video for a quick summary.

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?

Netflix was like David when they entered the movie rental space in 1997 ruled by Blockbuster (aka Goliath). Their rental by mail concept was the offering that made them stand out against the competitions.

Along with their iconic red envelopes and logo, their website helped finding and renting a movie so much more efficient than going to a brick-&-mortar.

In 1999, Netflix launched a subscription based rental service. This was a significant makeover in terms of how it will affect the behavior of their customers. Netflix kept their visual element consistent while highlighting what is important to their customers — unlimited rental with no due dates or late fees.

Streaming service was introduced in 2007 allowing instant entertainment 24/7 via the internet. This is a game changer for Netflix as they understood and adapted to the consumption habit of their customers. Their signature red and logo remain unchanged.

Netflix’s goal of making entertainment easily accessible has not changed, which guided various aspects of their makeover over the years.

This is one key takeaway when considering a brand makeover; staying true to your vision while making adjustments to your niche and offering.

The other lesson is to always put your customers’ wants first. They are not going to care about how “pretty” or “modern” your revamped logo or website looks if you are not meeting their needs.

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 word “influence” has taken a troubling twist. Having influence is often seen as having a large number of “followers” with countless “likes and comments” within one’s social media posts. The irony is that followers can be purchased and the authenticity of the engagement is questionable sometimes.

I would like to encourage people to consider having influence as walking alongside someone with intentionality. Asking “How are you?” and truly hearing what they say. Being always ready and present to bear each other’s burden at any time.

We should also embrace our own imperfection, even if we are of great influence and consider being influenced as an opportunity to stand up for a good cause for the good of people. Asking “How can I fight alongside you?” and truly be present to fight.

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

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

This quote came from Christopher McCandless’s diary when he was found dead in the backcountry near Denali in 1992.

Christopher abandoned all his possessions, burned the cash he had on him, hitchhiked across America, and found momentary contentment with isolation and living off the land.

He kept a diary of his thoughts as he survived for more than 110 days on rice, edible plants, and any wild animals he could hunt. Christopher took two years to reach that revelation but did not get to live out the happiness he sought for.

We are all looking for happiness but often in the wrong places; from buying and accumulating material things, to seeking acceptance from people with our accolades and accomplishments. And in Christopher’s case, seeking happiness through isolation and self-sufficiency. I am guilty of all of that.

As I continue to learn about branding, I came(have come)to a conclusion that uncovering one’s brand is all about discovering one’s unique path to happiness. And that path or journey towards happiness is to be filled with people because we are relational beings.

We will continue to uncover our own brand for as long as we live and it will not be possible or complete without relationships. Happiness for me is about shedding a tear with people as much as sharing a laugh with them.

How can our readers follow you online?

My author page on Facebook will put a face to my name and this website will put a story to my game.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Vincent Lee of ‘Can You Brand Me’: 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ashish Joshi of goDeskless: “What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an id

Ashish Joshi of goDeskless: “What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea”

What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea. I wished if someone had asked me the question — “Ok, I understand you can design and develop the product. But can you sell it?” I’ve developed products as a product management professional all my life. But you always are supported by various factions in terms of strategy, development, market analysis, etc. when you are at a big company. Your job becomes easy in the sense that you’re only focusing on your core area of strength. When you are a founder member of a startup — you start with an idea, and transform it from your mind, to the paper, to whiteboard, to design, and development. Normally — this is the journey.

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

Ashish is the Co-Founder and CEO of goDeskless — a company committed to simplifying and modernizing the customer engagement experience for the enterprise deskless workforce. Ashish has 22+ years of Product Management experience in the CRM Enterprise Applications industry focusing on customer experience. Prior to starting his entrepreneurial venture, Ashish was a product leader at Siebel/Oracle where he managed the Service and Engagement Cloud products — a $160m run-rate business. The experience-driven market today has brought the consumers ever closer to the service providers. Today’s CX and CRM tools fall short when it comes to delivering that “last mile” customer experience which connects the consumers directly with the providers. Ashish thus decided to create a self-engaging service delivery model for traditional, asset-driven industries, and deliver the CRM experience in the hands of consumers as well as the service providers — just like the shared economy service products do. Ashish has an MBA from University of California — Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Mergers & Acquisitions. He holds a Masters in Science from Louisiana Tech University majoring in Applied Mathematics. Ashish completed his Bachelors in Engineering from University of Pune and was awarded the University Gold Medal for achieving the top rank. Ashish is an avid amateur astrophotographer, and is a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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 spent about 20+ years in the CRM space working for big companies where I saw what was happening. The user and expectations were changing but the software hadn’t evolved for 15 years or more.

For example, people moved from desktops to mobile — there was a major shift — demographic and technology were moving. Everything moved from email to a 3-point system of capture, comment and share for communications. I kept thinking that if the consumer side was changing, why wasn’t the enterprise evolving as well? Most of these tools and technologies tied to the customer experience are for people who are sitting at their desks. Nothing is created for the customer directly.

I saw the new generation of on demand services via Uber, AirBnB, Doordash and many others. All of this inspired me to create a similar solution that was built for the enterprise.

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

My first customer — Tata Motors. I had just started goDeskless, 6 months into 2016, we were still designing and architecting.

I met their CIO over breakfast, got to talking about how he was shifting sales operations away from paper and towards digital. He said he had to go to Brazil because a lot of their customers were based there. Our sales guy took the information, lost his notebook during travel to Brazil, and lost the data he had captured that was meant for CRM for the sales cycle.

I see this situation everyday, 85% of the sales driving machine was still using pen and paper. I just spontaneously asked why the Tata team hadn’t shifted to tablets, since pen-and-paper obviously wasn’t working.

6 months later, they became our first customer.

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

goDeskless is a cloud subscription software that allows deskless field workers to engage with customers remotely and securely. It allows people on the field to engage with their customers remotely and securely — especially important in the pandemic. We allow companies to help their customers without being onsite, something that is tremendous when it comes to cost reduction.

How do you think this might change the world?

goDeskless is set to change the way companies communicate with their customers in ways like never before. This will allow companies to empower their remote workforce to maintain quality in customer service from a distance.

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

The only potential drawback that I can think of is the new age where everything is a click away may create more of a sedentary lifestyle.

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

My inspiration was the story around a sales executive losing the paper with very pertinent information. The old school pen and paper mentality is not sustainable and can have many drawbacks.

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

We need to let our potential customers know that this product exists — amplify our message on a global scale. We have customers across numerous countries, and it’s clear that the U.S. is a few years behind in adopting cutting edge technology. I’m confident that companies will recognize sooner than later, as a result of the pandemic, that they need to shift with the times as well.

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

We’ve brought on talent to help us expand our communications strategy. We want to ignite conversations and really tap into what people are saying.

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?

Developing a product is not an easy task. My family played a huge role in my success. I was out on the road for ⅔ of my time and my family was patient. I am also very grateful for my team, we are very close friends. We’ve worked together for years and they’ve become respected partners.

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

We are eliminating the boundaries and friction for people to communicate and engage with each other amidst this age of convenience.

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

There are several anecdotal stories and the “firsts” I have learnt along this journey, but the ones below stand out the most:

1. What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea

I wished if someone had asked me the question — “Ok, I understand you can design and develop the product. But can you sell it?” I’ve developed products as a product management professional all my life. But you always are supported by various factions in terms of strategy, development, market analysis, etc. when you are at a big company. Your job becomes easy in the sense that you’re only focusing on your core area of strength. When you are a founder member of a startup — you start with an idea, and transform it from your mind, to the paper, to whiteboard, to design, and development. Normally — this is the journey.

2. If you fail, fail fast (oh, and you will fail)

For a start-up, the most important aspect is the execution — which is a product of three key variables : skills, time, and money! You are always juggling on these three parameters. So if you have to reset on your plans (be it the product design, or a market message, or anything for that matter such as finding a replacement engineer) — you have to act fast. What you cannot do is to take time and wait for things to “pan out” or solve themselves. That is a killer for a startup.

The key to success is — knowing early on that you’re on a wrong track.

3.Have a big stomach to face any and every possibility

Get ready for surprises. You are the face of the company, and you are the last man standing when everything else falters. There will be times when everything will work smoothly. Then there will be days when everything feels like a battle.You’ll have to be able to weather through.

4. Capital cures a lot of ailments

There are many theories on “how much money should be raised” for a startup to take off and be settled in the operations for a long haul. I have always believed that the extra capital at hand always helps you in your critical decision making moments.

One of my customers expected the product configured in a certain way, and had a “time to market” goal set for the team. In the final moments of the product go-live, we had to pull in extra resources in a short period of time to meet the goal. Such last minute / stop-gap arrangements can put a lot of operational and financial stress on the company. Fortunately, we were able to deliver on time. The “extra capital” case is also important if your business model is cyclical with lumpy revenues. You can accommodate the operational changes without having to worry about the payment timelines.

5. Can you identify “distractions” along the way?

There will be customers early on who would want you to develop the product in a certain (read: their) way. There will be VCs, third-parties trying to lure you in to the acquisition dream. There will be partners that may pull an “overhang” on you and delay you while they get their product out. These are all distractions along the way. There will be those “too good to be true” offers. The key is to be able to identify which ones are the “distractions” — that would stall you.

One of my ISV partnerships pulled the overhang strategy (where you keep the competition busy by acting like a partner, and dangle the sales-partnership carrot to buy the time while they announce a product of their own). I did several co-demos with this partner (a big, multi-billion dollar brand) and became suspicious after my fourth prospect demo with them. Low and behold — I found out that their sales team was showing my product, and was promising their own as a replacement under the table. Fortunately, we did not have any product sharing agreements.

Scenarios like these are a red flag and one must identify these along the way as they can hurt you in a long way.

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

“Never say you’ve failed, it’s an opportunity to learn. Look ahead and move forward.”

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 are disrupting the way field personnel engage with customers. We are eliminating the experience friction introduced by traditional enterprise software which controls and tethers the field customer engagement. We are untethering that by elevating the engagement experience outside, in a cloud layer and making it direct, proactive, and intelligent — just the way uber allows you to schedule a ride at your fingertips. We believe that you should never need to call / engage with a person behind the desk in order to avail your services. If Uber can provide this deskless experience, so why can’t we provide the same experience to the enterprise customers?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin is the best source of digital social media to connect with us. Twitter is also a good source. But we always love to hear from you. We are nice people, and always welcome a “hello”, so you can simply drop an email to us at hello@godeskless.com.

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


Ashish Joshi of goDeskless: “What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an id was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kristin Smedley and Mary Fran Bontempo of Brilliantly Resilient: Rising Through Resilience; Five…

Kristin Smedley and Mary Fran Bontempo of Brilliantly Resilient: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Don’t be married to outcomes. Action is essential to resilience, but we can’t be married to the outcome we want. How many times do plans work out exactly as we want anyway? Be prepared for the situation to evolve and act based upon the facts, not magical thinking.

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 Kristin Smedley and Mary Fran Bontempo.

Kristin Smedley and Mary Fran Bontempo are the dynamic duo behind Brilliantly Resilient, the powerful program to help others come through crisis Brilliant, not Broken. As a young mother, Kristin found herself raising two blind sons, with no idea of how to help them to live vital, successful lives. Mary Fran discovered one Mother’s Day that her son was a heroin addict when he overdosed and was rushed to a hospital, marking years of addiction. Utterly unprepared to manage either crisis, Kristin and Mary Fran knew only that they would not allow themselves or their children to be defined by the challenges — determined to not only survive but thrive.

Now they are award winning TEDx speakers, Best-Selling authors, and co-hosts of a popular online show and podcast. Kristin is known around the world for her work in empowering the blindness community and Mary Fran has impacted thousands of people affected by addiction. Together, they founded Brilliantly Resilient, the life-changing program that teaches others how to Reset with Resilience, Rise, and Reveal their Brilliance to the world, no matter the “sucker punches” life throws at you. Visit Brilliantly Resilient at www.brilliantlyresilient.net.

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?

Both of us came from rather traditional backgrounds growing up in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. Our families were supportive and taught us the value of hard work, respect, and doing the right thing. We both thought that if we stuck to our Catholic school girl roots and rules, everything would be okay, which it was — until it wasn’t. Despite “doing the right thing,” we’ve both had to navigate what we call major sucker punches or train wrecks in our lives. Two of Kristin’s three children were born blind, and Mary Fran’s son suffered from heroin addiction and substance abuse for many years.

As Kristin says, when you’re a mother, you have dreams for your kids. What happened with our children was not part of the plan, and we both found ourselves adrift, with no idea of how to help our kids — in Kristin’s case, to live vital, productive lives, and in Mary Fran’s case, to survive addiction and build a life.

When we met each other — through the introduction of a mutual friend, and we still don’t know what she was thinking! — we realized that we handled our crises, different as they were, with a similar process that helped us not only survive, but thrive (eventually, of course — it wasn’t magic!). We wanted to help others navigate crisis and be the resource we never had, so we created Brilliantly Resilient. It’s a passion project for both of us.

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?

The most interesting story is the fact that we were brought together to do this work. We are as unlikely a pair as you’ll ever find. People who know us are constantly amazed that we love working together and get along so well, despite our different personalities. We hear, “Wait, you work with her?” all the time! But we share many things, mainly a value system that aligns us. The lesson we learned from this serendipitous pairing is one we repeat over and over as part of the Brilliantly Resilient process — DO NOT BE MARRIED TO OUTCOMES. If we had stubbornly plowed ahead with our own plans and not been open to the evolution of what could be, none of this would have happened, and we LOVE what we do!

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

When we created Brilliantly Resilient, we knew that as much as Resilience was a part of our story, it was essential to us that we go further and factor in the Brilliance piece. We knew that navigating great challenges by uncovering our inherent Resilience and then using our talents and skills to rise after those challenges to turn life into something more, was the gift crisis can give if you act on it.

When you experience crisis and you rely on your personal gifts, skills and talents to work through that crisis, you’ll find that you’ve used your skills in a way that you may not have before. Those transferrable skills can become the basis for building something new — something you may never have thought of creating. What we’re doing now was never a part of the life plan for either of us. But after seeing how our skill sets allowed us to do things — really hard things — we never dreamed we’d have to do, we also realized those skills and talents could be the building blocks for doing amazing things we’d never dreamed of doing before.

The beauty of crisis is that once it passes (and it always does), you can look around you and say, “I did it.” It may have been ugly, and not the result you wanted, but surviving crisis, when you thought you’d never get out of “the pit,” shows you what you’re capable of. And it’s usually way more than you thought. It’s about uncovering resilience AND discovering and using your brilliance.

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?

We are huge believers in the power of the tribe. The very idea of having your own particular Brilliance implies that there are things that are NOT your Brilliance. That’s when you have the opportunity — and it is an opportunity for growth — to raise your hand, ask for help and expand your tribe. Also, it’s not always your first level contacts who are the most helpful. Those closest to us may have emotional bias that prohibits them from seeing us or our challenges clearly. When you seek help by exploring second and third level contacts (think LinkedIn and other social media), you can exponentially increase your knowledge and success. We proudly call ourselves Doctors of Nothing, and we’ve learned so much from guests on our shows and others whom we’ve sought out for help and advice. We’re so grateful to people like John Lee Dumas, host of EOFire, Bob Burg, author of the Go-Giver series of books, our buddy Rob Angel, who created Pictionary, Violette de Ayala, founder of FemCity, and so many others who have shared their brilliance with us.

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?

We like the definition we found in Psychology Today: Resilience is about getting through pain and disappointment without letting them crush your spirit. So much of resilience is a mindset. It’s about building mental fortitude. Resilient people aren’t delusional — they don’t think, “I’m resilient; I can beat this.” Rather, they know that they have a skill set that can help them, and what they don’t have, they’ll seek out in others. In Brilliantly Resilient, we talk about three things when resetting with resilience: values, perspective, and controlling the control-ables.

Challenges can take away many things from us. But they also give us an opportunity to refocus on what’s really important. We encourage people to get clear on their value system and build on those things that truly matter to them, like integrity, trust, hard work, even humor. Then we suggest taking a hard look at the challenge and checking perspective. Is there a different way of looking at the situation that may help you through? And finally, it’s about controlling the control-ables. What can you actually do to make the situation better? Avoid the land of magical thinking and focus on what’s real and what you can do about it.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

We always think of each other when we think of resilience, but our Brilliantly Resilient show has given us the opportunity to meet so many amazing people who embody resilience. Dr. David Fajgenbaum comes to mind. David found a cure for his own terminal disease after doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. He focused on his value of hope, created a new perspective on how to look at his illness, and then acted on what he could control with that new perspective, discovering a different way to use a drug that wasn’t traditionally used for his illness and finding it effective. It’s not only resilient, it highlights the brilliance we know is a hidden gift in every situation where resilience is called for.

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?

Both of our personal stories are filled with people telling us things were impossible. Kristin was told her kids would be mediocre in school and in life, while Mary Fran was told that beating an addiction as severe as her son’s was nearly impossible. Neither of us was willing to accept those decisions about our kids. We simply refused to let our kids’ challenges define them or us. The fact that these crises affected our kids was certainly influential. Don’t tell a momma bear her kid is doomed! We simply decided we weren’t going to sit back and let our kids be statistics. That’s when we tapped into our inherent resilience, although we didn’t know we were doing so at the time. It was instinctive — protect our kids. That’s the beauty of resilience: it’s already in all of us. We just have to access it.

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?

Do blindness and heroin count? Seriously, those were obviously our biggest challenges, but life is full of them. What we learned from refusing to give in to blindness or heroin taught us both so much about our inner strengths and our ability to rise above those challenges to create things we’d never dreamed of.

When we began Brilliantly Resilient last March, our plan was to take the program live to groups and organizations. Then the COVID sucker punch hit. We had no idea what to do, so we decided to do a live show, every day, and bring on people who could help us and our audience learn about resilience and the brilliance they could create. In the year since, we’ve done over 200 shows, put out over 50 podcasts, created a Masterclass Series of self-guided programs, ran a Discover Your Brilliance Challenge, created a Small Group Coaching Program and written a book, in addition to presenting the Brilliantly Resilient program virtually to numerous groups and conferences. When you aren’t married to outcomes, you allow space for your brilliance to rise. None of this was planned, but we came back stronger than we could have imagined by living and acting based on the Brilliantly Resilient process we created.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Both of us grew up in middle class homes in and near Philadelphia. Kristin has four brothers and Mary Fran has a sister and two brothers. Neither of our families had much money; we had what we needed, but spoiled we were not! Seeing our parents work hard to take care of that many kids, and not getting the latest everything, taught both of us to be creative, to work with what we had, and to find ways to work around what we didn’t have. There’s no better way to learn resilience than hard work coupled with creativity.

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. Resilience begins with a decision. Are you just visiting your crisis, or are you going to live there? Decide. Once you decide you’re just visiting, your brain immediately begins to work on ways to navigate the challenges.
  2. Clarify your values. Use the crisis to decide what’s really important to you and what you can eliminate from your life. Examples of values are trust, respect, hard work, kindness. Use your values to act based only on what truly matters.
  3. Check your perspective. Is the situation as bad as you think? Can you tweak your perspective to find a course of action you hadn’t thought of? Kristin often tells the story of how her then 3-year-old son, Michael, changed her perspective on blindness when he came into her room as she was crying and said, “Mommy, isn’t this the best day ever? The sun is shining, I have my toys and I’m so happy!” Kristin realized that it was her perspective on blindness that was holding Michael back. Michael didn’t “see” blindness the way she was seeing it.
  4. Control the control-ables. Don’t waste time on coulda-woulda-shoulda’s. When Mary Fran’s son was in the hospital from an overdose, she realized that replaying the “If only I had…” reel in her head was a waste of time. Instead, she dove into finding a facility and experts to help her son and she got him into treatment.
  5. Don’t be married to outcomes. Action is essential to resilience, but we can’t be married to the outcome we want. How many times do plans work out exactly as we want anyway? Be prepared for the situation to evolve and act based upon the facts, not magical thinking.

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’d LOVE to see Brilliantly Resilient become a worldwide movement where we could teach everyone to Reset with Resilience, Rise, and Reveal their Brilliance to the world — Reset, Rise, and Reveal! When we uncover our inherent resilience to rise after crisis and then share our brilliance and what we’ve learned, all boats rise. The world becomes a better, more joyful place when we all share our gifts. It’s a teachable process, and we want to teach the world!

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 🙂

We’d LOVE to share a meal with Ellen DeGeneres! Ellen’s story epitomizes the Brilliantly Resilient process on so many levels. She has had to call upon her resilience multiple times in her career, beginning (at least publicly) with the cancellation of her first show after coming out as gay. But she relied on her value system, with kindness being at the core, to rebuild and teach others based on taking action that remains true to who she is. She lives by her values, works hard, and is passionate about lifting others, as are we. And she dances! We love to dance; it’s an expression of joy. There’s so much joy and fun to be had when you’re secure in your ability to be resilient and you’re working your brilliance. We spend a lot of time laughing! We know the origin story of how we founded Brilliantly Resilient would resonate with her and we’d love to share it with her audience! Call us, Ellen! (We also love to use exclamation points!!!!!)

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you for asking! Our website link and social outlets are listed below. And don’t forget to check out our book, Brilliantly Resilient, which landed on Amazon’s Best Seller list right next to Deepak Chopra — who is still scratching his head!

Check out our website at www.brilliantlyresilient.net

Brilliantly Resilient Facebook Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BrilliantlyResilient

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristinSmedley

https://twitter.com/MaryFBontempo

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryfranbontempo/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinsmedley/

Book: https://www.amazon.com/Brilliantly-Resilient-Reset-Reveal-Brilliance/dp/1732066434/

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


Kristin Smedley and Mary Fran Bontempo of Brilliantly Resilient: Rising Through Resilience; Five… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Christine R Andola: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Author Christine R. Andola: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Plug into your support system. The longer you were married, the harder it may be to find those people who love you for you, but they’re out there. I can remember crying on the phone to my sister during my second divorce that no one loved me. I must be unlovable. She pointed out to me that her calling every day and listening to me cry was an act of love. Our aunt who took me in that fateful night and kept me for several months thereafter was also on my love-team. My ex-sister-in-law who talked my ex-husband into letting her remove all of my clothing and personal effects from the house (without him throwing a temper-tantrum) loves me. For that matter, anyone who held me while I ugly-cried with snot running down my face was definitely expressing 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 Christine Andola.

Christine R. Andola, a spunky woman in her forties, is a freelance writer and native of Central New York who has been published in several regional and online magazines. She covers food, health, business and more. To find out about her first book, “Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years,” please visit her website: www.ChristineRAndola.com.

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 had an ideal suburban childhood. My mother was a teacher; my father was an educational administrator. They loved each other and were best friends. They used to get up early and have coffee together every morning. On weekends, that was when they would plan projects around the house or family outings. They were like giddy children when they were planning a trip or a party together. Sometimes the neighbors would comment about the fact that they still held hands when they went for a walk.

(Hard to believe that I didn’t learn enough from growing up with my parents to sustain a marriage myself.)

We visited my grandparents at least once a month. I had a close relationship with all four of my grandparents, although they were very different. My father’s parents were almost a full generation older than my mother’s, and they lived on opposite sides of the tracks. I enjoyed them all, though. I got a lot of attention because I was the first and only grandchild for four years. My father’s parents spoiled me with gifts; I had my own skis before I turned four, a pedal car before I could walk and a full set of play kitchen appliances. My mother’s parents spoiled me with experiences; they took me on day trips to Howe Caverns, Story Land and The North Pole.

My mother established her dominance in our house. She used to say when you are at grandma’s you do things her way, but when you’re home, you follow our rules. She did a good job of getting along with both of my grandmothers and hiding any friction they caused. My grandmothers, however, did not get along with each other and did not try too hard to hide it.

When it came to my sisters, my parents used to say that they didn’t give us the same things, but they gave us what we needed. They recognized that we were each different and needed different types of love and support. We were not raised to be competitive with one another. Instead, we were taught to support each other, and I think those lessons really stuck.

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

I’ve always been a good writer; it was just one of those things I took for granted. Looking back, it is a skill I inherited from my mother. As I discovered her writings tucked away in files after her death, I realized how much she was like me, or I like her. She seemed to be the source of much of my resourcefulness, the can-do attitude, and part of my romantic ideals, although when she was alive I believed we were very different from one another.

One day I was tired of reading poor-quality stories in the local weekly newspaper and I dared to call the editor. At the end of our conversation, he issued me a challenge of sorts. He basically said, if you think you can do better, give it a try. I was too proud not to take him up on the job offer, so I jumped in.

As a stringer, I covered school board and town board meetings at a time when our volunteer fire department went on strike and privatized and my sister-in-law was president of the school board. My stories often made the front page, and I received compliments from the fire chiefs about my knowledge of the situation. I developed walk-in privileges with the mayor and his wife befriended me. It felt like a job well done, but I was passed over for the editor’s job because the publisher felt I was too involved in local politics to be objective.

The next time I earned money for writing was in my thirties when I was trying to find extra money to pay the property taxes on the house to which my husband-at-the-time and I had recently added a giant addition. Back then, content mills were not a thing. I got a contract writing tiny how-to articles for a mom-and-mom agency. I eventually worked out a system for myself where I could whip off my ten weekly articles, complete with references, on Saturday. In six months, I was proud to present the tax money to my husband, although it was met with chagrin rather than congratulations.

Several years later, I was crying to my father because I had no real professional aspirations. I had moved to a rather small job market to be with a man with whom I was in love, and I felt pressured to try to match his financial contribution to our shared household. My father suggested writing, and I ran with that. I started writing for two local magazines, then I added web content for small businesses, and eventually blogs and longer-form content through an online agency.

I loved meeting new business owners, researching new food ingredients and learning new subjects. No matter how outside my comfort zone the topic was, I learned it and articulated it for a general audience, from plastic surgery to brain science. In between assignments, I enjoyed working on my own projects, and finally decided to finish one.

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

Interviewing business owners for a local magazine was always interesting. I met a Canadian man whose company was producing dentures using 3D printing in a new facility in the U.S. market. I got to tour the shop floor at Volvo where they had just started manufacturing natural gas buses. And I facilitated an interesting discussion among town leaders about a local drug problem.

The most interesting experience I would say was meeting a woman who read my book. I was doing a book signing event, one of the few I did when the book was first published. These events were sparsely attended, mostly by friends and relatives. A young woman came in, introduced herself to me and started gushing about my book. She read the book and was so moved that she had to come to this event to meet me. The fact that my book had a profound effect on one person made all the effort worthwhile for me.

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 I first started writing, I didn’t find mistakes funny. I was still very defensive about my talent, or rather I wasn’t sure it was a talent. I was still in that part of my life where I just wanted to be right all the time. When I made a mistake, I tried to hide it.

By the time I published my book, “Who Knew? Lessons From My First 40 Years,” I was beginning to see the humor in my errors. I hired a photographer I knew (a boudoir photographer) to shoot my publicity photos. When the day came, I knew I’d be nervous, so I invited another friend to join us in the studio.

After my hair and makeup were done, I had to leave the room. I just didn’t look like myself and was beginning to think this was a very bad idea. My supportive friend followed me to the ladies’ room. She managed to hold it together through my crazy assessments of my made-up face and assure me the makeup was beautiful. She convinced me to give it a try; we could always change it if I didn’t like the photos.

When the shoot got started, I was very stiff. I had ideas about how this day would go, but I wasn’t feeling it. The photographer was very patient, trying to get me to smile for real and not look so terrified. Finally, the tears came. I felt like I was letting everyone down, but I couldn’t hold them back any longer. I was afraid I was wasting everyone’s time. That’s when the wine came out. Turns out Caitlyn uses her photography skills to empower her female subjects.

She asked me what I was feeling, what my biggest fear was. We figured out that I had put too much pressure on this photo shoot. I felt like I had to get it exactly right the first time so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I was expecting too much from myself, as usual.

After some wine and chat, the photoshoot resumed, and we all had a great time. We started laughing, trying different poses, different settings and props, wardrobe changes…It was great. I finally felt like the star of the show. When Caitlyn sent me the photos I chose, she included some odd ones she took when I wasn’t ready. They are funny and remind me not to take it all too seriously. One of those outtakes ended up on the cover of my book.

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

I have two sisters and growing up we developed a motto, “Use your beauty for good, not evil.” It was originally spoken with a sarcastic twist during some crazy dating debacle. We always had an unspoken rule that none of us would ever go out with the other’s ex-boyfriend. That was just part of our solidarity. Boys would try, though, and it always made us laugh.

This one time, I broke up with a summer fling when I realized he just wasn’t smart enough for me, even just for the summer. The next day he called my house and asked for my sister. Of course, she didn’t take his call. She was more intelligent than I was and was even less inclined to suffer fools. Another time, a boy my sister had been “friends” with for several years (while she not so secretly pined for him) asked her if I was available. I made sure to snub him so hard his pride probably still hurts. No one was going to break my sister’s heart and then rub it in.

My youngest sister was really my dating hero, though. She was in love with this boy and it was getting very serious. He was visiting from out of town and staying at our house when she caught him in a lie. Granted, it was a big lie, but he was still in love with her. She cut him off cold-turkey and let my other sister throw him out of our house. She never spoke to him after that. I admired her strength and adherence to her own values.

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 am not proud to say, I’ve been through two divorces. They were both very different.

The first one was not contentious. We talked a lot but kept coming back to the same topic. I was just not happy and not willing to live a mediocre life. I needed more attention from him in every way, and he seemed unable to give me that.

There was a lot of crying but no yelling. During the breakup, I moved into the guest room and we continued to live rather separate lives. I can remember him holding me sometimes while I sobbed. We packed up our joint possessions together, separating our wedding china evenly. I cried that day for all the future events, family dinners and dinner parties that would never happen.

We sold our house and each bought houses in the same town. We shared a moving truck. I was very sick the night before the move and cried to my grandma on the phone. The day of the move I had a meltdown over a rug that threatened to jeopardize the sale of our house. He had to step in and negotiate with the buyer. He was always the more level-headed of the two of us.

He came to my new house to visit when my grandma was in town. He also painted my kitchen. I don’t remember how that came about, but I remember he insisted I not pay him for it. We went out to dinner a couple of times in the months following the separation. I still enjoyed his company, but I saw him becoming someone I wasn’t attracted to. Presumably, he was becoming himself, and I wondered if I had kept him from growing into himself sooner.

What I learned about myself was that I needed to learn more about myself. Part of that divorce, a divorce I insisted on, was based on the fact that I had no direction in my life. I kind of jumped on his train instead of creating a life for myself. I was too young to get married because I didn’t know what I wanted from my life. I knew I wanted to be married, or at least I wanted a wedding, but I didn’t think even one day beyond that.

I was divorced before I was 30, and feeling pretty sorry for myself, so I jumped into a second marriage before healing my life. I thought I was fixing my life by getting back on track, but at the same time, I married a man I should have broken up with after the second date.

My second divorce was a doozie! I spent about a month entertaining thoughts of divorce in my mind before I said anything to anyone. When I finally decided that’s what I wanted, I walked around with that in my head for a while not knowing how I would tell him. Finally, one evening after work while he was droning on and on about his involvement in local politics, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.”

For what seemed like an eternity after that we went back and forth, some days being kind to one another, some days lashing out. We took a day trip in the convertible and enjoyed long conversations we should have had earlier. By the end of the day, he was exasperated and getting mean. We rode this emotional rollercoaster for a long time.

I moved out one night when his children and son-in-law chose to pick a fight with me in my own home. After calling 911, I packed a suitcase and drove away. I never spent another night under that roof again. He offered to have me come back and live in the guest room until I found a house of my own, but I knew better than to move backward.

He harassed me by phone and text, sometimes starting the conversation on a positive note to lure me in. He threatened to set fire to my furniture before I could move it out of the house. He went through my files and destroyed any evidence of money borrowed from my father, so he would not have to pay me anything in the divorce.

Moving day was classic. I enlisted a friend and her husband, who were coincidentally married in our house, to help me with the move. It was just a few miles, so we ended up making a couple of trips. The husbands sat together while my friend and I managed the movers. They remained calm for most of the day, but moving day is always longer and more stressful than you’d like it to be.

I went to the new house to direct the movers with the first load, and I got a call that my husband was not going to let me take the new freezer he bought for me. I wasn’t really sure why he did that, anyway, since one of the two we already had was mine, and I was prepared to take it with me. My friend had to talk him off the ledge and negotiate to let me take the old freezer instead. I told her I couldn’t even speak to him and I waited outside.

One thing I learned about myself in that experience is that when I met that man, I had the lowest self-esteem of any upright human. The way he treated me when we were dating would have caused a normal person to walk away in disgust. Instead, I somehow saw it as a challenge. I knew it would be a hard life, but I wanted to prove to someone that I could do it.

He also taught me about my own values. I value cleanliness, for example. I can never again live with a slob. It doesn’t matter who does the cleaning. What matters is that we both place the same value on cleanliness.

He also taught me how important the truth is to me. He was a liar, and a good one. He lied about things that didn’t even matter. He lied and manipulated everyone around him to his advantage. Just before we got married, he said, “I can’t wait to have kids with you.” Then, we spent years of our marriage fighting over it. I believe the big winners to be the unborn children.

I learned not to change who I am or compromise my values. It took me a while to get back to being me, telling the truth, saying no to clutter, and taking responsibility for my life. I went through a phase of blaming him for stealing my thirties from me. When I finally stopped blaming and started taking responsibility, I felt better, more in control of my life.

I made a bad decision marrying that man. Then, I spent almost ten years trying to make it right. In the end, I had to accept that it wasn’t ever going to be right. We just didn’t belong together. He loved me in his own way but not in the way I needed him to.

It took time, but I healed. I’m no longer uncomfortable going back to that town. I even ran into him there the night he announced his engagement to another woman. I was genuinely happy for him that he was moving on with his life. Of course, I was scared for her, but she’s not my problem. I gave her ample warning and some insider advice to get her through. She thinks he’s the love of her life, and maybe he is.

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

MISPLACED BLAME

I think blame is the most destructive mistake people make during a divorce. Blaming your partner for ending the marriage, ruining your life or damaging your relationship with your family is an easy position to take. Anger doesn’t make the end of a marriage hurt any less and blaming someone else does not relieve your own culpability.

Instead, try to remember that you once loved this person. The two of you made decisions together that brought you to this point in your relationship. You both made mistakes that took you off the path to wedded bliss. No one intended to fail at marriage, but you just didn’t have the right combination of stuff to make it work. Take responsibility for your part in the failure of the marriage and try to move on gracefully. Taking responsibility means you have some control over your life, and you do!

TOO MUCH ANGER

Another mistake is holding a grudge too long. When I met my second husband he had been divorced for about six years from a twenty-year marriage that produced five children. (I know, I should have said good-bye and moved to the other side of the bar.) He couldn’t even speak his ex-wife’s name for the first several months we dated. He just referred to her as his ex and had nothing good to say about her. If I took what he said at face value I would believe that she was the spawn of Satan sent to ruin his life, his career, his reputation and any chance he had for happiness.

Divorce makes people angry, and usually for good reason. Anger is a powerful emotion that should be handled responsibly. Feel the anger, but don’t misplace it. Acknowledge your anger, but don’t carry it like a cross. Express it when and where appropriate, and then let it go. The letting go part is key!

RUSHING BACK IN

I think one mistake we make after any big life event is to rush into something else. We all want to put those tough experiences behind us, forget they ever happened, and get onto the happier parts of life. Then, we just end up rushing around, running away from bad experiences and landing in others (witness my second marriage.)

I’ve learned it’s important to stop and figure out what happened. Do the post-mortem with yourself. Understand what you did wrong and figure out how you can avoid doing it again. I always told myself that there are plenty of mistakes to make in life, no point in making the same ones twice.

FEELING UNWORTHY

After my first divorce, I was reluctant to go out again. The divorce left me feeling old (I was in my late twenties) and dried up. I let the fact that I experienced a lack of intimacy in my marriage ruin my self-esteem. Before marriage, I felt sexy and attractive. I knew I turned heads when I entered the room. After, my ego was shaken and bruised. I was reticent to tell anyone I met that I was divorced. I was ashamed that I could not hold the attention of my husband (that’s how I saw it.)

It took me years to understand how a failed marriage affected me. It made me distrust myself and dislike my personality. It’s important to mourn the loss of a marriage, but you have to know when to stop. No matter how bad the marriage was or what terrible behaviors you displayed that may have contributed to the breakup, you are still a good person, worthy of love and affection.

Forgive yourself. You didn’t mess up your life. You’re living your life, and life is messy. You may have great romantic notions about the perfect life, but no one is living that one — no one!

GIVING UP ON HAPPINESS

Everyone seeks happiness, of course, especially after a divorce. Most divorced people lived with a lot of sadness and pain before they even started the separation process. Marriages don’t end in one day. It takes months (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re stubborn) to finally give up and admit it’s time to call it. We start our divorced life thinking maybe we don’t deserve happiness, or maybe we forgot what it feels like. A big divorce mistake is giving up on happiness.

I recently learned about incremental happiness from a wonderful man who fell into my path at just the right time. He was recovered from a thirty-year marriage that took years to end (a stubborn one but I like to call him tenacious.) He taught me that you have to find incremental happiness each day on your way to the big score. You can’t wait until you achieve your happiness goals: the right job, the right house, the right love. You have to figure out what makes you happy, plan your path to happiness, but then celebrate the tiniest milestones along the way.

It’s okay to be happy before you achieve your goals. Your life is not perfect, but some part of it is better than it was yesterday. Celebrate that and smile!

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?

It sounds funny admitting that divorce can be a positive experience, but I believe it’s true. In my case, divorce freed me from an unhappy life I no longer wanted to live. My second divorce gave me the freedom to embrace myself and grow emotionally.

During those long, awful conversations I had with my second husband after I announced my intention to divorce him, he asked me 101 times who I was leaving him for. My answer was always the same, but I don’t think he ever heard me. I was leaving him for me. I wanted to spend time with myself and develop a better relationship.

When I had dinner with my first husband after our divorce, I realized I didn’t know him anymore. He was becoming himself, someone I wasn’t particularly fond of. We agreed that although it was not our desired outcome, divorcing was the best thing for both of us. We were free to go on and live the lives we wanted (or try to).

I was so young when I married him that I used to cry in the early days of our marriage when I realized I would never have a first date again. (About a million first dates later, I now wish the first dates were truly behind me.) The initial romantic discovery between us was magical, but he quickly turned into his father.

Years later after seeing August Wilson’s “Fences” on stage, I thought of my first husband and all the other tortured male souls I knew and wondered what our society does to men. We expect them to adhere to certain conventions that are probably against their nature and we don’t even let them cry about it.

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 recently met a brave soul who restored my faith in the human ability to heal from the breakup of a long marriage. My experience, unfortunately, up to this point taught me that men seldom feel their feelings, therefore, they never get over them. I’ve been in relationships where I had to pay for the bad deeds of the woman who came before me. No wonder those relationships failed.

This wonderful man who crossed my path recently had done the hard work of mourning his marriage. He was not bitter or angry anymore. He was happy, and he taught me how to be happy, too. He also shared his experiences with me, so I could learn about internet dating — the way of the pandemic!

When we met, he was executing a system he developed for himself of evaluating dating profiles, moving them through the messaging phase, and going on a first date with anyone who got to that point. As we would laugh about later, I was number 54. Before our first date, he would text me about his dates almost every night. I learned that he set up a list of criteria for himself. He figured out what made him happy and refined his list with each dating experience.

He taught me the basics:

  • a profile with no photo or very little information should be avoided
  • photos of sunsets or expensive cars are just an attempt to manipulate
  • bikini photos are looking for a booty call
  • check the background of photos for details that don’t fit
  • very poor grammar in messaging is likely a scam
  • if anything about a person’s profile doesn’t fit your criteria, swipe left and move on
  • people who do not respond to messages in a timely fashion either are too busy or not serious
  • when you think you like someone, get in the same room with them before you decide

Dating is what you make of it. It doesn’t have to be scary and awful. In dating, like in life, you will get back the energy you put out. Listen to the conversation objectively. Someone who trashes the ex probably isn’t over them, yet. You don’t want to be that person; you don’t want to be with that person.

My greatest advice to people just back into the dating scene is to remember to say no. It’s okay to not accept any details or behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable. Just because your marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean you have to settle for the next situation that comes along. This is your chance to be the new, wiser you and find the person who makes your heart sing.

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

Ah, change. It’s such a scary concept but necessary for growth. Divorce causes us to change our perspective on life and ourselves — or it should.

One of the least emotionally intuitive men I ever dated told me something one day that made it all seem very simple. Actually, he made a lot of things seem very simple by refusing to acknowledge any emotional component, but this one I think is healthy. He was also divorced twice and looking for a way to reach a different outcome in his relationships.

He told me that he knew if he kept doing things the same way, they were going to result in the same outcome. Simple but brilliant! Unfortunately, what I needed from him was the emotional component he lacked, so we ended the same way all our other relationships did — I left; he was surprised.

I carried that concept forward and used it to my advantage a few relationships later. While I was with him, I was scared into silence. He was not mean or a yeller. He just had a disapproving look and was an expert at the silent treatment. I’m a communicator, as you can see, but I let him shut me up. As I healed from our breakup I realized that was something I had to change. Turns out, it is the things that are hard to say that most need to be said. Subsequent partners have allowed me to practice better communication, although it was hard and somewhat awkward at first.

You have to identify for yourself what needs to change, but be sure, there is definitely something.

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?

FORGIVE YOURSELF

I was startled after my first divorce…more likely I was shocked by my first marriage that it wasn’t perfect. It was far from perfect, but I couldn’t figure out why. We were a beautiful match. Strangers came up to us at parties and said we looked as if we were very much in love. We had fun together; we had china service for twelve; we had matching wedding rings and luggage.

I couldn’t make it perfect because I didn’t know what that would look like. I failed my family by becoming the first divorced person in two generations. My mother pre-deceased my marriage, so I couldn’t apologize to her. I took on a boatload of guilt which held me frozen for too long.

Divorce happens (I know, Mom, but it’s the truth.) You have to forgive yourself in order to move on. You are not a failure; you just didn’t make this one work. There were some circumstances beyond your control (like a whole other human who would not be manipulated by you.) It’s okay. You’re okay.

MAKE A PLAN

When the crying is over, it’s time to make a plan for your life. You are not half a couple; you are a whole human. Decide what you want your life to look like. It may seem trite, but you can do anything you set your mind to. Take steps to get that dream job or start saving for the summer home on the water. Get a vehicle with towing capacity, so you can buy the boat you always wanted. Your life is not over. Actually, in many ways, it is just beginning.

DO THE HARD WORK

Everyone says they can do hard things until they realize what those hard things are. In this case, it is to heal your emotional wellbeing. It’s not going to be easy; it never is. You have to dig in and figure out what is going on in your heart. It’s time to do a self-assessment: who are you, who do you want to be, what outdated concepts are you holding onto, how can you improve your ability to relate to other humans in an intimate way.

If you’re mouthing, “I’m fine,” right now under your breath, you’re not. Get out your journal and start writing. Call an intuitive friend and set up a weekly wine (whine) date. Get in to see your therapist. Find a new therapist. Do what it takes to discover the little demons lurking in the corners of your mind because they are the ones that will derail your life every time.

STAY STRONG

Another cliché that happens to work for divorce recovery. In this case, it means stick to your plan. It’s very easy when you are still in pain or just beginning to recover to fall back into familiar ways. You’re used to being married, so a new relationship would seem like the right solution to fill the void. I guarantee you, however, if you jump back into the fray, you’re going to find yourself in another failed relationship.

This particular piece of advice comes from my what-not-to-do file. After my first divorce, I was in a hurry to put my life back together in a way I recognized. My peers were all married and starting their families. I felt left out and broken, so I went for the quick fix. Ten years later I realized I was in an unhealthy marriage with a man with whom I never should have accepted a second date. My thirties were behind me, but I was no further ahead in life.

Actually, I made the same mistake in both marriages. I jumped into a marriage to make my life complete instead of first working to be a whole human all by myself. After the second marriage, I made a mental list of qualities I would never again accept in a partner. With another almost ten year relationship behind me, I remade that list. The problem I have is sticking to the plan.

FIND YOUR OWN HAPPINESS

You may not believe you can be happy without your ex-spouse or without your next spouse, but I’m going to tell you that you absolutely can. In fact, it is your responsibility as a whole human to find your own happiness. It will make your next relationship better, and who isn’t striving for better?

Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of being an architect? It may be too late to change your career path but think about what you loved about building. When was the last time you rode a bicycle or skated in the park, or did any of those things you used to enjoy? Your memory is a good place to look for your happiness. All of those someday dreams, like some day I want to see the Pacific Ocean, ride a motorcycle, or learn to play guitar, are clues to your happiness.

It’s so easy in a relationship to get caught up in what makes the other person happy and forget your own preferences. You suddenly become a carb-eating, denim-wearing, Chicago Blackhawks fan. You forgot how to smile and dance and sing out loud. This is your chance to remember what makes you happy and start doing it again.

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?

Start by acknowledging the pain. Fact: divorce hurts. No matter the circumstances, it leaves us feeling the sting of failure, the emptiness of loss, and the uncertainty of a boat bobbing on the waves. Let yourself feel without judgment.

Plug into your support system. The longer you were married, the harder it may be to find those people who love you for you, but they’re out there. I can remember crying on the phone to my sister during my second divorce that no one loved me. I must be unlovable. She pointed out to me that her calling every day and listening to me cry was an act of love. Our aunt who took me in that fateful night and kept me for several months thereafter was also on my love-team. My ex-sister-in-law who talked my ex-husband into letting her remove all of my clothing and personal effects from the house (without him throwing a temper-tantrum) loves me. For that matter, anyone who held me while I ugly-cried with snot running down my face was definitely expressing love.

Most importantly, turn this pain into progress. My mother’s college roommate told me a story I’ve never forgotten. She said that when my mother was upset, she used to go into her bedroom and set a timer. She would cry as if her heart were breaking until the timer went off. After that, she’d wash her hands and face and they’d go out.

Take the time to do a post-mortem on the marriage for yourself. What went wrong, when, and why? What did you like about the relationship? What do you wish you could have changed? This is your chance to start over and get it right (or better). Decide what you want to change about your life and set out doing that.

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

The first one that comes to mind is “Permission to Land: Searching for Love, Home, and Belonging” by Marci Brockman. It not only chronicles her own failed marriage and divorce but her parents’ bitter divorce battle, as well. Marci offers details of the journey through healing, dating, and eventual marital success.

I met Marci when we were in college, and we’ve been friends ever since. When I read her book, I was surprised to see the similarities between her journey and mine. I’m starting to understand that women of a certain age have a common perspective in life. Women of divorce, and I know many, also experience similar bonds.

I’d also recommend the companion podcast, “Permission to Heal.” Marci is a natural interviewer on this topic that is so close to her heart. She talks with guests who have their own healing stories about divorce, childhood trauma, addiction, abuse. They talk through the different thought patterns that hold us back from healing and techniques they’ve used to break free. I’ve found some golden nugget of wisdom in each episode.

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’d like to see a worldwide movement toward happiness — everyday, garden variety happiness. While the stigma around mental illness is starting to melt away, we have a long way to go in educating people about their personal responsibilities toward their own happiness.

I don’t mean to suggest that mental illness is anyone’s fault or that it is not a serious medical condition. But I believe our modern society creates a layer of suffering that is unnecessary and could be avoided in many cases. So many people think they have no power over the stress in their lives, and it is that stress that pushes their minds beyond what their bodies are capable of sustaining.

Rather than value a busy schedule as a status symbol, or measure a person’s success in monetary terms, we need to get back to basics. I use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to explain to managers why their employees are not engaged at work. My mantra is, “food, clothing, and shelter.” Until those needs are met, we are not capable of higher-level thinking. An employee cannot begin to engage with his work when he doesn’t know the terms of his lunch break or where to hang his coat.

I think we need to turn this logic upside-down to determine our happiness threshold. It’s okay to be happy once those basic needs are met. And maybe the converse is true as well: you cannot be unhappy because it’s too windy to take your yacht off the dock on Saturday. You don’t have to be unhappy when your workaholic office mate gets promoted.

It may seem a bit simplistic, but when you unpack happiness, that’s all it is. I want people everywhere to understand that they can be happy, right now, with just the things they have right now, in just the circumstances they find themselves in at this very moment. If people would just understand the simplicity of happiness, they could take their lives back. They could stop stretching their brains out of shape trying to do the impossible and then being stressed out if they ever achieve their goals.

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 🙂

If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would be Arianna Huffington. When I read her position on the value of naps, I knew we were kindred spirits. Then, I saw her speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in 2012 and felt an even greater kinship.

She spoke about failures as being the stepping stones to success, as her mother taught her. She was also quick to point out several of her own failures because she said that when you achieve success, people tend to forget about your failures. Such a stilted perspective on success, that it comes without failure, makes it seem even more impossible to achieve.

The ideas that Arianna promotes, about redefining success, focusing on self-care, and recognizing the value of quality human interactions, resonate with me. Those similarities of thought along with her sense of humor, humility and style would make Arianna my perfect choice for a lunch companion.

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


Author Christine R Andola: 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.

AC Reeves of Woolworth Lofts: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…. Makes sure you space is Clean. I cannot stress that enough. Have a routine where every surface is wiped down at the very least whether it needs it or not between each stay. I recommend that a new host cleans their Airbnb for at least the first 3 months so they understand what needs to be done so when they do decide to hire someone, they can be very clear with what needs to be done between each stay.

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 AC Reeves.

AC Reeves is an Artist, Wife, Mother, Yoga Instructor, Ex-Realtor, Community Developer, Airbnb Super Host and especially a LOVER of Selma AL.

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”?

Hello Fotis! Thank you So much for this opportunity.

So here’s my quick backstory.

I am a “recovering helicopter mom” who moved to Selma Alabama 23 years ago with my husband Allen Reeves who is a native of Selma and our two daughters Lizzie and Anne Smith (toddler and 6 month old). I was not Happy about the move. I came ‘Kicking and Screaming” using foul language and saying how I was “NOT Happy about this and Nothing will MAKE ME HAPPY”. I came here to my Beloved Adopted Hometown with the Worst attitude.

BUT Quickly I fell in Love with this place.

I am an Artist and see Selma in ALL her Abundance. I also come from researchers and educators so unknowingly I have been in the middle of a 20 plus year independent study of Selma. And just to be clear, I am only on the 3rd layer of this “12 layer cake” I call home. Selma is a Very Complex Place on So MANY MANY MANY Levels.

SO, Being a recovering Helicopter Mom I needed to put that Mama energy somewhere else and got into Real Estate and started learning about community development. Basically, I am a huge busy body.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

Learning about community development in a roundabout way brought me to become an AIRBNB HOST. Again, having that researcher (busybody) in me I really delved into what led to a community’s redevelopment. My research showed that one of the biggest components of developing a downtown is having people living downtown. I co-owned a real estate company at the time and from 2011–2017 we renovated 4 historic properties creating 17 lofts and 4 retail/commercial spaces to fill the residential need. On the last renovation I knew I wanted these 5 to 6 lofts to be lodging and not long-term leases. The Woolworth Building is only 2 blocks up from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Tourist come daily to walk our bridge but at the time we were not offering any lodging downtown. I knew I needed to fill that void. That is how I first found out about Airbnb.

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

The most interesting story would be back in 2019 when Joan Baez and her band stayed in the lofts. I had just been open less than a year. Joan Baez was starting the last leg of her Fare the Well Tour and she decided that she wanted to start it in Selma.

First, you need to know that when I renovated the Woolworth Building and created the 5 Airbnb’s, Woolworth Lofts, my intention was for small groups to come to Selma and use the lofts as a HUB while they were visiting the area. All 5 lofts are each unique because we followed the floor plan of the existing offices which were created when the building was built in 1908. I always envisioned the groups meeting in Suite B, the largest for meals & to gather as they “unpack” what they may have taken in while visiting Selma and our surrounding areas.

At that point I had not had any small groups rent all the lofts at one time. When I walked up the stairs the morning after their first night, all the doors to each loft were open and the band members were all sitting around the dining room table in Suite B as Joan made them breakfast using the local, eggs, cheese, goats’ milk and vegetables from my friend’s sustainable farm. I actually started crying “This is (sniff sniff) EXACTLY why I created these Airbnb’s”!!! Joan’s stay and the concert she gave us across the street at the Walton Theatre was such an incredible Gift!

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 I first started hosting, I did not really understand the calendar or maybe I did not trust it. Airbnb does an incredible job handling the calendar for all the lofts. IF I had only looked at the summary of ongoing stays as well as new check in’s I would have been fine, but I was using the calendar and transposing it to another calendar. Well in making things so overly complicated I sent the same check in info to 2 different guests. This sweet couple of middle-aged sisters from England were freaked out beyond belief when a young man used the code, after they were already in bed, to get into their loft! Luckily, they all called me and EVERYONE GOT UPGRADED. The sisters were already upgraded, and I gave them a gift basket of local goodies as my apology and paid for the man to go to dinner on me while I cleaned Suite B for his upgrade. I think I also gave them small prints or paintings I had done as an apology as well. Despite that disaster, they all gave me 5 stars. In my welcome note I tell my guests that I am imperfectly striving for excellence and please let me know how I can do better. Owning your short comings and then striving to make it better speaks to your guests. We are all human trying to do the best we can. I have found if you own when you have messed up and make it right the best way you can, guests are very appreciative.

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

So here is the biggest mistakes…..trying to work around Airbnb. Guests at times want to stay longer and pay directly to hosts, or just want go around Airbnb completely. I think that is the biggest mistake a host can make. Airbnb fees are not large at all and for this nominal fee they handle the calendar, taking in the money, paying the lodging taxes and do an incredible job. Things can get very unclear when not following the structures in place.

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

Don’t go around AIRBNB, they have created structures that work. Clear boundaries are important when someone is coming to stay in your space be it in your home or properties you own. It is easier to relax both you as the host and your guests when you know the lay of the land and what is expected. It is important not to make things too complex but straight forward. Also, responding quickly to guests is SO important. I have found guests really do not want you all up in the business but want as much info at their fingertips as they can have. I leave a printed welcome note with info like wifi, where the thermostat is etc, and I also have chalk board painted tables so I can leave a specific welcome message for them. I give them my cell and ask them to text with any questions since that is the quickest way to reach me. But I always use the structures Airbnb has put in place.

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?

What makes me different? I think it is my LOVE of Selma Alabama. Selma is holding on to a very, important, WORLD CHANGING Story for Humanity. It is when Humanity showed it’s very best and it’s very worst. It is a Good Friday Moment. We are a community defined by Systemic Hatred…..It is a LOT for a small community to hold. But we do hold it for you and the rest of the world and because of that Selma is about 20 years ahead of the rest of the country, because we are IN IT!!! There are no discussions we can really opt out of. We are a Family, a dysfunction one admittedly, but a family. We KNOW each other, and some have for generations. We are ALL UP IN EACH OTHERS GRILL and we are STILL trying to figure this all out. And we are so close, I feel like we are about to bust open like a “can of biscuits”!

People were coming to Selma to Walk our Bridge and have their catharsis especially after the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday compounded with the opening of Ava Durvernay’s movie SELMA. These visitors were coming in bus loads and needed Sanctuary where they could process all that they had encountered while visiting. So I began a mission to create sanctuary in Selma, Alabama while offering them a different view of this community I love….Seeing Her thru my lens.

My ability to create SANCTUARY is what makes me different. My lofts are not just nice clean places to sleep, which they are, but they are filled with LOVE. I was there for every step of the renovation sometimes working along with the crew.. For the first 2 years I personally cleaned each loft while sending love to each new guest before they arrived with each sweep of the floor, each swish of the toilet brush. This cleaning became my spiritual practice as I prayed that each guest found exactly what they needed while staying at Woolworth Lofts. I filled each space with local art. One of my favorite artists who displays in the lofts is Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas. Charlie is self-taught artist who is internationally known and was part of a show at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. His studio is just a couple of blocks from the lofts. I have books on local and regional artists like Charlie as well as collections of books about Selma’s history, the Black Belt of Alabama as well as books written by local authors. ‘Before” photos of each loft are displayed so the guests can see the buildings transformation. I have lemongrass essential oil diffusing in the hallway and in each loft. By each bed is a sound machine to make for a great night sleep. I have even snuck in selenite crystals which are supposed to cleanse the energy of a space. I will use any JUJU I can find to create this since of sanctuary. I also created a tourism app and website. The app currently has 3 self-guided audio walking tours with an interactive map to help my guests “way find” around Selma. My intention for the platform is to allow Selmian’s to tell their Selma Story through a walking or windshield tour with that person getting paid each time their tour is downloaded. Letting our guests see Selma thru many local’s lens is my goal. Currently the 3 tours are from the lens of a 55 year old white woman who has been loving up on this place for the last 20 plus years, aka ME.

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.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…. Makes sure you space is Clean. I cannot stress that enough. Have a routine where every surface is wiped down at the very least whether it needs it or not between each stay. I recommend that a new host cleans their Airbnb for at least the first 3 months so they understand what needs to be done so when they do decide to hire someone, they can be very clear with what needs to be done between each stay.

BE CLEAR Be clear in all things from check in to check out. Make sure your instructions are on the Airbnb App and are updated regularly. If you have a lockbox, have a photo on how it opens. If you are leaving keys in the lock of the door send of photo of that. Do NOT make it complex but be SO thorough that you guests do not need you. A perfect example was my lockbox. Even though I had written instruction on how to open the lockbox, it was not until I had a photo showing it open that I stopped getting calls from frustrated guests saying they could not open the lockbox. Also, give out your cell phone number and ask guests not to hesitate to contact you with any questions, so if something is not clear, you can make it so quickly.

PROVIDE WHAT YOU WOULD WANT IF YOU WERE GUEST Provide a space as well as amenities that you would want. IF you provide a kitchen have it stocked with pots & pans, cooking utensils, plates, glasses, eating utensils etc…Have a way your guests can make coffee and provide the coffee with sugar and sweetener. Have the type of sheets you like to sleep on. Have plenty of towels with your guest having access to your linen closet to get more if needed. Have plenty of toilet paper, paper towels as well as dishtowels. In the beginning I did not have the funds to fill the lofts exactly as I wanted so I would always ask the guests how could I host better? Was there something you didn’t have that you needed? As they told me I started to add more things. I still want to add more things, it is a work in progress and probably will always be.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR TOWN IN YOUR LOFT AND COLLABORATE WITH OTHER AIRBNBS IN YOUR AREA As I said in one of the early questions I fill each of my lofts with local art, local books, give information about local stores, museums, and any “insider” info I can provide. In my experience most Airbnb guests want to know more about your community even if they are staying for just one night. I believe this very thing has led to so many return visits, because what they have found in the lofts piques their curiosity and they want to take a closer look. Go to local business owners and merchants and ask if they would like to put something in your Airbnb that could promote their business.

Find other Airbnbs in your area and collaborate with them. We are not in competition with each other, we all offer incredibly unique experiences to our guests. If you have a good collaborating relationship with other Airbnb Hosts, they will send you business when they are filled up and you will do the same, it is what we call a Win Win. I live in the Black Belt Region of Alabama. Since the beginning I have been working with other Airbnb Hosts from surrounding towns with our collective intention of moving our guests throughout our region, which BLESSES EVERYONE Hosts, Guests and our Communities!

BE YOUR AUTHENITIC SELF Let your space reflect who you are and what you are wanting to put out to the world. IT is time for us to start showing up and stop hiding. We are moving in a new direction as a human family, and part of that is being willing to Show Up. With an Airbnb you have a vehicle to Show up, in how you decorate, what you provide your guests, notes you may leave them. It is time for us to all lean into one another and this is a way for you to lean in. I REALLY LEAN IN, and my guests seem to appreciate it. They leave me lovely notes, become my dearest FB friends, and follow me on Instagram. Hosting an Airbnb is not a sterile, cookie cutter experience and my Airbnb Guests are leaning in too. We can come from different places but when we all lean in we find commonalities and for a moment we realize that yes we are in fact all ONE, members of this Human Family.

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

YOU ARE A TRAVEL INSIDER… My favorite travel experience is staying at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe New Mexico. It is small and intimate boutique hotel with a restaurant and bar on the first floor and other nice cozy shared space like the library. There is the most knowledgeable concierge who seems to know all the surrounding areas and he always is ready to help me map out my day no matter if my goals are shopping, art, museums, hiking, or off the beaten path treasures. No one is in ever in my personal space unless I am asking for something and yet they still provide such excellent customer service that you can relax and enjoy your stay knowing that they are there to help you with whatever you need. There are adobe fireplaces in each room and when I come upstairs to the room after a long day of whatever I have gotten up to, the fire is lit, my bed is turned down and I just exhale with the yumminess of the being so cared for, so nurtured….Sanctuary

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

I have 3 goals they are:

  1. Create Prosperity.
  2. Help Heal my City.
  3. CHANGE THE WORLD

Not too big of challenge, is it? But really these are my intentions. Right now, we are a country torn apart, more apart then ever in my memorable history, but I see it more as if we are Opening Up. As we have all been on this collective “Covid Time Out” we are having to come to grips with systems that do not work for ALL THE PEOPLE and never have. In Selma, we know that because we have already been Broken Open. Like I said before we are holding on to an important story for the rest of the world, so we literally wake up every day with on our shoulders. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about Systemic Racism and how we can dismantle it..

I think my role is to give Sanctuary to my guests while walking the fine line of not allowing them to discharge their pain on Selma. What sometimes happens is that guests come to Selma, after being in Montgomery maybe or Birmingham and have seen what atrocities occurred during the Civil and Voting Rights. I have watched guests and visitors who literally cannot take IN any more of this pain and shut down. It is like I can see them checking off boxes in their mind saying to themselves,

“Wow this is rough…..how am I a part of this system that allowed these crimes against humanity to happen…..Wait……No I am NOT part of this problem…..these people down here are awful…..I have done my Pilgrimage and it was HARD…..OK, now I am going home to my gated community and having a much deserved drink, that was HARD”

But here’s the deal We are ALL part of this problem because we are ALL part of this System of Systemic Racism. We are all human beings of equal value, no one’s value is more and no one’s value is less. We as human beings have the capacity to do incredibly, beautiful, wonderful things and we have that same capacity to do the most horrendous things. We all, every one of us, needs to own this truth. What I know for sure is all of this is SO COMPLEX for us to completely figure it all out, but what is not complex is seeing the person in front of you with LOVE knowing that this person as a human being just like you. That is not complex, SIMPLE AS YOU GET but does not mean it is easy.

By creating sanctuary for my guests, I let them see Selma from a different view, open their eyes up to the beautiful architecture they are experiencing, the art all around them created by someone living in town, books about the region, the history, the people, and then they start seeing Selma as a 3 dimensional community and not just a time capsule to one very important painful day.

Selma is SO much MORE and her people are so very precious. Her people, me included are Broken, Funny, Scared, Crazy, Salt of the Earth, Assholes, aka Human Beings just like everyone else, we are just human beings living in the shadow of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

When my guests start really SEEING Selma and HEARING her people, they Fall in LOVE HER! And here’s the deal. Love is the only thing that works, we have tried hate it has NEVER WORKED, Love is the answer. And when Selma is LOVED and not Shamed, She will Heal, and when She Heals SHE WILL CHANGE THE WORLD AGAIN….and thru Airbnb I am literally watching the healing take place with each guest I host.

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. 🙂

Baby, the Movement is already rolling! I believe Selma is going to be the Epicenter for healing for our country, because we are healing. 3 years ago, my 5 lofts were the only lodging downtown, since then we now have over 30 Airbnbs and yesterday the ST James Hotel, the oldest river hotel this side of the Mississippi was reopened as Hilton Tapestry Brand. AS we are healing, we are opening more and more. WE are Showing Up, Leaning IN and welcoming our guests so they can really SEE us, really HEAR us. We still have many members of our community who took those beatings for the rest of the world that day on the Edmund Bridge, and they especially need to be seen and heard. We have already lost so many. So, come to Selma and be a part of a movement of LOVE! As one of my heroes, Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms in Nashville says, “LOVE HEALS”. Come see us with Love as your intent and be a apart of movement to change our world for the better and in doing this I promise you will fall in LOVE with us! I know we will LOVE YOU!

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

You can find me on my website www.tourselma.com as well as Instagram @annecatharinereeves and @woolworthlofts.

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


AC Reeves of Woolworth Lofts: 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.

Thibault Masson of Rental Scale-Up: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Pick the right guest person for your property: Do take the time to write down who your ideal guest is. This time investment will pay itself over several years. For instance, what is the size of your ideal group party? Are they a family or a couple? How old are they? Are they also traveling for business? For how many days are they staying? What are their wants and needs when picking a place? What are they afraid of if they pick the wrong place? What magazines or blogs do they read? What do they value the most in 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 Thibault Masson.

Thibault has been an Airbnb host for 8 years and owns properties in Bali and in St Barths. He’s experienced with launching a new airbnb, mastering remote hosting, and consistently delighting guests. He’s the founder of Rental Scale-Up, a leading vacation rental industry news site where he dissects Airbnb’s strategy and shares actionable tips to set short-term rental properties up for success.

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”?

Sometimes, a successful Airbnb host with several vacation rentals is just a guy who loves traveling, fell in love with a few places in the world, wanted a house there to feel at home, and come back every year. This was my case. But, the only way for me to afford this idea was to buy or build houses that would be, at the same time, my own houses and vacation rentals open to guests.

25 years ago, long before Airbnb started, my partner and I traveled to a Caribbean island, called Saint Martin. It was a direct flight away from France across the Atlantic, a warm place to forget a gray Parisian winter. During our week there, we noticed that ferries were selling a day-trip to a neighbor island called Saint Barthélemy. We had never really heard of St Barths before but were curious to discover the island. What a shock when we arrived! A tiny island with an ambiance and a population that reminded us a lot of Southern France. Yet, this was a distinctly Caribbean place. We rented a car and toured the island, which took us only two hours as this is not a large area. We skinny-dipped on Saline beach, had a delicious lunch by the lagoon, and crashed a luxury hotel’s beach bar to enjoy a last drink in style before heading back to St Martin. We were sold on St Barths!

We came back the year after, skipped St Martin, and headed straight to St Barths. To explore more of the island, we decided to enter a real estate office and to ask to be shown a few villas. We thought it would be fun to pretend, just for a day, that we could afford this. And visiting fancy houses sounded like fun! Note that, at the time, we were a young couple who could not afford an apartment in Paris, despite decent salaries. The agent showed us a villa that was clearly not the fanciest of all. But that view! It was love at first sight. But we thought we would not able to buy it.

Yet, the agent to us that this house was a vacation rental most of the year. It had been booked solid year after year. And the bookings were handled by a local property management company. So, he said that local banks would certainly lend us the money, given that we were buying not a house, but a small business with future bookings already in the books that could pay back the loan. We could not believe it (remember, this was before Airbnb and “rental arbitrage” became commonplace). And yes, this is what happened. This is how a young French couple, who could not purchase an apartment in Paris, became the owners of a villa in the Caribbean.

I grew up in a small mountain community in the east of France. Lovely place, but I wanted to see the world. The travel industry looked like a fit for me. Over the years, I was an intern with US-based Orbitz in Chicago, head of marketing for the French arm of London-based online travel agency Ebookers, and then I dabbled in tech at Amsterdam-based Booking.com where I helped them build their vacation rental business.

I took a break in the middle of my travel industry career to become an entrepreneur and launch a network of fashion blogs in Paris. The most successful of our publications was catering to curvy women. It was one of the plus-size fashion media in France, the land of fashion. I had not believed in it at first and then it became a thing. The major lesson I learned from this was the importance of understanding who your audience is, talking to them, and caring about them. I was not part of my audience, but I did my best to gather their feedback, get data about the French, UK, and US clothing markets, and to adapt our content and advertising partners to them. After 5 years, I sold the company and moved to St Barths.

While I was working in different countries, I would always return to St Barths, at my vacation house, called villa Domingue, at least twice a year. Now that I wanted to live there, I need to another place, as I can not forego the vacation rental revenues. On the edge of the villa, we dug up the hill to create a beautiful 1-bedroom villa, called villa BelAmour, invisible from my first house. This way, I could live in St Barths while still renting out the main villa most of the time.

Then, I discovered Bali. First, a friend of ours had invited us to see the villa he had built there. He was looking for advice on how to get more bookings. I had zero interest in going to Bali, but happy to help and to enjoy a stay at his place. Wow. Long story short: We fell in love with his secluded corner of the island and decided to get some land nearby to build Bulung Daya, our Bali villa.

As friends were turning to me for advice, I thought that I could launch an education and consulting business. This is how Rental Scale-Up, was born. I advise property managers and tech vendors in the industry, publish market trend reports, and organized conferences for Airbnb hosts and vacation rental owners.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

I was a vacation rental owner before becoming an Airbnb host. As I told you in my background story, my first St Barths villa, Domingue, was 100% managed by a local property management company. They did everything, from advertising the property, handling bookings, welcoming guests, and wiring the payout to me. Their fee was 22.5%, quite a difference from the 3% that Airbnb was taking from hosts when it launched! I was living away from the island, I was very happy with the arrangement.

But while I was building my villa Bulung Daya in Bali, I realized that I had to turn to the likes of Airbnb. No local property management company wanted to take my y secluded beach retreat in their inventory: They thought that my vacation home was too far from the main tourist attractions. They also did not want to have to send their employees on the road for hours in case they needed to visit the guests during their stay.
I felt trapped. How was I about to pay back the construction of the villa if these villa agencies could not bring me guests? I looked up online and started listing the villa on HomeAway, Vrbo, Flipkey, and Airbnb, the new kid on the block.

Quite frankly, I did not believe that Airbnb could bring bookings to my upscale villa in Bali. In 2013, I thought that Airbnb was mainly for people looking for cheap accommodations in the US. Luckily for me, I was wrong.

In a few years, Airbnb eclipsed HomeAway as my main source of third-party bookings (guests who can also book direct with me).

I tried the same thing in St Barths and it works: A luxury one-bedroom villa in the Caribbean was a great fit for Airbnb users. Again, my friends on the island did not believe that scrappy Airbnb would bring me great, respectful, and happy guests. But it did. And I was paying a 3% host fee.

I then became a SuperHost, which always goes faster than you have more than one property under your host account: The SuperHost status is the host level account, not on the property level. So, it easier to get the necessary volume of reservations to qualify for the label.

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

I got blackmailed into giving a steep discount to a guest who was threatening to leave me a bad review. As new hosts soon find out, stellar reviews are what everyone is shooting for. A property with a rating less than 4.7 out of 5.0 will see people shunning it. Low reviews get your SuperHost score removed. You do not want low reviews.

Here, it was my fault. I should have not accepted this reservation. You know when your guts tell you not to do something but you go ahead and come to regret it? Here’s how it started: Someone contacted me on Airbnb and asked whether my property was free for their dates. I quickly answered yes: It was 2020 and getting bookings was not easy. Then, they said: “Great. We love your place. Yet, it is very expensive. More much expensive than any hotel I can find on the island at the moment. My partner would prefer a hotel, but for the right price, I am sure that we can convince him otherwise.” OK, the wording was not so blatant, but it was something along these lines. I did pick the red flags but I wanted that high season booking. I augmented about the value of the villa and give a decent discount.

As soon as these guests arrived, it was hell: They were not polite with my villa manager, complained about everything, and messages me on Airbnb 4 times a day. And then fate struck: The island went through a few electricity brown-outs, so that A/C turned off and, for some unknown reason, it did not come back on when the power was restored.

The guests were furious, desire my villa manager driving there to turn the A/C back on. They made it clear that they would leave a terrible review, questioning the property and my character. I was worried. How much was it my fault? It is against Airbnb’s policies to threaten to leave a bad review, as well as to offer money so that the guests do not write anything bad.

I actually walked to the villa and rang the doorbell. I talked to one member of the couple and discovered that he had booked the place, but his partner really wanted to stay at a hotel. No matter what I could do, it is a vacation rental, not a hotel with room service, a spa on the premice, and a cocktail bar. So, his partner had been spending days sending me unhappy messages, to make him feel how unhappy she was. Yet, they wanted to stay longer on the island. After talking with him, I decided to help them extend their stay at a very nice hotel, where I managed to get a discount for them. The review I got was not the best, but it was honest and true to the experience.

So, what were the red flags? Before booking, they were already comparing the villa with a hotel. Clearly, it is not the same thing. The other red flag was that they were negotiating the price based on the fact that one of them needed to convinced that a lower price could make up for the property not being a hotel. If you want to go to Los Angeles and I give you a ticket to New York because it is cheaper, are you really happy?

So, trust your guts. Refuse a booking if think that your property will not be a great place for some guests. Of course, you should not discriminate against guests. But you should read between the lines and understand whether some people wil never be happy. Be on the lookout for saying yes too fast when times are tough.

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?

Yes, you are right. This was a bit dark. On the lighter side, my rookie Airbnb host’s mistake was not to close my calendar properly. I ended up sharing my house with perfect (and pleasant strangers). You see, when I am alone at villa Domingue, the 3-bedroom in St Barths, I put one of the rooms on Airbnb. People have to make a request to book it, I get to talk with him, and if they seem fun, I am happy to share the place with them.

This one time, I was experimenting with Airbnb’s instant booking setting: People do not have to make a request, they can book straight away on the platform. After playing a bit with the settings to see how things worked, I forgot to turn off the instant book feature and close my calendar. The morning after, there are was a booking, for the following night. Luckily, it was just me in the house. I was not sure what to expect.

The guests turned out to be super sweet, we had a lot of laughs together. Then, I noticed that my guest has come back without his girlfriend. She had just broken up with him, took the ferry to the next island, and was waiting for the next flight out.

What was supposed to a week of my being alone in the house and working on a new project turned into a counseling session / rhum drinking competition / buddy session. When this guest left, we were friends, having lived through a dramatic breakup under the Caribbean sun. To this day, we still keep in touch. And his review was super nice and alluded to some external circumstances that had made his stay unforgettable.

I learned that hosts need to make sure to play carefully with Airbnb’s settings, even if they are curious about tech like me. I also learned that the experience of an Airbnb host who shares a property with his guests and that of a host that only offers entire places with no interactions with guests is quite different. Make sure to pick the hosting style that it is right for you.

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

The first mistake is not having stayed at airbnbs as guests before. If you do not know how the platform works for a guest, if you cannot put yourself into the shoes of someone who has to pick a place among dozens of others, if you do not know what it is like to wonder whether your host will show up to give you the keys, then you will not think of the little details that can make our property attractive and the experience of your guest great

Second, some people are not meant to be hosts. Are you OK with talking to strangers via the Airbnb app at random times, every day, from morning to evening? If this is your own home that you are offering: Are you ok with strangers using your bed and your bathroom? Can you draw a line between caring enough about your guests and not being a control freak?

The third mistake to is have a cookie-cutter listing, with a bland title, a boring description, and sad photos taken on your old phone that make a night at a motel look more appealing. This is a competition for someone’s attention and dollars, you need to stand out.

The last big mistake is to start with prices that are too high and not get any bookings. You need to get your first reviews fast so that the Airbnb algorithm gives a public rating to your property. After that, your property will get more visibility and generate more trust, so you will run a higher to chance to get bookings.

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

To address these errors in order:

First, reserve stays for yourself on Airbnb. Spend real money. Put some skin in the game. Take notes: What made you pick one place over another? How did the host communicate with you? How accurate was the listing description? What do you remember the most about the property and about the host? What would you change if you were the host?

Then, decide whether you want to be a host or a co-host. Co-hosts can help you manage your Airbnb calendar, communicate with guests, and even welcome them. If you want to part of the Airbnb hosting community but cannot or do not want to spend too much time on managing it all, it is a solution. You are a host in name, but someone, for a fee, helps out.

To stand out, you must first decide who your ideal guest is: A family with young children? A business person? A couple with a pet? People who love country music? Picking your ideal guest is the combination of what your property offers, who usually comes to stay in your area, and who want to interact with. Then, adapt your listing title, description, and photos to capture their attention. It is ok if someone does not like what you are showing them if they are not your target. For instance, photos of a standing desk, an office chair, and a printer can be super dull for honeymooners. But if you are after remote workers, you want to showcase these items, make them shine in your description, and mention “Office space” or “work-friendly” in your listing title. Stand out for the right guest.

Last, you need to get Airbnb’s public rating score fast, which demands you have at least 3 reviews. It means at least 4 stays, as some people do not leave reviews. Now, you want to start with a price that is lower than your ideal price. You are investing in these first reviews, you want them fast, get your public rating, and then raise your price. This will help the Airbnb algorithm identify your property is attractive. It will be shown to more people. It is better than starting high, sitting empty, and then having to discount your price.

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 first thing that makes my places different is that I love them. I have picked them or built them. So, I care about them, I stay there myself and can see what needs to be fixed. Eating your own dog food, staying at your place is important. I often experience the area by so I can be a helpful host for my guests, even remotely. Eating your own dog food, staying at your place is important. Also, if you want to advertise your Airbnb on Instagram, for instance, knowing the area can help you become a local guide and get bookings, as we do for St Barths (https://www.instagram.com/saintbarthcom/).

The second differentiator is hiring the right people. When I am in one rental, I live in another, and often thousands of miles away. In St Barths, I have Sandra, a wonderful maid / villa manager who’s been with us for 20 years. I know that I can rely on her. For instance, she can buy whatever breaks down in the villa without asking me first, if it is under $100. In Bali, my villa manager is called Gusti. I’ve worked alongside him training our staff and he’s really good at keeping things organized.

Third, always save money for repairing and refurbishing things. Things will break down. Guests will break glasses. Linens will wear out. Keep some of the profit on the side to reinvest in your property every wear. Poor maintenance can lead to very bad reviews and to lower revenues.

Last, automate what you can to save time and focus on your guests. With several properties listed on several platforms (e.g. Airbnb, Vrbo, my own site), I may not pay enough attention to each place and get a double booking by mistake. This is why I use a piece of software called a channel manager, which synchronizes all my calendars. As for rates, same thing: I use a dynamic pricing tool that calculates everything for me and updated my prices up to several times a day.

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. Pick or build the right property. Easier said than done, I know. Here are few questions to have in mind. Are you going to be sharing your place or offering an entire home? If you want to buy a property, do you prefer an urban destination or a traditional vacation rental market (sea, snow, or rural)? Do you want to live nearby or are you OK with remote hosting? Online tools like Mashvisor and Airdna can help you get data on how much you can earn from a property in a certain location.
    For example, my first purchase was an existing vacation rental: It meant that I knew a bit of the renting potential of the house and had a feel whether I could improve it in the future. It also made it easier for me to get a loan with the bank, as I was buying a property that was making money. I took risks in the sense that I was picking a place that I love and where I wanted to vacation. I had to accept to become a remote host who has to delegate things from afar and has to create standard operating procedures to make sure that the guest experience remains consistent.
  2. Do you want to be a host or a co-host? You may want to invest in an airbnb, be a host, but maybe you do not want to do all the things that a host must do: e.g. updating your listing’s calendar and prices, communicating with guests, welcoming them, replying to reviews. Airbnb’s co-hosting feature is interesting as it enables you to add a friend or a professional to help you. You have to find this person and you may have to pay them a fee for their work, but it may be worthwhile if you are afraid of drowning under the work. Also, some co-hosts do it as a full-time job and they know Airbnb’s settings by heart.
    In my case, I started by giving my property to a vacation rental manager, who was doing everything for me, for a 22.5% commission on the booking value. This is very high, but my manager was busy advertising the properties on several websites, talking to guests on the phone, welcoming them at the airport, and checking on them in case of a problem. If you are a host, you will only pay a 3% host fee to Airbnb, but you will have to do all the work. Now, I’ve made my villa manager my co-host on Airbnb. She helps me a lot. It costs more than 3% but much less than 22.5%.
  3. Pick the right guest person for your property: Do take the time to write down who your ideal guest is. This time investment will pay itself over several years. For instance, what is the size of your ideal group party? Are they a family or a couple? How old are they? Are they also traveling for business? For how many days are they staying? What are their wants and needs when picking a place? What are they afraid of if they pick the wrong place? What magazines or blogs do they read? What do they value the most in life?
    When we were building villa BelAmour, our one-bedroom in St Barths, we knew that we were targeting couples who could have chosen a hotel but did not. Honeymooners and people celebrating special occasions were the ones we wanted to make happy. So, we made sure that, in our Airbnb listing, our title, description, and photos were mentioning our romantic and private the place was. We hired a beautiful young local to take photos of a few romantic photos of hers, for instance holding two glasses of champagne. We asked French artists Jean-Charles de Castelbajac to paint a giant fresco about eternal love on one of the walls of the house. This way, we knew that photos on Airbnb would stand out and appeal to our target. Showing photos of a family dinner table or of a box tofo children’s toys would not have made sense.
  4. Master your listing pricing. At first, you want to follow Airbnb’s guidelines, for instance when they suggest you to create a 20% off discount until you have your first bookings. Same thing when they tell you to create a weekly and monthly discount. Why? As someone who has worked on an online travel platform, I can tell you that companies like Airbnb test things over and over. If they introduce a new feature or suggest you do something, it is because it will increase the conversion rate on the website, which means that you will more bookings and Airbnb will make more money. On Airbnb, discounts are often mentioned to guests when they book, for instance with a little tag or an extra label. Thus, your property gets more chances to convince a traveler to book with you.
    Now, do not completely rely on Airbnb either. For instance, Airbnb’s Smart Pricing tool is vey convenient, as it updates all your prices by itself. But it can be inaccurate if you have a unique property. And it tends to show lower prices that you could be asking for. For my properties, I use a dynamic pricing tool that takes into account a lot of criteria, not just from Airbnb, and automates my prices. Most successful Airbnb hosts use tools such as Price Labs, Beyond Pricing, Wheelhouse, and Price Perfect to do this.
  5. Automate what you can: Do not underestimate how tedious some hosting tasks can be. It may be that, after a while, you get sloppy and you forget to update your listing. The good news is that Airbnb has opened its platform to an ecosystem of tech solutions that can help. For example, I use a channel manager to synchronize my Vrbo and Airbnb calendars, so that I avoid double bookings. I use a pricing tool to get my rates updated. And I use Airbnb’s messaging templates to save time on writing standard messages to my guests. For example, I have a pre-made detailed message about my top 5 restaurants on the island, if they ask for recommendations.

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

Sometimes, being a travel insider also means working behind the scenes. My perfect vacation experience is staying at one of my vacation rental houses for a workcation: I get to enjoy the house while thinking about how to improve it. I experience the place, fix a few things, talk to local service providers, catch up with my friends. After all, I chose to become an Airbnb host to afford to stay there on vacation.
Hosting friends and family in a place you love is something that I am lucky to be able to do, by offering my houses to paying guests most of the year.

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

In September 2017, Irma, the most dangerous hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean, hit St Barths front and center. By chance, no one died, but many of the island’s houses, villas, hotels, and infrastructure were destroyed.

With my partner Bruno, we created Make St Barths Green Again, a non-profit organization that raised around $120,000 to restore the island’s biodiversity. The local authorities had to focus on putting a roof over everyone’s head and on reopening the airport. We felt that it could not be done without simultaneously preserving one of the island’s main assets, something crucial for its future: Its extraordinary biodiversity.

Thanks to generous contributors, we were able to fortify a sand dune in Saline that had been weakened by the sea, to plant trees across the airport to greet guests, and to give away shrubs and trees to 100 locals so that they could recreate their gardens.

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. 🙂

It is a tiny step towards personal freedom, but just don’t encourage gossiping. I would encourage people to join a movement created close to 2,000 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, the emperor philosopher. One of the tenets is simple to apply: Avoid gossip. Gossiping or consuming gossips on social media can ultimately lower your self-esteem and self-confidence. When you encourage gossip, you make it ok for people to make value-judgments, as Marcus Aurelius calls them. You are ok with random people adding their personal twist as a fact. You give value to what these people think about other people. In return, it makes you more susceptible to care about what others think or say. You live in the eyes of others. Reclaim your freedom by giving zero value to people who spread value-judgments.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

Two easy ways, either through my vacation rental industry news blog, Rental Scale-Up at https://www.rentalscaleup.com/ or on LinkedIn at https://nl.linkedin.com/in/tmasson

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


Thibault Masson of Rental Scale-Up: 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.

David Smith of High Brew Coffee On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your…

David Smith of High Brew Coffee On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Content development — telling a whole brand story on an 8 oz. can is tough! Sometimes it takes an investment in content to help shape a brand story. For example, our Direct Trade relationship is an amazing process. It helps coffee farmers more than any other process out there, but it requires consumers to listen to us. By going to Colombia and developing content to help tell that story in a compelling way, we offer something new to the consumer or retailer that they hadn’t realized before.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview David Smith, founder and CEO of High Brew Coffee.

David Smith, who founded and eventually sold Sweet Leaf Tea, first discovered the benefits of refreshing cold-brewed coffee during warm nights navigating unchartered waters in 2012 when he was on a sailing trip with his family. At that time, consumers were less familiar with cold brew, and largely unaware that the brewing process delivered a much less acidic beverage with a bold, less bitter taste. Smith realized strengthening the brew to contain twice as much caffeine than regular coffee essentially delivered a cleaner version of an energy drink. When High Brew Coffee products first hit shelves, it was not only the premier ready-to-drink (RTD) cold brew, it was one of the only brands of its kind in an emerging market. The brand’s mission to educate the consumer on cold brew was very successful, paving the way for other brands to enter the category.

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 first graduated college, I interviewed for several large companies and realized early on the corporate gig wasn’t for me. I connected with my childhood friend and we started Sweet Leaf Tea. Because neither of us had any prior beverage experience, it was really a big learning experience. We literally started brewing tea with 25-gallon crawfish pots and filled the first bottles with a garden hose — we were scrappy! We even used pillowcases as giant tea bags to make the perishable product that had only a 14 day shelf-life. It was the worst business model ever, but we never gave up and tried hard not to repeat major mistakes. Once I started start building relationships with retailers and distributors, the beverage business was in my blood and has been a very rewarding career.

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?

During the early Sweet Leaf days, we would put our products in the cold vaults of convenient stores, and would barely sell 1–2 units per week. We were picking up more credits from expired product than we were selling and quickly learned we’d be out of business soon! We had to get the product noticed in order to turn any volume. So we went to the local hardware store and bought metal wash tubs and constructed wooden legs to merchandise the product ice cold and next to the cash register. Before long, we were delivering several cases every week. You have to get your beverage off of the shelf and cold to be discovered by consumers and capture the impulse buy.

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?

For me, it was when we began outsourcing production and distribution to people who were much better at it than us. This model allowed us to focus our limited time on sales and marketing — our team’s bread and butter — and leave the complexities of the supply chain to the experts. This happened around our third year in business and that’s when we started to build scale and increase efficiencies. It’s important to know what you’re good at and focus your time on those activities. Hiring strong people to handle the other pieces of the business will be extremely beneficial in the long run.

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

In less than 10 years, we’ve been able to revamp the original High Brew can to convey to consumers exactly what they want — high caffeine, low calories, quality coffee and an independent brand story. With a fresh coat of paint and colors designated for various flavors that make new and current cold brew consumers look (and think) twice, the brand’s new (unofficial) mantra reads, “Escape the dark, dull world of cold brew. And take your coffee black, red, green, blue and any color your taste buds can dream of. Because it’s not how you take your coffee, it’s where your coffee takes you.” Sometimes folks need an energy boost to accomplish that workout, or crush their next zoom call. Whatever it is, we hope to be able to brighten up your mood, day or your life.

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

While everyone is going to have a different thing that helps, it’s important to always seek outside assistance and opinions. Whether it’s a trusted agency, employees or key ambassadors, enlisting the right folks who care and associate with your brand and have the ability to inject new thinking can help in two ways. First, they can have amazing and fresh ideas. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it can re-invigorate you as a marketer to know that those ideas are out there. If they get you 80% of the way there, the other 20% can help turn something good into something great.

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?

The ethos is what separates the two. Despite a fresh coat of paint, High Brew’s philosophy has remained true to its roots. I created the High Brew brand to be bold, simple, functional and ethical. Those values lie at the core of our being and all of our product marketing, but certain campaigns can push the boundaries of that ethos to reach a certain consumer.

Product marketing can be dictated so much more by the consumer you’re targeting. We built this new look to be optimized across multiple consumer groups and give the consumer (both our super fans and new consumers) exactly what they’re looking for when they shop: hitting on the key attributes but also telling our story. For this refresh, we’ve built out ad sets with different objectives. Since the very beginning, High Brew has offered the color in the RTD coffee category, and now we’ve leaned into that much more. We’ve developed a set of ads, for example, to target new consumers that lean into color more and less into brand ethos. Once we’ve got their attention, they’ve given us an ear to tell them about our brand, our story and why we’re the best cold brew on the market.

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 all needs to circle back to the story and authenticity. Many larger brands in our space, as well as the CPG universe in general, do not have a story. They are corporate entities with dollar signs on each consumer’s head — and consumers can quickly tell when something is not authentic. They vote with their wallets and want to support brands they can identify with. We’re a business, but our story and our reason for being is what makes our brand special. We invest to tell that story and make sure it’s told appropriately both on packaging and in the advertising we do.

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

The consumer should drive any and all rebrands. After being in the market for 7 years, High Brew did a deep dive and spoke to consumers (both ours and the category) and decided it was time to make a change. We needed to truly optimize our package to give them what they want and make sure our brand was noticed on the shelf. The original High Brew packaging had the color brown on the bottom half of the can to help consumers understand it was a coffee beverage. When we first launched, you mostly found RTD coffee in glass bottles so wanted to make sure our messaging was grounded in coffee. Since then, many more brands have launched and our fans now know that coffee can come in a can, so we were able to depart from the original direction. Our new graphics are much more meaningful and make a visual impact.

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

Brand maintenance is a must for any brand, no matter the size. There are always ways to optimize brand messaging, but the hope is that you don’t have to do it often. Brands should consistently be listening to consumers, and constantly taking in information to ensure that the brand is delivering on its promise and bringing something that excites new and current consumers. It should never be just about needing a new look, it should be rooted in data and conversations, and done with a reason aside from just changing things up.

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. Update packaging — brands need to meet consumers where they are, whether that is evolving industry/market knowledge or changing visual wants
  2. Discover a new selling point, and market appropriately. Sometimes you find that consumers want something different from when you launched, and it doesn’t require a full refresh to account for that change.
  3. Take a step back and evaluate messaging hierarchy. Identify what attributes consumers are saying are most important to your branding. Make sure that aligns with the attributes and messaging that the brand is putting out that they are seeing first. Evaluate and optimize.
  4. Content development — telling a whole brand story on an 8 oz. can is tough! Sometimes it takes an investment in content to help shape a brand story. For example, our Direct Trade relationship is an amazing process. It helps coffee farmers more than any other process out there, but it requires consumers to listen to us. By going to Colombia and developing content to help tell that story in a compelling way, we offer something new to the consumer or retailer that they hadn’t realized before.
  5. Identify who is talking about your brand — both consumers and the media mix. It’s important any brand influencers and press outlets are targeting the right audience. By getting your product in the right — and new — hands with fresh views and opinions, it can give your brand a much needed boost. This can be especially useful as a brand matures and the need to fight complacency of current consumers happens while simultaneously trying to bring in more new consumers.

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?

Two Austin-based beverage brands have captured my eye in terms of a brand makeover. Mighty Swell did a great job of reevaluating their original package and brought the real fruit to life on their current cans of spiked seltzer. Austin Eastciders, a brand I’m involved with, has kept their packaging simple and authentic. There tagline is great, “How about dem Apples?!”

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. 🙂

High Brew is built on an attitude of good, positive vibes. It’s at our core, from providing better lives for the farmers who pick our beans through our Direct Trade relationship, to inspiring doers to use High Brew to fuel whatever drives them. From a cause to a climb, we want our energy to inspire. Cold Brew for Those Who Do is a tagline we’ve had from day one, and kept in the refresh because doers come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Whether you do by achieving personal milestones or community ones, we’re here to help with that journey.

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

“Sail wherever you heart desires and know when to drop anchor!” The entrepreneur spirit is alive and well, there are a ton of great ideas out there. However, the hardest part is taking the dream and making it a reality. Execution is the key so know what to stay focused on to make your idea real.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow us across social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, check us out at HighBrewCoffee.com or find us in retailers nationwide.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


David Smith of High Brew Coffee On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Phillip Van Nostrand: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Leave snacks or drinks for guests. Even bottles of water in the fridge are appreciated. I take it to the next level and have cans of blood orange San Pellegrino in the fridge at all times. I also have a basket of snacks that I like to leave out for guests, with chips, Japanese candy, etc.

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 Phillip Van Nostrand.

Phillip Van Nostrand is a photographer and coach based out of New York City. For over 12 years Phillip has photographed weddings, commercial, and lifestyle projects, and is an expert in capturing cinematic lifestyle imagery. He travels abroad somewhere new at least once a year and has photographed 40+ countries.

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”?

Yes! I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. I worked with youth most of my life as camp counselor, tutor, mentor, youth pastor, playground supervisor, substitute teacher and middle school math teacher. Eventually my side photography hobby turned into paying gigs and won out over my teaching career, and now I am a full time photographer in New York City.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

I was a very early adopter of Airbnb! I think my aunt sent me an article about it and I had been hosting couchsurfers for a few years at that point. I said to myself “I could get paid to do what I’m already doing? Amazing!” and I signed up immediately. I loved my experience with couchsurfers and I loved showing off my beautiful town of Santa Barbara, so Airbnb felt like a natural step for me.

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

Hmm, I suppose this is an usual Airbnb story: A friend sent me a link to Airbnb’s careers page when they started hiring photographers to photograph apartments. I applied and miraculously was accepted to be an Airbnb photographer, despite my lack of skills with interior photography. I learned quickly, however, and ended up photographing hundreds of listings, from avocado ranches in California to million dollar apartments in Manhattan. I made friends in NY who I stayed in touch with for many years this way; I photographed a barn built in the backyard of a Brooklyn apartment; I also ended up getting hired by Israeli entrepreneurs to photograph all of their listings throughout the city.

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?

Nothing comes to mind. Things were pretty smooth from the beginning!

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

I think the most common mistake people make when they first start hosting is not making check in instructions clear enough. If I book an Airbnb and the address info is not all there, or I have to have more contact with the hosts after booking, it becomes a burden.

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

Fill out the website in its entirety, and maybe try to book your own listing as a guest to understand what others are seeing when they book with you.

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 a lot of people hosting on Airbnb have a pretty generic experience for their guests. Some homes/apartments are owned specifically for airbnb, but not necessarily lived in. My home feels cozy and alive. I have plants throughout the space, I have great books for people to peruse, magazines, food in the fridge and spices in the cabinets. I think I give people something that actually feels like they are living as a New Yorker in the best neighborhood in the city.

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. Leave snacks or drinks for guests. Even bottles of water in the fridge are appreciated. I take it to the next level and have cans of blood orange San Pellegrino in the fridge at all times. I also have a basket of snacks that I like to leave out for guests, with chips, japanese candy, etc.
  2. Check in with your guests and communicate really well. I am constantly aware of the moment my guest is expected to check in. I message them within an hour of check-in to say “Did you get in ok?” and then I check in with my guest about midway through their trip to say “How is everything going? Hope you are enjoying New York! Let me know if you need any suggestions.” Then, the day before they check out I let them know if they can stay late based on who is coming next or not. Also, I try to respond to inquiries within an hour if I can. It’s a nice touch and people appreciate speedy responses.
  3. Design your space. People love to Instagram a good home. I added some great wallpaper to one of my walls to add some splash to the space. And I have string lights outside that look wonderful at night. Plants and color help a lot.
  4. Tell your guests where to go. Travelers love to feel like a local, so if you can tell them where the best place in town is that is not super touristy, you are winning. I also have a journal that I leave for all my past guests to fill in their favorite tips for future guests.
  5. Make it pretty. I have a subscription to monthly flower arrangements, so a couple weeks a month there is a really lovely bouquet of flowers on my table waiting for the guests.

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

My perfect vacation experience is to enjoy a city as if I were a local. I want to meet real people who live there, make friends, go to the off-the-beaten-path locales, and get lost in a neighborhood. In my dream world, if someone’s grandma invites me in for a cup of tea to their home, my trip is complete.

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

I really believe Airbnb has given me extra freedoms, and I love to share with others how things like this have shaped my life. I mentor many many people and speak often about lifestyle design and how to live an epic freelance life. I think a rich and full life can be enjoyed by most people.

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 would start a movement of ensuring every student in America has an amazing mentor in their life who cares about them and exemplifies what it means to be a successful adult (not necessarily monetary success).

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

@phillipvn

@phillipvnphoto

@phillipvnweddings

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


Phillip Van Nostrand: 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.

Helmy Eltoukhy’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Scaling applies to people, not just companies — one has to keep learning new skills, on and off the job, to be able to continue adding value to hyper-scaling companies. Learning to hire, manage, lead, write, present more effectively are all necessary growth curves that young founders must dedicate time towards.

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 Helmy Eltoukhy.

Helmy Eltoukhy is CEO of leading precision oncology company Guardant Health, which he cofounded with AmirAli Talasaz over 8 years ago. Helmy is an entrepreneur and pioneer in the biotech industry. Helmy was named to Fortune’s 40 under 40 in 2017 and the San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40 in 2019, and was one of Time Magazine’s 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2018. After receiving his PhD, MS and BS degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University, he joined the Stanford Genome Technology Center (SGTC) as a postdoctoral fellow in 2006 to work on low-cost DNA sequencing technologies. During his doctoral studies and at the SGTC, he developed the first semiconductor sequencing platform and first base-calling algorithm for next-generation sequencing under several NIH National Human Genome Research Institute grants. In 2007, he co-founded Avantome to commercialize semiconductor sequencing to help speed up the democratization of high throughput DNA sequencing until its acquisition by Illumina in August 2008. At Illumina, Helmy was Senior Director of Advanced Technology Research, where he developed novel chemistries, hardware and informatics for genetic analysis systems.

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’s my pleasure, thanks for having me. I knew fairly early in my career that I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to pursuits that held high positive social impact. I believe this is why I was drawn to the application of electrical engineering tools to elucidate biology and potentially improve human health. As a doctoral student and postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Genome Technology Center, I worked on low-cost DNA sequencing technologies that led to my co-founding of Avantome. The company was acquired by Illumina in 2008 and over the next few years Illumina made great strides in achieving an important milestone of reducing the cost of sequencing a human genome down to $1,000. While I was working at Illumina, I actually had an undiagnosed health issue that exposed me to the lack of tools that exist in the healthcare sector. It was this personal healthcare odyssey that led me to realize that physicians desperately need much more informative tools to be able to ask and answer the right questions regarding their patients. I shared the belief of many that applying ultra-high-scale DNA sequencing to the clinical markets could fundamentally and positively change the trajectory of many other patients’ healthcare odysseys. Cancer being a disease of the genome was certainly an area where DNA sequencing could make an enormous impact, if cancer could be found early enough and tracked in real-time. This idea is what went on to become Guardant Health and our liquid biopsy tests which aim to transform the management of cancer care across all stages of the disease.

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

We first launched our liquid biopsy back in 2014. Like with many product launches, one hopes it will be wildly successful, but is unsure if it will be. We certainly believed that our liquid biopsy could make a difference in patient care, but were surprised to discover all the unexpected ways it could. One of the first patients we tested was a mother of two in her mid 40s who was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and given a poor prognosis with only two months to live. She went to another medical center to get a second opinion and the physician ordered our Guardant360 liquid biopsy test. The test came back with genomic mutations that were not consistent with pancreatic cancer, so her physician ran a few more tests. They realized it was really ovarian cancer! This meant she was now a candidate for a common ovarian cancer chemotherapy. She was administered the therapy and had a fantastic response with her disease going into remission. This story highlights that sometimes just a little bit of additional information is all that’s needed to make a life-changing difference in the trajectory of a patient’s journey.

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

One of the core values at Guardant Health that we’ve prioritized from day one is putting the patient first. We try to imagine all patients as our own family members. In fact, we begin and end every all-company meeting with a reminder of this value along with a new patient story. Having dedicated myself to the cancer care space, like so many of my colleagues here at Guardant Health, I think this principle of putting the patient first has truly helped guide me in my life and career. This dedication to patients also guides how we think of social responsibility more broadly as a company, and for example, helped lead us to our next-generation sequencing based COVID-19 test which we developed to help during the pandemic, given our expertise, and we are now offering the test to select schools and underserved communities.

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”?

What if a simple blood test could detect cancer across all stages of the disease, even earliest when it can be treated most effectively? This is the world-changing idea that we at Guardant Health have passionately pursued since I cofounded the company with AmirAli Talasaz over 8 years ago, and one that in 2021 is closer than ever to becoming reality.

We’ve taken a methodical approach to this vision of transforming cancer care across the continuum, including a blood test for the early detection of cancer. We adopted a beachhead strategy starting where the greatest unmet medical need exists, so we’ve focused first on advanced cancer where this need exists, and where the DNA that’s shed from a tumor into blood is easier to detect. Our company’s first blood test, or liquid biopsy, for use with advanced cancer patients, is easier, faster, and less invasive than traditional tissue biopsy, revealing the genomic mutations of a patient’s cancer to inform precision medicine, an increasingly essential branch of therapy that can be more effective and less toxic than traditional “one size fits all” chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Since then, Guardant Health’s liquid biopsy tests have been used by over 9,000 oncologists in over 150,000 samples to date. Last year our Guardant360 CDx test became the first FDA-approved comprehensive liquid biopsy for any advanced solid cancer, helping to overcome remaining skepticism about the technology and help set the stage for earlier cancer detection.

Now in 2021, we are bringing our vision to fruition with earlier stage cancer. We are launching the world’s first blood-only liquid biopsy test for residual disease and recurrence monitoring, Guardant Reveal, allowing oncologists to identify early-stage patients at high risk of recurrence who may benefit from adjuvant therapy, and who may benefit from continued monitoring to detect recurrent disease months earlier than current standard of care. We’re starting with early-stage colorectal cancer (CRC), the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and a disease where an estimated 10–30% of early-stage patients recur within five years. Our LUNAR-2 program is developing a multi-cancer blood test that will first focus on CRC, with our ECLIPSE trial planned to finish enrollment in 2021. This landmark study is one of the largest of its kind, enrolling 10,000 American men and women aged 45–84 for early colorectal cancer detection, and will be an important milestone in bringing to market a blood test that can detect early signs of cancer in asymptomatic people.

How do you think this will change the world?

A simple blood test to detect cancer at all stages of the disease has the power to change the world by increasing testing and screening rates which will help curb cancer mortality rates once and for all. There are barriers to traditional standard-of-care testing and screening modalities that a simple blood test, which is easier, faster, and less invasive, can help overcome. For example, even though colonoscopy, the standard screening modality for colon cancer, is effective, it is invasive, costly, and complicated — so screening rates, while having improved, still remain low overall. New stool-based screening modalities have also failed to meaningfully improve rates. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults over 50 get screened for colon cancer, but currently only 69% of adults comply with these guidelines. A simple blood test can help improve these rates.

Cancer remains a leading killer globally. To truly curb cancer mortality rates, we must catch it earlier when it is most curative, and enable better testing across all stages of the disease to inform better treatments. The potential impact of liquid biopsy on human health is profound. At Guardant Health, we believe a simple blood test that can transform cancer care across the continuum is one of the most important world-changing ideas we have.

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?

To be honest, there aren’t many significant drawbacks to liquid biopsy. It’s a simple blood draw that is minimally invasive, especially when compared to other existing screening modalities, and can provide potentially life-changing genomic information that was not available to the oncologist prior to the testing. Unlike innovation in broad technology, in healthcare, you have the added barriers of clinical evidence, regulatory approval, reimbursement, etc. — so these systems make it harder to have Black Mirror scenarios, though don’t get me wrong they can happen in healthcare too.

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

Liquid biopsy has been around since the 1950s. What’s happened in the last decade has really been the tipping point. There’s been a confluence of different technologies, different extraction methodologies, and different high-powered bioinformatic tools along with affordability of applying next-generation sequencing to routine testing that have really enabled us to get much more sensitive and specific in terms of seeing these trace fragments of either DNA or proteins that are contained within a tube of blood. Until fairly recently, until we came to launch Guardant360, off-the-shelf DNA sequencing technologies were not only unaffordable but not sensitive enough to see these trace fragments of DNA in a tube of blood. Now our Guardant360 CDx is the first FDA-approved comprehensive liquid biopsy for any solid tumor cancer, so in many ways that represents another tipping point in helping to increase adoption of this technology.

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

In healthcare, unlike broad technology, innovation is not enough. You have the added complexities of proving the clinical utility of your test to improve healthcare outcomes. This requires conducting the necessary clinical trials, amassing evidence, regulatory approvals, reimbursement, coverage, and so on. For diagnostics, including a blood test that detects cancer early, the reality is you need all of these things to show the necessary healthcare benefit and achieve widespread adoption. You really need to get the necessary clinical evidence to prove to oncologists that this improves upon the current standard of care or serves an unmet medical need. Once you do that, you need to make sure payers will cover the test. We have known this from the start and we’ve approached all of our products systematically with these barriers in mind. Our recent success in bringing to market Guardant360 CDx, the first FDA-approved comprehensive liquid biopsy for all solid cancers, and a test that is covered by many private payers and Medicare for all advanced tumors, has provided us with many important learnings as we continue to look ahead to bringing future products to market for more patients earlier in the cancer care continuum.

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

  1. Scaling applies to people, not just companies — one has to keep learning new skills, on and off the job, to be able to continue adding value to hyper-scaling companies. Learning to hire, manage, lead, write, present more effectively are all necessary growth curves that young founders must dedicate time towards.
  2. Healthcare is harder than one even imagines given the complexity of payments, care delivery, and all of the various stakeholders that control a piece of the ecosystem. Over the last few years, we have made tremendous progress with payer coverage and have 200 million Americans covered for Guardant360, but there are is still more work to do until every individual is covered for the test.
  3. Early adopters are different than the bulk of eventual users and they care about different aspects of the product, even in healthcare. Market research is often dominated by early adopters, which can lead to complex products that don’t resonate with 80% of users. Our reports have gotten simpler and simpler over the years by narrowing their scope to what truly matters for patient care.
  4. It’s possible to fundamentally bring about breakthrough impact by focusing on simple things. In our space, undergenotyping is such a significant challenge, whereby as many as 80% of cancer patients aren’t being tested for basic therapies that are indicated in guidelines. Getting these 80% of patients tested would result in significant savings to the healthcare system and much better overall survival for cancer patients. This doesn’t need breakthrough innovation, but can happen through just more testing.

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

One success mindset that I think is important is intellectual humility. This is something that I, as well as many others here at Guardant Health, really take to heart. I think with innovation, it’s vitally important to have confidence, that audaciousness, that optimism and can-do spirit, but I think a challenge arises when this is not combined with intellectual humility — particularly when it comes to science and healthcare. For what we do, having respect for the complexity of biology and for learning from others is so important. Intellectual humility is a good thing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter at @Helmy_L2K and you can follow Guardant Health on LinkedIn and Twitter at @GuardantHealth.

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


Helmy Eltoukhy’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: Ashish Joshi of goDeskless On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Ashish Joshi of goDeskless On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Have a big stomach to face any and every possibility. Get ready for surprises. You are the face of the company, and you are the last man standing when everything else falters. There will be times when everything will work smoothly. Then there will be days when everything feels like a battle. You’ll have to be able to weather through.

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

Ashish is the Co-Founder and CEO of goDeskless — a company committed to simplifying and modernizing the customer engagement experience for the enterprise deskless workforce. Ashish has 22+ years of Product Management experience in the CRM Enterprise Applications industry focusing on customer experience. Prior to starting his entrepreneurial venture, Ashish was a product leader at Siebel/Oracle where he managed the Service and Engagement Cloud products — a $160m run-rate business. The experience-driven market today has brought the consumers ever closer to the service providers. Today’s CX and CRM tools fall short when it comes to delivering that “last mile” customer experience which connects the consumers directly with the providers. Ashish thus decided to create a self-engaging service delivery model for traditional, asset-driven industries, and deliver the CRM experience in the hands of consumers as well as the service providers — just like the shared economy service products do. Ashish has an MBA from University of California — Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Mergers & Acquisitions. He holds a Masters in Science from Louisiana Tech University majoring in Applied Mathematics. Ashish completed his Bachelors in Engineering from University of Pune and was awarded the University Gold Medal for achieving the top rank. Ashish is an avid amateur astrophotographer, and is a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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 spent about 20+ years in the CRM space working for big companies where I saw what was happening. The user and expectations were changing but the software hadn’t evolved for 15 years or more.

For example, people moved from desktops to mobile — there was a major shift — demographic and technology were moving. Everything moved from email to a 3-point system of capture, comment and share for communications. I kept thinking that if the consumer side was changing, why wasn’t the enterprise evolving as well? Most of these tools and technologies tied to the customer experience are for people who are sitting at their desks. Nothing is created for the customer directly.

I saw the new generation of on demand services via Uber, AirBnB, Doordash and many others. All of this inspired me to create a similar solution that was built for the enterprise.

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

My first customer — Tata Motors. I had just started goDeskless, 6 months into 2016, we were still designing and architecting.

I met their CIO over breakfast, got to talking about how he was shifting sales operations away from paper and towards digital. He said he had to go to Brazil because a lot of their customers were based there. Our sales guy took the information, lost his notebook during travel to Brazil, and lost the data he had captured that was meant for CRM for the sales cycle.

I see this situation everyday, 85% of the sales driving machine was still using pen and paper. I just spontaneously asked why the Tata team hadn’t shifted to tablets, since pen-and-paper obviously wasn’t working.

6 months later, they became our first customer.

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

goDeskless is a cloud subscription software that allows deskless field workers to engage with customers remotely and securely. It allows people on the field to engage with their customers remotely and securely — especially important in the pandemic. We allow companies to help their customers without being onsite, something that is tremendous when it comes to cost reduction.

How do you think this might change the world?

goDeskless is set to change the way companies communicate with their customers in ways like never before. This will allow companies to empower their remote workforce to maintain quality in customer service from a distance.

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

The only potential drawback that I can think of is the new age where everything is a click away may create more of a sedentary lifestyle.

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

My inspiration was the story around a sales executive losing the paper with very pertinent information. The old school pen and paper mentality is not sustainable and can have many drawbacks.

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

We need to let our potential customers know that this product exists — amplify our message on a global scale. We have customers across numerous countries, and it’s clear that the U.S. is a few years behind in adopting cutting edge technology. I’m confident that companies will recognize sooner than later, as a result of the pandemic, that they need to shift with the times as well.

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

We’ve brought on talent to help us expand our communications strategy. We want to ignite conversations and really tap into what people are saying.

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?

Developing a product is not an easy task. My family played a huge role in my success. I was out on the road for ⅔ of my time and my family was patient. I am also very grateful for my team, we are very close friends. We’ve worked together for years and they’ve become respected partners.

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

We are eliminating the boundaries and friction for people to communicate and engage with each other amidst this age of convenience.

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

There are several anecdotal stories and the “firsts” I have learnt along this journey, but the ones below stand out the most:

1. What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea

I wished if someone had asked me the question — “Ok, I understand you can design and develop the product. But can you sell it?” I’ve developed products as a product management professional all my life. But you always are supported by various factions in terms of strategy, development, market analysis, etc. when you are at a big company. Your job becomes easy in the sense that you’re only focusing on your core area of strength. When you are a founder member of a startup — you start with an idea, and transform it from your mind, to the paper, to whiteboard, to design, and development. Normally — this is the journey.

2. If you fail, fail fast (oh, and you will fail)

For a start-up, the most important aspect is the execution — which is a product of three key variables : skills, time, and money! You are always juggling on these three parameters. So if you have to reset on your plans (be it the product design, or a market message, or anything for that matter such as finding a replacement engineer) — you have to act fast. What you cannot do is to take time and wait for things to “pan out” or solve themselves. That is a killer for a startup.

The key to success is — knowing early on that you’re on a wrong track.

3.Have a big stomach to face any and every possibility

Get ready for surprises. You are the face of the company, and you are the last man standing when everything else falters. There will be times when everything will work smoothly. Then there will be days when everything feels like a battle.You’ll have to be able to weather through.

4. Capital cures a lot of ailments

There are many theories on “how much money should be raised” for a startup to take off and be settled in the operations for a long haul. I have always believed that the extra capital at hand always helps you in your critical decision making moments.

One of my customers expected the product configured in a certain way, and had a “time to market” goal set for the team. In the final moments of the product go-live, we had to pull in extra resources in a short period of time to meet the goal. Such last minute / stop-gap arrangements can put a lot of operational and financial stress on the company. Fortunately, we were able to deliver on time. The “extra capital” case is also important if your business model is cyclical with lumpy revenues. You can accommodate the operational changes without having to worry about the payment timelines.

5. Can you identify “distractions” along the way?

There will be customers early on who would want you to develop the product in a certain (read: their) way. There will be VCs, third-parties trying to lure you in to the acquisition dream. There will be partners that may pull an “overhang” on you and delay you while they get their product out. These are all distractions along the way. There will be those “too good to be true” offers. The key is to be able to identify which ones are the “distractions” — that would stall you.

One of my ISV partnerships pulled the overhang strategy (where you keep the competition busy by acting like a partner, and dangle the sales-partnership carrot to buy the time while they announce a product of their own). I did several co-demos with this partner (a big, multi-billion dollar brand) and became suspicious after my fourth prospect demo with them. Low and behold — I found out that their sales team was showing my product, and was promising their own as a replacement under the table. Fortunately, we did not have any product sharing agreements.

Scenarios like these are a red flag and one must identify these along the way as they can hurt you in a long way.

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

“Never say you’ve failed, it’s an opportunity to learn. Look ahead and move forward.”

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 are disrupting the way field personnel engage with customers. We are eliminating the experience friction introduced by traditional enterprise software which controls and tethers the field customer engagement. We are untethering that by elevating the engagement experience outside, in a cloud layer and making it direct, proactive, and intelligent — just the way uber allows you to schedule a ride at your fingertips. We believe that you should never need to call / engage with a person behind the desk in order to avail your services. If Uber can provide this deskless experience, so why can’t we provide the same experience to the enterprise customers?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin is the best source of digital social media to connect with us. Twitter is also a good source. But we always love to hear from you. We are nice people, and always welcome a “hello”, so you can simply drop an email to us at hello@godeskless.com.

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


The Future Is Now: Ashish Joshi of goDeskless 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: Christopher Malter of Avalon On How Their Technological Innovation Address…

The Future Is Now: Christopher Malter of Avalon.ai On How Their Technological Innovation Address The Opioid Crisis

Listening is crucial: Think about the typical conversation — when one is speaking, the other may not be fully listening or paying attention as the receiver is often preparing his/her response. 90% of people are like this. I would recommend people try to listen to the person speaking, and if you have a thought while that person is speaking, retain it. We need to be more open to each other’s thoughts and perspectives, so that way we can all become better informed.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Malter, CEO at Avalon.ai

Christopher Malter is CEO of Global Accelerated Ventures, a leading global innovation aggregator in Fintech and HealthTech.

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 a person of faith and the youngest of seven children, it was always important to me to consider the impact I made on the world. I was always interested in how businesses could foster their own social purpose and give back to others — focus on the impact you make to leave the world a better place. This led me to working in healthcare and finding ways to fix a system that had been broken for decades.

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

The delivery of healthcare is operated by those who provide care and those who do not touch the patient. I was always in the latter category. Early on in my career, I was involved in bringing ethical compounds to market. These were billion-dollar drugs for diabetes, oncology, etc. I never saw the patient and the effects. It was in bringing Zoladex to market that I saw patients with prostate cancer. I was making decisions from a corporate perspective and not from a patient perspective. Far too many senior executives at hospitals, insurance, pharmaceutical, etc., are too removed from the end-user. My experience changed my thinking for the rest of my life. It made me realize that although we live in the greatest country in the world, the delivery of healthcare needs a lot of work. It is fragmented and cost, access, and mortality rates need to be addressed.

Can you tell us about the current technology you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Healthcare is a lonely road. Most of the time, patients lack access and understanding to basic elements of healthcare. Additionally, living at lower socioeconomic levels predisposes many to certain inequalities and unfortunately, lower social determinants of health which greatly impact their baseline of care and overall future health. While opioid abuse doesn’t discriminate against socioeconomic status, understanding how to eliminate these issues, before it becomes a larger-scale problem will help to curtail abuse, address how people can become more informed, and eventually, upend healthcare systems at-large.

How do you think this might change the world?

It takes three days to develop an addiction to opioids — we need to address the issue before it starts. The epidemic is pervasive, but there is hope. As someone who has worked within the healthcare system we need to find actionable solutions to how opioid use and abuse is navigated.

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

The global pandemic has changed everything. It’s just that most people — especially in this country — have not figured it out yet. When a crisis hits, change is inevitable. Public safety and the choice between life and death versus antiquated rules and processes in the delivery healthcare is drastically changing. When it comes down to deciding to use AI or other kinds of technology to ensure safety and health, it’s a risk that we need to take to prevent losing lives.

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

A friend’s son had died from opioid addiction. I was tired of hearing stories like this, and I knew I could make a difference. I thought about how this country rallied around the AIDS epidemic and solved prevalent public health issues; going beyond stigmas and ignorance by rolling up our sleeves and addressing problems head on. I feel with Avalon.Ai, we are doing this too. We will redefine opioid prescribing patterns based on outcomes. We will be able to effectively demonstrate that lower dosage of opioids or no opioids at all during hundreds of surgeries are just as effective as using opioids. And we’ll be able to do it quickly.

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

Technology roll-out in hospitals will take some time, since there are layers of administration that can stifle and event prevent innovation. Patients deserve better, and we need leaders who are open to embracing technology to follow the patient journey.

Currently, we can trace a pill that is manufactured in this country all the way to the pharmacy. But, we cannot follow up it once it is dispensed. Why is that? Because we are afraid of embracing the patient journey. This starts with understanding how to properly address patients’ needs early on and ensure proper follow through with care, which will significantly impact our healthcare system and delivery of services.

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

It’s been helpful for us to understand the current landscape by speaking to patients, doctors, administrators, and others in the space to address current needs. Because healthcare can be so isolating, it means that we need to communicate and collaborate more to understand how we can be helpful to others potentially going through similar circumstances.

Aside from our efforts on social media platforms, we’ve been driving much-needed thought leadership in these areas to speak to the current difficulties patients face, and will continue to face if not properly diagnosed or addressed. This is a long journey for many, and we want to bring a voice to those who haven’t benefited from the current system.

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?

As a person of faith, it has always been Jesus Christ. He has guided me through my life to do the right thing and achieve my career goals.

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

I just think it’s all about small steps — how small steps make a big impact to others in the world. Do the best you can with honesty and integrity, and trust and treat people with respect one person at a time.

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

  • Help create the infrastructure: I learned early on that the rules, processes, and structure are built by people like me. Once I realized this, expectations and judgments were mine. This understanding afforded me to develop the confidence and free thinking to create and build.
  • Don’t isolate yourself: I also learned early on that you cannot go through life alone, which is especially challenging for younger professionals embarking on their career. Surround yourself with really solid and smart people, and they will help you achieve your goals.
  • Listening is crucial: Think about the typical conversation — when one is speaking, the other may not be fully listening or paying attention as the receiver is often preparing his/her response. 90% of people are like this. I would recommend people try to listen to the person speaking, and if you have a thought while that person is speaking, retain it. We need to be more open to each other’s thoughts and perspectives, so that way we can all become better informed.
  • Hone your voice: Writing is a critical skill that often goes overlooked in the age of technology. I actually majored in journalism and marketing. I loved to write. I believe that I’m a far better writer than a speaker. In this day of emojis and acronyms writing falls very short, and is a lost art. Especially as you grow in your career, developing a strong perspective and point of view in your field is critical to success, and you shouldn’t lose it.
  • Do the right thing: I know this sounds cliché, but sometimes you want to skip steps or fast forward. I get that; it’s hard. But always try to do the right thing. It’s usually more difficult, but truly works out in the end.

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?

Find a way to merge your passion and career. The way that I felt about upending the healthcare system led me to Avalon.ai, and we are changing healthcare outcomes. We can generate better outcomes through our technology, and are reducing the opioid epidemic by redefining the prescribing habits for surgeries — pre-op, post-op, and release.

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

Isaiah 6:8 — Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” This has led me to where I am today. I believe that this has been a guiding force in my passion for addressing healthcare outcomes head-on, ensuring that health systems become more accessible, equitable, and streamlined for patients in the future.

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

A lot of VCs are numbers guys. I would say metrics are important, but also it’s critical to look at the big picture to see how startups are changing industries. If you look at the evolution of healthcare and AI, most AI companies aggregate data through unreliable sources and generate theoretical predictive analytics. We are already on the next phase — we aggregate data at hospitals real-time. In this case, we are changing prescribing standards for opioids with specific procedures, which hasn’t been done before.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn


The Future Is Now: Christopher Malter of Avalon On How Their Technological Innovation Address… 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: Luc Jodet of Arianee On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Luc Jodet of Arianee On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Don’t be afraid to start small: it’s easy to feel like you do not have the resources to start an ambitious project. The truth is that you will never have enough resources. Just get to it.

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

Luc is the co-founder of Arianee, the digital identity protocol that enables an augmented ownership protocol. After starting his career as a Business Analyst in a Fortune 500 company, Luc co-founded BUYECO, a Renewable Energy Marketplace in Switzerland. It was while working on energy traceability solutions at BUYECO that he discovered blockchain technology.

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

In 2014, I founded a renewable energy marketplace in Switzerland. An important aspect of this project was electricity traceability. By early 2016, I started receiving calls asking if my platform was using blockchain. It was not. However, at that time blockchain for energy traceability was all the rage. When I first heard about blockchain, in 2013, I didn’t catch the bug. Though the introduction of Ethereum in 2015 piqued my interest, it took until that series of calls in 2016 for me to fall down the rabbit hole. Eighteen months later, I was co-founding Arianee.

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

Don’t know if it is the most interesting but it is the oddest 🙂 As I explained, my previous company was in the renewable energy sector. I once received a phone call from a Romanian entrepreneur looking for used hydraulic turbines to import from Switzerland. These are massive pieces of equipment and this sounded really odd. However, a couple of days later, I was shooting videos of a hydraulic power plant and told the owner about the request. While he was surprised, he also said he had one in storage. I ended up facilitating the deal. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve traded to this day (and I work in crypto 🙂 )

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

We use blockchain technology to create digital passports for valuable products starting with the luxury and fashion industry. As these passports can only be generated by the brands that produce the products, they provide proof of authenticity. More importantly, they offer proof of ownership giving a digital identity to your product and enabling numerous new online services including one-click insurance, digital wallets, instant resell quotes, virtualization, and much more.

How do you think this might change the world?

This technology augments your physical product with new digital functionalities, increasing its utility and enabling brands to provide new services to their customers. At Arianee, we believe this is key to transforming the relationship between brands and customers from merely transactional to more enduring, making the purchase is a first step in the customer experience rather than the last. I think this is the key to owners treasuring their objects for a longer time and reducing the need for brands to push new products every season.

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

One drawback we consider is the “customs risk.” When you are transporting a proof of ownership for all your belongings in your phone, crossing borders can be a risk. An ill-intentioned customs officer could use the information to request a bribe. There are solutions to this but, as you can imagine, that the solution we are bringing could be used to reduce privacy if not used properly. This is where blockchain empowers owners as they are in control of their data.

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

I don’t really believe in “tipping points.” No idea just comes out like a Eureka. It takes time and trial and error. Our overnight breakthrough was several years in the making 🙂

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

We need a vibrant community of creators and developers to come and use our open-sourced protocol. The more services that become available, the more valuable the underlying protocol is.

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

One of the main innovations of open blockchain protocols is the ability to insert incentives within the actual technology. Imagine if at the core of the SMTP protocol (the email technology) there was a fee for every advertising email you received and these fees were distributed to your favorite newsletter you subscribe to. Building these incentives is the best marketing because creators can create without the fear of becoming successful and then being unable to sustain their activities.

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?

At the risk of sounding cheesy: my wife. We met while getting our master’s degrees. She has been nothing but supportive throughout the difficult early days and the ups and downs. As an assistant professor in Corporate Strategy with a focus on early-stage Impact Investing, she also brings some serious chops when it comes to business strategy. She jokes that I am her long-term empirical study.

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

The core mission of what we are building is to give back control to users on their data. Empowering users to fight back against the rampant unauthorized use of their personal information is of the utmost importance

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

  • Just show up: I was invited to a conference to give a small workshop. When I got there, one of the speakers decided that he actually wanted to do a fire chat with someone from the blockchain industry. I ended up on the main stage. You never know what might happen so just show up.
  • Suspend Judgement: judging and criticizing is easy (really easy for me in part due to my French education) but I find that when I am stuck, turning off the judging muscle is the way out.
  • “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”: This quote is attributed to Peter Drucker, a management theory researcher. It really drives the point that not everything fits into a strategy plan PowerPoint. Many things that make a team lie in informal exchanges and behaviors of the individuals on the team.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small: it’s easy to feel like you do not have the resources to start an ambitious project. The truth is that you will never have enough resources. Just get to it.
  • You are told you are an idiot until one morning everybody says you are a genius: I think that is probably the most changing aspect of being an entrepreneur; because what you are doing is both novel and unproven, people can either think you are a genius or stupid. Since genius is rare, it is statistically more accurate to err on the side of stupidity. That is until you are proven right and then, all of sudden, you are considered a genius.

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 am trying to inspire a movement towards open platforms (such as Arianee). The segmented internet we have today is not the way to go and more of the population is beginning to understand the risks involved with using Facebook, Amazon, and other closed internet giants.

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

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de St Exupery

A big part of my current job consists of convincing people to start contributing to the Arianee protocol. This quote is a reminder that listing all the benefits of your products is not sufficient to convince. You need to instill a “yearning” for what Arianee can be.

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 just closed a round of financing but it’s never too soon to prepare the next one 🙂

Arianee is the standard for issuing digital identities to physical goods. We work with top brands in the personal luxury goods, fashion, and mobility sector to create digital passports for their products. These digital passports enable new functionalities for physical objects such as smart recommendations, virtualization, or anonymous clienteling.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter @lucjodet and you can also follow @ArianeeProject or join the conversation on our discord if you’d like to go more in-depth.

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


The Future Is Now: Luc Jodet of Arianee 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.

Supermodel and Actress Camerone Parker: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become

Supermodel and Actress Camerone Parker: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Be optimistic! A simple prayer of thanks every morning starts the day with Gratitude.

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 Camerone Parker.

Supermodel and actress, motivational speaker and philanthropist, Camerone Parker has emerged as the leading powerful celebrity voice in patient advocacy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and treatment. Today, she delights audiences worldwide as a highly in-demand speaker, sharing her unbelievable story of being diagnosed with MS in 1998 and hiding the disease in a highly competitive world of international fashion so she could earn money to pay for treatment. But, all that glitters isn’t gold, the model shares her story of betrayal and deception behind the scenes by the person she cared for the most.

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?

My career has been storied throughout. I have been featured in over 400 magazines around the world. As a former face of Olay, I have walked the runways for top designers such as Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani and Badgley Mischka, just to name a few! I have been featured in several iconic billboard campaigns, including Ralph Lauren POLO, and have been a featured guest on “Good Morning America,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “The View,” and more.

On October 2nd, 2019, the fashion world was stunned as news broke announcing that I had just survived a catastrophic heart attack requiring life-saving surgery. Only a mere 6 days prior, I dazzled at Paris Fashion Week as I attended the Dior SS20 show.

I live a very public life, however new details about my private life and my marriage now became embarrassing shame. I took on a role of fiercely guarding the painful monumental secrets of my husband, Dr Robert McCulloch. He was spiraling in addiction. While fighting for my life in the hospital, horrifying truths kept emerging about the one closest to me during surgical recovery, uncovering that it was my addicted husband now posing the greatest risk of all to my life.

My current journey is chalk-full of trepidation, strength, and determination. Today I live life in a manner best suited for my health, with no apologies and an endearing, raw spirit wrapped in a heaping dose joyous humor.

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?

I had two very unexpected fun highlights happen within 10 days of each other. I attended the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards and the 2020 CDGA Awards. I made both PEOPLE Magazine and Entertainment Weekly Best Dressed lists at each event! I put on a ball gown and a smile for the red carpet. That proved to be the perfect escape for me, for at least a few hours!

What do you think makes your story stand out?

RESILIENCE = In silence I RISE.

As someone who has been viewed of having it all including the perfect marriage, I am taking everyone inside all that glitters and showing the frayed, unbelievable raw seams of the cover up I have been mired in. The stage light now exposes a documented journey of Betrayed Spouse Trauma, sexual deception, and its horrific aftermath. This is not about codependency. Think of PTSD except there is no Post. The BST survivor is violated and is currently facing her betrayer head on. Betrayed Spouse Trauma is something rarely spoken about, and if it is, the trauma survivor instantly becomes mocked and victim shamed. My screams for help were silenced by his rage. Sexual betrayal has changed how I feel about myself and how I live. I might seem okay for a bit on the outside. However, the unseen wounds of trauma have now ravaged my heart, stopping it from beating FOUR different times. My addict husband went inpatient for specialized help. I FORGAVE HIM. My Faith and resilience guided me to giving him the gift of forgiveness. Sadly, he ultimately abandoned me and my broken heart. “I don’t love you enough to deal with you” were his last words as he triumphantly returned to his addiction where he lives today. No accountability. No responsibility. No Resilience.

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?

It would be my parents, Elise and Bill Chambers. Many people do not know that I grew up showing horses, and not like one or two events. I competed for the All-Around Championship. I did not start out being the best in the world, heavens no! It took years of riding, training, discipline, and good old fashioned hard work. Some weekends I would win everything. Sometimes I got the gate. Everything comes together with determination, optimism, and RESILIENCE. Winning my first National title at 14 was no easy feat. It was my parents that kept me grounded and taught me straight up about teamwork. There is no “ME,” only “WE”. We win together!

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 for me never blurs the lines of right versus wrong. The coping/healing cycle of my recovery shows resilience in action! I think it is why I’ve struggled so deeply this past year. Resilience embodies my ability to forgive. In my traumatized state, my brain felt truly hijacked. I was constantly being told by the addict “Progress NOT Perfection” What?! As a resilient woman this statement absolutely challenged me! Progress is impossible without change. An addict who cannot change his mind cannot change anything.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

One person? Come ON! Rome was not built in a day or by ONE Roman! As I defined earlier, RESILIENCE = In silence I RISE. I am fiercely supported by my posse that are each a strong, unique thread in my life. Once woven together, this protective, gorgeous tapestry surrounds me with warm everlasting strength: Pat Bondurant, Kathy Bihr, Michelle Anthony, Donna Rossi, Sue Smart and my manager, Robert Rossi. It is because of them I RISE.

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?

Clearly my response through the years has not changed at all!

“You won’t win a National Championship at 14. It’s never been done” Me: WATCH ME

“You’ll have maybe a few years as a model” Me: WATCH ME

“At 5’8” you’ll never walk at Fashion Week here or abroad” Me: WATCH ME

“You have MS — you can’t walk a 100ft runway” Me: WATCH ME.

“You’ll never forgive me” Me: WATCH ME.

“No one will believe you if you tell” Me: WATCH ME

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?

As mentioned above, I am recovering from an unfathomable series of deadly traumatic events. On October 2nd, 2019 I suffered the first of my four heart attacks. A Widowmaker requiring heart surgery. That day, without warning, my life changed forever. My husband Robert, the one person who promised his love, protection, and fidelity to me was, and is now, the greatest and most diabolical risk to my health and life. Not only did I survive a catastrophic cardiac event, my husband’s 42+ year sex and porn addiction was now fully exposed. He is a freight train loaded with dynamite and out of control.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

As a child, my parents fostered healthy coping skills for my brother and I. I am talking about nurturing the ability to cope with ups and downs of school, friendships, and life. My parents were not perfect and never claimed to be. I learned firsthand that I deal with things differently than my brother. And guess what? We BOTH are resilient balanced adults today. By fostering love, understanding and boundaries — I have a unique, grounded perspective, not entitlement to guide me.

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.

It is a very fine balance of these five values and they’re not always equal on any given day:

Be optimistic! A simple prayer of thanks every morning starts the day with Gratitude.

Remain flexible…keep an open mind. (A closed mind is the most expensive thing one could own).

Develop active coping skills. (This truly occurs over time!)

Maintain a healthy supportive, trusted network. This is so crucial.

Embrace a personal moral compass that includes balanced boundaries.

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?

That is a wonderful compliment, thank you! I have always stated that the best medicine for me is to give. I am gearing up to launch a book. It is co-authored by Sue Smart who is a published biographer and celebrated UK journalist. Partnered with impactful content in media outlets such as this, the movement will lead us whilst living throughout unprecedented times. A global pandemic has hobbled both physical and mental health capabilities. If ONE person is reading this and is in a crisis screaming like I was, I want them to know I HEAR YOU. YOU MATTER. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. My global goal is to recognize that Betrayed Spouse Trauma has many terrified unaccounted-for victims. We are SURVIVORS. Time is measured in minutes; LIFE is measured in moments. A Movement IS a MOMENT!

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?

Dr Sanjay Gupta. While in the hospital recovering from my Widowmaker and surgery, I downloaded and read his book: CHEATING DEATH: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that are saving lives against all odds. Clearly, he needs to include my journey in his second printing! Another Dr Gupta book favorite is Perceiving Purpose. It has become quite tattered as I re-read a chapter or two almost every week. I am profoundly grateful for his wisdom and insight. He is shining a light for me on my path, my runway, to new life.


Supermodel and Actress Camerone Parker: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dre Baldwin of Work On Your Game: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Develop an “until” mindset. Due to a coaching change and me getting lost in the shuffle, I didn’t even play my last year and a half of college basketball. I didn’t sign my first professional contract till nearly three years after my last college basketball game! During that time period, my mindset was always focused on making it happen in professional basketball — I was going to keep working on it and looking for ways to make it happen UNTIL I figured it out. Many people stumble with perseverance because they will only keep trying “IF” things work out. When you change that “if” to “until,” you’ll keep going for as long as it takes.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dre Baldwin.

Dre Baldwin went from his high school bench to a 9-year professional basketball career in just 5 years.

Dre has published over 15,000 pieces of content online. His daily Work On Your Game Podcast has over 3 million listeners.

Dre has given 4 TED Talks and authored 27 books.

Free Book (just cover shipping): http://MirrorOfMotivation.com/

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

I’m honored to be here.

I’ve always been into sports since I was a kid, and that led to a career in professional sports. I started publishing content online at the same time as my pro career was starting, and that’s where many people came to know me from.

Through my online content, people started asking me about my mental approach to sports. The answers I shared were the foundation for the brand, philosophy and business I now have, called “Work On Your Game,” that has since expanded far past sports.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Am I limited to only one? Ha…

When I wanted to play professional basketball coming out of college, where I had played at the division 3 level, I had no prospects. No professional teams, agents, managers, or scouts were interested in me. I didn’t have a super strong resume coming out of my small college, thus no one was checking for me. I had to hustle and create the energy and attention around my name in order for me to even begin my professional sports career.

I was able to do that, and had to continually do it throughout my 9 year career to keep my career going. Through that process, I learned the value of selling myself, making connections, and keeping my name top of mind with people who had the power to help move my career and business forward.

As a consultant, I was also unknown when I first began. To get my name known, I did a whole lot of unpaid work to get myself seen, heard, and known.

An important point that readers should pick up from this: I was also good at what I was doing! When people did see and hear me, they could see the value in what I brought to the table. Just putting out the energy and doing all the work is not necessarily the key to creating the success: you have to actually be able to deliver when you’re doing your work. This, I knew from my background in professional sports.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I’ve always been a competitor!

Coming from the Sports World, you have no choice but to compete in order to win; In sports, there’s always a winner and a loser. In business, theoretically, everyone can win in some way. In sports, there is always a clear winner and a clear loser. So you have to have and be willing to execute a sharp killer Instinct in order to succeed in sports.

I bring that same mentality to the business world.

And it wasn’t so much that I was competing against an individual person or entity; I was competing against any circumstances and situations that were not to my liking. My competition was the fact that I didn’t have the results that I wanted, and that became my drive. It was about changing the circumstances; that’s what I was competing against.

This may not work for everyone, but this works for me and the way my brain is wired.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit is everything when it comes to creating success and altering circumstances to your liking.

No matter how good you are, there will always be circumstances that are not in your favor, and there will always be things that don’t work out despite your best efforts. Grit is the determining factor in whether or not you keep going and whether you figure things out when it’s not working. And everyone will have times in their life and career when things are not working. No one goes through an entire lifetime or career without needing a heavy dose of grit every now and then — some more often than others.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Develop an “until” mindset. Due to a coaching change and me getting lost in the shuffle, I didn’t even play my last year and a half of college basketball. I didn’t sign my first professional contract till nearly three years after my last college basketball game! During that time period, my mindset was always focused on making it happen in professional basketball — I was going to keep working on it and looking for ways to make it happen UNTIL I figured it out. Many people stumble with perseverance because they will only keep trying “IF” things work out. When you change that “if” to “until,” you’ll keep going for as long as it takes.
  2. Be resourceful. There are always multiple ways to get to your desired outcome; many see only one or two ways to get there and quit when those one or two ways don’t work. When I wanted to get into professional speaking, for example, I got started by connecting with and meeting knowledgeable people who I didn’t even know that well. Because I was being active and looking for opportunities, things worked out for me. My Mentor in thought leadership was a person who I barely knew, and was connected to me through a person that neither of us really knew too well. But when I met her, I took notes on everything she said, understanding that I might not get another opportunity to learn from someone who knew a lot more than me about this area that I wanted to get into. Because of my attentiveness and note taking, she took a liking to me and continued to invest her knowledge in me. And I took advantage of that because I had an opportunistic mindset.
  3. Keep showing up. Players who want to play professional basketball overseas usually attend events called exposure camps. Exposure camps are basically job fairs, but for athletes: we show up with our sneakers and shorts and actually play our sport in front of an audience of decision-makers. Exposure camps are not free to attend; it is an investment on behalf of the player who sees it as a way to get into the professional basketball world or advance their career. Over the course of my career, I attended probably 15 different exposure camps and tryout events, all with the intention of furthering my career. Some of those events were fruitful for me, and some of them were not. The ones that were worth it more than paid for the ones that were not. The fact that I continually showed up not only helped start and further my career, but also continue to pay me back nowadays, as I share my knowledge and experiences with other players who are now in the position that I was in 15 years ago. The fact that I continually showed up makes my experience valuable to others these days.
  4. Make your confidence bulletproof. I had to believe in myself for a very long time before anyone else even recognized me or would have been willing to believe in me — both as a professional athlete and as a thought leader. With very few exceptions, when you are first starting out in an area that does not have a clear path to success, you probably won’t have many people in your corner, telling you that they’re sure you’ll make it. Maybe your friends and family, but you know they will say that anyway! You have to be willing and able to run off of your own personal energy and self-belief in between the time you get started in the time you get established as someone people can believe in. When no one else has any idea that you even exist, you have to have the confidence in yourself that continuing to show up and putting yourself out there will pay off in the long run. Without this confidence, you will not stick to it and likely give up before you even get close to your success.
  5. Keep moving. Even when things were not working for me, I stayed active. I was always trying out new techniques, looking for new ways to get my work seen and known, and never checked out of the game, so to speak. As a professional athlete, I told you about the many exposure camps I invested in going to. What I didn’t tell you about is the thousands of emails that I sent out, or the many team managers I spoke to trying to sell myself as the player they should sign to a contract. In the thought leadership / consulting space, I couldn’t even count the number of emails and cold phone calls I’ve made to sell my products and services. Or the number of products and offers I’ve presented to my own audience through my websites, sales funnels, and landing pages. I’m always active and trying new things, and when something isn’t working, I get rid of that and try something else! That is the game in a nutshell.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I mentioned my mentor in thought leadership earlier. What’s funny about how we met is that the person who connected us was not a close friend of either of us! But because I was active and opportunistic, and because she noticed my discipline, we connected immediately. She taught me a lot about the speaking business, how to position myself as a thought leader on my topics of expertise, and gave me belief in the fact that my experience in the sports would be valuable to a business audience.

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

That’s all that I do!

Here at Work On Your Game, we are giving “game” to people every single day, and our aim is always to make our free material better than other people’s paid material. I think we are succeeding at doing that; your readers can take a look at our content and decide for themselves.

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

Always!

We have our daily podcast (which I call a “MasterClass”) that publishes every single day on the topics of discipline, confidence, mental toughness and personal initiative. I am also always working on new books; we have at least two coming in 2021.

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

The simplest thing they can do is direct their teams to consume more Dre Baldwin content! Haha… not joking though.

In addition to that, executives must first of all set the example: show up every single day and do the work, and keep showing up, even when things are not working, so you are the standard-bearer for everyone else. As the person in charge, everyone else is following your lead even when you don’t notice.

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 answer to that question is the Work On Your Game movement that has been going since 2009.

I didn’t even know it when it started, but when people first heard that phrase, they jumped on it and have continued to love it ever since. Our movement has touched over 70 million lives over the past decade plus, and we have another 7 billion + to go!

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

“Work On Your Game.” — Dre Baldwin

It’s relevant because that has been the story of my entire life and career. Show up every single day and do the work, put myself out there boldly and authentically, continue showing up doing the work, putting myself out there, even when the success I’ve expected to achieve has yet to be achieved, and being a go-getter: making things happen instead of waiting for things to happen.

That is all that I do, and it is what I teach other people to do. I practice what I preach, and preach what I practice.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can reach me through the following social media:

http://LinkedIn.com/in/DreAllDay

http://Facebook.com/WorkOnYourGame

http://Twitter.com/DreAllDay

http://Instagram.com/DreBaldwin

http://YouTube.com/Dreupt

http://DreAllDay.com/

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

That’s the goal! Thank you for having me.


Dre Baldwin of Work On Your Game: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jolanta Balciene of NordPass: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Have a clear purpose and stay true to your core principles. Clearly define them, communicate them to your team, and whatever you do next, ensure that you live up to those core principles. In busy environments, it’s very easy to lose focus or drift away, so make sure you always question yourself: “Why am I doing this?”

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jolanta Balciene.

Jolanta Balciene is Head of Marketing at NordPass and NordLocker. She holds an MBA and has nearly fifteen years of experience in various marketing fields. Jolanta has built a versatile skill set, including marketing strategy, customer acquisition/retention, team leadership, and branding. In her free time, Jolanta loves learning new things (she recommends Audible to those who like to multitask) and discovering new places both locally and internationally.

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 think I was very lucky to have met a lecturer during my studies who got me so interested in marketing that I never looked back. Marketing is a mix of psychology, analytical thinking, and creativity — I think these are the main reasons I enjoy it so much.

I worked in the education sector for the majority of my career. My job was to advertise different study programs: from apprenticeships to university degrees and global audiences. Today, I work in the cybersecurity industry, which is all about educating wide audiences about the safer choices out there, ensuring that they can prevent unfortunate breaches or data loss. Cybersecurity changes so quickly that it keeps me on my toes and is never boring. There’s always something new to learn, and this makes my days interesting. So, I guess luck and the willingness to be in a fast-changing environment led me to where I’m now.

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?

While it’s not necessarily funny or a mistake, I learned something very important during the early stages of my career. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s most likely not real, whether it’s an offer from an agency or a marketing opportunity from an unknown partner. Every decision needs to be calculated and based on real, insightful, and meaningful data. Only then can we make an informed decision based on numbers rather than on empty promises.

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

Password management is not a new concept; some of our competitors have been in the market since the late 90s.

However, some things make NordPass stand out:

  • User-centric approach. Whatever we do, our users are in the centre of it. From day one of NordPass’s launch, we opened many communication channels with our users, gathered feedback, and passed it to the product team. And we’re happy to see that users are noticing that.
  • An amazing team. It’s motivated, professional, and full of passion for detail. We don’t take the easy way out and don’t like to cut corners. From customer communication to every single line of code, we deliver a simpler, nicer, faster, and safer NordPass password manager than it was yesterday.
  • The ability to set our own ways without focusing on standards set by our competitors. We’ve already implemented innovative encryption algorithms and introduced new technologies such as OCR scanners. We build our apps on zero-knowledge architecture principles and subject them to independent security audits so our users wouldn’t have to just take our word for it.

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

Always! As a brand, we focus a lot on content which educates our audience. A few months ago, we launched our Top 200 worst passwords campaign to highlight the problem of weak and reused passwords. We hope that this campaign will encourage people to update their passwords and take their online security more seriously.

We’ve also recently launched our Mental Health campaign to highlight the importance of digital anxiety. This project is close to my heart, as the current situation forces many people to spend more time on devices and move their work online, so these problems are only getting more prominent. In addition to that, we’ve also learned that, according to research, many people are stressed about all things cybersecurity: passwords, the probability of experiencing a data theft, etc. Our campaign focuses on highlighting and, more importantly, helping solve these issues. I hope our audience will find our tips useful.

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?

That’s an excellent question. In general, branding is broader and has a long-term value, while advertising for a given product often has a shorter-term purpose. Advertising delivers the purpose of ‘what’ to the target audience, and the branding gives meaning and answers to the question ‘why’. Branding is also about creative communications and all the activities that help to create differentiation among competitors.

It’s essential to keep the right balance between branding and advertising for the best user experience with a product.

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?

I’m a huge fan and advocate for brand building simply because it provides a purpose; it brings meaning and creates a long-lasting value as well as two-way communication with users. In short, brand building creates a sustainable business with a like-minded user base.

Various research shows that, nowadays, consumers are looking to invest their buying power into something more meaningful than fulfilling their primary need. They are looking to be part of a community with the same values while getting the service or product they actually need.

From a company perspective, a brand helps communicate core values and stand out from competition. As I mentioned earlier, it also helps answer the question ‘why’.

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.

  1. Have a clear purpose and stay true to your core principles. Clearly define them, communicate them to your team, and whatever you do next, ensure that you live up to those core principles. In busy environments, it’s very easy to lose focus or drift away, so make sure you always question yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
  2. Listen to your users, get to know their problems, and work with your product or brand to solve them. Sometimes users can provide you with an easy answer to that problem; in other cases, you may need to do more extensive qualitative surveys to dig deeper into the problem’s roots. And, of course, don’t forget to pass those insights to your product team. In addition to that, listening to users and showing them that you listen to their feedback generates trust.
  3. Know your competition, but don’t copy! It’s wise to know your competition and use it for inspiration to create more incredible things. However, copying competitors is never the answer. There is no joy in stepping on the other brand’s toes. You always need to create your own purpose and meaning.
  4. Never stop learning. This applies to anything from personal development to knowing more about users and new technologies. Learning new things inspires more ideas and sparks creativity that can turn into campaigns or new features. Knowledge is everything.
  5. Never lose passion in whatever you do. As soon as you lose passion, the quality drops. Seek inspiration and ways to keep that passion going.

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?

The first company that comes to mind for building a believable and beloved brand is Headspace.

They do a great job at telling their story and finding their differences from rivals. There are many meditation apps out there, but Headspace is one of the only ones that commit to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically validated research. And they don’t just talk about it but live by it, partnering with universities and opening an in-house science department.

There is no need to replicate other brands. It’s essential to find your values and core principles and ensure that you live up to those core principles.

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 many tools out there that measure brands and their success with various metrics. However, the brand’s “success” is a subjective term and heavily depends on the brand’s goals, which can change over time. It can vary from brand awareness or share of voice to sales coming from brand channels. It can also go deeper to the channel level, such as brand content engagement, for example.

Only clearly defined goals can dictate the right metric for measuring success, and there isn’t one metric that fits all.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

A massive one! It’s the easiest way to directly talk to your audience and gather feedback about your product firsthand. From the brand perspective, it is, most importantly, a way to create an opportunity for users to speak to brands openly. I think brands make a huge mistake if they don’t engage with their users from the early days on social media and treat it like a one-way communication channel. This channel brings so many useful insights for product development and gives an idea of how users feel about the brand. For example, one of the most requested features on social media was dark mode, and we’re happy to tell you that it will go live soon. So, dark mode fans, stay tuned.

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

It’s crucial to understand that you can do anything as a leader, but you don’t necessarily need to do everything on your own. Every leader has great teams around to share ideas, tasks, and, of course, success with. It’s important to avoid working in silos and doing micromanagement. It might be easier said than done at the beginning, but, once you learn to work as a team and delegate, the workload becomes much more manageable.

As with everything you do, there must be a balance in your life. From my personal experience, I know it’s much harder in reality when you love what you do, but it’s crucial to keep life/work balance, take breaks, know your limits, and never push beyond them. At the end of the day, happiness and health are all that matters.

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 education industry stays important to me, as I’ve worked in it for quite some time. So, if I was to inspire a movement, I would start one where I gathered technology specialists and leaders who could share their experience and knowledge with children and young adults. I think it’s important for two reasons: 1) it would be a good opportunity for children to find out more about the tech industry and encourage them to explore it; as this exciting industry evolves, we will constantly need more workforce, so it would be a good place to inspire the youngsters; 2) it would allow young people to avoid cyberthreats, which will become even more prominent in the future.

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

Learning new things is a big part of my life, especially in marketing and cybersecurity, as they never stop evolving. Once I read the Chinese philosopher Laozi’s quote, and it stuck with me: “If you think you know everything, you know nothing”. It always reminds me that the learning process never stops. It’s very exciting and never boring.

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. 🙂

Oh dear, this one is tricky. I follow so many inspirational people from different backgrounds. However, if I needed to choose just one, it would be Michelle Obama.

She is close to my heart. She has always held a high level of respect for herself and others, and this can be seen in her speeches, where she uses notions like decency, integrity, dignity, and pride. Not only does she serve as a role model to young people but also reaches out to communities beyond.

I’ve always thought that she is excellent, and the messages she communicates to the world are great. After reading her biography, I became an even bigger fan.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Here is my Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jolantabalciene/

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

Thank you!


Jolanta Balciene of NordPass: 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 Ed Hajim: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

My belief is that education is the solution to everything. The movement I’d like to inspire, and to which I have contributed, is scholarships for students who want to go to college but cannot financially afford to do so. In addition, I would add worldwide vocational/technical education programs and give them the same cache as a college education.

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 Ed Hajim.

Ed Hajim is a seasoned Wall Street executive with more than 50 years of investment experience. He has held senior management positions with the Capital Group, E.F. Hutton, and Lehman Brothers before becoming chairman and CEO of Furman Selz. Hajim has been the co-chairman of ING Barings, Americas Region; chairman and CEO of ING Aeltus Group and ING Furman Selz Asset Management; and chairman and CEO of MLH Capital. He is now chairman of HighVista Strategies, a Boston-based money management company. In 2008, after 20 years as a trustee of the University of Rochester, Hajim began an eight-year tenure as chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees. Upon assuming that office he gave the school $30 million — the largest single donation in its history — to support scholarships and endow the Edmund A. Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Through the Hajim Family Foundation, he has made generous donations to organizations that promote education, health care, the arts, culture, and conservation. In 2015, he received the Horatio Alger Award, given to Americans who exemplify the values of initiative, leadership, and commitment to excellence and who have succeeded despite personal adversities. His memoir, On the Road Less Traveled: An Unlikely Journey from The Orphanage to The Boardroom (Skyhorse) releases March 2021.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What do you think made your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Maybe it was my athletic background, but I always fostered a culture of teamwork and cooperation that was focused on the important question: “What’s next?” Our monthly board meetings were attended by all the division heads and other leaders. We would review the past month and everyone was encouraged to help one another in any way they could.

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?

Steve Blecher was an invaluable friend and business partner. Steve was my COO, CFO, chief legal officer, accountant and everything else for some 30 years. Steve did everything I could not do or did not want to do — and did it well. His work allowed me to focus on my passion: building businesses. In the investment banking and brokerage business, we frequently interacted with every three- and four-letter organization known to humankind e.g., IRS, NASD, SEC, etc. I rarely, if ever, had to go to any of the meetings. He shielded me from involvement and we ended up with an almost perfect record. Having Steve on my team meant I could do what I did best, knowing I had someone I could trust to tell me when I was making a wrong move.

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?

After graduation from the University of Rochester and my NROTC training, I was commissioned an ensign and assigned as an engineering officer aboard the personnel carrier USS Okanogan APA 220. I was only 22 years old and was put in charge of 180 men ranging in age from 18 to 50. It was the most responsibility I ever had up to that point in my life and that first year became a learning experience like no other. I learned every part of every engine on that ship and every pipe in the engine room backwards and forwards. During my three years, I served under four captains, some more difficult than others. I qualified as the chief engineer, the special sea detail officer of the deck (which allowed me to oversee pilots taking the ship in and out of port) and command duty officer (which allowed me to act on behalf of the captain if he wasn’t onboard). We had many interesting assignments, including delivering Navy SEALs up the Mekong River early in the Vietnam War. The experience taught me three important principles I carry with me to this day:

  1. Be deliberate in everything you do.
  2. Make sure every mission has well-defined rules.
  3. Nothing can be accomplished without a well-motivated team.

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?

I went to work for Lehman Brothers in 1977 and realized almost at once that Lew Glucksman, the managing partner and the head of trading, was going to be adversarial. In spite of this, I worked hard and rebuilt the Lehman’s institutional equity business. After three years he essentially forced me out of the securities division and I became the chairman and CEO of Lehman Management Corporation, Lehman’s investment management business. Although the business was declining, I was able over three years to stop the decline and managed to raise the assets from about 2 billion to almost 10 billion. In spite of my success, Lew was able to again force me out of my position, this time into investment banking. He then pushed the chairman, Pete Peterson, out of the company and I decided to leave.

I joined Furman Selz, a boutique investment bank with just 20 million in revenues and 70 employees, as chairman, and later as CEO. Over the next 14 years, we grew the firm 10-fold. During that period, sold it to Xerox, and we bought it back and five years later sold it again, this time to ING, a large Dutch financial company. This experience was my dream job, and provided a significant financial rewards to my partners and employees. Without experiencing the setback at Lehman, none of this would have happened.

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?

Definition of resilience: Having the ability to overcome obstacles using your own capability, which requires toughness and a strong ability to bounce back.

Characteristics of resilient people: Self-confidence, toughness and optimism. What I call A Message to Garcia person, as in Elbert Hubbard’s essay. A person who hears the assignment and asks no questions — but goes out and does the job using his/her own initiative.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Winston Churchill: A leader who never gave up and never stopped working to save his nation by persuading the U.S.to enter World War II.

Jackie Robinson: Being the first African-American baseball player to play in Major League Baseball, he broke the color barrier and faced every possible obstacle.

Beth Harmon: The inspiring character portrayed in The Queen’s Gambit who went from life in an orphanage to celebrated world champion chess player.

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 grew-up for the most part, as an orphan, but I learned the power of education. I was living in an orphanage while in high school and decided I wanted to go to a good, private college. With no money, and essentially no parents to support me on any level, I was told my desire to attend a private college was nearly impossible. That didn’t stop me! I applied for as many scholarships as I possibly could and I worked nearly full time. I didn’t receive the New York state scholarship I applied for, but was able to get an NROTC scholarship, which with my savings allowed me to became a member of the Class of 1958 at the University of Rochester. Attending college allowed me to start with a clean slate and pursue everything I wanted but didn’t have as a child. It gave me stability and opportunity.

When I thought of pursuing an MBA at the Harvard Business School, I was told getting into the famous graduate program was another thing that was nearly impossible. My college grades were not great and even if I did get in, I did not have the means to cover tuition and expenses. (There weren’t scholarships available then for graduate students who could not afford tuition.) However, I wrote a very good application and obtained a couple of outstanding letters of recommendation and was accepted.

Fast forward, I not only graduated in the HBS class of 1964, but I was later elected to the Board of the Harvard Busines School Alumni Association and eventually became its president. I was also elected to the Dean Advisory Council and chaired several successful class reunions. I was very proud to have my daughter, Corey, also graduate from Harvard Business School.

My achievements allowed me to give back in other ways. In 1988, I became a member, and 20 years later, chairman, of the Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester. At the start of my eight-year tenure, and with my family’s blessing and support, I donated $30 million to the University of Rochester — making it the single largest donation in the university’s history. The gift was to support scholarships and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, which now bears my name. A year later, the school dedicated the Hajim Quadrangle, which contains the buildings of the engineering school. The only other person who has a quad named after him on the University of Rochester campus is George Eastman, whose donations built the school’s original campus.

I learned something important: The impossible just takes a little longer — and some luck.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was 3 years old, my father kidnapped me from my mother and drove us from St. Louis to Los Angeles. After we settled in LA, he told me that my mother had died. Being so young, I don’t recall my reaction, but I adjusted to the new “normal,” which included being cared for by a kindly neighbor when my father shipped off as a radio operator on a cargo ship. Everything changed after Pearl Harbor in 1941. My father became an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine and left me, a Jewish child, with a Catholic welfare agency and asked them to put me into their foster care system. What followed was a series of Catholic foster homes that ranged from abusive to caring. After not seeing my father for almost five years, he returned from World War II. We reunited and moved to a hotel on Coney Island, where we got reacquainted. However, by the end of the summer of 1947, in order to get work, he signed onto a merchant ship and had to leave me alone, at the age of 11, in the hotel for part of the summer. Clearly this wasn’t sustainable. He contacted a Jewish welfare agency and they placed me in the Israel Orphan Asylum. Four years later, I was transferred to another orphanage for older boys. While this was a difficult and challenging time, I learned many important lessons that would accompany me through life, including:

  • Childhood disadvantages can become advantages in later life.
  • Embrace change and make it work for you. I lived in About 10–15 different places as a child. By learning how to adjust to different circumstances and become good at it, I learned not to be afraid of change.
  • Tough, hostile and abusive situations taught me how to appreciate good times and handle difficulties with less anxiety.
  • My lack of family forced me to seek out mentors and better understand the need for partners and people who cared.
  • By being alone, I developed self-reliance and learned how to become self-directed.
  • Being very poor produced a drive for financial independence and appreciation for money.
  • Not having control over my life as a child produced a strong drive to seek freedom as an adult.
  • Later in life, I realized that my childhood gave me the foundation to recognize the need to balance self, family, work and community.

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 belief is that education is the solution to everything. The movement I’d like to inspire, and to which I have contributed, is scholarships for students who want to go to college but cannot financially afford to do so. In addition, I would add worldwide vocational/technical education programs and give them the same cache as a college education.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. 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 🙂

I’d love to sit down with Bill Gates because he has done it all and has successfully conquered what I call my four buckets of life: self, family, business and community/society. He has outperformed in all these areas and still seems to have humility.


Author Ed Hajim: 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.

Bansi Mehta of KORU UX: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

Actions matter a lot. Above all I feel that being consistent in our behavior as a leader is of highest importance. Nothing confuses a team more than uncertainty of how a leader may respond to something. I have seen and faced this as an employee with my leadership teams and it can cause instability and disruption to work across the board. Being consistent in our behavior as leaders is extremely important for the team to thrive and for managing and contributing to a work culture where people can come forward and safely express their ideas.

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

Bansi Mehta is the CEO and Founder of Koru UX Design Inc. She is fiercely passionate and driven to build a culture that helps people be their best selves at work. Strengthened by over a decade of power-packed experience, she believes that UX for workforces should be tailored to meet the needs of employees, managers, and business owners. A better enterprise UX does not only result in a happier work environment, but also boosts performance, productivity, and

Revenues. She has led the design of many healthcare products, applications, and tools with respect to user-centric design. She has pioneered the need for research-led design within organizations and proven her point of basing design decisions on insights, and not intuitions.

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 started KORU UX almost 10 years ago locally here in India and have since expanded. By education I am an engineer but ended up in the design space while user experience (UX) was emerging. I decided that I wanted to do something that was more creative instead of coding, so I learned how to design on the job. While working, I found there were gaps in the heirarchy of UX design so that’s where I came up with the idea to start KORU UX. My husband, Mouneet Mehta, had owned a digital marketing company and we found the synergy between that and KORU UX and subsequently found our niche areas which is what has led to what we are now.

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

What makes KORU UX stand out is that we ensure that the end user is always at the front of our minds when designing. We understand the politics and hierarchy in the enterprise organizations, help companies adopt a design thinking culture and elevate the levels of user experience across enterprises.

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

Years back, I was giving a sales pitch to a leadership and sales team. It was the end of a hectic business trip and in my mind I was going to give this sales pitch and go back home to my family. At the end of the sales pitch the response was, “Bansi, this is so good and we are interested in buying your company out.” I was taken aback because this was not what I was expecting. That day turned into a very interesting one. The prosoective client and our team got to know each other and we ended up getting the business and collaborating for a couple of years. I did not sell my company but I was honored that they were even interested.

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 don’t take my mistakes lightly.

In the really early days — maybe 2011 or 2012 — was when we created our very first website. Back then, the websites were in flash and had more animation. I was proud of the website that we had made. One day, we found that a company in Pakistan had copied the entire site and they were claiming that it was their website and that it was the original. It was interesting because somebody thought that our website was good enough to copy which is of course flattering. There was not much that we could do about it — it was just someone copying our code and adding it to their domain. This is not necessarily a mistake, but a hiccup in my early on years of KORU UX that I look back on today and think how could this have been avoided and how can it be avoided moving forward.

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

What I’ve seen working on both sides — with employees, with leaders, and being in a leadership position myself — is that being a good leader does not mean demanding less, but it means setting high expectations and achievable goals. A good leader must enable the support and guidance the team needs to succeed and ultimtaly meet the goals and client expectations in an orderly fashion. Their success is ultimtately my success and vice versa.

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

Being a leader means living by example and inspiring the team to do more and do better. In the early years of KORU UX, I was working directly with the team and across different depearments. I sat with the designers for hours on end while they are designing, discussing and reviewing and providing feedback. One day I came across this book by Simon Sinek called Leaders Eat Last. The book talked about how the Marine Corps officers live by this motto where the leaders are always there and put themselves last and the team comes first. I thought, this is it. This book really helped me put leadership, in particular my leadership, into perspective. This is how I have grown KORU UX and developed a team of loyal and talented employees to support our vision.

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?

I am a person who by nature worries a lot. I am restless even on a normal day. When there is a big talk or meeting, the more I prepare, the more at ease I am. For me, preparing and planning helps me the most. Spend time preparing. That is the biggest tip I can give. The more prepared one is, the more relaxed they will be and this will always come across in a work setting.

There are days when bad news can come that can shatter me. These days I have noticed that exercise works the best. No matter what my state of my mind is, when I start the workout, by the end there is always more clarity, more perspective and I am able to combat the situation in a better way.

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?

There are definitely two sides to this.

Working with a creative team you have a lot of reviews and must constantly be providing feedback.

I believe that no team is ready made or perfect and that’s not because you don’t have qualified, credible people, it’s just human nature. The way people take action and make decisions as individuals is different than when they do it in a team. Again, it changes as team characteristics and dynamics change. Hence, managing a team really means voicing out early on what is acceptable and what is not and setting realistic expectations.

Actions matter a lot. Above all I feel that being consistent in our behavior as a leader is of highest importance. Nothing confuses a team more than uncertainty of how a leader may respond to something. I have seen and faced this as an employee with my leadership teams and it can cause instability and disruption to work across the board. Being consistent in our behavior as leaders is extremely important for the team to thrive and for managing and contributing to a work culture where people can come forward and safely express their ideas.

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?

Sometimes we feel that we work together for so long and rules are set and people should know how to behave or how to produce a piece of work. I think that at the end of the day the reality remains that people cannot read your mind and there is so much room for assumption and misunderstanding even when we communicate. I feel that giving direct and honest feedback is essential. That’s what tells people what went wrong, what they are supposed to do and how to improve the next time around.

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.

There is a fine line between giving honest feedback and ensuring it doesn’t come off as harsh. What I think is most important is to be consistent in your tone and to make sure the feedback is honest and constructive.

We often work with the partners who have never worked with a creative teams before and they don’t know how to give constructive feedback. A response we sometimes get is “this is not doing it for us.” This is when we ask follow up questions and probe further to ask why and figure out what it is specifically they don’t like. This leads to actions and insights which allow us to then make the corrections to produce work that resonates with our partners and helps minimize the review process.

Sometimes people are afraid to give negative feedback. But, the purpose of doing a design review is to get feedback so we can do the next revision and produce better results. That is when we have to tell them to be as honest as possible because we want to do the best job possible.

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

Early on in my career I had a manager who was located in the US while I was in India. There was an incident with a client that happened at the beginning of my day (after hours for my manager). I felt so bad and I spent the entire day living with that feeling and worrying. The first time I had a chance to call him I wanted to express myself and address the situation and I started crying over the phone which made me realize difference in communicating via phone, face-to-face, or even email. Much is lost depending on the form and style of communication which can lead to misunderstanding in a work, or even personal setting.

That helped me learn the importance of communication. Specifically, communication via email must be more diligent because there is so much room for misinterpretation. In emails, over communicating is much better than under-communicating. Especially today with the work from home situation, it is even more paramount that we give context in the emails especially when giving feedback and even more so when the feedback is negative. Be careful in the language and the words chosen, elaborate on what you are thinking and give actionable items to move ahead.

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 more immediate you are able to give feedback the better. There will never be a perfect time, but the sooner you address it, the sooner you are able to deal with the situation and improve the results.

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 was talking to one of my friends who is an accomplished person in the software development world. He asked me if I’ve observed that in certain industries they discover that something works better, make it a protocol, everyone follows it and then they build on top of that. For example, many years back doctors realized to go into surgery, they have to wash their hands for two straight minutes and since then, this protocol has never been questioned.

He then said, “Why in our industry, the information technology industry, do we have this itch to always reinvent the wheel and do everything from scratch with this idea that I can do it better than the other person.” That got me thinking that it would be so much better if we could establish and accept certain things as standards and spend less time explaining the basics of UX design. If we can all think like this at large, it will uplift the whole industry and we can create better functioning softwares with a better user experience. Given that every business is a software business, we then have power of enhancing a lot of peoples’ lives that are using these softwares day in and day out.

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

In design we live by the model that “no design is perfect and there is always room for improvement.” So is the case with life. If you have achieved the state of perfection today, that might not be good enough tomorrow. As the world around us progresses, we must always progress with it.

Do not accept that what worked yesterday will work today.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/bansi-mehta/?originalSubdomain=in


Bansi Mehta of KORU UX: 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.

Kurt Kaufer of Ad Results Media: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Give yourself a realistic timeline to achieve your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’m sure there were a myriad of failures along the way but learning from those failures is what kept the project moving forward instead of just quitting because the timeline wasn’t meeting your initial estimations.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kurt Kaufer, Partner and CMO of Ad Results Media

Kurt has over two decades of experience in marketing, strategy development, media planning and analytics.

Prior to co-founding the digital and audio consultancy Brown Bear Digital in 2013 and Ad Results Media in 2016, he oversaw global SEM efforts for Provide Commerce (now FTD). He also built and led digital customer acquisition and retention marketing efforts for Stance.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.

It was a confluence of things. I started my career in Financial Services where I stayed for about seven years. I was responsible for research and investment management support for institutional investors, so the role was academic based which I loved. I’m an analytical thinker by nature, but I also had this creative side to me which I felt couldn’t be leveraged in the industry I was in. My dad was an electrical engineer, and my mom was an artist, so I think I inherited a strong mix of both left and right brain skills. As my career progressed, I started to realize that my interests and skill sets could likely be applied to a burgeoning industry that I kept hearing about, digital marketing. The industry seemed like it would offer a unique opportunity to apply my penchant for numbers while exercising my creative passion and ideas. It was seemingly perfect match for me as it was a growing and evolving industry and I would have the ability to have a career path more akin to my interests and skills. The Great Recession that started in 2007 was the inflection point where I decided to leave finance and take a chance on a new career.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

There were some difficult moments right out of the gate. I was 30 years old, had just gotten married, had very little savings and was out of work. I couldn’t find a job in digital marketing because I had no experience and there were barely any open positions to begin with due to the recession. I was determined to make it work so I decided to take an unpaid internship at a small digital consultancy to get my start. It was a very humbling experience, but an incredibly formative one. I had just moved from a senior position at an incredibly reputable and globally recognized investment firm to a small digital start up earning no money and making coffee for colleagues who were barely out of college. I had no office, an old wobbly desk, and no clue what I got myself into. At first I felt old, and out of place, but I did everything asked of me. I read everything I could get my hands on to learn the job and industry and worked my tail off to become highly skilled in a short amount of time. My wife was amazing during this time because here we were, newly married, and I told her I was going to quit my job, change careers, and work for no money. Although she looked worried when I told her, she believed in me. It wasn’t, easy but we somehow made it work.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I think I’ve always been a very driven person. It’s probably a mix of perfectionism, fear, ego, pride, a feeling of accountability to others and the ultimate desire to grow and add value not only to myself, but to as many people as I can. My value system is a large driver of my approach to life in and out of the office. A strong set of values is paramount to your success as they help guide your drive.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit to me is all about hard work, perseveration, and accountability. The backbone of any successful career is the hard work and determination that needs to be applied consistently to be great at anything. In the case of my career path, it was up to me to roll up my sleeves and power through the ambiguity of my future and the adversity I faced. Relying on grit has been a large part of my success.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Be bold and be willing to take some risk in your career.
  2. Push yourself out of your comfort zone when you get the opportunity.
  3. Hold onto hope but have confidence in yourself to make your vision a reality.
  4. Give yourself a realistic timeline to achieve your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’m sure there were a myriad of failures along the way but learning from those failures is what kept the project moving forward instead of just quitting because the timeline wasn’t meeting your initial estimations.
  5. Have a purpose. Having purpose is the fall back for whatever doubt you feel along the way. You can always go back to your intended purpose to recenter yourself and get you back on the right path.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

There isn’t any one person. I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who are smart, caring, open, empathetic, and more knowledgeable than I am about certain things. I’ve always made an effort to be a very conscious and engaged listener. I try to internalize each person’s point of view to truly understand what they’re sharing and how I can better myself and potentially others with that information.

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

Part of my desire to create an agency was not only to take advantage of a “blue ocean” in the market at the time (performance marketing, specialty podcast advertising), but to create a vehicle with which I could positively impact as many people as possible. To be honest, I created the company values before starting an agency was even a serious thought in my mind. It was almost like a cathartic exercise based on the role I was in at the time and how I wished the organization had a bit more of an employee centric value chain. The values I conceptualized were rooted in the ethos of helping people grow both personally and professionally through guidance and opportunities and a philosophy of gratitude where we lift each other up, motivate, inspire, and mentor without expectations of payback. With a strong focus on the employees first, that vision has come to life in both of my entrepreneurial ventures. At both Brown Bear Digital and Ad Results Media, I feel we have helped individuals grow, mature, and succeed in their careers so they can be happy both at work and at home. We operate by focusing on the overlap of strong corporate values and employee growth and development. It’s a conscious business decision to materially invest in our employees in the form of time, resources, and money, sometimes at the expense of the bottom-line, in order to create a best-in-class services organization for our clients and for our employees.

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

We’re constantly evolving our training program internally. We’ve recently tripled our HR team to further facilitate and support the training needs of our employees. From leadership training, to management training, to diversity training, we have a highly sophisticated program built to create leaders at all levels and we’re only expanding on that. We’ve also recently created internal platforms and committees for our employees to learn, share, grow and empower each other. Two examples are a new “Women in Podcasting” campaign we launched and the “SEEN” committee we recently formed. Both are intended to give our employees a platform and voice to talk about their experiences related to diversity, inclusion, and more.

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

For other agency owners, I would say to set your priorities correctly and have employee welfare be at the top if you haven’t done so already. Do an honest and comprehensive evaluation of your benefits offering, recruiting process, new hire onboarding process, talent development process, management mentorship process, employee culture development, etc. Be open to listening, applying feedback and making the sacrifices to ensure your employees are recognized as the most important component of your business.

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. 🙂

This is outside of marketing, but make it mandatory that all kids get at least one hour of nature time per day during the school week. The fundamental connection between the outdoors and humans is foundational to our health and happiness. The more time kids spend in front of screens, on social media and on their phones, the less time they have to connect with nature, themselves and others. Spending time outdoors, particularly deep in nature, is known to reduce stress and anxiety while creating a sense of connection with the world, themselves, and others. It can help create empathy and understanding of people and our environment at deep levels, which could help remedy the problem we find ourselves in with people just shouting and talking over one another, all stressed out and anxious with a zero sum mindset.

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

I’m not sure who said it, but I always liked, “Great things never come from comfort zones.” Hopefully my story above speaks to how this is relevant to me.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtkaufer/

Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/people/kurtkaufer/?sh=2cbf0b246f63

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


Kurt Kaufer of Ad Results Media: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Brandi Grayson of Urban Triage is Helping To Support Some Of…

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Brandi Grayson of Urban Triage is Helping To Support Some Of The Most Vulnerable People In Our Communities

Be an active member of your neighborhood. Don’t move with the demographic trends; get to know your neighbors so you know how to support each other if things go badly for yourself or your neighbor. These friendships are what future mutual aid organizations and other helpful models are built on. Also remember that a constructive member of your community means being supportive — often, neighborhood organizing models are based on policing and criminalization, which only worsens homelessness and public safety!

As a part of my series about “Heroes of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandi Grayson.

Brandi Grayson is the proud mother of 3 daughters 26, 26, and 20, and one 4-year-old son. Ms. Grayson has worn many hats over the last 20 years including Treatment Foster Parent, Advocate, Activist, Comedian, Radio Talk Show Host, CEO, Business Manager & Realtor to name a few. She’s known for her bold, authentic and unstoppable approach as a leader in the Black Lives Matter Movement standing for transformational justice and Black liberation as co-Founder of Young Gifted and Black Coalition and as the Founder & CEO of Urban Triage, Inc. Ms. Grayson embodies that in which she stands for: transformational education, justice, integrity, and Black excellence.

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 personal background, and how you grew up?

I was born on the Southside of Chicago to a mother who struggled with addiction and was a victim of abuse. Leading to a chaotic and traumatic childhood. I was left unprotected, unguided and uncared for. Leading to unsafe environments, dangerous situations and teen pregnancy at the age of 13. We moved to Madison when I was approximately 10. The thing I remember the most is coming across John Nolan and being breathless because of the green grass, parks and the calmness and peace that Madison had to offer. I spent my childhood in and out of foster care until I found permanency with my foster mom Rita Adair. She took me in shortly after becoming pregnant I believe I was seven months pregnant and I lived with her until I graduated from high school and went on to attend UW Madison. I struggled with intimate relationships and friendships because I had no reference point for trust, intimacy, vulnerability, or healthy relationships. I thought abuse was healthy. I had no idea that vulnerability was the key to my liberation which took me years to figure out. I wore many hats over the years in my journey to discover myself and my passion. As soon found myself in a situation in which I was advocating for the lease of us. I had no idea at that time that that would become my path. Or my life mission statement. And yet here I am rooting for and creating pathways and opportunities for Black people Black families in Black communities. It’s often said a leader is known by the fruit they bear. It is my vision to empower and inspire leadership in Black people and within our Black communities leading to the development and methodology of Urban Triage Inc of transformational education.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

I wouldn’t say there was one particular incident — there were many incidents in my life. Incidents that left me feeling hopeless, desperate unloved and unsure if I would survive. My work is based on my experience, my journey to healing and transformational living. My work is based on the experience of many in my community. I found myself many times not sure if I would make it. And each time I found myself making it. I found that I had all that I needed within me. I just didn’t know it at the time. I also found that I wasn’t alone. More times than I could count, I didn’t know how I was going to get to the next level in my life or the place I wanted to be in my life — I often heard a voice within that told me to keep going. So, I did. And everything eventually fell into place. Not without trials and tribulations of course. I stumbled across books, videos, lectures, spiritual podcasts, personal leadership and personal change training and I sucked it all up. As much as I could. I prayed. I cried. I grieved. I took a 2-year sabbatical after giving birth to my 4-year-old son to heal my heart, my spirit and my body. And to present with him as much as I could. Shortly after my 2-year break from the world, I was invited by a friend of mine to enroll in the Landmark Curriculum for living around 2018. Enrolling in Landmark changed my understanding in terms of how to frame my work and my own transformational journey. It gave me a reference point in understanding how conversations and communication are the bedrock of transformation and healing. I am forever grateful for the curriculum of living offered through Landmark. I took the distinctions, language and framework and applied to my life and to my work. Enrolling others into the possibility of creating and redefining humanness from outside of contextual constraints given to us through our conditioning and the mechanics of our minds. Leading to a newfound freedom and power — grounded in being fully self-expressed and authentic.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

Our housing market has always reflected capitalism which grounded in racism. Prices on property, and thus rent, is impacted by the demographics of the residents. When middle-class white people move into a working-class neighborhood, they price the community out through higher taxes and higher rent. Of course, for the purpose of “generating” revenue increasing “safety”. When working-class, specifically Black & Brown people move into a neighborhood, middle class — often white people, flee to escape what they believe will be decreasing property values due to criminality of Black people representing those who are considered undeserving. Criminality by the way is a tool used by systems to maintain itself. Itself being white supremacy racism. Criminality of Black youth and Black people gives justification for mass incarceration, disproportionality of arrest, redlining and gentrification — maintaining the power equation of whites over nonwhite people. This process maintains racial and socioeconomic segregation long after we supposedly got rid of Jim Crow laws. This crisis, inherently, is rooted I white supremacy racism and the inability of a free market to provide services and supports for the people by the people — including housing, access to mental wellness services, healthcare and education rooted in the psychology of those being educated. All which by the way are human rights and should be readily available and accessible for all residents. It doesn’t cost more to provide impactful support services and resources including affordable housing, then it does condos or hotels and yet we invest in condos, dog parks and hotels. The private market incentivizes people to cater to the rich and the professional class and ignore the needs of the working class and poor. Leading to higher rate of poverty, decrease in middle class and increase in the funds controlled by 10% of our society. In other words, the average family is getting poorer and the rich is getting richer.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

The typical progression isn’t typical at all. Everyone’s stories are different. Everyone’s environmental factors are different including mental health and physical health. Despite differences there are similarities. Housing instability can happen to anyone, though it’s also important to remember those that have been born into housing instability and have been in a cycle of housing instability. Often our country focuses on those with the easiest-to-solve problems or the most sympathetic story, but we need to recognize everyone’s right to housing, regardless of their past and past actions.

That being said, the current pandemic is a great example of how someone can go from stable to homeless. During this pandemic and its associated economic downturn, millions of people lost their source of income. With wages stagnating but cost of living increasing, few people — even middle class — have enough money saved to cover a job loss, especially when there are very few jobs hiring that offer living wages. It does not take long from missing rent or mortgage payment to being homeless. Remember that being forced to double up, crashing a friend’s couch, or living in a car are forms of homelessness as well — the problem is much deeper than those we see on the street. Most people don’t have access to generational wealth — -in the form of family support or nepotism.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

The most obvious answer is it costs money to move. If you have a car, it costs gas money. If you need a moving truck, that costs money. If you need a bus ticket, that costs money. Additionally, the city someone is comfortable with may have other benefits, such as social connections, support systems, and relative safety. And, frankly, housing prices across the nation are too high for our lowest-income community members. There often is no city with housing cheap enough to be worth it. Madison, we love to build affordable housing that isn’t affordable at all for most people. Let’s be real, housing cost has gone up across the nation considerably while our wages have gone down. At the age of 14 I worked for Nicolet Biomedical and made $14/hr. 25 years later people are expected to feed their families and cover their rent — for $14/hr — how does that work? Its inhumane and is symbolic of the issue. Prices up. Wages go down. Condos up. Leading to homelessness and home insecurities.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

Acknowledge them. We often treat people who are homeless as invisible — this is a form of dehumanization. Each person is an expert in what they need. If you end up in a conversation with them, you may learn what they need in the form of support. Ask them — how can I support you? And do it. Don’t judge. Don’t worry about what if they spend the money or something other than. We have to learn to detach from paternalistic ways that say we know best — when actually folks who are most vulnerable know what they need and know what is best for them.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

If you’re able to, give money. If not, acknowledge them and say you are unable to give so that their humanity is recognized.

People often worry about the money being misused, but keep in mind — who is truly mishandling money in large sums, those that are homeless or, say, politicians and CEOs? Additionally, many of the vices people associate with the homeless are often vices many of us have challenges with — and chances are, people find it harder to quit vices when they’re unhoused. At the end of the day, giving money when asked is the best way to respond and once that money is in their hands, unless this person is someone you have a prior connection with, it’s no longer your business.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

Our Homeless Outreach Program is designed to be the initial contact point for many experiencing homelessness and/or housing insecurity in the City of Madison and the Dane County area. We employ a team of 6 Outreach Specialists who go out into the community three times per week to locate, identify, and build relationships with those who are experiencing homelessness and/or housing insecurity to engage them for the purpose of providing immediate support, intervention, and connections with homeless assistance programs and/or mainstream social services and housing programs, and help guide them through the housing process. Because of our analysis of trauma and racism on an interpersonal, cultural, and systemic level, we are uniquely positioned to build relationships with people experiencing homelessness that may be a struggle to connect with for other organizations. Our outreach work, like all our programming is grounded in transformational education. Providing through case management a path to empowerment and freedom. We enroll those experiencing homelessness into the possibility of having all their needs met. We don’t judge. We don’t make them wrong. We reflect back to them their own humanity and their own competency. Providing pathways and resources for them to reach their goals. Encouraging them along the way to start with the results they desire to see.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened and exacerbated existing needs, gaps, and inequities within marginalized communities. This is impacting employment, income security, housing security, family basic needs, mental health, healthcare access, and safety. We have witnessed an immediate increase in the number of persons requesting financial assistance and emergency funds to prevent eviction due to economic hardship, job loss, and displacement. We are also witnessing an elevated and urgent need for mental health and crisis support as isolation and economic insecurity heighten anxiety, depression, and the risk of substance abuse. Fundamentally, our work hasn’t changed. While we need more safety precautions, the work of outreach is done in the community, not on a Zoom. That is why we rely on a team of outreach specialists. Our Community Outreach Program distributes personal care/hygiene packs, meals, transportation, housing entry cost coverage, and case management.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

I’m proud of our focus on non-conforming, non-white community members. Too often, non-profits focus on “easy” cases or those most sympathetic to the middle class. We want to focus on people who face racism, are differently-abled, are LGBTQIA, or otherwise face additional barriers due to their identity. Homeless service providers must be well-versed in intersectionality because our clients deal with intersectionality as it relates to oppression every day. Its challenging for me to think of one story. Its not one story that makes me proud its all our work. The work of meeting people where they’re at. The conversation and their response to us seeing them and not judging them. It is their appreciation and their acknowledgement of how we show up for them. There isn’t one story. Only one method — treat people as people. See past our own stories and conversations of who we think they are. And reflect to them who we know they are — human beings.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

There are so many stories I’m not sure where to start…I guess the one that comes to mind is the story of a family who was facing homelessness and called our office and said they had been evicted and were living in their car. The husband was going to work every day, but they couldn’t seem to save enough money for security deposit and first month’s rent. Every time they did, they would have to spend it on hotels because no one would rent to them because their monthly income wasn’t 3X the amount of rent. They had two small children 9 months and 3 years old. We were able to provide rental support for them to cover their first month’s rent and we were able to work with a private landlord to get them housed. It was humbling because the mother was so excited about what we were able to do for her that for a whole week she would stop by and bring whatever gift that she had including food and a wallet. We accepted it with pride and love. Because we understand that if someone is surviving poverty and we look out for them, they often want to give back in whatever way they can, and it is our responsibility to receive what they are giving in love. We have many stories but this one is the one that sticks out in my mind at the moment.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

  1. As a society, we need to be comfortable with housing that is not profitable — the government can and should help with building new units, maintenance costs, and eliminating evictions and foreclosures. Banks often keep the heating on in foreclosed homes to prevent pipes from bursting in the winter. How is that pipe worth more than the family made homeless in the cold?
  2. Investigate housing cooperatives, especially for those currently homeless. A cooperative model where tenants share ownership and responsibility can reduce rent, help combat our socioeconomic inequality, and build community among those struggling with shared experiences as housing unstable.
  3. Be an active member of your neighborhood. Don’t move with the demographic trends; get to know your neighbors so you know how to support each other if things go badly for yourself or your neighbor. These friendships are what future mutual aid organizations and other helpful models are built on. Also, remember that a constructive member of your community means being supportive — often, neighborhood organizing models are based on policing and criminalization, which only worsens homelessness and public safety!

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  1. Set a minimum wage that is actually a livable wage.
  2. Define affordable housing as having rent no more than 30% of a full-time minimum wage earner’s income so no matter how badly the job pays, housing is affordable.
  3. Create tenant protection laws that make it easier for tenants to form unions against landlords — the way workers need a check on bad management, tenants deserve a check on bad landlords.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

My community. My family, My supporters. I couldn’t do this without them. Madison, WI may be the number one worst place to live in the nation for Black people and it’s also filled with people who want to see, and who are active change-makers. It is because of them that I have, and we have been able to do what we do so impactfully and effectively. The impact of our work and the reputation that we’ve created as an organization keeps me humbled and keeps me moving. Knowing that our work is literally changing lives — makes it all worth it. Because again, our work is not the same as a “normal” outreach program. We’re grounded and founded in transformational education and beingness — leading to change in people and within systems.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

Absolutely — I wouldn’t do this work if I didn’t think we could win. The housing crisis is a crisis of political will, not resources. There are more vacant homes than homeless people in the United States, and this is true in nearly every city. If we truly treat housing as a non-negotiable right, we can come up with solutions to keep everyone housed.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

That is okay to be me. It’s okay to be fully self-expressed. To be 100% authentic; that’s okay to be unreasonable. It’s okay to push the envelope. That it’s okay to make people uncomfortable. That it’s okay to demand better of our elected officials and to demand better of our and for our community. That it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to share my heart. It’s okay to be me. I wish someone would have told me that my work would be most impactful when it’s authentic and rooted in transformation.

I started off my work angry. Resentful of elected politicians and appointed leadership in our community. I wasn’t sure how to express my anger, so it came out in violent ways through my words and my actions. Not physically violent I’ve never been physically violent but when I say violent — -I mean through my words. I mean name-calling and talking at people and making people wrong versus creating a conversation or getting into communication with people from a place of humanness. I wasn’t able to do that until I was able to access my own vulnerability and become aware of my own language, baggage, demons and devils. When I became more in tune with who I was versus who I wanted to be, I was able to be compassionate with myself and offer love to myself making room for me to do the same for others as we play and participate in this thing called life. If someone would have told me a long time ago that change starts with self and self-starts with vulnerability and self-awareness I probably would be in a different place by now. But I have no regrets. It is what it is, and I am in full acceptance of my journey in life and where it has brought me. With the understanding that everything was necessary for me to be where I’m at today and I’m okay with where I’m at today. Actually, I’m super grateful and excited for the trajectory of my life and the possibilities of our organization. I know this is only the beginning of what we’re causing and creating in the world and the more that I stand in infinite possibilities the more vulnerable I become and the more healing I experience. I desire the same thing for everyone in the world — -transformational love — which starts with us.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

White supremacist patriarchal capitalism needs to end now. The assault on Black bodies, Black people Black families in Black communities need to stop. In order for us to get there we must get into listening and communication of the root cause of it all. Everyone globally has been socialized to internalize negative beliefs about Black people because of this country’s history. White people, non-Black people of color, Black people even. It is the tool that those with money and power use to convince people to fight against their own interests. It is the tool that is used to prevent people from believing in real change. When a good chunk of the country views poverty as a racial issue, they make assumptions about “deserving” and “undeserving” instead of seeing that everyone deserves socioeconomic security and housing, regardless of their past. It is my hope and vision of a world where humans are redefined. That the prototype of humanness is no longer an exclusive club that only white people belong to. That the prototype of humanness no longer is founded and grounded in biological characteristics, but the nature & psychology of human beings rooted in love, compassion and beingness.

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

The surest way to lose self-worth is trying to find it through the eyes of others. — Becca Lee

Because of my own personal trauma and abandonment issues with growing up a ward of the state and not having family I’ve always tried to be who others wanted and needed me to be and I always resented them and myself. Living that way pushed me further and further away from myself. I didn’t know who I was. My self-worth has always depended on others. How happy they were with me. I now know that self-worth has to come from within. That it’s directly connected to self-love. And self-awareness. Knowing thyself and mastering thyself. Once I figured that out, I became powerful beyond belief. I begin to cause and create in my world without a delay. I started to say chair and chair falls. Because I now know who I am. And I know where I’m going. It’s the most liberating and freeing way to be in the world.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah Winfrey. I’ve been visualizing my first meeting with her since I was a little girl. She shares part of my story. She’s always been this powerful, causing and creating transformative being in a Black woman’s body. I just want to be in her presence. I want to touch her hand and experience her vibrational frequency. She has never allowed what is — -to stop her from causing & creating — -experiencing herself fully, authentically and apologetically. When you know her story and see where she is today — how can you not want to be in the presence of a person that transcends all odds? I love me so Oprah. When I sit in front of Oprah — I will know for a fact I’m walking in the highest grandest version of myself and I too am unstoppable and living outside of this small world that most of us have been conditioned to accept as IT — is all that exists. I’m ready to scale up and beyond Madison WI to a nationwide and international platform. I’m ready to walk in the highest grandest version of myself. Mind you, whoever sits with Oprah becomes international.

How can our readers follow you online?

The most important step is to visit our website and find ways to support the work of Urban Triage. https://urbantriage.org. I’m also running for local office — please follow my campaign at www.BrandiForMadison.com and my personal Facebook at Brandi Grayson, Madison WI. You’ll know its been from my chocolate skin and head wrap.


Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Brandi Grayson of Urban Triage is Helping To Support Some Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Terence Reilly of Stanley Brand: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Live out your company values: People want to buy from companies that espouse values in sync with their own. Stanley consumers identify with our commitment to creating a better world. We want to leave this world better than we found it by providing our consumers with re-useable, built-for-life drinkware and foodware. Our consumers buy from us, in part, because they want to save the planet one re-use at a time. We are with our fans for a lifetime of chills, thrills and no spills.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Terence Reilly.

Terence Reilly is Global President for PMI Worldwide’s Stanley® brand, leading global brand, sales, marketing, e-commerce and product design for the Stanley family of products. He also heads PMI Worldwide’s private label division.

Reilly joined the company after seven years with Crocs, most recently as its Chief Marketing Officer where he led the brand’s resurgence with innovative marketing, social media excellence, collaborations and celebrity partnerships. He has also held leadership positions at American Express, Prudential Financial, Footaction and Famous Footwear.

Reilly started his career in public relations, following the completion of his degree at Rider University.

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

People. People brought me to this specific career path. I’ve been blessed to have incredible people take a chance on me at various and critical moments of my career. From Michael Kempner to Bill Borduin, Lisa Mastronardi to Will Smith, Andrew Rees to Bob Keller, I’ve been very lucky to have these people either give me my first job or my biggest job as well as all the major career moments in between.

Of course, being ready for the audition was also important. You never know when you’re auditioning for a role and you never know if and when you’re actually in front of that person looking for their next hire. Fortunately for me, I was ready. I passed the most important audition after college when I landed my first job in public relations. It was here that I developed my spark for taking brands to new heights, both for building brand love and driving the business. This is where I learned to think big and deliver those unexpected ideas to our client roster. The legendary Michael Jackson actually played a role in my early career trajectory but that’s a story for another day.

From here, I moved into leadership positions with American Express, Prudential Financial, Footaction and Famous Footwear. But nearly each time I landed one of those roles, it was from passing an audition for which I did not know I was auditioning. I spent the last seven years with Crocs, most recently as its chief marketing officer, where I led the brand’s resurgence with innovative marketing, social media excellence, and headline-grabbing collaborations like Post Malone, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Luke Combs, Peeps and so many more. Thanks to these ideas and the amazing team who implemented them, we fueled record sales and an all-time high stock price.

Since early 2020, I have had the privilege of leading the iconic Stanley brand as the global president, partnering closely with talented and passionate teams across sales, marketing, e-commerce and product design.

How a kid from New Jersey became president of a legendary, Seattle-based brand is amazing. To lead an iconic 107-year-old brand that provides consumer-centric, sustainable solutions drives me every day. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

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? There are too many mistakes to count. Funny that the one which immediately comes to mind was at my first job in public relations when I forgot to bring Velcro to hang a client banner as a press conference backdrop. Seeing coverage the next day with a barren background still gives me an occasional nightmare. Ironic that a Velcro mistake stuck with me.

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

The Stanley brand has a rich 100+ years of history. Founder William Stanley Jr. forever changed the way hot beverages were consumed when he fused vacuum insulation and the strength of steel in one portable bottle back in 1913, inventing the all-steel vacuum bottle we love today.

The vacuum bottle has become an icon — the Stanley brand has been part of countless adventures and even more shared memories. We have so many Stanley stories. So many that we have a book of them.

I’m always touched by how many customers refer to their Stanley product as “a friend.” That gets me every time. Just recently I heard from a Stanley fan who instructed his family to place his ashes in his trusty Stanley after he dies. Talk about brand loyalty!

What makes us stand out is the innovative work of my colleagues — with each passing year we continue to push ourselves to create timeless and modern gear for adventurers.

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

We have many exciting product launches, brand programs and collaborations in the works for this year and beyond!

For starters, Stanley is bringing a new line of drinkware geared toward personal hydration as a direct response to rising consumer interest and awareness in personal health and safety. We see sports stars carrying their own drink solutions for that very reason. COVID-19 has given rise to well-rounded, hyper-personalized drinkware and foodware solutions.

The product series is our foray into thirst-quenching, versatile and colorful drinkware. The products are designed for the active lifestyle, whether it be shuttling the family to and from practice, deskside hydration for your next virtual meeting, your at-home yoga session and more.

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?

To me, branding is sharing stories and finding connections with consumers — those who love the Stanley brand, and those who are getting to know us. This encompasses our rich brand history, sharing where the brand is today and where we’re heading.

Brand marketing involves conveying our values to our core Stanley community and inviting them to join us in the magic of what our products make them feel and experience — like a fond memory and the new ones they create.

Our consumers share a common adventurous spirit — whether it be planning their next camping adventure, an RV road trip, or a socially-distanced outing to the beach, Stanley brand invites and awakens adventure in all of us. Branding invites people to emotionally connect to your product and your mission and values.

Product marketing, on the other hand, is about creating touchpoints for consumers to try our products and envision Stanley as part of their lives. Both branding and product marketing are essential to our business; Stanley brand continues to explore, evolve and excel on both fronts. And with apologies to Sy Sperling, I’m not only the Stanley President but I’m also a customer. I’ve watched our how-to video for our Classic Perfect Brew Pour Over Set many, many times in an effort to make a perfect cup of coffee. And, now, each morning I excitedly pour hot water over my coffee grinds into our amazing product and start my day in caffeinated bliss surrounded by an amazing coffee aroma. I begin each day living a consumer touchpoint!

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 goes beyond recognition; it is about finding a place in consumers’ lives. How do we make them feel? How do we add delight to their days when they are down? How can we provide a sense of comfort and security as they camp, commute, or spend time in Zoom calls as they work from home?

Our mission is clear, we want to relate to consumers, to share common values and to feel — they may be aspirational feelings, feelings of comfort, feelings of belonging, etc.

Your brand may invoke cherished memories in your community, as Stanley does for many Stanley owners. Our brand’s 107 years in existence spans many generations. We hear stories from Stanley ‘families’ who have passed a treasured Stanley down from generation to generation. Or they share memories of carrying their Stanley with them on their first hike or fishing trip with dad or grandpa.

Without brand awareness, recognition or affinity, your brand operates in a void. There’s no connection. And that makes your sale that much more difficult.

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.

1. Be authentic: Eighty-six percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support (Stackla, 2019). Consumers want to buy from a trusted, believable brand. Prioritize your brand’s integrity.

I read a great Medium post on authenticity by Christopher D. Connors recently. He wrote: “There’s never any doubt or questioning the integrity of an authentic individual. Their behavior, in terms of ethics and morals, is as predictable as snow during wintertime in Minnesota. You know what you’re going to get.”

The same is true of an authentic brand: be “predictable” in this regard. Although given Stanley is based in Seattle, we’ll be swapping rain for that snow.

2. Be transparent: Transparency goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. Be open with your consumers to build trust and rapport. If your company makes a mistake, own up.

3. Make it meaningful: Consumers are looking to brands for much more than just products and services today. They seek connection and community. They want to follow and invest in brands with shared values, such as sustainability.

This can be done through listening and engagement — from going above and beyond in customer service to creating product features that help solve a problem and delight them.

4. Live out your company values: People want to buy from companies that espouse values in sync with their own. Stanley consumers identify with our commitment to creating a better world. We want to leave this world better than we found it by providing our consumers with re-useable, built-for-life drinkware and foodware. Our consumers buy from us, in part, because they want to save the planet one re-use at a time. We are with our fans for a lifetime of chills, thrills and no spills.

5. Let others speak for you: At Stanley, we invite content creators and Stanley consumers to share their stories with us. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see unique stories that speak volumes. Given that 79% of people say that user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (Stackla, 2019), consider giving others a voice.

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?

Well, of course, I’m biased as I believe what I accomplished with an amazing team at Crocs deserves strong consideration. But, Starbucks has set the bar high in terms of a company that has built a much-loved brand. The company prioritizes the five strategies that I outlined above.

With Starbucks, you know you are going to get an authentic, consistent experience when you pull into a Starbucks drive-through or walk into a cafe. You also anticipate that when you take that first sip of your latte, you’re transported to a place that brings calm or rejuvenation, or simply might signal “break time.” Moreover, Starbucks provides more than a cup of great coffee — they inspire and connect consumers in ways not many brands are able to achieve. The Starbucks leadership team continues to impress me — their inventiveness, innovation, creativity and ability to think big and deliver. With each and every pull.

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 measurable means of tracking your brand success over time, for example, via brand health surveys, brand impressions and social media metrics. But immeasurable successes include your impact on the consumers’ lives and community engagement and interaction. When I first started with Crocs, my teenage daughters wanted nothing to do with those “ugly” shoes. By the end of my tenure they were asking for pairs for not only themselves but their friends. I knew I had made it when my daughter’s high school musical castmates were all outfitted in pink Crocs for a Legally Blonde cast photo.

Branding success, for Stanley, means coming to the forefront of our consumers’ minds when prompted to think of drinkware or foodware built for life’s adventures. It’s seeing Stanley in a popular consumer publication, with the essence of our messaging captured and conveyed to our core audiences. It’s the growth of our social media platforms and the authentic engagement that we have with those who follow our channels. We’ve already started seeing this with fantastic coverage of our flask in The New York Times and soon you’ll see some amazing celebrity and brand collaborations too!

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Stanley’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages are beginning to amplify our branding initiatives as a company. They allow us to embrace culture moments, trends and have fun with our fans at the same time. Having a solid channel and content strategy that is relevant to our current and future Stanley fans allows us to continue to grow our brand footprint.

Overall, the use of social media is critical to listening to and engaging with our consumers.

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

At the end of the day, be sure that you find meaning in what you do. This is one of our core Stanley values. Feel good about your work and put your best foot forward. I always encourage my team to seek out “resume building” moments such as moving the needle on our social comms strategy or creating a successful brand collaboration that generates buzz.

At the same time, while I’m very intense, I like to think I don’t take things too seriously.

Case in point, at meetings I’m known for delivering a cheesy pun or two and the occasional Dad joke whenever possible. And rest assured that with (nearly) every presentation I give, it’s going to include a dash of fanfare. That might mean you get to hear a few notes of a Springsteen classic, some Biggie lyrics or a “Stanley-ized” rendition of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” during the company’s virtual holiday party. I even introduced myself to Stanley colleagues with a bit of my amateur poetry. I always strive to make different, better.

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. 🙂

Now is a critical time to pay attention to climate change. Our leading value at Stanley, “Create a Better World,” reinforces our aim to prioritize environmental considerations in everything we do.

We set ambitious environmental objectives both for ourselves and our suppliers. Stanley brand is in the midst of preparing its sustainability commitments, which we look forward to sharing more broadly this fiscal year.

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

“Make different better.” In nearly all aspects of my life I try to do what has never been done before and chart a new path forward. Personally, professionally, with a team, a brand, family or friends, I try to think different, do different, accept different and always try to do it better.

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. 🙂

As a proud native of New Jersey, I’ve always wanted to have lunch with The Boss. I’ve seen him in concert 50+ times and he’s been a part of more great moments in my life than I can possibly count. So, if Bruce Springsteen sees this, I’ll fill a Stanley growler with cold beer, grab a couple of slices from Federicis’s and meet you on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow our adventures on social!

Instagram: @Stanley_brand

Facebook: @StanleyBrand

Twitter: @StanleyBrand

TikTok: @StanleyBrand

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


Terence Reilly of Stanley Brand: 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.

Beth Fortune of Wildheart Design: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

To be a highly successful Airbnb host, you’ve got to be all-in. Airbnbs that are well designed, with thoughtful amenities and friendly hosts get more bookings, better reviews, and make more money. Putting in the effort from the start will put hosts ahead in the long run, when everyone else is lowering rates to compete.

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 Beth Fortune.

Beth Fortune is an interior designer, and the founder of Wildheart Design, a studio that specializes in vacation rental design. Based in Santa Monica, California, Beth helps hosts near and far achieve Airbnb success with interior design services, coaching, and courses. She also owns and manages a successful Airbnb in the Palm Springs, California area.

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”?

Absolutely! I’ve always been a designer, although at the beginning of my career I was more focused on advertising than interiors. It took launching my first Airbnb ten years ago for me to find my calling. My first short-term rental required a major remodel, and during that project, I realized that interior design was it for me. It requires the kind of creative, logistical, and organizational problem solving that lights me up. I was hooked and ended up earning my Master of Interior Architecture degree, and landing a job at the biggest hospitality design firm in the world. Through it all, I managed my Airbnb on the side, applying everything I was learning about design and business to my side hustle.

While working on glamorous, expensive, and complex hotel projects I felt like a secret agent, learning what the top brands and operators do, and applying those lessons to my Airbnb. I’ll let you in on one surprising secret. Whether is a luxury gaming resort in Macau or a 5-room bed and breakfast in Paso Robles, all hospitality projects are designed to look good despite the daily assault of one thing: fast-moving vacuum cleaners. It sounds silly, but imagine the losses if an operator had to replace or repair 50 rooms of dinged up furniture or repaint baseboards every week! That’s a small thing that makes a big difference, and one of the many things I think about when I design Airbnbs.

As much as I liked working on big projects, I love helping scrappy entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality. When I launched my own design business, I knew I wanted to help more people achieve the income, pride, and connection with their guests that I have with my Airbnb. Unlike so many other choices in the gig economy, having an Airbnb allows people to make money in a way that is not tied to an hourly wage. More money and more control over your time, to me, is the ultimate freedom. That’s why I named my company Wildheart. For so many people, Airbnb is the first step towards regaining control over their lives and achieving their wildest dreams.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

My husband and I travel frequently and prefer booking Airbnbs. On one trip, I was particularly impressed by the professionalism and attention to detail the hosts showed. I started looking around at the house, at the labels on the drawers and the little extras, and I thought, “These people are doing this exactly the way I would.” Pretty soon, an idea grabbed hold of me and I couldn’t shake it. “I could do this. I want to do this.” We ended up spending part of the weekend pouring over real estate listings and talking about what was possible, and whether or not it was worth the risk.

So many people, especially creative people, end up trading dollars for hours in a way that makes it very hard to get ahead. My husband and I had a lot of conversations, and I did a lot of research to confirm that if I created the kind of space that I would want to rent, I would be successful. The numbers worked if we could find a house within our modest budget.

Eventually, we found the ugliest house in a great neighborhood, made an offer, and started to panic. I wondered if it would be the best or worst decision I had ever made. I worried that I was in way over my head and that I would fail. All of that worry seems a little silly now, but the truth is, I couldn’t afford any big mistakes. That’s why, now, when I work with clients, my goal is to help them spend money in the way that makes the most sense for the kind of Airbnb they are starting. Everyone has a budget, and every dollar wasted is a lost opportunity. I won’t say I didn’t make any mistakes, but I got the house remodeled and furnished, and my Airbnb dream became a reality. It became successful beyond my wildest imaginings, and now I can assure my clients that although they’re bound to make some mistakes, I can help them avoid the ones I already made.

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

I’ll tell you the story of how I started to take my Airbnb seriously and, consequently, started earning a lot more money. In the beginning, I treated my short term rental like a side hustle or a hobby, reasoning that I could get serious once I invested in a few more properties. I prided myself on not wasting money and doing everything myself. Well, any successful business owner could tell you that that’s a recipe for disaster.

When I started thinking about opening a design studio, I learned a lot about how to run a business. As I researched systems, hiring, and digital marketing, I wondered why I wasn’t doing those things for my Airbnb. After all, it was making nice profits for a side hustle.

I challenged myself to start testing business lessons on my Airbnb. I created systems and standard operating procedures for myself and my contract employees. I research and invested in software, and I started marketing beyond the Airbnb platform. Every time I read a book or heard a great piece of advice on a podcast, I tried to apply it to my short-term rental.

The results were almost comically good. Every time I made a change, it seemed, my bookings increased. I was able to raise my rates and I now stay booked for six months to a year in advance. When I finally started treating my Airbnb like the business it is, I made a lot more money and reduced a great deal of stress for myself. I was able to outsource or automate many of the things I didn’t enjoy and focus on my strengths. With that clarity, I realized that I had no interest in investing in more properties, even though for many that’s the logical next step. I decided, instead, to merge my interest in and skill as a designer and my love for Airbnbs. I wanted to help others achieve the same kind of success that I had.

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 was at my Airbnb in the middle of the week between guests and I noticed the pool cleaner had arrived. Since I hadn’t seen him in a while, I went outside to say hello. He was friendly, but acting a little weird, and he kept asking about our upcoming calendar.

“Is there someone here next week? What about the week after that?” It was an odd thing to ask because we were almost always booked, and had been since he started working for us. Finally, he blurted, “It’s better if I come here when there aren’t any guests.”

Now I was really confused. “Selvin, you know we’re almost always booked, and that’s not possible. What’s going on? Was someone rude to you?”

“Noooo,” he said, “nothing like that.” A fierce blush started creeping up his neck. Seeing that I still looked puzzled, he blurted “The people last week! I got here a little earlier than usual, and they were out here and, uh” At this point, he looked like he wanted to throw himself in the pool.

The people he was referring to were returning guests and had booked the same week in April for the last few years. They always celebrated…

“Oooh,” I said. “They were, uh, celebrating their anniversary?”

“Yes! And I don’t want to see that again!”

I couldn’t hold back the giggles. “Selvin”, I said, “We get people celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, proposing, you name it. People are usually pretty happy when they’re here, and this back yard is very private. I tell them what days and times you clean the pool, but if you arrive early or late, you might surprise them. I’d suggest you learn to whistle if you want to avoid being a witness to someone else’s great vacation.”

The lesson I learned? Always be very clear with guests, and vendors, about what to expect. The lesson Selvin learned? Always start whistling before he turns the corner to the back yard.

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

The most common mistakes I see are two sides of the same coin — too little or too much stuff. That is, spaces that are either furnished with the bare minimum or too much of the host’s personal items. Both too sparse and too crowded short-term rentals communicate to guests that hosts don’t care about their comfort, and are putting in the minimal effort for them.

There’s a school of thought that says hosts should spend as little as possible to furnish an Airbnb. While that can be an understandable choice, it makes hosts vulnerable to competition. If all that’s being offered is a place to sleep, then that leaves the host to compete solely on price, which can quickly become a race to the bottom in a crowded market. It’s far more profitable, and pleasant, to provide a good value, regardless of the rental rate. That means providing a complete and attractively furnished rental.

Conversely, I’ve seen many promising Airbnbs ruined by the hosts using it as a dumping ground for all of their discards. No place seems clean when it’s got a lot of clutter, and no one wants to use your old kitchen stuff. The days of leaving an Airbnb full of personal effects are over because today’s guests expect a lot more for their rental dollars.

To be a highly successful Airbnb host, you’ve got to be all-in. Airbnbs that are well designed, with thoughtful amenities and friendly hosts get more bookings, better reviews, and make more money. Putting in the effort from the start will put hosts ahead in the long run, when everyone else is lowering rates to compete.

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

Remember that you’re asking people to spend their hard-earned money for a few precious days away from the stress of their daily lives. Do anything you can to reduce friction during their stay. Your guests might not comment on everything you do, in fact, they might not even notice the little things on a conscious level. When you anticipate their needs, however, your guests will feel cared for, and those good feelings will lead to great reviews and repeat visitors.

The best way to figure out exactly what your Airbnb needs is to stay there yourself. If you’re not super fussy, invite picky friends to be beta testers. Is there enough light at the bedside tables to read? Is it easy to find an outlet to charge your phone? Are there any noises or lights that make it hard to sleep at night? I can’t tell you how many Airbnbs I’ve stayed in that don’t have a place to put a drink when you sit in the living room. No side tables, and in a few cases, no coffee table. That’s such an easy and inexpensive thing to solve. When you don’t take care of little things like that, you end up with a guest that’s constantly annoyed and frustrated, and no one likes to spend their vacation time that way.

If you have a lot of art or collectibles to show off, remember that you don’t have to display them all at once. Put some things in storage and rotate your collections seasonally. If you’ve converted a family home into an Airbnb and you’re not sure if it’s too cluttered or homey, get an objective opinion, even if you have to pay a consultant for it.

Highly successful Airbnbs feel like home, but better. The best vacation rentals add to the thrill of travel by providing a home base that’s more stylish, comfortable, and functional than home. They make every guest feel like a VIP regardless of the price per night and fantasize about living that way all the time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to achieve that level of success, but you do have to invest some thought into who your guests are and what they need, and time into figuring out how to meet those needs.

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 love tech and experimenting with ways to automate and streamline my work, but the real innovation I bring to the Airbnb experience is putting my guests first. That might mean something as low-tech as putting labels on the kitchen cabinets (who wants to spend their vacation searching for stuff?) or as complex as using quiz making software and cute graphics to deliver the rules about staying with dogs in a friendly way.

There’s no one way to do things, which is what I love about Airbnbs. When I work with clients, I take the time to get to know their backgrounds, interests, and personality traits. I help them brainstorm ways to use those strengths to their advantage as they design their Airbnbs. For example, one client had several short-term rentals on her family’s working farm in the Texas hill country. She loved talking to people, and had a natural ability to sell, but did not have much experience or interest in tech or the internet. She was toying with the idea of creating an online store for current and former guests, but I knew that would be a lot of work for her, and I doubted that she would enjoy it. I got the sense that the online store wasn’t her idea, but when she talked about taking her Airbnb guests to tour the farm, she grew more animated.

I advised her against an online store and instead proposed that she start scheduling and promoting farm days for communities within driving distance. At these events, she could host workshops and sell the products and crafts that her family made at the farm. That way, she could spend more time doing what she did best, which was talking to people and teaching. Every family that showed up to learn how to start a garden, make and can salsa, or name the baby goats would remember the farm the next time they started craving an escape. They would feel comfortable with my client and her charming family and recommend the farm to friends. My studio designed logos, t-shirts, and labels for her, as well as guiding her on an interior design refresh, but I believe the most valuable thing I provided for her was an idea that worked with her strengths.

For my guests and my clients, the human connection comes first. We all know how rare that is these days, and I believe that most of us crave it. Hosting an Airbnb is such a unique opportunity to relate to and share with others, even if we never meet our guests in person. Helping my clients figure out how to be the best hosts they can in the way that works best for them is my mission and my joy.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfV2iwJRCPw

  1. Great photos. Your photos do all of the heavy liftings for you, so the first thing you need to do to be a successful host is to make sure your Airbnb looks fantastic. Whether it’s a fishing cabin or a grand estate, it’s got to stop the scroll. When I design an Airbnb, I think about focal points and camera angles as much as I do form and function. To design your Airbnb for the best photos, consider contrast, color, and proportion, and try to figure out what your best camera angles are going to be. Snap photos as you go to see if space is pulling together. Then, when your Airbnb is ready for its photo op, hire a professional photographer to make sure your shots are head and shoulders above the rest.
  2. A point of view. There are plenty of ways to infuse your vacation rental with personality. Think about using color, local art, and guest communication to show that there’s a person behind your Airbnb. Remember that people choose vacation rentals because they’re not bland hotel rooms, so don’t try to make your space look like one. When I first start working with clients, they’re often afraid that they will repel potential guests with a bold piece of art or bright color palette. The opposite is true because when people travel they want a heightened version of reality, not the boring beige of everyday life. When it’s done well, an Airbnb with personality will stand out in a sea of similar listings and telegraph to guests that they’re in for an adventure.
  3. Generosity. It doesn’t take much, a place to charge a phone, a special treat from a favorite bakery, or a quick response to a question, to communicate that you care about your guests’ well-being. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about how to reduce anxiety and increase comfort whenever possible. The best hosts anticipate their guests’ needs before they’re aware of them. Successful hosts are those that have done this again and again, with every decision they’ve made for their Airbnb. By the time their guests check out, they feel like they struck gold when they booked, and their reviews will reflect that.
  4. The inside scoop. One of the best things about staying in an Airbnb is the opportunity to live like a local. Great hosts make guests feel like they’ve got a friend in town who knows all the best places. If you’re not already an area expert, make an effort to become one. Get to know people in the community, try things out for yourself, and ask for recommendations. This is some of the most fun research you’ll get to do, so enjoy it, and share that enthusiasm with your guests.
  5. Openness. A great host knows that a successful Airbnb can always be better, and goes through life with an openness to finding and testing new ideas. Every trip a host takes is an opportunity to be inspired and to learn, every guest interaction is a chance for feedback, and every un-booked night is an occasion to test different headlines, descriptions, and rates. To be a successful host, seek continuous improvement, look for answers in unexpected places, and most of all, enjoy the journey.

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

My perfect vacation involves lots of walking and exploring without a particular destination in mind. There’s nothing like finding the little things that add character to a city or taking in a landscape that’s so beautiful, I can’t quite believe it exists. When I find those moments of beauty, or humor, or just plain weirdness, I feel so grateful for having seen them. Many of my days on vacation have ended in personal best step counts.

Lest I make myself sound too virtuous, I’ll add that what fuels my ramblings is delicious food, and I love a good cocktail, a tasty local brew, or a fine glass of wine to distract me from my tired feet at the end of the day.

I like to mix Airbnb stays with a few nights in a gorgeous hotel. I get inspired and I enjoy seeing how other designers solve common and uncommon problems. I geek out on the details and know that my husband will indulge my need to stop and take notes on a particularly clever solution.

My perfect vacation experience entails filling my eyes with beauty, my mind with new ideas, and my belly with delicious food and drinks. It never gets old.

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

As a host, I’ve provided a thoughtfully designed space where people can go to spend time with their families and friends, celebrate milestones, or just escape from everyday life for a little while. I hope that every guest checks out of my Airbnb feeling like they received special treatment.

As a designer and a coach, I help my clients achieve the kind of success with their Airbnbs that best fits with their goals and dreams. For some people, it’s a source of income that helps pay for a child’s college tuition. For others, it’s the first step towards becoming their own boss. Regardless of the goal, it’s my mission to help my clients achieve it.

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. 🙂

One host I know, Rick, is building an Airbnb on the Florida coast from the ground up. He has multiple properties and is very successful, but his newest project is going to be something special. Inspired by a video he saw of a young woman experiencing the ocean for the first time in a specially designed wheelchair, he is building his vacation rental to be fully wheelchair accessible, and he will be including those special beach wheelchairs with his rental.

I would help more people be like Rick. I would create a grant that would help and encourage hosts to make their Airbnbs accessible to everyone and match them with designers and architects who could help them. In the US, hotels must meet ADA standards, but most Airbnbs do not. Think of how many people, and their families, that leaves out. Accessibility isn’t just about mobility. Some designers design for people on the autism spectrum, some for the vision or hearing impaired. Imagine a program that would help match hosts with specialized designers, and give them funds to help complete the work. It would open the world up to so many more people. It would be a beautiful thing.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram and Facebook @designbywildheart.

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


Beth Fortune of Wildheart Design: 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: Kurt Nielson of Partisia Blockchain On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Kurt Nielson of Partisia Blockchain On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

The power of surrounding yourself with the right people is so important and there are a lot of extraordinary people behind the success of Partisia. Ivan Damgård is one of the most renowned experts in cryptography and we are privileged to have him lead our team alongside Jesper Buus Nielsen and Claudio Orlandi, the next two generations of world leading experts in MPC. Alongside Peter Frandsen and Jakob Pagter,two of the most highly skilled developer teams in Partisia and Sepior, without such a stellar team we would not have been able to bring Partisia Blockchain to the world.

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

Kurt Nielsen is the Co-Founder & President of Partisia Blockchain, a Web 3.0 public blockchain built for trust, transparency, privacy, and speed-of-light finalization.

A seasoned entrepreneur, Kurt has pioneered the use of advanced cryptography solutions and turned them into innovative high-tech businesses for more than 12 years. He is also the Co-founder of three other successful companies — Partisia, Sepior, and Secata.

A renowned academic, Kurt completed his PhD in Economics at the University of Copenhagen, where he has been an Associate Professor for the past 14 years. His research interests include: applied game theory, operations research, decision support systems, information management, and design of contracts, auctions, and regulation mechanisms.

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

Thank you for having me! My journey started back when I was working on a Ph.D. in economics and deeply buried in theories on how to design economic mechanisms when a friend told me about the existence of Multiparty Computation (MPC for short). It was a true Eureka moment! MPC materializes the common construct needed to basically improve — in theory — almost any decision in the economy. This quickly resulted in a clear vision that still drives everything Partisia is doing and we’re really just scratching the surface of the tremendous potential value creation.

This might all sound very abstract but MPC is all about reclaiming control of data in an increasingly digitized world. Furthermore, it turned out that one of the founding fathers of MPC, Ivan Damgård, who is one of the Co-founders of Partisia Blockchain, was a fellow Dane living around the corner. It’s a small world sometimes!

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

There have been a lot of interesting stories over the years, but the most formative event was probably the “MPC goes live” story. We had spent four years on strategic research which focused on improvements and practical use of MPC and had built an MPC-based decentralized exchange in collaborated with Danisco — a top 20 company in Denmark at the time — that faced an increasing need to ensure a swift reallocation of thousands of supply contracts prior to a large-scale M&A process. The otherwise free market for reallocating the contracts was locked by a rapid decrease in prices and uncertainty about the true value. This was our moment to showcase how MPC can act as a neutral mediator that everyone can trust. The decentralized exchanges were operated by Danisco and the suppliers and MPC made sure that the bids and asks were kept confidential and no single party controlled the exchange. Everyone trusted the decentralized exchange and the contracts were quickly reallocated just prior to the greater M&A process.

This was an amazing opportunity and the catalyst for Partisia to function as a commercial platform for a number of MPC-based projects and spin-outs such as Sepior and Partisia Blockchain.

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

We’re maturing and commercializing MPC and similar technologies that allow a group of computers (phones, servers, etc.) to compute on encrypted data without any of the computers knowing anything about the data used. This may for example make it possible for you and your colleagues to compute which one of you makes the highest annual income without ever sharing your private information about your annual income.

This is huge and almost the holy grail in cryptography as it ensures that data is kept encrypted at all times — at rest, in transit, and in use.

How do you think this might change the world?

I believe this technology has the potential to change the power structures in the internet economy by eventually providing a viable alternative to collecting big data — no small feat. This technological paradigm shift allows for solutions with decentralized control and privacy on one side and central use of data across data sources on the other. Hereby a service provider creates value by better use of data and not by controlling and holding big data.

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

When we first started out there was a lot of concern about the scalability of the technology. This was not unwarranted but since the first commercial use of the technology more than 10 years ago, MPC has become a million times faster. In the beginning, we used MPC to replace the traditional trustee in auction markets. These markets typically have a natural time window that we could use for heavy computations. As the technology has improved, the field of use has grown and today, we’re using MPC for machine learning and many other statistical purposes.

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

Bringing MPC from basic research to a commercial value technology includes a number of tipping points; from basic insights on “how to share a secret” by Shamir in the late 1970s, to Ivan Damgård’s proof of MPC being a Turing complete technology in the late 1980s, to how blockchain brings value to MPC and vice versa, which Partisia has been focusing on for the past number of years. The latter is the most recent tipping point that has resulted in Partisia Blockchain — a Web 3.0 public blockchain. The value creation is highly significant and two-sided — MPC provides privacy to blockchain and blockchain is a more efficient and robust bedrock for MPC orchestration.

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

Partisia Blockchain provides a vehicle for scaling MPC as blockchain is an efficient way to organize a large number of computation nodes and organizations ready for running MPC solutions. We make it simple for developers to apply the newest provable secure MPC protocols without in-depth knowledge about the complicated math and software behind MPC.

Partisia Blockchain is also designed to match the existing ecosystem and hereby to tab into the existing networks. Partisia Blockchain can be used as a second layer to other blockchains and to facilitate interoperability across blockchains and jurisdiction management enable solutions to be operated only by computation nodes in the relevant region. Finally, we don’t introduce a new coin as a mean-of-payment, instead we leverage MPC to allow users to pay for the use with any liquid coin — we call it Bring Your Own Coin.

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

2020 was a busy year for us and we topped it off by announcing we had raised $2.6m in a private, early contribution token sale round. We’re maintaining this momentum and hitting the ground running in 2021 with a string of announcements in the pipeline, most notably Partisia Blockchain is gearing up to launch on Mainnet later this year. We come from a strong scientific background and the partners behind Partisia Blockchain are some of the most cited cryptographers in the world with more than 1,000 published papers collectively. Stay tuned on all our latest updates over on our official Twitter.

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?

The power of surrounding yourself with the right people is so important and there are a lot of extraordinary people behind the success of Partisia. Ivan Damgård is one of the most renowned experts in cryptography and we are privileged to have him lead our team alongside Jesper Buus Nielsen and Claudio Orlandi, the next two generations of world-leading experts in MPC. Alongside Peter Frandsen and Jakob Pagter,two of the most highly skilled developer teams in Partisia and Sepior, without such a stellar team we would not have been able to bring Partisia Blockchain to the world.

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

MPC makes it possible to change the control of data and allow for legal collaboration among competitors and partners with opposite interests. The value created for the greater good that follows from this drives us every day.

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

  1. That Bitcoin would increase 40K 🙂
  2. How tough it is to commercialize fundamental new technologies — we have basically been building the machine that creates the road that we drive on. On the other hand, we would probably not have listened and if we did listen, we might have done something else.
  3. We thought about the blockchain at a very early stage but if someone would have insisted discussing the merger of MPC and blockchain, we would have started building Partisia Blockchain in 2015 and not 2017 which could have made a big difference — but who knows.
  4. We have always been working with people that think hard about the right things to 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?

Data about you — every one of you — is the new oil. Reclaim control of your data and get your fair share. The tools for doing just that are about to enter the market and may create a tremendous impact. Movement along this line is important and one that we promote and support.

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

We are working on the blue-blue-ocean of innovations and you need serious guidance and an efficient noise canceller. My advice on how to navigate in a world like this, is to insist on understanding the fundamental theory, systems, and value drivers and let them guide you.

But remember to revisit things you discharged with a fresh mind.

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

We are moving towards a paradigm shift where the control and confidential use of data is paramount. The desire for change is there and the technological opportunity is ready.

It’s all about disrupting the basic concept of trust. While the dictionary typically tells you that trust is the ability to have confidence in someone or something, the next generation of cryptography paves an alternative road to enhance trust where data can be used without sharing it with anyone.

Partisia Blockchain is the enabler of this emerging economy as a Web 3.0 public blockchain built for trust, transparency, privacy, and confidential interoperability.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re social so you can check us out on Medium, Twitter, Linkedin, Telegram, or visit our website partisiablockchain.com.

Thank you so much for joining us.


The Future Is Now: Kurt Nielson of Partisia Blockchain 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.

Chelsea Beyerman of MOON Ultra Light: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Surround yourself with people who will support you and help keep your head up, even when things get tough. They will push you to keep your head down and keep going.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Beyerman of MOON Ultra

Chelsea Beyerman is the marketing manager at MOON Ultra. She’s a strategic, devil-is-in-the-details thinker and has worked throughout her career to build brands by always remaining two steps ahead of the game. Driven by data, fueled by caffeine and competition, she believe the best work is built when facts meet creativity, and ideas are allowed to run free and grow, before being reigned in and refined to an innovative approach. Chelsea currently lives in AZ with her husband.

Link: MoonUltra.com

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

Sure! I’m originally from Portland, OR and Boise, ID, and ended up at Loyola University of Chicago for my undergraduate. I graduated with a Bachelors in Advertising/PR, and from there worked in various advertising agencies in Chicago and Austin, before settling in Phoenix with my (now) husband.

In Phoenix, I took a position as a traditional and experiential media planner/buyer at a small local agency, later transitioning into a data analyst position at an international digital media network. Within a year, I was internally recruited to join the influencer team, where I stayed and helped grow the team over the next 2.5 years.

It was during this time on the Influencer team that I met Edward Madongorere, CEO of MOON. Ed and I clicked instantly, and have been working together ever since.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I graduated from college within a year of the market crash in 2008. At that time, finding a job (much less a job that was “college grad-worthy”) was near-impossible. I worked in bakeries, as a personal assistant, a housecleaner, anything to make ends meet and pay rent until I finally got my foot in the door at an ad agency, as an office manager. Staying persistent and keeping my head up for (literal) years after graduating from college while I worked jobs that I could have done right after high school really weighed heavily on my self-confidence and mental health. Pushing through, and eventually finding my footing, was a huge accomplishment for me.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

To be honest, the reality of being an adult boils down to the fact that there’s really no other choice than to continue. Had I given up, I would have essentially given up on the career I wanted and had been striving after for so long, without having ever even had it. I didn’t see my situation as being one where I had a choice to continue or not, there was only one direction to move, and that was forward.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

While I can’t yet say I’ve “made it” in terms of being successful (Have any of us? How does one define success? Is this a lifelong pursuit, or something achievable by metric?), I once again lean on the fact that when it boils down it, it, I really didn’t/don’t perceive my situation as having any other choice. I know what I want to do, I know how I want it to turn out, and the only person that can make these “wants” a reality is me. So, I do it!

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Don’t look for an easy way out. Stay focused on what you’re doing.
  2. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help keep your head up, even when things get tough. They will push you to keep your head down and keep going.
  3. Ask for help. Use your resources to seek advice. Let others help you move your project forward.
  4. Stop thinking of time as a Monday-Friday/Weekend calendar. Every day is just a day. Weeks and weekends don’t exist, because there are no days off when you have a goal.
  5. Don’t give yourself another choice. There is no other option than to get it done.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Most certainly. I would not be so heavily involved in the influencer marketing industry now if not for the person who originally recruited me to become part of the influencer team at RhythmOne, Caitlin Lucey. She trained and coached me in everything that is the foundation

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

As my career has progressed, I’ve had the opportunity to use my position to collaborate with some really awesome projects and people, including Meals on Wheels, PetSmart Charities and the Humane Society.

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

I am!!! It’s currently still under wraps for now, but I am working on a new venture in the at-home beauty space. I’m hoping this line of products will work to help bring an end to binary gender marketing of beauty products…We want EVERYONE to feel fabulous!

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

Don’t forget that what we do is about is ultimately about creativity. While we may get lost in the day-to-day dealings in making something amazing happen, don’t forget that what we do is part of a larger, beautiful creative process.

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 solve homelessness! Providing quality mental healthcare, addiction treatment, providing education and training, and providing a stable network to rely on.

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

Here is one of my favorite quotes: “Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end” by John Lennon. I remind myself of this daily. If something bad happens, I think… Okay that is not how I want this to end. It is up to me to figure out how to create that happy ending for myself.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn! https://www.linkedin.com/in/chelsea-beyerman-61a80b12/

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


Chelsea Beyerman of MOON Ultra Light: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Daniel Rusteen: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Daniel Rusteen of OptimizeMyBnb.com : 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Easy check-in experience. The last thing a guest wants to do after traveling, sometimes a full 24 hours of travel, is use their tired brain to figure out how to arrive at the front door and how to open that front door. Make your arrival instructions dummy proof. Go a step further and tell them the best route or taxi service or bus line to get to your Airbnb.

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 Danny Rusteen.

Danny Rusteen worked at Airbnb from 2013–6. Since then, he transformed his life into all-things Airbnb from authoring the best-selling book for Airbnb hosts “Optimize YOUR Bnb” to starting an Airbnb property management company. Nowadays, he lives full-time in Airbnbs around the world while consulting Airbnb hosts in 55 countries and counting.

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”?

I’m a CPA and that’s how I found Airbnb. I worked in the finance department, but I was always interested in the business outside of accounting. Believe it or not, Airbnb fired me and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I knew I still wanted to be involved so I started working for a local Airbnb property management company before I started my own. Airbnb actually hired me back a few weeks after firing me, in a sales role. After 9-months, they closed the position and I was number one in every metric on that team. I then started my own Airbnb property management company, started writing blogs, creating YouTube videos, and consulting Airbnb hosts around the world. In 2018, I wrote “Optimize YOUR Bnb: How To Rank #1 In Airbnb Search” and, soon after, became a digital nomad traveling the world, living in Airbnbs, and helping Airbnb hosts earn more money.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

It was 2013. I was working at Airbnb. I desperately wanted to be an Airbnb host. However, there were two problems. I had to convince three roommates and I had no space. I decided to list one of my two living room couches. Luckily my roommates were single men and I got an inquiry from an attractive Eastern European Airbnb guest. I showed them and they agreed to give it a try (haha). We would have made $40 for 2 nights, but she ended up cancelling. However, we started hosting anyways and the couch turned out to be highly popular, getting $140 per night during peak weekends.

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

I was in Saigon, Vietnam and my host knew who I was. She was a new Airbnb host responsible for 20 apartments in the same building. Her boss wanted to meet me so after my month in Saigon, they flew my friend and I up to Hanoi for a week. We stayed in a penthouse and had a private driver who drove us in one of the most expensive cars I’d ever been in.

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?

Back to that couch in San Francisco. Turns out my downstairs neighbor was also an Airbnb host. We got a ring on our doorbell at 3am on a weekday. At the time, it was kind of scary. I went down to check and there was a drunk person asking to get in. He wasn’t homeless, but I also didn’t know who he was. However, he told me that he was my Airbnb guest. Clearly, this was very confusing for me. The unknown Airbnb guest simply forget his keys, forgot the backup code, and forgot which door was the right one. Eventually we figured out that my downstairs neighbor was also an Airbnb host and the next day, an expensive bottle of wine was on our doorstep. We never heard from that Airbnb guest again, understandably, probably a little embarrassed.

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

Great question! They don’t THINK like an entrepreneur. The best Airbnb hosts realize that they’re actually running a small business. Even if you’re an employee in your traditional job, as an Airbnb host, you’re a business owner. You need to think like one. You need to come up with creative solutions to problems. You need to realize how marketing and selling your space is effective. You need to constantly be thinking of ways to improve the guest experience. The guest is always right.

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

It’s a mindset shift. Did the guest lose the keys? Now that we know the guest is always right, how can we fix this problem? In this case, add a digital lock to your door. How about some market research? I suggest all new hosts, be an Airbnb guest at least once per year. They should also stay in their own home to notice all the quirks. The jiggle needed to open the front door, holding down the toilet flusher for 3.5 seconds for it to work, the wifi not working so well in the bathroom….all of these kinks will be discovered by the Airbnb guest and could become a complaint. When these issues (or opportunities arise) you need to use your brain to solve the problem. It’s that simple. Think until you come up with a solution.

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 automate everything possible without decreasing the personal touches. A digital guidebook is huge and it answers all the basic questions the guest may have. As a guest, I know that I don’t want to wait on the host to tell me where I empty the trash, for example. All of this information I add to the digital guidebook including checkin info, parking, wifi, how to use the coffee machine or TV, etc. I also provide a beautifully designed itinerary for all guests. The guest experience in my city affects my review. I decided it best for me to have a positive effect on their experience outside of my Airbnb but in my city. I also properly set expectations prior to arrival. For example, all of my Airbnbs have a custom hand-drawn floor plan of the space.

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. Easy check-in experience. The last thing a guest wants to do after traveling, sometimes a full 24 hours of travel, is use their tired brain to figure out how to arrive at the front door and how to open that front door. Make your arrival instructions dummy proof. Go a step further and tell them the best route or taxi service or bus line to get to your Airbnb.
  2. Optimized online Airbnb listing. There is a fine line between selling your space and accurately setting the guest expectations upon arrival. For example, you want nice photos, but they can’t show your space to be nicer than it is. You want to sell your space by telling the guest what they’re getting, but you don’t want to bury that information inside big, blocks of paragraph text.
  3. A 5-star experience. Airbnb doesn’t define what a 5-star stay is. Instead, you should actively, but subtlety let the guest know they’re to expect a 5-star stay, they are experiencing a 5-star stay, and they have just experienced a 5-star stay. I add these into one message before, during, and after the reservation to encourage a 5-star review.
  4. Nine of ten reservations will be easy. It’s the tenth that separates the good from the great hosts. You’ll notice most of the reviews on Airbnb are 5-stars. But occasionally you’ll have a problem. If you think you did good on nine reservations so you can relax on the tenth when the guest is complaining, you’re wrong. Treat that guest correctly to get a good review and you’ll experience success.
  5. Effect the guest experience in your city. I mentioned this above, but you should be the expert on your city. Why not share your knowledge with the guest? After all, if the guest has an unpleasant time in your city do you think you’ll get a highly positive review? Probably neutral at best.

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

Get me acclimated as quickly as possible so I can start enjoying my time. What not to do is make your guest read upon arrival. The guest probably wants to get out and explore. Send relevant information to me a few days in advance. This includes arrival and access info, wifi, and parking. Tell me where all the services are like laundry, grocery, your favorite café and restaurant, a neat park I should check out. Cleaning is the number one issue on Airbnb. As everyone’s cleanliness standard is different, you should clean to the pickiest of guests’ standards.

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

I believe that Airbnb brings world peace. I know, crazy. Hear me out. Every connection that Airbnb forges between two people of different countries would have never otherwise happened. In a world where there exist interests in making us adversarial, this helps us understand each other. The news is one thing. They’d have you believe entire countries hate you for simply being from your country. That’s false. Go to Russia. Go to China. Go to Iraq. These people are just like you. My mission to make hosting easy and enjoyable. All my information is free. I don’t keep any secrets as part of my business which requires you to pay me. I understand Airbnb hosting can be difficult and complicated so I try to simplify the experience for as many Airbnb hosts as possible.

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. 🙂

For me, I have a green thumb. I think good health, both mind and body, starts with a garden. This should be added to the syllabus no different than math and science. Growing food from a tiny seed is one of the coolest things ever. And, it’s so easy. Water and sunlight.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

My personal Instagram is @dannybooboo0 where you can follow my indefinite round-the-world trip and my business is @OptimizeMyBnb. You can also find me at the same names on YouTube.

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


Daniel Rusteen: 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.

Lindsey Bathke of WanderlustMoonDuo: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Welcome Sheet: When I began hosting, I wrote up a simple Welcome Sheet. A home one-sheet and framed it to place on the dining room table. Although most of these directions are included somewhere in my listing, it’s helpful to have them in physical form for the guest to see. I include the wifi password and a phone number to use if they can not reach me. I like to think, what if this guest is traveling from abroad and does not have their phone set-up yet or the app is malfunctioning. My goal is to create a welcoming, calm place to stay while also making it easy for the guest to enjoy themselves. If you provide information in multiple locations, a guest is less likely to contact you with small questions.

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 Lindey Bathke.

Having toured working in the Music Industry as Professional Touring Crew for the past 18 years, Lindsey has taken the forced pause that 2020 brought to reevaluate how she wants her life to feel. With her partner, Nik, they have started the travel and joys-of-life blog WanderlustMoonDuo and took to the road during the summer of 2020 in their 1999 VW Eurovan, Serge, to explore the small roads and talk with the common people of the United States. Since 2010, Lindsey has used the Airbnb platform to rent out her homes while roaming, maintaining SuperHost status for the duration. During these winter months, she is finding deep joy in learning to teach English as a foreign language, tutoring refugees, and dreaming of where life could take The Duo in the future!

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”?

I grew up in the mountains of Colorado, loving nature and developing a deep love for travel. It was a priority for my parents to take a family trip once a year, oftentimes to the shores of a foreign beach. I learned the value of exploring other cultures and how that made my soul smile.

After college, I moved to Los Angeles to navigate my way into the music industry. My first touring position was working with an underground hip-hop group, and from there, I began to weave my way through several genres as a touring crew member. Over the past 18 years I have seen the world, holding various positions including Merchandise Representative, Tour Manager, Production Coordinator, Tour Assistant, and Dressing Room Operative. I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, then to Nashville, TN during the fall of 2013. In the summer of 2019, while on tour working for The Rolling Stones, I met my partner Nik. Since then, he and I have started a blog,WanderlustMoonDuo , with a mission to spread love and humanity through the sharing of life and stories. Recently, I enrolled in a TEFL course, learning to teach English as a foreign language. This process has filled me with joy and I am eager to see where it takes us; hopefully around the world, enabling others with the super power of a foreign language!

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

I was living in Denver, touring, and wanted to make use of my space while I was on the road. I not only wanted to make extra money but also simply wanted my space to be used, a tool to help people explore. This was in 2011. I had used Airbnb for personal travel and really enjoyed it! I wanted to share that feeling with hosting people in my own home. For both my Denver condo and Nashville house, I had them set up to be rented as the full house. I lock my bedroom, leave, and allow guests access to the rest of the house. I wanted someone to feel that, while traveling, they were home.

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

Oh well there are some interesting ones for sure! I have had a few negative experiences, but most have been really lovely!

Interestingly sad was finding a bottle of whiskey and a packet of fentanyl under my sofa in the den. It made me sad for my guest to wonder what their life was like! I was very grateful that something more serious did not happen to them while they were staying at my house.

Interestingly wonderful is to think of all the beautiful traveling souls I have been connected with over the years! It always makes me delightfully giddy when I return home to see a guest has left me a gift; a nod to a time well enjoyed. While still in Denver, I had one guest leave me a Hawaii music record and in Nashville I received a jar of honey from a guest’s hive from his home in Ohio!

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?

The funniest mistake I made when first starting was taking it so personally when someone would leave my place a mess. This was more of a self-realization funniness. I rent my home; my sanctuary. I write that in my description of my home. I chat with guests before they book to try and make sure that our ethos align with what we think the purpose of Airbnb is. As time has gone on, with more users present on the platform, some people look at Airbnb more as a hotel, expecting a level of service that simply can not be accommodated. Over the years, I have realized that some people just don’t respect themselves enough to respect someone else’s space. I can be sad how they leave my space, but I no longer will let myself become so sad or take it personally.

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

Some of the common mistakes I see or hear of people making when hosting on Airbnb is treating it way more as a business than an opportunity to connect with travelers. What first drew me to enjoy using Airbnb was that I felt like I was connecting with locals. Seeing my new location through their eyes. And sharing in their space.

Offer something special to your guest, however small, to add a personal touch to your space. If you are renting out a space that you have purchased solely as an Airbnb, not a residence for yourself, add warming touches or local flare. Leaving a note with a bottle of wine or chocolate can go a long way. Think about what makes you smile when arriving at an accommodation after a long travel day.

Another common mistake is to hire someone to manage and clean your property that has several other properties they are managing. I experienced it myself, along with several friends, who have hired property managers that were too busy with all their properties. Oftentimes my property was cleaned to sub-standard levels or was forgotten about completely before a new guest checked in. I would have to make it up to the guest, while I was out of town, all while paying someone to perform that service they forgot to complete.

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

If hosting on Airbnb for the first time, try managing the property yourself. If you hire a cleaning person, make sure to check the place before a new guest arrives. The presentation of the property is a reflection on you.

Leave a note. Always keep in mind how you would want to feel arriving at your destination after a potentially long travel day!

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 like to think I set myself apart from the rest simply by the care I show for my guests. I do rent my primary residence, which is becoming more rare. I cherish my home, filled with travel treasures and comfort! From the moment a guest inquires about a reservation, I treat them as a travel companion. I could be helping to make their trip that much more special. Maybe they are celebrating a major life event or it could be their one vacation for the year. I try to make sure the guest feels prepared for their arrival. I like to keep open communication, yet let the guest lead any communications while they are visiting. I know their reason for traveling is not to constantly talk with me!

I always leave a personalized welcome note, along with a bottle of wine or chocolate. I make sure there is enough coffee and tea for their stay. I want the guest to be able to get up in the morning and at least enjoy a hot beverage before setting out for adventure.

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.

Welcome Sheet: When I began hosting, I wrote up a simple Welcome Sheet. A home one-sheet and framed it to place on the dining room table. Although most of these directions are included somewhere in my listing, it’s helpful to have them in physical form for the guest to see. I include the wifi password and a phone number to use if they can not reach me. I like to think, what if this guest is traveling from abroad and does not have their phone set-up yet or the app is malfunctioning. My goal is to create a welcoming, calm place to stay while also making it easy for the guest to enjoy themselves. If you provide information in multiple locations, a guest is less likely to contact you with small questions.

Gift/note: I like to add a little special touch to the space before the guest arrives, making them feel like the place is more personal to them. I always leave a short note simply saying “Welcome Home! Please enjoy yourself and contact me with any questions!” I use the guest’s names, including a well wish if I know they are celebrating something special. I typically leave a bottle of wine alongside the note. Some guests do not drink but have mentioned it made them feel special and welcome when they saw it. Along with this, I leave enough coffee and tea for the guest to enjoy during their entire stay. I hope they can wake-up, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea before heading to explore or to get groceries. I want guests to be able to relax as soon as they enter my home.

Cleanliness: Clean and pay attention. Clean like you are going to stay at the home or what you would want to arrive to when traveling! It seems obvious, but make sure the sheets are clean, even the bedspread or comforter! Make sure towels are clean and placed where guests can find them. I place towels in a small basket just inside the door of the guest room. I include a large bath towel, hand towel, wash cloth, and floor mat. Make sure you have enough towels, at least one per guest. I once stayed at an Airbnb that only left one set of towels for the two of us. I had to reach out to the host to provide more, which could have been avoided. Empty the trash. I do not want to arrive to stay with a previous guest’s trash still in the bin. This happened at an Airbnb in Portland and it made the whole place feel dirty. Double check the place after you clean and before you leave!

Check-in Message: The day before the guest is set to arrive, I send a message reiterating check-in instructions along with a phone number to call if they can not reach me. More often than not, the guest says they no longer have the Airbnb email or can not find the door key instructions. This message helps to ensure they will not contact me in a panic when they arrive! In the message, I also tell them about the three feral cats living in the backyard that I inherited from my neighbor when he passed away and ask them to not let them in the house, no matter how longingly they stare at you through the backdoor. By sending this message, it ensures the guests that I have remembered their stay and everything will be set for their arrival.

An Honest Listing: Do not post something in your listing that is a fabrication of the truth or an outright lie. Make sure your photos are current, well lit, and clear your space of clutter! Pay attention to the quality of your photos. Brightly lit and clear! If something major changes in the space, like an A/C unit not working when A/C is listed as an amenity, mention it to guests. It is a lot better to have someone not book because of something you told them about than to have them arrive and be upset during their entire stay.

I recently had friends arrive at their Airbnb in Nashville, in December, that had a malfunctioning furnace. The temperature inside the house would not rise above 53 degrees Fahrenheit. When they told the host, he became irritated and said they were expecting him to make an expensive fix. What would have been less expensive and less headache for all would have been for the host to fix the issue before allowing new guests to move in.

You know you want to rent your space to make money, but don’t surprise a guest with something that they were not expecting. It will be much less hassle to tell them upfront if something changes before they arrive. And remember, if it does not really exist at a usable level, don’t list it as an amenity.

Patience: I always have to remind myself that this may be my guest’s only vacation for the year and I want to help make it special and filled with ease. If a guest contacts me multiple times or makes extreme requests, I breathe and remind them that Airbnb is not a full service resort. Most people do not think it is, but there is the occasion where expectations can be beyond what you offer. A few times, I have had to contact Airbnb to assist with guest relations. During a massive storm and power outage in Nashville, I had a guest contact me asking where she could charge her phone. It was unacceptable to her that the power was out. I calmly told her that 11k homes had lost power and that if she could charge her phone in the car for a little while, power would be restored as soon as possible. She left early that next morning, stating that I had ruined her vacation and wanted a refund. Power was restored mid-morning. I contacted Airbnb to help in relations with her. They offered her a refund for the night that they covered, since it was out of my control. I tried to attack the situation with patients and grace, understanding that I was dealing with someone who was going to be unhappy because her vacation time was being affected.

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

Oh how I have been dreaming of travel lately!

My perfect travel experience would see me setting off on a plane with my partner, backpacks on our backs, to explore a country where we did not fully know the language, were excited to eat the food, while leaving most of the trip unplanned.

We did something similar to this last winter when we planned the first two weeks of a month-long vacation to Europe. We had all we needed in two backpacks. We went to Paris, a small village in Germany, then to the Arctic Circle, staying at Airbnbs. As we were leaving Norway, we sat in the airport and looked up where we wanted to go next, after our rescheduled flight to Finland. We chose a ferry to Estonia to then take buses through Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. We did not have any expectations because we really had not looked into where we were going next; the spontaneity of it all was magical!

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

I feel very fortunate to be able to travel the world for work and for pleasure! I will not take my access to the world for granted, especially after this past year!

With that, I hope to bring a sense of goodness to the world through a simple understanding and kindness towards others. A smile. A greeting of hello in the country’s native tongue. A listening ear. Patience with others can help heal us all. With our travels, we hope to inspire a deeper love and humanity in the world.

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. 🙂

A movement. A stomping out of a beat of inspiration on the road to kindness and love.

I would create a program that would encourage and pay for people who have never left their home country to travel to another country to experience the life of others. Travel can allow the opening of a soul and the broadening of a mind like nothing else can.

Plane tickets for those who have never traveled is how I would spend my lottery winnings!

Our mission would be to eradicate or eliminate the fear of others to a level of simple understanding that we are all humans with the same simple desires of wanting to feel love and be seen.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

@WanderlustMoonDuo on Facebook and Instagram.

Blog: https://www.wanderlustmoonduo.com

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


Lindsey Bathke of WanderlustMoonDuo: 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.

Dr Tom Lutz of Repour: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Dr. Tom Lutz of Repour: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Always provide great customer service. When other companies are scaling back and “automating” the customer experience, we’ve found that nothing can replace supporting our customers with the human touch.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tom Lutz, Ph.D.

With a doctorate in chemistry and a career in product development, Tom is no stranger to innovation and bringing new products to market. His experience extends across a variety of consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industries — from laundry detergents to aquarium and pet products.

After pouring yet another bottle of oxidized wine down the drain five years ago, he knew there had to be a better way of preserving wine. So, he got to work. Eighteen months later, the result is Repour — the first wine preservation product on the market using oxygen absorption to eliminate all the oxygen in a bottle of wine, completely stopping the degradation process. With Repour’s patented technology, keeping an open bottle of wine fresh is as easy as putting a stopper in a bottle.

Since Repour’s launch in late 2017, wine professionals and consumers around the world have adopted Repour as their wine-saving tool of choice.

Outside of developing innovative new products, Tom’s passions are his family and triathlons — he’s completed fourteen Ironman competitions since 2003!

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’ve always enjoyed problem solving. More specifically, I love using science to address real world problems with real world solutions. Six years ago, I was keeping an eye on our two-week-old newborn son in the middle of the night while my wife was sleeping. On the couch at 2:00 a.m., I started thinking about that leftover half bottle of wine we had just poured down the drain. My wife was starting to enjoy wine again after our son’s birth, but we didn’t have the chance to finish that bottle before it became oxidized and undrinkable.

As someone who has always enjoyed wine, I knew that oxygen causes wine to go bad. I also knew that the only way to keep an opened bottle of wine fresh was to get rid of all of the oxygen in the bottle. At the time, there was no solution currently on the market that effectively accomplished this.

As a chemist and problem solver, that’s when I had my aha moment. I realized I could use an oxygen scavenging technology that had never been applied to wine preservation before. Using my professional experience bringing consumer products to market and business skills developed through the years, I set off on my journey into wine preservation and entrepreneurship.

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?

We ran a Kickstarter campaign as part of our launch. In the campaign, we called our product the “Repour Smart Stopper.” The campaign was going well, but we kept getting questions around the “smart stopper” name. We (and the branding agency we partnered with) thought it was a clever way of calling out how easy to use and effective our product was.

In reality, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was looking for the electronics (of which there are none) and how that was supposed to save their wine. In the end, this made us realize that clarity over being clever is the way to go for our brand, which is now the Repour Wine Saver.

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

Before Repour, two thoughts came to mind regarding wine preservation: gimmick or expensive. Previous products either didn’t work at all and were perceived as gimmicks OR to be effective they had to be expensive and often hard to use.

Nearly every day we hear a story of a customer that looks at Repour and says, “How can that little stopper keep my wine fresh?” Then, they come back after a week or two of using Repour in awe of how well it works and that it’s really as easy as putting a stopper in a bottle.

Repour stands out because it truly under promises and over delivers in wine preservation.

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

Sparkling wines, such as Champagne, go bad just like regular (still) wine. Repour’s unique and patented technology will actually preserve sparkling wine from going bad, which no other technology on the market can do. We’re working on fixture that will hold Repour on a bottle of sparkling wine. Without this fixture, the pressure in these wines will pop off the stopper. Soon, Repour will be able to save all wines regardless of whether they are red, white, rosé or sparkling!

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?

To me, brand marketing is the identity of who and what we are as a product and company. Product marketing is how we make others aware of that identity.

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?

As a scientist, this is the hardest thing for me in our business because the direct and linear correlation between the money we spend and the immediate outcome (i.e. sales) is so hard to quantify. However, the long-term benefit is so obvious.

Now that we’re a few years in, the lasting impressions we’ve left with people two to three years ago are compounding and snowballing into success. We’ve always stayed consistent in our messaging and brand identity. Today, when we meet someone for the first time that hasn’t tried Repour, they say, “I’ve heard great things about your product, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.”

Our approach to general marketing and advertising focuses on building a long-term foundation and lasting impressions over immediate sales and return. It’s taken me many years to realize where this benefit rests, as I always used to think of it in a quantified/direct ROI perspective. Marketing and advertising truly do take patience, especially for the anxious entrepreneur.

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.

  1. Under promise and over deliver, or at minimum deliver on what you promise. In a day of shock and awe, its hard to be patient with this approach when others are making claims and promises they don’t fulfill. Yet in the end, honesty and integrity in what you offer wins.
  2. Be authentic. Be who you are as a brand and company. Don’t “buy likes” or get paid for endorsements.
  3. Accept your faults and limitations as a brand. Focus on doing what you do and doing it well.
  4. Build a userbase that loves you and wants to tell others about you. The best endorsement we can get is someone, somewhere talking about us positively when we aren’t around.
  5. Always provide great customer service. When other companies are scaling back and “automating” the customer experience, we’ve found that nothing can replace supporting our customers with the human touch.

I’d say Apple built a believable and beloved brand above the rest. They tell you exactly who they are as a company, they deliver on the hype that they create and very rarely under deliver on what they promise.

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?

ROI on ad spend has been my general philosophy, too. However, I’m finding that as a completely new brand, this metric doesn’t tell the whole story. In an age where ten to twelve impressions are often required to convert to purchase, and sales via Amazon are so difficult to track and quantify, I find website traffic tends to show the most direct correlation to effectiveness of ad spend and brand building campaigns. As a person driven by quantified metrics, this is hard to let be. Yet patience and time have proven website traffic to be a very effective metric where direct ROI is not possible.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a large and growing role in our branding efforts. As not only a new brand, but a new technology, awareness is key. Social media and, more notably, authentic reviews by trusted wine authorities play a huge role in the awareness of Repour and its effectiveness in saving wine. We leave a good impression when we show up in an ad, but to hear or see Repour via a trusted person someone already follows has such a great impact.

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

There is always going to be more to do than time in the day. Make sure to take time for yourself and your family. It’s the hardest thing to do and something of which I personally need to keep reminding myself.

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 world around us is such an amazing thing. Through the world of wine, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and meet incredible people. It’s an industry of passion, food and beauty. I’d inspire a movement that would help others see the beauty of nature, from around the world to our own back door. A movement that would make us pause from our crazy day to day and take a minute to just enjoy.

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

“The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well.”

-John D. Rockefeller Jr.

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. 🙂

Arne Sorenson, CEO Marriott International

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @repourwinesaver

https://www.instagram.com/repourwinesaver/

Facebook: @repourwinesaver

https://www.facebook.com/repourwinesaver

Twitter: @repourwinesaver

https://twitter.com/repourwinesaver

LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-lutz-ph-d-12484910/

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


Dr Tom Lutz of Repour: 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.

Nicole Herman of The Social Design Studio: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb…

Nicole Herman of The Social Design Studio: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

Have a Why. From my experience with other successful hosts, I have noticed that we all have a deeper “Why” that drives us to host. For us, our property is not only a way to connect with the travelers that come to our city but a long-term investment for our children. It has also given me invaluable insight as a hospitality designer into what a modern guest is looking for. I have direct access to the end-user and use this insight when working with my clients. If you have a more concrete reason for hosting, you are more likely to stick with it through the difficult times.

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 Nicole Herman.

Nicole is the founder and principal designer of The Social Design Studio, a full-service boutique hospitality interior design firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. The firm’s primary objective is to partner with clients to create inviting interiors that provide experiences their guests rave about. In addition to her design studio, she is the owner and host of The Brass Cactus, an Airbnb Plus property in Scottsdale.

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”?

Thank you so much for having me! I was born in a small town in Minnesota, raised in a slightly larger town in Montana, and moved to Arizona for college. Once I experienced my first 75-degree winter, I fell utterly in love with the state put down my roots.

I attended a small private design school and received my Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design. After graduating, I worked for a local hospitality design firm for eight years. It was there that I was first introduced to how great design can contribute to a guest’s incredible experience. Although we were a small team, we worked with some well-known hotel, restaurant, and spa brands both locally and nationally.

From there, I moved around a few times, eventually working my way up to being the interior design director for a sizeable multi-disciplinary firm. I led teams that included interiors, food service, architecture, and graphic design. I loved working with our team and our client’s creative teams to develop cohesive branding and design projects.

In 2018, I decided to take a sabbatical from design to focus on my family and two small children. After about a year and a half, I missed my creative outlet and decided to launch Social Design Studio focusing on smaller boutique hospitality projects.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

During my sabbatical, one of our favorite family activities was taking short road trips. Our kids were small enough to not want to get two hotel rooms but big enough that one hotel room felt too cramped. I had heard about Airbnb as an alternate and decided to try it out. From the very first stay, I fell in love with it. As a guest, we were so much more comfortable. We loved the coziness of staying in a home and also feeling a bit like locals wherever we went. It was because of this magical firsthand experience that I decided I, too, wanted to create my own and help make those memories for others.

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

By far, the most exciting stories we have involve guests. Our most interesting guest booked at midnight the day of her arrival and stayed for two days. During her stay, she broke into our owner’s closet and rearranged our cleaning supplies but didn’t take anything. Before she left, she cleaned the entire place from top to bottom so much that it had an overwhelming chemical smell. On her way out she took our Snoop Dogg cookbook. It was just odd, and we were not quite sure what she did during her time.

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?

Our Airbnb is in an older neighborhood in Scottsdale. Although my husband and I have lived here for many years, we have never had a place that uses gas to heat. We had just started to host our first couple of guests when we noticed the heat wasn’t working. We could not understand it. We tried everything we could and even called a repairman to look at our heating system. The repairman couldn’t make it out before our next guest was due to check-in. They were staying for a week during the coldest time in December. We messaged the guest, who (understandably) decided to cancel and select another property. We finally called the gas company to see if someone could come out to check it out. It was then that they told us we did not have an account and had yet to turn on the gas. Lightbulb! Ohhhhhhh, you need to have the gas turned ON by the gas company! We felt like complete idiots! The lesson: check all of your major appliances to make sure they are in proper working order before you start hosting.

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

The biggest mistake I see hosts make when first starting is under-furnishing the rental. Most people spend years accumulating furniture, appliances, art, and accessories for their personal homes. When someone furnishes an entire rental from scratch, they often underestimate what it will take in budget and quantity. The house then looks sparse or thrown together in its listing and will not stand out to potential guests. As Airbnb grows in popularity, more guests want to book unique or outstanding listings.

The second biggest mistake I see is hosts underestimating the time commitment it will take when first launching. As a designer who has helped others launch their rentals, I have had more than a few clients come to me wanting to launch their rental within a few weeks. I would say the minimum time frame from the time you close to the time you start hosting is 6–8 weeks. If you are creating a carefully curated property, this will take much more time.

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

A host who takes their time and thoughtfully thinks through their rental can help avoid either of these pitfalls. Be honest with yourself. Don’t set unrealistic timeframes. You are just setting yourself up for failure. And when furnishing the space, ask yourself if this is somewhere you or your family would be happy to be a guest. Go a step further and ask your most discerning friend to critique your space before you list. Have them spend the night and make notes about what you may be missing. Putting in that extra love and attention to detail will pay off in the end.

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 main thing that sets us apart is our design. When scrolling through Airbnb, the bold wallpaper and colors get the guest to click on our listing. Next are our hospitality and dedication to making sure each of our guests feels incredibly welcome. We want them to feel their stay at our home has enhanced their vacation and has not just been a place to put their head at night. We want your time with us to be an experience. This is our priority from the first interaction once a guest books. We have partnered with a local concierge company that provides services such as stocking the fridge before arrival or setting up your travel itinerary. Lastly, we have our own website, which hosts our digital guest book. This allows us to provide recommendations to our favorite local places to eat, shop, and play. My goal was to highlight the fantastic companies we have here in Arizona and have our guest’s feel like they know the local secret spots.

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. Have a Why. From my experience with other successful hosts, I have noticed that we all have a deeper “Why” that drives us to host. For us, our property is not only a way to connect with the travelers that come to our city but a long-term investment for our children. It has also given me invaluable insight as a hospitality designer into what a modern guest is looking for. I have direct access to the end-user and use this insight when working with my clients. If you have a more concrete reason for hosting, you are more likely to stick with it through the difficult times.
  2. Have a Plan. The most highly successful hosts have a strategy from the beginning. Your plan may include the desired location, how you will fund your rental, the overall style or theme, who your target demographic is, and how you will manage the property. You don’t need to have every last detail figured out before you jump in, but you should be realistic about what it will take. You will learn a lot and change course along the way but having a roadmap to launching will be invaluable.
  3. Have a Great Designer. I couldn’t help but include this one. No, you do not have to hire a designer. However, if you do not have a natural design eye, you may want to consider it. A designer will help you create a space that is cohesive and stands out from the competition. Their experience can also help you avoid making costly mistakes from the beginning.
  4. Have a Growth Mindset. Hosting will get hard at times. For many first-time hosts, they may be coming from backgrounds other than real estate or hospitality. I know many hosts who have a day job and hosting is their side hustle. You will be learning an entirely new skill set, and you will fail at times. Learn from it and do better next time.
  5. Have a Great Team. Your two most important contractors will be a turnover specialist and a co-host or management company. Take your time and interview a few before you select one. We went through a few cleaners before finding an incredible woman who is thorough, highly reliable, and meticulous. Your rental’s cleanliness is essential. Tuning over an Airbnb is a much different beast than a regular house cleaning. When you find a great cleaner, hold on to them! And, if you decide not to manage yourself, find someone who will share the same level of passion you do when hosting. They will become the primary contact your guest interacts with, and you want them to represent you well.

5 Things You Need to Be a Highly Successful Airbnb Host | Nicole Herman — Host of The Brass Cactus

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

The “perfect vacation experience” is anytime I get a mix of relaxing, exploring, and eating. Just being in a new location is exciting to me. I am naturally inquisitive, and I love learning about different cultures and cuisines. Our family loves to travel. Going on adventures and trying new things is our favorite way to bond and connect with our kids.

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

On a personal level, I am doing my best to raise two compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and open-minded children. I believe one of the most significant impacts I will have on this earth will be how I raise them and set them up to help others and contribute to society.

Outside of our home, I have used my creative background to help design a youth teen center for a local domestic violence shelter. I have taught art classes to children at the center as well. The issue is very dear to my heart.

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. 🙂

Wow, I have never been asked a question like that. I believe what the world needs right now is more humanity and compassion for each other. This past year has been so incredibly divisive. What if each person committed to one day without judgment? See the good in someone before seeing what is “wrong” with them. When you hear something you disagree with, ask yourself why it is an issue that triggers you. Have a conversation and be fully committed and present. Listen to what other people are truly saying without thinking about what you will say in return. What would one day of genuine connection look like?

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

Follow along with Social Design Studio on Instagram @socialdesignstudio.co

Follow along with The Brass Cactus on Instagram @thebrasscactusaz

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


Nicole Herman of The Social Design Studio: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David Sarfati of The Israel Ministry of Tourism: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And…

David Sarfati of The Israel Ministry of Tourism: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Make it clear — As a brand you can have different brand identities to fit your different audiences. For instance, with Israel, we are working on multiple levels: Faith-based Israel, Adventure Israel, and Eco-travel Israel, just for starters. What we did was define what our strengths as a travel brand are and why they stand out, then create subsets to appeal specifically to the relevant audiences of those niches.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview David Sarfati.

David Sarfati has served as the Director of Marketing for the Israel Ministry of Tourism Western Region since 2016. He has worked with different influencers, media companies and travel trade media to help establish Israel’s growing brand as an emerging, diverse and eclectic destination. David has an extensive background in Film and Television; A Tel-Aviv University Steve Tisch School of Film and Television alum, he has served as a producer for several television and film projects and served as a writer for entertainment media in Israel.

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 always loved watching television as a child. Growing up I watched so many American shows, from classic ones like Bewitched, to 90’s sitcoms like, Growing Pains and Full House, all the way through the “Spelling school” of juicy TV-hits like Charlie’s Angels, Beverly Hills 90210, and Charmed. I always had an affinity to TV and used to dream of one day making my own show, then writing, producing, and directing it. As I grew older, it was clear to everyone that I would be going to film school, which I did. It was a great experience where I met so many people who share my passion for the arts. When I had the opportunity to work for the state of Israel, promoting it as a tourism brand through my producing experience, it seemed like a no-brainer.

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?

Years ago, when we were still learning about social media and the proper ways to use it, our team at a company I previously worked at, hit publish on targeted content to our entire audience- something both expensive and counter-productive. It definitely caused some stir and luckily, we caught it just in time to avoid a real mess.

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

Israel is a unique destination. It’s a coastal country with beautiful beaches, it has an incredible and rich history, and it’s the world’s religious center for the 3 big monotheistic faiths. Having said that, Israel is polarizing. People will always have something to say at the mere mention of Israel.

At the Ministry of Tourism, we always focus on keeping our message as, “There’s something for everyone,” which is so true. Our mission is to talk to and about people, shared experiences, and interests. Whether you like hiking and biking, or you just want a relaxing vacation, a wine tour, or you want to explore your religious identity, you can literally do it all. What makes us stand out, is our ability to showcase the unique landscape and make it accessible to Americans who might think this far-away exotic country is out of reach.

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

We are currently working on a podcast series showcasing the beauty and diversity of Israel. We’ve partnered with an incredible team (Don’t Forget to Move) to create the most compelling content, and we’re striving for it to resonate with all types of people. Our hope is that it will help people understand how to approach planning a visit to Israel while showcasing activities you might not find when googling “Top things to do in Israel”.

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?

Brand marketing is everything that happens between (and during) the various advertising campaigns. It’s the everyday life of a brand. This is how you keep your brand alive: the logo design, the visual language, social media activations, and partnerships. It is the way you make your brand present.

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?

As I mentioned before, your brand is the identity of your company, your product, your story.

When you log onto my company’s website, what is it going to feel like? What is it going to look like? What is the first thing I’ll notice? Would I want to stay and learn more? What are your brands values and why would I want to be part of it?

If you know the answers to these questions, it will be easier to translate yourself into a well-defined brand.

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.

1.) Make it clear — As a brand, you can have different brand identities to fit your different audiences. For instance, with Israel, we are working on multiple levels: Faith-based Israel, Adventure Israel, and Eco-travel Israel, just for starters. What we did was define what our strengths as a travel brand are and why they stand out, then create subsets to appeal specifically to the relevant audiences of those niches.

The important thing is that each of our travel brands have a specific promise and story to tell.

It is imperative to know what that promise is. What is the story you’re telling? How do I get it? One of the ways to do it is by developing a strong visual language that includes matching iconography and colors. Every detail matters.

2.) Be everywhere but be specific. — There’s no way around it, if you want to be part of the conversation, you have to be where the conversation is. If your brand is targeting young mothers, find those blogs, find the most influencer Instagrammers, look for Facebook groups where young moms seek out advice at.

While it’s important to have presence in the digital space, you need to be able to be specific and personal. You want to create conversations around your brand, driven by the people who consume it.

3.) Be thoughtful and authentic. — Brands have started becoming more and more vocal about social issues, and while I welcome that wholeheartedly, I believe that there’s a right way to do it and many wrong ways too. For example, around Pride month, we see a lot of brands coming out with LGBTQ+ related marketing. This is a great way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community, but unless you’re actually investing in your LGBTQ+ audience all year round, they will see the bluff. Consumers are very preceptive, sophisticated and smart. Treat them accordingly.

4.) Know your audience — Part of your brand’s story, that is just as important as the brand itself, is who are you telling the story to. In the past year, I’ve seen so many companies opening TikTok accounts when their core audience is Gen X-ers. This is a waste of resources. You need to know who your audience is and where to find them.

The other part of this is then knowing how to engage with your audience. How do you make them relate to your product? What values do they share with you? Do your research!

5.) Differentiate your brand — There is so much competition out there and we’re constantly fighting for our targeted-audiences’ attention. You need to ask yourself, what differentiates my brand from other similar brands? For instance, why would potential travelers go to Israel and not any other country in its region? To answer this very valid question, we make sure to demonstrate how this is the trip that will change their lives more than any other place they could go to in the world. Whether they find inspiration in Israel by exploring their heritage, drinking a fabulous cocktail on a rooftop in Tel-Aviv, through rejuvenation by the healing powers of the Dead Sea’s muds, or after hiking to Masada, we know our brand’s strength is in the unique awe and wonder it brings to everyone who goes to experience it that cannot be found anywhere else.

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?

The best example out there is Apple. They have been consistently innovative, slick, and coveted. They deliver on their own promise to give you the best user experience and the best quality hardware and software with accessories that will make you look cool.

I know what you’re going to say — it’s so much easier to pull off when you have those kinds of budgets. However, I remember watching TV as a kid and seeing a character with one of those colorful iMacs and just knowing they’re cooler than a character with a PC. It’s very intuitive, Isn’t it? Same with the original white corded EarPods. It was such a small and unique way to differentiate themselves from any other mp3 player at the time, and everyone knew what was in your pocket if you had those white EarPods on. Brilliant.

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 questions you need to ask yourself — is there brand recognition? It is memorable? Is it distinctive? Are people talking about it? Are your efforts driving the conversation around your brand?

Thoughtful and intentional execution will help you create a thoughtful brand.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and it is still one of the best ways to target and communicate with your audiences. As I said earlier, it’s important to be everywhere and do it well. If your brand’s demo is 40-year old’s, it doesn’t make sense for you to invest in a TikTok account, but it could be successful if you want to reach gen Z-ers.

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

Keep it fresh. Find ways to communicate that would be appealing if you were trying to target yourself. Be self-aware. Look out for current trends and be ready to join the conversation on the fly.

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 are in the business of bringing people together and that is and has always been my mission. I want people to see other people for what they are, not through any bias or with assumptions. I want people to be guided by love and not fear. I want to leave people thinking about all the things they have in common and not what sets them apart.

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

As a child, whenever I had fears about doing something, my mom would always say, “What’s the worst that can happen- you’ll succeed?”. It serves as a constant reminder for me to not be paralyzed by fears or anxieties when going into a new project or unknown territory. I know if I do my best, I’ll succeed.

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 would love to meet TV writer/producer Damon Lindelof, creator of two of my favorite shows of the last decade: The Leftovers and Watchmen. He has a way of creating impactful projects guided by love, that have deeply influenced the way I see the world and understand it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidsarfati/

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


David Sarfati of The Israel Ministry of Tourism: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted 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: Robert Chappell of EyeTech Digital Systems On How Their Technological…

The Future Is Now: Robert Chappell of EyeTech Digital Systems On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

“Begin with the end in mind” is not always true. It is almost impossible to see the end from the beginning. You really just need to be able to see from one ridge to the next.

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

Robert Chappell is Chief Science Officer of EyeTech Digital Systems and a member of the company’s board of directors. He co-founded EyeTech in 1996 and has more than 30 years of technology industry experience, including engineering design, software development, project management, and executive leadership.

In his roles, Robert has guided EyeTech to a position of leadership in the eye tracking industry. EyeTech is a manufacturer of eye-tracking hardware and software that is used by leading companies in many industries including but not limited to consumer electronics, assistive technology, medical devices, automotive, research, and interactive displays.

Robert’s background includes experience working for Lockheed Martin and TD Williamson, where he did engineering design and software development for DSP and image processing systems. He graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1983 and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1984 from Brigham Young University. He is a long time resident of Arizona.

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

My career in the field of precision eye-tracking began with my own need. I was working as an engineer writing software and signal processing code for a pipeline company and I was up against a deadline. Over the course of many long hours spent coding for the project, I developed a repetitive strain injury in my hands and arms. Shortly after the project wrapped, I took some time off to rest as I awaited the birth of my oldest daughter. When the soreness didn’t abate after a week, I realized my injury was more serious than I initially thought. Although medication and hand therapy helped some, I began looking for alternative ways to use the computer so I could get back to work. I tried voice dictation tools, new keyboards and mice, and a dictation assistant as possible solutions to my problem, but none were really conducive to coding. I honestly began to wonder if I would have to change careers.

Around that time, I started to learn about assistive technology, which is used to support the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. I was aware of eye tracking, but its uses were limited at that point. It was then that I realized I could build my own solution to help not only myself but others who couldn’t use their arms as well. I spent $1,600 on a computer and got to work. I developed the first viable “eye mouse” for Windows computers and later a compact USB version that became a best seller. To help develop the business, I recruited my sister to join me and we started EyeTech Digital Systems.

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

My eye tracking origin story was definitely the most interesting thing that happened to me as far as my career goes. Entrepreneurship was never part of my life plan. Nonetheless, we started EyeTech as a garage shop, putting in a few thousand of our own money to get started. I remember our very first eye-tracker sale was to a defense contractor. He wasn’t at liberty to reveal how the technology would be used, but the positive feedback he gave us was incredibly encouraging and really motivated us to carry on.

Another interesting thing that stands out to me has been observing the change in technology over time and how different pieces have come together to enable growth in the industry. That progress continues with AI now coming into the picture.

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

I see eye tracking technology becoming quite ubiquitous. Currently, we help the most severely handicapped, but we see it helping an even broader audience in the near future. Healthcare applications are especially important. More than 50 percent of the brain is involved with visual processing. Things like brain injury, disease, and cognitive impairment almost always show up in eye movements. Autistic individuals, for example, typically look at things differently — they focus on different objects in an image — than would a typical person. Other conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, may slow down the movement of the eyes. Precision eye-tracking technology offers a simple, non-invasive procedure that can be used to diagnose those patient conditions earlier by measuring how fast the eyes move, track, and focus, as well as what draw’s the patient’s attention. This can be immensely valuable as a quantifiable, numerical, secondary confirmation of diagnoses.

Touch-free interfaces represent another emerging use case. The ability to use your eyes to access and control fixtures and devices rather than having to touch them is especially important as we attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus during the current pandemic. Visual control of information kiosks with hand sanitizer beside doors, for example, can go a long way to address sanitation concerns by reducing physical contact. Eye tracking technology can also offer doctors and caregivers a hands-free interface during surgery or when engaging with high-risk patients. The technology can be deployed in clinical settings, as well as the patient’s home.

Precision eye tracking is particularly accurate, with robust sensors that function even in the dark. There is, of course, still room for improvement, but we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on fundamental use cases of the technology.

How do you think this might change the world?

Although the basic concept originated hundreds of years ago, in many respects eye tracking is on the leading edge of technology, particularly as it spills out of traditional niche areas into more mainstream applications. Devices have improved tremendously over time, growing from analog cameras and frame grabbers on desktop PCs to digital channels with USB connections or embedded directly into devices. We have a Nexus of technologies — sensors, processors, AI, optics — all coming together now. Last year, EyeTech made the jump from USB-based eye-tracking to tablet devices with eye-tracking built-in. Multi megapixel sensors, optics, and hardware elements are all much more affordable today, resulting in devices that are better and less expensive, which makes them more accessible to the general public.

The improved accessibility of augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, devices is bringing greater equity to healthcare and the world at large. At EyeTech, we are trying to normalize AAC technology. By doing so, we’re leveling the playing field for the disabled, offering them new avenues to fit into and engage with society. The severely challenged use eye-tracking systems for basic communication. Other power users leverage the technology to do things like computer-aided design. One user even created a painting using our EyeOn system. These users feel enabled to be part of the economy and society.

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

There was one time when we built a giant eye tracker device that we set up at the Arizona Science Center. People were able to walk up and use their eyes to control a game being projected on a large television screen six feet away. I remember watching kids use this and hearing one say, “Wow, that thing read my mind!” In that regard, the technology can feel almost a bit too intrusive —

something that always knows where you’re looking. I can envision brands using eye tracking platforms to monitor what consumers are looking at, unbeknownst to the buyer.

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

Three distinct tipping points come to mind. The first was when I sustained the injury that prompted me to seek a better solution for alternative communication. The second was the moment of inspiration that led me to develop my own eye-tracker device to help not only myself but others too. The third tipping point was when the first bits of product feedback began coming in. We loaned a system to someone at a handicap support organization in Washington state. When they conveyed how impressed they were with the EyeTech system, we realized we had a viable product on our hands. That outside validation from someone dealing with challenges of the severely handicapped on a day to day basis helped us recognize our true growth potential.

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

We really need increased awareness of the technology. Eye tracking is still a minority tech; the average person has never heard of or tried it. I see a space where it can be common. A big part of growing that awareness is through the software that makes use of it. In the AAC world, that has proven to be the case. As companies come out with better and better software, we’ll see amplified use. The core functionality is good enough today to facilitate medical testing, but there needs to be additional time put into the software AI algorithms that can detect and identify underlying disease.

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

We brought in VC three years ago which has definitely helped promote the business by enabling us to bring on additional expertise and resources. We’ve also grown our channel partner footprint, as well as made public relations investments in an attempt to publicize patient stories and use cases.

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 sister and EyeTech co-founder, Melinda Trego, has been invaluable. It’s great to have someone you can trust. She has stuck with the business for 20 years now and continues to contribute to our growth, along with dozens of others who have joined us. My wife, Heidi, has also been incredibly supportive. Even when things got crazy, she never put up a fight. EyeTech was initially launched as a side business and I took an unpaid leave of absence from my day job for several months to get our first eye tracker off the ground. Even when our car broke down during development, she was okay with going a while with no transportation if it meant we could fund our eye-tracking endeavor. I definitely don’t think we’d be where we are today without her much-appreciated sacrifice.

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

What has indicated to me that we’ve brought goodness to the world is the thank you notes we’ve received. One ALS patient sent an email to the effect of, “Thank you for the device, it has made life worth living.” We’ve received variations of that note from many people over the years and it always serves as a stark reminder of the sense of equity EyeTech brings to people. I received a phone call just a couple of months ago from a user who wanted to thank me personally. I wish I could adequately quantify how much that means to me. It reminds me that we are doing important work. The world is a better place when everyone can participate.

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

  1. “Begin with the end in mind” is not always true. It is almost impossible to see the end from the beginning. You really just need to be able to see from one ridge to the next.
  2. It will always be harder than you think it will be. It always takes longer than expected. That said, it is worth it in the end. Do the work.
  3. Bring in people who can do the stuff you can’t do when starting a business. I’m a tech builder and inventor so I needed help in other areas.
  4. Find the right balance between mentoring and autonomy with new employees, especially younger ones. There comes a point when you need to step back and let them go on their own, and let the company go on its own to some degree. Within the past years, I transitioned to Chief Science Officer instead of CEO because we have a strong team now.
  5. In tech, you will need funding.

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. 🙂

Technology for philanthropy. If you can find people in this world who are desperate for something and you can help them get that thing or service, that’s worth doing. It’s great to have a technology company, but if you can answer a desperate need, you can make a big impact.

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

“Seek and ye shall find.” There is help out there. Look to your friends, family, God, and faith.

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 🙂

Eye tracking is in the very early stages of adoption. It is the next great human-machine interface. There is still a lot of room for improvement in the technology and applications, making it a good time to invest. Eye-tracking also provides an amazingly comprehensive view into the brain. Simple, non-intrusive, eye-tracking tests will be the norm in many medical practices in the not-too-distant future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me at rchappell@eyetechds.com or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-chappell-099a945/. You can also follow EyeTech on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/eyetech-digital-systems/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/eyetechds?lang=en), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/eyetechds/), and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUlEiZY4kn_zZqszOrZYC_A).

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


The Future Is Now: Robert Chappell of EyeTech Digital Systems 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.

The Future Is Now: Yashar Behzadi of Synthesis AI On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Yashar Behzadi of Synthesis AI On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Deeply understand the problem. We spend a lot of time with our customers to understand their processes and pain points. Often times, latent needs are not communicated but obvious through observation. Our product has been informed by working alongside clients and looking for common problems.

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

Yashar Behzadi is an experienced entrepreneur who has built transformative businesses in AI, medical technology, and IoT markets. Now the CEO at Synthesis AI, he has spent the last 14 years in Silicon Valley building and scaling data-centric technology companies. His work at Proteus Digital Health was recognized by Wired as one of the top 10 technological breakthroughs of 2008 and as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Yashar has over 30 patents and patents pending and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from UCSD.

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

My parents are both architects and builders, and as a child, I always marveled at how an empty dirt lot could be transformed into a beautiful house. The process of building a house is one of vision, establishing a foundation, diligently planning and minding dependencies, and carefully attending to details. This is analogous to building a company and product. This early exposure catalyzed my passion for coming up with white-space ideas and reducing them into tangible products.

I have been lucky enough to work on cutting edge products, including DNA fingerprinting, digital medicines, and advanced computer vision systems. I am currently excited about reimaging how AI systems are built and creating a new paradigm that solves the ‘data problem’ in AI. I feel that we can have an impact at scale, and by creating a new paradigm for AI development, we will enable a new class of more capable products.

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

I was fortunate enough to work on some incredible technology at a pioneering digital health company. Our ambitious goal was to create an ingestible sensor that could be embedded in all pharmaceuticals to transform medications into smart digital products that could provide detailed information about ingestion events and biometrics. It was audacious and technically very difficult. I was responsible for architecting a communication system between this tiny, ingestible sensor to a patient’s smartphone and doctor’s dashboard. After months of simulation and algorithm development, I was able to see the system work end-to-end in a live demo for a large pharmaceutical company. The company later invested millions of dollars into the company. It was an amazing experience to see work done in simulation work in reality, even with the tremendous complexity involved.

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

Synthesis AI is pioneering the use of simulation and synthetic data to build more capable computer vision AI. Phones, homes, cars, and industrial robots heavily leverage vision systems to understand the world and make decisions. These systems are currently built using human-curated and labeled data to teach the AI systems how to interpret images. This process is expensive & slow and limited to what humans can effectively label. Historically, there has also been little regard for consumer privacy, and these concerns are amplified as systems increasingly use human facial data in our home environments.

Our approach is to create photorealistic digital worlds in which complex image data can be synthesized. Since we generate the data, we know everything about the scenes, including never before available information about the 3D location of objects and their complex interactions with one another and the environment. We are able to create millions of perfectly-labeled images on demand. Acquiring and labeling this amount of data using current approaches would take months, if not years. This new paradigm will enable a 100x improvement in efficiency and cost and drive a new class of more capable models.

How do you think this might change the world?

AI systems are ubiquitous but contain inherent biases that may disproportionately impact groups of people. Synthetic data approaches will lead to the development of more ethical and less biased AI systems.

Human bias is inherent in the current human labeling paradigm. Datasets are often misbalanced with certain classes of data either over or under-represented. When building human-centric systems, this leads to gender, ethnicity, and age biases. Bias in AI systems has been a major concern of both consumers and regulators. In contrast, generated training data by design is properly balanced and lacks human biases.

In addition to concerns around bias, privacy is a growing concern. Technology companies have shown little regard for privacy in building AI systems, and new synthetic data approaches solve this issue at the data level.

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

We provide synthetic data to enable the development of AI models. We are careful to work with companies with a clear ethical position on using AI in their product systems. As with any AI product, there are alternative use-cases (e.g., government surveillance, military applications) that have consequences for individuals. We explicitly do not support these use-cases and focus on driving value to consumers in an unbiased and privacy-minded manner. Unfortunately, there are competing companies in the space that have taken a different stance.

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

We were working with a major handset manufacturer to support their face unlock capability. Traditionally, companies would bring human actors to a studio and capture images across a variety of use-cases. This process is further complicated as handset manufacturers consider various optic systems. To properly assess performance, data would have to be captured with various hardware. The data would then have to be labeled by humans. The process of building hardware, acquiring and labeling images is tedious, time-consuming, and expensive. We synthetically created 10’s of thousands of unique 3D humans to support this use-case and generated millions of pixel-perfect labeled data. We were also able to capture many use-cases that were previously difficult to capture, such as variability of the environment, lighting conditions, and appearance changes related to glasses, masks, hairstyles, make-up, etc. We ultimately demonstrated that synthetic data was 100x more efficient to leverage, leading to higher performing and more generalized models. This was a significant milestone as it demonstrated that our approach could improve models that took years and millions of dollars to develop in a few days.

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

It is inevitable that simulation and synthetic data will be used to develop computer vision AI. To reach widespread adoption, we need to continue to build out 3D models to represent more of the real-world and create scalable cloud-based systems to make the simulation platform available on-demand across a broad set of use-cases. We also plan to integrate our offering into existing machine learning and cloud platforms to make the overall development experience seamless for machine learning developers.

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

We have been focused on rigorously validating our technology and engaging the AI ecosystem. We have been lucky enough to be showcased by AWS and co-publish with Google. We also have published the most comprehensive technology review of the space and have a popular technical blog. We will be releasing a book on Synthetic Data this year to solidify our thought-leadership further. In the coming months, we will begin to target enterprise companies and specific use-cases. Our current customers and partners will co-publish with us, and we are excited to announce some of the great work we have been doing in close collaboration with these leading companies.

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 am personally very thankful to my parents for their inspiration and my spouse for her support. Running a start-up is intense and requires a lot of personal sacrifices, and without strong family support, it’s a difficult journey to undertake.

I am also incredibly thankful for our team. I marvel at their ability to solve complex problems and work together to deliver for our customers.

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

I am hopeful that the products we build will lead to more ethical AI. In a rush to commercialize AI, many companies, intentionally or unintentionally, valued profit over building inclusive, ethical AI systems. By creating a 100x more efficient paradigm to build AI models, companies will no longer have to trade-off economics for ethics.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Deeply understand the problem. We spend a lot of time with our customers to understand their processes and pain points. Often times, latent needs are not communicated but obvious through observation. Our product has been informed by working alongside clients and looking for common problems.
  2. Delight customers. I recall one customer who was initially unhappy with the data we provided. Although we delivered against the outlined statement of work, the customer later realized that the data they needed was not what had been specified. At a significant cost to us, we iterated until we could drive a key model performance metric for the client. The client is now our largest customer.
  3. Culture matters. The tone and values of the founders establish the cultural base of the company. Earlier in my career, I was brought into companies as an executive to help with product and technology pivots. The company was often not held back by the team’s capability, product, or technology, but rather by the culture.
  4. Enable your team. I believe in aligning authority, autonomy, and accountability with my senior team members. By providing context and enabling the team to do their best work, our team is happier and more productive.
  5. Ethics are the foundation. I have said no to certain customers, investors, and partnering opportunities because they do not align with our company’s focus on building ethical AI systems. Near-term profit is not worth compromising the ethical backbone of your company.

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. 🙂

Traditionally large companies invested years and millions of dollars in building ‘data moats’ to create a competitive advantage. Synthetic data has the power to disrupt the space as it enables small, agile start-ups to build world-class AI models efficiently and cost-effectively. I hope this results in many more people across the globe contributing to and benefitting from benevolent AI.

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

“The busy get lucky” was something a friend of mine told me when I started my first company. Many early-stage opportunities come from meeting the right people at the right time. By keeping busy, I have met future team members, customers, and investors who have been transformative in driving business success.

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 🙂

By 2022 there will be 45B connected cameras in the world, all driven by computer vision AI.

However, companies are limited by the availability of sufficiently diverse and accurately human-labeled datasets. More fundamentally, humans are unable to label many key attributes required for emerging applications.

Synthesis AI, an SF-based technology company, is pioneering the use of synthetic data to build more capable computer vision models. The company’s data generation platform is a 100x solution for computer vision and will lead to the development of more capable computer vision models. Showcased by AWS and Google, Synthesis AI is ushering in a new paradigm for AI model development.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn account

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


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

Richard Chang of Roborock: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Get Your Voice Right. Like look and feel, your voice is a reflection of your brand. If you are targeting teenagers, you don’t want to sound like you’re selling enterprise hardware. At the same time you don’t want to sound pandering. It’s a balancing act, but an important one to get right, because what you say about yourself and your products is how most people will think of you.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Richard Chang.

Richard Chang is a visionary industry veteran and a serial entrepreneur with more than 12 years of experience in product development. He started his career as a technology manager at Maxthon Ltd., then a product manager with Microsoft, then Tencent. Afterward, he founded PhotoWonder, an image beautification and sharing app later acquired by Baidu. Prior to founding Roborock, Mr. Chang was in charge of Baidu Maps (China’s equivalent to Google Maps, serving more than 300 million people).

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’ve always been interested in the things people need and want. It’s what guided me to a career in product management. When you are a product manager you try to visualize and get a feel for those customer needs and wants, instead of simply building a product for the sake of building it, and it is a joy to see a product you created alive on the market.

When I first got interested in robot vacuums, I was extremely busy and was just looking for a way to save time so I could focus on my career without sacrificing my comfort. I never intended to create a robot vacuum of my own. But, when I found that none of the robots I was able to buy felt like what I believed robot vacuum users really wanted, I felt compelled to try and build something of my own. I was lucky enough to find other people who shared my vision, and that vision became Roborock.

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 can’t think of anything specifically funny which is a mistake, but I can share an interesting story about how we came about the name “Roborock.”
In China, our brand name is the Chinese word for rock. I chose this because a rock is simple, solid, useful, and without gimmicks. When it became time to create a global brand, we didn’t put too much thought into it and simply tacked “robot” onto the translated Chinese name, creating RockRobo. It wasn’t till later that we realized this would be hard for people to say and so we swapped things around to create “Roborock,” which is both much more appealing and it also rolls off the tongue nicely.
I learned that creating a brand name that is easily remembered, a name that will stick in the minds of our audience, is a very important first step for a brand, and is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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

I think one thing in particular that makes us stand out is a dedication to giving customers products and features that serve a genuine need. On the product side, this dedication was evident even in our first product, with our slavish obsession with creating real navigation intelligence — earning us acclaim as the best navigating robot vacuum on the market. More recently, the sonic vibrating system we introduced with the Roborock S7 solved a genuine need for more powerful mopping among people who wanted a single do-it-all robot. Another example of this relates to our Multi-Level Mapping feature. Rather than getting into a battle of specs, forcing our robot to be able to recognize 10 levels in a home or more, we decided instead to build it to accurately recognize 4 floors, which easily handles the vast majority of homes and allows us to better optimize both recognition and data handling systems.

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

I can’t discuss specifics of future products, but I can tell you we are working on a number of new dock technologies that are unlike anything else on the market at the moment. I’m confident that these are going to give people a level of convenience they never had before.

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?

To put it simply, product marketing is short term, existing only to sell the product while brand marketing is long term. It is your relationship with every customer you have and every customer you hope to have. Product marketing has its place in an overall marketing strategy, but brand marketing is critical to a company’s overall success. By creating a trusted and beloved brand, you give strength to the claims you make about your products, you organically build relationships with people, and — especially in an extremely competitive segment as ours — it helps your brand stand out and get noticed.

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?

Without a strong brand, you are almost invisible. You lack the “hook” that captures people’s attention and affection. By investing in brand building you connect more strongly with your potential customers. You make yourself more relevant to people, you can inspire people with your message, you create loyalty, and you can turn customers into advocates who will share your message far and wide. Fundamentally, by building a brand you are telling a story and when you do it well you also turn your customers into storytellers.

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.

  1. Strive for Honesty. Always to be true to what you say, no matter how difficult that turns out to be. Being honest gives people confidence in what your brand has to say, while dishonesty drives away not just your customers but everyone in your customer’s network.
  2. Listen Everywhere. Listen to people to understand their needs and desires. This gives you the insight to build products they want, and the feedback you need to fix what isn’t working. But don’t just listen to your own customers, listen to the customers of everyone in your segment to unearth thoughts and desires that might just give you an advantage in the future.
  3. Solve Genuine Problems. Particularly in the tech space, it is easy to get caught up in a game of specs, to build not what works better or solves problems better, but what looks better on paper. Fight that temptation and keep your customers’ problems front and center. Only in this way will you make products that your customers will appreciate.
  4. Look and Feel Matters. Every element of your brand should be clearly identifiable as you. From font to colors, to style, and more. Not only does this tell customers what your brand is about, it makes you easy to find so that they can keep coming back for more.
  5. Get Your Voice Right. Like look and feel, your voice is a reflection of your brand. If you are targeting teenagers, you don’t want to sound like you’re selling enterprise hardware. At the same time, you don’t want to sound pandering. It’s a balancing act, but an important one to get right because what you say about yourself and your products is how most people will think of you.

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?

As a tech company founded in China, I almost feel I have to say DJI. In its early days, DJI created a technology that few saw potential in: drones. Yet by leveraging a powerful message of inspiring creativity, paired with rapid product improvements, they created a new consumer (and professional) product category, surpassed their competitors, and went on to become the biggest drone brand in the world. They were also able to extend that message down from the sky and use it to power their entry into handheld products and even their own action camera. What really impresses me about this is how one carefully developed message can tie together myriad technologies and products, effectively creating a cohesive story while also lending the power and reputation of past products to the new ones. That level of success would be difficult to replicate, however, companies can get started on that by thinking hard about what their brand stands for, what message best gets that across, then pushing hard on this message both internally in product development and externally in storytelling.

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 measure of success varies for different people and different companies. We try to keep it simple here. When we push out our branding campaigns, be it in digital, social or even our website, we try to measure both qualitative and quantitative success.

Quantitatively, we look at the numbers. Did we reach the goals we set? Have we beaten previous numbers? Did we get the right results based on how much we spent? Obviously, these aren’t details we can ignore, and we make sure to track these.

Our success isn’t only made or broken by a set of numbers, however. We also try to get a feel for our campaigns by looking at the types of responses and reactions we get from our audience and customers. Because at the end of the day, it again boils down to how the people feel. Not just customers, but everyone who interacts with us. These are the qualitative results.

So, we may get a low number of comments on a brand piece, but if they are all highly positive, I class that as a success. Or, we may get high engagement, but that engagement might be negative. That’s not a successful piece necessarily.

At the end of the day, we always try to get a proper indication, across the multiple platforms that we’re now on, about what people think of us as a brand.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

These days, social media is probably one of the biggest drivers of brand identity. Essentially, how a brand is perceived is reflective of how it presents itself across its social channels. And it’s getting more important day by day.

We use our social media networks to market our business, ensuring we communicate with our audience, our customers and the people who don’t know us, to make genuine connections. We’ve further strengthened this approach recently, aiming to be even more personal.

Because our brand identity is our voice, we try to ensure we are consistent in how we portray ourselves on these channels. How we do this is by being genuine and real. We avoid ‘corporate speak,’ and instead try to talk to our audience as if they were standing in front of us having a conversation; we address them as humans, and not just as text on a screen.

In the end, what we’ve found is that by doing this, we’ve increased our connection with our audience. Obviously, this is a continued effort, and once established properly, we need to work hard to continue maintaining.

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

At Roborock, we’re trying to build a culture where the team comes first. By this, we mean to build a fun, communicative and open culture. This goes for everyone, not just the marketing team. The approach means that we don’t forget where we came from, and we don’t burn out by constantly focusing on work. I try to be open and communicative with everyone in the business because everyone contributes to the success of the company.

We try to give all our teams a balance of activity along with their work to avoid burnout. One example of this includes our company conference, which we hold to openly discuss all aspects of our business; we take our team out for activities and reward the achievements of the team. Everyone is included in our internal giveaways on this day.

It’s not just big events like this, but also smaller things. Going out to lunch together, organizing activities, getting to know people properly, sending out internal Christmas videos- all these things help to bring our team together, give them a balance of fun with their work, and make them feel valued. In the end, it gives them the opportunity to thrive in their roles.

At the end of the day, I want my team to be one where work is part of their lives, not life being all about work. It’s all about being human.

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 a movement, it would be about a movement towards greater emphasis on quality of life. I think people today are too obsessed with distractions, from social media to tasks at work, to the always beckoning screens in our pockets. For me an ideal world would take the best that technology has to offer, and use that to allow us to be more present in what matters, allowing us to focus our attention in spending more quality time with our family, our friends, and doing the hobbies we love. If I manage to inspire people to change how they value their time and their relationships and live in the present, that would be a huge achievement for me personally.

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

There is an old Chinese proverb that I greatly appreciate. It translates into, “Focus on doing the right thing, and not on the results.” It teaches us to focus on doing the right thing, and let nature take its course. In this hyper-intense business environment which is full of uncertainty, it is easy for us to worry about what the future holds, and this quote is a wise reminder to all of us.

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. 🙂

It would be with the inspiring Mary Barra, the CEO of GM’s business. The Automotive industry worldwide has long been considered an “Old boys club” and by becoming CEO, Mary Barra became the world’s first female automotive CEO. Under her leadership, the troubled brand is now moving into the future with an ambitious plan to electrify GM’s product range and build an all-electric future. I would love to discuss how she has been able to push for such major change in such a traditionally conservative industry.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not active on social media, unfortunately — but feel free to follow Roborock instead! We are on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook — just search for “@RoborockGlobal”

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


Richard Chang of Roborock: 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: Yonathan Lapchik of SUKU On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Yonathan Lapchik of SUKU On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

The importance of speed — You need to be able to learn, fail, ideate, design, and deliver quickly because the world moves fast. The winners are the ones who deliver quickly, so speed is critical in any startup.

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

Yonathan Lapchik is CEO of SUKU, a blockchain-powered supply-chain-as-service ecosystem that provides brands and retailers with the transparency they need to meet the demands of a growing base of conscious consumers. Yonathan brings more than 16 years of experience helping Fortune 500 clients with digital transformations, M&A, tech strategy, and product implementation to SUKU. Before joining SUKU, Yonathan held the role of Product Lead for Deloitte’s US Blockchain Lab, focusing on leading the development of blockchain-based prototypes and enterprise solutions.

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 am an engineer by education and spent the first eight years of my career working in technology. I came to the United States to get my MBA. In the first year, through one of my friends, I was invited to a finance class where I learned about Bitcoin and blockchain. Like many people who catch the blockchain bug, I became obsessed and decided to do something with my passion. At the end of my MBA in 2014, I joined Deloitte Blockchain and spent four years working there as a product lead. Joining SUKU as CEO was a perfect fit, as it combines my drive to make a positive impact with my passion for blockchain technology.

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

On the SUKU team, we spent 3 years developing a supply chain transparency solution for brands and retailers and imagining all the possible use cases for different industry verticals as well as brand and customer needs. Fast forward to this past year, and we were able to pitch our blockchain-powered tracking and tracing platform as a COVID-19 testing kit and PPE tracking solution to the white house. We customized our infrastructure for the COVID-19 case with our partners in 2 weeks. To be able to deliver a real-world solution and leverage our technology, expertise, and team to help at the height of the pandemic was incredibly rewarding.

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

We recently released SUKU DeFi to help the unbanked and others disenfranchised from traditional financial systems to gain access to key financial services that they don’t have access to today, like microlending.

How do you think this might change the world?

1.7 billion people currently don’t have a bank account, hindering them from getting loans, having a savings account, making investments, and accessing other financial services that would help them to better support themselves, their families, and their livelihoods. By making such financial services available in a way that is approachable and user-friendly via a simple SMS-based protocol, anyone regardless of their internet connectivity can use these services to ask for and receive microloans.

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

Decentralized Finance, or DeFi, is a big buzzword right now, but all too often the people who need access to financial services the most are not able to participate because of a lack of technical knowledge or internet connection. We are changing that with our SUKU DeFi product that is designed for small suppliers, such as farmers and local craftsmen. When a supplier provides data on their stage of the product’s journey, they gain access to DeFi services like microlending, through the SUKU DeFi protocol. All of the communication and transacting is done via SMS, so that whether the supplier has an internet connection or not does not hinder their ability to participate.

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

While I was at Deloitte, we would have endless brainstorming sessions where we would iterate ideas on how blockchain could help with the problems our clients were facing. The general consensus at the time was that the financial services industry would be most profoundly transformed by blockchain, but we started to realize that finance would be one of the slowest to adapt because of regulatory constraints. What I recognized in working with brands and retailers is that almost every company wants to do something about traceability in order to meet the growing consumer demands for verification of product authenticity. Blockchain is the perfect solution to this need.

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

Ease-of-use is essential for blockchain adoption. This is why we built TextMeCrypto, which will make sending, receiving, and swapping any ERC20 token as easy as sending a text via SMS or WhatsApp. TextMeCrypto is currently live on the Kovan testnet with plans to be released on mainnet in Q1 2021. This is also why we have prioritized an easy-to-use interface for suppliers to add data to our traceability platform. We have developed one of the most engaging experiences for customers as well. All a purchaser needs to do when buying a product from a SUKU partner is to scan a code, and they will have visibility into the full product supply chain in video and text format.

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

We are working with many well-known brands and retailers to get the word out about how they can benefit from supply chain transparency. Some brands we work with include the third largest retail chain in Latin America Cenconsud, Fortune 500 company and the largest NFC manufacturer in the world Avery Dennison, and CGI leader Dreamview.

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 learned so much from one of my professors, Dr. Campbell Harvey, at Duke. He is a pioneer in blockchain academia and taught me so much about technology. He is now an advisor of SUKU and has contributed many valuable insights to our initiatives.

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

As a blockchain-powered, supply chain transparency solution for brands and retailers, we are doing our part to further the consumer-driven shift to values-based purchasing decision-making. Customers increasingly care about things like sustainability, ethical product sourcing, health, and authenticity. We help brands meet these growing consumer demands by giving them the tools they need to give their customers visibility into their products’ journeys. With verifiability enabled by blockchain technology, brands can prove authenticity, sustainability, ethical sourcing, etc.

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

  1. Stay focused — There will be many distractions and it’s easy to lose focus on what your goal is.
  2. Be able to say “no” to opportunities that take you away from your focus, even if the request comes from a stakeholder.
  3. Always try to help someone without expecting anything in return — Make introductions and help when you see the opportunity. This is so important for building relationships in business (and life in general).
  4. Always deliver when you commit to something — We’re very strict about that at SUKU, and we try to inspire that attitude in everyone on the team. If there is something we want to be recognized for, it’s our ability to execute.
  5. The importance of speed — You need to be able to learn, fail, ideate, design, and deliver quickly because the world moves fast. The winners are the ones who deliver quickly, so speed is critical in any startup.

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’re doing our part with SUKU DeFi to expand access to financial services to those who need it, and I hope to see this movement of decentralized finance continue to grow so that having a bank account isn’t a prerequisite to participating in the global digital economy.

I also believe that the more transparency in product supply chains, the better. This is how customers keep brands accountable and make values-based purchasing decisions that drive change towards more sustainable, ethical, and health-conscious sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution.

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

“Everything happens for a reason” — This is a great mantra to keep in mind when anything bad or good happens. This message helped me learn not to force things. The reasons for why something happened generally become clear with time.

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 🙂

SUKU aims to make commerce more transparent and efficient with blockchain-powered supply-chain solutions. By leveraging the traceability enabled by blockchain, SUKU provides brands and retailers with the transparency they need to meet the demands of a growing base of conscious customers that helps them increase sales. To incentivize the participation of small suppliers, SUKU rewards participants with tokens that grant the holder access to key financial services, such as microloans, that are not otherwise available to them. The SUKU team consists of a group of successful entrepreneurs and corporate leaders with a background in supply chain and blockchain from Deloitte’s Blockchain Lab. SUKU is developed by its parent company Citizens Reserve, Inc. headquartered in Los Gatos, California.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

For more information, please head to www.suku.world, engage with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter or chat with our team on Telegram.

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


The Future Is Now: Yonathan Lapchik of SUKU 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: Justin Banon of Boson Protocol On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Justin Banon of Boson Protocol On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Commercial Infrastructure

Listen to the best advice you can find, but make your own decisions.

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

Justin Banon is the CEO and Co-founder of Boson Protocol, the project using smart contracts to power real world commerce. Prior to this, Justin spearheaded the Travel Experiences Division of Collinson, where he managed a group of global loyalty rewards platforms including LoungeKey, Mastercard Airport Experiences, and Priority Pass — the latter of which he scaled twenty-fold from $50m to $1bn per annum revenue during his tenure.

A serial entrepreneur, Justin has founded numerous startups over the last two decades, including Meltfactory, a blockchain strategy consultancy where he served as CEO, and Redeemeum, a crypto native rewards platform where he currently holds the position of CEO. He also serves as a Start-up Mentor at Outlier Ventures, a leading investment firm in blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT, and robotics.

A Physics graduate from Imperial College London, Justin also holds a Masters in E-business and Innovation from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Masters in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia.

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

Firstly, I did a Physics degree at Imperial College London, and then I started working at Priority Pass, which at the time was a small-to-medium enterprise, specialising in digital and paper vouchers. Throughout that period in my life I managed a sizable group of global loyalty rewards platforms in addition to Priority Pass, including LoungeKey and Mastercard Airport Experiences. I ended up scaling Priority Pass twenty-fold from $50m to $1bn per annum revenue during my tenure. Parallel to this, I began studying for a masters in Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia, and I began thinking about what would happen if we digitized paper and plastic vouchers, and I have been bitten by the blockchain bug ever since. I realised that although you can tokenize vouchers, you still need human arbitrators, which adds cost and friction. I began using game theory as a method to reduce the necessity of human involvement in arbitration, which was the genesis of the idea for Boson Protocol, which automates decentralized commerce. We have come a long way since then, having raised $3.5m, and expanded the team across the globe.

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

During the crypto winter, when we were researching the core mechanism of Boson Protocol, people asked ‘why would you build a token based decentralised protocol — even so-called crypto investors. It was absolutely barren. People suggested that we move to a SaaS business model. We kept the faith and kept doing our research through that period, then published our whitepaper last August to an incredible reception, both from the community and investors alike. Thinking back to those early days in the crypto winter, I don’t think anybody would have foreseen the level of interest we have received. For me, the moral of this story is that you can be too early, but if you conserve your cash, put your head down and build really valuable technology and IP, you can surf the wave when it comes in.

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

Boson Protocol is a web 3.0 primitive that acts as the foundational infrastructure to connect smart contracts with real-world commerce and its data to power the decentralized autonomous commerce revolution. We are providing the building blocks that can be used to create next-gen dCommerce apps and unbundle eCommerce platforms. Our cutting edge technology enables the frictionless exchange of digital and physical products and services while preventing value capture by centralized entities. Regarding how our technology will help people, we are creating new liquid markets for products that are currently being swamped by monopolistic megaretailers. The impact the decentralized commercial ecosystem we are building will fundamentally change the way people engage in commerce, making it far more equitable, fair and convenient.

How do you think this might change the world?

At the moment, we have a world where the infrastructure for commerce has been captured by massive ecommerce titans. The bigger they get, the greater the stranglehold they have on our world becomes. We are creating an infrastructure that anyone can use, ensuring competition remains strong, while more people have access to the goods and services they require. This technology gives people the autonomy and control that have been void from commercial activity since the dot com bubble. What we are doing is providing the commercial infrastructure that is not just profiting a select few, but distributing the profit amongst the participants in the ecosystem.

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

In my previous role, although I enjoyed it very much, it got to the point where I realized that I was doing a fantastic job of controlling a market, extracting maximum value from buyers and sellers, and distributing that value directly to the money to the owners and shareholders of the company. This didn’t sit well with me. I figured that there must be a different way, which led me to study different models, utilize the knowledge I had acquired throughout my career to devise a more equitable model that gives everyone an equal chance. The tipping point for me was the emergence of this option; decentralized commerce.

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

First and foremost, we need an ecosystem of protocols, commercial statistics and data, which we are building at the moment. To do this, we need funding, which we have been lucky enough to begin acquiring through an incredibly experienced group of investors that we are delighted to welcome to our team.

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

We have been building our market recognition by engaging with traditional media through interviews, podcasts, question and answer sessions, and the response has been very positive. Our community is very supportive and encouraging, and its growth proves that the market for our technology is very much alive.

What is a piece of advice that you wish someone told you before you started?

Listen to the best advice you can find, but make your own decisions.

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

In today’s commerce, coordination of commercial transactions requires centralized market intermediaries to manage dispute mediation and transaction reversal Boson Protocol’s technology provides the solution for this problem. Boson Protocol is providing the de facto infrastructure that will enable enterprises, organisations, and customers to connect digital currencies and the transfer and trade of physical goods with minimized arbitration, cost, and trust. We have a team consisting of world-leading game theorists and token engineers and we are creating the future of commerce.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with us on Twitter (@BosonProtocol), LinkedIn (Boson Protocol) and Telegram (https://t.me/bosonprotocol).


The Future Is Now: Justin Banon of Boson Protocol On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… 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: Chase Garbarino of HqO On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Real…

The Future Is Now: Chase Garbarino of HqO On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Real Estate

“Good news, bad news… who knows.” When you are trying to start a business you live every little win or loss like it is life or death. Any time I would face what seemed like a major setback, my father would always say to me: “Good news, bad news… who knows.” Oftentimes, a big loss in the moment is really a small loss or not a loss at all. Whether it is losing a key deal or employee, sometimes these things open up new opportunities that you cannot see at the time. The lesson is that you are never as good or as bad as you think you are.

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

Chase Garbarino is co-founder and CEO of HqO, the leading tenant experience software platform for commercial real estate. Prior to HqO, Chase was co-founder and CEO of AmericanInno (formerly Streetwise Media) where he helped build a local media network for the innovation economies in over a dozen cities in the US. The company was purchased in 2012 by ACBJ, a subsidiary of Advance Publications which owns Conde Nast and is a shareholder of Reddit, Discovery and a number of other media properties.

In his free time, Chase is an avid Boston sports fan and runner. He enjoys spending time with his wife Jess, son Dash, and newborn Grayson. Chase holds a B.A. from Hamilton College.

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 in fifth grade, there was a game called Pogs where kids would hit these little cardboard stacks with a “slammer.” It was all the rage in elementary school. Though I wasn’t particularly interested in playing them, I was interested in selling them. My mother used to take me to buy Pogs in bulk and then I’d sell them to kids at school. I’ve always enjoyed selling things and building businesses. I had a few businesses in high school and college as well, and I enjoyed that more than classroom work. Both my father and grandfather were entrepreneurs, so I guess it’s something that just runs in my family.

I went to Hamilton College, where I co-founded and was President of the Entrepreneurship club. There, my co-founder Kevin McCarthy and I started an online publication. We’d become interested in digital media, mostly around the software piece of user-generated content. While we were watching Youtube’s growth and CollegeHumor’s growth, we weren’t particularly interested in their content production, rather more about how their software was scaling content from non-professional content producers.

We had created a site — called The Campus Word — where students all over the country could post content. In 2004–2005, online advertising was not particularly sophisticated. There was an ad network called AdBrite where you’d get flat fees of payment for a link ad, and it was pretty easy to make money if you had decent traffic. We learned a lot and made some good money for college students, and then when we graduated in 2007, we were hooked on startups and we wanted to continue doing that. So, we moved to Boston and tried to dive into the tech startup scene here.

Soon after we started a tech publication focused on the Boston area called BostInno with Greg Gomer. It eventually became Streetwise Media, a digital media company focused on local innovation economies. We then sold AmericanInno — the parent company to BostInno — to the American City Business Journal (ACBJ) in 2012, a subsidiary of Advance Publications, which owns Conde Nast and is a shareholder of Reddit, Discovery, and a number of other media properties. After leaving the company in 2016 — and taking a bit of a winding road to figure out what was next — we landed on HqO.

A few things helped us piece together the birth of HqO. The first was that BostInno was created with the purpose of highlighting how technology drives the local community. The second was that after it was sold to the ACBJ, Kevin, Greg and I were able to learn about commercial real estate (CRE); we saw how big of a market it was because it happened to be the publication’s largest ad segment.

We already knew that our interests involved how technology connects people back to the real world around them. After assessing the CRE industry, the built environment became a much more interesting platform for us. So, we embarked on developing technology that connects people back to their local community and the people around them in a more impactful way. After all, the workplace is just one setting. There’s so much more around an office building, beyond the physical workplace, in terms of how it impacts the local community. We’d been heading in this direction for a while — and the more we continue on, the more we realize how passionate we are about what we do.

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

Before HqO, my co-founders and I had taken on this endeavor of starting companies in our 20s and didn’t know much about maintaining a workplace culture, so we completely screwed up our company values. By this, I mean we didn’t proactively define them or think much about them at all; we figured that it would all work out as long as we hired talented people.

In the early stages of our last company, we got away with it — we got lucky and hired some great people who are still with us today. However, as the company grew, we never pattern-matched what made a good teammate or employee. As more joined the company and started getting involved in the hiring process, they didn’t know what to look for. Our culture inevitably suffered.

Therefore, we focused on being more deliberate when we started what is now HqO. We took the core group of people that had made it through the early-stage pivots of the company and asked them what they thought would make a good teammate. Sourcing this information from the entire team set a good foundation that reflected everyone’s values and ensured that there was a lot of buy-in from the very beginning.

We also knew that company values are often pretty generic and non-impactful. To combat this, we took our values and adapted them so that they were built for scale as we continued to grow. Our values became a part of our overall brand, and as we ran into the global pandemic this year, it definitely helped keep our workplace culture alive. This saved us from a lot of difficulties that other small, high-growth companies have been experiencing since shifting to remote work models.

So, how did we make our values brand-able? When we were defining our values in the early stages of the company, I had asked our core group if they could name our company values. As it turned out, nobody could because they weren’t very memorable. This led to me running a search query in Slack to figure out what language we were using the most as a company. One of the most popular phrases was “let’s go,” which we then converted into an acronym for our current values: Learning, Excellence, Truth, Speed, Goodness, and Ownership. Now, every HqO employee knows our values by heart and embodies them every day.

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

The old adage, “location, location, location,” used to hold true for both the value and desirability of commercial real estate (CRE). Today’s worker now demands a technology-enabled workplace, bringing together digital tools and experiences to enhance physical space. With this in mind, the industry now requires new data sets about how their buildings are used — the combination of data, technology, workers, and buildings makes CRE a virtuous cycle business. Companies like Netflix and Uber leveraged data to create new business models centered around users (demand) rather than products (supply), thus taking the lead in what is now dubbed the “experience economy.”

At HqO, we’ve taken the user-centric model a step further by creating CRE’s first end-to-end operating system. Our HqOS™ technology helps property teams manage all customer-facing technology tools across the growing proptech landscape within their buildings; by activating real connections between people and their properties through physical-to-digital experiences, we empower leaders to get closer to their end-users than ever before. With real data to drive decision making and the acceleration of innovative asset strategies, any modern commercial real estate portfolio can now tackle the industry obstacles of attraction, fragmentation, and differentiation at the touch of a button.

How do you think this might change the world?

HqO’s product roadmap is in the service of enabling technologies for how we experience the physical world. We’ve been talking about making cities smarter for a long time, and we don’t believe we’ve made enough progress. We think property owners are our best chance to deploy technologies that can make our cities better, so we’re excited about our recent launch of HqOS — the end-to-end operating system for buildings — and how it enables a new wave of technologies for the physical environment.

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

For many people, the concepts of industry transformation, digitization, and consumerization can seem daunting. However, they’re all actually good things when achieved thoughtfully. For example, much of what fintech is transforming is bringing more financial opportunity to the masses. With regards to HqO and commercial real estate, we’re working hard to enable CRE owners to evolve and become more nimble to better handle many of the growing challenges cities face, which have a big impact on a lot of people.

I think the most critical thing in preventing “Black Mirror”-like scenarios is ensuring end-user data is protected and not abused. To that end I do believe CRE is well positioned to develop a model of more distributed data ownership and aggregation. There isn’t a single Amazon or Facebook of Built World data, and I think if the industry is smart about how building data is anonymized before aggregated, we can be in a position to reap the benefits of smart cities without any one organization holding too much power.

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

By March 2017, our previous company VentureApp was failing, and we were dead in the water — we were out of money, churning customers, and new sales had stalled. I credit our pivot to a series of early conversations.

During this time, I was having pretty consistent conversations with longtime friend and commercial real estate professional Colin Greenhalgh. I was learning how archaic the CRE industry was, and how it was slow to move on technology adoption. Soon after, I had another conversation with Dave McLaughlin, current Global Head of Member Experience at WeWork. He advised me to speak to WeWork’s product team, since they were looking to build similar business community functionality as we’d already done with VentureApp.

So, running on very little cash, I went down to WeWork’s Manhattan headquarters. Once there, I ended up speaking to a staff member that had looked at our VentureApp product and thought that what we had built had value. Through a few more phone calls I was connected to one of the people involved in the Softbank investment at WeWork. That call continued to plant the seed, because they also told me that we should be looking at selling technology to landlords.

When I returned back to my team, I put together a pitch deck that I called the “Reality Tour.” I walked everyone through the conversations I’d been having on the harsh realities of where we were as a company, and that several people noted that there might be opportunity in commercial real estate. We only had enough cash to take a shot at one minimal viable product or MVP, which is the leanest version of a product that you can put in the hands of a customer that is viable to go to market with. I was able to make the case that there was a trend in physical asset businesses — such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb — where the user experience was being facilitated through software vs. taking on management of the physical assets themselves (and the expensive leases that come with is). By facilitating the customer experience through software, they established new business models centered around aggregating user demand rather than controlling physical supply.

With this in mind, I told the team that WeWork proved the need for better experiences in commercial real estate, but they had the model wrong. Therefore, we needed to go to the owners of the supply, and tell them that they needed to own the relationship with the end-users of their buildings. Owners also needed to start collecting important data on how people were using their products (which are their assets) to inform better building experiences. Our team of maybe 15 or so people didn’t have much of an option. However, what we did have were the right people, good timing, and a willingness to get started immediately. So, we went for it.

Our connection to our first client, Jamestown, is also an interesting story. My wife works at Reebok, which is one of Jamestown’s key tenants in Boston. Soon after we pivoted away from the VentureApp product, we attended a Reebok work event together. I was standing in the corner, feeling a little uneasy about the shift in direction for our company. Over all the noise of the event, I was approached by a stranger. Very politely, he asked me about what I did for work. I managed to muster up enough energy to give a spirited pitch about SpaceWorks (the early name for HqO), even showing him some of our app designs from my phone. He began asking more pointed, informed questions, and handed me his business card. I didn’t realize it until I got home, but he ended up being the asset manager for Jamestown.

After realizing whom I came in contact with, I sent him an email and went back to our investors. I told them that VentureApp was dead, and that we were taking a new direction that showed more promise. They were reluctant to bridge us the money at first, and told me that i f we could sell to one landlord, they’d consider it. By January we had our first client meeting with Jamestown, and by mid-March we had closed on them and two other landlords — Bulfinch and National Development — which earned us the investments we needed. Thus, HqO was born.

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

When it comes to widespread technology adoption for commercial real estate, it’s both top-down and bottoms-up. In many conversations we’ve had with our customers, they look to see who of their peers are also taking the leap by investing in our product, and what similarities they can draw between their needs and what has already been accomplished for others. On the other side of things, tenants as consumers have already begun to expect modern, tech-enabled experiences in the workplace. In order to drive tenant attraction and retention, owners and property teams will need to leverage office technology as a differentiator in an evolving, competitive market.

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

We take several methods to publicize our ideas and technology, often in collaboration with our customers to show the positive impacts that our operating system has on the industry. Many of our clients see our product as a differentiator for their portfolios, and we’re grateful that they want to share it as part of how they promote their company and customer success values. Alongside these promotional activities — such as engaging webinars, PR, and other co-marketing materials — we do our best to engage both existing and prospective clients through content creation and account-based marketing strategies to help educate landlords about tenant experience and provide value.

Additionally, during one of our recent product launches, we “drank our own champagne” as a company and held HqOS Day — an entire day dedicated to digital programming and engagement for our own employees using our Tenant Experience Platform. Since we truly believe in what we do, it was a huge success that shined through with our entire team. HqO employees shared photos and talked about it on their social media platforms, and participated in registered classes and giveaways. This was great for not only showcasing our product to our customers, but for also showing employee appreciation in a fun and unique way.

Most recently, I actually just launched proptech’s first official podcast: The Let’s Go Show. Sitting at the intersection of technology and commercial real estate, it features guests from HqO and other industry experts who weigh in on various topics. Each conversation will be framed by the HqO values of learning, excellence, truth, speed, goodness, and ownership to help our peers and clients learn more about us as a company, while also showing them the impacts we can make for their assets.

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 remember dating back to middle school, my father would constantly tell me stories about different entrepreneurs who built businesses. He’s been my informal coach from a young age. At one point, he ran a furniture business that had IPO’d but ultimately didn’t work out — so he made it work for a little bit, until it came down. I also watched him work his ass off while I was in high school to build an occupational healthcare business. He would always travel during weeks, at times living in different locations during the week. Now in his late 60s, I’m watching him build other healthcare businesses and still working hard. He and I trade war stories, and I’ve been fortunate to watch somebody constantly working to try to build something. I received an early education from him, just by osmosis and experiencing his growth.

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

HqO is a forward-thinking company that makes sure to give back to the broader community. Some examples of its impact are as follows:

  • HqO has joined several of its best-in-class Marketplace partners to elevate corporate volunteering and social responsibility initiatives. Most recently, HqO helped Building Impact roll out their annual food drive to HqO clients in 10 major markets as part of a new digital programming initiative. Together, they helped deliver much-needed support to local food pantries on the front lines of helping families during the pandemic. HqO is also planning on sponsoring a future Guppy Tank program (also run by Building Impact) focused on the development of middle school students.
  • HqO is part of The Catalog Cares program in partnership with Blackstone to boost retailers and deliver meals to frontline healthcare workers in Chicago.
  • HqO supports TUGG in its local community, which stands for Technology Underwriting Greater Good. They participate in Tech Gives Back every year, which is an annual day of service that connects tech entrepreneurs with local under-resourced youth in the Boston area. They also have worked in Boston classrooms to teach entrepreneurship skills to students.
  • As the CEO, I’ve personally made it a mission for the company to help and support the military and its veterans. HqO has attended veteran-specific career fairs and focuses on hiring veterans in its overall recruiting process.
  • HqO has also gotten involved with the following organizations:
  • BUILD Entrepreneur Games
  • Big Sister Chapter of Big Brother Big Sister
  • Home for Little Wanderers
  • Pan Mass Challenge — a team of HqO riders raised money for Dana Farber Cancer Institute at their Winter Cycle event in January
  • She Geeks Out — many HqO employees are members, and the company is hosting an event with them in January 2021
  • Color of Change

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

Well I have been fortunate enough to have received a lot of good advice over the years, so here are five things I have learned and I should have listened to 🙂

  1. “Good news, bad news… who knows.” When you are trying to start a business you live every little win or loss like it is life or death. Any time I would face what seemed like a major setback, my father would always say to me: “Good news, bad news… who knows.” Oftentimes, a big loss in the moment is really a small loss or not a loss at all. Whether it is losing a key deal or employee, sometimes these things open up new opportunities that you cannot see at the time. The lesson is that you are never as good or as bad as you think you are.
  2. Building something excellent requires doing the little things right, day-in and day-out, over the long term. Too often we believe success comes from one major achievement or event when in reality it is a lot less sexy. It’s waking up early, taking care of yourself physically and mentally, and working both hard and smart every day even when it doesn’t feel like you are making major progress. Developing these small habits compounds (recommended reading: Atomic Habits).
  3. Parsing feedback is the most important skill in building a startup. Being able to block out those that doubt you while also remaining humble enough to learn in the areas that you need to is difficult. There are so many people with opinions about what you are doing. Some are well-intentioned but ultimately not helpful, some very well intentioned and helpful, and some with poor intentions. It is so critical to learn how to take feedback from a multitude of sources and be able to detach emotionally both from the messenger and the message, and to begin to test and iterate to determine where your best feedback is coming from.
  4. Focus much more on developing your areas of strength than your areas of weakness. Business building is ultimately about team building. Early in my career I spent too much time trying to improve areas of weakness that ultimately wouldn’t give me much leverage in terms of being a technology CEO. Finding people who are truly excellent in these areas has enabled me to hone my craft in the areas that are most important for my job which has created much more value.
  5. At the end of the day it is more important to be a good person than a successful business person. Thanks Mom!

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 always been driven to be of service to my country, and today I value more and more focusing locally. I believe our real worlds — the people in our local communities, the people we work and spend time with every day — are a much better reflection of what we can be as a society than what we tend to see on social media. My work through HqO touches this by building technology that brings people together in the real world, rather than keeping us isolated. If I could inspire people outside of HqO, I would love to start a civic movement focused on bringing people together in real life to unite us in healthy, positive, and kind ways.

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

I’m not sure they are quotes, but I have a few life goals that I measure myself on each week, which include:

  • Put family first — I try to put my wife and two sons before everything else. I try to block time at the beginning of each week to make sure I’m there for them as a husband and dad, as well as a friend, son, sibling to my extended family.
  • Build a world-leading organization — Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are asked what their “exit plan” is. I’m not really motivated by the “exit,” but rather am motivated by building something that can be defined as a category leader. I’d love for HqO to be the world’s best/biggest tenant experience company for a very long time.
  • Help veterans — I was raised to be very appreciative of the freedoms we are afforded here in the US, which we owe to the members of our military first and foremost. I hope to make meaningful contributions to the lives of veterans at some point in my life.

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 🙂

If I had 60 seconds to make a pitch, I’d quickly explain the changes to CRE and the urgency to act now. Pre-COVID our thesis — like many other people — was that digital technologies were changing the way people work. Offices needed to evolve in order to address the flexible and dynamic nature of how people collaborate, communicate, and engage with their work. Since COVID, we believe the shift we were seeing before has accelerated. The digital shift in real estate would probably have taken 5–10 years without the pandemic, and now we think many of the tenant workflows and property team workflows need to be digitized and cloud enabled within 1–3 years. The pressure COVID has put on landlords will remain — not in the form of abandoning the office altogether, but in the form of much heavier scrutiny of the ROI of the office and how much workers need to use an office environment. This is putting downward pressure on square footage and lease length. HqO can help property teams with all of that — from creating value in the office for the employees, to enhancing asset performance and informing better investments.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter @cgarb, or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chasegarbarino/

To learn more about HqO or to request a software demo for your properties, visit www.hqo.co, and follow HqO on LinkedIn and Twitter @HqOapp.

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


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

Jonathan Breeden of Breeden Law Office: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A…

Attorney Jonathan Breeden: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Make a realistic budget. Write down your must-have expenses and those that are nice-to-haves. Then prioritize them and figure out how you will pay for those expenses. For example, you may discover that a part-time job will cover your bills, or you may learn that a full-time position is best to make ends meet.

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 Jonathan Breeden.

Jonathan Breeden is the principal attorney at the Breeden Law Office. Founded in 2000 and with multiple offices in North Carolina, he provides representation to families going through divorce, child custody disputes, adoption, and all manner of domestic law issues. Attorney Breeden has dedicated his career to offering families in North Carolina the guidance and advocacy they deserve.

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 Laurinburg, NC, a small town of approximately 20,000 people. My upbringing instilled in me the importance of hard work and community involvement. These lessons paired with my work ethic motivated me to attend North Carolina State University shortly after I graduated from high school. In 1993, I completed my studies at the top of my class, continued my legal education at Campbell University School of Law, and studied law abroad in London, England. Once I graduated from Campbell and had gained valuable experience on how cases were handled, I opened my firm in late 2000.

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

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since the 9th grade. That year, during Civics class, I read The Federalist Papers and became fascinated with how the Founding Fathers described the type of democracy they wanted to build in the USA. I admired the way they drafted the Constitution and, as a result, I realized that practicing law would be a way to honor what men like James Madison had started.

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

It’s difficult to decide on just one since while practicing Family Law, I usually encounter people facing a crisis. Not to mention that it’s typically a predicament that will forever change the lives of the children involved.

With that in mind, there was a recent case where the children were living in hotels continuously because a stable home wasn’t easily accessible. So, under the circumstances, my team and I were able to get the kids into the custody of their father who had a home. Also, they are now able to consistently attend school.

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 I was a brand-new attorney, I handled a case where there were allegations that my client was using illegal drugs. This became very serious since the case involved the Department of Social Services and the children were in foster care. My client insisted that he was clean, so I trusted his word and asked his wife in court, to prove how she knew this allegation was true. She literally said that she witnessed him use drugs as recently as the night before. The judge almost fell out.

Needless to say, I learned to always ask a question in court that I already knew and verified the answer to.

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

It’s not a quote from a well-known person but rather a concept that I’ve realized throughout my life and career.

Your parents are the two most important people in your life while you’re a child. That includes even if they have issues to overcome.

It’s a life lesson that I like to remind my clients of, especially if circumstances tempt them to criticize the other parent.

The truth is a child is here as a result of two people, and they will think about the other person whether they are MIA or not. It’s important to acknowledge that and refrain from emotionally cutting them in half.

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

At my firm, we are developing a better case flow management system. Our goal is to create a better way of tracking cases and to ensure that we’re consistently providing great service in a timely manner to our clients. We also want to improve how we nurture our leads, especially those who aren’t ready to work with us at the time they reach out to the firm.

Recently we hired a Client Success Manager as the first step in achieving this objective, and we’re excited about how this will create a better client experience.

As I mentioned earlier, my team and I are helping clients during a crisis in their life and ensuring there’s no additional stress during an already emotional process, is extremely important.

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?

As I’ve helped clients navigate divorce proceedings, I’ve repeatedly seen the devastating effect of mental illness on families. Typically, narcissism or personality disorders are the cause of an unhealthy home.

To be honest, I didn’t expect that when I first started practicing Family Law.

Another thing I discovered was that success in a case isn’t always winning. It’s more about making sure that each side gets a fair shake, and that the family isn’t destroyed — particularly after the lawyers and judges are gone.

Learning this made me realize that I actually enjoy the counseling aspect of my career. It’s rewarding to encourage clients and guide them towards making better decisions.

It’s also very fulfilling to share the available local resources with clients who are also victims of domestic violence — that includes physical, verbal, and emotional. Unfortunately, I typically see domestic violence only viewed as physical abuse. Therefore, when a client recognizes its other forms and decides to take action in the best interest of their well-being, I view it as a win.

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 most common mistakes made are:

  1. Speaking badly about the other parent. As I stated before, it always hurts the child.
  2. Rushing into another relationship. This isn’t your typical rebound relationship. It’s more one that begins because a person wants to prove that they can have a successful relationship. It’s not a wise decision, especially if someone has recently exited a violent situation. Unfortunately, the rush results in going back to something similar.
  3. Living with a new romantic partner fairly quickly. It’s short-sighted, particularly when kids are involved, and judges are not fond of it.
  4. Failing to financially adjust to a new lifestyle. After a divorce, many people experience a significant change in their budget. In fact, it’s usually lower. When a person fails to face their new financial reality, it negatively impacts their stability in the long run.

To avoid each of these it’s best to seek professional help from a counselor, and a financial advisor. The counselor will provide a safe space for you to heal and, if you have kids, not affect them. Therapy will even help you recognize destructive patterns, like codependency. On the other hand, besides creating a budget, a financial advisor can help a person live within their means while also planning for the future, e.g., retirement.

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?

Normally divorce isn’t a bad thing. It’s simply getting out of a bad situation, and that’s a good thing, especially when someone is escaping domestic violence.

It also gives someone the opportunity to:

  • Relearn themselves
  • Regain, or gain, independence
  • Have space to heal from past pain, and
  • Improve their self-talk.

Even during the COVID pandemic, these are positive, attainable goals.

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?

Honestly, I think it best to stay out of this decision.

Instead, I encourage clients to better themselves first. Whether that means going to counseling or re-enrolling in school. I think it’s best that they rediscover what makes them happy.

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

If I could insist on one thing, it would be being open to scaling back some parts of their lifestyle. Divorce has an unmistakable impact on one’s finances. Therefore, making budget changes are necessary for a content life and secure future.

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?

I’d say:

  1. Make a realistic budget. Write down your must-have expenses and those that are nice-to-haves. Then prioritize them and figure out how you will pay for those expenses. For example, you may discover that a part-time job will cover your bills, or you may learn that a full-time position is best to make ends meet.
  2. Create an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Whether you’re receiving payments from your former spouse or not, it’s best to roll over the remaining retirement funds into an IRA.
  3. Consider entering the workforce. A job provides a sense of purpose and includes positive reinforcement. Even if doesn’t pay a lot of money, these are two things that will rebuild your wellbeing after a divorce. You could consider a career path that you always wanted to pursue, like fashion design. Or you could try something new like digital marketing.
  4. If you have kids, be willing to share them and be positive. Children need both of their parents, even if the other one has flaws. Avoid speaking negatively about your former partner. Be willing to let them see the other parent in a safe environment. I know it’s a challenge but I’m stressing this because not doing this consistently backfires. Unfortunately, many kids end up resenting the parent that raised them and become closer with the estranged one. You must remember that you and your former partner are the most important people in your child’s life.
  5. Invest in your happiness. People typically lose sight of what they enjoy long before they file for a divorce. The period after one is the best time to rediscover what makes you laugh, smile, and feel fulfilled. It could be as simple as restarting your favorite hobby. Or as major as reconnecting with an old friend. Whatever it is, do something for yourself.

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?

In my experience, it’s best to:

  • Start consistent therapy. You can choose to go weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Whatever frequency you determine, make sure you work with someone to help you pick up the pieces after divorce.
  • Take care of your physical health. That includes eating well, exercising, and doing yoga at your house.
  • Do things you enjoy. Start by making a list and then start doing each item. If there has to be a delay due to COVID, start planning and give yourself something exciting to anticipate.

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

Think and Grow Rich.

It’s a popular book in business circles but it also applies to life after divorce since it’s truly about the power of positive thinking. In my experience, this change in mindset is a major key to successfully surviving a divorce.

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. 🙂

If I could inspire anything, it would be a movement around the power of positive self-talk. It’s essential to your mental and emotional health, and I think many people could use that reminder today.

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 to chat with Curt Richardson, the founder of Otterbox. I recently heard his story on a podcast, and I’m intrigued by how he created an innovative product plus built a company around that. It would be great to know how he successfully scaled his business.

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


Jonathan Breeden of Breeden Law Office: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: Why & How Author Jim Higdon Is Helping To Change Our World

Let’s be clear: the root problem we are trying to solve is ending the prohibition of cannabis, which only exists because of structural racism. Everyone who survived 2020 hopefully has a better understanding of how police enforcement of marijuana crimes directly contributes to the marginalization of Black communities.

But knowing it isn’t enough. Now we need to do something about it. And that means legalizing cannabis at the federal, state, and local levels. And even though the vast majority of Americans support legalization, it won’t be easy in a narrowly divided Congress dealing with a mountain of other priorities.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Higdon, co-founder and chief communications officer for Cornbread Hemp.

Jim Higdon made his first impact in 2012 with the publication of his book, “The Cornbread Mafia,” a nonfiction account of how his Kentucky hometown became the headquarters of the largest domestic marijuana syndicate in American history. After the book’s success, Higdon became a nationally recognized journalist, covering cannabis policy for POLITICO and Kentucky news for the Washington Post. In 2018, he left journalism to co-found Cornbread Hemp with his cousin, Eric Zipperle. Together, they have built one of the best hemp brands in America by offering CBD products made from sun-grown Kentucky hemp that are USDA organic, flower-only extracted, and verified full spectrum.

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

Thanks for having me. I was a successful cannabis journalist, but I wanted to do more. So I took the lessons from my “Cornbread Mafia” reporting and put them into action by co-founding Cornbread Hemp. We knew from the start that our passion for Kentucky-grown cannabis would help us find our niche. We got there with our USDA organic, full spectrum CBD oils made from flower-only extraction. That’s how we found our early success at Cornbread Hemp — by making superior products from better ingredients.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My goal in writing “The Cornbread Mafia” was to share with white American audiences the damage caused by War on Drugs upon a community that looks like them. For decades, the Drug War has targeted Black communities in unfair ways, but white Americans have largely convinced themselves that the problems of over-enforcement didn’t concern them.

By telling the story of 70 white men from Kentucky who were arrested on 30 farms in 10 states with 200 tons of marijuana in the late 1980’s, the book is able to convince certain readers who might not have understood this otherwise, that drug laws against marijuana are bad.

The sad reality is that most people who live in suburban and rural communities just don’t understand how the Drug War stacks the deck against minority communities. The social impact of “Cornbread Mafia” has been to open a new line of dialogue with these sorts of Americans about the pressing need to legalize cannabis.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The real eye-popper from “Cornbread Mafia” is the story about a drug bust that happened in rural Minnesota in October 1987, when local police captured 20 Kentucky men on a farm with an estimated 90 tons of marijuana. Ninety tons? Yes, 90 tons — or at least that’s what the police said.

How did police get 90 tons? They weighed one dump truck load of marijuana, then multiplied that number by 62, which was the number of dump truck loads they took off the farm. But so much marijuana remained, they decided to burn the rest on-site. So, they took the times-62 total and doubled it, which gave them 90 tons.

That’s when federal authorities realized that something was happening in Kentucky that required their attention, which led to the eventual round-up of 70 men as part of the alleged “Cornbread Mafia.”

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

One of my last pieces of journalism before co-founding Cornbread Hemp was a piece on how the 2018 Farm Bill was about to legalize hemp, but not for anyone with a drug felony on their record — because a lifetime felon ban had been slipped in at the last minute. I went to a hemp facility in western Kentucky that was run by a California company because the CEO of that company was a felon. But he was OK because his crime wasn’t drug-related; he was a Medicare fraud felon. Therefore, the lifetime felon ban didn’t apply to him.

After writing this story for POLITICO, the final draft of the Farm Bill had the drug-crime felon ban reduced to 10 years. It’s difficult to know for sure if my journalism had anything to do with the reduction of the felon ban, but the timing of my story could very well have impacted this important piece of federal policy.

It was in the course of reporting this story that I realized that no CBD brand was embracing the full history of Kentucky cannabis in a way that accurately represented this superior product. That’s when the “aha!” lightbulb went off in my head. I had this vast knowledge of Kentucky cannabis wrapped up in the Cornbread story. That’s when I joined forces with my cousin, Eric Zipperle, who the MBA and e-commerce experience necessary to bring the Cornbread Hemp vision into reality.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

As a young writer, I was obsessed with William Faulkner because nothing sums up the feeling of being a Kentuckian living in Brooklyn like trying to explain Faulkner to a New Yorker. As a business co-founder, I have been blown away by Traction by Gino Wickman because he understands the dynamics of starting a business at our stage of growth. He’s not writing over our heads — he is laying the foundation for how to grow a small team into a successful organization. And it’s working!

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?

In our first year of business, we were trying to raise money the old-fashioned way, by sending slide decks to accredited investors as part of a Regulation D fundraise. On a call with a potential investor, she asked us why we had left out the cap table in the slide deck. We apologized and told her that we would get a cap table in the next draft, no problem. After the call, we looked at each other and asked, “What’s a cap table?” Neither of us had any idea. We soon learned that a cap table a simple list that shows who owns how much of a company. We didn’t get an investment from that investor, but our rookie mistake turned out fine in the end.

A few months later, we decided to change course and do a crowdfund on Wefunder. This was early 2020. And then, the COVID lockdown crashed the stock market. People thought we were crazy to push ahead with our crowdfund plans, but we launched our Wefunder campaign on April 1, 2020 — and we blew it out of the water.

We raised over $50,000 on the first day, and over $100,000 in 17 days. We eventually capped the raise at $400,000 in just over six months. And the best part is that Wefunder helped us keep our cap table clean for future investment rounds. We have almost 900 investors from our crowdfund campaign, but thanks to Wefunder, all those investors get rolled up into one line on the cap table. We went from not knowing what a cap table was, to engineering a successful crowdfund that didn’t mess up our cap table for future investment rounds.

Let’s shift a bit to talk about your business. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There are so many CBD brands that it’s difficult to break the through noise. Editors tell me “no” all the time because they just don’t have time to review another CBD brand. So it’s difficult to get traction without genuine break-through moments. That why we work to build relationships with people with a voice and an audience.

For instance, we developed a relationship with Nichole Perkins — she’s a Black poet and podcaster from Tennessee who lives in Brooklyn. She’s been buying our CBD cream for her mother. In early October 2020, she tweeted that her mother asked for more “marijuana lotion” for “the arthur” in her hands, and she tagged us, @cornbreadhemp. We got a lot of orders from that one tweet, which is great, but that’s not where this story ends.

One of Perkins’s followers who placed an order based on her tweet came from C.C. Boyce, a woodworker in Los Angeles. About a week later, a writer from New York Magazine contacted Boyce to ask about recommendations for a gift guide for woodworkers, and Boyce recommended our CBD lotion. That’s how we made our first appearance in New York Magazine — genuine referrals from real people. In a media landscape dominated by paid placements, there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Can you describe how your business is making a significant social impact?

At Cornbread Hemp, we define ourselves as a cannabis company that operates on the legal hemp side of federal law. That’s why all our products are full spectrum, which means they contain a legal amount of THC. The legal THC threshold is currently at an arbitrarily low limit of 0.3 percent. We will constantly advocate to increasing the THC limit on legal hemp because we believe every American should have safe access to legal cannabis. That includes CBD and THC.

That’s not the typical position of most hemp companies, especially in here Kentucky. There are hemp companies here that actively opposed further cannabis legislation. That’s not us. Cornbread Hemp is a legal cannabis company based in one of the 15 states without medical marijuana. That makes Cornbread Hemp an agent of change in a state that needs this kind of leadership.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Let’s be clear: the root problem we are trying to solve is ending the prohibition of cannabis, which only exists because of structural racism. Everyone who survived 2020 hopefully has a better understanding of how police enforcement of marijuana crimes directly contributes to the marginalization of Black communities.

But knowing it isn’t enough. Now we need to do something about it. And that means legalizing cannabis at the federal, state, and local levels. And even though the vast majority of Americans support legalization, it won’t be easy in a narrowly divided Congress dealing with a mountain of other priorities.

Our job now is to continue to press our political leaders to remind them that cannabis legalization is a priority, even as we all remain focused on getting a COVID vaccine.

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

Captain America at the climax of Avengers: Endgame. He’s beaten up. His shield is broken, but he gets on his feet to face Thanos one last time. He’s certain that he’ll be defeated but he refuses to quit. Only then does his protege, Falcon, appear on his left — followed by the entire cast of heroes that stand by Captain America’s side.

The lesson I take from that scene is the importance of doing the work, keeping your head down and plowing ahead against difficult odds. Because even when it feels like you’re all alone, you’re not. People see the work and will come to respect it, even help with it.

That’s where natural leadership comes from. Leadership isn’t telling other people what to do; leadership is inspiring people to join your cause because they see your commitment.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

This one is really easy: I would use my influence to legalize cannabis — in Kentucky, in the United States, and globally.

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 have lunch with former Pres. Barack Obama to discuss the unfinished business of ending the cannabis prohibition. I’d ask him why he didn’t legalize cannabis during his administration, and I would ask his opinion on how best to engage on this issue for maximum effect. Now that he is free from the burdens of holding office, I’d like his insights on how we move forward.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Your readers can follow us at @cornbreadhemp on Instagram and Twitter, and I’m @jimhigdon there, too. And visit our website at CornbreadHemp.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Authors: Why & How Author Jim Higdon Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.