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How LaunchMyCity Caught Fire, and What It Really Means to be an Entrepreneur, with Wake Tech’s Katie Gailes

As Director of Entrepreneur Initiatives at Wake Tech in Raleigh NC, Katie Gailes has been able to help thousands of entrepreneurs with networking, funding, mentoring, and training. But she also says that entrepreneurship does NOT necessarily mean starting a business.  On today’s episode, Katie talks about what being an entrepreneur actually means, some of the amazing things she’s doing with Wake Tech AND Launch Wake County, diversity in entrepreneurship, and so much more in this inspiring episode!

Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

Jason Gillikin, Executive Producer Hustle Unlimited, CEO Earfluence:

Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited Podcast with serial entrepreneur Donald Thompson! You are listening to episode 8 of season 2. This season we’ve had so many amazing guests who are supporting entrepreneurship in their communities, and today is no different, as we have on Katie Gailes, Director of Entrepreneuship Initiatives at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh. I’m Jason Gillikin, producer of Hustle Unlimited and CEO of the Earfluence Podcast Network.

On today’s show, Katie Gailes talks about what she’s doing both in Wake Tech and outside of Wake Tech, and how she’s using both taxpayer dollars and private funding to give businesses – mostly what she calls Main Street businesses – the education, the networking, the support, and sometimes access to funding – that they need to thrive in their communities.  Katie started up the Launch Wake County program which has absolutely caught fire. So today she talks about that, what entrepreneurship means to her – and it doesn’t mean starting up a business, the inspiration she has from her parents, diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, and what we should be doing to support our business communities.

I’m so excited to share this interview with you today.

But don’t forget, if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. That way, when we have new episodes with the hustlers of the world who are making their communities a better place, you will be the first to know.

So let’s get started. Here’s Walk West CEO, investor, speaker, mentor, advisor, and all around hustler himself, host of the Hustle Unlimited Podcast, Donald Thompson.

 

Donald Thompson, Serial Entrepreneur, Host of Hustle Unlimited:
Hey guys, this is Donald Thompson with Hustle Unlimited and I have Katie Gailes with me today. Katie, would you introduce yourself real quick? Just tell us name, what you do for a living, a little bit about your background.

Katie Gailes, Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech Community College:
Okay, Katie Gailes of course. I’m Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech. My mission is to look at the entrepreneurial fabric in Wake County, find some holes and develop some programs to plug them.

DT:
That’s awesome. Now how did you get to the point to where helping entrepreneurs became your mission? Because that’s really what it is, after getting to know you little.

Katie:
It really is. I think of myself more as a creative problem solver. And I’ve found this entrepreneurial space where there are a lot of things that need some creative energy thrown at it. I think I’ve always gravitated towards doing these types of things. You know, we treat entrepreneurship like it’s something brand new and cool. Not true. It’s been around forever. We just didn’t have the big word for it. So when I looked around my community as I was growing up, even in my family, entrepreneurship was everywhere. I mean, my father made fishing gear. He made rings out of coins. He raised rabbits for Duke Medical Center. You know the, the little white ones with the pink eyes. They were so cute. I got the hold them and keep them, and then they would disappear and we wondered where they went. They went over to Duke.

My mother…they called them dressing chickens, but you know what that means, right? For farmers who wanted to sell the chickens already prepared to cook. She took care of that for them. She was also a wet nurse and a wet nurse is a nursing mother who nurses other women’s babies for money. So when I was growing up, you know, big cars will pull into our little yard in Oxford, North Carolina and women, usually Caucasian women would get out of these cars and come up and sit on the porch and hand their babies to mom and she would nurse them and they would chat and then hand her some money and they’d disappear. You know, it was very normal to me, but when I look back on it, that was an entrepreneurial venture. So it was everywhere. And so I think I’m just kinda continuing a tradition. Now we have a big word for it.

DT:
That is powerful. I want to segue to your mom just a little bit. You mentioned her and I saw your face light up in a super powerful way. Talk to me about some of the lessons that you learned, whether it be entrepreneurship, but just as somebody that you admire that’s helped shape you.

Katie:
Okay. Well, mom is no longer with us. She left us in 2005 and I think – this is my theory – that sometimes we don’t get to know those people that are closest to us until they are gone. Because when they’re here, we’re seeing them through our own lens. But when they’re gone, now we have, we see them through everybody else’s lens. So I will tell you that I’m getting to know my mother even more. And though I have been 39 more times than I will admit to anyone, I am still trying to grow up to be like my mom. But what I learned from her was resilience. Some of the things she experienced in her life, creativity, spirituality, the difference between spirituality and religion. When I was growing up, my mother read at a third grade level, but she really admired the people in the church.

She wanted to teach Sunday school, so she would take the Bible and the dictionary and she would agonize over the words in the Bible, studying them, asking us for help sometimes till she got to the point where she really could teach Sunday school and then she eventually became a minister. Yeah, I told her she was a mercenary minister. She never wanted to be attached to a church. She would go and fill in for all the ministers and teach Sunday school when others couldn’t. But anyway, I learned that from her, the difference between religion and spirituality, because my mother eventually became this person who was like a wise sage. She had a Muslim physician, she had Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists who would come by and sit, they would talk about the Bible and things, things that they agreed on, things that they disagreed on.

DT:
No, that’s awesome. I think we are all shaped by our parents. I’m the son of a football coach and I learned toughness and teamwork. My mom is a former insurance executive and she always taught me to ask the question why. And never assume just based on what somebody told me that that was the absolute truth. And so she kept my mind always exploring curiosity. And um, TV was fun but having a library card gave me a source of knowledge. Now the kids today don’t know anything about a library card. I used to have a library card and I would go and pull out books and different things and she helped me to read. And so that’s really powerful to hear the lessons that you learned from your mom. And I feel the same way about, about my parents and, and mom in particular. When I look at your corporate career, you spent time in marketing and PR, right? Worked at IBM for a while. What are some of the things that you learned in the larger company context that helped you as an entrepreneur?

Katie:
I think that, when I look back at it, what I really learned from my corporate career is the value of having processes. You know, sometimes as entrepreneurs we get this passion, we are excited about something. We just go for it and we’re making it up as we go along. But at some point, and that’s wonderful and exciting and, and that’s how one of my programs actually started. But at some point you have to stop and put some rules in place and put some processes in place.

DT:
I think that’s a very powerful thing because when we start businesses, we want those businesses to grow, have business value at some point. Want to make some money. And in order for you to not just own a job, you’ve got to build a business that can live without you. And that’s the process that you’re talking about. And so I’m a big believer in that and that makes a lot of a lot of sense. We were doing some research on you and your background and different things.

Katie:

I’m innocent!

DT:

You said that everyone should have an entrepreneurial mindset, but that doesn’t mean you need to start a business. What did you mean by that?

Katie:
Well, if you go to the Webster’s Dictionary, I actually have a couple of those actually in my house that you can pick up and holding your hands out on us. Always Google the word, but if you look at the definition of entrepreneurship and the Webster’s dictionary of the definition of an entrepreneur, it is someone who sees an opportunity and is willing to assume the risk to pursue it. It does not say someone who starts a business. And that opportunity could be anything.

So if you think about it, someone who puts together a group of kids to pick up trash in their neighborhood, somebody who thinks that they are not reaching their full potential, they see opportunity there and they put together a plan to do that. That’s entrepreneurial as well. A lot of the great developments that have happened inside corporations have happened because people were thinking entrepreneurially but they were not starting a new business and please don’t everybody run out and start a business. Because if you did, where would those of us who start businesses find our employees, there’d be none left. But I really believe that if you look at the attributes of entrepreneurs now, they are also life and leadership skills that can make you successful in anything. Thinking about what traits I think are key for success as an entrepreneur but are also key for success in life is I really think entrepreneurial characteristics, those of the life and leadership skills of the future. I think it’s an inner drive or motivation. You know, you have it. It has to come from inside of you. You can’t sit around and wait for somebody else to make you do things. A curiosity and a willingness to change. Creative problem solving. I could start a church around creative problem solving. I really believe in that. Having a healthy relationship with failure. We can’t get embarrassed every time something doesn’t work. Cause there are always so many lessons to be learned. And so many entrepreneurs have in the traditional sense failed, but they failed forward. They’ve learned something that they’ve used in the next venture. And also being coachable, having of collaborative nature. Nobody does anything big in life all by themselves.

DT:
I tell you what, yes, this is a really, really powerful list and I want to talk about these things just a little bit. Curiosity. The company that I work with Walk West, where I’m the chairman and the CEO, that’s one of our core values. We want to hire people that are curious because that actually leads into the problem solving, right? When you’re always looking for that next idea that can make something more efficient. You can change the ideation of a new product. You can create a new marketing campaign and like you say, the curiosity is a characteristic that works inside of a company for a new venture. It’s just something that allows you to be on the cutting edge of what’s next, which is really, really great.

Katie:
And a lot of people that we work with who come with business ideas already have businesses. I find that sometimes that inner drive is missing, you know, they want it, but not bad enough to really go out and get it. And the curiosity being willing to change and adapt and learn and continue to learn. We worked one time with the tailor who been in business for 20 years and he’s excellent. He looked good, he wore his own product, but he wasn’t on Facebook. He didn’t use email marketing. So he hadn’t learned. He had not changed his prices in years. And so getting him to understand that if you’re going to stay viable, you gotta keep learning. You gotta be curious enough to want to know what’s out there, what’s next, and how you can do things better. Then of course, creative problem solving, it is a muscle, I believe creative problem solving is a muscle that the more you do it, the better you get. So I sit with people sometimes and they tell me what their issue is and I’m not bragging, but I come up with a solution pretty quick. But I’ve worked that muscle alive in working with people.

DT:
That is really powerful and the creative problem solving being a muscle, a lot of times people think that others succeed based on being more talented and a lot of times it really is that motivation and when you’re motivated, you’re open minded about different ways of doing things right? Because that motivation forces creativity, right? When you have a limited budget or when you have a limited amount of experience, but you’ve got to build that business to take care of the people you care about or to birth that dream. And when the motivation is strong enough,

Katie:
All the other details can be dealt with.

DT:
When the motivation is low than all those other details can, can kind of overcome the dream, so to speak. And so this is a really, really powerful list and I love it and I think we should expand upon that. What are some of the things specific to your role at Wake Tech that you guys do? What are some of the programs that you have? What are the things that you do to support entrepreneurs? Because I want our listeners to really understand you as a resource in our community as well as someone that is giving today a lot of enthusiasm and hope for the future. How do you underpin that with things that you guys do at Wake Tech?

Katie:
Oh goodness. So first of all, just let me say that as a poor, barefoot country girl from Granville County, North Carolina, I know that if you want to grow something good, you got to have some good dirt. And there is good dirt at Wake Tech because they allow me to do things and they allow me to start things and, and I feel very lucky to be there. So I work collaboratively with the small business center, and every community college has a small business center that’s funded by tax payer dollars. The small business center provides some core services to everybody in the community. Wake Tech’s territory is Wake County, so we don’t provide services in Durham County, Vance, Granville, Johnston, they have their own community colleges and small business centers to do that. But all the small business centers provide some of the same stuff. They all provide a set of seminars and webinars.

These are two hour chunks of information, very targeted for the small business owner and they are free to put together their own list of seminars based on what they see the needs are in their territory. And they also provide one-on-one confidential counseling by paid professional business counselors – unlimited because it’s funded by taxpayer dollars. So people say, what do I need to be able to come to Wake Tech and get some counseling? I thought, well, you know, check your wrist, do you have a pulse? That’s all you need. And that’s a resource that if you walking down the street and an apple falls on your head and it gives you this great idea, you can schedule an appointment and come in. Or if you got a patentable idea to do something in manufacturing and you need $1 million, you can still come in. It’s a resource that’s available to the citizens.

So that’s the underpinnings of what we do. Now. What I do specifically at Wake Tech is develop longer deep dive programs to fill needs. And I do this inside of the college and outside of the college because entrepreneurship knows no boundaries. I say entrepreneurship drives everything. So let me talk about what I do outside of the college first because it’s evolved into something fairly significant. And I was so fortunate to, to have this program brought to me in 2016 Matthew Cain from the North Raleigh Rotary Club presented me with an idea to help put together a program to solve an entrepreneurship desert in Southeast Raleigh. Cause all the cool stuff…you know is happening over there in the Warehouse District. And they would get to Wilmington Street and say, oops, not going over there.  And we saw that and we created a program, it started on the campus of Shaw University to help entrepreneurs in Southeast Raleigh.

And it had the four things that entrepreneurs need to be successful. It had training. And we use a curriculum from the Kaufman Foundation. It had mentoring, six months of mentoring, commitment of four hours a month maximum from a mentor. It had networking by getting them plugged into everything else that’s happening around here. And help find a little bit of money if that’s what they need. And we were so excited about what we did was like a start up. There were a bunch of us in the room. We ended up with eight collaborating partners, including the HBCU, Shaw, St. Aug’s, the city and rotary club and SCORE and Carolina Small Business Development Fund and Wake tech and Passage Home. We were all in there and we were just crunching away making this program work. And I’m wearing the orange hat today and tomorrow wear the green hat and we were so excited that rotary international put up a website called Launch My City so we can share what we’ve done with the world and then it caught fire and it’s become a movement.

So right now Launch Wake County is my flagship program. We have so many things going on. I had to put an umbrella around what I’m doing. There are seven towns in Wake County that all have launch programs; Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Raleigh, Roseville, and Wake Forest. And my mission, my goal is to have one in every one of the towns in Wake County eventually. And there are 12 towns, so a little over halfway there. So far we’ve trained 229 mostly main street entrepreneurs and with the 82 that have gone through right now, by December it’ll be 311 so we’re basically creating a Wake County Chamber of Commerce

DT:
That is super powerful. Like when you think about the reach of these entrepreneurs, how do you get the word out more about what you’re doing? Like what, what could be helpful to you? What do we need to do to support what you’re doing so that more people know about it? Because I, Heather Chandler was a guest on one of our podcasts and she runs a company called Whole Brain Escape and those escape rooms that are super interesting. And she talked about Launch Apex. But that was the first I’d heard about it. How do we get more of the word out? What are some of the things that we can do to help?

Katie:
There is a secret sauce to Launch Wake County. Actually there are two. First thing is, the reason this has become a movement is because there are teams of people in every town, mostly volunteers who are committed to growing small businesses in their town. I’ll do business with other small businesses in their town and in every town there are anywhere from five to 11 people on the teams that make this all work. And like I said, they’re all volunteers. They allow us at Wake Tech to be the facilitator for all of this because the real heavy lifting in making the program work happens in the towns. They get the word out in town, they hold the information sessions, they interview the entrepreneurs, we hand pick people, go into the cohorts. That’s why we only have about a 7% dropout rate. They get support from local businesses to feed them every day before class. Wake Tech comes in and we pay for the training with private dollars that we’ve raised and we are the convening organizations. So when we have a reunion Wake Tech handles that. So the secret sauce is the fact that this is community based.

DT:
That is awesome. You should be super proud of that. I mean I think there’s one thing to talk about entrepreneurship and there’s another thing to lend your expertise and experience to give other people a chance for their dream to rise. And that’s something that you’re doing every day, which feels like a dream job. Like that’s pretty loud. That is pretty awesome. Now you’ve worked with over a thousand small business owners, entrepreneurs, and we talked about some of the characteristics. What are some of the success stories that you’d like to tell us about some of the folks that you’ve worked with that you’re just super proud of?

Katie:
Oh, okay. So you said success stories and super proud of, and I was thinking about this, how we define success may vary because sometimes we measure, especially here in the Triangle, we’re so tech oriented, we measure success based on a tech startup, a yardstick. How much money did they raise? Are they scaling? And for a main street business that is not at all relevant. First of all, let me define what a main street business is. If you were to go into a small town, decide whether or not you want to live there. You walk down main street, you look for certain things, coffee shop, dry-cleaners, insurance salesman, CPA, daycare center, someplace to buy some clothes, someplace to buy some food, maybe a cool bar, a brewery, that’s main street. Nobody ever goes to a small town deciding if they want to live there and say, well, let me look where I see the way the app developer is. I’m gonna make my decision based on that. Main street businesses are the businesses that make communities work and their measurement of success is different. I can talk about some by some of the things people I’m proud of, but they may not be successful based on the yardstick of tech startup.

DT:
Answer both though because I agree with you in terms of, and I believe this very strongly, that success being different for others. Somebody may have left their jobs, start a business and are able to put their kids to college because they were self-employed, not what they were making working for another company. And they want to leave that legacy to their kids and that’s their success. And to me, I’m as an entrepreneur and a business owner myself, I’m just as proud of the risks that they took and the journey that they were on as somebody that startup was sold for tens of millions of dollars. And so I completely agree. So I’m very open to those success stories. I want to hear them.

Katie:
And so here’s the risk. We’ve, we trained 229 people and it’s difficult for me to pull out one cause I’m gonna make all the others jealous. Of course, cause we’re, we’re very, I’ll talk about in general terms very, you’ve already had Heather on here. We’re very, very proud of Heather and she’s a prime example of somebody who came in with a, with a great idea and the commitment and the hard work and the fact that she’s already in the black and her business is not a year old is wonderful. What makes her successful is she’s in consistent activity around her business. Some of the, some people have come through and decided that their business idea was not viable and that’s an success because saved them lots and lots of money and frustration.

DT:
Well, let’s talk about that for a minute. One of the things that people as entrepreneurs have to realize is that just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s a business. And what you’re teaching people to do is evaluate whether they have a business and then if they do have an idea that could be or should be a business, are they the right person to run it? Is it the right time in their life to do that? And that defining success for them appropriately gives them the right yardstick.

Katie:
And so letting them know it’s ok to change, that’s right. One entrepreneur, I’m very proud of, this young lady, she has a wonderful immigrant story is Veronica Saca, and Veronica was in our first Launch Raleigh class. She had an online men’s accessory business, bow ties and pocket squares and like I actually bought some, I wear them with little jewels hanging off of them and they were beautiful. They were wonderful products. She came to the class, she got really deeply involved. She created this wonderful website. She got deeply involved in her business. She was donating money to a charity from each sale and she realized she really didn’t like the work of being online all the time. But now she found her passion in real estate, but she’s applying the same thing. She learned to build her presence in the real estate market. And so to us she is now a serial entrepreneur because she’s taking what she learned from one venture and using in another venture.

DT:
That is fantastic. And what a great example. I think of the wisdom that you shared that you have to be ready for different transition points. And that comes back to the curiosity you described, the problem solving and using Veronica, the first idea wasn’t her passion long-term, but the lessons were transferable and you described entrepreneurship as kind of the engine for the, the next couple centuries. And I totally agree. I want to pivot and ask this. You’re very successful. You’ve got a lot of awards. I know that you’re a very humble person, but you won, let’s see, the Triangle Business Journal Woman in Business Award. It’s one of the awards that you won. And during your acceptance, you talked about what would you advise your 21 year old self and you said you’d take more risks and be bold. What’d you mean by that?

Katie:
Well, when I look back, I got out of college, and when I really wanted to do was be able to and to have some money because I was one of those kids that wasn’t supposed to go to college, I mean I threw my stuff in the truck of my boyfriend’s car and I went over to college and I was the first one. I’m, I’m lucky number 11 of 12 children and… I don’t know, I hope my mother thought that was lucky. But anyway, um, I was the first one to go to college, graduate from college and so I was so broke all the way through college. I was so glad to get that job at IBM and buy stuff. I wish I had taken more risks to do more non-traditional things and explore and have more and build more experiences. I have a sister who invited me to, to sign on to the crew of a Norwegian cruise ship for a year right after I graduated. No, no, no. I wanted to get into the real world and be an adult and I’m grateful to IBM for the experiences I got through. Then they pay for my MBA. They paid for my braces. They paid for my baby, but I wish I had done more, taken more chances early on.

DT:
No, that is powerful. So we’ve talked about entrepreneurship, we’ve talked about your background and what you do today at Wake Tech, which is phenomenal and we appreciate the time that you’ve invested in sharing with us and our audience. If you had a magic wand and we think about what’s going on in our world, what would you change?

Katie:
Oh my goodness. I should have had a couple of weeks to think about that question. I think everything comes down to people and somehow we have lost our connection to each other and I think it causes people to make decisions without understanding how it affects other people. If we ever make a decision without thinking about how it affects other people, it eventually comes back and affects us. We also don’t have the wisdom to understand that. So if I could change anything in the world, I’d change it to make us better, connect us to each other so that we recognize that every decision we make affects not just the people that are in our immediate circle, but all the people and that we need to see other people as significant. Think about all the things that happened in the world today and somebody made a decision that’s going to dramatically affect the lives of other people because they’re over there or because they look different or they have a different amount of money. It’s okay for those people to suffer.

DT:
No, I think that’s powerful. I mean I think if I were to kind of extend what you’re describing, it’s how do we be thoughtful outside of self and that unfortunately, and hopefully we’ll get it back, but we’ve lost some of that humility and we’ve lost some of that sense of community. It’s pretty amazing with all the social things that are supposed to connect us, how far that we become anti-social and how far we are apart. And so I think that’s a words of wisdom that hopefully we can, we can continue to move forward in that way.

Katie:
So I didn’t get a chance to tell you about the internal stuff we’re doing at Wake Tech because Launch Wake County is so cool. But several years ago I started something called Statup at Wake Tech that’s about to be renamed, but I can’t tell you what the new name is going to be.

DT:

Because you don’t know or because it’s super secret?

Katie:

It’s super secret. It hasn’t officially been, it’s gonna make sense and it’s gonna be once it comes out. But I wanted to bring entrepreneurship into Wake Tech and also bring Wake Tech more and make it more of a player in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. A lot of cool stuff happens inside of Wake Tech that small businesses can benefit from. So it started at Wake Tech. Any instructor can request a speaker, they can pick from some canned lectures and all they have to do is say time, date and place and somebody shows up. And so any instructor can infuse entrepreneurship into their course at Wake Tech. We also have a three year partnership with our graphic design program where every year I bring in a group of entrepreneurs to pitch to the students. The students pick the ones they want to take on as their clients for four months and they become their branding agency. In the past three years we’ve probably done about $50,000 worth of free branding work for a dozen entrepreneurs. I think that’s very cool. We also, we are infusing into our Barbershop school and Cosmetology schools, entrepreneurship training cause those people are definitely entrepreneurs. Most don’t think of themselves that way and I’m really excited about this. We have two English as a second language classes going right now, programs, and in these classes there are people from multiple countries. What they have in common is they’re new to this country and they’re trying to learn the language. Well we are now offering a launch your own business class for people who are learning the language. So as they learned the language, they can also learn how to start a business. So that’s what’s happening internally with entrepreneurs, is that all of it.

DT:
I think that’s great. But thanks for zeroing in on that. Cause that is, it would be remiss if we didn’t share that with our audience because one of the things that is changing is that people are seeing the community college system is a phenomenal way to get educated, to get retrained, to launch something new. And many years ago, it was a four year degree was the standard. If you didn’t have that, you weren’t gonna be successful in life. How are you going to get a job and all that good stuff. But I think the world of education is changing to where now it’s a focus on how do you prepare people to do things specifically in the area of their goals.

Katie:
And we’re getting back in touch with the dignity of work too. I tell people when my, when my hot water heater exploded, I wanted a plumber. I didn’t care how much it cost. I just wanted him here right away. And I think somebody told me the average age of a plumbers is 57 years old. So the community college is where we solve the problems that we have with the people, the jobs that require you to work with your hands. Because eventually, I know right now if I call my plumber, I owe him $87 before he even gets to my house. If we don’t do something about that, eventually I’ll owe him the same amount of money as my lawyer before I go in and talk to him maybe more, maybe more, cause I can do without the lawyer most of the time. Can’t do that alone.

DT:
No, that’s exactly right. When you need them, it is a high value service. And that’s a great, great point. Well, we have enjoyed having you. I’m even more excited about Wake Tech than, than even before. And we’ve known each other for a little bit now. And one of the success stories of our connectivity is when I learned about the small business initiatives at Wake Tech, one of the things that we did at Walk West is partner with you all to build out a social media curriculum and actually build out a partnership with Wake Tech. And so we’re in our second year of doing that and training students in the social media construct because it’s a way to get jobs that are well paying. It’s a way to move up in your current job because marketing and communication is starting to touch every type of business.

And so we’re super excited about the introductions that you’ve made for us to be able to do that. And maybe we can work something else out. We’re very open and especially now that we have the content, you were talking about some of the courses in the small business center and different things. We now have a lot of content that can be repurposed for a lot of different reasons. So it is my hope and expectation that we continue to stay in touch. And the next thing that we’re working on here at Walk West is Diversity and Inclusion. And so we’re actually building out an online certification course in and around D&I and we’re pulling together experts. Several folks on my team are going to training in January to get certified. And we believe that helping companies in marketing is only part of it. If you don’t have a workforce that is diverse and powerful and chasing ideas, then you’re not going to be the best you can be as a company. And so we’re taking it on as our mantra to be an example. And by being an example, you’ve also got to teach what you’re doing that’s working. And so we’re super excited at that. Well with the Launch Wake County program, sometimes I get these numbers reversed. I should’ve brought my cheat sheet with me, but um, we have 60 to 70% minority, 60 to 70% women in our Launch Wake County program, and in a security program where people apply, they’re interviewed and hand-selected.  I think that entrepreneurship and the small business network has always been diverse because minorities, people of color, especially black women, start more businesses than anybody. So it’s always been diverse. What has not been diverse is the infrastructure and the systems that have been put together to support those small businesses. So the programs that are out there that don’t reach deep enough into the community to find those people, the capital programs that aren’t patient enough to invest in anything other than tech, the events that are always held in the same place and never held out there in the community where they can be accessible. That’s what’s not diverse.

DT:
I think that’s powerful. And one of the things that is important is to illuminate the success stories of what is working, but not forget where we still have gaps. And I think to your point in the Research Triangle Park, our ecosystem for entrepreneurship is growing. It’s thriving. There’s lots of success stories, but that doesn’t mean we have arrived, right? That there’s not more great work to do.

Katie:
So if you plot it, almost everything is happening in the same places. And I know success attracts success, but we’re tending to put the resources in the same places all the time where they’re really not needed. It’s cool to be out there, but it’s not needed. We, if we would plot everything on a map, we will find that the Eastern part of Wake County and some parts of Raleigh not getting any resources, but there are small businesses out there, you know, people out there starting businesses. We’re just not taking the resources out there to them. Now ok, if we have stuff here, they want to come on over here where everything is, fine, but if we’re really, really serious about growing this entrepreneurial ecosystem, we would take the resources to where the entrepreneurs are and I think that’s why the Launch Wake County movement has grown because everything that we do in Apex happens in Apex. Everything happens in Cary. Everything we do at Knightdale happens in Knightdale. We go to Knightdale, we don’t tell the people to come over to a Wake Tech campus. Everything that we do for the Roseville people happens in Roseville.

DT:
You’ve taken powerful knowledge and made it local.

Katie:
That’s right. Make it accessible to everybody.

DT:
No, I think that’s awesome. Diversity and Inclusion in my mind now is a topic that everybody nods yes, it’s good, and we need to move to how do we implement programs, processes, and support so that we can move the needle for underserved communities and educate along the way and I’m super proud of the work that you’re doing in that area.

So anything you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?

Katie:
Just that, um, you know, entrepreneurship and small businesses are the ones who anchor our economy. They also anchor communities and they feed elephants. I know that a lot of our traditional economic development efforts are aimed at bringing in the next elephant, but elephants eat grass and the entrepreneurs are the grass, they serve those big companies and we gotta make sure we have a really healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in order to have a healthy economy.

DT:
I’m going to let you have the last word. That was powerful and a great way to end our time together. Katie, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your wisdom. It was great.

So one of the things that we’re working on is diversity and inclusion. I’d like your thought process a little bit, your thinking and how you’re taking all the different things you’re learning and creating an environment, encouraging diversity and inclusion in and around entrepreneurship.

Jason:

That was Katie Gailes from Wake Tech and the Launch Wake County Program.  You can find more information on Launch Wake County by going to LaunchMyCity.org.  And if you want to hear from one of the graduates of that program, we had one on Hustle Unlimited, and that was Heather Chandler from Whole Brain Escape on episode 1 of Season 2.

Thanks for tuning in everyone, and thanks to Katie Gailes for sharing what she’s doing to make the business community in Wake County more knowledgeable and successful.

This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin, for Earfluence. For more on the Earflucence Podcast Network, visit Earfluence.com or check us out on social media, we’re AT EarfluenceMedia.

Intro and outro music for this episode is “You Can’t Stop Me” from Jensen Reed. You can find more of his music at JensenReed.com.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.

 

Full Transcript

85: What My Children Have Taught ME About Business, with Single Dad Jose Rolon

Jose Rolon is the lead wedding planner at Jose Rolon Events in New York City.  Jose is a single father of 3 children, a 6 year-old and 5 year-old twins, and today he shares such incredible insight into how his children have helped him grow his business in this touching, funny, and emotional episode.

Jose Rolon Events on Social Media:

Instagram: @JoseRolonEvents

Facebook: @JoseRolonEvents

Pinterest: @JoseRolonEvents

 

Weddings for Real on Social Media:

Instagram: @weddingsforreal

Facebook: @weddingsforreal

twitter: @weddingsforreal

Music for this episode by https://www.bensound.com.

The host of the show is Megan Gillikin, owner and lead consultant at A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning.  She’s also available for wedding and hospitality business consulting and can be reached at megan@weddingsforreal.com.

Weddings for Real is edited and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.

Jeremy Benton and Kelly Sheehan on Playing Phil and Judy in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Jeremy Benton and Kelly Sheehan have been dancing and singing on stage together for many years. They play Phil and Judy in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which will be coming to DPAC December 3rd through 8th.  On the show today, Jeremy and Kelly talk about how they got into musical theater, what makes White Christmas such a unique production, and mishaps that happen on stage. Tune in because these two have such amazing chemistry together!

Tickets for shows are available at DPACnc.com, Ticketmaster, or the Blue Cross NC Ticket Center at DPAC.

DPAC is the Durham Performing Arts Center, located in the American Tobacco Historic District of downtown Durham, North Carolina, right by the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and within walking distance of incredible hotels, restaurants, and more.  Our theatre has 2,700 seats and we host over 200 events a year. From Broadway shows, to concerts, comedy, family shows, and more – there’s something for everyone at DPAC.  With everything that’s going on here, we thought it was time to take you backstage at DPAC!

This show is hosted by Taylor Zansberg, and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.

From Poverty to Philanthropy: Raleigh Rescue Mission’s John Luckett

John Luckett on Hustle UnlimitedJohn Luckett went from poverty in Missisippi to successful businessman to serial entrepreneur, and now he’s giving back as the CEO of Raleigh Rescue Mission. Tune in to hear all about John’s unbelievable journey, what brought him to Raleigh Rescue Mission, what the media portrays about homelessness versus reality, and what you can do to help your community.

Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

 

Jason Gillikin, Earfluence CEO, Executive Producer Hustle Unlimited:

Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited Podcast with serial entrepreneur Donald Thompson! You are listening to episode 7 of season 2. Last week, we had the executive director of Shop Local Raleigh Jennifer Martin on to talk about why it’s so important to support local businesses. And today, we talk about supporting the community in a completely different way, and that’s through giving back and supporting the less fortunate.  I’m Jason Gillikin, producer of Hustle Unlimited and CEO of the Earfluence Podcast Network.

And today, our guest is John Luckett, CEO of the Raleigh Rescue Mission.  Raleigh Rescue Mission is a Faith-based non-profit agency providing meals, shelter, warm clothing and most importantly, the opportunity for a changed life to homeless men, women and children in Raleigh, and surrounding areas.

On the show today, you’ll hear about John’s background in poverty and then in business success, why he abandoned his corporate career, the challenges that the Raleigh Rescue Mission is facing, and the impact it’s having on the community here and how John hopes to replicate that success to different cities as well.

Such an important interview today.

But before we get started, if you want these episodes in your feed every Monday so you can be inspired for the week ahead, be sure you subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Give us a rating and review as well and share this episode on any social media platform.  That helps us find more great inspirational guests  – the hustlers, the trailblazers, the movers and shakers, and the people like John Luckett who are making their communities a better place.

So let’s get started. Here’s Walk West CEO, investor, speaker, mentor, advisor, and all around hustler himself, host of the Hustle Unlimited Podcast, Donald Thompson.

 

Donald Thompson, Walk West CEO, Host of Hustle Unlimited:
Hello folks, this is Donald Thompson with Hustle Unlimited. I have the opportunity to talk to you and bring to you today John Luckett from the Raleigh Rescue Mission and one of the things that we’re doing here at Hustle Unlimited is we’re bringing to you not only folks from the business community and nonprofit community, but number one business and nonprofit leaders that are taking things to the next level in their chosen field. In this case with the Raleigh Rescue Mission, it is a very, very powerful story about how to help people become more, become better so they can be their full self and not let their current circumstance define their future. John, welcome to the show. We are super glad to have you. Let’s jump in, tell us a little bit about you as an individual and then we’ll kind of dive into what you do, but tell us background, where you’re from, family, all that good stuff and we’ll jump in as friends.

John Luckett, Raleigh Rescue Mission CEO:
Well, I grew up in Mississippi in the 60s. Okay. So I have the uniqueness of being in a little town called Carthage, which really the only distinction we had that we were 30 miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi. So you probably remember a story in history where the three freedom riot kids –  freedom rioter kids – two white and one black were killed and their bodies were hidden for a period of time. And so I grew up 30 miles outside of that city. Very scary time. So, that’s kind of the beginnings of growing up in poverty. When my parents were uneducated and we actually stayed in that particular environment for a couple of reasons. There was a white family that basically gave my dad a job offer and protected us during this time period. So we stayed stable, which people say, why would you want to be in that situation anyway? Because a lot of my extended family left the state, went North. We stayed there and I was able to finish high school. Through the influence of teachers, which was first segregated and then integrated in 1970 teachers that took an interest in me and said, Hey, you know what, I think you have potential that you can go to college. I think you can do other things. So it was a very, very different, uh, I have a different life now than I thought I ever would have.

DT:
And what do you think, I mean that’s an amazing as a backdrop, right? So growing up in the 60s and then grown up in the deep South Mississippi.  I was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, which is about three, four hours from Jackson, Mississippi. But I have relatives that grew up in Mississippi. So that’s deep South. And everything that you can think of from a racial undertone or just the quality of life and education, what gave you the capacity to believe you could do and be more?

John:
Well I tell people looking back, cause I didn’t really understand all this coming up cause I, you know, I grew up angry and frustrated about what was happening around me cause there was a lot of negative things going on. But looking back, it was people that believed in me before I believed in myself. Some, some people intervened in my life. I can tell you right now, Mrs. Gilmore my first grade teacher, African American lady, she said, Hey, you got potential. You’re going to be great. And you need someone outside of your family unless of course your family is very prominent or something. But to validate them and that’s what she did. So I can remember most of my elementary teachers, and my high school teachers, which by the way were white teachers too, that, uh, spoke, you know, positive things into tomorrow.

DT:
I mean that’s powerful. I mean everybody has the opportunity to do great things, but we don’t all see it within self. And so having somebody that believes in you, that cheers for you, but more importantly equips you, right. So that you can be really, really successful. And it seems that you had that. When you think about growing up in Mississippi and now transitioning, when did you move up North? Or when did you move to North Carolina? Give me a little bit more of the story of from Mississippi forward.

John:
So I went to college, which was a pretty big achievement, first generation going to college. So that was a big deal. Uh, after college I went to Atlanta. In that time, that was Mecca. Yeah, that’s big city and opportunity man. So I went there, started in the banking industry and got my first break and started with a company called Chick-fil-A as an owner operator. And that was through a connection through a business person that once again saw potential in me as a banker and said, Hey, what do you, what do you want to do longterm? And I had a desire put in me by my dad that I wanted to own my own business because my dad had already said, you know, when his dream, his life, which he never achieved, was to own his own business. And that way he wouldn’t have to have someone else have control of what he could produce and how much he could make. And so that was one of his dreams he passed on to me.

DT:
Oh, that’s phenomenal. I mean, one of the things that people think about entrepreneurship is number one, the road’s not easy. So I want to get some, some feedback and lessons learned as a business owner that you can share, but more important is that opportunity to really build something for yourself and for your family and everybody, a lot of people, I don’t want to say everybody dreams of it, very few people actually take the leap to do it. What gave you that confidence, that drive to actually move from that stable career now in banking, things are looking up in that arena to now go into that entrepreneurship route.

John:
Once again, this gentleman this successful businessman in Atlanta. He said, I think you have the ability and intellect here to really do this. And at that time, Chick-fil-A was moving out of the malls into the freestanding buildings. So I started with them and they believed in me, obviously because there was a partnership there that if you know how Chick-fil-A works it’s as a close partnership. And so that was one of the things that launched me into that franchise and it was a great experience. I learned a lot of things about business that I would’ve never been exposed to. I hadn’t been in that environment. As you know, your environment really determines a lot of your success, who you’re around, who you relate to, what type of business people you’re around.

DT:
So this is very progressive country in the power and the level of your dreams. I mean if you’re around people and business people that have a big vision, then it is deemed okay for you to have a big vision along with them. The most successful people are supportive of other people’s dreams and unfortunately most people that aren’t successful always are kind of trying to pull each other back a little bit. One of the things that I’d like to know, and I know our listeners would as well, how did that transition now from Chick-fil-A, this very successful franchise, doing well, moving in those directions. How did you transition to the Raleigh Rescue Mission and what caused that you’ve now taken up that mantle and responsibility you have now?

John:
So Chick-fil-A was the first big break, but it wasn’t the only one. After Chick-fil-A, I became a Wendy’s franchisee. So there’s a partnership with another, a financial partner, and we moved to Texas to do that. I sold that business and then I got into what I call the wave of the senior living industry. Back in the early 2000’s with Sunrise Senior Living. So while there I, at that point, it was very successful as a public company. We were serving the top 1% of people across the U S because it was very expensive to move into properties that I managed and oversaw. So all of a sudden, unbeknownst to me, out of the blue, I felt like God was tapping me on his shoulder and said, Hey, you know what? You’re very successful. Your kids are set. I want you to go back and help people the way I help you.  So my wife really thought about it for a long time because as you know how it works in the corporate America, once you get to a certain level, you know there’s a lot of money and things coming in. And so we really believed we wanted to leave a legacy, not only for our kids, but for other people because I wouldn’t be in the position I was in if people hadn’t taken the time to invest in me. So we quit the corporate job starting with a nonprofit in Atlanta, a Good Samaritan health center, which was a great experience. My first time being in the nonprofit world and while working there was exposed to homeless individuals as well as the working poor. And my heart was just drawn to the homeless individuals. I’ll tell you, up until this point in my career, I would write a check and I was, I didn’t really understand what was going on.

And really when I tell people – 1960s poverty is totally different than 2019 poverty.

 

DT:

Okay. Expand on that.

 

John:

So back in the 1960s my dad could find work even though he couldn’t read and write. Today, if you don’t have the education, you can’t find work. McDonald’s doesn’t hire people that can’t read and write. So when you’re talking about the opportunities – manufacturing was available, there was a lot of labor jobs that my dad could do. My mom could do things. So, you know, I was never fearful that we would be kicked out of our home because we couldn’t pay something. Now I was fearful because of other reasons going on in Mississippi. There would be burned out or something. But that’s a whole different kind of stress level there. But once my eyes were open to this. I said, me and my wife said we have to do something. And so, uh, this is when really we began to talk to many people about what is the key to getting people out of homelessness in the 2000’s as opposed to what it was like in 1960s and seventies eighties and so that’s where we stumbled across Raleigh Rescue Mission and their vision and desire.

DT:
That’s really powerful. And so that’s a lot to unpack. It’s one, it’s to walk away from a very successful career and maybe not walk away, but transitioned into something that’s very new, very different, and not being able to see the impact right in front of you. There’s not a big monthly paycheck coming next. Validates your worth. In terms of corporate America. So that’s one thing. But the second thing that’s powerful is thinking in terms of that give back, right? And that responsibility that we all have to be thankful and to move from thankful to action of, of how we can help another generation move forward. Tell us a little bit about the Raleigh Rescue Mission and the broadness of services because, and I’ll tell you when we first met, and I shared this with you before and I thought, Rescue Mission, fine. I’ll write a check. And they’re helping feed people that are homeless and hungry. They’ve got a soup kitchen going on and they’ve got a food pantry going on and it’s so much more. Take a minute to describe really the depth of what you’re doing and the vision of bringing people from homelessness to that next level in their life.

John:
Exactly. Well, it starts out with something that sounds simple. We really believe that each person has sacred value. So when you start there, one of the things that when a wife says, we want you to do this, and the board was behind this because the rescue commission had been around since 1961 and they have been able to evolve and, and address the issues with a business person’s mindset of outcomes because it was started by business people. So with that in mind, the question is if these individuals have sacred value, they have the same sacred value as my children or your children. And so would it be okay that if you said, Hey, it’s okay if my child doesn’t have education and they work a low paying job where they can’t make ends meet and they can’t live in a decent housing? The answer will be no.

So we started with that simple concept and came up with a six phase approach that really mirrors what we did with our children and what many people do with their children. You know, we started out with saying, Hey, what are your real needs? What are you needs? And we look at a total comprehensive educationally, medically, mentally, uh, what are your real needs? Because one of the things we found out in my research, because I left some time when I was with the organization in Atlanta, I did a lot of research on what was happening, what were the outcomes, what kinds of things were happening would be we were addressing these needs. Because you’re right, it’s a broad spectrum, but a lot of times people think, well, it’s okay if I give you a meal and a place to sleep. We wouldn’t say that for our children.

We wouldn’t say, Hey, it’s okay. I don’t care what you do between seven and three. You know, you’re on your own, but you can come back home and you’re going to have a meal and you can sleep here tonight. We want to develop them and help them. We say full potential. So one of the things we found out is, uh, if you can imagine this doctor that you and I, and two of your friends went to the doctor’s office and we were sitting in the, in the lobby there and they called all of us back, all four of us back. And the doctor was in his office and he saw us coming, he said, have a seat. And he finished up writing a script and he gave out a script, each one of us. And we’re like, what is this?

He said, Oh, this is your script to go get some medication. All you people are like, so what’s the problem? We’d say, wait a minute. You haven’t done an exam. I’m not like this other person. That’s right. You don’t know me. That is almost how we have began to treat homeless individuals and people in poverty in the US and that was not the case earlier on. Even under segregated South and racism, people were treated differently based on what their needs were and how they could support individuals. So we said, Hey, we’ve got to start doing that. So phase one is what do you need? We partnered with Sylvan learning to do an assessment of all the kids, which, so we have about as many kids as we do women. And then we also have men. So we do assessment on everyone, especially the kids because 87% of kids who are homeless are going to drop out of school before graduating high school.

And let me just tell you, middle schoolers are not being hired by McDonald’s and that means you’re getting what’s called a school to prison pipeline. So this is a huge problem that’s right in front of us and we don’t see it because it’s kind of hidden. So once we finish the assessment, we set them up with the proper counseling because many of the kids and the parents are went through adverse childhood experiences, ACEs. And the adults that didn’t stop at age 18 domestic violence is leading in number one thing. It’s not going away. You remember the Me Too movement? That’s the top 1% of the women. What do you think happened to the bottom 1% of the women in our country? So they are really being impacted with domestic violence and other things. And there’s a lot of other things that’s been happened.

John:
It’s 16 different things in the, in the ACEs and the CDC says that ACE is our number one issue as a society cause one of these items is happening to close to 70% of our population. In our world, 100% of the people who come to us have four more of these adverse childhood experiences that continue on into adulthood.

 

DT:

So you said a lot of things that are powerful and impactful, 87% of the kids that are homeless are going to drop out of school before they finish high school, did I hear that? And then that creates a school to prison pipeline. Like that is of all the things that we argue about as a society in a macro economic environment. But there’s so much more that we can do to address that. Super proud of you for what you’re doing to address that. But I think sometimes we all need a little bit of shock treatment to realize where some of these problems are that we want to overlook. Tell me a little bit about how you’re getting word out and how people can help and benefit what you’re doing or what are the key things they can do?

 

John:

We’re at the root level. We’re dealing with some things that people don’t like to deal with. Going in and doing the tutoring and the counseling, it costs money. It really does. And so the time, so we’ve beefed up our staff so that we have a full 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM children’s services for all of our kids. That’s before school, preschool, afterschool, and then evening enrichment because we want to come alongside the parents. You know, in today’s society, if you have a child that’s acting up, everybody blames the parents.

Well what if the parent doesn’t have the skills or the abilities to really guide the child? So we come alongside the parent, the woman in our situation. And sometimes we have men with children there and we come alongside both of them and say, Hey, we want to help you grow both. And that’s a new thing to be quite honest with you because a lot of times people focus on the adult, they don’t focus on the children. So we’re focusing on both. So there’s a couple things I will tell you. Where else? Invest in us from a financial standpoint. You can go to our RaleighRescue.org and look online.

 

DT:

So RaleighRescue.org. And you can donate online. Okay.

 

John:

And then we want volunteers, passionate volunteers for the children or if you’d like the adults, but to come alongside. Cause once again, remember somebody outside of my family spoke truth into my life, hope into my life because it used to take someone out of the situation that you’re in to say, Hey, I think you can overcome this.  We need that for our adults, men and women and we need that for the children. We really believe that we can break the cycle easier with the kids than we can with the parents right now because there’s a lot more damage that has been done to the 25 or 35 year old woman that’s had all these bad things happen to you. You have a daily fight with depression and hope because you, you’ve been knocked down multiple times. That’s right and, and the women, and I’ll tell you about the adults who come here, this is the misconception. All these people don’t want to work. They don’t want to do these things. No, they choose to come there. No one’s forced to them. They’re not assigned here by any court. They choose to come here because they said, I want to be back in mainstream.

I want to pave my own way. I don’t want to be dependent on other people. Those are the type of individuals we’re working with.  We just looked at some statistics nationwide. Most of the people that are homeless, 84% of them, are what’s called situational homeless, 16% are called chronic homeless. Guess which one our media focuses on.  Chronic homeless. And those are the ones that get the bad name. The rest of the group is called the hidden homeless. Like you and I, if something…you know..I tell people, if I had a business and it blew up and went bankrupt, you think I’d be on Facebook saying, Hey, my business just went bankrupt. Check me out. No, you would withdraw. That’s what these individuals are, they’re withdrawn. I say, well, somebody helped me just relaunch my life. Now we know what happened in 2006 to 2009 a lot of people lost their jobs. They went back at themselves together. They got lost. They’re back on track. I knew several friends making great money, doing great things, but they were able to fall. They lost their house, but they were able to go back what their parents retool, reskill,  boom and they’re back out there. That is what we’re doing for these people.

DT:
No, that’s powerful. That 84% of the situational homeless. And I think that’s part of why we’re so glad that you’re here with us and really shining a light and creating that hopeful opportunity for us to engage and make a real difference. And I think that’s super powerful. Do this for me in, in our time together. Share with us a couple of success stories. Put some scenarios together that have gone through your six step process and how that has worked for some examples.

John:
Yeah. So like you said, we go from homelessness to home ownership, which includes getting a job, which is critical, getting a vehicle and a place to live. So I have this one young lady, so she made a decision. She had been living in what we’ll call section eight housing in another city and dealing with domestic violence. She decided one day that she was leaving that situation, came here to Raleigh, found us out and came on board. And she was very shy young lady at the beginning, but she was determined. She said, I can not live like this anymore for my kids’ sake. So she went through the program, you know, went to all the things. She was great trooper, got her a job. She has an apartment and now we’re in the process of getting her a home and so she is a person that has a determination and she’s not, this is what people say, well that’s an outlier.  Now that’s actually the majority of people we’re looking at and her success story is based on the fact that she said, I want to be example for my kids.

I didn’t have this example for myself, but I want to have this example of my kids, so that’s one young lady that did that. We have another gentleman who went through a severe situation and this is going to be a little heartbreaking. He was actually doing well as an adult and his wife and kids were killed in a car accident. He went into severe depression for like 10 years, substance abuse, all those kind of things and then he said, you know what? I just can no longer live like this. You came to us. Same thing. Stuck with us, went to the program. He’s got a job now. He’s doing well. He works at Carolina Country Club. He’s got his car, he’s got a place to live and so he started a new life. So those are the examples that give me hope everyday. I tell people, I have one of the joys of seeing miracles happen every day in people’s lives and all we’re doing is assisting people.

I tell people, people say, are you helping people? I says, no, we don’t help people. We assist them. But I said, why are you saying you don’t help people? I says, cause they’re not helpless. We’re not dealing with helpless people. We’re dealing with people who need some assistance. Every one of us who were in business and then successful had assistance. So, so this looking down on the individual, because they’re in a temporary situation that is not a helpless person that we choose. We do not need to look down on them or treat them in some paternalistic way. No. Come alongside them with dignity and respect and say, Hey, where do you want to go? Let’s do this together. Let me take my resources and my contacts so that I can help you be what you want to be and that’s what we’re doing.

DT:
That is powerful and the example of the lady and the gentleman that succeeded in your program, what you’re also doing is you’re changing that pipeline from that pipeline to prison. It’s that pipeline to prosperity and that is super powerful because it’s almost like you get the multiplier effect because not only did you help save a family or assist the family, you also created an opportunity for an example and a beacon of light that other people can believe that they can do it too. To your point, which I really resonate with and has been a part of my life, any success that I’ve had personally in business, in life, there’ve been people that have assisted me. I’ve worked hard, I’ve learned my craft and different things, but I’ve had people that have held out a hand and pulled me up or opened up a door that I could go through. And so I’m right there with you that for us to look down on people that need assistance is a little bit arrogant and a little bit forgetful of the majority of our personal situation. And so I appreciate the way that you said that and the eloquence.

John:
I got one more. So there’s a child that, uh, came to us, this is what I call the stereotypical 10 year old African American child. A boy that’s in school that is identified by the teacher as not following the rules, not doing these, all these kinds of things. He goes into the Sylvan class and all of a sudden they do the assessment. They say like, this kid is really smart. So they began to start working with him and interacting with him. He was actually bored in the class and he was acting out because that’s the only thing he knew to do. So now he’s on the Duke TIP program which Duke University Talent Identification Program and so he’s been very successful that we have so many kids like that.

DT:
Wanna slow you down. I’m being rude. I’m interrupting you. So this was a young man, 10 years old, stereotypical African American kid acting up in class but was tested as gifted and talented and with the assistance is moving in a totally different direction.

John:
Exactly. So we have so many kids come to us that we know they’re diamonds in the rough but they have not had the time and environment that many people have. And so I tell people your environment does matter. If you’re in an environment that encourages you to grow and develop and use your God given talents, it’s going to be a totally different situation. The environment and does it and let’s be realistic, everyone needs someone to come alongside and coach and teach and train. That’s how everybody becomes better and everybody needs encouragement. Everybody needs encouraging.

DT:
I mean, it’s like a, one of the reasons you’re inspiring me just in general, but specifically even in this conversation is because now it starts to flash through your minds or what am I supposed to do to create that inspiration, right? For the next person and to make sure that next young person that you guys have the awareness, the funding, the support, right? So that not one but two but 10 but a hundred or you go get that testing is in growth. So if you had to switch gears a little bit, okay, but knowing what, you know, your background, if you had a magic wand, what would you change in our society if you had the magic wand?

 

John:

So I’ve thought about that. You know, the idea that I’m going to have this massive place in a hundred acres and do all this kind of stuff, it’s really not the American model. The American model is franchising, right? You actually figure out a way to do something and you multiply it and you do it because you use some of that personal contact when you get something so massive and big right? It becomes numbers rather than individuals. Right? So our idea is that we want our perfect what we’re doing, we only, this is the, we’re only one year into this and we took one year to study everything around here in Raleigh because I think things are local. You know what works here in Raleigh and the Triangle is unique. You made the tweaks and things. If you in New York City, Chicago, I think the core is there. Well we’re trying to do our work, trying to create a model and be a support system so we can spawn other individuals to do this. So we want it to be scalable. We’re saying, Hey, if a person comes to me individually and say, Hey, what can I do? I just want to impact one person. I’m like, great. That’s actually a great situation. We can put your support system, you can talk to someone, you can do this individual, you can do this. A church can do this. A civic organization do this cause there’s so many needs. But you know what? People respond to personal interaction. So one of the things I said about ACE that I didn’t tell you before is that – what breaks that? What causes a person to be resilient? And it’s one loving relationship. If you can have one loving relationship, it’s been proven consistently. There’s a lot of other things around environment but it’s that one loving relationship. We’re break the cycle of adverse childhood experiences and that causes a person become resilient. And I think about that if we could just multiply those relationships, cause I’m sure all of us, you me and think back through our life and say, Hey, this was a relationship that I had with this person that really changed my life. I look back on my life and this person at this moment in time for this season of life made a difference in me. That is the key. So we really want to be incubator here, a model that others can duplicate because you know, I’m out of the franchise business so you know I’m not, I’m not trying to make money but I am trying to change lives.

DT:
And one of the things that I will just extend that and just to make sure we’re all on the same page. So ACE – adverse childhood experiences and breaking the cycle can be done with one loving relationship and making that difference. And the goal being of the Raleigh Rescue Mission is to perfect a platform that can be scaled. So that you can create and keep that localized impact. Right. But you can bring it to the masses. That is a powerful testament for what you’re trying to do both in the now, but both creating a framework that can outlive what this team is doing right here in Raleigh, move it around the nation. Let me give you some space here. Anything that you’d like to share with our audience? Anything that we missed? I’ve enjoyed talking with you. I want to encourage everybody that I know to go to the RaleighRescueMission.org and be a very good steward of your organization. Anything else you’d like to share as we close things up?

John:
Well, I would tell you what this city is prime. As you probably know, this is the third most family friendly city in the world. So we found, what I found here, I moved here from Atlanta is that there are a lot of people that really want to make a change. And that’s why we’re so excited by tell them here’s how to do it. Here’s the blueprint, here’s the blueprint. Cause a lot of people are very passionate and loving in the Triangle. But the details and the mechanics is where the challenge comes in. So that’s really what caused us to create this model so it can be duplicated.

DT:
That’s awesome. So one of the things that I want to make as an offer, I want to put this on tape and different things. At Walk West, we’re gonna start doing some live events and live training for marketing material and different things. Now from time to time, I’m going to invite you or someone from your team to have a couple of minutes while we’re talking to these business executives, just to talk about what you guys are doing at the Raleigh Rescue Mission. So if we pulled together business leaders that are very successful in different things and we’ve already got them there, they want to learn about marketing, then want to learn about taking their company to the next level. I also want to give an opportunity and space for them to learn how they can be an impact in their community.

And so I’ll reach back out to you over the next coming weeks and we’ll talk about some different ways that we can do that so that certainly I can personally be benefit, but I can use whatever platform I have to help you guys get out there in the market place as well.

 

John:

Sounds good. Thank you so much.

 

 

DT:

Thanks so much for having taken the time to be with us folks on the Hustle Unlimited platform and listeners today. We’re here to make a difference and hopefully the time that you spent today with John,  hearing about the Raleigh Rescue Mission, hearing about the six step process and the fact that they’re using business outcomes to impact people that are homeless and that we’re assisting people. We’re not looking down on people. We’re not treating people like they’re less than, but we’re assisting people to their level of greatness. Thank you so much for your vision and spending time with us.

 

John:

Thank you.

 

Jason:

That was John Luckett from the Raleigh Rescue Mission.  To see what you can do to have an impact on the Raleigh community, whether that’s through donations, corporate sponsorships, education, or volunteer work, head on over to RaleighRescue.org.  With the holidays and the cold months up ahead, they could use as much help as they can get.

Thanks for tuning in everyone, and thanks to John Lockett for such an inspiring interview and it’s truly amazing how some people in this community are making a difference and touching so many lives.

This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin, for Earfluence. For more on the Earflucence Podcast Network, visit Earfluence.com or check us out on social media, we’re AT EarfluenceMedia.

Intro and outro music for this episode is “You Can’t Stop Me” from Jensen Reed. You can find more of his music at JensenReed.com.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.

 

 

Full Transcript

84: Brand Building Through Mentorship, with 42 North’s Francie Dorman and Britt Cole

Among other incredible accolades, Francie Dorman and Britt Cole of 42 North Weddings in New England have been named one of the top planning companies by Brides Magazine in 2019. With their success, they wanted to mentor up-and-coming wedding planners in the New England area. And so they founded a completely separate brand to do just that –  Mavinhouse Events.   42 North on Social Media: Facebook: @42NorthWeddings Instagram: @42_North Pinterest: @42NorthWeddings   Mavinhouse on Social Media: Instagram: @Mavinhouse_Events Facebook: @mavinhouse Pinterest: @mavinhouse     Weddings for Real on Social Media: Instagram: @weddingsforreal Facebook: @weddingsforreal twitter: @weddingsforreal

Music for this episode by https://www.bensound.com.

The host of the show is Megan Gillikin, owner and lead consultant at A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning.  She’s also available for wedding and hospitality business consulting and can be reached at megan@weddingsforreal.com.

Weddings for Real is edited and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.

Season 2 – Episode 16 – What Shopping Local Means to Your Community, with Jennifer Martin from Shop Local Raleigh

Jennifer Martin Shop Local Raleigh on Hustle Unlimited Podcast“Any time you shop local and independent and you spend money in our community, more of that money recirculates back here. And that means money for roads, money for schools, you know, money for general infrastructure. And it just helps create more jobs here.”

Jennifer Martin is the Executive Director of Shop Local Raleigh, and she comes on the Hustle Unlimited Podcast to talk about why it’s so important to shop local, the incredible events (like Brewgaloo) that they’re running to support the community, why businesses should join Shop Local Raleigh, and the advice she has to up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

Jason Gillikin, Executive Producer of Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Earfluence:
Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited podcast with serial entrepreneur Donald Thompson. You are listening to episode six of season two and this one is all about why we should be supporting our local communities. I’m Jason Gillikin, producer of Hustle Unlimited and CEO of the Earfluence Podcast Network, and today our guest is Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh. Shop Local Raleigh is all about connecting, supporting, and growing independent businesses to strengthen and enrich the Raleigh community. On the show today, you’ll hear about that mission, why it’s really a no brainer for businesses to be members of Shop Local Raleigh, why it’s so important to be involved in your local community (whether that’s Raleigh or anywhere), and what advice Jennifer has for entrepreneurs who are hearing doubts from people around them. But before we get started, if you want these episodes in your feed every Monday so you can be inspired for the week ahead, be sure to subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Give us a rating and review as well and share this episode on any social media platform. That helps us find more great inspirational guests, the hustlers, the trailblazers, the movers and shakers, and the people who make their communities a better place.  So let’s get started. Here’s Walk West CEO, investor, speaker, mentor, advisor, and all around hustler himself, host of the Hustle Unlimited podcast, Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson, Host of Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Walk West:
Well, Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us on Hustle Unlimited. And one of the things we’d like to do for our listeners is provide them with both kind of thought process things, how to grow your business, different things like that, but also folks that are supporting the business community. And I’d like to give you some space, to really talk about what you guys do, introduce yourself and then we’ll jam out on some questions.

Jennifer Martin, Executive Director, Shop Local Raleigh:
Thanks. So I’m Jennifer Martin. I’ve been in North Carolina for nine years now and I have worked with Shop Local Raleigh for nine years. It was very fortunate when we moved here. They had an opening for a nonprofit executive director. I had experience in the field and one thing led to another and I’m still here.

DT:
Oh, that’s awesome. Okay, so now what is your charter? So when you think about a nonprofit and different things, you think about getting donations for different things, sometimes you think about, how do you feed the homeless is a great initiative or somebody that’s focused on cancer research and different things. Tell me as a nonprofit, Shop Local Raleigh, what’s its charter? How do you deliver against that mission?

Jennifer:
So we are all about connecting and growing local independent businesses, connecting business and community together, helping to stimulate our local economy, helping create growth in our community, helping to, you know, just the uniqueness, keeping Raleigh local, keeping it independent. And those are our big push points of how do we help support local business? How do we help be their partner, if you will, be their resource, be their advocate, be their sounding board, be whatever it might be that we can be to them at a very affordable rate. It is a membership-based group. So businesses join for a small fee of either $100 or $250 a year and they get access to us, our staff, they are listed on our website. There are social media, not to go too into depth, but all, all of that is what they get for that free. And we will sit down with them and help them as much as we can with their business.

DT:
So if I understand that correctly. As a membership organization, small fee that most small business can afford, but then they get an expansion of their team. Right. So you act as both advocates help them with marketing, game planning, things of that nature. That’s phenomenal. Give me some, give me an example or two of a couple of success stories of how Shop Local Raleigh has helped them.

Jennifer:
Sure. So a couple successes, I think it’s hard to probably pick just a few, but there’s, there’s been one, I would say for a new company just starting, you know, they’ve got great skill, they’ve got great talent. They may have branched off and started their own and they had a skill that they were looking to do something where they knew they needed a client though. And we knew one of our members that was looking for that service connected them, and that one contact, that one new customer for them landed them a new client which landed a referral for another one and it just goes on and on spiraling like that because we found so much that with local businesses especially, it’s they want to support each other. So you support me, I support you and hey, don’t worry. I’ll tell a friend about you too.

DT:
Oh man, that’s powerful. As a marketer and social media and advertising and different things, one thing we can never forget is the power of a personal referral in somebody that trusts a friend that refers a piece of business. And so for you guys to facilitate that kind of conversation is really, really amazing. I think it’s great. Now what size businesses and types of businesses are involved in Shop Local Raleigh?

Jennifer:
So anything that’s local independent, you could have a staff of one or you could have a staff of 500 as long as you’re local owned, independently owned, and you’ve got a desire to be part of what we do, you can join and be a part of the organization. So we’ll see businesses, you know, they’re sole proprietors, we’ve had meetings with just sole proprietors trying to get them to connect. Um, solopreneurs we casually named it. So then that way you’re solo but you’re not alone so they can meet up and have some good conversations. You can be brick and mortar, non brick and mortar, you can be food and beverage, you can be retail, you can be service oriented. So really any business that exists in our community that has the ability to be locally owned and independent.

DT:
And what are the ways that you connect members to each other? Do you have, you mentioned the website, do you have events? Do you have forums that they can join? Give me some of the ways that we could stay connected.

Jennifer:
So every fourth Friday of the month we do have a fourth Friday networking event. That’s a great way for them to connect. And I should be honest, it’s really not networking. We call it connecting. Because networking I think has one of those connotations. When you go there, you feel like you’ve got to wear your best, you got to dress up a little bit more. You’ve got to bring a stack of business cards. You’ve got to put your game face on and walk into a room with people you don’t know and just start awkward conversation. And what we found is when we said connecting people could come as they are with small business. You might have someone that, you know, maybe they’re a pet groomer, maybe they work in a coffee shop, maybe we’ve got Santa that from the Raleigh Christmas parade that comes. Come as who you are, come as what you do for your profession.  And I think when you do that now you take out the barriers that exist at some of those networking events. And we want it to be more casual. We want it to be inclusive. We want it to or including everyone and we want it to just have an opportunity where they can truly be themselves and we facilitate. There’s open conversation, you know, there, there might be some of that awkwardness if someone’s new or they don’t know some people, but then we go around the room and give everyone the opportunity to say their name, what their business is, and then usually a fun question of the month. What are they looking for in business that they need help on that someone in the group might be able to refer them for. Sometimes we’ll ask if it’s October, you know, what is your one Halloween costume you’ve always wanted to be, but I’ve never been. Just something really unique to try and create conversation that is different from the traditional networking.

DT:
No, I liked the way that you phrased it and the way you implement that in real time, that connection and come as you are. I mean, I think that most times there is a nervousness when you’re a small business on the grow. Am I important? Do I matter? And giving people the space to, yes, you do matter and you’re welcome. You said something really, really powerful. And again, the digital world is amazing, but that one to one contact really is still important in everyday business as we grow. Why should our listeners support Shop Local Raleigh?

Jennifer:
Many reasons. The biggest one is it’s your community. You know, we always talk about shopping where you live and you know, investing money in your community. So whether you are eating local, if you are buying local goods, if you are supporting a local, maybe it’s your accountant, you know it’s tax season instead of going to a chain you go to that local person. It’s keeping those businesses that have helped build our community. We have done research studies that show any time you shop local and independent and you spend money in our community, more of that money recirculates back here. And that means money for roads, money for schools, money for general infrastructure. And it just helps create more jobs here because they’re able to employ more because we’re re circulating more here.

DT:
No, that’s a phenomenal answer. And really specific. So basically it’s the same thing as if you build a house. There’s a carpenter, right? There’s a realtor that gets paid, right? There’s taxes that are paid on that house and everybody benefits from that investment. And we can think about that in terms of businesses as well.

Jennifer:
Yeah. And we didn’t even mention to the fact that, you know, for one it feels good, you’re going to get better service, that people were probably gonna know your name. It is still that human interaction and it’s something that’s, you can’t find it in every town. You know, you’re not going to be able to find some of these restaurants in every single town in America. We love that you can find them here in Raleigh. We get emails all the time or calls from people or you know, different visitors coming in. Like, where should I go that’s really unique to this area? Or where can I go that I can’t find at home? And we’re not saying that the big boxes or the chains are bad, you know, every community has them. They’re part of it. But it just…and they employ local people as well. It’s just their profits are usually sent elsewhere so they’re not staying here within our community. And so for those locals, they’re just really, it creates that entrepreneurship and I think I’m, I’m old school, I always say go back to that. It’s that American dream that, you know, I know when I was growing up that was always talked about is everybody wants to live the American dream. And I think sometimes we forget about that with social media and with, you know, how disconnected we can be so busy and we’re always on the go and always running that you can have a dream too.

DT:
No, that’s super good. And then everybody that is chasing those dreams need support and it’s phenomenal that what you guys are doing is providing that infrastructure.

Jennifer:
Yeah. And we don’t, we don’t want people to be alone. And that’s the thing is when you’re out, I mean we are small. We are a small nonprofit and what we do, we’ve got over 850 businesses we work with. There’s a staff of two and an intern right now. I always tell people we are some of the most passionate people about what we do because we don’t clock in and clock out, you know, after a couple hours every day we are, we’re seven days a week checking emails, posting on social media, coming up with all of our own creative and content and another way we do connect, not just with like with fourth Friday’s events, we’re heavily engaged in events because that’s how we truly feel we can connect business and community together.

DT:
So you have the fourth Friday. Tell me about some of the other events that we can promote in concert with you that would be helpful.

Jennifer:
So tech Tuesdays, the third Tuesday of every month, tech Tuesday is a one to one and a half hour seminar type based event, if you will. It is, I’m very focused on training and education. How do we help educate? Is it using, you know, Instagram for business. Is it using Pinterest for your business? Is it video marketing? What is it that it is that’s coming up? We find the speakers and do a seminar on this of how to teach small businesses, how they can get their word out, get their marketing out, use tools that are available to them to make their business successful. And so that’s the third Tuesday of every month, fourth Friday. Then we’ll also have welcome Wednesdays. So that’s an evening event. So on the second Wednesday of every month, it’s another just open casual networking space and we do a lot of these at different member locations. So then that way it travels around, it gets people out in the community. Usually the evening ones have a different component whether they have, you know, a beverage option or something like that as well. And then the big events that we do that people may or may not be aware of is the Raleigh Christmas parade. That event was started…our previous name was called Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, way old history of Raleigh it was called the Merchants Bureau. And that started with old history of Raleigh where Fayetteville Street was the original business district in Raleigh. That was the small merchants and they all banded together to create their own group. And as time has evolved, we’ve still kept the organization and we just eventually made Shop Local Raleigh our DBA.

DT:
That’s it’s awesome. The history creates context for kind of where you’ve been and where you want to go in the future, and how can people be helpful whether or not they have a small business but then believe in your cause and what you’re doing. Like how do you guys grow and fund to be able to deliver more services?

Jennifer:
It’s a lot of events. So coming to the events and participating like the Christmas parade, you know, is a free event for the public to attend. We want to keep that a free event that it’s not going to be a charged event. We do have sponsors for that event. ABC11 is our title sponsor, so it’s great having that partnership with them and then believing in us for our cause to helping to cover the cost of that parade to keep that free. Then through our other big signature events called Brewgaloo, it’s a craft beer festival. It was just named number one best beer festival in America by USA today for 2019.  So we, we love that event it, we grew at grassroots when people told us we couldn’t and we shouldn’t and we did it and it’s been a great journey.  And the thing that we love about that, everything that we do and every event that we do traditionally starts based off of a need of something to help a business in our community. So the need back then when we started at seven years ago, eight years ago, I’m sorry, eight years, Oh my goodness. It’s growing. Brewers were asked to donate all their products when they went to events. So when we started the event, they came to us and said, we can’t donate anymore. Like it’s just costing us way too much and we’re too dependent on people coming back to the brewery to buy or taste. Because back then it wasn’t readily available on shelves like it is today. So our big thing was, well let’s create a festival where we pay 100% for all the beer use for the event. So we purchased today every single keg that we used at this event and incorporated back then also food trucks were brand new in this area. They needed a place to set up, sell vendors, whether you were brick and mortar or non brick and mortar for t-shirt vendors, for boutiques. They needed a way to attract customers to either their online site or to get people to know about their brick and mortar business existing. So we incorporated beer vendors and food trucks in a way to try and then put live music on stage and we’ve kept it to where you’ve got to be a North Carolina band to be on that stage.

DT:
Oh, congratulations. I mean I think the opportunity to have fun and raise money for Shop Local Raleigh is pretty cool. Let’s pivot to this. What are some of the biggest challenges you have as an organization?

Jennifer:
Sure. You know, I think one is we are small. It is a small staff. Our events are always… Day to day operationally, a lot of our members are actually some of our greatest consultants. Like we can connect them with other businesses needing help or needing answers or you know, questions to business if some of those have been in it longer. They’re great mentors. So we’ve got a great Rolodex for people that we can refer to and they need to help with specific questions. It’s more than what we are equipped to do events. Our biggest one is just how the community, we love having people get involved, you know, whether it’s being a part of, you know, set up or break down or whether it’s part of just help them serve during the event. If it’s becoming almost like a shop local ambassador, knowing who we are and what we do and things about our community, sending us content that always is helpful to like, you know, social media.  It’s so much fun and it’s a great beast. But we’ve got I think 36,000 followers on Instagram right now, but so now it’s a challenge for us to to daily keep up with the posting, keep up the content and it’s harder and harder to search for the content. What we primarily do is either self take all of our own content, whether visiting with members to get our content to post or we have members send it to us so that we can share the news about their business. Talking about a testimonial story, we have several that have shown that with one post of what we do, especially if it’s an item in their store that they can purchase, that one item will sell at least $100 worth of inventory from one post on our Instagram, which more than pays for their membership.

DT:
That’s phenomenal. I think that one of the things here at Walk West as the CEO of a digital marketing agency, you should take us up and just do a lunch and learn, and we’ll provide some experts both for people that you invite for Shop Local Raleigh but also for you and your staff to just stay on the cutting edge to hit those numbers to grow even faster. And so please like, and I mean this in a very sincere way and reach back out after we do this and we’d love to help because we believe in what you’re doing. And I think that if we all lift each other up, just like you said, every dollar that these companies grow helps our economy and it’s just goodness. I just wanted to throw that out there.

Jennifer:
Yeah, we would love to because we’re always looking for speakers and topics and we’ve done quarterly big seminars where we’ll have, you know, just open topics or forums, whether it’s, you know, meet the local candidates. And a lot of times we don’t, we are not political, we do not look at red and blue or what animals. But we do look at the small business issues and so on. Like for instance, when Raleigh city council elections come up, we’ll bring them in together to ask them kind of how do they feel about certain issues that affect our small business community. And that is where, where we stand on all that. Otherwise we do not get politically motivated.

DT:
That’s a smart policy these days. I meanand also, quite frankly, it allows you to just stay focused on what your mission is and that’s helpful.

Jennifer:
It’s not what we do. It’s not who we are. There’s other groups in town that do that. It’s not our mission. Our mission is 100% to keep Raleigh local, keep Raleigh independent and preserve its character.

DT:
So let’s move to, let’s look at the macro environment for a little bit. And here’s like a fun question I like to ask all the guests on hustle on the minute. If you had a magic wand, what would you do with that magic wand in today’s environment?

Jennifer:
Besides making me be able to stay awake 24 hours a day? Cause I would, I just, all of these ideas I have in my head, um, magic wand, we would have a budget where we had a staff of at least 10 people I think. And we were able to sub divide out the different parts of the community where we were to assign a person to a certain section if you will geographically break it out. So then that way we have a representative, if you will, in every single sector to make sure that we’re touching people over the community. Cause I think the biggest thing is so many businesses still don’t know we exist. As you know. And you guys deal with this a lot. It’s finding out how to get your message out there, how to reach the masses. We’re doing a big event in October over at Dix park and it’s actually in partnership with Dix park Conservancy and the city of Raleigh parks department.  The theme is falling for local, so it’s a fall festival, but it’s falling in love with local and it’s going to be, you know, you’ll have your beer, your food trucks, your vendors, but we’re also looking to incorporate free fitness demos, some medical screenings, things like that that those professionals, you know, some things for your pet. Things that just really incorporate all the things that touch our community of local that we may not sometimes think a local, it’s really eat to eat local because everybody’s hungry. It’s a social thing. It gets you out of your house. It’s fun. That’s the one thing you can kind of budget for intend to do, but it’s harder and it’s a more thought process when you have to go buy some clothing local or where you have to go buy school supplies at a local independent, we, you have to seek some of those things out. It becomes more of a challenge.

DT:
No, that makes sense. And very educational actually for what we’re doing and I appreciate that insight. Let’s dial back for a little bit. Where are you from? What’s your story? How’d you get to Raleigh? Like tell me a little bit about you.

Jennifer:
Yeah. So I went to USF, University of South Florida down in Tampa, Florida, Go Bulls. And I’m from Florida. I grew up my whole life from there. My dad was a charter fishermen and sporting goods sales rep. My mom was a private school principal and I think from seeing her and her work ethic of private school principals or back then even when I was growing up, she was a teacher when you don’t make a lot of money and you work very, very long hours. And this was before the digital age. And um, so I just saw what she put into her work. And when I was in high school I actually helped recruit a lot of their silent auction items for her elementary schools. Kind of working on that. I just enjoyed it. And then I went off to USF and after I graduated, I actually worked 10 years as a manager for Bath and Body Works all throughout high school.  Loved what I did. But because I started in high school, the pay scale, when it became time for management, you can only get a certain percentage increase as an employee, which meant I was going to do the lowest paid manager in the entire County. So, I decided, you know what, maybe it was time for me to use my degree and do something else. So within a year after graduating college, I did nine interviews with the Boy Scouts of America and they said, if you’ll move to St Louis, Missouri, we’ll hire you. So I packed up a UHaul. Um, my dad drove in front of me, followed behind him. We drove all the way to St Louis. I slept on a coworker’s futon who I didn’t know for two weeks until I found an apartment and got all moved in and spent five years there.

So the Boy Scouts has some of the most incredible training for new professional. They have their own facilities out in Texas and they send you to two weeks there and when they send you there, there is really nothing around you except this one tiny little Chili’s. And so that way you really have to be in depth in your training and your studies and just really learning different scenarios, different situations, leadership, you know, all the things that you can think of to try and help you grow as a professional. And then they send you back into your area and now you’re given this area to sink or swim. And so, I had great success there. I loved what I was doing, but, it was time for me to head back to Florida and I became the executive director for Susan G Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer organization and central Florida.

So I served there over two years and my now husband had received an offer to come to this place called Raleigh and we weren’t really sure what it was, but it sounded like a great opportunity and they were building this new project called 540. And so we ended up packing up and deciding to take the leap to come up here. And my job didn’t transfer. So that’s what led me…and I swore I would never do nonprofit again when I left Orlando. I was tired. I, you work a lot of hours and I’m a very one of those people that I’m really passionate about what I do. But I’m also, you get into it, you kind of get hooked. And so you want more. You crave that success. You crave what you’re doing, you crave helping people more and more. And so for me, it was hard to turn that job off.

So when I came up here, I said, no, I’m not doing nonprofit anymore, not doing nonprofit. And then with every single interview I’d do, they’d say, you know, your resume looks great, but you have no for-profit experience. And I would tell all of them with my, um, boldness that I would say, you know, the reality is, is I have a lot of business experience because I’ve always had to sell something that’s intangible. So I maybe have more skill because I’ve sold something that I, I couldn’t show anyone, they couldn’t hold it. They couldn’t look at it. They couldn’t feel it. I was selling the Boy Scouts. I was selling, giving to cancer charities to help save lives. You know, I was selling things to people that it was pulling at the heartstrings, but also I had to convince them of the why they should let 50 boys in their church every week to go to a meeting.

And so for me, that was a really good experience. And then finally, I think after being turned down a couple times and realizing they didn’t like my answer of I think I have more experience, um, that didn’t win me any awards. I saw this opportunity for this job with a merchants association that’s talked about planning a parade. And I thought, well, I’ve planned 5K’s and Camporees and you know, the Race for the Cure, it can’t be that hard. And what I didn’t realize was it was the Raleigh Christmas parade, which is the biggest from Atlanta to DC. So, and I just, I think I fell in love with the parade. Um, it was same thing. I had great leadership, I had great mentors teaching me. John Odom has been someone in the community that has been on city council many years.

He’s a small business owner. He had done the parade I think 30-40 some years it seems like, and I was fortunate enough to have him train me how to do it and part of the challenge was because the parade had been around so long, it was so well loved, but how do we keep it exciting, energetic, and how do we add new things to it and just kind of make it look, look really good, if you will. That was my first, my first big event was actually Raleigh wide open. That’s when Raleigh was celebrating. Every year they did an event to celebrate the reopening of Fayetteville street, so to coincide with every event. They did something. That year was the 4th of July and it was doing a small mini parade down Hillsborough street down to Fayetteville and then ended with a huge block party on the street. So it was such a great, I mean I can’t even imagine like I just feel so fortunate and blessed for this outsider to come into this community, to land into this job. That’s been honestly the best thing for myself and my husband. I mean we have gotten so many cool experiences and you get to try some different restaurants and I feel like we know so much about this community that I would never have known or probably engaged with had I not been in this position.

DT:
And I appreciate that answer. And, and it gives just our listeners an opportunity to get to know you better and everyone’s journey has some just powerful learning experiences. Working for the Boy Scouts and the training program and kind of be a dropped in the spot sink or swim, so to speak, is really awesome. What would you say are some of the key lessons learned in your nine plus years with Shop Local Raleigh that translates to any business? Just some of the lesson learned as a helping entrepreneurs and growing as a leader.

Jennifer:
You know, I think a couple of things. One for me that’s always been really big is that you’re gonna always have people tell you you’re crazy for wanting to do this, or you’re not talented enough, you’re not qualified enough, you’re not educated enough. Are you sure you really want to do this? Because you don’t get the big corporate benefits, quote unquote, you don’t have that backing. And I think that for me, one of the things that’s always helped me in doing this is working for this small nonprofit, independent nonprofit. I also don’t have those big corporate benefits. And it’s if you’re passionate about something and you want it bad enough, you can make it work. And I think it’s, it’s always keeping that goal right in front of you, knowing what it is that you really want. The end, not listening to the outsiders. And that for me has been the one thing that’s always kept me going.

And even with the beer festival, I remember when we met with people before starting it and someone had told me, she said, you know, there’s already enough beer festivals. You don’t need to start another one. No, there, there’s plenty in this community. You really, you don’t know enough about beer. You haven’t been involved in the beer community, you’ve never done one. Your group is really small. Why don’t you just leave it to the people that do this professionally? And that has always stood out to me to now where I look, I don’t want to say I get emotional, but every Brewgaloo and my favorite thing is to look, if you look from city Plaza all the way down to the state Capitol and the event actually starts at two o’clock and at two o’clock you cannot walk from a to B because it is that many people out there.

I mean we’ve got 50,000 people out there celebrating craft beer, celebrating local, celebrating community. We are now one of the largest beer festivals in the country. It is the largest woman run festival. It is the largest nonprofit run festival. I mean it is absolutely unbelievable. The accolades that this festival has. And I look back and think if we had listened to that person that told us you don’t belong here and this isn’t yours, we would never have built this. So I just, I think you know, there’s, I can go on and on with those kinds of stories of what it is for small business entrepreneurs. It’s going to be hard. It’s not all pretty. They are going to be nights where you’re going to think what am I doing? And you know, I think don’t be afraid though to talk to other people and ask other people because you’re not alone.

Don’t be afraid to say, Hey, I’m experiencing this or I’m going through this. Can you give me ideas or insight because I can guarantee you we’ve all been there at least once if not twice, you know, I’m walking that road. If I can use a Walk West analogy, you know sometimes you have to Walk West to go find your dream, find your journey and find where your, your niches that you fit. But I think it’s also just being honorable, being respectable, standing to your morals and your character, your non-negotiables. For me that’s always been really big is knowing my non-negotiables on things and where I won’t waiver so that I believe in being fair to people. I believe in being honest and upfront. Sometimes I’ve been called, you know, maybe too harsh or too abrasive for doing that, but I just, I don’t feel comfortable with any of the day if I haven’t been transparent about it.

DT:
That’s awesome. What a wonderful way to like kind of wind down our discussion, but the passion that you display and the results that it has generated. So a lot of people that are passionate about things but the passion that you display and then taking something to where there are plenty of naysayers and then something that is the top in his class is what Hustle Unlimited is all about. That is really, really cool. You should be very proud of it and I sincerely…if we can be of a blessing and help you guys, we really would like for you to reach out and ask. Thanks so much for joining us.

Jason:
That was Jennifer Martin from Shop Local, Raleigh. For more, head over to ShopLocalRaleigh.org or join in on social media where they’re @ShopLocalRaleigh. And you’ll see on their Instagram page with over 40,000 followers, that’s one of the ways that they’re really supporting their members. This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin for Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, head on over to Earfluence.com or check us out on social media, we’re @EarfluenceMedia. Intro and outro music for this episode is you can’t stop me from Jensen Reed. You can find more of his music at JensenReed.com. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week on Hustle Unlimited.

Full Transcript

83: On the Couples’ Therapy Couch with Christian Charette, Part 2: Tips for Better Communication

Megan and Jason went onto the couples’ therapy couch and got some amazing advice from their own therapist, Christian Charette from Couple Forward in Raleigh NC. This episode is part two of a two-parter. Last week, Christian shared what roadblocks in a relationship can lead to tension.  This week, it’s all about tips for better communication.

About Christian Charette:

Christian specializes in helping couples navigate their relationships. Christian has 15+ years of experience guiding others through their journey. Married for 25 years, and having raised three daughters has uniquely prepared him for being a reflective therapist with whom clients feel connected. Specifically trained and licensed in Marriage & Family Therapy, Gottman Couples Therapy and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Christian combines his creative personality to bring clients lasting solutions.

Couple Forward on Social Media: Facebook: @coupleforward Instagram: @coupleforward

Weddings for Real on Social Media: Instagram: @weddingsforreal Facebook: @weddingsforreal twitter: @weddingsforreal

Music for this episode by https://www.bensound.com.

The host of the show is Megan Gillikin, owner and lead consultant at A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning.  She’s also available for wedding and hospitality business consulting and can be reached at megan@weddingsforreal.com.

Weddings for Real is edited and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.

A Bronx Tale’s Breia Kelley: Durham Native and 2019 Elon Graduate Has Always Been “Broadway Bound”

Breia Kelley A Bronx Tale on Backstage at DPAC PodcastBreia Kelley is a Durham native and just graduated from Elon in 2019. And her first job out of college is the national tour of A Bronx Tale, which is coming to DPAC November 5th through 10th.  On the podcast today, Breia talks about how she got her start in acting, why she wrote “Broadway Bound” on her twitter bio five years ago, what she’s looking forward to most about traveling, and what’s so special about A Bronx Tale.

Tickets for shows are available at DPACnc.com, Ticketmaster, or the Blue Cross NC Ticket Center at DPAC.

DPAC is the Durham Performing Arts Center, located in the American Tobacco Historic District of downtown Durham, North Carolina, right by the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and within walking distance of incredible hotels, restaurants, and more.  Our theatre has 2,700 seats and we host over 200 events a year. From Broadway shows, to concerts, comedy, family shows, and more – there’s something for everyone at DPAC.  With everything that’s going on here, we thought it was time to take you backstage at DPAC!

This show is hosted by Taylor Zansberg, and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.

Season 2 – Episode 15 – Advice to New CEOs with Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson Advice to New CEOs“A lot of people become a CEO for the first time with no experience. It’s kinda like becoming a parent. There’s not really qualifications to be a CEO. You can print a business card, you can start a business, then you are in charge of something and really responsible for taking something from a concept to a commercial being. And a lot of times when people start a brand new company, they have an idea, they have a certain perspective. But running a business and creating something that gives you value to the point where you can survive in the marketplace is a totally different thing.”

Donald Thompson learned from the mistakes he made as a young CEO, and he shares some of his wisdom in an interview with Amie Thompson, CEO of Creative Allies, and Jason Gillikin, CEO of Earfluence.

The book referenced in this episode is Startup Hats by David Gardner.

Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

 

Jason Gillikin, Executive Producer Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Earfluence:
Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited podcast. This is episode five of season two and I’m so excited to share this. We’ve got Donald Thompson in the room. We’ve got Amie Thompson in the room from Creative Allies and I’m a guest on the show as well. So I’m Jason Gillikin, CEO of the Earfluence podcast network and now I am introducing Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West on the Hustle Unlimited podcast. Welcome everybody.

 

Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, Host of Hustle Unlimited:

Hey Amie, how are you doing?

 

Amie Thompson, CEO of Creative Allies:

Good

 

DT:

Jason, you doing alright?

 

Jason:

I’m doing great.

 

DT:

Good. We’re going to have some fun day. I’m going to talk for a little bit and really the focus for today is what are some of the lessons that I wish I had known as a young CEO in building my companies and what would I impart to you guys in particular, but then the masses in terms of things that you could look out for. So I’ve got a couple of thoughts initially, but then I also want you guys to kind of rapid fire some questions so that it’s very interactive and if we feel like we’re getting good feedback, we’ll do this again and share it with other people. But one of the things that I’ve found is that a lot of people become a CEO for the first time with no experience.

And a lot of times when people start a brand new company, they have an idea, they have a certain perspective. Maybe they are engineer, maybe they’re are computer scientists, maybe there are creative. But

And a lot of times we miss some of the steps in the middle and that’s some of the things that we’re going to talk about today. So one of the things that I do when I’m learning anything very new is number one, I realize the concept of try fail and adjust is pretty important.

You don’t have to have all the answers at once, as long as you’re not married to the ones that you think you have.

And there’s a very, very important difference between the two. Strong-willed means that you’re willing to push through and persevere, even though something’s difficult, even though there are trials and tribulations that you didn’t anticipate, your goals and dreams are big enough that you’re going to continue to push forward on the journey. Stubborn means you’re going to pick a direction and stick with it in spite of new data. And those two things are very, very important as an entrepreneur because as an entrepreneur you have to be taking inputs all the time to make sure that you’re course correcting while you’re moving forward.

And sometimes that course correcting means, you know, the cool word they use today is pivot. But course correct, change, all that good stuff because of the market place, which I think is the first major point is going to define whether you’re delivering enough value to matter in the marketplace. So how do you determine if you have enough value to survive in the marketplace?

, documented those conversations, listen to what those clients or potential clients are saying and then make a determination of what you should do next.

That is an easy way to do research without having to pay for expensive strategy, without having to have an expensive board of advisors or mentors. It’s just talking about your goals, dreams, and vision, but most importantly documenting those conversations to ensure that you are learning from each and every one of those and most important that you’re understanding the patterns that you develop from hearing from different people, different backgrounds about the endeavor that you’re going after. So number one is doing the research in your business and that’s talking to a hundred people and documenting what they want to teach you. The other thing that I recommend to folks when they’re looking at their business,

Most of the time as a solo entrepreneur, most of the time as a small team of two, three, four or five, you do have to wear a number of different hats. However, you should be very cognizant of where your strengths are, your strengths and how well you perform. Those strengths are going to give you scale. They’re going to be more valuable than focusing on working on your weaknesses. Your goal as an entrepreneur is understanding your strengths. Spend more time doing that than your weaknesses. You’ve got to find people to help you with that because you don’t actually have time in an entrepreneurial setting to get good at what you’re bad at. A couple of things to think about in terms of your high level understanding as a CEO, a couple of things, are trying to get in any kind of business is number one, you’ve got to get attention.

Everyone is so busy now, social media, work, family, kids, 50 people pitching something that’s similar to what you do. So how do you get people’s attention in a meaningful way? And that means your content, that means your pitch deck, that means your elevator pitch has to be tight, compelling and powerful. So you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the way you communicate your message to other people so that it resonates so that people are wanting to take action based on hearing what you do and why they should do that thing with you. The thing is trust. So you’ve got someone’s attention. So then why should they trust you with their project? Why should they trust you buying a product? Why should they trust you with your service? And the third thing is how do you describe the value? So when you think about gaining attention, that’s in your marketing, right?

That’s in your messaging, that’s in your attachment with other partners, right? And you need a deliberate plan to do that. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan. It needs to be a deliberate plan and getting the attention of people in your target market that actually buy what you’re selling. Now you can do that through a social media campaign. You can do that through billboard advertising. You can do that through direct mail. There’s a million ways that you can do that. The challenge, however, is remembering that

, right? And nobody will even know what happened because there’s so many different things out there. So I think having a marketing expertise on your initial founding team or a partner investor with a marketing expertise is really important.

It only matters if you build a great product that people buy. It only matters if you have a great story that people share. It’s a function of now as a CEO, stepping back and saying that every element of my new business creation, how am I tracking the results based on the efforts that I deliver? And if you can’t track it or trace it, then it doesn’t matter, right? It’s all kind of cocktail party, cool stuff. But you gotta be able to trace the results of what you did. So that’s attention. The other thing is in terms of you’ve got trust, so people develop trust and a couple of different ways, credibility if you will. Number one, referrals, recommendations, case studies.

So that means people that are early adopters, and Amie, in your case, you’ve got hundreds of customers that have used Creative Allies over the course of its 10 years in history and now certainly with you being a CEO, a new CEO over the last year, year and a half, the business has taken on a new flavor. You’re adding new services, you’re growing the company, you’re altering the vision in a powerful way. However, people still need to know that you’ve worked with some of the top music artists in the world that you’ve delivered. Social media campaigns, community campaigns that have created, thousands of designs with some of the top artists in the world that you’ve worked with. Ben and Jerry’s, people need to know that you’ve worked with ESPN. They need to know that you’ve partnered with Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, and you have to get that information in front of people on a frequent basis.

So now when you pitch them anything, they know that you’ve been there, done that at a high level in one of the lanes of your business. And so that trust and credibility does not come because you’re nice. It does not come because you’re a friend of a friend. It comes based on what you’ve done with the company or what you’ve done in the past that’s been successful. And so you’ve got to amplify those things so that people have a reason to believe what you’re selling. Value is about outcomes. One of the things that is kind of a, a phrase I’m thinking about a lot now is the

So if you’ve built a logo for a startup company and you had a campaign to build a new innovative logo for a startup company that they paid for that, then they got better traction with investors for then you have to tell that story to build trust. You’ve got to tell that story in a creative way to get attention, and then you use that business case study to be the validator. Most people have those elements in their business, but they don’t stay focused on those three things long enough, focused enough, hard enough so they get that thing called momentum, but it’s really the attention. It’s really building the trust and then demonstrating how you deliver that value when learning something new for the first time.

I like to read a lot and so I’ve got for each of you guys a book by a friend of mine, his name is David Gardner and he wrote a book called The Startup Hats, and so I’m going to use attention, trust, and value as I promote this book to you. So the way I’m going to get your attention is I’m talking to you about an investor locally in Raleigh that is 17 out of 17 in successes in startups that he put money in. So now I have your attention. Trust. I’ve personally invested money with David. He has a track record of returning value to his stakeholders, people that invest money with them, and that value contribution is measurable in terms of the amount of value that he gives and delivers to the startups that he works with and the investors that invest with him. The attention is in the fact that in reading this book, you can study the blueprint that has made him extremely successful. The trust is he’s not giving you information that he thought of theoretically, he doesn’t have a PHD in startups. He just happens to have a portfolio of startups that he’s learning every day about what works, what doesn’t work, the mindset of startups that doesn’t work, and you then can translate that information into your business by reading this book, by reading this book, you can trust, you can get these results because A) you can read, reading’s easy.  Learning is not difficult when you’re motivated. So if you want to be the next startup success in Raleigh, North Carolina, why wouldn’t we collectively study the top venture capitalist in our area that we actually know and can get time with? And so that’s why I’m gifting you this book because David knows things that I don’t know. So I read the book, I recommend you read it. We can talk about it and guess what? We can pick up the phone. We can email David if we have questions. And so we can get to somebody that’s an absolute expert in our field, but quite frankly, why do we need to waste David’s time calling him if we haven’t even read the book? I had somebody call me and say, Hey, can you introduce me to David? I was like, yeah, but I’m gonna have you read this book first. Cause I’m not…like, I know David reasonably well, but we’re not best buddies. So I only have, like, how many referrals a year from me is he going to take seriously? So I don’t just refer everybody I talk to to this Goliath in our industry, but I give out a lot of his books. And then when somebody reads the book and then they call me back, then I’ll talk about it with them and then I may introduce them to David. But did I get your attention? Do you understand why we trust him? And then the business value is kind of obvious.

 

Jason:

Yeah. And you read the book before contacting him.

 

DT:

100% and that’s one of the ways when I reached out to him on LinkedIn, I said, by the way, thanks. Read your book. Here’s a couple things for it. Love to have a cup of coffee, get to know you a little bit better.  And

How smart you are? Everybody’s smart enough to be successful in a business, right? Unless you’re doing something highly technical, highly scientific, right? Then there’s kind of PhD horsepower required, but in most businesses it’s really a function of, is the idea good and is the tenacity real that makes it through? So the second kind of major topic, or maybe this is the third, so we’re going to talk a little bit about personal brand development and becoming an expert in your space. Again, this has little to do with building your product and service and everything to do with building your personal brand. Why would people trust you if they don’t know about you? That goes back to the attention and then once people hear about you, then why would they do business with you if you’re not smarter than the other guy?

So therefore, if somebody gets to the Creative Allies website, is Amie as a CEO, the coolest person they’ve heard about that day, that week, that month? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that Amie has, within her experience of working with hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies, of working with hundreds musical acts, of working with thousands of designers of creative content, what she did prior to Creative Allies as a project manager at a software delivery, from her experience and the academic pedigree, graduating from University of North Carolina, people respect that. Whether they like Duke or Chapel Hill or whatever, people know that UNC is not an easy school to get into. So if people know that Amie graduated from UNC, they say UNC equals Amie is smart. Amie graduated from high school, from the School of Math and Science. You’re like, why would I go all the way back from high school?  Because you’re showing a journey of doing smart things because I’m awesome. It’s that self promotion, right? If I’d went to the School of Math and Science, I’d be telling everybody. I couldn’t get into that. She did. Does that make sense? Right, but if, but if I had that all, I was like, yeah. When I was at the School of Math and Science and people are like, really? You got into that? That’s awesome. Why the North Carolina School of Math and Science, that means I don’t know the top one to the top 5% of academically gifted kids in the state of North Carolina and Amie was one of those young people at that time, followed that up by going to Chapel Hill. Follow that up by getting her Master’s Degree. Follow that up by working with Fortune 1000 companies and following that up by being a CEO of one of the fastest growing companies in our town.

You put together a story about you that is compelling based on what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished. Jason, you’ve been an entrepreneur. You and your wife own a company together, right? You have expertise in SEO, you have expertise in business development, you have expertise as an audio engineer. What are all the things that make you special, and you’ve got to amplify those things because you are the company.

And those two things do not coincide. One goes before the other, and you’ve got to focus on that personal brand as much as any other mission in your business. And a lot of times if you’re not a salesperson, happen to be from a business development background, but most people that start companies wherever they’re an engineer, maybe they’re a creative whatever, but some people are a little bit too humble. They don’t want to brag on themselves, but that actually is the economy that we’re in. And that goes back to getting people’s attention, giving them trust and showing them how you’ve delivered value in the past. So that personal brand development is crucial. Now here’s a couple of ways that you do it. Your LinkedIn profile should be as important as the time you put into your business card or the time that you put into your pitch deck, the amount of time that you put into anything else you do. LinkedIn is now the new business currency in terms of how we check each other and do research, right? What writing have you done, right? What blogs have you written, what podcasts are you on, what white papers have you done so that now when somebody goes to your website or goes to your LinkedIn profile, they not only see about what you’ve done but also what you are doing and then what you can help them be educated to do better. And so that LinkedIn profile is pretty important because that’s a jump off point for trust. And then that value validation. I’ll let you guys pop in with a couple of questions, but those are a couple of initial thoughts and then we’ll, we’ll keep going. We’ll, we’ll kind of pepper it in.

Jason:

 

Yeah. And you talk about your own personal brand. I went to Carolina as well, just like Amie did.

 

 

DT:

You’re smart also.  Awesome. I just want to point that out. So I went there too.

 

Jason:

No, but you said enough about me already. I appreciate all that. But you know, you own your personal brand in a different way. So you did not go to Carolina, and you talk about dropping out of college and you talk about just the hustle from there. But that’s your personal brand. That’s you. That’s your story to promote. And so it’s different. But that’s your story to tell.

DT:
That’s exactly right. And everybody has a personal brand story. And so I think that’s a great way to phrase it, right? What’s your personal brand story and how do you build that out in a compelling way? And it’s really interesting where I…today’s session is talking about a CEO and a lot of times being a better CEO, and a lot of times you think about, all right, what’s my go to market strategy, right? How do I work on that? How do I define my pricing and go to that? Well, all of that, you’re going to try fail and adjust. That’s actually not the whole thing. It’s some of it for sure. And we’ll get to some of those things. But really it’s about how do you attract investment and clients to what you’re doing, and people do business with people they like that they trust that they believe will return value to them and that credibility has to be amplified.

And you guys both, as well as most CEOs, have that in your past, but it’s just not promoted properly, right? It’s just not promoted intentionally. I think most CEOs that are just starting out missed that mark because they’re focused on trying to have the perfect product and that goes back to what I said in the beginning. You don’t really know about the perfect product until you talk to a hundred customers and it’s usually by the time you get to 20 you’ll know the customer voice is something that you want to hear on a regular basis more than anything else. As a new CEO, talking to people that are in the market to buy what you’re selling so that you then can tweak your messaging, tweak your product, your service offering, tweak your pricing, and people will tell you in that form of stage and then you spent a lot less cycle time on building the wrong thing and you actually build the right client profile roster based on the people you’re talking to. You actually spend less money getting the market. Most people miss the research step.

Jason:
Yeah. There was a reason that we put our service offering in a Google sheets rather than printed out and frame it because it’s going to be in flux.

DT:
One of the things that most people want is a great value. So if you think about going to a very expensive restaurant, the higher the price, the higher your expectations. So that restaurant, a high end steak house, a high end seafood house, you know that’s going to cost you 300-400 bucks for two people to go out. They’ve set a standard based on their price and that means if almost anything goes wrong, you’re a little bit disappointed, right? Because you’re paying for perfection, right? You’re paying for everything from how you’re greeted at the door, right? All the way to the wine selection, how the food is presented, all of those good things. When you think about fast food, it’s very transactional, right? And really your expectation is that the right food (and I use that loosely) is in the bag and it’s hot, but your standards are radically different.

So you have to

So what you have to do is you have to figure out what are the choices you want to give your clients and where do you want to play in in terms of market, in terms of features, in terms of product to where you can dominate. But most people are doing too many different things, so they’re not good at any one, two or three things. And there’s nothing wrong with having a primary set of services that you offer. And we also do X, Y, and Z, and that gives people the breadth that you can be full service as a service business if you’re in the consulting space, but you need to have a specialty.

You need to have a handful of things that you’re better than the rest. And one of the things that is important in that is the specialty has to be something that you can replicate without the need for superstars or experts. So if you do deliver a service, but it requires $100,000 consultants to deliver that service, you need a lot more money to run your business, right? If you’re building a product, but it requires everybody that buys that product to have $1 million, you’ve shrunk your market. Most people that are starting companies these days, when you’re looking at that product market fit, you’re looking at where you want to play on that cost continuum. There’s enough tracking horses, right? So if you wanted to be a, let’s just use CRMs for example, right? Customer relationship management tool, so what is a CRM people have heard of? Salesforce.com. They’ve heard of NetSuite. They’ve heard of SugarCRM, they’ve heard of Zoho CRM. They’ve heard of Pipedrive. That’s a CRM. Well, Salesforce and NetSuite on the higher end of CRMs and then you have on the value, and I don’t want to discount anybody’s product in terms of the way I describe it. Then you have SugarCRM that’s kind of in the middle and then you have PipeDrive that it’s on the bottom. When you’re thinking about what you want to do as a business or service, you’ve got to understand the players in your market and where do you want to play? Are you trying to displace Salesforce or are you a lower cost provider that gives tremendous upscale value. In the case of Creative Allies, you’re doing design services with 100,000 designers and content creators in your community so that you can do crowdsource design and scale.

Are you trying to go after Ogilvy as an agency or really are you competing and trying to win with people that have one or two marketers in their company and they need a helping hand? Either way you can make money, but you have a higher degree of ability to create attention, trust and value, if you’re going after companies that have one or two marketers in their company, the CEO is also the chief marketer and giving them a helping hand with expanding their brand. So by choosing where you play in a market space allows you to be smarter, faster and use your resources better. As a CEO, you cannot do everything. And so back to what we talked about earlier, Amie, in your case, you’re not a natural business development person. You can do business development, you can sell products and services, but that’s not your natural gifting.  Your natural gifting is an operator. You’re super organized. Setting strategy is something that you’re very good at. Listening to the tone and the construct of what people are saying and understanding customer needs. So you have tremendous value to add to your organization and any other organization. What Amie is building out is a brand ambassador program to where she’s building out partnerships with highly successful business development people in the area to help represent her brand. Now she wouldn’t have done that if she was trying to be the chief marketer, the chief business development person, the operations chief and the HR representative for your company. So knowing what you’re good at is step one, knowing how to staff around your weaknesses is radically important and how to do that in a creative way, right? With a very, very small company. Now how do you have that self assessment if you don’t know yourself that well?

So here’s the thing that I think is really important for CEOs. Build a board of advisors and use them. Build a board of advisors and use them. So it’s one thing to have a board of advisors and the names and the resumes look good, but you never really called them. You’re never really open to feedback. You kind of want people to look good for your pitch deck for investors, but you’ve got a way that you want things done. And I’ve been on advisory boards of both companies. I mean there was a company I was on an advisory board for and they raised a bunch of money, called me once a week for six weeks and each six weeks I started asking the CEO and their CSO questions that they didn’t want to be asked. I gave them feedback they didn’t really want and all of a sudden they stopped calling me and then maybe a year later they ran out of money and were struggling and then all of a sudden my phone was ringing again.

Okay. They didn’t really want information and feedback. They wanted my name, my credibility, my background to show investors and then, I want to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. Now knock…I mean they’re fixing their company, it’s all good and I’m helping them do that. Some different folks doing that. But the point is, build a board of advisors and listen to them.  Find out the strengths and weaknesses. So that they can identify those things that you need to work on. So I’ll use Jason as an example. Jason is very, very good in terms of the construct of podcasting, storytelling, building out the themes around podcasting. And what Jason needs to focus more on is now the building of the community. So if you build a podcast for Hustle Unlimited and nobody listens to it, then what difference does it make?

If you built me a great podcast, it actually doesn’t mean anything to your client. The only thing that matters in the podcasting space, and I mean the only thing, is how do you get attention so people know that you actually have a podcast. How do you build the hooks, the promos, the marketing people trust that if I listen to that podcast, I’m going to learn something. And then for the client of influence, how many downloads of my podcast? Now, once you get that metric rolling, then it is how many people listen to it again, how long did they listen? Right? How many ads are we able to sell? But the fundamental build-out is how do you build a community around the product or services that you’re offering. In this case, we’re not actually offering podcasting as much as we’re offering impactful storytelling. A platform for CEOs to better brand their company or personal brand to grow their individual business community, one person at a time that’s going to buy their products and service.

And so those are some of the nuances when you’re looking at your business as a CEO, you have to take a step out of what you’re actually doing and then really think about what needs to be done. And a lot of times you guys can get so busy in doing what you think should be done that you’re not looking at whether or not you should be doing that anyway or whether you’re the one that should be doing it or you’re delegating. And those are a couple of things that I thought. Amie, a couple of questions from you.

Amie:
Do you have any tips on how to make that differentiation between, you know, I think the hardest thing is just realizing that, why am I doing this? Like, I don’t actually need to be doing this for the company at all. You know, if you get into this rhythm of always doing X, Y, and Z because we’ve always done X, Y, and Z , versus really what are the most important?

DT:
Alright, so how do you make the delineation between what you should be doing, what you should be delegating, and what shouldn’t even be done? So the number one thing is when you look at your business,

in the very beginning because you’ve got, you’ve got to have customers. And I say that even if you’re in the process of building out your product, because even if you’re in the process of building out a product, you’ve got to be focused on how you’re going to market that product, how you’re going to pitch that product and sell that product. Because you’ve got to get feedback on what you’re doing at every phase in your product development cycle so you know you’re building the right thing.

So the first thing is just the priority of the handful of big rocks in your business and it’s your revenue and it’s your marketing. Because if you get your pipeline, your business pipeline of potential clients large enough, you have the opportunity to fund the support you need to grow. If what you’re doing excellent, building a product, writing a press release, doing other internal things. If you’re not doing something to grow the top line of your business, it almost doesn’t make it make a difference because every investor you talk to is going to ask you what your pipeline is. Every single one, they’re not going to lead and say, when’s your product going to be ready? What’s your target client market? How many of those clients do you have identified? How many of them have you talked to and what do they say about your product or service?

And once they understand those high level things, then they do come back to product delivery, product launch. What you’re going to market, strategy, all those different things in detail, but everybody wants to know how much are you going to sell and how quickly, and you have to keep that top of mind. Keeping that top of mind is going to take three or four hours a day now of your time. So you’ve got less time to waste on things that don’t matter as much. And then the second thing that you want to think about is other people on your team, whether it is interns, whether it is freelancers. Let’s say it’s two or three people in a startup, you and one or two other people. What are they doing that is driving the bottom line to the business? Now their view is based on their talents, which is different than yours.

Their view is based on some of the mundane things that maybe you don’t have time to do, which is very, very good. All those things make absolute sense. And so what you want to think about is are you leveraging your staff, your team, your contractors, to do those things that they’re really, really good at? And have you picked people that are reliable. So here’s another issue. Every day is interview day for the people that you’re talking to. And one of the bigger mistakes that people make as a CEO is hanging on to talent that’s not performing. You don’t have time for that.

 

Amie:

Or money.

 

DT:

Or money. Because while you’re delaying that decision, you’re draining money and draining time.

 

Jason:

And the value that they can bring though, that can be freeing up your time as a CEO.

 

DT:

100%, if they’re providing value. I’d rather know I’m alone if I’m alone. But if you’re getting good value from the team that you’re building, it does free you up to scale, but

And when you waste it, you cannot get it back.

Jason:
Yeah. And time tips too, that’s huge for me right now, is figuring out how exactly to allocate time. I read the first chapter of this Startup Hat book yesterday, in just a free Kindle download and I’m so excited to read the whole thing now. But one of the things that David Gardner talks about is the chaos of entrepreneurship. And you have a plan, and you might start up an email to be the first thing in the morning and then not finish it until, you know, last thing that night because so many other things happen and that’s true. But I’ve got to figure out how to, okay, here’s my block of time for sales here.

 

DT:

That’s right.

 

 

Jason:

And yeah. Any tips that you have and, and Amie, Don said you’re a great organization, any tips that you have as well?

DT:
Yeah. So your question was, you know, how do you manage the chaos from a prioritization and a time management standpoint? You’ve really got to

Right. A lot of times people are nice people. They want to be polite to folks but the most polite thing to do is tell somebody no versus a yes that’s half ass. And you want people to in your reputation to be such that your word is good. And so if you say you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it with a high degree of quality on time with a high degree of value for your partner, your client. But specifically what I would say, and this is a little off kilter, is you should be reading still 30 to 40 minutes every day.

And let me tell you why that’s important. You need to sharpen your decision making. And the way you sharpen your decision making is learning new things about your industry, about being a CEO, about being a leader. So you make better decisions real time. So what’s interesting, cause you said, how can I cut time and I gave you something to do, right? Which is kind of, which is was kind of odd, right? But if you read this book, Startup Hats, and you make better decisions about how to articulate your time, it’s going to pay you dividends over the course of your value. So number one, don’t sacrifice your learning habit. Don’t sacrifice the cups of coffee with people that will teach you and take time with you or the things that you need to read because a lot of times CEOs will sacrifice personal development for short term points of progress and so that’s why I lead with that.

Number one. The second thing I think is most important is that business development is your number one job.

Because the customers are going to tell you everything about what to build, everything about what your market is saying, everything about what your competitors are doing, which will then inform your marketing, inform your product or service selection, inform your delivery because you spent the first couple of hours of every day talking to new prospects, existing partners, existing customers about using your product or service. The other thing that I think is important is when you’re managing your calendar, I don’t necessarily, I book things weeks in advance with different things are happening, but I look at things mostly one week at a time. That’s really the reality and I try to have a great day and if I balance great days together, then I can have a great week.

And so I don’t make things too complicated there, but what I will tell you is when you meet with people internally or externally, get good at doing all of your follow up activity five to 10 minutes after. So let’s say you’re, you’re having an hour cup of coffee with somebody, right? Shrink that to 40 minutes. After the 40th minute you’re usually not getting much more value and you’re just more on the chit chat and other things. Then you have 20 minutes in that same hour to do all your follow-up from that meeting. If you have having a 30 minute meeting, bring it down at 25, 20 minutes. So instead of, you know how these calendars have 30 minute blocks or hour blocks, that’s like a facade of that’s how you’re supposed to block your time. That’s the increments. But I think you can have a lot that can be done in a 20 minute conversation with somebody and you keep it to one topic and then you do your follow ups and then that 30 minutes you were highly productive, your action items are good, your follow ups are good and you don’t have to try to remember things that you could handle pretty quickly. And then if you have an hour meeting with somebody, as busy as you guys are, there needs to be money attached to it.

Like you gotta be really particular with who you give a full a full hour to. The other thing that I would, I would say in terms of your, your time slicing, don’t try to context switch to too many different things in a single day. It’s taken me years to get used to that emotionally and to be effective at that and I don’t think most people are naturally good at it.

 

Jason:

What do you mean, like go into your emails and then going somewhere else?

 

DT:

I think going from email to writing a content piece to making phone calls from business development to handle an errand for your kids to talking with an investor to talking with an advisor to going back to writing a piece of content. Because you know there’s math behind the context switching and how much time you lose. I really am a firm believer in time blocking and don’t over-schedule yourself.

I run into this, I’m not an expert in it yet, but if I look at a day that I have back to back meetings for six, seven hours straight, something in there is cancelable, something in there you can shoot. Don’t be afraid to move meetings that aren’t of high priority. I had an interview today at one of my companies and one of the key people in this interview on my team was out. Kids were sick, they weren’t gonna be able to make it. They’re going to try to call in. Another one was on a sales call and it just started getting weird. So I could have pulled together some other folks that talked to the candidate. I could have talked to them, but we called the candidate and said, Hey, listen, if you’re gonna come in and spend your time and effort to talk to our company, we really want you to talk to people that are focused about the position, care about the position because it affects their work. And those two people just can’t be here today. So would you rather come on in and talk to a couple folks or let’s just push this out for a week or two and make sure we got everybody that’s good to go. Candidate’s like, Oh man, I’d much rather talk to the people that I’ll be working with than just hear about the company and then need to come a second or third time anyway. So by being respectful of the candidate’s time and then realizing that we had to punt, it’s no big deal. Sometimes it just happens, but you gotta be willing to do that so that you make things that are super productive. If the right team can’t be in the meeting. And that’s critically important when you look at your calendar. Most people will look at their calendar and they run their calendar as if when they put it together a week ago and things change in terms of priority. So there’s a couple things that I would think.

 

Amie:

I wanted to mention if I can, because when you were talking about attention, trust and value, you were framing it really about customers and things like that. But actually in the discussion, I think about it for your employees too. And the thing that I have really worked on this year is the trust piece. Because when you are used to doing things like just focused on your job, you’re not really delegating a lot to other people. And now I have to delegate. And what I’ve realized is most things don’t matter as much as you think. And so if somebody is working on X, Y, and Z, do I really need to review it or should I just trust them to get it done? If it’s wrong, we can fix it later. And so one of my employees today, she’s like, Oh, how can you review this? And I’m like, you know what it’s probably good enough because I don’t have time to look at it in a way that I would feel good about. So why should I hold things up? Like I don’t want to be the bottleneck. So why should I hold things up? But it comes back to me trusting them and being okay with, look, people are gonna make mistakes. So it’s like these three buckets. Value was the same thing. Don’t keep people if they’re not adding value. So these three things that you mentioned are really good for the people part of the business.

DT:

No, that’s…Amie, that’s such a powerful point. And I would just extend that in thinking about it like this, 80% of your quality may still be good enough to do the job in a 100% way. And so a lot of people that run the business are perfectionists. A lot of people that own a business, attention to detail is higher. So you think it’s lowering the standard, but it’s having the right standard for the right work, not actually lowering the standard of how you would do it. It’s the right standard for the right work. I did a video for a client and our director of video production, Melanie Sanders came in, said, Don, we’re done with the video we’ve done with the editing. Do you want to take a look at it? And I was like, a thought through my mind. I was like, well, Melanie, number one, I trust you. You’re amazing. Former journalist, Emmy award winner. Like you’re amazing. So do you think it’s good? Says yeah, I think it’s great. So Hey, what am I gonna tell her that Melanie doesn’t know? Number two, if I do have questions, what are we going to do? Redo it? We’re gonna re-edit it? No, because we are, we’re on a clock. And so Amie, to your point of really aligning expectations to the task and giving people that trust, that’s, that’s really powerful. And the other thing is when you’re interviewing people for your startup or you’re interviewing people for your company, no matter what business you have, you need to have some kind of testing before hire, and early into their tenure to know if they can do what you expect. And if they can’t do what you expect, are they close enough to what you expect that they’re workable.

And then you can modulate that trust issue because you’ve actually seen certain snippets of their work. So now you know where they are and then you can assign them the right tasks based on their skillset so that they as an employee can have more wins initially and then less coaching opportunities for you initially and you can get a higher productive employee faster. And that has to do with interviewing, which we’ll cover the next time. Some people say they want to work for a startup and they have no idea what they’re comparing it to. They’re enamored with what they saw on TV or you know, Google or some advertisement. And some people are meant to work in a big structured company and some people are built for the chaos of entrepreneurship and there’s some interesting ways to find that out. So I think we’ll wrap it up for today.

Was this helpful?

 

Jason:

Oh, that was great. I’m excited about the book too.

 

DT:

And so the book Startup Hats by David Gardner, I think is amazing. I think that, you know the last thing that I’ll end on, you know when you think about your business, and I try to coin things in little phrases I guess that I can remember, one of them that’s on my mind now for my clients in our firm Walk West, which is a digital consultancy, is, our goal is to create demand and drive business growth, and every single thing we do in the digital marketing realm needs to do those two things, which is create demand and drive growth. And we keep that at the forefront of what we’re writing. The video that we’re doing, the SEO that we’re delivering, the websites that we’re building, the PR that we’re generating for our clients. If we don’t hit the mark exactly, we are not going to be so far off the mark that we can’t course correct if we’re keeping those two things in mind because at the end of the day, your outcomes validate you. All right. Thanks guys.

Jason:
All right. That was Donald Thompson, host of Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Walk West, investor, mentor and adviser sharing some amazing useful tip for CEOs of smaller companies on how to spend your time and what you need to be focused on on a day to day basis. The book that Don gifted Amie and I, Startup Hats by David Gardner is available on Amazon, and we’ll be sure to share a link in the show notes. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Leave us a rating and review as well. This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin for Earfluence. For more podcasts on the Earfluence podcast network like Backstage at DPAC, Weddings for Real, Beyond the Obituary, and Talk West, go to Earfluence.com or visit us on social media @EarfluenceMedia.  Intro and outro music for this episode comes from Jensen Reed’s “You Can’t Stop Me.” For more on his music, go to JensenReed.com.  Thanks for listening everyone, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.

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82: On the Couples’ Therapy Couch with Christian Charette, Part 1: Roadblocks in Relationships

Megan and Jason went onto the couples’ therapy couch and got some amazing advice from their own therapist, Christian Charette from Couple Forward in Raleigh NC. This episode is a two-parter, and today Christian shares what roadblocks in a relationship can lead to tension.  So let’s get uncomfortable and learn how we can be better partners. And next week, he’ll share tips for better communication.

About Christian Charette:

Christian specializes in helping couples navigate their relationships. Christian has 15+ years of experience guiding others through their journey. Married for 25 years, and having raised three daughters has uniquely prepared him for being a reflective therapist with whom clients feel connected. Specifically trained and licensed in Marriage & Family Therapy, Gottman Couples Therapy and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Christian combines his creative personality to bring clients lasting solutions.

Couple Forward on Social Media: Facebook: @coupleforward Instagram: @coupleforward

If you haven’t already, get your tickets to see Megan Gillikin speak WIPA Toronto on October 22nd!  Get your tickets at Eventbrite now.  This session will remind and enlighten industry vendors that the client experience starts way before the client books you and ends months after the event is over. Broken into three sections (pre-booking, working together, and post booking phases), Megan will highlight some of biggest missed opportunities when it comes elevating your client experience from start to finish and will provide tangible tips and takeaways on how to streamline this experience and exceed client expectations time and time again!!

Weddings for Real on Social Media: Instagram: @weddingsforreal Facebook: @weddingsforreal twitter: @weddingsforreal

Music for this episode by https://www.bensound.com.

The host of the show is Megan Gillikin, owner and lead consultant at A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning.  She’s also available for wedding and hospitality business consulting and can be reached at megan@weddingsforreal.com.

Weddings for Real is edited and produced by Jason Gillikin for Earfluence.