Episode 23: Tiana Conley, Vice President at Kellogg’s, Talks Leadership, Allyship, and How a Better World Starts at The Breakfast Table

From a young age, Tiana didn’t fit into any single box. The daughter of a South Asian mother and an African American father, Tiana’s parents taught her the importance of self-acceptance. This mindset helped propel her into a successful career at some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, including Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark. Today, Tiana is helping to reverse the systemic racism that plagues everything from our C-suites to our food system in her role as Vice President of Global Cereal at Kellogg’s.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

3:29 – The Opportunity For Our Country – “We had a historic election. We had a historic turnout for this election. And no matter what side you’re on or who you voted for, hopefully everybody is pretty excited and pretty passionate about the opportunity our country has here in the United States – to have the first ever female Vice President, especially a woman of color in that leadership position. It’s such an amazing milestone for our country.” -KS

13:14 – Intersectionality – “One of my favorite words is intersectionality, and I think that Kamala really captures that extraordinarily well. And it’s something that I felt in my personal life being someone who is a woman, like Kamala, being someone who is black, like Kamala, being someone who is of Asian descent, the child of an Asian immigrant. I’m also South Asian – my mom is from the Philippines – so that is something else that’s very similar to Kamala. To have someone that perfectly fits that intersectionality, that is quite so rare but becoming less rare, and to see that person occupy the highest office we’ve ever seen in the United States of America was absolutely incredible.” -TC

23:00 – Creating A Lane To Fit In – “I remember when I was in first grade, Matt Oberley asked me why I was brown. I told him it was because I fell in mud because I was so embarrassed in some way, or so insecure, or so unknowing at that time where I didn’t really want to be different. And to some extent that stayed with me all the way through high school where I wasn’t comfortable being brown. It was always something that I either had to make into a joke or spin into something but I was always wishing I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I got into college and saw other people like me or people I identify with – who played sports and did things like I did – who helped me rediscover my own heritage and be confident and excited about who I was.” -KS

39:54 – Working With A Purpose – “For me there has to be a component of purpose in what I do. I’ve reached a point where I understand that in order to be motivated I have to know that what I’m doing is not just for a paycheck, and that there’s a deeper impact that I’m having on people, on society, and what I’m doing and how I’m spending my time.” -TC

49:46 – The Importance Of Allyship – “My thoughts around allyship are perhaps slightly unconventional in the sense that I don’t see allyship as a noun, I see allyship as a verb. Allyship is not an award to be granted or a badge to be worn – that’s silly to me because it centers on you, the ally, versus the person you ‘re supposed to be lifting up. Allyship requires you giving up something to advocate on behalf of someone else. If you’re not struggling in your allyship journey, you’re doing it wrong. If it feels easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.” -TC

55:38 – Kash’s One Big Thing – “For me, the thing that stuck with me from the conversation was that if you really want to be an ally. If you really want to show that you care about someone else in a meaningful way, with action behind it, you’ve gotta give up something from yourself. You’ve gotta sacrifice something. To truly make a difference and make an impact for someone else we have to give up something of our own. Life has to get harder for us to make it easier for someone else. And that’s a powerful powerful insight, it’s simple but powerful and most people overlook it. And if we all embrace that attitude, and embrace that understanding that we are going to take a hit, we are going to cut back, we are going to lose a little something, but in the process someone else is going to gain, and someone else’s life is going to be better – their experiences are going to improve – that’s an amazing place for our communities and our society to be.” -KS

Episode 22: From Frat Life To Facebook: Kunal Merchant, Global Marketer, DJ, and Cultural Bridge-Builder, Reminds Us of the Moments That Matter Most

When Kunal Merchant decided to rush for the University of Texas’ first South Asian fraternity, he had no idea that he was actually joining his first startup. From learning how to lead large-scale events to collaborating with external organizations to fundraising to stay afloat, these experiences put Kunal on his entrepreneurial path. Ultimately, Kunal’s journey led him to join one of the most storied and successful “startups” in the world – Facebook. In this episode, Kunal shares how key moments and mentors – including Besomebody Founder, Kash Shaikh – impacted his journey, and what he’s learned about diversity, growth, and the power of connecting people. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

19:38 – Learning What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur. – “Our fraternity was less about our fraternity and more like a start-up. And it was a very interesting start-up because.. the founding group has a vision that says “We’re going to build this thing.” Then they get the first class in – the Alpha class – that’s like your first set of employees, right? You take who you want, you take some of the cool people, you take some of your friends. The barrier of entry is a little bit different because you just need to have a proof of concept. You need to bring these people in so that we can say, “We have more than just us.” We were the Beta class. I would think we were the first real class because you guys didn’t have to have us. The group of people that came together for that first class – we didn’t even really know each other. That whole thing was, “How do we fit into this organization that’s still trying to find its footing?” Everything we did was like a start-up. We worked as a team. We created things that never existed before. We built relationships all the time that never existed before. It was a phenomenal experience because it gave me the initial ground work – the learning – of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.” -KM

43:16 – Breaking Barriers. – “A lot of times celebrities and people of the highest net worth, and people that are on television regularly get credit for the barriers that they break, particularly when it comes to race, and culture, and opportunity. The reality is the people that are on the ground, on the frontlines, that are really doing the breaking of those barriers are people like you…. It’s not just the people that you see on sitcoms now or have their own comedy shows, it’s the people that have built this from the ground up for a long time so that it becomes customary and expected for South Asians to be a part of industries like this.” -KS

53:06 – Surrounding Yourself with Inspiration – “I love people. I love people who are passionate about building business and helping others. To me, when you meet someone and they have a spark in their eye, they’re inspired and they want to go create something that’s meaningful to the world – that inspires me and I just want to surround myself with that. Anytime I can meet someone that I feel is looking to do more for others, that’s an instant connection.” -KM

59:42 – Keep Going. – “I’ve been on a journey and I had to be humbled. Life put me on a path to be humbled because I had a good amount of wins in my life, I had a few losses early on, but I was in a place where things were working out. And it wasn’t until I started to get humbled by losses, and some of them on very very big stages, that enabled me to have the humility to see as clear as I needed to see in order to make the right decisions moving forward. And for me, that’s been the biggest blessing because it’s painful at times, but those learnings that come when you get knocked out, that’s when you really learn the most, if you are willing to pick yourself up and keep going.” -KS

1:17:08 – Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable. – “The journey is the journey and it’s what you make of it. And it comes down to how much you want to learn and grow. And that’s what I would tell people right now. Chase growth – especially with everything going on in the world right now. You can just see how life is so fragile. How we don’t know what tomorrow brings. So while you’re here, why not do something that makes you uncomfortable. Because when you’re uncomfortable is when you grow, and then you learn.” -KM

1:24:40 – Kash’s One Big Thing – “It’s just the realization that there are small moments in our life that we often overlook – that at many times pass us by, that make such a powerful impact on people. We get so caught up in the day-to-day, and the grind, and everything that we’re doing. And those experiences pile on, but if we’re doing it right, and if we’re making sure that it’s bigger than us – and we’re trying to serve, we’re trying to help, we’re trying to give – we affect people along the way, and we affect them in ways that we don’t even understand. And we become that person, or that moment, or that milestone that puts them on that path that they’re meant to be on. And that’s pretty powerful man – every single one of us has that opportunity, to be that person for somebody. It doesn’t take a lot. All it takes is genuine care, and concern, and belief. Whether it’s my coach in high school who yelled at me, but believed in me. Whether it was my mom who always pushed me to do better. Or whether it was the folks in my fraternity back in 1998 who gave me the opportunity to lead as a freshman in college. Those are the moments that shape us – and that’s pretty powerful.” -KS

Episode 21: Prejudice Starts Before Preschool: Allison Baker, Former Director of Nutrition at Kroger and Founder of Hazel + Dot, Shares How Her Passion for Wellness Grew Into a Purpose for Inclusion

Five years into her career as the Director of Nutrition for The Kroger Co. – America’s largest grocer – Allison Baker adopted Dottie, a two-year-old toddler from Southern India who was born without her left arm. Through her journey as a mother of a brown-skinned, immigrant, female born with a disability, Allison has come face to face with privilege, challenge, and adversity. She’s learned the true meaning of “D&I”, and what it takes to scale that strategy across corporate America. Now, she’s committed to helping change the definition of “normal and good” to include every person, of every color, with every ability level.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

7:10 The Impact of Online Bullying. “Everybody has experienced some type of bullying, whether it’s how they look, or how they dressed, or what they were good at or not good at – But now, it’s extended so far into the social media space where you can hide behind accounts, or fake accounts, or acronyms, and you can really sling some painful arrows at people. And when I think about the effect that has on young people, it’s really disheartening.” -KS

30:58 Lighting the Spark Inside of You. “If you ask my friends they say, ‘You’ve always wanted to do this.’ Which I don’t even remember exactly when, but one of the things I think about a lot is my dad – He was part of a group that did volunteer work and one of the events that they always went to was St Joseph Orphanage’s 5k run. I used to go there and we would hand out water to the runners. It was just seeing these people with disabilities, and honestly seeing my dad be kind to them, and seeing everyone that was there be kind to them, and just seeing that happen in front of me. I think those things make a humongous difference. It gives you the courage to say ‘I could help someone like this because I’ve had that exposure.’ and it lights that spark in you.” -AB

39:24 Leaving Corporate America for a Startup. “I had a list of things I was looking for in whatever was ‘next.’ One really important thing to me was that I wanted to start moving out of the subject matter expertise bucket – of ‘I came from nutrition, that’s my background.’ – into more of the higher order stuff like partnerships and business development. I really liked working on the projects that were bringing two totally different entities together and trying to make something happen. I realized that was really my passion. The other thing is that I was really wanting to work with an international business and honestly, was very interested in the startup lifestyle. I had been working really closely with your team and you guys have that startup grind. I remember one of your team members – we were working on something at 1am – looked at me and he’s like, ‘Do you usually work this late?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ It’s just part of my DNA. I was working for a big company but I was really more, at heart, of a startup person.” -AB

44:40 Changing What Is “Normal” and “Good.” “If you think about when we develop prejudice it’s because something is going outside our view of what is normal or good. And what defines our view of what is normal or good – childhood is obviously a big part of it like we spoke about earlier – but also what I just call the cloud of messages that surrounds us all the time. And who builds that cloud of messages? Honestly, it’s the big companies that run the world. And so they are defining what normal and good is whether they mean to or not. What I really believe is when you start to change what’s in that cloud – you go to a store, you go to a website, you look at an advertisement and you see someone missing an arm, and you see someone in a wheelchair, and you see someone who’s a person of color, and you see someone who has Down’s Syndrome, which is starting to happen – you start to change that center of what is normal and good.” -AB

45:55 Connecting Passion and Purpose. “When I look at your journey and a lot of the journeys of leaders that I’ve come into contact with, it’s usually that time – six, seven, eight, ten years into your career – where you start to really think about passion and purpose from your own perspective. And obviously, what you’ve learned and experienced with Dottie, your daughter, who was born without an arm, and you know the challenges that she’s going to have to face – as well as being a woman, as well as being a minority, and an immigrant – it’s a point of your life where you’re like, ‘You know what, I want to go do something I believe in. I want to go pour my passion, and my time, and my effort into something that I truly believe the world needs.'”  -KS

59:00 Kash’s One Big Thing. “With everything happening, this is the time, this is the generation that needs to finally put a stake in the ground and say, “We’re going to do it different.” Because there is a portion of our population that grew up in the 60’s, and 50’s, and 40’s, and they’re aging right now. They grew up with this and this is what they believe. It’s a little bit of hatred seeded into them, but they’re not going to be around much longer. Those folks that grew up during those times – Your time is up boys and girls, if you believe that. We’re coming and I’m going to be on the front edge, but there’s a younger group that doesn’t believe in that same bullshit. You have a few more years left and then the whole army of people who believe in unity, diversity, and inclusion is coming, and to me that’s the exciting part. It’s a different time and those of you out there that are still like that, we’re coming for you.” -KS

Episode 20 (Part 2 of 2): From Board Shorts to Billions: Justin Wilkenfeld, CEO of Kindhumans and Employee #4 at GoPro Shares the Secrets to Building A Billion-Dollar Company the Hard Way

In 2007, Justin Wilkenfeld left a stable corporate job in the Finance industry to help his college buddy sell wrist-strap cameras to surfers. Seven years later, he was a core part of the most successful US-based IPO of the year as GoPro reached legendary “unicorn” status.  What started as answering phone calls in the one-man customer service department and building furniture for trade shows around the country, turned into negotiating brand partnerships, scaling marketing teams, and signing iconic athletes – always with a focus on building real relationships. And throughout it all, Hoost was the glue that helped build and protect GoPro’s unbeatable culture. Today, Justin – in partnership with his wife, Suzi – has combined his passion for growing businesses with his calling to build community to create Kindhumans, a new platform to connect commerce with compassionate causes across the globe.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

12:31 Our hiring criteria. “The three things that we hire for are passion, coachability, and cultural fit. We can teach everybody everything else, but you have to have that passion – that burning desire and excitement to be here. You have to be moldable and open to feedback, learning, and growing. And you have to be able to live and breathe the culture, or it’s not going to work.” -KS

21:23 Kindhumans. “At a high level, we’re trying to create the intersection of community, content, commerce, and cause. We want to build the biggest community of kind humans possible. We want to tell stories about kind humans and profile kind humans and the good work that they’re doing across business, or individual effort, as well as non-profit effort. And really highlight the people that we feel like are good role models for society.” -JW

36:36 Greedy for good. “Greed wins because greed is hungrier than that altruistic behavior sometimes. Even as we’re progressing our brand and business forward, I try to impress on my team that we need to be greedy for good. Greedy for the better good. We have to play the game like the other players are playing the game. Let’s hustle, let’s build a business. We can give back and do great things for people, but let’s be a real business, let’s make real money, and let’s make some real noise. Let’s not be like ‘tin cup,’ like, ‘Hey can you guys help us out?’ Let’s be disruptive.” -JW

47:11 Survive, live, thrive. “For me, there’s three components to life, at a basic level. There’s survival mode, there’s living, and then there’s thriving. Our hope with Kindhumans is that we can help shift things and be a part of that conversation of shifting more people out of survival mode into and through living mode, into thriving mode – where you’re able to be a master of your own destiny, to follow the path that you want to follow, and to participate in a way that is a bit freer. So many people are desperate just to survive – and that blinds their truth. They’re not able to follow their heart and where they want to go.” -JW

57:03 Recognizing past mistakes. “It wasn’t until I left GoPro and started to build on my own with Besomebody that I really started to realize all the mistakes that I made. And started to realize, ‘Now I understand when I left at 5pm and everybody was grinding, they looked at me differently. Now I understand when I used to come to the events and not roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty and start setting stuff up, they looked at me and rolled their eyes. Now I understand when I used to be the guy on TV, being interviewed in front of the media and getting the publicity but not really having the history and the heritage with the brand and the company, why people got frustrated.’ I took that to heart and told myself, ‘Now I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to be respectful of the process. I’m going to be grateful for the grind. And I’m always going to honor the people who have been there from the beginning.’” -KS

58:44 Kash’s One Big Thing: “To me the biggest lesson is you can completely screw something up, you can be totally off base and still turn that into a win if you’re humble enough and aware enough to acknowledge where you messed up. If I kept denying the fact that I did something wrong at GoPro, I wouldn’t be where I am today, we wouldn’t be here. It was because I embraced it, learned from it, and made it a part of my story and my journey that we got to be a path of growth ourselves.” -KS

Episode 20 (Part 1 of 2): From Board Shorts to Billions: Justin Wilkenfeld, CEO of Kindhumans and Employee #4 at GoPro Shares the Secrets to Building A Billion-Dollar Company the Hard Way

In 2007, Justin Wilkenfeld left a stable corporate job in the Finance industry to help his college buddy sell wrist-strap cameras to surfers. Seven years later, he was a core part of the most successful US-based IPO of the year as GoPro reached legendary “unicorn” status.  What started as answering phone calls in the one-man customer service department and building furniture for trade shows around the country, turned into negotiating brand partnerships, scaling marketing teams, and signing iconic athletes – always with a focus on building real relationships. And throughout it all, Hoost was the glue that helped build and protect GoPro’s unbeatable culture. Today, Justin – in partnership with his wife, Suzi – has combined his passion for growing businesses with his calling to build community to create Kindhumans, a new platform to connect commerce with compassionate causes across the globe.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:03 The value of relationships. “Building bonds like that ends up being more critical to my future than the schooling or the education, because I met people, I networked, and built a family of friends that has carried through for decades.” -JW

24:44 Leaving for GoPro. “It was an opportunity to jump ship from a path that I didn’t feel like was going to fulfill me. It was a critical move for me, and I feel like it was a pivotal moment, and it’s been a seminal moment that I couldn’t have anticipated. The beauty of it was taking a chance on doing something else. That’s one of my biggest takeaways – having the courage to leave that comfort zone. And at 32, taking a risk on something that on paper probably didn’t have much of a chance.” -JW

26:03 The different stages of the journey.  “In your twenties you’re just trying to figure stuff out. You’re just trying to have fun, do different things, explore different things. You’re not really thinking about purpose or passion, you’re just doing stuff. When you get into your thirties, you realize, ‘I think I can do something more. I think life is about something more. What is my purpose? What could be my impact? What could be my legacy?’ Then that’s when you start to ask the smart questions that lead you to the right answers – the tough questions that lead you to the right answers. In your forties, hopefully, if you did it right and if you were focused and you were blessed, then you know it, and now you’re full force into your path.” -KS

28:44 Failure vs. regret. “My biggest influence and inspiration in my life is my mom. She’s taught me a lot of things, but the piece of advice that she’s given me that has always stuck with me and rang the most true and powerful was that failures fade but regrets last forever.” -KS

45:47 Building with authenticity. “What made a difference for GoPro in the end – and still does – is authenticity. It’s a genuine connection and a genuine relationship with these different communities. We went vertical by vertical – crawl, walk, run strategy – and we built the brand by getting to know people. And that loyalty that you gain from those relationships can transcend the brand.” -JW

52:42 Working with friends and family. “When you come in as a friend and/or as family, it’s like having the coach’s son on the basketball team when you grew up who got playing time. You’ve been on the teams before where the son got playing time because his dad was the coach, and he wasn’t very good, so you always resented that fact. Or, he was actually the best player because his dad was the coach, coached him all the time, and pushed him. I always say, ‘I want you to be the latter, I’m going to push you, I’m going to spend more time with you, but I want you to be the best. I want you to be the top of the crop. Then that earns you credibility and it protects our culture.’” -KS

Episode 19: David Willbrand, Partner at Thompson Hine LLP, on the Dumpster Fire That Is Your Life, Why Venture Capital Isn’t for Everyone, and the One Piece of Advice He Would Give to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

After graduating from Harvard, David Willbrand was tired of working in jobs he hated. He convinced the University of Cincinnati Law School to admit him past the deadline, and spent the next sixteen years making his mark in the startup community. As a Partner at Thompson Hine, LLP, David chairs their Early Stage & Emerging Companies Practice where he has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs figure out what really matters to them, how to get the deal done, and the true meaning of risk.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

10:24 Kash on VC funding. “I don’t believe in seed stage funding because I believe growth capital is where you should be thinking about raising money. At that point you’ve already proved product/market fit, you already have a business model you believe in, the customer base, and the elements of a strong business. Then you’re just trying to pour some gasoline on the fire.” -KS

14:46 Defining your version of success. “When I sit down with entrepreneurs for the first time, I always try to ask the entrepreneur, ‘What is your definition of success? What are you trying to achieve? Why are you doing this?’ Nine times out of ten, I get the rote answer, ‘I want to go raise venture capital,’ ‘I want to build a unicorn,’ ‘I want an IPO,’ ‘I want to build a billion-dollar company.’ When I then ask some follow up questions, what I find is that’s actually the case truly with very few entrepreneurs. When you think about what’s involved in that and what it means from the perspective of meaning, lifestyle, the kind of company you’re creating, and what you’re trying to achieve – that’s a very narrow band of entrepreneurs. And most, if you press on them, you can say, ‘That’s not really what you want. Let’s talk about what you want because this is your life. Let’s figure out how to help you manifest your version of success.’”-DW

26:59 Luck. “You’ve got to do the work and put in the effort to put yourself in the position to have luck. Then you have to keep your eyes open and always be aware – pivoting back and forth and managing your peripheral vision – so that when luck appears you grab it by the throat, and you don’t let it go.” -DW

55:49 What makes news. “We do want to be on the stage and the plane of some of those hyper-growth companies. We just want to do it our way and take the road that you didn’t see on TechCrunch or in the headlines, which is the news out there of people raising money. Let’s have our news about the impact that we make, number one. Number two, the amazing culture that we built and co-created, and number three, the money that we make, not the money that we raise. I believe there should be a shift in glamorizing the part of entrepreneurship or the startup life of raising money and it should be more on impact, growth, financial independence, and things like that.” -KS

1:03:06 David’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “It’s a difficult existence. If you’re going to undertake it, only do it because literally there is nothing else you can do to be happy. That’s what I would say to aspiring entrepreneurs. I love that you’ve got this idea, I love that you have this vision, but frankly, if you can be happy in a day job, it’s an easier life. You should only do this thing, you should only chase this thing if you can’t sleep, if it’s keeping you up at night, if it’s eating at you all day long, if you feel like you’re wasting time because you’re not spending time on it.” -DW

1:07:30 Kash’s One Big Thing. “In order to go down this road – whether it’s a dream that you have, a business you want to build, or something that you want to pursue – it has to be this burning fire inside of you. It has to be that thing that wakes you up in the morning, and that thing that stops you from sleeping every night. The thing that literally sets your whole being on fire, that’s the epitome of a calling. When I left my corporate job to go build Besomebody, Inc. that’s how I felt. I felt like every day was one day too late from me jumping on what my true purpose was, my true calling. I knew I was leaving a lot on the table; I knew I was leaving comfort, stability, money, and some relationships. I knew I was having to give up a lot, but the feeling inside of me wouldn’t let me let it go. I started to feel so heavy every day that I waited. When I finally made that decision to go for it, it felt like this release. The journey has been way harder than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve had to give up a lot more than I ever thought I would. There’s ups and downs, but I still feel so in sync and so true inside with the calling.” -KS

Episode 18: Tai Morshed, Vice President at ONE Championship, Talks Ringing the Bell, Teaming with Heroes, and How He’s Helping Connect a Continent Through Mixed Martial Arts

When the startup he was working for went public, Tai found himself on the floor of the Stock Exchange and the center of the action. He thought he made it. Turns out, his career was just getting started. After taking a risk that led him to a job with Adobe in Southeast Asia, he found an opportunity at the intersection of his passion and purpose with ONE Championship. Now he’s empowering tens of millions of fans across Asia – and soon the world – to connect with athletes through storytelling and shared experiences.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:24 When the risk pays off. “I took a risk leaving somewhere else where I was comfortable, and things were easy. I took a risk leaving Austin and going to New York. There were a lot of risks that I took, and that was really gratifying to see us IPO. I was there on the floor – I didn’t ring the bell, but I was a row or two right behind them, waving…It was a gratifying moment to essentially be able to own that space and say, ‘You know what, I deserve this. This is a hard-working team. I took some risks, and this is where it pays off.’” -TM

19:53 Believing AND building.  “It’s important to differentiate and to create that distinction between those who believe, but also want to build. Believing in the vision, mission, and principles is the price of entry – if you don’t believe, I don’t even want you to walk in the door of Besomebody, Inc. or BSB Group International. But believing isn’t enough – because you have to want to build. What does that mean? It means you have to be able to make the sacrifices, put in the work, produce the results necessary for the company to grow.” -KS

36:29 Building heroes at ONE Championship. “It’s not about the fighting. What they’re really trying to do is build heroes. They’re putting heroes in places where people need it the most. They need people who look like them or are like them to give them a sense of hope and inspiration that they can do more and be more in life.” -TM

42:31 The power of connection. “People want to be able to believe and see people and connect with people who look like them, who’ve been through what they’ve been through, who understand their history, values, and culture. I think that’s been one of the most exciting evolutions in marketing and advertising over the last couple years…When you think about now, the necessity for us to come up with – not just a white person, a black person, a brown person – but somebody who came up from your same neighborhood, who speaks your same dialect, who has the same challenges. That ability to connect at a niche and specific level is so powerful.” -KS

44:41 Uncovering the stories. “There’s some culture, there’s some adversity in life, and in all these places there’s these great stories. While we know if we just showed knockouts all day our numbers would be higher, but we’re not building the brand that we believe that can have an impact and that has long term value. That’s why we take the time to make sure these stories are unearthed.” -TM

59:04 Kash’s One Big Thing. “When you think about the ‘microstories’ that are out there that unify us and connect us, it’s way past the old school marketing days of ’45 year old white male’ or ‘single mom’ – it’s way beyond that. And when you can get deeper into those nuances of what makes people different, but also connects them, that’s when you can create that emotional bond with people. When you look at the future of content, the future of marketing, the future of storytelling – that’s where it is. It’s endless the amount of avenues and connection points that we have now on social media and digital. The companies that are going to be able to tell those ‘microstories’ in a personal, authentic, and relevant way, those are going to be the ones that are going to win.” -KS

Episode 17: From Punta Cana to Paris to the Florida Peninsula, Carlos Taveras Has Never Backed Down From a Challenge; Today, as Communications Leader for Johnson & Johnson Vision, He’s Setting His Sights on Helping Americans See

Started from Pepto Bismol now he’s here. Learning the ropes on the healthcare brands at Procter & Gamble, and growing to lead work at Abbvie Pharmaceuticals and now, J&J Vision, Carlos Taveras knows how to inspire the masses with purpose-driven work. He’s tackled everything from gut health to cancer to myopia. Today, Carlos is teaching America the importance of sight, especially during these unclear times.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

3:33 Culture is number one. “There’s always challenges and issues that happen within every company. No matter how great your business is doing, no matter how awesome the culture, there are always things that come up, but typically those things are brushed aside, or looked past, or buried beneath the work that is happening. But at our company when something comes up between teammates or in a way that could affect or fracture our culture, we make it our number one priority. I literally personally stop every single thing that I’m doing to focus on it because we truly believe that nothing is more important than culture.” -KS

20:35 A career with purpose. “I started my career working in healthcare, in the pharmaceutical division of P&G, and I was just enamored by the dynamics of healthcare – how such a little tiny pill can make a world of difference in somebody’s life, and oftentimes is the difference between life and death. So, the time that I spent on that just gave me an entirely different sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose. Working in immunology and oncology, for blood cancers and then essentially leaving the team that was in charge of telling the company’s and the product stories, amplifying the voices of the patients, and telling our science and innovation story.” – CT

21:43 Lessons from living abroad. “You learn so much more about yourself and what matters to you, your beliefs and values and principles, and yet you become a lot more open and tolerant for things you otherwise would not have considered.” -CT

24:28 The beauty of travel. “The biggest thing that I learned during my global experience at P&G was that we’re all more similar than we are different. You go to all these places and at first, you’re hit with all the different diverse and varied things that you experience. Even getting in a taxi or riding the subway or going to the barber is so different, and you have to learn that experience all over again from start to finish. Once you get into the flow and meet the people, you realize these are some of the most enriching and engaging conversations. To be across the world in a place you never envisioned yourself to be and to be able to connect with a stranger, a colleague, or a newfound friend – that’s really the beauty of the opportunity to travel.” -KS

32:02 Prioritizing quality of life. “It doesn’t matter if you have a great job, are working for a great company, and you’re surrounded by great people if at the end of the day you don’t have a sense of fulfillment and a good quality of life.” -CT

50:10 Kash’s One Big Thing. “The one big thing is the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself. When you look at companies, entrepreneurs, and startups around the world, the ability to articulate a broader vision that inspires the organization to want to pursue something bigger than their individual effort, bigger than themselves is so important. When you get to be a part of a team, organization, movement, or a cause that is so much bigger than you, that you wake up every morning passionate about to fulfill, fight against, or fight for it brings so much meaning to your life and brings so much purpose to what you do every day.” -KS

Episode 16: Riding the Rollercoaster – Rex Jackson, General Manager of LEGOLAND Florida, on Rebuilding the American Theme Park and The Magic of Resilience

Rex Jackson has known action and adventure for two decades, beginning with his early days as a store manager at pre-Netflix Blockbuster Video. Since then, his wild ride has taken him from the most iconic brand at the largest CPG company in the world, to the (dining) table of some of American’s most recognized restaurants, and now, to one of the world’s most visited theme parks. Through it all, his recipe of resilience, belief, and kindness has carried him through the ups and downs.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

15:10 Taking a risk for your career. “That was a risk that I took – to go ahead and lean in and take the risk to be at the company I wanted to be at, maybe not in the function, and see if I could earn my way into the brand management track. A year and a half later, I was able to make that transition.” -RJ

22:25 Don’t get left behind. “As business leaders, oftentimes we get those blinders on one or two metrics – whether it’s market share, household penetration, or stock price – that we use as the barometer for success. In your case, it sounds like what people were so focused on, that they didn’t see or weren’t thinking enough about the emerging trends and threats around them.” -KS

29:29 Merlin’s ‘we care’ value in action. “Closing the resort is one thing – that’s the business side of it, but the impact it has on the employees was the toughest decision…We ended up furloughing over 90% of our employees at LEGOLAND Florida. But one of the things I’m proud of is that there’s a Merlin value called, ‘We care.’ We took that value to heart from the very beginning of the process – even before we started talking about who was going to be furloughed and what departments. We outlined a set of principles that we wanted to follow as we went through this process – some of those principles were things like, being transparent. Not withholding information if we didn’t have to. Communicating it in a timely manner, and over-communicating when necessary. When we first furloughed…the CARES Act had not been passed yet, so we didn’t have visibility into what the government was going to do as a benefit for people. To our credit, to Merlin’s credit, we were able to take care of our furloughed employees. Our salaried staff we furloughed at 90% pay and our full-time hourly staff we furloughed at 50% pay.” -RJ

44:42 We’re all connected. “As things have evolved, I’ve seen that people want to rally together and want to support each other. Yes, there’s the fear and anxiety to some extent about going to some of these places, but it’s also like, ‘Yeah! LEGOLAND was the first to open in Florida of all the theme parks. Let’s go support them!’ That whole ecosystem feels more connected than ever.” -KS

45:23 Resilience & recovery. “Ultimately, there is an American spirit that is going to show through over the course of the next 12-18 months as the country recovers from this pandemic and comes back online, so to speak. I think you’ll see that American spirit shine, and the recovery will be a success story. I still think it will be faster than what people think but may not be as full as what people hope for.” -RJ

58:19 Kash’s One Big Thing. “They did something that just a couple months ago people said they could never do. When you think of everything that we’ve learned here on the Besomebody journey, and every time that we’ve been told we can’t do something. And every time every entrepreneur has said, ‘That idea isn’t good enough,’ or ‘That idea isn’t going to make it.’ All those negative things that people tell you about why you can’t do something, why you shouldn’t do something, why you won’t ever win when you try it. Rex Jackson and his team prove a lot of people wrong.” -KS

Episode 15: For the Love of the Game – Jared Zwerling, Founder of CloseUp360, on His Passion for Basketball, Creating Great Content, and Rebounding from the Pandemic

After a successful career in sports journalism at Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Bleacher Report, as well as a key storytelling role at the National Basketball Players Association, Jared Zwerling launched the first dedicated media platform focused on sharing basketball players’ lives off the court. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

6:30 It began with storytelling. “I had my first gig as a newspaper writer from my middle school at 8 years old. I wrote my first article about an ambidextrous pitcher who could pitch both 90mph, lefty and righty. I was so fascinated by that story and by athletes and how they got into their craft – the story behind the story. That’s what set it off for me. It came very naturally, just telling stories.” -JZ

24:24 The impact of the pandemic on the sports media industry. “We have often talked about the yin and yang, the bipolar nature of the effect of the pandemic on different industries. At first glance, we’re like, ‘Quarantine must have been the best thing ever for CloseUp360,’ because players are at home and they have all this free time. When you add on the layer that you’re also now competing with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Uninterrupted – everyone vying for that free time because there is no ‘on the court’ time – your point of difference became a little less prevalent.” -KS

26:37 The need for GREAT content. “Everyone has to be super creative and offer as much value as possible. Because we work directly with players, we just can’t create content just to create content. We have to go to a player and say, ‘This will create value for you and here’s why.’ The level of access and the level of ideas we come up with have to be greater and more compelling for a player to say, ‘You know what, I want to work directly with CloseUp to do that.’ It’s a different approach to just being a traditional media outlet in that regard.” -JZ

45:05 The startup grind. “When you work for a startup, you have to be able to sacrifice and push through the grind. It’s not going to be easy all the time. It’s not a corporate job where you have a steady paycheck and benefits. It’s a different mindset when you work for a startup. You have to be able to be ready for anything and pivot.” -JZ

48:20 Advertising as revenue. We used to always talk about how difficult the advertising as revenue business is within media, and how margins become very tight and tough. That’s always been hard. Now with companies spending less on marketing, less on advertising, with more content platforms out there, and a lot more conglomerates purchasing media platforms – it’s tough. At Besomebody, we’ve been a media company for a long time. We’ve never monetized it because our strategy has always been to use content as a growth platform for audience size, and then figure out what to do with the audience. We took a couple cracks at it and weren’t as successful as we hoped to be. And now we’re back at it again after we pivoted and built a core revenue stream. As Jared talked about, passion is the lead, but then you’ve got to pay the bills.” -KS   

50:46 Kash’s One Big Thing. “We need to start thinking of new business models. We need to start thinking of new ways to generate revenue that haven’t been built before. You can’t use the old ‘tried and true’ models anymore. We have to do some things differently – whether that’s how we partner, through shared revenue, through media and licensing agreements, or through looking at venture capital in a different way. The game has changed, so we have to think about things very differently. The companies that are emerging right now and the companies that are going to succeed are going to say, ‘How do I have to play the game differently moving forward?’” -KS

Episode 14: What Every African American Has Experienced – Jerry Porter, Vice President at Procter & Gamble, Shares His Journey of Travel, Connection, and Perseverance

Born in small-town Tennessee, at a young age, Jerry Porter went from working across the country to living across the world. His time as an R&D leader at the world’s largest Consumer Products Goods (CPG) company transported him to life in Japan, Germany, and hundreds of places in between. Through it all, he’s found power in the shared human experience, and optimism in the evolving American landscape. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

16:30 Purpose. “That’s been the journey and the joy of being at P&G, of really bringing to life that purpose. At times you get into the conversation, ‘C’mon, you just make consumer goods.’ But when you really see how it intersects and interplays in the lives of the consumer, it really does elevate the quality of the day, and what it really means to take care of your family.” -JP

31:10 No going back. “It feels different this time. The energy and the inertia behind it are different. There’s a lot of elements and ingredients to it. There’s a lot of pent up frustration over the last four years. There’s a lot of celebrities, athletes, and influencers now speaking out in ways they haven’t before. There’s the content and the video we’ve seen. But, just overall, the tipping point seems to have been reached and breached on this one.” -KS

33:33 Why now is different than before. “I think versus things in the past where it was a small subset of folks really pushing it, this is broad. Folks are saying, ‘No, we want a better world. The pendulum swings towards justice, and that’s the world that we want to have.’ I think it’s also a counterbalance to some of the negativity and ugliness that’s just been pervasive. The voices that really have been heard over the past three years have had more of a negative piece and haven’t necessarily represented – I don’t believe – the better angels and the majority of folks who just want the best for their kids and expect the best for everyone else.” -JP

40:33 Brands need to speak up. “Courageous leadership is a perfect phrase because that’s what is needed. We’ve been talking since the onset of COVID how now is the time for companies to really focus on brand purpose and values. It’s not the time to market your products, it’s time to talk about what you believe in. With what happened in Minneapolis and all the events afterward, it’s even more so a time for people and companies to take the stage, take the platform and say, ‘This is who we are, this is what we believe.’” -KS

43:38 Jerry’s advice to move forward. “You’ve got to persevere. These things – if they don’t kill you, they make you stronger. You need to figure out how you’re going to navigate that. Along the way, build those relationships that – as the old African proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ How are you bringing folks along that will support you and fortify you as you get to those down times to help you carry on? That’s been a piece that has enabled me to move forward.” -JP

48:44 Kash’s One Big Thing. “If you can’t go across the world, go across the country. If you can’t go across the country, go across the state. If you can’t go across the state, go to a different part of your city. If you can’t go to a different part of your city, go to a new part of your neighborhood that you’ve never been to before. And if you can’t do that, then walk down to the edge of your driveway, and sit there and experience things from a different perspective. Because that’s the only way you start to understand people who are unlike you. That’s the only way that you learn that we’re all more similar than we are different.” -KS

Episode 13: Creativity Will Never Die – Andrea Diquez, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi NY, Talks Global Growth, Working With Big Companies, and What’s Got Her Very Angry

Born in Venezuela, Andrea Diquez moved to New York City with a passion for theater. A few months later, she was in the throws at one of the largest and most successful Advertising Agencies in the world. Twenty-five years and numerous big accounts later – including Tide, Coca-Cola, and Toyota – she runs the company. She continues to lead with passion, optimism and positivity, and a contagious desire to do great work. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

8:31 Brands speaking up. “Sixty-eight percent of consumers say that they find it helpful when companies or brands are addressing coronavirus in advertising. Sixty-two percent of consumers say that when companies or brands are addressing the current crisis, that means that the brands have the consumers’ best interests at heart. Even though it’s a time when people, brands, leaders, marketing directors, and CEOs are a little nervous about taking these courageous and bold steps with their marketing and advertising, the data tells us that’s what people want. That’s what consumers want to see, what they expect. In a lot of ways, not saying something right now says more about you as a brand and a company than anything else.” -KS

17:58 Passion for the client’s brand. “You have to love the brand that you’re working on. I’m not going to come up with stuff that is going to destroy the brand or kill the brand. I’m actually on the same page as the client – when I work on a brand, I give it my all, as if it was mine. I really take care of it, and I get the team to take care of it and love it. Regardless of the brand. With all the brands that I’ve worked on, some are more difficult than others, but if you love it and you nurture it, then good stuff happens. Sometimes it takes two, three, four years, but it happens…I love the brands I work on and I really dedicate time to being part of the work.” -AD

29:46 Andrea on being herself. “I’ve never not been myself. My bosses have always been okay with that…I love that all my bosses have let me be who I am. Sometimes they’re a little scared, I think, but they’ve let me be who I am and that’s great. That’s why I’ve been successful. People ask me, ‘Was it hard being Venezuelan and getting to where you are?’ No – I’m here because I’m Venezuelan. I’m different. And people embrace those differences, and they were okay with it. They figured that by adding me to the mix things would become even better. I was very lucky with all my bosses, I still am.” -AD

32:19 Adding value to the client. “The last thing I wanted to be at our sister company, BSB Group International, is a “Yes sir, no sir” agency. I don’t want to just be executing what the client says to do. I always want to be able to have a point of view, have our personal passion, and expertise. I want to be able to say, as embedded strategic business partners, ‘Here’s what we recommend and why we believe in it so much.’ That’s something that I learned from you and from the Saatchi team.” – KS

38:34 Maintaining consistency with change. “When clients change, the first thing I do is try to understand a little bit what the client is – who the person is, where they come from, what they’re used to seeing. If it’s another company, it’s another company, if it’s the same company in another country or with another brand, I try to really understand a little bit of the background and understand where they’re coming from and what their forte is. That’s how we start our relationship in an orientation on what we do. It’s focused on what that person’s strength is. Or, I’m never scared of saying, ‘I don’t know too much about this, but this is a challenge we had and here’s how your people helped us.’ And always demonstrating that we love the brand, we know the brand, and we share the passion for growing the brand. And we’re there to build it with them.” -AD

44:08 The Triple Win. “For us, we always believe in the triple win: it’s a win for the customer, meaning it’s adding value to the customer; it’s a win for the business, meaning it’s driving revenue or profit; and it’s a win for the client, and for that in the corporate world it actually means that they’re ascending, that they’re getting promoted and getting recognized. Some folks on my team were like, ‘Well that means that we’re going to lose some of those clients that we have great relationships with.’ But that’s what we want – as long as we’re losing them because they’re going up and they’re ascending, whether it’s at that company or somewhere else, then we did something right and we’re on the right side of it. Then our challenge is to do that again with the next crop that comes in.” -KS

1:21:33 Kash’s One Big Thing. “You can’t talk about it unless you’re about it behind your own closed doors, inside your own company. A lot of brands are coming to the forefront right now saying, ‘We want to take a stance, we have an opinion, we want to join the conversation of what’s happening today in our society and our culture.’ There are so many issues that have been pushed to the forefront. But you can’t talk about it in a credible or authentic way if you haven’t addressed it within your own household, family, or company. You can’t talk about diversity if you don’t have a leadership team that’s diverse or if you don’t have a marketing strategy that connects with multiple cultures and multiple types of people. That’s so important. Before we talk about what we can do and how we can evolve our communications externally, we need to take this as an opportunity to look at ourselves and reevaluate how we’ve been running our companies, businesses, households, and families. That’s the opportunity we have today – use all the issues, conflict, and conversation that’s in front of us as a mirror to look at ourselves, what we control, and the fingerprints that we leave on everything we touch. And make sure that we feel great about that impact before we decide how we’re going to market ourselves. That call to action of authenticity and realness is so important.” -KS