How to Facilitate Transformation in Students, Organizations and Teams

Episode 20 with Doug Walters

Douglas J. Walters has over 45 years of experience as an educator, administrator and consultant. Most recently, he is the president and founding partner of Transformation Specialists LP. Prior to that he served as a teacher & administrator for the Kanawha County Board of Education, adjunct professor at Marshall University, and Dean of Students at the University of Charleston and the College of the Marshall Islands. He is a widower, father of two sons and grandfather of four. Additionally he is an author of several journal articles & co-authored a book on civic engagement/deliberation and work in higher education.

Mentioned in this episode:


Listen here (the red play button below), on iTunes or Stitcher


Download the quick reference guide for the Volume 1 of the Voice of Influence podcast, including interviews with entrepreneurs, a NY Times Bestselling author, a film maker, educators and even my dad! 

Download it here.

Don’t forget, I’ll be back on Thursday with a new 5-10 minute Voice Studio episode where we’ll break down one aspect of this interview to help you make YOUR voice matter more.



(approximate transcript)

“Students know when you care. Students know when you are sincere. Students know if you respect them and then they will rise to the occasion if they feel those three things are in place.”

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. I am thrilled to be on the line with Doug Walters today. He is somebody that I’ve known ever since I was in high school actually. And he was an instructor at this program called the Summer Honors Program, which was a local academic camp that I participated in and actually the place where I met my husband. So I had Doug for an instructor one year and just really enjoyed it in him and appreciated him. He did it for so many years at that program. It’s a really special thing so we’ll probably talk a little bit about that.


Andrea: But Doug, thank you so much for being here on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Doug: Well, thank you very much Andrea. I’m very glad to be with you today.

Andrea: So Doug, maybe we should start by telling the listeners just a little bit about SHP, the Summer Honors Program.

Doug: I’ll be very happy to.   Well, the program, Andrea, started in 1978 as an outgrowth of trying to provide academic stimulation for students in Nebraska especially South Central Nebraska. And I was very fortunate to have a friend of a friend who recommended me to be one of the instructors in this very intensive two-week program in 1978.

Andrea: And you weren’t living in Nebraska?

Doug: No, no. At that time in _____, at this point live in Charleston, West Virginia. So the program has grown in most tremendously over the last 40 years. In fact the summer program ended almost toward the end of June and the program celebrated its 40th anniversary, and I have been fortunate enough that my schedule and work life and family life was able to be there 33 out of the 40 years.

Andrea: Which is amazing, so you have seen a lot of life in Nebraska at this Summer Honors Program and how it changed and how students have changed over the years and all that sort of thing, which I do want to ask you about but maybe not quite yet.

Doug: OK

Andrea: So what was your role at Summer Honors Program because you retired this year is that right?

Doug: Yeah, I felt that it was time for me to sort of hang up my boots so to speak so that I will give other instructors the opportunity. I taught the social sciences, Andrea. Basically, _____ have to do primary and secondary research and the one thing that I had the great luxury with was that I was able to take and explore the various social sciences. So one year, it may focus on sociology, the next year it could have been psychology. Many times, it was on history whether it was a regional or American or world history. So I had a platform that afforded me great variety over the years. It’s a very tight as you well know having been a student in the process, a very tight two weeks of intensive academic focus.

The students are nominated and then they take entry exams to be admitted to the program. In fact, there are 10 academic areas in the entire SHP process. The number of students that I had in the program varies between about 10 to 14, which was perfect for small group discussion but yet doing teamwork. And so I was able to do that with great success in working with these wonderful, mostly rural, bright, articulate, and talented high school students. And for example this year, I focused on psychology and I like to get into that a little bit more later on in our discussion but one of the keys of the program was a very intense structure that I had students seven and half hours a day.

And for any educators, especially high school teachers that are out there listening to the podcast, you know that when we change classes every 45 to 55 minutes depending upon the type of schedule that the high school has, you have to start up and you have to _____ every day. And so once we get started in the program, we had a quality full seven to seven a half hours a day of concentrated work. So the contact hours are usually varied between 70 and 75 hours, and boy can you cover a lot of ground in that amount of time?

Andrea: And it’s so interesting because the students, and once they get there, it’s so fun. It’s a totally different kind of environment than school. I think when you pick out those kids that are really interested in digging into a topic for a while; I mean it’s a different environment.

Doug: Yes, and it’s very intense. It’s really interesting, as you well know, students could go multiple years but most students don’t go more than two years. But when you get of what we call rookie when she or he comes along and they see the amount of work that’s going to be done, they’re somewhat intimidated the first day or so. But once we get into the rhythm of the process, we found, and not just myself but over the last 40 years, all of the instructors just really developed fine academic opportunities for these students. And in many cases, we didn’t always stay in the classroom, lots of field research and lots of fieldtrips built into the entire program. And in fact, I think your brother-in-law, Chris, had the opportunity to go with me when I took a group of students to Brazil in 1999.

Andrea: Yes and why did you take them to Brazil?

Doug: Well, part of life has been filled with a great deal of travel and it was the history and cultures around the world and I’ve been involved with an organization. We have about 40 years called the Partners of the Americas and West Virginia sister state is in a small state of Espiritu Santo, which is right north of Rio de Janeiro and we made arrangements. These students were my class for two years. We made a two-year commitment and so I was able, along with another teacher and the two of us, took them down for two full weeks and it was one of the best experiences I think I ever had and I think with students also did that.

Andrea: Wow that’s amazing. I mean, it really is amazing to think of taking students to another country for two whole weeks but you also did a lot of prep work the year before so that was just a deep kind of work, deep experience that I’m sure it’s just had life changing results.

Doug: Yeah, I think so. I mean, any time that I’ve ever travelled internationally with students which has been a number of times, I have found that once they had that kind of educational experience and had interactions with people from a different culture, it really changes who they are to their very core. And I’ve had lots of follow up with some of the students that was in that class in 1998 and 1999 and they would tell me that it still remains one of the highlights of their lives.

Andrea: Oh yeah, I’m sure. Well, I would say that the Summer Honors Program for me even though I never travelled anywhere, I was there four years, and man, it had a significant impact on me. Maybe part of that had to do with just the idea that you could, first of all, be around people who are also interested in going deep into one particular topic. Aaron and I very lovingly call it “nerd camp” and then you go to this place where there’s a lot of other people that are interested in digging in like you, and all of sudden it’s just fun. There was a lot less concern about popularity and that sort of thing. I mean I say fun even though it was a lot work but it felt like fun work because it’s not the same as just kind of memorization things like that.

Doug: Right. You know, one of my personal educational philosophies is what I call, making sure the students have an opportunity to do what I call enhanced hands-on learning. And because all of these was in many cases primary research, for example one year we did an analysis of all the elections trends in Nebraska over a hundred year period. And we took students into different county courthouses and back to the primary _____ records of people in different communities and looked at through the analysis that was obviously not in the classroom. And keep in mind, Andrea, most of the time that this program has been in place at least 30 of 40 years and was without internet, was without computers. And so the methodology that is used in the program has really changed over the last 40 summers.

Andrea: You know that leads me to one of the questions that came up when I asked, we have a Summer Honors Program alumni group and I just let those people know that I was interviewing you and I asked them if they had any questions, and one of the questions that came up was how do you, over the years, structures, restructures know what to keep and what to change? So obviously, the internet had something to do with that. Have the students changed over the years?

Doug: That’s a really good question because one of the things that happened over 40 years is that the students have not changed in the sense of the quality of their ability to work hard, good work ethic, interested in learning, and fascinated by new possibilities. There has been that consistency throughout the entire program. You know, in taking back, Andrea, over the 40 summers, I don’t think there was any dramatic change other than in technology equipment that came along for some of the classes for example in the summer of 1978, there would never had an opportunity for a class in filmmaking taken place because the technology in a portable way wouldn’t allow that.

And so one, students haven’t changed. Their interests are much broader than they were 40 years ago and I think that is the because of the increase of various types of technology and media. I have found that students, first of all they want to be there. It was a competitive process and they’re interested in the subject matter in which they found themselves whether it’s in creative writing or if it’s in science or geology you know whatever happens to be. So you don’t have to worry about motivating the students and so that is a tremendous help.

One of the things that I learned very early on was that their appetite for new knowledge, new range, new strategies, new methodologies for learning just right up over this entire time period. I have found that they’ve great flexibility in the way that you approach teaching class, for example, in this year’s class, after the first year in the program teaching, I learned very, very quickly that I had to be over prepared because the very first year I was there, I thought I had enough materials to teach for two solid weeks and by Wednesday of the first week, I was out of materials.

Andrea: Oh that’s hilarious!

Doug: And so I would rush home every night no matter where I was, I would rush home, prepare research keeping in mind no internet. And so after that, I’m always being over prepared and in many times, they even push the limits under that sort of circumstances because we’re talking about such a bright young group of young men and women. And then the other thing that did change was their awareness when they came into the class of the world around them was much more propelled and deep today than it was in the 80s, simply impulsive than exposed in ways that you know students and myself included who were not exposed to in the early days of the program.

Andrea: It’s really interesting. It’s sounding to me like a lot of time you hear this “kids these days” kind of comment about the younger generation and I’m not hearing that from you at all.

Doug: No, you will never find me saying that. First of all, students know when you care. Students know when you are sincere, students know if you respect them. And if you have those three elements introduced from the very beginning of the class, and I’m talking not just in this particular program but I think it’s still true today in most high schools for all students, and then they will rise to the occasion if they feel those three things are in place. And I never doubted anytime in my teaching in Nebraska that there was ever a student that didn’t want to be there.

Now that’s not to say that once you get to know the students especially about the second week, you can tell if something happened the day before and they were not on focus. And then because the program is so all encompassing with emotional and counseling support, we were able to do some interventions over the years with some students that would have fallen through the cracks had it been a regular academic year.

Andrea: And it’s a special place, there’s no doubt about it and they’re going to miss you I’m sure. So Doug, I’m curious about what you’re doing now and how you got to where you’re at now like what is the story arc of Doug’s career?

Doug: Well, if someone had told me that when I started teaching in 1965 that I would have walked of the hallowed halls of academia from K through doctoral programs or that I would be working in the corporate world as a leadership coach, I _____ crazy. And so I have been blessed, Andrea, with my path being fairly clear through most of my life and I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had opportunities that afforded me some diversion from what my original academic career would have been. I think teaching is a noble profession and everything aside in my life that I’ve done from a professional standpoint, the place where I have gotten the greatest joy and the greatest amount of satisfaction has been in teaching and I’ve had at all levels that you can teach in. And I’ve been blessed with students that were receptive.

But along the way, I was a classroom teacher then I was a school administrator for a number of years, and along the way embedded in that and even when I was in the administration, I was teaching in higher ed as an adjunct professor and then lead me to the central office at a large school system here in West Virginia where I was working with teachers as well as students in making sure that they were prepared for the test of the day. I retired early because I had an opportunity to become a dean of students at the University of Charleston here in West Virginia.

It was an unusual set of circumstances that I was called, I was still a fulltime employee and the president of the university at that time said, “We need you here at your alma mater to help us move forward.” I said “OK let’s talk.” And so I made the decision and it was a very difficult decision because I love my job, what I was doing. I had great opportunities at that particular point and I was a dean at two colleges or universities over a period of a little over 10 years. One at the University of Charleston, which was an immense joy in my life and once again, I got to work directly with students but in a different way of leading and teaching.

Andrea: I’m curious, you said that they called you and said we need you, why you think and why did they say that they needed you? What did you have to bring to that situation whatever it was that they would call you?

Doug: Well, it’s very interesting about my professional career and to some degree in my personal life. I’ve always been the person that had the skills set, God-given skill set to be able to bring people together to have conversations. And so therefore, they felt that they needed someone on campus that was going to help them grow and become a residential university and also to expand the university. It got themselves into a little bit I guess trouble with the community because the university wants to expand into the neighborhood and the neighborhood thought that they were being encroached upon.

And so the president called me and said “Can you help us do this?” And so I did. I came onboard. The community protested did not want anybody to build the change in campus. They wanted to keep it the same, but we also knew that we had to build new residence halls and we’re going to expand student body and become residential.

So over a period of about nine months, I have literally, and this is no exaggeration, sat in the living room, the kitchen, or the patio of every home that bordered the university. It took me six months to do that along with everything else that I had responsibility for. So I started in September to May, at the end of the academic year, I got the approval of the neighbors, the zoning board, and the city council and there were no negative votes.

Andrea: Wow!

Doug: I don’t want to be prideful here but I’ve always been able to get people to talk and to listen and to present both sides. And so that has followed me throughout my life, not only in that city but also when I was the dean of students in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific for a couple of years, and able to do that with some organizations in which I’ve been part of the leadership. So it’s been a very interesting journey because I had that reputation and so I was able to do that and I feel very happy about that.

Andrea: I don’t think that’s prideful at all, I think it’s being able to own who you are and communicate that clearly, and obviously, it’s a gift that you have that you’ve been able to give others. And when they know what that is then they can utilize that gift of yours and I’m really interested in this because this is the Voice of Influence podcast, right?

Doug: Right.

Andrea: This is about voice. It’s about how we communicate and what is unique about our style of communication even that makes us fit for certain things. So the fact that they looked to you for that, it just makes so much sense. You know, you took the Fascinate Assessment which I invite guests to take and it’s just an indication of what your voice is and how to categorize the way that you communicate. You came out Innovation and Alert and I know that Passion applied for you as well because passion is about relationships, so obviously that makes sense.

But then Innovation being willing to take risks and see your way around obstacles and then Alert, you know, crossing every t and dotting the i’s making sure I guess it’s preventing problems with care. And so it makes so much sense that you would be the perfect person to come in and make sure that every single one of those, you know, to sit down everyone of those porches and have these conversations and make sure that there were no ‘no’ votes. I love it. It’s brilliant!

Doug: And one of the things if I may take that as a point, I helped co-author a book several years ago about the concept of deliberation in higher education along with a few other people. And I want to talk with you about one of the things that I’ve learned in that journey working, being innovative and thinking outside the box and yes I am a risk taker. I was not surprised by the results of the Fascinate, so one of the things that I feel very passionate about is the whole concept of deliberation and civic discourse conversations.

You know, it has a variety of names and one of the things that I’ve championed in my life and work especially now in my business, Transformation Specialist, working and coaching the CEO’s, leaders across a broad spectrum in education, in government, and in business in the nonprofit world and there are four things that I think make influence more powerful if you will, Andrea.

Andrea: Oh please that’d be great!

Doug: I called these the 4Ps of Leadership. The first P is called Plants. Basically, plant the idea, the seed and you had to tend to it and nurture it as needed. In other words in the context of learning in the classroom or working with the leader whose organization is in a little bit of trouble, you can’t plant something if you don’t tend to it and you don’t nurture it. And so that’s what many leaders do I think across the whole spectrum of leadership, not only in this culture because I’ve worked in the number of countries overseas and this is true there also, so the first P is Plant. The second P is Process. You’ve got to work to process of the idea giving it time.

I have found that in the corporate world in particular, you have leaders that understand process that they don’t give it time to sort of rise. If you’re making biscuits, we have to let the dough rise before you cut them and put them in the oven. So you’ve got plants and you’ve got process. The third P is what I call, you got to tamper your leadership with Patience as the idea, the seed takes root and develop. If you don’t have patience as a leader your influence either never there or it wanes overtime.

So we’ve got Plants, Process, Patience and then fourth one which for me is the easiest because of the kind of personality and style I have and that is you’ve got to model Personal Relationship for those responsible for developing implementing the new idea in seed. So it goes back to what we were saying at the beginning of the podcast and that is when a student knows the teacher respects them, the teacher likes them, the teachers respects them that personal process is there. These are my 4P’s and so when I’m coaching and working, this is one of the things that I talk with people about.

Andrea: Oh yeah that’s really good stuff. Is that in this book that you helped to co-author?

Doug: Yes.

Andrea: And what is the name of that book?

Doug: The name of the book is called, Deliberation and the Work of Higher Education. We wrote this book with a wonderful research foundation called the Kettering Foundation out of Dayton, Ohio and it has a 2008 date. You can call the Kettering Foundation.

Andrea: Well, I will. If there’s a link to that, I will definitely link that in the show notes so that people can go get that. Yeah, those 4P’s, I mean this idea of having good conversations that could result in change, it’s a hard thing to accomplish but we need people like you out there facilitating these conversations and helping us dialogue so that we can move forward together. So I’m just really glad that you’re out there talking about this sort of thing.

Doug: Well, I appreciate that. It’s been one of the mainstays, you know, I didn’t formalize the 4P’s until we started writing the book. It has become a cornerstone of my consulting work and it also God’s have taught also.

Andrea: Yeah. The deep need that people have to know that you care and that you’re sincere and that you respect them, I mean that just opens up hearts to be able to receive whatever it is that you’re wanting to offer.

Doug: Yes, very much so, very much so.

Andrea: So let’s say, you’re in the middle of talking about your work as a dean of students to a couple of universities and then where did you go from there?

Doug: Well, I retired the second time. I have formally retired twice. I thought, I would do some traveling and just relax with my family. I was beginning to have grandchildren and three months into the process, I knew I was going to serve. I lost my wife to breast cancer during this period and I know myself well enough that I had to have a goal. I had to have something that I did each day and so to that extent, I said I can do this. Then I had a couple of friends and I said to them, “You know, let’s see if anybody wants us.”

And so what we were able to do was we formed this company called Transformation Specialists, LP so about 10 years I live and doing consulting work. The other individuals have all fulltime jobs and do their own thing and I’m sort of like have the mobility to go out. So we work in higher ed. We work for profit business. We work with nonprofit business and we’d never advertise one time, Andrea. It’s all been word of mouth and so at any one time, we can manage the complexity of maybe four to six clients and then at the same time, I went back to the University of Charleston and helped teach in their MBA program.

Andrea: With Transformation Specialists, do you have a stated mission?

Doug: Yeah, it’s a very simple phrase. It says strengths-based strategies for success. And so we take the positive approach to working with an organization. We go in and we do lots of analysis. Usually, we start off with what is called an OHA, (Organizational, Health, Appraisal, or Audit) to find out what they’re successful with and then any challenges that may exist within the organization. And so over the last almost 10 years, we gone in and worked with organizations. We’ve had you know we’re with them for six months but we’d have some clients that we’ve been with for five years.

Andrea: OK, so your organizational health analysis and then you help them move toward organizational health?

Doug: Yes. What we do is go in and we do analysis of their services or products. We go in and look at efficiencies. We look at the landscape of the actual physical layout of the facilities. We’ve worked with some organizations that have multiple facilities and so we go in and we start off with the leadership team of determining of their social styles. We’ve got some instruments that we use to look at what are their strengths. And so we always approach it upfront not from the deficit standpoint but from a strengths standpoint because most organizations you’ll find, you know what’s wrong with you, let’s take it to the doctor and give you a physical from that standpoint and so we do the reverse of that. It’s almost like a preventive care management program if our medical world looks like that.

Andrea: Uh-hmm kind of positive psychology starting with strengths instead of weaknesses.

Doug: Yeah.

Andrea: And so do you use the StrengthsFinder in your…

Doug: Yes. It’s one of the best we use. We also use David Merrill Social Styles. We also use Maslach Burnout Inventory. One of the things that we have found in many, many case is that the individuals’ maybe burnout and sometimes we’ve gone into organizations and of course, we can only make recommendations. If the organization is not willing to listen to us, we make a very quick decision and we exit almost within the first three to five weeks of working with an organization and that’s only happen to us in all these years twice.

Andrea: How can you tell?

Doug: Well, when they don’t take your suggestions and your observations and there’s always a “but you don’t understand” or “but” this calls that to take place. And so it all starts with the CEO and the management team of the organization. So what we do is that we absolutely make sure that everybody in leadership capacity and down one or two tiers in management know what their strengths are, know what their social styles is.

And so what happens is we have found that if you have an organization, let’s be hypothetical here, let’s say an organization has six managers and four people that are the CEOs, COOs and CFOs and if all of them are drivers, guess what happens? They’ll kill each other and there are arguments. They don’t get along. They can’t figure out what it is if they’re all analytical. They’re always seeking to have more data, more information before any decisions are made.

So once we identify and everybody knows everybody else’s style and their strengths, you don’t have that. In fact, we got into an organization where we post them at the entrance, and their office or their cubicle. And so you would find out very quickly that I am for example and I’m using David Merrill’s work, I am an expressive which you probably would understand that. It is you know an expressive, someone who’s intuitive, thinks outside the box, and rebels a little bit and how you consider that and how you consider this.

And if you know, you got all four quadrants and all the potential strengths out of StrengthsFinders in your organization, you can then have a balance of leadership team creating and awareness of why you don’t necessarily get along with someone would be a driver may not get along with an analytical because the driver wants to process and get things done rather quickly. Analytical doesn’t want to do that. They always want more information or data and so we massage that and work with that. As I said, we have worked with and had great opportunities even in the corporate world and of course that was an interesting experience, transitional experience for us and that sometimes the table is not necessarily set the same way as it is in education in particular. Of course you know my foundation or work is from there.

And so what happens overtime is that we find out what your strengths are and how to balance that and we’ve got several organizations to make it part of their HR process. If for example you’re looking for and you’ve got five divisions in your organization and they’re all going really well, your division head retires or moves on to another position and you want to maintain balance in the style, in strengths of that person, you then look at that as a deciding factor if everything else is equal.

Andrea: So how do we fit together and finding the right fit.

Doug: How we fit together and then because going back to the whole concept of influence is that this absolutely helps influence the direction of the organization and we have found that we can make you healthy and we have found out overtime, in fact one of my co-boards in this a gentleman by the name of Anthony J. Marchese, PhD. and he has just written a book that I used in the program in SHP this summer and it’s called Design.

It is a book that plays upon our experiences and help how it really works because the full title of the book is called Design: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading with Purpose. And so we have found that we each have a unique design and so we use that to create awareness, and I was able to do that this summer I think fairly successfully with students that I had in my class in Nebraska.

Andrea: So that awareness that were uniquely designed and even I assume finding out what that is, what that design is, what is that awareness do for people in your opinion or in your experience?

Doug: Well, I mean it’s really truly and Aha moment because of course the book was written not with high school students in mind to tell you the truth. It was written for the college level and people in career work of whatever level of the field that happen to be. And so what I wanted to see if it was applicable to high school students. And guess what, Andrea that it sure was and it was one of the great a-ha moments of my 40+ years in Nebraska. It was just absolutely wonderful and I’m still hearing from the students saying that “This has changed my life.” And I don’t think that there’s anything more rewarding for a teacher than to have a student say that to you.

Andrea: Why do you think they said that?

Doug: Well you know because we go back to how much time we were able to spend together?

Andrea: Yeah.

Doug: So we had the luxury of time in dissecting this book and doing exercises in different strategies and processes in the two weeks that allowed them to look at things. For example, one of the things that we talked about is the whole concept of wonder. The literature is very specific about wonder. We lose it generally by the ages of 10 to 11. And so when I presented the very first series of exercises which dealt with wonder, they all looked at me and said “What do you mean wonder?” I mean, they know what it meant and I said what would those things that absolutely excited you when you were 4 years old or 7 or 9 years old? And they had to do some thinking about it.

But eventually, remember the 4P’s, you know, it’s about process and patience and so what happened was there was almost like an acrobatic kind of exercise, catharsis for the students in which they said, “I did lose it. I didn’t do this. I don’t do that any longer.” So that was one thing that we did and then the other one was that the book talks about birthright gifts. We’re all born with birthright gifts but we have a tendency in our culture to play them down and when we get so old, at certain age and the book details some examples of that.

And I found out that with the 13 students that I had this summer, they fell into the same category. They had forgotten about some of their birthright gifts. Now I want you to listen to this. I had one wonderful young woman in the class and so in the introductory exercises we do the first morning at the first week, she said “Well, I speak four languages.” And I looked at her so did everybody else and she has self-taught herself; Ukrainian, German, Japanese, and she’s taking Spanish academically.

Andrea: Wow, besides speaking English?

Doug: Yeah, besides speaking English. I was stupefied. It was one of the few moments in working these students that it sort of made me stop and pause that “Oh wow, I couldn’t do that.” And so she discovered that she has the birthright gift of linguistics but no one had ever actually talked to her about that and so we did some research on that for her.

Andrea: That’s awesome! That’s a good stuff. Yeah, you know, I mean I just resonate with so much of what you’re talking about and I got a chance to look at the book last night and get a really good feel for it and I loved it. I love Design that book and the things that you’re talking about. I think that that something that really drives me as well is that the desire to see people to instead of trying to figure out where they fit in, figure out how they fit together.

Doug: Right.

Andrea: I think even for myself when I was younger for sure, there’s this tension inside of younger people I think especially between trying to figure out if it’s okay to be who they are and yet wanting everybody to be like them. And so it’s hard for them to know to be able to respect the fact that somebody else is different and that’s okay and there’s a good way that we can fit together and you know that whole concept is so important in our formation of our purpose and our identity and understanding how that _____ in our lives and how we can turn that into something that comes out as a voice and then it make a difference, a voice of influence. So man, I just love all of this. I love what you’re doing. And is there anything else that you had thought about ahead of time that you want to mention today.

Doug: Well, I just think that in closing from standpoint, I believe all of us have a capacity to continue to grow and to learn. You know, culture has a way of sometimes limiting what we can do because they say, “By this age you should have done that. You stop studying, go get a job have a family and live happily ever after.” And I think that we live, Andrea, an era in which learning now and opportunities for learning is at its richest point in the history of mankind. And I believe that if we can figure out ways of capturing that and redesigning our public schools to include some of the kinds of things that we have talked about today we can really make some changes; I believe that this is going to make a huge difference.

I will tell you what I’m getting ready to do this fall, I’m working with the school system in which they listened to me, and we’ve been working on this process for several years and they finally agreed for us to go into a school system with two high schools and three middle schools to begin to introduce the concept of understanding self in design as part of the regular curriculum. And so we’ve committed ourselves to a five years research study to be able to do this in the school system and so I will start training the core group of 24 teachers in these three high schools and three middle schools.

And so we’re identifying six teachers at each of those schools to be trained in knowing about strengths, about social styles, a little basic kinds of skill set to identify issues that may impact learning in the classroom. And we’re going to start off with a control group about 90 students and follow them and see if we’ll not only can improve their ability to learn but also enhancing decrease the dropout rate because the school system is in an area of West Virginia in which they opened it unfortunately epidemic and crisis is hitting hard and it’s in the cow fields. And we believe that we can make a change in those kinds of cultural settings that we can do it any place in the country.

Andrea: That’s so exciting! Those students are just so blessed that they’re going to get to be part of that.

Doug: I hope so.

Andrea: Yeah. Before you go, I do have one more question for you. This one really comes from one of your fellow instructors at the Summer Honors Program.

Doug: Okay.

Andrea: And I love this question and this is a great way to end I think. Doug, you have the most wonderful character, kind, out-of-you-way polite, humorous, generous, appreciative, and toughest nails when it comes to discipline and work, how much of your well recognized leadership skills would you attribute to character and how much to formal education?

Doug: Wow! I mean that is an unbelievably structured question and I appreciate the thoughts behind that. I believe that if you have a centered family, your character evolves in the first five to eight years of your life and if you have firm grounding principled parents and the family as a whole is nurturing and respectful of you that is somewhat like one of the cornerstones or part of the foundation of your potential as a human being.

One of the things that I believe, and I had to work at this because early on in my life, I was undisciplined in the sense that I wanted to be a little bit of everything for everybody. And I had to step back and figure out where do your strengths lie and this was long before StrengthsFinder or even some of the positive psychology research in the last 25 years and I said to myself “I’ve got to figure this out.” And so I was able to do that because I had strong support initially from my immediate growing up family and then I had it with my wife, my beautiful, wonderful Barbara.

And so, our marriage was a partnership and therefore we approach raising our sons in a partnership. And so we continued to do that but we had very, very high expectations of our boys and I’m proud to say that they’ve done very, very well and I’m just unbelievably blessed to have that. So I think you know, basically as combination of continued learning, I still was taking, Andrea, formal classes until three years ago and I’m 73. I started grade school when I was 5 and so I basically was in some kind of a formal or informal learning mode for 65 years of my life up until that point.

But you got to have people that believe in you also and if you got someone that believes in you and I think this goes by to the very first part of our conversation and that is the students know if you care for them and if your heart is there to help them do whatever they need to do and I think respect is part of it. But boy, they got to know that you have strong expectations.

Andrea: That’s a great way to end this conversation. Doug, thank you so much! Thank you for your voice of influence with students and on the world today and in organizations and for being here today on the podcast.

Doug: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure!

Andrea: Well, listeners, Influencers listening, you just got a lot of wisdom dropped on you and I’ll be definitely putting all the links to the things that Doug mentioned, the books that he mentioned and his own information in the show notes. I encourage you to go care, be sincere and respectful and make your voice matter more.



How to Keep it Real in Your Personal Brand

Voice Studio 19

In this Voice Studio episode, we go back and discuss why Andrea interviewed Naomi Loomis about branding cattle and how that relates to Personal Branding. It’s not what you think!

Mentioned in this episode:

What You See is What You Get: Ranching, Branding and Blogging

Episode 19 with Naomi Loomis of the Circle L Ranch

On this episode I speak with a rancher from the Sandhills of Nebraska about her experience with cattle branding and her passion to bridge the gap between the consumer and producers of food.

In her own words,
“Howdy I’m Naomi Loomis, from the Circle L Ranch.

I am an adopted farm girl that grew up in Wyoming. Right out of high school, I married a cowboy from the Sandhills of Nebraska. My husband Cody, I and our 4 children are making our life on our own family ranch raising beef cattle, Quarter Horses and a few ranch dogs.

My days are spent wrangling ranch children, ranch animals, driving kids to school, managing a feedstore, while maintaining my duties as a ranch wife, ranch mom, ranch hand, ranch rodeo producer and whatever else will fit in the cracks.”

Mentioned in this episode:

You can listen to the podcast here (press the red triangle “play” button) or check it out on iTunes (click here)!



(approximate transcript)

“It’s really important to me that we have a respectful dialogue. We’re talking about people and so whoever you’re talking about, remember that there is a person on the other side.”

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have Naomi Loomis on the line from the Circle L Ranch in Nebraska.

Andrea: Naomi, it is really good to have you here today!

Naomi: Yes, I am so excited! This is my first podcast, so listeners be a little bit heads up that maybe I’m not the best podcaster but I’m super excited that I’d get to be in a podcast. It’s something that I have been intrigued by. And Andrea you doing it, hats off to you, because I think it’s awesome and I think it’s another way that people are getting the word out and communicating with people, which communication is always a good thing. So yeah, I’m super excited. Excuse me if I’m a little bit nervous but I’m sure we’ll get through it.

Andrea: No worries, not at all. Well, Naomi, I’m excited to have you because a couple of weeks ago, I posted something on Facebook. I just said, if you have some idea about branding or you have some stories about branding cattle, ranchers, I’m really curious about this process and I kind of knew you already. So I kind of tagged you when they were thinking maybe you’re a good person to talk to and we ended up getting on the phone and talking about it.

And it was really eye-opening for me because you told me some things that I didn’t really realize then through that process, I was just like “Oh I’d really like to have Naomi just come on the podcast to explain this to listeners because I do think that there’s a lot of really interesting value in trying to understand what branding is for cattle versus what it is for human beings and that sort of thing.” And then also just the fact that you are a blogger, you have your own voice of influence in the world, so I am looking forward to hearing how that all started for you.

Naomi: OK!

Andrea: So Naomi, why don’t you just tell us first of all just what you do, a little bit about yourself and your family?

Naomi: Yeah, so have you taken that personality test that tells you know what color you are like yellow, blue, red, green right?

Andrea: Yeah.

Naomi: So I’m a yellow. So that means I don’t tell people “no,” right? So with that being said, I do a lot of things because I can’t say no, so obviously my husband and I have a ranch and we’re raising our four kids on this ranch. It’s a family ranch. It’s in the sandhills of Nebraska. We run mama cows. We run a little herd of quarter horses. We have our own studs so we breed some mares. It’s mostly for our own good but we love baby _____ you know training them whatever. A few dogs, some chickens, some goats, some frogs, some lizards anything in between, right?

So that’s a little bit about ranch life. So also, I think it’s good to know for the listeners that it’s about 50 miles one way into town for me and we have no internet at the house. So people are always like “Well, how do you blog without the internet at the house?” Yeah that’s challenging but I get it done. So my second home is a feed store in Bridgeport, Nebraska where I’ve raised the kids here. I got hired just out of college and the boss is very generous and let me bring the kids to work and so they’ve all grown up with the feed store. So it’s also convenient that the kids go to school in this town, so yeah. So I’m a feed store manager.

Andrea: And what is a feed store? I mean, let’s just assume that the listeners know nothing about the rancher.

Naomi: Sure! So I feed store is where farmers and ranchers come to buy mineral, salt, or protein. I sell dog food, cat food, and stuff for their animals so that’s what a feed store is. Our feed store is a little bit unique because I also sell tack for horses like saddles, bridles, and stuffs of that nature. I sell a little bit of women and men’s clothing. I sell boots, so yeah we’re kind of all around kind of a western kind of a store.

Andrea: And how big is Bridgeport?

Naomi: Oh my kids’ classes are like 16 to 17 kids. There are lots of restaurants and a couple of dollar stores and a couple of bars, I mean, that’s important, right? So that’s the feed store and then whenever I have a free moment, I also write for the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association and I’m also their association rep. So that keeps me on the rodeo trail going up and down the road attending those ranch rodeos and doing stuff like that.

Andrea: What do you write for them? What kinds of things are you writing?

Naomi: Yeah, I write for the Rodeo News, and it’s like all members or events spotlight or something like that. Mostly, it’s about the members like how they got involved in rodeo and 99.9 of them have been on the rodeo trails since they were in _____ and stuff like that so it’s interesting. I really like that part because it gives me out and about. I’ve gone a lot of places with that association and I like the rodeo. I like the history of rodeo, so it’s something that I’m passionate about. I also serve on the Fair Board. I’m the current president and have been for about 14 years of the Morrill County Fair Board.

Andrea: 14 years!

Naomi: It’s forever.

Andrea: That is forever.

Naomi: I also serve on our local cattlemen association board or FFA board. I know, I’m the president of our Morrill County Fair Foundation, so wherever there’s a craft, I’m a yellow. If you know anything about that personality thing, I’m totally a yellow.

Andrea: And you’re filling in the gaps.

Naomi: Oh yeah!

Andrea: Not just filling in the gaps though, it sounds like you’re heading up a lot of events or organizations that mean a lot to you.

Naomi: Right, absolutely. Somebody always asks me “Naomi, you’re so involved in so much stuff, how do you do it all?” When you’re so passionate about something then it makes life a lot easier and then you’re willing to go a lot further than I think if you’re not passionate about it. So ranch rodeo is something I feel like it’s a tradition. It’s been a tradition since before black and white photographs, right?

It’s a tradition with ranching families that in the old days they used to get together as like a neighborhood kind of like of branding, we haven’t talked about that, but I mean it’s a neighborhood gathering. They would get to get together. They would get their wild horses out and ride _____ then it decided they were going to make a competition about who could brand the calf the fastest or who could tie one down the fastest and so there you go into traditions.

It’s been going on generations to generations and it’s something that I want to keep going because I want my kids if they desire to have the opportunity, I want to make sure they have the opportunity. So those things like that I’m so involved in. It’s not just “Oh I have some extra time and I need to go volunteer,” right? It’s because I really do want to make a difference. I really do want to make sure that my kids have the opportunities that I did so it’s just one way to do it, I think.

Andrea: I don’t know, you’re really perpetuating your culture, your tribe if you will and you’re just making sure that the culture of your tribe really continues and sustains.

Naomi: Yeah, because really in all honesty, we can stand back and we can look at other people doing stuff and making a difference, but I really feel like if we’re able or if God gives us the chance, we need to make a difference. I guess that’s where I’m at. I hope to be doing it until I die. I hope God gives me enough energy but as I get older, I’m wondering but anyway, I’m still _____ so…

Andrea: I suppose you can always back off a little bit, but I don’t know, Aaron’s grandma is somebody who has always been like that I think and I think she’s still going strong. I just can’t believe how involved she’s still is. So Naomi when did you start blogging?

Naomi: I think I started a blog in 2009 and I didn’t really start making like saying “OK, this is something I really wanna do until about 2011.” And so then I really was like alright, I have made a couple of posts, and people that I put it out there were like “Man, we wanna hear more from you.” You know, our technology world whether as parents of teenage kids wants to believe it or not, right? It’s going faster than what you and me can keep up with so then getting away from the farm and the ranches and like where does your feed come from? These kids, nowadays, they just don’t know and is it the parents fault? Is it my fault?

You know, being a rancher, I don’t know whose fault it is but I think that there’s a lack of communication definitely between a consumer and somebody like me that does put food on your plate. And blogging was one way that I felt like “OK, I could make a difference at that time.” And so I really did kick it off with “Here’s our story, read it if you want to. If you don’t that’s OK. If it makes a difference in your life, I’m very happy about that and if it reaches one person that’s OK too.” And still I’m not trying to push anything down anybody’s throat. If there’s something that I can help somebody, absolutely that’s where I’m at.

Andrea: And what is your blog about then? So it’s about communication gap between producer and consumer?

Naomi: Yeah, so my blog has a lot. So I do a little bit of cooking recipes that I do really like to cook that’s like something that a lot of people don’t really know about me but I do like to cook. So I do add some recipes. I’m not the Pioneer Woman so I do not have a very good lighting in my kitchen or facility, so what you get is pretty well black and white _____ but that’s OK because it’s just food at the end of the day, right?

But I talk a lot about faith. I believe that we’re all here for a reason and we all can help each other out and so then I started doing something call A Sunday Thought, which is just a thought that I’ve had during the week and had to do with God and what we can do. I know I’m not the only one that struggles some weeks or I know that I’m not the only one that maybe didn’t get down on their knees today and prayed.

So I wanted to make sure that there’s other people that knew “OK, it’s alright like you’re not the only one.” So the Sunday Thought has been really good for me and has brought a lot of readers to the table. I’ll be quite honest with you, the last couple of weeks I have not had a Sunday Thought just because I have been so busy. But it’s not that I haven’t had them, it’s just that I just _____ down on paper.

And then the third part on my blog is about Our Family, about the kids. I do a little bit about marriage. You know, my husband and I, we got married when we’re 19 you know the kids thought that maybe I was pregnant or you’re too young or are you sure you want to do that? I mean, I heard it right but 19 years later, we’re still married and I still feel like “If you wanna get married at 19 and you know what you’re doing _____, ” and so I have a blog about that, I blog actually a lot about that.

I blog being adopted because I’m adopted and I feel like that that is tender to me or it’s dear to me and I really do appreciate adoptive parents and I try to get a word out with that. And of course about beef and the safety of it and just eat more beef. So my blog is probably not a traditional blog I would say, it’s kind of I want to be more of a friend. I want you all to know that I’m probably struggling, same struggles as everybody else. And if you walk into the feed store or you walk up on my ranch that the person that you read on the other side of the computer, you would know or it’s not fake. I don’t wear makeup. So that is my goal with that blog.

Andrea: It sounds like you’re wanting to connect with your audience, you’re wanting to offer yourself and your story and see how that might make a difference.

Naomi: Right, because at the end of the day, my business obviously is selling beef products, right? So I’m selling my calves that I know that they are going to be feeding families. And I think that that’s an important thing but I think we lose because there’s so many generations away from a farm or ranch that we’re losing like the real meaning of it. We’re real people too, right? You see so much crap on social media, right?

We’re back on social media but you see so much stuff about bad things that farms and ranches do and I promise you, we don’t do that. I don’t have enough energy to do that number one. I have way too big a heart to do it, number two. So it’s just a way of me trying to connect to some of those consumers that “Oh yeah, you know, I saw this blog and she told me a story about branding,” or “She talked about driving 50 miles one way to town and the struggles of that and oh well maybe life isn’t so bad and so whatever.” So I guess that’s my point with that.

Andrea: So Naomi, when I first talked to you a couple of weeks ago, I came too with a question about just what is that mean to brand cattle. I was actually just looking for stories because I had an idea of what it was in my head already but you took me to the process which is a little more helpful. And so just for the Influencer listening, the reason why I’m really interested in this is that first of all I live in the sandhills of Nebraska. I kind of on the edge of the sandhills of Nebraska but it’s part of my culture even I’m not completely in it.

I’m actually in a town and I don’t engage like I don’t go up to a ranch and I don’t know much about it. But my parents grew up on farms and we kind of always go to the family farm the day before Easter and so there’s some of that in my blog, but I don’t necessarily understand that all. I’m actually a pretty sensitive gal, so I don’t like squeezing bugs let alone seeing a rodeo. It’s just hard for me to be able to understand it.

So I need to engage with it in order to be able to really understand it and that’s the reason why I wanted to talk to Naomi about it and then also because branding. This idea of putting a brand on a product is basically the same thing as what we’re trying to do as somebody who has a personal brand. What is it looks like for me to have a brand and where did this idea of branding come from? So Naomi, would you tell us a little bit about what is the process of branding cattle?

Naomi: Yeah, so you’re right and you’re probably one of my favorite people or you are. I’m going to say you are, how’s that? Because you’re the person that I’m trying to reach because I want you to ask questions to me, right? If you don’t know then I want you to come say “Hey, I know you live on a ranch and I wanna know what happens from the time that a calf is born until the time that you ship them on a truck to a feedlot, like I want to know what do you do.”

And so I really do appreciate that you’re allowing me to answer these questions because it’s something that gives me goose bumps. In fact, I have goose bumps right now just talking about it because I’m so passionate about it and I’m so thankful that you asked questions because I don’t want anybody to assume what goes on, right?

Andrea: Right.

Naomi: So with that being said, branding is a special time on a ranch, it’s just really is. And I’ll tell you why because all ranches are different but for the Circle L, we start calving in mid March. So from mid March I’m going to say 45-60 days, we are and between school and work, right? Mostly my husband does it all and we do come in and fill the cracks at night but we’re making sure that every calf that is born from our mama calves is up and walking and has the best start that they can get.

And so it’s long hours especially as you know it’s like winter storms, it’s making sure that we plan and listen to the Weather and the Weather says “Oh we’re gonna have a storm,” moving those mama cows to somewhere. And I don’t know if your listeners know that the sandhills of Nebraska are so awesome because there’s just so many, we don’t call them mountains, we call them hills, but anyway they cut the wind and makes shelters for these cows.

And so we do a lot of stuff getting the cows prepared to have their babies. We don’t put them on barns but we make sure they have shelter enough that if they’re going to have a calf that when she has it, the calf can get up and get going. So it’s a long hours, it’s tedious, and it’s stressful. Mother’s Day for the last three years, we’ve had a huge winter storm come through and we have been up for like 48 hours, you know getting calves up and dry them all and making sure that they’re alright.

So with that being said, when it comes to branding season which is in the spring we are ready, I’m not going to say to party, but we are ready to get off the ranch and to talk to other human beings. The brand itself, for example ours is a Circle L Ranch, so it’s just a circle with an L in it. It’s something that when my husband and I got married, we decide that we were going to get a brand ourselves. And so it’s a process you have to make up your brand, send it to the state brand office and they will approve it or say “Nope, there’s too many brands like that.” So it’s actually a really unique brand. It’s really unique that your neighbors don’t have.

Andrea: Right, so it’s important to be really distinctive and different because you don’t want your cattle getting mixed up with somebody else’s and all that.

Naomi: Yeah and so the Circle L Ranch came when Cody and I got married. But Cody’s dad also had brands that he had got when he was married and then also with his grandparents. So brands are like passed on from generation to generation. I grew up in Wyoming and my mom and dad had a brand and we call it ______, and I still own that brand and it’s something that I don’t brand my cattle with but I’ll never ever let it die. I’ll never let somebody else have it because it’s a tradition. It’s something that it’s important to me. It has a lot of significant value to me.

And so just like brand like we want to brand on a blog or what brand on a product, it’s something that it’s so important. It’s almost always has a significant value to it. The Circle L Ranch brand is significant to us that I want to be able to pass on to my kids as well. And so my kids also have gotten brands passed on to them from the grandpas. So it’s not like we just go find iron with something on it and put on our calves. When you see a brand of yours or your kids or maybe great great grandpas, I mean it makes your heart beat “Oh yeah.”

Any branded thing that comes out, you know, when you see it you’re like “Oh yeah that is Dr. Pepper or M&M’s,” right? So it’s the same thing with cattle and so it’s a tradition and something it’s really important. And I think that we can put that together with our personal lives like our branding of our blogs or branding of our pages. Yeah, you’ll probably going to see Circle L watermark on almost all my photos because I’m proud of that photo. I’m proud of that picture. I’m proud of what in that picture and I want everybody to know that’s Circle L, and so no different than a calf brand.

I know you’re talking about branding, your product branding. Be proud of it, be proud of that branding that you have and be proud of the brand that you do. Don’t let anybody knock you down for something like that, just be proud of it. I always tell people whether they have a page on any social media. If you’re on social media and you’re showing photos, go get a watermark app and put a brand or something on your picture. Be proud of it like you’re living it and you’re posting it, be proud of it. I’ve talked to quite a few people, I’m like “You know, you should watermark that. You should be proud of that picture.” And so same thing, does that make sense?

Andrea: Yeah, yeah.

Naomi: So your tags, you know like earrings in a human being, they get lost or they fall off, you lose them, and you can’t find them. And so your tag on a calf or on a mama cow is the same thing. They rub them off, they fall off, or you lose them and so branding is another way on that mama cow that says “Hey, that’s a Circle L cow,” and she needs to go back to where she needs to go. So it makes life a lot easier when they have a Circle L on their hip or the neighbor’s brand so you know where they go.

Right now, it’s really up in the sandhills, the neighbors and us, we turned out bulls and things just happen. They get switched around, they come over. They come visiting, bulls comes visiting us. Our bulls go visiting other people; I mean it’s just how like it is. Even the bulls, bulls are like teenage kids, they don’t stay where you tell them to stay. They go wherever they want to go wherever the ladies are and so it’s really easy if you have a brand on your bulls like “Oh yeah that’s a Circle L bull and needs to go to back to the Circle L Ranch.” So it’s really important for us ranchers is that we have some form of identification on those calves or cows or bulls.

Andrea: OK so what is the actual process like the day of the branding, people come. It sounds like the neighbor invites you, invites other people as well. How many people are gathered for branding?

Naomi: It usually depends on the year and depends on what’s going on. I’ll just say like with our branding, I cook about 35 to 50 people so that’s about what’s in it. I know there’s some branding that might have a little more than that but a good crew you can knock, brand, and get it done before noon really fast. So that’s about it, I would say it averages about 40 to 50 people.

Andrea: But that’s quite a neighborhood party.

Naomi: Yes, absolutely! It’s usually is the best. Yeah, I encourage your readers to go look at the blog and look at the pictures because it seriously is one of the best. I mean, the kids are playing, the kids get to know their neighbor kids and they get to see and catch up on mom stories. You know, I’ve had such good conversations with the neighbors and felt like “Oh yeah, I can be human again.” You know, they’re going to same struggles with their teenage kids as I am with mine. I don’t know, it’s like no other.

And if anybody, I’m going throw it out to your listeners seriously, if anybody is like “I really want come to your branding and I want to know what it’s all about,” let me know because it’s my favorite time of the year. It’s something that’s so important. It’s important for all of us, consumers too maybe on the ranch like it’s super important.

Andrea: So what happens then, you cooked your food, people come over to your house and what goes on from there?

Naomi: So typical branding, they will start at anywhere between 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Everybody comes, saddles their horses and we gather all the cows and the calves and we put them on the _____. Everybody is assigned a duty and some of these duties, remember we’re talking about like the code of ethics for branding, so there’s a code of ethics and whoever is branding that you are at, he is the boss, so the owner of the cattle.

So I’m going to talk about _____ so my husband’s name is Cody, and so when it’s branding day of our day, he is the boss. I would wait for him to tell me what to do and so do all the people around. He doesn’t tell me what to do because I’m the cook. But if I wasn’t his wife then I would wait for his direction to say “OK, Naomi, I need you to vaccinate the calves and here’s the syringe.”

And so everybody has a job. Everybody is given a job and it goes really smooth. It’s just a line of communication. The most important job is the brander and he’s the one that puts the brand on the calf and if you are asked to brand, you are pretty high _____. It’s always been that way. It’s a tradition and so that’s how that is. So you need a brander, you need to vaccinate and then you need wrestlers, because we got to wrestle the calves down and so that’s another. We need ropers that rope the calves so everybody has a job.

And then you get asked to trade off so you might rope for a while and then you might be asked to trade with somebody else to rope and you would wrestle or vaccinate or something like that. So after branding is done, when all the calves are branded and turned out then it’s time to eat. I don’t cook in the house. I cook out on the fire, so we always have steaks, and all the wives would send either salads or desserts. So it’s kind of like a bagel picnic and you sit around and chat. And you know I’ve known that we have left brandings till 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, or 10:00 o’clock at night just _____, just talking and letting the kids play. It’s a long day but it’s super fun.

Andrea: Yeah. Now, you also mentioned to me, we were talking about the actual branding process where the heat of the iron is really important, can you explain why it’s such a big deal that you get a brand right and the person that’s branding is the one that does it right and that sort of thing?

Naomi: So what we talked about too, you know, there’s so much controversial about branding or we’re hurting the animal or it’s crying. I’ve heard “Oh my goodness, the calves cry when you brand them.” Working with cattle, they cry when they’re uncomfortable so when you’re holding the calf down, it’s crying. You haven’t even touch it and it’s crying. So you know it’s kind of like changing a 1 ½ year old diaper that’s like rolling over and not sitting still and poop is going one way and you’re trying to clean their diaper and they’re screaming that’s seriously about like holding a calf.

So it’s uncomfortable to the kids. It’s uncomfortable to the calves because they’re like “Hey, we’ve never been touched and we don’t like it.” So that’s how I kind of tell people about calves. It’s kind of like seriously screaming to you. They don’t want to do with what you want them to do because they don’t want to sit still, right? I mean, why should they sit still when they could move. So same thing with calves and that’s why they cry. The branding iron is really hot and that’s why I said it’s the most important job because the person that puts the brand on my calf, I want to make sure that it is fast that’s it’s done right and it doesn’t hurt the calf.

And so the branding iron, the heated branding iron is really important because the hotter it is, the less time it takes to just put the brand on the hide and get off. If it’s not warm enough, it takes a long time; you have to sit it on the calf side. If you put it on too long then you burn the hide that we don’t want and so it is important. It’s like an art. It takes somebody that has done it a lot to do it but it’s not what people think it is for sure.

Andrea: And you said that the skin of the calf, you wait until the calf has a little bit thicker skin or thicker hide, can you explain that too?

Naomi: Sure. We wait for those calves that are older. They’re growing their skin and their growing their bodies, they’re growing everything. So it’s not a young calf that we’re talking about. We’re not talking about like we called calf; we’re talking about month’s old calves. Their skin is thick.

Andrea: You also mentioned that underneath of the hide is where it’s particularly sensitive and that’s why it’s so important that the branding iron is being really hot so you can get on and get off and it doesn’t actually sink in to that inner layer skin that might actually hurt the calf.

Naomi: Right. I don’t want to talk about that our skin is the same as calves because it’s not, but we have layers and so the calves. When you say like first degree burns, second degree burns, what they’re talking about is the layers of the skin that the burn has burned through and so it’s no different in a calf. So when we brand, you don’t want to go through the second layer of their skin and so that’s why we make sure that the branding iron is hot. We make sure that it’s hot and you do it fast so you don’t hit that layers skin. It’s uncomfortable to the calf but it’s more uncomfortable for the calves lying on their side with you holding them than it is with the brand.

Andrea: I think it’s really interesting and helps me like I mentioned before being somebody that’s kind of sensitive and empathetic, when I see that now, my brain can kind of kick in. My outer cortex can kind of kick and explain to that part of my brain that it’s not hurting the calf that this is what’s going on, like I can kind of understand it better and I don’t have to feel that tension like I would otherwise. So I really appreciate just being equipped with that knowledge.

Naomi: Yeah, because if you think about people, like I talked to a lady the other day and I don’t have my ears pierced so I do not know what it feels like at all, but I talked to a lady that had just done like their 3-month-old baby with ear piercing and I was like “Did she cry?” And she was like “Well, yeah, a little bit but not bad.” And that’s how I feel like that we have to think about our animals a little bit not that they’re a 3-month-old kid but I mean there’s not really difference when you’re doing with your kids.

I get to make a decision about what I do with my calves just like when you make decisions with your kids. And yeah she said “She was more upset that she had to sit down in a chair, you know like more subdued than she was that she got her ears pierced.” This is same thing with the baby calves, like they’re more upset that you’re holding on through them than you are that there’s something else going on like a brand on their rear. If you think about like “Oh yeah, I bet that I ______ my kid before and they had a tantrum,” same thing with the calf.

Andrea: Sure and then the brand itself you said something that’s really important to the ranch and it means something. Tell me what it means to you to know that your calf that has your brand on it and really that’s your product is being sent off and what is that means to you like what do you want it to say about you?

Naomi: Right. So we talked about branding as one of my favorite times of the year but the second part of ranching that’s my favorite time of the year is when I see the trucks roll up and I get to put our calves on the truck and everybody is like “Oh really Naomi, your calves are leaving you.” And I get it, they’re like teenagers that are going on and they’re so much bigger. There’s a bigger mission beyond the Circle L Ranch for my calves and so when the truck pulls up and I put them on the truck, I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to raise a family. You know, they have a marriage that we all support something that is going to help the next person in line.

I know that when that calf hits to the next step of his life which is in the feedlot that I’ve done a job well done like all those long hours and all the sleepless nights. It’s a job well done to us. I know that I’m going to feed somebody. It’s a feeling that I can’t really explain because it’s giving me goose bumps but it really is something that’s like “Wow, we’ve lived through it and we’re ready to do it again.” So that happens in a fall so when those calves go to the feedlot, they’re about 500 pounds to 600 pounds. So the brand on them, you know, it’s a proud thing it’s like “Hey, those cattle came from the Circle L, and yeah here we go, they’re on to feed the world.”

Yeah, it’s so intense; it makes me feels so good. It’s a reward that I don’t know how to even explain it, maybe if you found a $100 bill and you were on your last penny and you’re like “Oh yeah, I found a $100 bill and God just knew and placed it there.” You know, when you get goose bumps like that that might be the feeling. I don’t know, it’s really hard. When you get butterflies in your stomach, it’s amazing. It really is. It’s something that you know your hard work really does pay off and you know “OK, well I really mean this for the right reasons.”

Andrea: It really sounds like it’s an experience of knowing that you’re connected to a bigger mission, to a bigger picture, or to a bigger story that you’re not only connected to it, but you’re providing something and that the work that you have done, the hard work that you’ve done matters.

Naomi: Yes, absolutely because you know, we’re in Corporate America, it’s really hard to not find a job that isn’t owned by a bigger company nowadays and that’s just how it is, right? And so sometimes, I think that people get lost in Corporate America like you know, I go to work every day and I drive the same route every day and I get home the same time every day and it’s just repetitive. And I wish those type of people really saw like there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you just look far.

So just like calving and branding and you know kicking them out to summer pastures and then bringing them in and sending them on the truck like that’s my reward for like “OK, you did a job well done,” and I’m very proud of that. I’m pretty sure my husband would say the exact same thing like “OK, I can see all my calves on the truck, there’s not one that’s sick, there’s not one that’s lame and they are on to bigger things.” So it’s a good thing. It’s a really good thing.

Andrea: Well, Naomi, this has really been interesting. It’s been fun to hear your passion and just to know that you’re contributing your voice to this conversation about where food come from and connecting us back to that, the roots of that and I think it’s an important conversation to have and like you said it’s important to ask the questions that make us uncomfortable and ask them of people who are actually in that position or much better for me to ask you who’s actually living on the ranch than go to some research paper and try to find the answers but to actually go and talk to a person is a big deal. Thank you for sharing your voice. And Naomi, where can people find your blog and where you’re at on social media?

Naomi: Oh man, my blog. I’m redoing my blog a little bit and so I just switched it over so I’m open for suggestions if there’s something on it. It’s probably because I’m not smart enough quite yet to figure out how to change the back of it.

Andrea: And you don’t have an internet at home so you’re just doing this when you’re in town.

Naomi: Yeah, I’ve been in town almost every night 10:00 or 11 o’clock at night. I have an hour to drive home working on the blog, but I want everybody to go visit and like “Hey, Naomi, nice blog, but maybe you should work on it a little bit harder.” But anyway, it’s so it’s new and I honestly just changed that like a week ago. So check it out.

Andrea: Yeah, I’ll link to it in the show notes.

Naomi: OK

Andrea: Yeah and where else are you on social media?

Naomi: OK, so I’m on Instagram, it’s faith_family_ranching. I’m on Twitter @loomis489. I don’t know _____ and then I’m on Facebook. The Circle L Ranch as well is on Facebook.

Andrea: Alright, we will definitely link to those in the show notes. If you’re wanting to be more connected to your food and to somebody who’s living that life, I think that Naomi is a great person to follow. As you can see and as she said at the beginning, as you can hear, what you see is what you get with Naomi. She is not trying to put on any kind of shoe, she’s just going to show you and tell you like it is. So I really appreciate it that about you, Naomi.

Naomi: Yes and I want to encourage everybody like honestly, put your phones down, go buy a piece of meat at the meat counter. If you have questions about your meat, if you have questions about the grain that you’re eating, I mean honestly don’t read your phone. Send me a message. I just want it to be black and white. I don’t want you to fear about what you’re eating and I don’t want you to fear about what you read. Put your phones down, call me up and I’ll leave you my phone number if you want because obviously I don’t get messages until the next morning when I drop down off the field and I get some internet.

Andrea: So they can call you anytime.

Naomi: You can call me anytime. I mean social media is a little bit sketchy but it’s not that I won’t respond and don’t think I’m being rude, it’s probably because I’m up the ranch where I don’t get internet. But honestly, I’m open. I mean, if you have a _____ problem, if you have question about your food, or if you have a faith question, I’m here. That’s just how it is.

Andrea: Love it! Thank you so much, Naomi!

Naomi: Thank you!

Andrea: This interview, this time with Naomi, I don’t know if nothing else, you know what it sounds like to hear somebody who’s just going to put it out there and say it like it is and you also don’t just go by your feelings when it comes to your food or when it comes to anything, when it comes to living your life. Dig underneath the surface; go to your research, especially if you’re going to put your voice out there in the world. Don’t say something that you can’t back up.

Go ahead and if you’re going to be speaking out against someone else or for something, make sure you go deeper, you dig deeper and know who you’re talking about and who you’re talking to. It’s really important to me that we have a respectful dialogue. We’re talking about people so whoever you’re talking about, remember that there’s a person on the other side.

So thank you so much and go make your voice matter more!





Two Attributes of Youth Every Influencer Should Cultivate in Themselves

Voice Studio 18

What can we learn from successful millennials to apply to our own dreams? In this Voice Studio episode, Andrea suggests two attributes that anyone can apply to clarify their purpose and solidify their determination.

Mentioned in this episode:
* Episode 18: Creating a Business that Frees People: Pacha Soap

Join the Voice of Influence Facebook Community HERE.

Listen by pushing the red play button below. You can also find the Voice of Influence podcast wherever you listen to podcasts – and if you can’t, please let me know and I’ll get it there! ( Thanks!

Creating a Business That Frees People: Pacha Soap

Episode 18 with Andrew & Abi Vrbas

Andrew and Abi Vrbas are cofounders of Pacha Soap Co., a social business that creates delightful bath goods that do good. Together, their company and its customers are putting the solution in the hands of those most affected by WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) issues and the cycle of poverty. Give-away bar soaps are made in the very communities that they help, using local ingredients and local talent. Nationals are trained to manually drill clean water wells, creating jobs for those in-country and providing much-needed clean water to hundreds of people per well.

Andrew is CEO and passionately drives the mission and vision of the company. Abi is Pacha’s former head designer and marketing/brand manager. Together, they take on the co-founder role to help spread the mission and build relationships with customers, retail partners and mission partners. In their free time they like to rollerblade and bike ride to the local snow cone shop, fix up their 1890 home, and watch The Office together.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen below, on iTunes or Stitcher. Now available on your Amazon Echo/Alexa.

Develop Your Voice of Influence, Volume 1

I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies for emerging thought leaders and message-driven creatives from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast. It’s a quick win that will encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and make your voice matter more.

Download it here.


Hey, hey!  It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.  Today, I’m excited to share with you Abi and Andrew Vrbas who are the owners and cofounders of Pacha Soap out of Hastings, Nebraska.  They have quite a story.  This is a business with a purpose.  And so Abi is with us right now and Andrew is going to jump on in a little while.

Andrea:  So Abi, it’s so good to have you here on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Abi:  Thank you so much, Andrea, it’s an honor to be asked and have this conversation with you.

Andrea:  Now, Abi, you and I met when you were back in college at Hastings College and we lived there and I remember having a couple of conversations in particular with you.  So it’s been really fun for me to watch you and Andrew from afar and see this company go from zero to hero, truthfully in a few years.  And so I would love for you to share with the person listening what exactly is Pacha Soap?  What do you do?

Abi:  Well, in a nugget, we create engaging bath products that change the world.  So we create organic handcrafted bar soaps.  We have froth bombs which are similar to a bath bomb that you use on your tub and it fizzes but it also creates a nice frothy latte like foam in your bath.  We have some other Willy Wonka just really fun, engaging, and delightful products that we’ll be launching later this year.  So our products are super fun and super clean ingredients.

We use organic ingredients, well-sourced ingredients, and we have a lot of fun with what we do.  And then the part that changes the world is we have a mission to help with the WASH sector which is (water, sanitation, and hygiene).  So that’s a part of our mission, but really the root of our why for our company is we believe that business can free people.  So what we do is we help to create opportunities for people in developing countries through soap making and clean water well drilling.

So like I said, we’re helping with the WASH sector, but really it’s a vehicle which we can help others help themselves.  So water sanitation and hygiene is a huge issue in developing countries and the best way to help people with those issues is to allow them to be the heroes in their own countries.  Through the sale of our products, we’re able to help startup small scale soap shops in places like Burundi, Africa and hopefully some other places in Africa soon.

And we have a heart for South America as well, wherever the partnership leads us and then also providing jobs for clean water well drillers.  So these are well drillers who are natives in the country.  The team that we help start is called Intwari Drillers, which means brave drillers.  Yeah, they are local Africans who are helping other Africans have access to clean water.  So soap and our mission with the WASH sector is the vehicle in which we’re able to further our mission of helping others help themselves.

Andrea:  Wow that’s amazing! So how did you guys get going?  What’s the origin story of Pacha Soap?

Abi:  Yes, so Andrew was in Peru, South America in 2010 for a semester, he was going to Hastings College at the time and wanted to study abroad.  And during this time there in Peru, or I should say, he was a construction management and Spanish major obviously very helpful in starting a soap company.

Andrea:  Really?  That’s awesome!

Abi:  Yeah, so he was down there in Peru to further his Spanish and also he was volunteering with some construction projects.  But what really transformed him in his thought process was, he’s this Kansas boy, who you know hardly get any rain fall where we are but he goes down to Peru and then they get the worst flooding that they never got in like a hundred years or something.  So Kansas boy brought the rain with them to Peru.

Anyway, it was really terrible flooding and it closed off the train that went into Machu Piccu, which is the biggest tourists destination in Peru.  He just saw how fragile the economic system is in Peru that it was very dependent on Americans and Europeans and without things like Machu Piccu and other touristy places, their economy was just super fragile.

So he had this idea of starting a company that would employ local people for the local good, so it wasn’t again, not depending on other people for economic stability but being able to provide that within itself.  So then he was thinking and it sounds like it’s from a movie, but he was riding on a bus on his way to work.  There was a couple of hours bus ride to where he works for the day.  He was on this bus and he was reading a certain book at this time and was just really influenced by the philosophy and thoughts behind it and just thought “Oh, I could create a business that does good.”

And he said like there were tons of people on this bus, really hot and sweaty, there’s no air conditioning on it, bumpy road and he just gone through Peru and he got to this place that he’s going to be working for the day and just had this light bulb moment that he went into and create a business that could free people so then he got to thinking like how he could do that and soap was the vehicle in which he could do that.

So the great thing about soap is the ingredients are found in many places where there’s extreme poverty.  So things like palm oil and coconut oil and then even plants that can be distilled into essential oils are found in a lot of the places where there’s extreme poverty and then soap making also is a very simple process.  It’s been made for thousands of years.

You don’t need special equipment or lots of education in order to do it.  It doesn’t take any electricity or lot of funding to start a soap shop.  So he was thinking that soap would be a great way to bring jobs to people and country without saying “Okay, you need all these equipments to do it – very, very simple so that is the answer to why soap?

Andrea:  Did the soap thing just kind of come to him as well or did he did some research, do you know that?

Abi:  His very, very first thought was tea but then got to thinking of all the complexities of like bringing in tea to another country and then his very next thought was soap.  He has always been interested in fragrances.  And actually, he is able to join now so here he is.  This is Andrea of the Voice of Influence.

Andrew:  Hi, Andrea!

Andrea:  Hi there Andrew!  It’s good to have you.

Andrew:  Yeah, thanks for having us.

Andrea:  I was just asking Abi about your origin story for Pacha Soap and she kind of took us through the ‘why’ of soap.  But maybe you could share with us how you moved from your idea to actually turning it into a business, would you mind just jumping in like that?

Andrew:  Yeah.  Well, I think you kind of answered it in your question.  I’m just jumping in because, you know, there’s obviously people just talk about how difficult to start a business but I think, especially when you’re younger and you’re passionate about an idea that could change the way things are done, you just jump in and figure things out.

So we started really small scale with just Abi and myself just dreaming what the future could be, so just experimenting and learning and busying with people and spreading our idea around and I guess you just quickly learn how to do what you need to do, I guess.  So yeah, the specific recipe for us was definitely just jumping in and being passionate about what we’re doing and loving to create, yeah I guess that’s it.

Andrea:  Yeah.  The youthful naïvite was certainly playing in your favor.  I mean, why not just jump in and go for it.  It seems like the older people get the harder it is for us to start things.

Andrew:  Yeah, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know and ignorance is bliss and all those things that you don’t know how to do, so you just kind of do it.  And I think the more that we can keep that as a part of our mentality sometimes, it’d be better off to be and so yeah.

Andrea:  I remember seeing pictures of you guys selling at Farmers Market or things like that, is that where you kind of started out?

Andrew:  Yeah that’s exactly right.  One of our most favorite memories from when we first started was when we’re in the garage in the house that I used to live in where the first soap shop was, we’re just preparing for Farmers Market for the next day and it was like the first time we ever sell our product and telling our story.  And it was just funny to think that that was while we’re both in college and it was so much fun.  I remember at the end of the night, we just ended up just dancing the music, so it was fun.

Andrea:  Oh that’s so fun.  We’re you guys dating at the time or what was your situation together?

Andrew:  Yeah, we were dating at that time but we didn’t start out dating.  We’re friends initially in school and started dating while we’re still in school.  I think it was like our interests were aligned and both loving to create things, be creative, and be innovative.  And we’re still learning about each other and we feel like we have each other peg down but then we’re learning something new about each other.  It seems like every day, like yesterday, we learned something that we both share similar traits and we always thought that we’re innovative but really like in taking that test that you sent over especially was kind of interesting to see how closely we did align.

Andrea:  Yeah, yeah.  Now, he’s talking about the Fascinate Assessment that I invite guest to take if their interested.  They both took it and they both came out with innovation on their top #2.  So yeah, that was really, really fun to see that I could see how that just really makes it easy even for you guys to take risks probably.

Abi:  Yeah, and it makes it a lot of fun to create together because like I was saying with our products, it’s really fun to innovate and think outside the box.  But also it’s our mission to think forward and have innovative ideas with our mission, it’s also super fun.  So we can kind feed off with each other in that way and I think that’s what kind of hold us move forward and starting a business is that you just don’t get down when you think about “Okay, we hit a roadblock.”  It doesn’t mean no, it means no for that but there’s another way around that.  You can make it work.

Andrea:  Yeah you can work around it.

Abi:  Yeah, exactly.  You got to figure it out someway and having a partner on obviously helps a lot.  It helps to be together because if you had to do that by yourself, I can see how terribly difficult that would be to approach those roadblocks with confidence.

Andrea:  For context, did you guys start the business, graduate, get married that sort of thing?

Andrew:  Well, it’s funny like when we actually first started the business, we used several start dates but really the idea came in 2010 but we officially started beyond just like Farmers Market and really got serious and hired our first employee in 2012 it would have been, but we used kind of like 2013 as our first or like our official starting of our company.  We got married actually in 2013 as well.  We bought our first house in 2013 so that was a big year.

Andrea:  I was reading in your website today too, was it 2013 that you guys got into Whole Foods?

Abi:  Yeah, it was.

Andrea:  That’s just huge first of all but it’s also just really so much has happened so quickly.  Even though I’m sure it felt like a long time from 2010 to 1013 that happened pretty quickly.  Did it feel like it took forever or were you feeling like it was clip in along at a pretty good pace?

Andrew:  Oh man, I guess both of us like we’ve lived a lot of life being 27 and 26, so it doesn’t seem like it was really quick.  But you know from the outside when people talk to us, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago but for us, sometimes like we show like we’re on our 50’s.

Andrea:  Old souls.

Abi:  Yeah, like the day-to-day maybe seems like a little slower, you aren’t moving so fast.  But then when you look at it as a whole, when you look back it does go pretty quickly.  I don’t want to take things for granted because you know we were really blessed to be doing as well as we’re doing.  So I don’t want to take that for granted because I know it is just really difficult to start things and put yourself out there and be vulnerable in that way.  So yeah, it does seem like it has happened pretty quickly but it’s definitely not all because we have an awesome team like both here in Hastings working with Pacha and also in the field working in commenting our mission.  It is way beyond Andrew and me.  We cannot be where we are without our team.

Andrea:  I have so many questions written down and floating in my head because you’ve got a really substantial thing going and there’s so many things I think that we could cover.  So one of the first questions that I want to ask at this point is how many employees do you have in Hastings?  What’s the team look like in Hastings?

Andrew:  We’re like around 40 people.

Andrea:  That’s crazy!  No, that’s wonderful.  It’s so great.  I mean, that’s a lot of employees.  That’s a big team.

Andrew:  Yeah.  It is.  We’re so blessed to have the team that we have.  They make the culture what it is and it’s just so much fun to work with the team that you respect and love to work with every day.

Andrea:  How did you manage going from just the two of you to starting to add people into your team who I assumed for the most part older than you as well.  Is that true?

Andrew:  Yeah, we’re some of the younger ones for sure especially in leadership.  I think the main thing when you’re looking to grow or bring people on is making sure that your core values are set and that your hiring based on those core values.  You’re living everything through this core values and so that’s something that we learned along the way just recognizing how important that is and making sure that everybody is onboard with those core values.

Andrea:  Do you feel like your core values were pretty set when you started or did they really develop as you kept going and growing?

Abi:  Yeah, I think like the fundamental purpose of our company has remained the same.  It’s just kind fine tuning how that’s played out on a day-to-day like how you write those core values out.  So I would say like nothing has drastically changed from when we first started but you know, it’s fine tuning it.  And one of the greatest things that we got to do with defining our core values is looking at all around and saying “Yeah, I really like about this person.  I really like that about this person.”  And then integrating those things that we are inspired by our team members and using those as guidelines in which we created our core values, so using our actual team as our guide for creating those core values or fine tuning those core values.

Andrea:  That’s really cool.  So you took a look at who was here and how they’re functioning and what you really appreciated about them and said “Okay, yes that’s something we wanna keep.”

Abi:  Yeah, exactly!

Andrea:  Wow!  There’s a lot of wisdom in that.  I wonder if you being younger when you got started might have had an impact on the way that you respected the people that were working with and for you.

Andrew:  Yeah that probably is true because we had a lot to learn.  I feel like when you’re not as full of what you already know and you’re more just like trying to learn and maybe it’s just more of a humble way of being a leader because you’re forced to be humble.  You don’t really know a lot and I think that’s something that every human probably struggles with and we all will struggle with to remain humble and have a learning attitude and learning mind all your life.  And that’s a hard thing I think probably for all of us because we get to a place where you know we feel like we know what we’re doing.

Truth is like there’s not one person that knows and has all the answers as much as our cultures kind of push towards and are looking towards that you know like “I wanna find the answer.  Just tell me the answer.”  Although, there’s lots of answers in solving everyday problems especially when you’re growing a business like there’s not one person that can tell you every move you make to grow that business.  Yeah, that’s probably a good point.  I never had really followed with that.

Andrea:  Well, I want to qualify my statement by saying that not every person who’s younger would have had that attitude though.  So while it may have helped in some ways you’re willing to learn like you said, it’s a quality that we should all be striving for life, for willing to learn from other people.  I love the respect that you guys have for your team and for the people of the world that you’re trying to serve and I think that that respect comes somewhat from that humbleness too.  I don’t know, it’s just seems really grounded.

Andrew:  Well, sometimes.

Andrea:  OK that’s good.  I love that.  Let’s keep it real, right?  So you also have the partnerships carrying out your mission.  So what are those relationships like with the people around the world, what do you mean by a partnership that’s helping you carry out a mission in Africa for instance.

Andrew:  Yeah, so like in East Africa, we have a couple partners that we work with both on the soap side and in the water side.  Those partnerships start with organization here in the US that we work with and then the mission enacted in the developing world and namely in East Africa, we work in Burundi.  But we also work in other countries through water nonprofit that we partnered with  So yeah, we break our mission down into two basically like two ways of impact and there’s presale impact and post sale impact.

So presale is like before any product is ever purchased, how is our company having an impact.  And then post sale, once the sale is made then how’s our company having an impact to our customers having an impact with their purchase after the sale was made.  Largely, in East Africa, where folks come is after the sale of our products, we are helping to start businesses in both soap production and clean water well drilling.

And so it’s essentially soap and water – two very critical elements for development and for health sanitation and hygiene but it’s done in a way that is actually creating, self-sustaining enterprise.  That’s the piece of it that is really, I would say, it’s not necessarily the most important element because saving people’s lives with clean water like people have access of clean water obviously that has a huge impact.  If people are able to wash their hands and children namely in schools; you can see that that would a huge impact.

But I guess the reason why I mentioned the aspect of our mission to be considered really important and maybe most important is that the people themselves are able to provide the answers for themselves and we’re just the catalyst somewhat of an injection and not an IV you know.  And truly that business through clean water and business through soap production is the way that people are employed and that their business are able to flourish and grow on their own overtime, whereas, we just act as catalysts.  Anyway, that’s kind of how we partner right now and I guess it all comes back to our why in our purpose for being which is that business can free people.

So we look at a lot of issues that are related to poverty, the way we can help with extreme poverty that people are able to have their own economic freedom or economic independence because these people are able to provide for themselves then issues can overtime be diminished.  Like the people can afford to pay for education.  If they can afford to buy soap, if they can afford to buy clean water, you know lots of issues can be reduced overtime if people are able to escape poverty.   And really the only way that’s done in there in a long term basis is if they’re able to opportunities to do it themselves through business, through the Wealth Creation process.  So anything we do comes back to the fact that business can free people.

Andrea:  It sounds like when someone is talking about social justice, there’s one-on-one charity kind of like “Let me help you with this thing.”  Or there’s the systemic change that happens and it sounds like what you’re talking about is wanting to provide not only that bar soap to save somebody’s life but the systemic change by giving them that opportunity to be empowered to have their own income and everything that’s really, really exciting.

Andrew:  Yeah, they’re both okay you know.  Sometimes, there are people who maybe would be really staunch and say “No,” like there’s no place to give anything because you’re creating dependence.  I understand that because I’ve seen it, we all have it.  We’ve travelled in the developing world and that’s not good.  That is not empowering.  But at the same time, sometimes I want to say like “You know there is a place to give things and that’s okay.”  It just has to be very limited and it has to be in a way that is not creating habit-forming dependence.  It’s something that it can be done in a good way and it’s not like always a bad thing to help.

And we see it firsthand with like the World Food Program for instance like children coming to school and for some of them that could be their only meal that day.  So in that way, children are able to receive education and come to school because they are being subsidized a free lunch.  I would say that’s not a bad thing.  Obviously, the better thing would be how can we have, you know that food is coming from the outside, how can more acres be converted into small farms for the parents that overtime maybe our food can be purchase locally like obviously that would be better.  It’s process and a transition so there’s a place and time.  We definitely like to focus on both of those things but if it’s not creating self-sustaining jobs then it’s probably not a long-term solution and could be creating more harm than good, maybe.

Andrea:  Interesting.  So what is exactly is your role as Pacha Soap, what is Pacha Soap’s role in Africa?  What do you actually provide?  Are you providing the funds?  Are you providing the training?  What all are you providing?

Andrew:  Well, we provide funds so we kind of act you could say as an initial customer for well drilling team, for soap shops, say help to set up soap shops.  We provide some advice in how to do that but then we’ll be that initial customer so we’ll buy soaps from those teams initially and that soap is then given to schools in the surrounding area for children for hand washing.  All the while, those teams are growing their own sales with different soap products so that overtime, those giveaway bars could be transferred to another soap shop that could be set up and the process can start over as established team sales increase.  So that’s the goal and same with clean water.  So Pacha as a company funds those operations and it’s essentially the first customer through subsidizing bars of soap and clean water wells that overtime will leave in a established teams that can sell products on their own and be self-sustaining.

Andrea:  It seems like there’s so many different plates spinning, how do you guys manage your time?  What percentage of time are you working on soap and sales and stuff overseas, and your mission, your message?  How do you guys decide what your roles are and how to divide up your time?

Andrew:  We go by the system called Traction.  It’s a book and it’s really been helpful process with our time up, but honestly, I think that the main thing that helped us is having an awesome team.  We can’t really stress out enough because as much as somebody might say they’re so awesome like it’s a team to do anything.  So I think the real answer to that is the fact that we just have a team that handles so many things and does it so well and has extreme ownership over of what they do and so that’s probably it.

Abi:  Yeah, it’s hard to balance your time because you want to do everything but you know, you can’t do everything and that they’re actually people who can do that thing better than you.  So knowing what to let go and what to still maintain for yourself is a hard thing to kind of figure that out.  But like Andrew said it’s just the team that we have that it’s a well-oiled machine.  There’s always new things to try and things that we’re currently doing that could be better or different but we just have such a great team that’s willing to jump in there and may use the word ‘scrappy’ a lot.  We’re just part of that sort of mentality and we never want to lose that no matter how big our company gets or how many years its life is, just having that scrappy mentality of saying “It’s just a road blocks” but yes we can get pass those barriers and do that together.

Andrea:  So as cofounders then since you guys started and everything, I would imagine that quite a few people that are listening to this podcast or people that are dreaming about starting something or they feel like they want to live a purpose-driven life.  They want to feel like their message is a part of what they do.  So I’m kind of curious about how you guys work together as a couple?  Was it hard when you first got certain and kind of got going to figure out who was in charge of what or was that pretty clear from the get-go or did you have any road bumps?

Andrew:  I think we worked pretty seriously like at the beginning and on.  I think as we grow and things got more complex in some ways that was a little bit more challenging because you had more people to the equation then you have to split up tasks way more.  So there’s always some more roadblocks or road bumps there but I think it’s just a constant learning thing.

Abi:  Yeah, it is hard as life partners and business partners finding the balance between how you spend your time.  When you’re at home, it’s impossible to not talk about work because you’re passionate about it and it’s a big part of your life.  And then at work, it’s hard not to talk about your personal life because it’s your life so there’s that overlapping.  We really tried to keep those two things as separate as possible because it’s too different mind frames.

When we first started out like that things showed we’re both innovative, so I think that was really good to help kick-start something new.  But individually, I graduated with a degree in advertising and public relation so kind of marketing and had some experience with graphic design.  So from my tactical standpoint, I was able to help with the marketing side of things and help create the graphics and different visual elements.

And as we progressed, I started understanding what it means to build a brand which that’s a monster in and of itself so that’s kind of like where I had my focus.  And Andrew had such a passion for the vision of the company and just always reaching for how can our mission be better and just dreaming of those ways in which it can happen.  It’s cool to be able to look at each other’s strengths and appreciate how each of those strengths helped build the company.

Currently, I have stepped out of my marketing role and I’ve taken on more of just a cofounder role and that has been a big transition for Andrew and me personally.  It’s just the decision that we made together that we’re both just thriving so hard in the day-to-day in the company so it was easier to continue that.  If someone is in the boat and the other one is drowning, it’s a lot easier than both of you drowning together.  So yeah, it’s a partnership and it’s give and take and it’s having grace for one another and don’t know within the next few years are going to look like so just being willing to hold life with open hands is really important.

Andrea:  You know that’s funny because I was going to ask you what’s in the future for Pacha Soap?  Do you have a vision for the next few years or is it something that you are truly just going day-by-day or what’s that like for you guys?

Andrew:  We have lots of visions of what it could look like but the main thing is how can our mission be amplified, so how can we framework people?  How can that be the heart of every decision we make?  So whether it’s new products that we launch or new categories that we’re in and new channels of trade like the way in which we’re bringing products to people, it will all lead back to how our mission can be amplified and how people can be a big part of that.

I guess it’s not really a specific vision but that’s such kind of the way it’s looking.  A lot of ideas of how to get there but it will definitely just take time and the right people who are also believing in the overall mission and message that care about, not only a business doing well and having an awesome product that people love, but also caring about what that product represents.

Andrea:  Yeah.  So when you look to make those decisions, do you knock on doors and just see which one opens or how do you know what next step that you’re going to take in the moment?

Andrew:  Usually that, yeah.  Usually just researching things and trying things out, asking a lot of questions, and talking to people you know that’s kind of how and like big decisions are met is trying some things out and asking a lot of questions before we move on something.

Andrea:  What advice do you have for someone who is kind of in that dream stage where maybe they feel like there’s something on their heart or maybe they’re in that position where Andrew you were on that bus thinking “There’s got to be a way to help.  There’s going to be something that I can do.”  Do you have any parting words of wisdom for these influencers who are listening?

Andrew:  Yeah, I think just have fun.  Ultimately, it’s just got to be something that you like.  It’s not every element you’re not going to like and that’s maybe why a lot of business fails because there are these things in starting a business that aren’t as much fun.  But if overall what you are passionate about or what you’re doing you like it too, you like the people you’re with; I think that’s the biggest piece is of just being real to yourself about what you like or what you love to do.  I think it’s also about why you’re doing it, so just asking yourself these questions.

It’s different for every person but the advice for somebody like myself is just to try it out.  There’s nothing stopping anyone from really accomplishing whatever they want to accomplish but you just have to be willing to stick with it and push forward.  And I would say the other biggest piece is don’t be afraid to learn along the way.

I don’t feel like you have to figure it out all in its entirety right away because you probably won’t and your idea might shift for the better.  Your initial vision might be one thing but maybe you’ll figure out a way that could be even enhanced and just don’t be afraid to learn.  That’s probably the biggest piece that prevents people, they feel like they need to have it all figured out right away.  But you can figure it out as you go along, as you’re able to learn all the way.

Andrea:  That’s a great point.  Abi, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Abi:  If you’re going into business with your life partner, just try to communicate and have grace with one another.  If you’re doing it on your own, look for people to support you through it and be vulnerable with them and don’t lose heart.

Andrea:  Well, this has been a very short 45 minutes but I am so thrilled that I could share you with my audience that we could learn more about what it meant for you guys to start something.  And you’ve taken it so far and I know that it’s just going to keep skyrocketing because just the humility that you bring to it and the willingness to take risks to listen like you mentioned and to not lose heart like you mentioned, and to communicate like you mentioned are so important.  And so cheering you on from over here and looking forward to seeing what Pacha Soap does to change the world in the future.  Thank you so much for your voice of influence in the world!

Andrew:  Yes, thank you for having us!

Abi:  Thank you so much Andrea!


DOWNLOAD Develop Your Voice of Influence, Volume 1 here.

How to Get Started Sharing Your Message on Social Media

Voice Studio 17

A few years ago I stumbled upon a few voices online who helped me to see that social media wasn’t just about sharing family pictures, catching up with long lost friends and debating politics. A wave of realization dawned on me that I could have a voice through social media, too. In this episode I share a brief description of that shift for me and how you can start or amp up the way you share your voice on social media, too.

Mentioned in this episode:



I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies for emerging thought leaders and message-driven creatives from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast. It’s a quick win that will encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and make your voice matter more.

Download it here.

Embracing Social Media for Your Multi-Passionate Voice

Episode 17 with Tammy Cannon of Cannon Social Media

Tammy Cannon is a social media marketer and staff writer for Social Media Examiner. She helps busy creative professionals leverage Facebook Ads, Pinterest, Instagram and SEO for more traffic, more sales, and more time to do what they love.

Mentioned in this episode:



I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast to encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and sleep well.

Download it here.


Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.   Today, I have Tammy Cannon with me of Cannon Social Media. And Tammy is somebody that I’ve known for a few months. I’ve been paying attention to her, watching what she’s doing with her social media Facebook if I’m inside of that and learning more from Tammy. She has helped me some with my own Facebook ads and things that just consulting along the lines of Facebook and social media. She’s also really creative and deep, so I’m really thrilled to be introducing you to Tammy Cannon.

Andrea: Tammy, it’s great to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast!

Tammy Cannon: Thank you, Andrea what a really nice intro. I appreciate that. It’s been fun getting to know you better as well and I’m just happy to talk with you today.

Andrea: Well, Tammy you have more than one business or brand, so I would love for you to explain to us just a little bit or maybe give us a summary of what you do.

Tammy Cannon: Yes, it’s kind of funny, I’ve been calling myself a multi-passionate-preneur (MPP), you know a lot of us that have businesses and maybe yourself have a lot other interests as well. And so for the past five years, I have been managing social media for businesses in my community here in Seattle and it got to be so hectic and stressful because social media takes up a lot of time. And so when you’ve got 10 or 20 customers at a time, and all of my clients were on a monthly kind of like consulting schedule, and so that’s a lot of work for one person. I never really contracted out. I never hired anybody. I didn’t want be an employer, so how to make a decision on what I wanted to do?

So two years ago now already, I can’t believe it, I made a decision to stop managing and just create online courses for people that I was managing for. I wanted them to have skills to go on and manage their own and so it worked out really well. So now, I create online course, teaching social media to the creative professionals that I kind of ended up working with, so that’s kind of where I’m at now.

Now my creative side…if you have other interest, it’s really hard to keep them under wraps. And so now that I know kind of more about the online world, it’s like “Oh you can really do so much with your hobbies as well.” And so now that I have system and strategy for Cannon Social Media, I’m applying that to some of my creative stuff that I love to do.

So I’m doing printables for social media, for professionals that they can do on Etsy and download just templates and all kinds of different things. And I also have a creative market shop for style stock photos because that was a need in my industry as well, finding images and people just struggling to figure out “Oh no, what am I gonna post today,” and struggling to find an image for something and so now, I’ve got a style stock membership you can go in, it’s all themed.

So if you are a social media manager yourself, you could go in and say, “Oh I have a garden clients,” and you could click on the gardening bundle and download images for Royalty-free for your clients. It was a need that I was like “Oh, I love photography and taking pictures so I can actually do this and serve my community as well.” So that’s what I’m doing now.

Andrea: What kind of need is there at this point in time for people that are doing what you were doing before you started this two years ago, so that the managing of the social media, what do you see is the need there? Is that something worth going into?

Tammy Cannon: Oh my goodness! It’s a huge need for sure because with the clients that I had, had a lot of small businesses but they were like restaurants and you know, multimillion dollar businesses but they were run by the owner who’s at work every day, you know, managing and doing things. They just don’t have time to promote their businesses on social medial because it can take 20 minutes to craft a really thoughtful Instagram post.

Andrea: Yeah, don’t I know it?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, you got to research the hashtags, you got to get the just images right. You need to figure out what you want people to do if they click to read your comments, the call-to-action all that stuff. And a lot of business owners just don’t have that strategy to know what to do. So it’s very scattered and very fragmented, it’s not a branded Instagram feed and so there really is a need for professionals to go in and clean things up and make everything _____ consistent.

Andrea: I’m usually waiting till the end to ask people more about their offering and things, but this just really comes to mind. It makes me wonder if some of the courses that you offer, the classes and things like that would be really good for small business owners to have somebody in there company even to do or to take and learn how to do social media part of the time that they’re at work.

Tammy Cannon: I know and that’s one of the courses that I’m thinking about for 2018 is a course for social media managers because there is a lot to learn. But if people want to jump into the free resources that I have and just kind of dig around; I have a lot of things like profitability calculators for Facebook ads if people are managing ads for businesses. I’ve got an ideal client worksheets and all kinds of stuff in there that I think people could get some value for. And easiest way to access that is to text the number 44222 with the phrase all one word freeresource and they’ll just get right in.

Andrea: So what exactly got you going into social media marketing in the first place? What other kinds of things have you done in the past? I remember that you had a food blog in the past.

Tammy Cannon: Oh yes! I feel like it’s been so long. So way, way back I graduated from Washington State University with a marketing degree. So I’ve always been sort of in that realm, you know, sales and marketing and traveling around the globe. So when social media came out, this new kind of marketing and this just obviously intriguing to me as just like that next step that you are learning in school and college at the time.

So I just kind of immersed myself in Twitter. That was my very first kind of…well, I did have a Facebook page, a Facebook personal profile, you know, everybody was doing anything much with that at the time. But then Twitter was really coming on strong and I just love the access, how easy it was to use, how quick it was, how clever you had to be because you only had 140 characters at the time. So I actually jumped on there and at the same time I was taking pictures and doing some food photography and decided I would I start a blog.

So I did that in 2010 and what I found was a really neat community in the Seattle area of food bloggers. It’s too tight-knit down there and I’m about 30 minutes north of Seattle but it was just such a cool time to meet all these people. Well, after a white, a few of us decided to meet in person and back then, it was called tweetup, meetup and so we actually meet…the person I was talking with, we met at her house and then I think it ended up being like 10 of us. And we laugh about it now because it was such a new thing. I’m like “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go and meet these people in person. This is gonna be so crazy.”

It ended up being so neat and I’m still friends with these people now. It’s such a neat thing. And so what I decided to do after food blogging was in my community, I live in a small town called Snohomish, Washington and it’s the Antique Capital of Northwest and we have a lot of boutiques, a lot of little restaurants sits along the river. It’s such a clean little small town USA place.

And one day, I was walking and noticed that one of the stores in my community had closed. And then I thought, “Oh my goodness, I wonder if I could help businesses in my community use social media,” not that I was going to save the business but it was like I just put them into together and I thought, “I wonder if I can do this for small businesses and be of value.” And so I just kind of stepped out into my community and at that time, there was an organization called the 360Projects. I think it was called 360 or something like that.

Basically, you go and you pick three bricks and mortar shops in your town and you spend like 50 bucks a month at each place and that would help support them. If everybody did that, that would ensure your small business community stayed healthy, the taxes stayed in your community and all that and it just really resonated with me. So there was an event and the founder of that organization came to speak to the community and I happen to be there and so did the executive director for economics in our city.

And I just so happen to start talking to her and she said “We need to start blogging as a city,” and that was my first customer. So it was just how it worked out and just kind of fall into my lap and then there, I round up getting a lot of clients throughout my time. I’ve served over a 100 in the last five years helping manage social media. So it was a lot of fun.

Andrea: So when you were the food blog, was there any income involved with that for you because I know some food bloggers and that could be a struggle.

Tammy Cannon: No, I was not monetizing at the time. I didn’t know how. I just knew that I loved writing. I loved cooking so very much and I just had a blast doing it. I did get hired to do a couple of blog post for other people and also having people pay for my photos, so just little side stuff that comes about when you’re consistent. But I just didn’t really follow through with it and then I have the idea of just going into business for social media and managing for businesses. So I didn’t really did anything with that long term. I wish I had but I can always go back to that but that will be something next.

Andrea: So what is it like to being a multi-passionate-preneur? I think that most of the people listening are really interested in many different things and it’s hard to choose. Do you recommend that people pick one thing for a while or do you say just go for it all or what are some of the struggles you face as multi-passsionate-preneur and how do you make it work?

Tammy Cannon: It’s really interesting. I mean, you do have to pick one thing you know. I feel like the social media marketing that was something that I was already making money at. I was already doing it. I already had leverage there and so I think once you get to that point then you can kind of start creating on the side. Now, before I was earning money with the creative stuff, I really just kind of put stuff together, got an Etsy shop didn’t really know about Etsy SEO at the time. And so you know, I think most people kind of do that sort of thing, they don’t really know how to put the passion behind what you’re excited to do and so it didn’t really go anywhere then they’re so excited.

I think the struggle is you get so excited about all these different things and once I learned something in my social media business that I see I can apply to my creative business, and I get so excited and gung-ho but then you burn out so quickly. Then I have to go “Alright, I’ll just put that aside for now.” So for instance, two years ago, I started a third business. It’s still on the back burner. It’s still there kind of _____. I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it because I’ve been so busy with the social medial, but I love gardening and so I have theflirtyherb Instagram.

And so yeah, I was starting all of these. I had three things going and I was gung-ho, so excited. My creative business was kind of ticking off. I had Sue B. Zimmerman mentioned me in her Instagram. She did a whole Instagram series on CreativeLive. So she mentioned my business and shared about it and so that was really fun but then it was like I have to fall back on what I was doing at the time, which was managing. So I think it’s really difficult…you can’t do everything but if you’re OK with being patient and seeing things for the long term, if you can appreciate that then it’s easier.

So theflirtyherb really I post very inconsistently. I’m not really too worried about it and in 2018 or even ’19, I’m thinking so far ahead that I’ll be in a position to really get back where we have a whole 30-day healthy eating challenge, I’ve got it all on add-ons. People do sign up and I’ve got figure out how to turn that into master class. As much as I’m learning with Cannon Social Media, I know that I’ll just be able to apply that but it will just be awhile and I’m OK with that.

Andrea: Yeah. It sounds like a lot of spinning plates. If you could just get one plate to spin on its own then you could go to the next one.

Tammy Cannon: Definitely.

Andrea: And keep moving and adding. OK, so here’s a really weird question maybe, I do a lot of work with people trying to figure out their personal brands, trying to figure out what their main thing is, how to tie it all together and keep everything aligned. So this is interesting to me because you have all these different things going and you can’t do it all at the same time, which I understand too. Have you ever thought about turning any of it into just a personal like a personal brand that would somehow align these things, or do you feel like they’re just two separate to ever bring it all together and under Tammy Cannon for example?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah it’s a good question because I’ve seen the trend of people doing that. So someone that comes to mind is Melyssa Griffin, but she started out as the Nectar Collective and that’s kind of how I found here and then she decided to brand everything under her name. I didn’t see value in doing that moving ahead. I think for me, I think in segments so I have to divide everything out myself.

So Cannon Social Media, I have Emma Fox Creative and then I have The Flirty Herb and so when I’m focusing to any of those, in my mind I can keep track of like “OK, I need to stay focus, this is the garden business. This is the cooking business.” And so whatever that ends being, I know that_____ and I’m focused. If I put it all under my name, I don’t know if that would make sense. I could definitely do Cannon Social Media and Emma Fox but I don’t know. For now, I just feel like for all I can do to manage everything is to _____ in a compartment.

Andrea: Yes I’m sure, it’s an interesting idea. So that’s the reason why I’m curious if you’ve ever considered it and I really love finding those connections. It’s like a game for me or something but I also like the idea that we are a whole person. Yes, we do have different sides to ourselves and gifts and interest but somehow, they are aligned in us. So whether they are aligned under your name in marketing or not, it doesn’t really probably matter because we are still _____.

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, yeah!

Andrea: Have you always been really creative and did you always feel free to be able to just go after these creative endeavors or was there ever anything that was sort of making you feel like you couldn’t do that or shouldn’t do that? Have you always just been creative like that?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, I remember in sixth grade, I was always pretty good at writing. I wish I could find it now. In sixth grade, I remember those so well. We had an assignment and we had to write about a crayon color and so I wrote this whole thing about the color blue and just went on and on and so my teacher liked it so much. She gave it to the principal and they read it to, you know, we had an assembly. So I was really proud of myself and that little written piece of work but that was kind of when I knew I can really describe things and really have empathy for a story.

And so I’ve always been just curious about people and curious about things and feelings. So I’ve always been able to kind of explore that and also not be afraid to fail. I also paint with acrylic paints. Yesterday, I was painting something and I was “Oh my goodness, what is wrong with me.” Some days are good and some days aren’t good. It’s like taking photographs. I mean, you take a hundred and maybe five turn out, but you have to be willing to fail and just jump on whatever it is because you’ll never know. You’ll really spend time doing it and make the effort. People get worried it’s not perfect so then you don’t get anything done. I’m definitely willing to just get it out there and make progress and not worry about things being perfect.

Andrea: OK, so Tammy, I know that you have three teenagers at home, is that right?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, three.

Andrea: That’s amazing! First of all I wanted to ask, do you do what you do like fulltime? Do you find that your job in your business comes in conflict with your schedule with your kids or how does that work for you?

Tammy Cannon: Now, my kids are 13, 14, and 15. I have two in high school and one left in middle school next year and so they’re gone during the day. And so from September to June basically, I really work fulltime at this business and get everything done what I need to do while they’re gone. They get home between 2:30 and 3 o’ clock in the afternoon and so my work day ends then as soon as they get home. But not every time, if I’m creating a courses or something like that, I’ll say you know, “I’m just recording another video.”

So they know the deal and they know in my office that I’m working so they know those boundaries are there and I try to respect our schedules. So when they’re home, I try as much as possible just to be off the phone. I try my business to be automated so that from the time they get out of school in June, like this is their first week out for the summer, I don’t really do a lot until they go back in September.

I have everything set up on automatic. I have my teachable school and so all of my courses are there. So I continue to, you know, every week, I blog if not through. I’m supposed to blog every week. I’ve been off my schedule without, but my goal is to blog every week and release that on Thursday and then I’ve been really consistent with my podcast that comes out every Thursday as well, and so I can batch that stuff ahead a time.

Andrea: What do you mean by batch?

Tammy Cannon: For instance, we’re talking in the summer of 2017, I have an Instagram challenge coming up for the month of July. And so what I’m going to do is to record all four weeks of my podcast that’s going to be part of the challenge. So even if you’re not literally in the challenge and opted in to, you’ll get the emails that I’m going to send out and still be able to listen to the podcast. So I’ll record all four of those probably this week and then I’ll just batch them into my host and schedule them for release in the future.

So they’ll automatically go out and that’s something that I did for myself that I really had to learn to do. As much as I can, put things on auto batch things so that their schedule and then I don’t have to really babysit anything. We’re going to be going to Europe this summer but I’ll know that my business is kind of going on its own and I don’t have to deal much for the summer. So I just have a set up that way for my schedule so that I can enjoy my kids and you know all the fun stuff that happens when the sun is out in Seattle. We take it out because we haven’t seen it for nine months so it’s really, really hard to get myself set up so that I can do that.

Andrea: That’s great! I am definitely working towards that being able to batch and everything but that was one of my goals for the summer too is just be able to focus more on my kids and things but there’s still these little things that come up. So when your kids are home then at night, are you on social media?

Tammy Cannon: Oh good question, so you mean like posting to Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff?

Andrea: Yeah

Tammy Cannon: So yes, throughout the day what I have discovered is that there are little pocket of time where I always have my phone because I do manage Facebook ads and so I’ll take one or two clients a month and manage. And so once I get everything set up, I do have to check in on ads, make sure they’re within the parameters that I’ve set, you know per lead, price per lead. I want to make sure all that’s good to go. But I do have pockets of time where I’ll grab my phone and post on Instagram and I really had to plan both ahead of time as well so I’ll know what my next line Instagram post going to be.

And so I schedule those in management scheduler that you can use for Instagram. I’m not very good at this all the time but my goal is to have at least the next nine I know what theme is going to be. I’ll know what the call to action is and so that my Instagram is more branded. So it makes it easy when they are home. All I have to do is just post it and have all the hashtags in my notes app so I’ll just copy those and paste them over and the comments. And I’ve gotten better just to be able to do that in a few minutes other than 20 minutes. It works out but yeah and then I try to spend time with my husband too and not have any work in.

So this summer as an example, I will work in the morning from 6:00 to 10:00 because they’re sleeping pretty much and just kind of starting the day rolling around at 8:00 or 9:00 and they’re not really ready to do much until 10:00 or 11:00 on lazy summer days. So I’m going to use that time but it’s just going to be my time to get as much done in the morning so that I can be with them in the afternoon and use those pockets of time to tweet and do Instagram and stuff like that.

Andrea: Alright, so this is what I’m really interested in right now, the fact that you are so knowledgeable about social media has to be helpful as a parent of teens.

Tammy Cannon: Oh my goodness! I can’t tell you how glad I am to have the knowledge but it’s like a double edge sore because I know too much almost. The fine line that I have to walk where I’m not invading their privacy too much as a teen, I mean I can’t even imagine of that stuff that my parents could have found out about you know you don’t want. You don’t want your kid doing those things but you also know that they are going to make bad decisions and then some of them are natural consequence types of things where they learn on their own.

But then there are other things where your parents need to step in and so sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to draw that line. I have an example and this was years ago. I’ll just say one of them fifth or sixth grade and we were our way to school. At the time, I had to drive them to their elementary school and I noticed that one of my old phones was missing. So long story short, I said something about “Well, you know, I guess I can just put the GPS on and figure out where the phone is and then I’ll know where it is.” Well that scared sad child so then throw the phone in the back seat and so therefore didn’t get in trouble for anything.

But stuff like that you know then they’re like “Oh they can track this phone.” “Oh no, I better not follow through with this bad decision.” And so we laugh about it now but it’s like “OK, there’s a lot to know.” Another one of my kids, I found out they had posted on Instagram after I had taken their phone away and so I’m thinking to myself “How are they doing it. They have to have a device.” So I go and asked and the child says “Oh I just used the computer.” And I’m like “No, you can’t upload photos direct from my computer.

So just little things like that that most parents maybe wouldn’t have known a few years ago, I was able to be like “No, that’s not true.” Then they’re like “Oh, I’m _____.” So in that regard, it’s dead but you just got train them to hope they make better decisions and not be dishonest and move forward. But yeah, there is a fine line especially as they get older and they way the use social media is so very different from the way we use it. I don’t even know all the ins and outs. It really bothers me how they do it differently. I try to ask them questions like “What is streaking? What’s being left unread?” There are so many little things in their world that we just have no idea about. It’s pretty insane.

Andrea: Right. Do you have any insights into why or how kids use it differently than adults?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah. So for Instagram as an example, most teenagers are going to have main Instagram account but they also have what they call as spam account. The spam account is a secondary account which only has their good friends, or friends of friends and they compose anything they want to any type of image whatever it might be and it’s only going to those people.

And by the way, all the teens have private accounts but yet they’ve get thousands of followers because it’s just a word of mouth, oh it’s my friend’s, cousin’s, brother and their friends and friends Instagram but everybody’s private. So it’s so different than how we use it as adults and how we use it for business.

Andrea: I know that you have an episode on your podcast recently where you talk about teens and what it means that streaking on Snapchat and things like this, so I will definitely include that in the show notes because I think that any parent would be really appreciate understanding some of those things a little bit better.

OK, so Tammy, now there are some people listening, the Influencers that’s listening might be somebody that has a speaking business for a while or they’re considering breaking out on their own to do counseling or something along these lines and have this business but they don’t really love the idea of social media and aren’t exactly sure about to do with social media. Maybe they’re even starting a blog but they’re not sure what to do with social media, do you have any suggestions for somebody in that situation or maybe it depends on the person but where they should get started. What are the first steps?

Tammy Cannon: I think for anyone that’s looking into social media or maybe even blogging or doing a video blog, I think the first step is to figure out why you want to do it. I remember when I first started managing and social media was new, everyone was just like “OK, we got to jump on and get on there,” but there’s no strategy and there’s no consistency a lot of the time and that’s because there isn’t a good reason why. They haven’t figured it out so for instance if you’re a restaurant, you do want people coming to spend money at your restaurant and so that’s kind of the end goal. And then working backwards from there, you know what kind of things, what entice people to come in to the restaurant.

And so for any business, I think you need to really figure out, do you want to get paid to be a speaker so therefore you got to go on social media and maybe you get advice on speaking or do behind the scenes of how you prepare for a speech. And all those can be done on a website with a blog post, with Instagram images even through Twitter. So I think if you have a strategy, know what you want people to do then it makes it a lot easier to get started.

And to get started, I think it’s important to think in terms of traffic to your website because your website is the hub of everything. That’s where people can get to know you a little bit more, connect with you, work with you, and definitely have a work with your page. And then a weekly content whether that’s a blog or video or tutorial that can post on your website and share it via social media that’s going to drive traffic back to your website because I think the end goals is always to make some form of money. If you’re in business to make money and so if you think how am I making money with this business and then work backwards in giving people what they want, giving them value so that they will want to purchase something from you in the end.

Andrea: When I first started blogging it was basically three years ago and the thing to do with that time was to get on Facebook and create a Facebook page. And so that’s what I did, I created a Facebook page and invited people to like it and it was pretty simple for me to spend maybe $5 every time I posted something on my blog to get it to reach thousands of people, a couple of thousands of people maybe which was awesome. And I’ve certainly noticed that now to get the same amount of people to see that post, it would take maybe $30.

So when it’s worth it and when it’s not worth it to spend money? How do you make that decision? Do you have any suggestions about that on whether or not to just post or create ads or something like that for somebody that maybe just have some information for their friends to share? Or how do you figure out whether or not it’s worth it based on the product that you’re selling and things like that? Do you have my any facts on that?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah. It’s a whole big process and so my strategy with the whole thing is to come up with a logical sequence or like a path to purchase or a lot of people call them _____. What’s the _____, what’s the strategy, or what’s the path to purchase? And certainly one of them is if you’re writing blog post to value, you can boost that post. You know, they always want you to send money advertising on Facebook, Facebook loves our money so there’s always a chance to do that and now with boosted post, you can actually tag what type of person, you know what their interest are.

So it’s gotten a lot better. It had a bad rap for a while just posting a post but if you want to do that just to create brand awareness, just to get people over to your website, or to read your content, the best way to go about that is use that as a lead generation opportunity. So have a call-to-action inside your blog post whether that’s a free worksheet that helps bring more value to the blog post or maybe it’s a tutorial video that they can sign up to watch, or maybe you have a direct to sales inside of your blog post that sends them to a online course or something. Have something that you want them to do once they get there that is on the path to purchase.

And so the very first thing that you will get is an email. That’s definitely where to begin, start building your email list because not everyone is ready to purchase from you but if your articles are helpful and they’ll find themselves going back to your website like “Oh that’s a really great content. I wonder what they’ve got going on this week.” And so then you’ve got a situation where you’ve done such a good job with your content that people are seeking you out and you don’t have to pay for that and you’re getting leads for zero dollars. That’s certainly I think; boosting a post, running a conversion ad, figuring out, or branding pages there are so much to it. They’re very basics if you are blogging and do have a lot about of value to share and you’re really thinking about your ideal customer then certainly get them over to your website, drive the traffic with a boosted post if you want but have something for them to do when they get there.

Andrea: That’s great! OK, so I know that that’s pretty complicated for people that have maybe just started, but you need to understand at the same time that it is a little complicated and that getting your message out there, there’s many different ways to a message out into the world. And if you are thinking that you would like to do it online which is a really wise move in my opinion then it does require learning new things and Tammy is a great person to learn those things from when it comes to your social media strategy and things like that.

So I definitely want to encourage you to check out Tammy and the things that she has to offer, which I asked her about just a minute and then also if you’re really looking for that why, your why and your purpose and you’re trying to figure out what is the direction that I want with this message of mine then I can help you with that. You will find links to both what I offer and what Tammy offers in the show notes and I hope that you’ll check that out because I think we both have some freebies too. So Tammy why don’t you tell us about where people can find you and what you have to offer.

Tammy Cannon: Sure! So I’ve got the Free Resource Library and the easiest way to access that is the number that I gave earlier, so texting the number 44222 and then just type in all one word freeresource and then you have an opportunity to opt in and get inside the library. I have lots of goodies and fun stuff. You can also access, if you want to check out my classes, I’ve got some fun summer time challenges coming up that people can take a look out at Pinterest and Instagram and so you can access that. I have a and they can check everything out there too.

Andrea:   Awesome!   Well, Tammy, thank you so much for taking time to share with us your expertise and your story and I did like the extra a little bit about teenagers that was helpful.

Tammy Cannon: Oh thank you for having me. I appreciate it, Andrea, this has been fun.

Andrea: Definitely check out her stuff and I look forward to seeing you more on Facebook and Instagram. We do have a Facebook group for the Voice of Influence at this time, so go to Voice of Influence community. It’s a Facebook group so you go ahead and you just ask to join and we’ll have a chat. So thank you so much and use social media to your benefit and go make your voice matter more.



How to Navigate Judgment When You Have a Platform

Voice Studio 16

In this Voice Studio episode, we look back at something discussed in episode 16 with Megan Swanson. Pageant women literally pay to be judged for all they are, but so do any of us who take the risk of sharing our voice with others. So how do we navigate that judgment? I offer two important things to consider in this episode. Taking in criticism from people who want to help you get better is much different than being pushed off course by someone who is reacting out of their own fear.

Mentioned in this episode

  • Episode 16: Your Mess Can Become Your Message

Listen & Subscribe Below, on iTunes or Stitcher


Your Mess Can Become Your Message

Episode 16 with Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014

A 24-year old CEO, Singer, and International Speaker from Omaha, Nebraska, Megan Swanson is a real go-getter.

As a former Miss Nebraska, having represented her state at the Miss America 2015 pageant, Megan is passionate about equipping young individuals. During her year, she traveled 40,000 miles, speaking to tens of thousands of individuals regarding her platform of Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Financial Wellness. After her year as Miss Nebraska, Megan realized there was still MUCH work to be done- and her pageant coaching firm “Powerhouse Pageantry” was born, equipping young pageant women all over the United States to win in their interviews and on stage questions.

Megan now travels the country speaking, coaching, and performing her music.

She can be found on all social media outlets @megan_swanson, or at

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher.

Also, grab the summary of the first 15 podcast guests:

Tips & Strategies for Emerging Thought Leaders and Message-Driven Creatives: Volume 1



This Is What Keeps Emerging Thought Leaders Up At Night

Four years ago I had an inkling that I should start learning to use Facebook for something more than just sharing about my life. I wasn’t ready to start writing yet, but it made sense that I should start sharing my heart and message more intentionally through social media to practice using my voice online. But it was terrifying! I often wondered what people would think and if certain people would “like” my posts or totally write me off because I was speaking up.

If I share something that could help others, will they think I am just trying to get attention?

Now that I help emerging thought leaders find and refine their message, I see this as a big problem. There is a big green monster keeping these folks up at night and it’s time to turn on the light and scare that bad boy away.

Here’s the truth.


Just when I think a creative, empathetic person is close to making a difference in the world with their message they back up and say, “I can’t do it. I don’t want them to think I’m bragging.” They don’t want to admit out loud that they have something that could help others, so they end up shrinking back and holding it in. They want to fly under the radar or have someone else promote their work because if they own up to the value of what they offer, they might just have to share it and look like they are…



But every once in a while someone gets in touch with their calling and joins a few brave souls who come up to the edge of the cliff, day after day, and jump into the great unknown of offering their work to the world.

But the reality is that this leap faith is complicated because…

We are conflicted. We do not want to promote ourselves for the sake of glory, but we recognize that we enjoy having your attention and making an impact on the world.

We are conflicted. We want to be humble and put others before ourselves, but we’ve learned that when we hold back our gifts, we are putting ourselves in front of you because then you can’t benefit from the gifts we have to offer.

We are conflicted. We know that our voice matters and yours does, as well, but we also know that we can make our voices matter more when we develop our message and our communication style.

We are conflicted. We know that we have opinions and an important message to share with the world, but we recognize that we might just be wrong. We want to share our message with conviction and power in our own unique ways, but we recognize that at some point we might change our minds. We might be wrong.

We are conflicted. We wish we could say what we have to say to you face to face, but sometimes those personal interactions and conversations are not the place to share our message. Sometimes it takes art to communicate through pictures and emotion, something that cannot be expressed in a one on one conversation with you.

We are conflicted. We don’t want you to feel like you aren’t doing enough or that you are not enough, simply because you aren’t doing what we are doing. We don’t want you to look down on yourself because we are stepping into our calling and you have a different one.

We are conflicted. Because we don’t want you to look down on us for living large and taking big risks. But at the same time we want you to know that you can take your own risks, that may look totally different than ours.

We are conflicted. We know that if our message touches just one person, it’s worth it. But we also know that settling for reaching one person could be a cop-out for doing the hard work of finding out who our message is really for, developing it, refining it and turning it into a work of art, a masterpiece that resonates with many people.

We are conflicted. Because we also realize that our message isn’t for everyone and when you are ready, you’ll be ready to hear whatever you’re supposed to hear, from whomever is sharing it.

We are conflicted, and yet, we jump anyway because we are convicted – to share our stories, to offer up our voices into the world, to live into the fullness of who we are, to work hard at our craft so that our message will resonate deeply within the hearts of people.

We are convicted. Life is fleeting. Many of us have experienced hardships and grief that put us in a position to realize that we don’t know what this life holds for us. Tomorrow we may not be able to speak clearly, or even have words to say.

We are convicted. Because we know that we are are called to extend our offering. If you reject it, if you ignore it or whatever, we will be ok. Because we’re in place where know our work and our offering isn’t about us.

We are convicted. Our offering is part of who we are but it’s about you. It grieves us when we see you hurting in ways we know we could help. But we also know we will not push you to partake of our offering. We simply invite and wait for you to decide when you are ready and what you are ready for. And we want you to offer your gift in a similar way. We are convicted that you have something to  offer the world and that we are simply one way of offering something. It just happens to be very visible.

And that’s what we want you to understand about our self-promotion. In our most loving position, we are not trying to elevate ourselves. It’s not self-promotion, it’s an invitation to enjoy what we have put hard work and effort into in order to serve you. We don’t want to promote ourselves, we want to share our offering.

We hope that you will be inspired to share yours, as well. That’s why I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast to encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and sleep well.

Download it here.