Monthly Archives: April 2020


Featured Founder: Jennifer Burns of Wedzee

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Jennifer Burns, Founder and CEO of Wedzee, the first-ever two-sided, C2C/B2C wedding focused marketplace that gives users an easier way to buy, sell and ship their new, used and custom wedding items securely nationwide.



What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I have worked in wedding & event planning for 12 years. Prior to Wedzee I founded an e-commerce site called Kadlee which sold various bridal gifts and was ultimately acquired in 2018. When planning my own wedding I encountered many frustrations trying to buy and sell items. This personal frustration coupled with the never-ending request from my clients of where to buy and sell inspired me to create Wedzee.


What pain point is your company solving?

Before Wedzee there was no dedicated marketplace to buy and sell new, used, and custom wedding items. Competitors solutions lack important functionality, security, or focus and some even limit you geographically. Wedding dresses and décor are better suited for a discovery buying process yet there was no national browsing solution. Wedzee provides brides with an online community to browse, like, share, shop and sell safely all in one secure site.


What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Being an entrepreneur is the most challenging and exciting career. I receive emails daily from complete strangers saying how needed this marketplace is to the wedding industry, and every day we are gaining more traction with new users and listings on the site. This is why my enthusiasm grows and why I am so excited. I enjoy the challenge and won’t stop until Wedzee is synonymous with the wedding industry.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

The hurdle all marketplace sites have to overcome is tackling the business from both a seller and buyer standpoint. My focus has been the sellers first and initially seeding the site with items listed for sale has been very challenging. To overcome this we are reaching out to everyone selling items on social media and Craigslist and offering to list their items for free on Wedzee. So far we’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response but it’s a grueling process. With some branding and marketing we hope to drive more people to list on our site themselves.


Where do you see your company headed next?

We are finalizing our playbook and fine-tuning our pitch in hopes of securing our first round of funding. Once we have the financial backing Wedzee plans to launch a very powerful marketing campaign to take the wedding industry by storm.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

Starting a successful business is equally, if not more, about your ambition, drive, and determination than it is your ability to fill a void in your market.


Learn more about Wedzee on  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.



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Sales Play Development with Chad Nuss of InsideOut


Early startup sales teams have to be lean and cohesive to close deals effectively. It's important that everyone on your team speaks the same language and follows a tight strategy. Teams can leverage sales plays to optimize their performance and to develop a strategy that aligns the team's efforts. A sales play is a repeatable offering that helps specific sales teams (or channel partners) successfully sell a product, service or solution to a specific set of customers during a predetermined time period.

We invited Chad Nuss, Founder and CRO of InsideOut, to speak with companies supported by Embarc Collective on how to create effective sales plays. InsideOut, based in St. Petersburg, has helped hundreds of leading brands like Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft optimize their sales cycles through innovative techniques, playbooks, and technologies.


Why is having a sales play so important?

As Chad described it, programmers wouldn't be able to code programs if there wasn't a common language or framework to be referenced. This same approach should be taken when thinking about building sales plays. A common language or structure to your sales strategy, known as plays, is necessary when communicating and driving your team to successfully close sales.

At InsideOut, Chad and his team have focused on the basics of a sales play to help founders and their teams develop solid sales strategies.


The Sales Play Basics

Below are six examples of InsideOut’s Sales Play attributes. InsideOut stores hundreds of customizable attributes to help you design a personalized buyer experience These attributes allow a seller to pursue a buyer in a personalized way, improving conversation rates, pipeline velocity and revenue. 

  • Industry
  • ICP Markets
  • Persona
  • Offer
  • Sales Motion
  • Cadence


Industry: What industries are you targeting?

This should be the easiest for your team to identify and a great place to start your sales planning. These are the industries your startup product is targeting. If you are focused on one core industry, try and think of the sub-segments within that industry to further customize your messaging to each buyer type. 


ICP Markets: What is your ideal customer profile (ICP)?

Your ICP is a description of the company — not the individual buyer or end-users — that's a perfect fit for your solution. The ICP should focus on relevant characteristics such as vertical, employee headcount, annual revenue, budget, geography or technology they use. For example, your industry may be healthcare but your ideal customer profile would be small, mid-size, etc. businesses that focus on billing in the healthcare space.


Persona: Who are your target personas?

Your personas are the types of buyers within your industry that you would like to target. If you offer a cybersecurity product, your industries may be government agencies as well as corporations. However, in each of these industries, the buyers may look different. For a government agency, a director may be your buyer. For a corporation, a CIO or CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) may be your buyer.


Offer: What offers do you have?

These are resources (white paper, ebook, template or guide) you can provide to the customer to help them solve their problem. These resources are the incentive that draws a customer in to engage with your sales play. The goal is to provide your customer with something that will help them solve their problem or perhaps, get closer to the solution with knowledge of your product and solutions.


Sales Motion: What's your sales motion?

Here you should determine the goal of the sales play. Are you hoping to gain new customers, win back old customers, renew service with existing or soon-to-be canceled customers? Having a solid call to action or outcome from your sales plays will allow you to streamline your efforts as well as provide a benchmark to evaluate and measure your sales play progress.


Cadence: What kind of cadence are you delivering this play?

It's important to define how long a sales play should last. Depending on the outcome you'd like from the sale, the cadence method may change. For example, if you have a sales play with a webinar that is time sensitive or pertaining to a seasonal issue, you may choose to run this sales play with a shorter cadence and push out via external newsletters. Or you may find that some campaigns may need to happen in bursts, distributed exclusively on social media. Cadences require you to determine the number of days, number of steps, the interval periods between steps, and the media types you want to pursue your prospects with (email, phone, LinkedIn, video, direct mail, etc.)


In Application

Use this framework to organize your sales play planning. Each sales play will require testing and application to determine what works best for your product. A successful sales play helps you drive increased conversations with your buyers by an average of 25%. 

You should keep tabs on your sales play metrics, such as how many signups your webinar had and how many customers engaged with the call to action on your latest landing page. Compare these metrics to the objective of the sales play. Were you able to convert x amount of customers with this sales play method? You may find that some sales plays may lead to different outcomes than predicted which may provide an opportunity to revisit your goals and customer need. Evaluating metrics like these, and recording the results regularly, will help you determine which sales plays are effective and which aren't as well as which customers or buyers they are best suited for.

Find more on sales play strategies here.

InsideOut has hired 50 new employees in March, and seeking to hire another round of 50 new employees in May to support new customers including IBM, Google and T-Mobile. Learn more about InsideOut’s Sales Play™ methodology, or if you are interested in joining the fastest growing company in the Tampa Bay area, you can visit their Careers Page for more information.



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Growth Story: Rico Smith of StemRad

Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Rico Smith, Lead Field Engineer of StemRad, a developer and manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE) for radiation.


Where are you from?

My name is Ronrico Smith, everyone calls me “Rico” for short. I was born and raised in Tampa, FL and I have lived here my entire life.


Tell us more about your role at StemRad. What does a day in the life look like?

I am the Lead Field Engineer for StemRad, with primary responsibilities within the medical vertical. I develop and implement test plans and procedures with the R&D team for medical products. I never know what to fully expect on any given day. Most of the time I am conducting field studies for product analysis, or setting up for a hospital site visit, or even traveling to present at a medical conference. I also oversee all field repairs of our StemRad MD Exoskeletal System, and I assist in training medical end-users about our technology.


How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?

Currently, I serve in the United States Air Force Reserves as a Staff Sergeant at MacDill AFB. I serve in a functional capacity to ensure the readiness of 2,800 medical devices. Initially, I served at Fort Sam Houston, TX which is where I completed a 12 month rigorous biomedical technology curriculum and I graduated top three in my class. After receiving my A.A.S in Biomedical Equipment Technology from the Community College of the Air Force, I went on to complete my B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from Trident University International. Before joining StemRad, I was a Clinical Engineer at Tampa General Hospital. While working there I provided representation for 26 biomedical technicians and I played a vital role in the decision-making process for a 5 year, $100 million physical and network driven medical device upgrade plan.


How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?

Tampa is a fast up and coming city. This sprawling region is the perfect environment for companies like Embarc and StemRad to thrive. I am proud to have been born and raised in Tampa and I am optimistic for the future.


What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?

My good friend and COO of StemRad, Jack Ross once told me “to be successful in a startup you should never confine yourself to just one role, and we are all in this together.” When working in a startup and even throughout your career, one must always be flexible and able to deal with ambiguity.


Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?

Under the leadership of Mayor Jane Castor and with all of the massive projects currently underway in Tampa to include the Water Street project, led by Jeff Vinik. Tampa is well on its way to becoming one of the premier cities on the East Coast.


Learn more about StemRad on Twitter,  Facebook, and LinkedIn.



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Leading a Rockstar Virtual Event with Kyley Hagan and Ally Gannon of Synapse


Effective virtual events provide a platform for the broader community to connect beyond physical location and allows your company the opportunity to establish a reputable brand by developing thought leadership content. People remember both quality engagements and bad engagements. You'll want to be on the winning side of your virtual event strategy; in turn, your attendees will be encouraged to share and invite others to join your next event.

To better understand how to host a rockstar virtual event, we interviewed two team members of the Synapse team, Community Engagement Manager, Kyley Hagan and Marketing Director, Ally Gannon. Synapse is a platform to connect and organize Florida's innovation community. Like many organizations and businesses, Synapse pivoted quickly to move their community engagements online to continue connecting innovators and entrepreneurs as they had with in-person events. In March 2019, they launched the on-going Libate & Learn webinar series that features expert-led panels speaking on challenges presented by COVID-19 and providing insight to entrepreneurs on building resilience to tackle what's ahead.

In this interview, Ally and Kyley shared their playbook to planning virtual events. They outlined key elements to focus on in the planning stages, how to market your webinar and ways to keep your audience engaged to minimize drop-off rate.


Planning a Virtual Event

"One thing you don't realize when it comes to virtual events is how much work and planning truly goes into hosting them. I, like many people, thought it started with making a Zoom account, creating a Facebook event and sharing the Zoom link. However, I learned quickly through this experience that it is crucial to carve out time to strategically plan your event. The most important thing to spend time working on is your content," says Kyley when asked what founders or startups should think about before planning a virtual event.

Ally furthers Kyley's point by describing that taking the time to plan the content of the webinar series, from the speakers to the types of questions these experts should answer, are the steps that helped them successfully host the first webinar episodes. Once they had a framework in place, the procedure to produce a webinar became rinse and repeat and gave them more time to focus on planning content that resonates with their audience.

They suggest starting your webinar or virtual event planning process with a project plan that answers the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this webinar? Are you trying to educate an audience? Raise awareness? Connect people? Create a discussion?
  • What is the business case for the webinar?
  • Who is the webinar for? What do they care about? what would be helpful or a value-add?
  • When is the best time to host the webinar for your intended audience?
  • How long should it be?

If you're drawing a blank with some of these answers, first identify your business case. Understanding the goal of your webinar will help determine the type of content you'll need to create and for who. This will also help you understand how long the webinar or virtual event should be considering the audience. Ally says the key business case for Synapse is to serve as a virtual space that allows innovators to connect and share solutions during the COVID-19 crisis. After clearly defining their business case, the next question to answer is what are the current challenges their community needs support with and who is the best expert to help provide support? Kyley notes that you will naturally realize the importance of content once you begin a solid planning process.

The Synapse team decided to host the Libate & Learn series in an open, Q&A format where participants were allowed to join with audio and video. They limited the attendee list to 50 participants.

Ally says they worked ahead of the event to source questions from attendees that registered. They used the event registration form and follow-up emails as methods to collect information from registered guests. By sourcing questions from registered guests, they could go back to the expert and essentially provide an outline to frame the discussion.


Formatting Your Virtual Event

When planning what your virtual event format should look like, take into consideration your audience and their schedule. The format of your event could also be determined by the speaker, as they may want to lead the event with a presentation already created or prefer to have an open discussion from the beginning.

Once you've identified how the speaker content will work in your event, you can think of additional elements to keep your audience engaged. Consider playing music while your attendees wait for the event to kick off or lead with ice breakers to connect the audience members to the speakers. Kyley says unlike an in-person event where you can introduce food and drinks to promote connectivity between attendees, you'll need to be a bit more creative to engage people in virtual events.

The Synapse team decided to host a multi-event series, which was important in helping them map out a larger editorial timeline, giving them space to make changes to content as their communities' interest or speakers' preferences change. Ideally, Ally suggests that if you plan a single event or a series of events, you'll want to give your team a space of one to two weeks to produce an episode.


Marketing Your Virtual Event

Thinking of a strong title is key to getting attendees to take notice of your event. As you think about graphic and copy to support your event promotion, Kyley suggests building a title that is hyper-relevant to your audience and also clearly communicates the value add.

If you're planning on doing a series, it may be easier to host the webinar at the same time every week and including this in your graphic design or marketing copy. Your audience can correlate your event with a specific time and day which can help with attendance. However, Ally advises that while you want to create a consistent schedule, be ready and nimble for last minute changes based on your speakers' availability or content updates.

They also suggest using a single source to promote your event. The Synapse team chose to exclusively post the event on Eventbrite and promote via Facebook to help keep signups in one place. When throwing an in-person event, event planners will often use both Facebook and Eventbrite to promote events. Ally says this method is still effective, for the purpose of their webinar they wanted to keep a single source for event information due to the influx of news and virtual events during COVID-19.

Ally suggests you give your team three solid days to market your virtual event. She has adopted a framework that helps her think about Synapse's promotion strategy.

  • Narrow down which marketing channels you plan to target.
  • Create a cadence of how often you plan to post on each channel and at what time.
  • Determine if you need paid media to reach a new audience or if you can target your existing audience.
  • Identify key messages should you share about the event.
  • Create a list of speaker handles, organizations and hashtags to promote.

Next, Ally explains the importance of building a promotion schedule. Building a promotional schedule makes it easier to get the word out fast. You'll want to run through this schedule with each event.

To save time in the marketing process, create templates that you can repurpose for event and social media graphics. Use tools like Canva, which have thousands of existing templates you can repurpose, to create a consistent, branded look for your virtual event or series.

A sample promotion schedule for virtual events could look like:

  • share event in newsletter 4 days before the event
  • email a list of partners copy and link to the event to share with their members or employees 3 days before the event
  • share on social media 4 days out from event
  • provide guest speakers designed media and copy to share 2 days out from event
  • share a final blast via newsletter to encourage last minute signups day before event
  • share final blast on social day of event

Libate & Learn Marketing Graphics


Keeping People Engaged During Your Event

Kyley advises having one person on point to deal with any technical issues. You'll want to admit people in your conference vs giving them permission to join openly to prevent things like Zoombombing or unwanted visitors joining. As virtual attendees roll in, the designated tech person will be responsible for adding folks into the virtual event without disrupting the speaker, the host or the attendees. 

Certain video conference providers allow you to limit chat or video features for attendees. Zoom has a Q&A feature that allows the focus to be on the speaker and removes attendees capabilities to participate with audio or video. In turn, they can submit questions through a Q&A chat box shown on their screen. This feature is great for programming-focused virtual events to limit disruptions. For Synapse's virtual events, they chose to have attendees participate with audio and video.

They also had a designated moderator on the team to guide the conversation and engage attendees throughout the event. When things would slow down, the moderator can step in to ask specific speakers questions or manage the flow of Q&A.


Best Practices for Success

Ally and Kyley both speak on the benefit of having different members of your team focus on separate elements of producing and hosting your webinar or virtual event.

At a minimum, you'll want to separate your webinar development process in two areas, content and marketing. "While one member is planning content closely with the expert, the other team member is working on graphics and marketing copy as well as scheduling the event on platforms like Eventbrite or Facebook Events," said Ally.

Using Zoom or other video conference tools are a must. They also leveraged online task managers to make sure tasks were not missed. This task list was also visible to the entire team for transparency on progress with each virtual event. Kyley mentioned that once that happens other members can jump in to help with other tasks to make sure things get done per schedule. You want to make sure you stick to your event date no matter what.

One solid tip both Kyley and Ally shared was to make sure you test your computer and mobile equipment before starting. Give yourself and the guest speakers 15 minutes before the event to run through a tech test. Ensure that microphones and cameras are working, the rules for your attendees' participation are set and that lighting is good to go. These small details will level-up your virtual event.

To better understand the needs of their audience, the team sends attendees survey forms to ask about their experience. They utilize Google forms to create a link that is automatically shared with attendees via email after the event.


Additional Resources



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Featured Founder: Johnny Crowder of Cope Notes

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Johnny Crowder, Founder and CEO of Cope Notes, a text messaging tool that helps improve mental and emotional health.



What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

My employment history is an interesting one. I’ve toured in a metal band and volunteered in the mental health field as a speaker and advocate for 10+ years, but neither of these things paid the bills. To make ends meet, I did a lot of writing, editing, creative direction, and design for different firms and agencies over the years. Cope Notes is the third iteration of something I’ve been trying to build since 2015, and ultimately, I think the idea was born out of pure frustration. As someone who spent over a decade in treatment for mental health conditions, I can’t explain to you how badly I needed a tool like Cope Notes. About 5 months after launch, I quit my ad agency job to run Cope Notes full time - one of the toughest (and most rewarding) decisions I’ve ever made. I always knew I wanted to use my writing and creative skills for something bigger, I just never knew what it would look like.


What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

I could rattle off a laundry list of pain points associated with seeking mental and emotional health support, but in the interest of keeping this answer shorter than a novel, I’ve narrowed it down to a few. In my personal experience, if any given tool ever made it past my skepticism radar, it was too expensive, it was too inconvenient, it was too inconsistent, it was too invasive, it wasn’t peer-based, it collected my personal data, and beyond all of that, it relied on me to make the first move. And when you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, motivation doesn’t grow on trees. Cope Notes is the answer to all of these complaints and more. There are gaps in the treatment model - that much is plain to see. We’re just trying to fill them.

As for excitement, knowing that I get to dedicate my life to stopping the very thing that almost ended it is so astounding to me. I never thought I would get a chance to contribute in this capacity. Every day, I wake up knowing that I’m doing something that’s making a difference in thousands of lives all over the world, and nothing is more important to me than that. People are still alive today because of what we do! Cope Notes has allowed me to turn my personal pain into something that alleviates that same pain in the lives of other people, which makes every second of my suffering worth it ten times over.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Coming from a creative/psych background, I can admit that I was ill-equipped to handle some (all) of the technical components of Cope Notes. I didn’t know anyone who was willing to take on that role at the time, so I was left to my own devices. Lots of google searches, YouTube tutorials, pouring through forum threads, and asking a bunch of people in my network for their input. I wound up repurposing some marketing software just to get the original proof of concept off the ground, which was very clunky and required a massive amount of manual labor. This, as you can imagine, led to a giant margin of human error. Eventually, my now-CTO Mat reached out to me and offered up some help, but for months on end, I was floundering on the tech side. Long story short: Everyone has a weak spot, and mine was tech. Overcoming it took a willingness to be wrong and a LOT of humility.


Where do you see your company headed next?

When we started out, we were pretty squarely B2C-focused, but that has changed rapidly over the last 2 years. We’ve been focusing more and more on integration with other platforms, agencies, care providers, insurance players, school systems, employers, and community mainstays to establish strategic partnerships. When you work in a field like mental/emotional health, you can’t view it like a field full of competition - these “competitors” are really teammates. We’re all fighting for the same cause, trying to protect, serve, and support the same people. Teaming up with them to strengthen the network of care is only going to foster a safer environment for the people we’re trying to help, change, and save.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

Don’t waste your whole life trying to do something perfectly out the gate. It’s okay to start sloppy. It’s okay to pivot almost immediately. It’s okay to scrap your original idea, rebrand, and start again. Your company is not you. YOU are you. Don’t let your identity get so lost in what you’re building that you fiercely defend your own idea instead of accepting its newest, most effective form. Get used to the idea of being wrong, and embrace it. (This is advice I give myself on a daily basis.)


Learn more about Cope Notes on Instagram,  Facebook, and LinkedIn



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Meditation for Startup Operators with Michael Joly of solu


An unsettled mind, racing with ideas can significantly impact the way you work and your ability to make decisions. As a startup operator, it is important to always stay on top of your A-game and make sure you prioritize your mental health to do so.

In this resource, we interview Michael Joly, Founder of solu, a company that has developed a tone therapy system to help users achieve deep meditation and intentional calm. In his experience with tone therapy, developing meditation products and working directly with customers who've benefited from meditation practice, he has a rich understanding of the power of meditation and the impact it can have on someone's life.

Michael shares the basics of starting a meditation routine, no matter your experience. And one specific strategy that can work well for startup operators who have a hard time disconnecting from technology.


Why Meditation

"Meditation practice (mindfulness or other) is especially important now as many of us feel anxious about our families, friends and businesses during the crisis. Many people are experiencing near non-stop worry––the bad news, voices and visual scenes in our heads won’t stop playing and demanding our attention," says Michael when asked why meditation is important for startup founders now.

He further describes that in order to continue to be of optimum service to others, we need to take back our minds from their fixation on bad thoughts and seek frequent moments of stillness and peace.

Michael explains that there are several benefits mindfulness meditation brings to productivity and building a business. Some benefits include:

  • less negative reactivity in the midst of adversity
  • increased compassion and kindness extended toward all stakeholders
  • and a remarkable boost of intuitive capacity––the ability to make quick and effective decisions when there are not enough facts or facts are changing rapidly.


What are Some of the Common Ways to Disconnect?

Michael describes that disconnecting means intentionally letting thoughts go in order to come to a place of “awareness of being aware”––an intentional, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. The most immediate way to disconnect is to intentionally change habitual behaviors.

"For example, several years ago I gave up starting my day by listening to or reading the news of the day. Instead, I now start my day with 20 minutes of quiet sitting and listening to the ambient sounds around me. I follow that with long-hand free-writing in a journal. My writing is not business-related and is mainly focused on sitting with inspirational texts and jotting down my interpretations of these classic works," says Michael.

He advises that some other ways to disconnect include not looking at your phone immediately when waking up. Avoid checking your inbox, watching TV or listening to radio news. He also suggests avoiding the morning paper if you receive print. The goal is to connect with these external sources of information (“the 10,000 things as the ancient Chinese sages Lao Tze has written),  after you've connected with your own inner stillness and peace––the source of your true identity and power. Connecting with your inner peace can look different for everyone. This could involve physical exercise, sitting still with no distractions, intentional meditation, or citing mantras. Michael advises that you have to make an active decision to care for your mental health. Much like anything else, you have to dedicate time from your day to actively still your mind.


Active Listening

There are various methods of meditation including movement meditation, transcendental meditation, and spiritual meditation. However, meditation is not limited to these methods. For beginners, one simple way to still an overly active mind is to use intentional, active listening to bring mental focus to the present moment. Michael explains that intentional, active focus through listening will quell the voices in your head because it is not possible to simultaneously truly listen and think at the same time.

You can try this for yourself, wherever you are, right now.

Start by simply noting what sounds are in your environment.

  1. Do this without analyzing the sounds. Avoid thinking if the sounds are high or low, loud or soft. Avoid judging if you like or dislike the sounds or if they're pleasant or unpleasant.
  2. Bring your full attention to everything you can hear; nearby sounds, distant sounds, stationary or constant sounds; sounds that are moving or intermittent. We’re a visually dominant culture that the practice of actively listening to sounds may be unusual to you at first.
  3. To start, try to do this for 3-minutes twice a day.

"We usually listen to sounds for the messages they convey like words and songs. If you truly listen deeply to the sounds around you the “inner voice” in your mind will become quiet and you’ll stop racing thoughts, to-do lists or fears. It’s natural for thoughts to arise. When they do you’ll notice that your attention to the sounds around you has lapsed. Your ability to focus on sound and letting thoughts drift by rather than focus on them will improve as you practice––just like when you used to go to the gym to build muscle or aerobic capacity," says Michael.


Creating a Practice

Michael explains that he has found it helpful to disconnect and self-reconnect several times throughout the day. He starts upon waking in the morning, disconnects and reconnects 2-3 times throughout the day using "reminders" and disconnecting before falling asleep. He suggests setting a mental reminder by associating a common task or action with a mindful task. For example, every time you walk through a doorway you could take one conscious breath––completely focus on the inhale, hold, and slowly exhale.

Michael also suggests disconnecting “on-demand” when you’re triggered by challenging situations, people or news items. The classic instruction to “count to 10” before responding is still a valid and effective approach to stilling your mind. Closing your eyes briefly while taking a few conscious breaths will eliminate visual forms from your mental vision. Small mindful steps can be helpful in getting you to a calmer state of mind that is not dominated by forms –– whether these are visual forms (news, videos, experiences) or thought-forms (fears, doubts, ideas).


Sample Schedule

Michael has shared a simple schedule to follow if you're interested in starting a meditation practice. See below:

  1. Upon waking up, even before getting out of bed, notice your breath and surroundings for just a few conscious moments.
  2. After completing one morning task, carve out half an hour to practice meditation. You can start with active listening or try sitting in silence. It's suggested that you sit upright during meditation to stay focused and relaxed.
  3. During the day (or at work), schedule 1-2 breaks to take time to disconnect to reconnect to your  inner stillness). Take time to still your mind, free of distractions. Throughout the day closely monitor your mental health, and be sure to practice disconnecting on-demand when you're particularly triggered.
  4. End your day with a mindful moment, try to experience a moment of wordless gratitude. No need to write it down, feel the state of gratitude without doing so as a to-do list.


Additional Resources for Mindfulness + Meditation

Try a n.o.w. Tone Therapy System demo here.



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Featured Founder: Shawn Cutter of GreenScreens

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Shawn Cutter, CEO of GreenScreens, empowering cannabis retailers with screens that deliver great experiences for consumers.



What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I knew early on that I would start my own company. My first solo venture, Fielding Systems, began with a software solution for my family’s oil company and turned into a business. The opportunities for technology solutions in oil and gas were big enough that I was able to bootstrap my business and sell it to Quorum Software in 2015. Since leaving Quorum in 2018, I have invested and helped launch a few other startups.

Building and problem solving inspires my thirst for knowledge. My latest venture, GreenScreens, began with two of the original co-founders using technology solve real problems they were experiencing in the Cannabis industry.

We are witness to exciting times for startups and mature businesses alike where technology has become the differentiator. If you miss a strategic opportunity, you may not get another chance. First movers have an advantage because of the essential learning and experience deployed on each iteration. One of the most rewarding things one can do is build something from which others benefit. I have always been in active pursuit of understanding how things worked, routinely tearing them apart and not always putting them back together in the same way. Knowledge combined with curiosity is a powerful force. When I met Ryan Sterling, Martin DeFrance, and Jeremy Klammer to learn about GreenScreens, I knew right away I had to be involved. The future is becoming more and more digital, and the way the cannabis industry continues to boom, I knew my background and ambition, together with their determination and experience in cannabis, would create something spectacular in dispensaries and change the way dispensaries worked.


What pain point is your company solving?

Without GreenScreens, the Cannabis in-store shopping experience is cumbersome. Cannabis customers are often uninformed about the products, and even for experienced shoppers, the available product offerings change daily. Our screens solve these problems by enhancing the in-store experience. The content we provide captures the attention of the customers, engages them, and educates them about the available products. On top of that, the screens decrease the burden on the employees and increase profitability by providing advertising space. We’ve brought the future of retail, digital content, into brick-and-mortar Cannabis stores.


What gets you excited to go to work every day?

We have an unbelievably talented and creative team that consistently surpasses customer service needs. Being around creative, talented, perpetual learners is thrilling for me. We brainstorm together, create, and solve problems so I’m able to learn something new every day. I find it most rewarding working with a team. One of my hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, goals is to deliver technology that, to the ordinary person, looks like magic.


Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge GreenScreens has faced was surviving the pivot where I stepped in as CEO! We had to rediscover what would drive the company’s going forward, a huge task best accomplished in an agile way; by dividing it into manageable pieces. This means regularly scheduled retrospectives, daily standups, and so on. We also brought in outside expertise to fire up the team’s core values.


Where do you see your company headed next?

We are going to continue to expand into the growing Cannabis market and beyond. We are building the foundation of “Retail 2.0”; though we’re starting in the Cannabis industry, our concept will grow into many other small retail shops. Along with quality products, any profitable brick and mortar retail of the future must deliver a memorable experience and information that helps customers make decisions.


Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.

I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned with a fellow founder so I’ll give you my top 4: Above all else, don’t give up and keep pushing. Second is to surround yourself with people that inspire you and hire up to the extent your budget allows. Third, stay informed about anything in your industry that will likely impact your business. Lastly, work smarter, not harder, especially by utilizing the technological resources available to you, like our dispensary customers are doing by using GreenScreens.


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