Business as a Force for Good with Cory Ames

This week we're sharing a conversation between our guest Cory Ames and host Sean Pritzkau, where they discuss: •  their professional background and where they honed their skillset • the driving motivation that fuels their work • pivotal moments and experiences that led them to start purpose-driven initiatives Cory shares about his journey from becoming the CEO of a marketing agency at age 22 to growing his own media company that has since published over 200+ podcast episodes on topics ranging from social entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability.

[00:00:00] Sean: All right. Hey there and welcome to episode 25 of We Can Do This. Today I'm really excited to talk with Cory Ames. Now, Cory is the co-founder and CEO of Grow Ensemble, an impact marketing and media company on a mission that makes sustainable business and more sustainable living the norm. He's also the host of The Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation podcast, where he interviews leaders in the space of a better business and social impact.

[00:00:36] Sean: Now this episode will be a little bit different because the two of us will actually be sharing this conversation on each other's individual podcast feeds. So we go back and forth and really interview each other about each other. Stories getting into social impact and how we got each of our individual podcast and companies going and what really keeps us inspired and on track with growing our own initiatives.

[00:01:08] Sean: The two of us have some mutual friends, some names that you'll be familiar with from this podcast. Branden Harvey, Nivi Achanta, Dale Wilkinson. We each have. Awesome conversations with these individuals. And so you'll actually see those names pop up in our interview. So this is an exciting one. I encourage you to jump in, listen to the whole thing and definitely check out Cory's work at Grow Ensemble.

[00:01:35] Sean: They are doing really amazing things when it comes to putting out content around sustainability and they feature some of the leading companies and people that are doing really great work in this space. So let's jump in to today's conversation with Cory Ames.

[00:02:06] Cory: Well, Sean, I appreciate you being here with me on the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. And likewise, you know, I think we're here for the, We Can Do This podcast too, but for folks who are unfamiliar with you and the work that you do, would you mind introducing our list?

[00:02:23] Sean: Yeah, absolutely. So, Hey, my name is Sean

[00:02:27] Sean: I'm based here in Rochester, New York. I am the founder and host of, We Can Do This, which is a podcast for social entrepreneurs as well. Helping people inspire them and equip them and give them the tools to go out and either start or grow their own social enterprise or. And some of my other work, I work as a marketing consultant and an advisor while my background is in communications.

[00:02:53] Sean: And the podcast is really a way for me to kind of share some of my experience from my, my work, as well as bring on guests for people who are out there, you know, doing the work and sharing about what they're up to and hoping that inspires listeners. Yeah. Really excited to be here.

[00:03:11] Cory: And then let's start with that, that podcast perhaps.

[00:03:15] Cory: What was the impetus for starting it, Sean.

[00:03:18] Sean: So I started my own freelance business or kind of consultancy about five years ago and my desire and kind of the backstory of that was I did want to go out and make an impact out beyond my professional work that I was doing before and got things started. And I found that I ended up working with like a real diverse client base.

[00:03:41] Sean: I was working with small businesses. So look for were. Non-profits the whole gambit really and all along, I was really just saying, Hey, this is, this is good. I enjoy this work, but I really want to kind of fully dive into work that I feel is meaningful and it is doing you know, a larger work beyond just growing profit, right.

[00:04:03] Sean: Actually growing purpose. And so for years, I actually had thought about the podcast I've put together artwork, put together some concepts and then. There was something. Someone really one of my best friends had said, Hey, go out and do it. Like, I know you want to do this, just go and record your first episode right now.

[00:04:22] Sean: And I went over to the microphone and recorded the first episode. That was the being the show open. And that was in April, April 1st. Ironically, it was when we launched and no jokes. And the impetus is it was really for. Diving in and having conversations with like-minded people that were passionate about the projects that they were working on the initiatives and really taking like an innovative approach to business, as well as, you know, engaging their business with impact than mine.

[00:04:59] Cory: I know we've shared a few guests now. Nivi Achanta with Soapbox Project, Branden Harvey with Good, Good, Good.. And maybe Dale Wilkinson as well. You have over 20 episodes out so far. Right? What, what do you feel like are some learnings or understandings that, that you're taking with you thus far, maybe into just generally the podcast production process.

[00:05:26] Cory: As well as, you know, the substance of the conversations that you're, you're having with these folks.

[00:05:31] Sean: Yeah. Podcasting, I've learned as a whole thing. Right? It's a lot of work it's really fulfilling when you have like, conversations that are just like, you know, bullseye conversations, you know, and everyone that you just mentioned both.

[00:05:45] Sean: I, I really saw it as. Outside of recording an interview together, right. With just like, there were people that it just seemed like an intersection where we're like, Hey, the things that we're both passionate about, the things that we're up to, there's this, we need to talk and just encourage one another and learn from what.

[00:06:03] Sean: So, you know, Branden, Dale, Nivi, yourself really is. I feel really strongly about that. And ironically, everyone you just mentioned also has an experience with podcasting. So there's a, there's a lot to learn there. Right. And I think, you know, for, to be a podcast host, I think you have to be curious. About other people's stories and other people's journeys and what they want to achieve.

[00:06:29] Sean: And so I think, you know, having two podcasts, hosts talking to one another, I think is a really cool thing. And I think through those conversations, I just learned that, you know, you can step on someone's website or follow them on social media and, and see what they're up to. But it's really, when you have this two-way dialogue that you see what is really motivating.

[00:06:52] Sean: And you can really clearly see if they're motivated strictly by profit and growing a business or growing a brand or an image, or they're, you know, truly want to use that as a vehicle to make a strong impact in the world and into the lives of other people. So, yeah, I think through podcasting, I think I've only had a handful of solo episodes.

[00:07:13] Sean: What's I, I like doing, I have a background in public speaking, but talking to a microphone is way different than talking to a room. So I think the conversations have been really, really encouraging and fulfilling for me. And I think from what I hear other people enjoy kind of being a part of the conversation as well.

[00:07:31] Sean: Hmm.

[00:07:32] Cory: Yeah. I resonate with a lot. You mentioned there, I think podcasting is a, is a unique opportunity. It seems to like build something of a community in the space that you're part of, or even just want to be a part of. The inspiration for why I started this podcast over three years ago. It's funny.

[00:07:54] Cory: Likewise. I don't even think about the point in which, you know, why I started it, like by my, and I talk about this. She's like, it's incredible that you're 200 plus episodes. And I think right now is recording this published, like. Oh five or six or whatever, and it's sure. And it feels to me at this point, just cause it's kinda like the water that you're swimming in, you know, you don't really notice it's the water around you so much.

[00:08:17] Cory: You're like, oh, I don't know. It's just, it is what it is at this point. And it's nice to remember that like, okay, that is something of accomplishment itself. It feels good, but. At the same time she said, what, what actually inspired you or drove you to start? I was like, I don't know, like I don't, I don't even know side of, like, it was a vague curiosity first and foremost, to like connect with this type of business community.

[00:08:41] Cory: Yeah. First attending the conference for the certified B Corp community. I felt a bit disillusioned with entrepreneurship and business in general, after a previous experience I had, but attending this community, I like connected with a lot of business leaders businesses through. I was like, oh, you know, these are, these are more so my people who are using business as a tool, it's their vehicle for how they see their ability, their, their capacities best suited to, to make an impact in the.

[00:09:10] Cory: So with that, it's like, alright, you know, start reaching out to people who seem, you know, very active, engaged in this space to, to learn about what what's just going on. I'll share the same sentiment too. It's the more digging that you start to do, the more that you start to see the broad spectrum of what it means to be a social entrepreneur.

[00:09:29] Cory: If we want to use that word, a purpose driven business, a sustainable business, you know, these are all terms and I get a bit obsessed with definitions because I think there's some value into it. At least to have the discussion around it. But there's a wide spectrum of really what that means. And, you know, we get pitched for podcast guests constantly for this podcast.

[00:09:48] Cory: I've now finally had to put on the contact page. Like we don't accept any punches because I know for, you know, 99% of them, they they're just kind of templated for the most part. But it's interesting. You mentioned that like the digging that you do when you really start to research who's out there, what kind of companies are out there?

[00:10:04] Cory: You can really see who, who is like walking the walk, you know, as, as well.

[00:10:09] Sean: Yeah. It's really interesting. This, the thing that kind of stuck onto what you said is it's hard to even tap into why you started, which I think is probably evidence that it's something that's just kind of really deep within you.

[00:10:20] Sean: That kind of just comes out when you talk and engage in the world and do your work, not to poke at any past experience, but you did mention kind of that there might've been a previous experience that may have left you a little bit, this heart end or a let down about. Maybe engaging in work. That's not purpose driven.

[00:10:38] Sean: They're not purposeful. Right? I think I, I know for sure. I, I had a very, an experience like that where I was going full on into another direction and then really was kind of kind of woke up and decided, Hey, this isn't aligned with what I think I'm really created to do. We're kind of wired to do with this mindset of purpose.

[00:11:00] Sean: But yeah, I mean, before the podcast, like what were, what were you up to.

[00:11:04] Cory: Well before starting girl and Solomon, the podcast, I worked for a digital marketing agency that served dental practices all over the U S and Canada. So kind of an odd space to be in, but it was a full service digital marketing agency.

[00:11:21] Cory: And it was one of the reasons which, you know, I, I very grateful to have learned all the skillset that I've developed now. Content marketing, digital marketing, just broadly speaking. The purpose behind that company was explicitly to make a. So I got in kind of at the ground level of fourth employee there and still very small business.

[00:11:41] Cory: It was a small business until the day that I was finished, but really kind of hustled and got this very close mentorship from one of the co-owners in entrepreneur and self who made this promise to like, you know, come work for me and I'll teach you everything. I know. Marketing and sales and entrepreneurship generally.

[00:11:57] Cory: And so I, you know, as, at the time I was 19 years old, so I really kinda like jumped at the opportunity. I was like, yeah, it sounds great. I always had an interest in entrepreneurship and thought that that would ultimately be my path forward. And so a few years of you mentoring very closely with him ultimately promoted me to the CEO position of, of his company after a couple of years.

[00:12:19] Cory: And so as the CEO of this marketing agency still quite small, 25 employees, a couple million dollars in revenue a year. And I was in this position was still essentially the two owners be my bosses as the CEO. So they were sort of the board, I guess, in, in a very small businesses. And there are a lot of these issues, a lot of personnel issues, one of which I was probably in a position without the proper leadership capacity and skillset, you know, there's one thing to be said about just kind of jumping into it and learning as you go.

[00:12:53] Cory: There's another thing to be said that yeah, maybe some experiences warranted. So I was 22 when I had that position and, you know, there's professionals with decades of experience who are, you know, working quote unquote underneath me, And that caused some strain that was difficult to, to really build good relationships in that way.

[00:13:10] Cory: And especially, you know, every single day after that experience reflecting on, it was like, yeah, of course, why the hell would people trust me to run that company? But there was also issues with pay range benefits that were available just the work culture that was there, the work style, and getting into that position.

[00:13:28] Cory: I thought that I'd have a lot of strategic control and things like that of like, okay, this company. By all means as far as small business was even in doing at its peak, when I was there like two and a half million dollars, there's a lot of profit that runs in and out of a business like that. If it is quite successful and has really appropriate margins, a lot of money moves in and out of that, even for a business of just that.

[00:13:52] Cory: So to have these conversations with people about like, Hey, you know, we're leaving because there's better pay here. There's benefits here. You know, we're working really hard. We would love to continue working here, but I just can't afford to, to work this way to support my family and like looking at they weren't wrong at all about, you know, where pay and stuff ranged on what was, you know, competitive in a, in a market landscape.

[00:14:16] Cory: And the owners were a little hesitant to start making such drastic changes and shifts. It's this feeling of where I started really started to switch for me of like the exchange that can happen in businesses or entrepreneurship generally, where there's almost this sense that like, if, if you're not getting a good deal or if you're not taking complete advantage of someone else or something else in this situation, Then, you know, you're not really doing enough.

[00:14:41] Cory: Like if you're not getting the most absolute work and effort out of someone for the lowest amount of compensation and pay or cost, as they saw it, then you know, you're not doing it. Right. And I'm not saying that they were, the owners were evil people. I think that they just have a much more conventional understanding of what business is for and what the purpose of it is.

[00:15:00] Cory: And so with limited sort of control of like, oh, I'd love to pay these people more. You know, I'd love to let's get us all benefits, that kind of thing. But feeling like, whoa, you know, there's some rains on me a little bit as to the degree to which I could affect and change those sorts of things, because they still had expectations of, you know, what sort of profit was going to be distributed into their personal bank accounts every quarter, you know?

[00:15:22] Cory: And so I ended up resigning from the CEO position, the mentor, I was very close to you. I still have a good relationship with I, he left. He didn't have a great relationship with the other co-owner so there's a lot of kind of cultural issues and stuff there from the very. But I left that and I didn't have this very early existential crisis of my life of like, wow.

[00:15:42] Cory: I invested so much effort into. Digital marketing sales, entrepreneurship. And I thought in that experience, it's like, is there a way in which it can be done ethical because it felt inherently and implicitly that that was an unequal exchange, that there was like information that we were withholding from, you know, staff members and team members.

[00:16:01] Cory: Like it was a closed book, you know, as far as finances go. And that's put a whole different perspective on that as well. Just kind of complete transparency as much as possible, but it's like, there were things that were withheld for the sake of like, oh, if they knew that, then they wouldn't agree to work for us in this situation that they're working in.

[00:16:18] Cory: If that makes sense. And so I spent a lot of time. Walking, the dog drinking a lot of coffee thinking about, you know, what it was that I was to do next with my life. Kind of like, oh my God. Cause I, I dropped out of college ultimately to take that position at that company. So I really, you know, burn the ships and, and jumped in with two feet.

[00:16:38] Cory: But my wife who had been familiar with social entrepreneurs. I thought that I should check that out and recommended it to me. And so enough books and things, Google searches, I ultimately came across the certified B Corp community. And I found, you know, in a month away from the point at which I was doing that search, they were hosting a conference in new Orleans, which is like an eight hour drive from San Antonio.

[00:17:00] Cory: So reached out to the organizers. I was like, do you need any volunteers? You know, The conference, they said, yes, drove over. I have a cousin who was living there and med school slept on her couch and went to this conference for a couple of days. Had the opportunity to connect with folks who I'm close to to this day.

[00:17:18] Cory: Good friends with now at work with now, which is very cool, who just really like unlocked it for me that, oh, there, there is, there are different ways in which business can be done. So long answer to your question there, but that was the experience that really ultimately, you know, brought me around to. And I still, I still questioned a lot of different ways because the spectrum is still very why.

[00:17:41] Cory: You know how to properly and ethically operate a supply chain to, you know, employee compensation. There's a lot of these questions. And what I do enjoy is that businesses in this space and the business, people behind it are very open to having those discussions. You know, in that, the way in which business has been done is perhaps not the way in which business should and can look like or really what the core purpose of it is.

[00:18:04] Cory: But there's a lot of these things that we're still kind of like wired to think of. You know, in the sense of like, well, sustainability is something, is that is currently like a market differentiator right now, as opposed to like, no, it's literally, you know, the bare minimum. It should be the standard for us, you know, being at the table, so to speak, especially given the context of like, if we're not doing that, then we are putting ourselves, we are on a track to.

[00:18:27] Cory: Complete climate devastation. So long-winded I know, but I hope that gives you an inside look as to tour.

[00:18:35] Sean: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. It's, it's so interesting to me. Cause I think, you know, experiences like that frame, the way that you see business, see the world, see operating with people, you know, Employees, aren't just employees, they're they're people.

[00:18:52] Sean: And so I think it's really, really important. And especially like you said, you know, to take the specific role, you made life decisions that you can't go back and change. Right. And w you know, once you kind of pour yourself into a specific thing, then there's costs that are associated with that. And I think that's, you know, kind of a little bit at the heart of, you know, like a purpose driven business is, you know, what are the decisions that are worth spending the limited amount of time I have, you know, on this, on the planet.

[00:19:24] Sean: Right. And do I want those to be those decisions I make to be beneficial to. Others towards the planet towards communities. Do I want to make decisions that will leave on, you know, sort of a legacy for others to follow and continue to move? I think that's really, really important. So yeah, it's, it's, I don't know.

[00:19:46] Sean: I don't know if bittersweets the right word, but it's you know, those experiences, they really transform you, right? Like into what you're gonna do for the next, you said you were 23, right? When you were in that role, So, you know, by 30 by 40, like you're a much different person than if you didn't have those experiences.

[00:20:01] Sean: Right.

[00:20:03] Cory: Certainly. And it's like a matrix type thing of like, once, once you see it and come to this, understanding that like, you can never go back to the way in which it was, you know? And so similarly to understand what's possible with business or as well, I think just what kind of. From the negative lens of like what kind of exploitation is possible and is there like you can't unsee that those things exist in the world and that there are actual while that was a small business and maybe the stakes seemed to lower in some ways, you know, I don't know, were we weren't working with people internationally or something like that.

[00:20:42] Cory: It's like there, there's still implications to that behavior on a much wider scale. You know, it's like if that's acceptable behavior in one business, it's acceptable behavior in the entire lens of the business community, you know? And that's the thing that feels most frustrating at times to me, of like it's weird.

[00:20:58] Cory: The ways in which we feel comfortable with some of these levels of, well, an exploitation or, or extraction that it's like, oh, sustainability is a nice to have, you know, equity is that nice to have diversity is at nice to have, you know, and if some sort of financial constraint comes into contact with that, it's like, well, you know, we, we have to make sure that the dollars and cents.

[00:21:22] Cory: You know, those are appropriately aligned before we fully address the other things, you know, as opposed to like, thinking about it differently, which I do see business folks in this space do to where, you know, you can't, you can't compromise on the other because there's some sort of belief that it's like, well, if a business can't address those particular components, Or, or, or very aggressively have plans in place to continue to improve on those different markers.

[00:21:47] Cory: And then perhaps they just shouldn't exist. Like ultimately that's the outcome, you know, if they continue to operate unsustainably in one aspect of, you know, people or planet, maybe ultimately they just shouldn't, you know, have a license to operate, essentially.

[00:22:02] Sean: Yeah. And then to your point of transparency, even if they're not necessarily.

[00:22:08] Sean: You know, hitting the mark and every, every bucket to know that there's a plan. And I want to, you know, we want to communicate on behalf of the company, right? That, Hey, we are halfway there, but not all the way there. And this is what we're doing to solve. That is really, really important.

[00:22:23] Cory: And those are things that you, as you mentioned in the research and dig in deep to often get questions, like, how am I supposed to know that a company is sustainable or you know, who I'm purchasing from?

[00:22:33] Cory: It's a company we're supporting like, well, you know, just look at their website and see how much they tell. About the degree of how sustainable they are, not in the sense of like marketing, messaging and communication, but like what degree of documentation exists there? Like I always bring up a friend of mine, Andrew anchor laid at the company, a good company, which is a sustainable e-commerce company based in Sweden.

[00:22:56] Cory: They literally have an interactive map with their supply chain of where they're getting raw materials from the product. Photos of the factory, all that kind of stuff, who are the people and, and, you know, accountabilities there to where those products they'd go, which factory, like it's extraordinarily detailed.

[00:23:12] Cory: They have like the designs of their products and everything like that. For the sake of, you know, what he believed. He's like, we're going to be sustainable from absolutely day one and be a hundred percent transparent with it the whole way through. So I, I really admire, and there's other, other great examples of that too, of people who show you their supply chain, they know the specific factories they visit them frequently.

[00:23:34] Cory: You know, they know what materials they're using and there's definitely a different degree of transparency and documentation with that. But Sean, I'm curious to know, cause this answer quite varies. Are there influences external like friends or family or otherwise outside of some of those earlier work experiences that have made you be a bit more inclined to pursue work that has a greater purpose with it.

[00:24:00] Cory: Something that ideally, you know, leaves the world a better place than you found it. Like I'm always interested to know what, what makes someone have an interest in pursuing this, this direction?

[00:24:11] Sean: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm inspired by a whole loads of people. Sometimes it's hard in the moment to think of who to bring up, but I mean, I heard this phrase the other day.

[00:24:22] Sean: You probably heard it said the, of the follow, your curiosity and not necessarily your passions heard someone bring this up. And I just think through like really my entire life, I was passionate about things, but I never knew like if I have to pick one thing. Like, what is it that I am so passionate about that I want to make that a career.

[00:24:42] Sean: Right. And I grew up in like a public school setting and I had a really good experience, but wasn't necessarily, you know, exposed to the whole range of opportunities for your career. And specifically like entrepreneurship, wasn't something that was really brought up. This wasn't a traditional career path.

[00:25:05] Sean: So I really struggled with thinking what I wanted to do for a career. You know, my, my background is actually in ministry, so I had a lot of friends that grew up with like a faith background. And I didn't really have that until like later in high school. And when I was exposed to a religious community, ended up, you know, being part of like a evangelical megahertz for awhile.

[00:25:29] Sean: And at that point, you know, this was something that it was the first thing that I was exposed to, that I was like, I think this is something that feels like I'm doing something beyond myself. That kind of thing and decided to kind of like go a hundred percent in that direction and end up doing the undergrad degree, religion philosophy and doing a master's degree and ended up working in a, a large.

[00:25:54] Sean: You know, Christian megachurch is my career. And I think it was that experience that, you know, I, I did see a lot of good things, but I also saw things that were aligned with what I thought was, was where I wanted to make an impact specifically. It was, it was very surrounded by bringing people to a specific place and communicating or talking at them in a certain way.

[00:26:18] Sean: And I really kind of from my gut and I think probably a lot of people can. Resonate and maybe your audience, my audience are people that usually listen to like their gut. Like what does it, how does this make me feel and use that along with logic? And so my gut was saying, Hey, I, I think the impact I need to make is outside of the walls.

[00:26:39] Sean: And a lot of that was to my own worldview, shifting and changing over time, you know, over 10 years. And so. I mean, my transition was really quick from that world. I think I resigned from my role in I was on a communications team in a large church, and you're familiar with that world. It's kind of like running an agency, but all your clients are internal.

[00:27:01] Sean: So when you're hosting three, five, 10,000 person events, you have creative media teams that are really doing a lot of that work. So I was in that role, resigned on a Friday. And then ended up on a plane to Haiti that following Monday, this was invited on a trip. That ended up being my first client.

[00:27:21] Sean: There was, you know, kind of through a mutual friend. And I was honestly kind of turned off to the idea of Christian missions at that point. But I did see this organization that was doing a really good work in Haiti. That was kind of essentially jump-starting like entrepreneurial. And the ground in Haiti and it just opened my eyes to another way to do nonprofit work.

[00:27:46] Sean: And that really kind of opened my eyes to kind of how I can use my skills for good. And you know, that first project we in a relatively quick time came up with a brand identity for this organization. We went down and did some documentary work in Haiti, and then ultimately did a fundraising event here in the Pepin three, 4,000 people come to an event and it kinda opened my eyes to, I, I guess I have like some sort of skill set that is valuable to folks that are looking to create change.

[00:28:21] Sean: And so that sent me on a journey. I think I've seen. How can I empower more people to do good using the skill sets I have, you know, I know you have a background in marketing communications, right? And I think what we're seeing now is, you know, modern non-profits you mentioned B Corp's for-profit companies that just have like a component of the, want to see an impact made through their, through their business or organization or through their profits, as well as.

[00:28:53] Sean: You know, managing and running their business in an ethical way. I think just being exposed to these businesses and organizations that were out there doing business differently or doing nonprofit work differently. And some of those people were people in my life that I went to college with or were in family, but I just never understood it.

[00:29:13] Sean: It didn't click for me that the work that they were doing, environmentally, the work that they were doing and serving under represented. People groups and things that I never clicked to me that that was worth dedicating your life to. So I think it, I had those relationships all along, but there was my specific career journey experience that kind of, wow.

[00:29:38] Sean: You know, I found myself in a spot that is like, well, how do I make an impact? Who out there is, is making impact. And how can I jump in and use my skills for good. And I think I have a lot of, you know, close friends, colleagues, people that work that are designers, videographers creatives, who have that same desire to like, make an impact with the creative skills that they have.

[00:30:06] Sean: And more and more, I think we're, we're seeing opportunities for those people to use their skillsets for. Good.

[00:30:12] Cory: And so in that sorting. Of a love the inquiry in, and this is something that that's been ever present for me, especially over the last few years of one, this baseline of like, I want to use my, my skills, my energy, my capacity, the hours that I have.

[00:30:30] Cory: To ideally leave, leave the world better off, like as, you know, whatever broadly that means first kind of part of it is even figuring out, like, what exactly does that mean in different contexts in series, you start to realize that you're like, oh, it makes sense that people dedicate their lives to very specific ways in impact environmental, social, or otherwise.

[00:30:49] Cory: Cause it, it takes a lifetime to understand in some cases like what the world really needs, which is sometimes, probably less than, than, you know, we have this, this impetus to, to get involved in taking. But I'm wondering for you, what does that process look like? That inquiry? How has it historically looked of, like, how do you do that sorting?

[00:31:08] Cory: How have you figured out, like, where's the sweet spot of your skills, you know, your interests, your curiosities and where you can make an impact. And then following that, like, do you feel like you're in the sweet spot right now? Like where do you feel on that, that journey of, of that personal inquiry?

[00:31:23] Sean: Yeah, that's a great question.

[00:31:25] Sean: I mean, I think relationships are a huge part. There were specific people in my life who just through hearing their own experiences, made me open my eyes to some injustice and that's in the world specifically, you know, like I I was always in like diverse settings growing up. Like the extra insurance that I just mentioned was like a diverse congregation school I grew up going to was extremely diverse, but never.

[00:31:54] Sean: Really understood that the concept of racial injustice and it wasn't until I really developed close relationships with people that I could have conversations around race and dialogue around those things, and then learning to see like, okay, in my own. Workplace, how has how's that come up and how has it being dealt with?

[00:32:17] Sean: And then, you know, I, I had a conversation over zoom just, you know, a year or two ago, someone asking, how are you taking steps in your own business and organization to make sure that you're creating opportunities for all people? And, you know, that's, those are hard questions that, you know, from a level of, you know, like we just talked about transparency.

[00:32:38] Sean: It's like, what am I doing? You know, to make sure that I'm creating opportunities for all people. So I think that's just one scenario or one example of I think relationships looking at who's around you, what is in front of me and how can I just be responsible with what I know? Right. I think, like I said, like a Sidey of following your curiosity instead of your passions, I think the interesting thing about that is your curiosity changes.

[00:33:03] Sean: I think that's kind of like how I had this weird kind of career journey and I think it's. Things change over the next 2, 5, 10 years. Cause I think my that's an evidence that my curiosity is, is growing and moving in different directions. So I'm excited that I'm specifically working in, in aiming to work with, you know, organizations and businesses that are driven by purpose.

[00:33:30] Sean: But I hope, you know, in the next 2, 5, 10 years, You know, you can get more clarity around how can I make the best impact with my work. And that might be through further narrowing down the causes that I support, you know, the specific kinds of companies that I work with, or when it relates to a podcast, what are specific topics we're talking about?

[00:33:51] Sean: Or, you know, what, what is beyond the podcast? You know, is it, is it communities, is it services? Is it, you know, opposed to just having conversations around things like. What are ways that I can extend beyond those conversations and, you know, do concrete things that make an impact. I think talking about things is really, really good, but I think, you know, acting and executing on some of these challenges are, you know, that's even better.

[00:34:20] Cory: Hmm. Certainly. And at least in my experience to now having, you know, a good few of these, these conversations over the last couple of years, It's been a balance of that. So thinking about exactly where I can take action, but likewise thinking about like, what's the greater community as a whole, you know, the, the ecosystem of like, who's very good.

[00:34:41] Cory: I think like Nibia Shanta as, as an example of someone who we've already brought up in both had the pleasure to interview she's so action oriented and like very specific intangible actions that, that she can prescribe and, and worst. With your community at soapbox? I, it's nice to start to think like, okay.

[00:35:00] Cory: My impact is not just constrained to myself and what grounds all will can do and what this podcast can do. But like we were some of the friends that I'm making here in this space and what are some of their strengths and skill sets. And that's just a good example for me, because not just, you know, having conversations, we've started to figure out other ways her, her and I can collaborate together in our communities and platforms can come together.

[00:35:22] Cory: I think it's funny that. Wayne, which I would have answered that question that I asked you about how you're going to this inquiry totally opposite. Like the first thing that you said, you're like, oh, it's the people and the relationships. And I was, I like it kind of my brain sort of misfired of like my thought was like, he's gonna to say journaling and like, you know, some deep introspection, cause that's kinda like where I go.

[00:35:43] Cory: It's like my wife and I will have conversations and she's very, like, she processed things audibly. And verbally, and I'm like, hold on it, you know, I need to, I need to process this. I need to think, think through this and our brains just don't hers is working like 10 times the speed that mine is like, I just need the world slow down, like go through those things, take experience in, you know, meet, meet people and connect with people.

[00:36:03] Cory: But it's so weird. Like I just don't process in the same way of like, A paper or whatever, pen and paper to sort that out. So it's just funny. Like, I like the contrast in sort of at practice today.

[00:36:15] Sean: I I'm entirely a verbal processor, so I don't really know. I don't know what I think until I say it, you know, like, and then I'm like, do I agree with what I just said, let me go ahead and talk more about that.

[00:36:25] Sean: That's super, super interesting how we kind of like process these things. And I think when it comes to like, how do you. We'll say like you're a founder, right. And you want to nurture the direction of your business and really make sure it's in line with what you want to do. I think, you know, with a, you know, like a social enterprise or a business that's grounded in purpose.

[00:36:48] Sean: That own internal work is so important where I think of I'm probably generalizing, but like, you know, this traditional often masculine idea of like corporate CEOs and things working 60, 80 hours a week and putting their personal life or their internal development. Right. Whether it be personal or whatever on the backend.

[00:37:10] Sean: I think it's, you know, caring for your soul Kang for your, your body caring for your self is extremely important. Cause that, that affects how you treat others in, you know, leader teams and all those kinds of things. A

[00:37:23] Cory: hundred percent. I think that that baseline self-awareness is so key and helps you save a lot of hours and, and mistakes of which like just, I think last year was, was very, there's a lot of experiments in the way in which.

[00:37:40] Cory: I was determining how girl in salt lake, what you were two years in, what's trying to build the vision of what's the five-year ten-year trajectory. What sort of things can we sustain and do. You know, ultimately get better and better at over time. At one of the things we experimented with was w like actually launching a Grow Ensemble community, getting set up on circle.

[00:38:01] Cory: Are you familiar with, with that at community platform and starting with some of the initial ideas and everything, and, and early on with the community, we did, like, pre-launch all this kind of stuff I realized just how. That was just not in my sweet light, being a community manager and like kind of leading a community in that way.

[00:38:18] Cory: She's like not my skillset at all. Then Nivi keeps coming up here and now I'm going to have to share this episode with her and make sure she listens. But that's what, that's why we ended up partnering with her and soapbox and moves our, you know, whatever kind of baby girl ensemble community that we started immersion in.

[00:38:34] Cory: Soapbox and that's now I often recommend hers as a place to go. Maybe he's very active. She's in a, she's got a very good skillset for building an online community, you know, with a real, with actually a, a capital C community attached to it, you know, like a, a real sense of community in that. She's, she's very good at it.

[00:38:51] Cory: So, you know, with that is like, oh, I had that as an idea. That was just something that I could do for whatever reason. I was like, oh no, this is absolutely just not, not me and not where I think. You know, if I have these desires to, to sustain what I'm doing and make an impact in doing so it's not going to be in doing things that, like, I feel a lot of resistance towards personally, you know, just what, with what my aptitudes are and skillsets and Grow Ensemble is not at a place to hire a community manager, you know, full time.

[00:39:19] Cory: So, you know, that that would have been on me. Yeah, it's just, I think that self-awareness is really critical and that's come up with, you know, these, these hundreds of conversations I've had with other social entrepreneurs is likewise. It's like they really had to figure out, you know, who they were, what their strengths were as well, their weaknesses, the shortcomings, and they either get partners or mentors or investors or strategic partners elsewhere to help them kind of account for the thing.

[00:39:45] Cory: You know, they may not be too good at, or just even like doing, cause it's like, if we really want to, like, it's about the long-term trajectory of what you can sustain and what you can do, because first you got to get good at what you're doing. You know, in our context here of podcasting, creating content and media, it's like, you have to do it for a long time, you know, to really get an aptitude with it just inherently.

[00:40:05] Cory: You're not going to be good at it from the start. So if it's not something that, whatever it is that you feel like you're very driven to do for a decade. I'm very into that kind of, long-term thinking like, you know, I just don't buy anybody. You're like, oh, I'm going to do this for a few years. See, you know, and then like either I'll sell off this business or whatever it is, it's like, just expect it's going to take a lot more effort and time, which like the thing of, you know, is it passions or curiosities or whatever that you follow.

[00:40:29] Cory: There's a whole bunch of different advice for that. It's like, you have to love it in one way. You know, there's going to be crap in anything that you do. It's not always easy to podcast. You know, it's like we blog newsletter, all this kind of stuff. Those things are easy in a different way. And so you have to be willing to put up with the bad things of like, you know, what is the pursuit that you're choosing.

[00:40:46] Cory: And I think, you know, be able to sustain for the longest period of time, just like hanging around, you know?

[00:40:52] Sean: Yeah. It's I like what you said specifically about really playing into your strengths and supporting other people and their struggling. That was sort of, you know, in the initial thoughts of We Can Do This was to seeing a lot of people working in silos.

[00:41:07] Sean: And how, if we actually did have dialogue with one another and wearing that, Hey, we're actually doing a lot of the same work, but I think we can make a bigger impact if we do it together and collaboration with one another in some fashion and supporting one another, I think is a super. It's really important and can lead to more impact and less burnout, right?

[00:41:29] Sean: If you're able to kind of, you know, link arms with one another, one of the things that I really wanted to ask you, because specifically in, We Can Do This. There's a lot of people that probably have an idea or are aspiring towards maybe working towards some sort of cause, or even maybe starting their own purpose, driven community, your business.

[00:41:49] Sean: And at this point, I mean, you've been at Grow Ensemble for. For quite a while now. Right? What did he start?

[00:41:55] Cory: It's about three and a half

[00:41:56] Sean: years. Three and a half. Yeah. So if you were, you know, where you were three and a half years ago with this idea in mind of, you know, really starting building a platform around social good.

[00:42:10] Sean: You know, what would you tell yourself now, given the experiences you've had the hundreds of interviews under your belt, you know, really working towards this, like what would you say to someone who's in your shoes?

[00:42:22] Cory: A lot of things because a lot of mistakes have been, been made most certainly, but I think one would be probably to, to start sooner.

[00:42:32] Cory: You know, I think that everything kind of happens at its appropriate time, but that's always the thing. Probably to have just taken action sooner than I was comfortable with. You know, I'm very much so someone who, you know, my personality is I'm very in my head and I can get very existential and thinking.

[00:42:50] Cory: I think too much, take myself into, in all sorts of problems. And so I get just a, an abundance of growth and value out of taking action, seeking meaningful experiences out like the conferences and example that I've volunteered at, you know, or any of their coffees or anything that I've set up with people, you know, COVID is a big asterix on that, but doing those things that, that may feel a little.

[00:43:13] Cory: Yeah. Like, oh, I don't know if that even makes sense necessarily. It's like the conference. I was like, I have no idea what I'm going to get out of this, you know, but I've literally, I made relationships at that conference set, you know, I'm working with those people right now, you know, on very important collaborations and thanks for go ensemble.

[00:43:29] Cory: And it was just so informative, you know, and it, it, it really fueled what it was my internal processing anyway. So to seek out those things and take, I have that bias towards action, as soon as you possibly can. And I think the thing that I really liked in retrospect, things that I think were very good for me was to create some sense of public accountability to keep you to it, because it's not easy in certainly as, as I'm sure you experienced just, you know, 20 episodes is a significant amount of episodes to where there there's been different periods of time where you were probably like, what?

[00:44:02] Cory: Like, even though you may enjoy it, you're like, why am I doing this? His and podcasting is kind of a black box, oddly, that like you don't get a lot of analytics and data on, on who's listening, you know, and who's engaging with the podcast. So there's periods where like, what am I doing this for? What is this actually leading to?

[00:44:19] Cory: Especially when like sustainability and perhaps the monetization of like, what makes us a business, you know, in, in a way, how does that make sense? I'm glad that I've had the public accountability of publishing these episodes, starting to get some sort of sense of community around it. The people who I've interviewed her, like, Hey, you know, it was cool to see the growth of the podcast.

[00:44:37] Cory: And, you know, I've been building a newsletter for the last few years of, of, you know, writing more detailed takeaways on that. It's like people expect. Things from me in some way, you know, they're not going to be devastated. Maybe if I do, it's not going to ruin their lives, but it's nice for me to know that like there's some sort of public thing that people would be like, oh, what happened to the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcasts, you know?

[00:44:58] Cory: And that took some time because they're in those difficult moments, it was like, oh, I still have to put out a newsletter every Monday. I still have to put out a podcast. Every two. And not only that there is still a little bit of like, well, it can't just be the same. I have to be getting better over time, just like incrementally, you know?

[00:45:13] Cory: So I think that the two of those things, you know, both to, to take action and, and likewise like the benefit of having some public accountability and I will say support as well in there. It's not just about like holding your feet to the fire. But those were really valuable for me. And I think that the third thing I would say is, is to be more patient with myself and do more of fewer things.

[00:45:35] Cory: And so, you know, especially in the early days of any sort of idea or business, you want to do everything and anything to make it work, as opposed to paying attention to the few things that are working well and having the patience and discipline to be like, You know, whatever it is, I want to do XYZ, starting YouTube channel, whatever, you know, as a means to grow your, I want to launch new products or, you know, I need to do trade shows, whatever it is, the type of business.

[00:45:59] Cory: You're your. You think you have to do all of it at once, as opposed to it's okay to be like, no, I'm not going to do that right now. We can do that at some point and trust that, you know, investing deeper, both in the effort and just time to get better at the things that are going well for you. I think that will be a quicker path.

[00:46:16] Cory: And this is constantly, I constantly don't follow my own advice on this. I think I'm getting progressively better at it. You know, terrible, like terrible mistakes. That cost me a lot of time where I'm like, it comes back to the same lesson. I'm like, all right, what am I going to learn this? And like, I learned it a little bit more each time, you know, like I catch myself a bit sooner, but that would be the third.

[00:46:35] Cory: The third thing is to have that patience to, to focus more deeply on, on fewer things.

[00:46:40] Sean: Yeah, it's an incredible response. I, a hundred percent agree with everything. He just said, I'm a big fan of the 80 20 rule. I think I saw that you referenced it in a recent newsletter and really following through with that really forces you to slow down.

[00:46:52] Sean: If you don't slow down enough to really see like, Hey, you know, where are the 80% of the results coming from? And, you know, for listeners like, you know, 20% of your work is usually leading to 80% of the results you're seeing. If you don't slow down, especially if you can do that first thing before you get busy.

[00:47:12] Sean: But if you're like definitely like me, it takes five, six years to realize, Hey, let me look back and see, like, where are the results kicking in? Oh, it's, it's on the 20% of the stuff that I do really well, or I really enjoy doing or just necessary. Really important.

[00:47:30] Cory: Absolutely. Well, Sean, I'm sure this will be the first of many conversations to come.

[00:47:36] Cory: Let's wrap this one up and I'd like to do some a little bit different. So usually what I ask guests on the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcasts are a couple of rapid fire questions. Perhaps let's go through a couple and I don't normally answer them myself, but I'll follow an answers after you.

[00:47:51] Cory: How does that sound? I love it. Let's do it. All right. So first one, what's maybe a book or as well, a film or something that you either always come back to or impacted your recently, maybe something that you've, you've been reading or something you watched recently that you'd like to.

[00:48:06] Sean: Yeah, it's my least favorite book as a centralism.

[00:48:09] Sean: If you're familiar with a centralism by Greg McKeown, you know, it's asking this question of, you know, if you can only do one thing or you can only do a few things, you know, what are those things and how do you stop doing the things that don't fall in with those essential things? I joke around. I hate the book so much because it leads me to.

[00:48:30] Sean: Make decisions I don't really want to make, but I should make what are the things that are occupying my time, but are leading me to say no by my actions, right? If I'm saying yes to one thing I'm saying no to another, yeah. That book is, it's like a challenging read for me. And I try to pick it up once a year because it leaves me to make decisions that are ultimately.

[00:48:52] Sean: Hmm,

[00:48:53] Cory: I like that one. Well, I'll share this book that I have on my desk right now for people watching a video, how to take smart notes. So this book is basically breaking down the workflow of like this German sociologist lived in the early mid, 19 hundreds of having this incredible workflow for producing nonfiction.

[00:49:17] Cory: Who's an active academic and another professor is like breaking down what he did and how he consumed and retained information to produce such like hundreds of articles over his career. 40 some books over his career. It's felt more important for me just because what I've come to realize. Over the course of doing this podcast in the work with growing Sambos that I come across so much information and it's like, it's where I want to be.

[00:49:43] Cory: I absolutely love just like learning and taking in information. Sometimes I don't do anything with it. I just like have that fascination with like, oh, I, I learned an interesting thing and someone's like, so what you know, like, oh yeah, I guess it doesn't have the same experience for anyone else, but building.

[00:49:59] Cory: A good workflow, both in the sense of what I learned from the podcast and what sort of research and stuff comes out of that. Because I really see the podcast as both an opportunity to build community, both with the folks on the show and listening to the show. But I consider it research for like, what are some of the hypotheses and things that I'm working through?

[00:50:16] Cory: My. In this space of sustainability and social impact. So to help myself increase the ratio of consumption, to output writing publishing, and in all, you know, video, audio, text, I really like what this book is saying as to how to digest. I'll dig into the substance. That's not what this conversation's for, but it's been a really good book for anyone who comes across a lot of information in their lives for one way or another, you know?

[00:50:42] Cory: And it has an interest in publishing. You know, whatever that might be, you know, podcasting writing or even, you know, video. So I've really enjoyed that one. Oh, that's great. Next question for you, Sean, what's a daily routine or a daily habit that you absolutely, or a morning routine that you absolutely have to stick to.

[00:51:02] Cory: If any, as

[00:51:04] Sean: a book I read a while ago, that is about routines and the idea of creating like a morning routine and a morning ritual, I think in the evening at school and then like a work day. Started up routine and the work, they shut down routine. So I try my best to do these, I guess if I was to pick one thing in the morning, I mean, I'm, I'm a obsessive with coffee.

[00:51:24] Sean: Like

[00:51:25] Cory: I've seen photos on your Twitter.

[00:51:28] Sean: Yeah. Thinking the coffee. Some of my best friends are coffee roasters. So it's almost like a hobby. So yeah, I start every day with coffee. Probably one of the things that is more of an aspirational thing. I don't stick to as much as I want, but just like not texting my phone.

[00:51:43] Sean: First thing in the morning, a few years ago, I made the decision to put my phone across the room. And I think this is Matt de Vela. I think that this is a tip I heard from him, but to put your phone across the room and to put a glass of water there. So every morning you have to literally get up, shut off your alarm and then drink a glass of wine.

[00:52:04] Sean: And then that kind of like gets you up, wakes you up. If you crawl back into bed, you probably will have to get up pretty soon to go to the bathroom. But yeah, that the idea of just like not having my phone be near the. My anxiety doesn't creep in. And then I roll over and check an email or check a to-do list for the next day.

[00:52:23] Sean: It just kind of separates my phone from my mind and allows sleep and rest to be sleeping rest. And then. I try not to check, you know, the incoming messages and things until I sit down at the desk and time to time to work and actually time to consider those things. I don't always follow through with it.

[00:52:42] Sean: Cause like the temptation is pretty big. And when you pick up your phone, even for an alarm to see things swipe across, that are important. But when I do follow through with that, I find it valuable for my own mental health.

[00:52:53] Cory: I'm with you in that, that's definitely been something that I've tried to adopt myself.

[00:52:58] Cory: Likewise. It's, it's easier said than done. It seems like kind of the greater that you build the resistance into actually messing with it and checking in with it, the easier it is. But yeah, I'm with you on that a hundred percent, I guess for me, there's a smattering things I like to do some journaling course.

[00:53:17] Cory: Coffee's a big part of it for me too reading, but all those things are not necessarily stuff that like I can commit and do every single day, the exact same. I think the number one thing for me is that my wife and I take the dogs to the park and throw the ball for them. They're big on fetch. So it's this routine it's like, no matter where we are, no matter where, where we wake up, we go to the park and like, whether we're back home or in Washington visiting my family, it's a nice routine.

[00:53:48] Cory: It gets us outside. We've like, we're here in Boston. And like there's four fetus now or whatever, like last week, When did it last a whole bunch of tennis balls? Cause the dogs lost them, but there's something about it that we absolutely have to stick to. It's just a nice thing that we do together and, you know, good for the dogs makes us feel like better dog owners for whatever.

[00:54:08] Cory: I

[00:54:08] Sean: love that. And I could, we do a similar thing. Like we'll, we'll bring our dogs to the park most everyday to get energy out. And my favorite thing is it's like utterly unproductive in the grand scheme of things. Like when you think of work, so the really start your day with something that does not, Hey, I'm pushing.

[00:54:23] Sean: So. Thing forward, you know, it's just purely out of care for your dog, you know, doing, being with your family and the outdoors. That's awesome.

[00:54:33] Cory: Awesome. Well, Sean, I really, really appreciate the time last, last one for us, which should be easy where where's the best place for folks to, to keep up with you and the, We Can Do This podcast, where should they go check out?

[00:54:47] Sean: Yeah. So the podcast is. Strive to do a weekly show. So if you like podcasts, like listening to folks, talk about what they're working on or what inspires them then. Yeah. The best places to hopefully see me once a week over there, and then I'm active online. But primarily Twitter is where I try to be active.

[00:55:12] Sean: Listen, have conversations with people that have. Well, the most benefit, so places to meet people online right now. Too. So if you, if you do stop over and it make sure to say, Hey, and I'd love to have the.

[00:55:24] Cory: Yeah. That's where we connected as well. Yeah, I think is, yeah, not a good reasoning for that. And then for folks on, on our end, if they're curious and checking out the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast, we have our full, which is the new website.

[00:55:40] Cory: We launched this. And then all things Grow Ensemble or newsletter, all that good stuff and likewise I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter at decently. So. All right, Sean. Well, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for taking the time and getting this opportunity.

[00:55:57] Sean: Yeah, it was really great talking with you, really enjoyed chatting and yeah.

[00:56:00] Sean: Again, you know, folks listening today, We Can Do This, you know, definitely go out and check out, Grow Ensemble, go say hello, Cory. And on Twitter. Yeah, it was really great chatting today.

[00:56:25] Sean: All right. There we go. That is episode 25 of the podcast. That was such a treat to have a conversation with Cory. And it is, it's just so inspiring to hear other people in the space that are doing great work. And for Cory to have had, you know, a few hundred conversations around these topics is really inspiring to see the way that he is growing, Grow Ensemble and using his podcast as a, as a platform to bring attention to different causes, different companies that are out there doing the work.

[00:57:03] Sean: So definitely check out his podcast, Grow Ensemble. You can see the link in the show notes. Now this marks episode 25 of We Can Do This. I really can't believe that this is episode 25. We're going to take a short, short break and work on a few really exciting things when it relates to We Can Do This and this community.

[00:57:26] Sean: So in the next episode, I'll be able to share with you all around what's happening, what's coming up and how you can. Jumping a little bit closer when it comes to what we're doing with, We Can Do This and how we can really better equip and empower you and people like you in making a a greater impact on the world.

[00:57:49] Sean: So if you have not followed, We Can Do This. Instagram or Twitter or subscribed to the show. I definitely encourage you to do that because in these weeks where we don't have episodes, you'll see some more activity happening there. And that'll be a place where between the episodes, we can have more conversations, share more content that doesn't make it on the podcast.

[00:58:16] Sean: And that's where you can connect with other people that listen to the show. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I will see you on episode 26 of We Can Do This very soon.

Creators and Guests

Sean Pritzkau
Sean Pritzkau
Sean Pritzkau is the host of We Can Do This, a podcast that connects people looking to create meaningful change with the tools, skills, and community they need to stay the course and make an impact. For those looking to start or grow their own social-impact businesses or initiative, the podcast offers stories, lessons, and practical advice from social entrepreneurs as well as experts on topics such as marketing, branding, and more. As a marketing strategist and speaker, Sean is focused on helping passionate teams overcome obstacles and do more work that matters. When not podcasting or keeping up with the latest no-code tools, you'll find Sean sampling specialty coffees, working on home renovation projects, or exploring around Rochester, NY with his wife and two dogs.
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