Growing with Purpose Podcast

On the Growing with Purpose Podcast, Small Giants Community Co-Founder, Paul Spiegelman, goes behind the scenes with purpose-driven business leaders to learn about what shaped them in business and in life.

Latest Episodes of the Growing with Purpose Podcast:

Turning Grief into Gratitude with Dawn Abbott

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Dawn Abbott. Dawn is an author, EOS implementer, and owner of three businesses: Fun ProductionsConnections Team Building, and Abbott Coaching.

Early on in their marriage, Dawn and her husband, Tim, knew that they weren’t going to be able to get where they wanted to go in life by working for others. So, they saw a niche and a need in the special events space and created Fun Productions, an amusement rental company.

In 2013, with their two sons both about to be in college, Dawn and Tim thought they were ready to slow things down. However, life had other plans, and Dawn became pregnant with their third child, who she calls her “accidental blessing”. Tragically, only several months after their daughter was born, Tim died in a boating accident. Before Dawn knew it, her life was flipped on its head, and she had no capacity to run her business.

But her employees stepped up and helped carry the company through this tough time, teaching Dawn some valuable lessons about gratitude, leadership, and the importance of a strong culture. From there, she made significant changes to focus on caring for her team, a move that not only felt better, but worked better financially.

Tune into this episode to hear Paul and Dawn discuss the difficulty of losing someone close as well as a business partner, how EOS has shaped Dawn’s view on business, and having her eldest son take the reins of the company.

Balancing Growth & Culture with Ron Alvesteffer

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Ron Alvesteffer, President and CEO of Service Express, a data center solutions provider. While they started as a small IT company in Grand Rapids, MI, Ron has led Service Express to become an international team of over 1,000 employees, all while sustaining a unique performance-driven and care-focused culture.

Ron didn’t start with a background in IT. Rather, he had a teaching degree and experience in sales. But when he was hired on as a sales manager at Service Express, he felt there was something special about the company and quickly connected with Mike, the then-owner. After five years of being with the company, Ron proposed to Mike that he become President and that Mike act as his investor. Mike challenged Ron to embody a president first, without the title in place. In a bold move on both their parts, Ron rose to the occasion and transitioned into officially leading the company.

As a self-aware and passionate leader, Ron has taken his enthusiasm for growth and propelled Service Express to new heights. But he’s never lost sight of the company’s core values and a focus on caring for each employee. Through vision talks and a whole set of accountability tools, Ron strives to keep Service Express a place where people feel taken care of and that it is a mutually beneficial fit for every employee.

Tune into this episode to hear Paul and Ron discuss how growth and culture don’t have to be competing priorities, the importance of careful hiring, and how Ron is constantly striving for progress rather than perfection.

Changing the industry, one haircut at a time, with Chelle Neff

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Chelle Neff, CEO and founder of Urban Betty, an award-winning salon and spa with three locations in the Austin, TX area.

Chelle grew up without a lot of opportunity; her parents had her when they were very young and didn’t have a lot to support her financially. But one opportunity Chelle did have, and took on wholeheartedly, was a cosmetology program offered through her high school. Seeing as this program was a fraction of the price of a standard cosmetology school, Chelle saw this as her chance at a path forward. Straight out of high school, Chelle began working at a Supercuts and then moved up to higher end salons.

But during her time working for other salons, Chelle noticed a business pattern that she didn’t like. In most salons, stylists rent a chair with which to receive clients, but that rental comes with unexplained service fees. Not to mention an overall lack of transparency and connection with the owner of any given salon, and Chelle knew that the typical salon culture (or lack thereof) was something she wanted to change.

Tune into this episode to hear Paul and Chelle discuss Chelle’s rocky road to a successful business model, her passion for elevating the industry to be seen as a respectable career, and how she hopes to improve as a leader.

A Teacher, Mountain Guide, and Restaurateur Walk into a Bar… with Britt Wiedemann

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Britt Wiedemann, president and owner of IWI Ventures, a company that runs various organizations in the hospitality industry. Britt is also a mentor in the Small Giants Sounding Board program.

Britt grew up in an entrepreneurial family and was raised on a horse and tobacco farm. Early on, he began adding more and more tools to his toolbox by way of new experiences. From working on his family’s farm, to being an English teacher in Korea, to being a mountain guide for Outward Bound, Britt never shied away from the opportunities that were presented to him. And along the way, he kept an open mind, remained humble, and sought out like-hearted people. With a mix of hard work, curiosity, and luck, Britt’s winding path led him into the hospitality industry. Today, he remains appreciative of all the varied experiences that have led him to where he is today, and continually strives to be the best leader he can be.

Tune into this episode to hear Paul and Britt talk about how Britt came to discover the importance of good culture, what growing up on a farm taught him about entrepreneurship, and why he considers himself the luckiest guy on the planet.

Making a Father-Son Business Shine with Tony + Tony Sr. Maione

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with our very first father-son duo. Tony Maione Sr. (henceforth called Senior) is Co-founder and Executive Senior Consultant of Core America, a janitorial and environmental services consulting and software company. Tony Maione, his son, is currently President of Core America, as well as an alum of the Small Giants Leadership Academy.

While studying at Cornell University, Senior paid his way through school by cleaning buildings at night. By the time he graduated, he and his brother had a fully functioning business. They kept it going, using their parents’ basement as the office, and maintained both a positive business model and working environment. After over a decade of cleaning, Senior noticed there was a disconnect between the people who needed the cleaning services and the people providing the services. And so, he took a chance on trying his hand as a consultant, and helped clients find the best companies for their needs. By 1995, Core America completed the transition from cleaning provider to consulting service. More recently, they began offering their own software to aid clients even further.

Although the younger Tony always wanted to build his own career identity, his path often overlapped with his father’s and uncle’s: first, attending Cornell, and eventually moving back to his hometown and joining the family business. As he’s risen through the ranks within Core America, Tony has managed to both honor the legacy that the previous generation established, while also moving the company forward with his own unique leadership style and goals.

And yes, even after all of these years, the father and son duo still enjoy working together every day.

Tune into this episode to hear Paul and the two Tonys discuss their family business dynamic, how they carefully transitioned the leadership from one generation to the next, and how they went about rediscovering Core America’s culture.

Building a Culture of Conscious Intelligence with Jean Pitzo

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Jean Pitzo, CEO of Ace Metal Crafts, a stainless steel fabrication company. Jean is also a mentor in the Small Giants Sounding Board program.

In the 1980s, Jean’s entrepreneurial father bought a metal fabricating business. And even though her brothers had no interest in joining the family business, Jean leapt at the opportunity to work with her father. Six years later, Jean and her sister, Mary, bought the company. It continues to have that family business spirit, as Jean’s daughter, Angela, now holds a leadership role. And while Jean has helped the company to grow financially, her real mission has been to create a psychologically healthy workplace. She does so through company-wide emotional intelligence classes; conscious intelligence classes for leadership; building a transparent, trusting culture; and more.

Tune in to this episode to hear Jean and Paul talk about running a psychologically safe manufacturing company, Jean’s willingness to rely on her employees, and the delicate act of transitioning leadership to a new generation.

Empathy and Elbow Grease with Heidi Baumgart

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Heidi Baumgart, COO of Skidmore Studio, a 65-year-old branding firm.

As an only child growing up in rural Ohio, Heidi observed generations of her family work hard to build their businesses, be it a dairy farm or a home renovation business. She took these values with her through her academic career, and into her first job after college at an advertising agency. Soon enough, though, when Heidi and her now-husband were planning their wedding, she pivoted her career to run her own event planning business for five years, which she claims has heavily informed every role she’s had since. Heidi’s redirected her career since then, first into marketing leadership, and most recently into people management, which is allowing her to live her purpose of helping humans flourish.

Tune in to this episode to hear Heidi and Paul discuss Skidmore’s strong remote work culture, the influence of the Small Giants Community Summit on Heidi’s career journey, and their shared optimism about young people entering the workforce.

The heavy lifting of purposeful leadership with Eric Jones

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Eric Jones, co-owner of Adamantine Spine Moving, a local and long-distance moving company based in Iowa.

Eric didn’t always dream of owning his own moving business. In fact, for a long time he didn’t know where he wanted his career to take him. His prior path stretched from coast to coast of the US, and involved time as a teacher and soccer coach at a boarding school, completing an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa, and working in the burn unit of a hospital. Eventually, Eric picked up a defunct moving business from a friend, and built it up over time. It wasn’t until 2020, when co-owners Cliff and Emily Wallace opened a new branch in Des Moines, and the pandemic saw a boom to the moving industry, that Adamantine grew at an exponential rate. But with growth comes challenges, and Eric and his team had to evaluate how they’d scale while still maintaining their culture and values.

Tune in to this episode to hear Eric and Paul discuss Adamantine’s efforts to be an ecologically-conscious business, takeaways from participating in the Small Giants Community’s Leadership Academy, and the challenges Eric faces as the leader of a growing company.

Building a Culture of Learning with Andrew Barry

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Andrew Barry, founder and CEO of Curious Lion.

Andrew got his start on the accounting side of business at KPMG. But as his passion for learning grew, he embraced his own courage by moving from his home country of South Africa to the United States, where he started his own training services business. Even though the road wasn’t always smooth, Andrew had mentors (including several standout female leaders in a male-dominant industry) to back him up, as well as his own curious mindset, to propel him forward. Now, through Curious Lion, he’s helping organizations shift their cultures to ones that are people-focused and embrace change in order for them to thrive and not just survive.

Tune in to this episode to hear Andrew and Paul discuss the dual influences their parents had on each of their leadership journeys, the dynamics of being a thought leader while running a business with its own identity, and the power of storytelling.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the tools and philosophies of Curious Lion, Andrew and his team have developed a free email-based course for anyone to access. Sign up to get these problem-solving tools here!

“Out-teaching” the Competition with Jason Fried

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of 37 Signals, as well as the co-author of several books such as Shape Up and It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work.

As soon as Jason was old enough to work at the age of 13, his parents encouraged him to do so. From a young age, he was able to observe – and learn from – various management styles. Jason also took on an early interest in developing software, and freelanced and sold his own products throughout college. By the time he co-founded 37 Signals in 1999, he had an informed opinion of what strong leadership looked like.

One of the things that has made 37 Signals stand out is their willingness to share what’s in their (not so) secret sauce. Jason says that he’d rather out-teach his competition than out-spend it, and part of that is being public with their company decisions and thought process. This outlook caused controversy for the company in 2020, but ultimately Jason stands by his and his teams’ commitment to transparency.

Tune in to this episode to hear Jason and Paul talk about the lesson that chefs can teach business leaders, the future of work, and the founder’s role in taking risks.

Removing the Mask with Beck Sydow

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Beck Sydow, the Founder of HumanKind Business Leaders, and former CEO of StickerGiant.

Beck’s passion is bringing people-hearted and business-minded leadership beliefs to individuals, teams, and organizations. A self-proclaimed “business geek” as well as a longtime mindfulness practitioner, Beck’s aim is to help people understand the importance of weaving together business and leadership, and to do so by showing up to work as their full selves. And Beck finds that sharing their personal story is a helpful illustration of this belief.

Beck grew up in an evangelical christian household, received a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University, a large evangelical school, and later gained one of their master’s degrees from Naropa University, a buddhist-inspired school. Beck is also same sex attracted and gender nonbinary, a component of their identity that has taken time to fully embrace and share with others, including their colleagues at different organizations, and family. And although the road has not always felt smooth, Beck acknowledges that in order for us as leaders to promise a culture of acceptance, we have to be willing to remove our own masks and show up as our full selves.

Tune into this episode to hear Beck and Paul discuss mindfulness in the workplace, embracing one’s complete self, and not being afraid to share our true selves with the ones we care about the most.

Mailbag Episode: Dispelling the Myths of Employee Ownership with Corey Rosen

On this mailbag episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Corey Rosen to answer listener questions about the world of employee ownership. Corey is the founder of the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), a nonprofit membership and research organization that is an authoritative source on broad-based employee ownership plans.

Corey founded NCEO in 1981 after working as a staff member in the US Senate, where he was first introduced to and intrigued by the concept of employee ownership. As he tells us, employee ownership was legislatively recognized in 1974, and is a unique topic in US politics because ever since its conception, it has been consistently favored by both major parties. Despite employee ownership being politically practical, financially strategic, and allowing economics to become more equitable, there are still misconceptions on the topic hindering it from becoming more widespread.

In this episode, Corey helps us to understand the origins of employee ownership, the different variations, including ESOPs and purpose trusts, and what types of companies are good candidates for them. We’ll also dig into dispelling some of the myths around ESOPs, and the many benefits your company may see from adopting an employee ownership structure.

If you still have more questions on the subject after listening to the episode, consider checking out the NCEO website for free resources, or read Corey’s recent book, written with John Case, titled Ownership: Reinventing Companies, Capitalism, and Who Owns What.

Give a Sh*t, with Carl Erickson

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Carl Erickson, the recently retired Executive Chairman of Atomic Object, a design and development software consultancy he co-founded in 2001.

Previously a tenured professor at Grand Valley State University, he enjoyed teaching, but didn’t so much appreciate the affinity in academia for sticking to the status quo. So, when a former student asked him to help manage a team for a startup, Carl took a sabbatical, and eventually resigned, to pursue the new opportunity. The innovation happening in such a new industry was thrilling. When that startup didn’t make it, Carl took the ashes of that business and created Atomic Object.

Carl takes pride in having formed a team of longstanding Atoms who have helped him to shape the company from the early years into what it is today (their first intern, Mike Marsiglia, is now a co-CEO of the company). And part of that is due to Carl’s self regard, combined with his lack of business training – unburdened, he simply created a company that he wanted to work at.

Tune in for this episode as Carl and Paul discuss Atomic’s handcrafted employee ownership structure, how moving states as a child shaped Carl’s personality, and the humbling lessons he’s learned on the company’s aspirational journey to becoming 100 years old.

Financials with Heart, with Lauren Adams

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Lauren Adams, the Director of Operations at the Center for Financial Planning, a privately held wealth management firm.

Lauren has always had a strong work ethic that combines with a passion for working towards a greater good. Even as she pursued education, and then a career, in financials, she wasn’t interested in the large public firms and the Wall Street culture. Rather, she focused on finding a work environment that fit her mission of working towards a greater purpose. And in the two companies she’s worked for since graduating – Morningstar and the Center for Financial Planning – she’s found just that.

Tune in for this episode as Lauren and Paul discuss why Lauren shifted from being a stock analyst to a personal financial planner, how the Center for Financial Planning is unique in its industry, and what helped Lauren to get through the early days of the pandemic – all while she was creating new company policies, going through the Small Giants Leadership Academy, and raising a newborn.

Problem-Solving Through Art with Taylor Vanden Hoek

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Taylor Vanden Hoek, a delivery lead at Atomic Object, a custom software consultancy. Along with one of her colleagues, Taylor is currently working towards opening and managing Atomic Object’s fourth office, which will be located in Raleigh, NC.

From a young age, Taylor had a love for art, largely thanks to her dad’s own passion for creativity. But it wasn’t until her senior year in high school, when she enrolled in a graphic design program at a tech center, when she really hit her stride. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Taylor went on to have design jobs at various companies with different angles on the role of designer. Through this diverse experience, she was able to learn that she loved the parts of design that prioritized the end user and strove to problem solve with them in mind (also known as human-centered design). With this self-awareness in mind, she found a place where she could thrive and pursue her purpose in Atomic Object.

“Being able to know myself really well is something that has helped me figure out the systems I need to build for myself in order to be successful.”

Tune in for this episode as Taylor and Paul discuss how Taylor came to lead the charge on Atomic Object’s fourth office opening, her passion for gardening (and how it relates to her leadership journey), and finding her own leadership style in the tech community.

On the Road Again with Devyn Bachman

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Devyn Bachman, Vice President of Research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Devyn grew up surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit. While her parents ran a 20-seat hair salon in Colorado, Devyn grew to love the idea of creating something on one’s own, but also to respect the relentless hard work that it takes to make a business a success.

Devyn was the first in her family to attend college, and, for the majority of her academic career, was also a dancer on the Denver Nuggets dance team. This terrific opportunity allowed to travel the world, all while pursuing her passion for dance.

And she didn’t stop traveling after that. When Devyn’s now-husband proposed to her during their senior year of college, he was also just about to begin his career in the NHL. This meant moving houses, cities, and even states, at an alarming rate for over a decade.

“You wouldn’t believe the people I have met along the way. It’s absolutely been a thrilling adventure at every turn.”

Now, Devyn has been a part of the JBREC team for seven years, and she credits the company’s founder, John Burns, with his innovative approach to remote work – or rather, what they call connected work – in part for her ability to remain at one company and develop her leadership skills over those years.

Tune in for this episode as Devyn and Paul discuss her experience on student council in high school, the ups and downs of constantly being on the move, and the merits of working at a company that values leadership in a variety of ways.

“You don’t have to be a celebrity to share your life journey” with Lauren Eckhardt

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Lauren Eckhardt, founder and CEO of Burning Soul Collective.

Lauren grew up in rural Missouri with plenty of space to let her imagination roam. She took a detour from her creativity in college, and began her career in HR roles. And while she enjoyed certain aspects of Human Resources, like identifying and celebrating individual’s strengths, her priorities shifted after the birth of her first child, and she knew she wanted to do something different.

After a scary bout of covid in the early days of the pandemic, Lauren was forced to look at her life path and where she wanted to take it into the future. By this point, she had already published her own books and done some ghost writing, and people would often ask her to help them with their own stories. So, in the wake of a pandemic, Lauren decided to take her skills and passions, and turn them into a business aimed at helping people write their own life stories.

Tune in as Lauren and Paul discuss the merits of being an introvert who’s good at listening, tips on how someone can begin writing their story, and Lauren’s ongoing journey to discover her identity as a leader.

Making Car Dealerships Fun with Aaron Montgomery

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Aaron Montgomery, the CEO of Montgomery Development Group, Co-Founder of CarLotz and author of Suspend Your Disbelief: Short Stories That Are Long On Wisdom.

Aaron grew up in Detroit, raised by his mother, as well as her large family. From them, he learned the value of education and stories, and even got a lifelong, prophecy-filling nickname: Mr. President.

After going to a private high school thanks to a scholarship, and eventually Harvard Business School, Aaron recognizes that he’s benefited from experiences and environments that aren’t available to everybody. But he’s also seized opportunities when they’re available. In high school, he asked a friend’s dad if he could work at the man’s car dealership during his summer holidays. Through this, Aaron was able to learn the ins and outs of car sales, which eventually led to him co-founding CarLotz. He and his co-founders strove to make CarLotz a different kind of dealership, for customers and employees alike. Those changes quickly proved to be beneficial for business; but more than the numbers, Aaron is proud of the culture they created.

“The real impact to me was felt when you saw the difference.”

Now, Aaron’s written a book, structured in stories – an homage to his grandpa – and hopes to reach young people through it so that they can learn from his experiences. He’s also working on himself, practicing patience, and focusing on the journey rather than the destination.

Hai Nguyen: The Amateur Aficionado

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Hai Nguyen, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Text-Em-All, an automated call and text company.  For a man with such a calm, even presence, Hai’s life began with a lot of turbulence. When he was very young, and with the fall of Saigon, he and his family fled Vietnam. It was a dangerous journey to get to America, and one that took longer than anticipated, but fortunately, he and his family made it safely to Pennsylvania. While he only remembers the journey through the stories told by his older relatives, Hai does believe that the experience was a formative one. “Now, as I’m older and hopefully wiser, I look back and it does give me a lot of strength. When I’m going through something tough, I think back at what my parents went through and it doesn’t seem to measure in comparison.” Listen to this episode to discover how Hai and his opposites-attract business partner have worked together to create a meaningful culture at Text-Em-All. Plus, get an insight into Hai’s enthusiasm for being an amateur and how being humbled by learning something new helps to open up his worldview.

Finding Integrity Through Vulnerability with Massimo Backus

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Massimo Backus, Chief Coaching Officer of Massimo Backus Leadership.

Massimo’s path to leadership was not a straightforward one, and was heavily influenced by his struggles with dyslexia growing up. As he says, “that challenge both motivated me and put a chip on my shoulder.”

Despite having a supportive family, he felt “othered” in school, and so, understandably, his relationship with academia was fraught with resistance. After entering and then dropping out of college, he picked up several jobs which led him to his curiosity in psychology and how teams organize themselves. He then went on to get an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a master’s degree in Organizational Behavior Psychology. This eventually led to his passion for working with leaders to fulfill their potential, and practice self compassion.

Listen to this episode to discover the three components of self compassion Massimo lives by, and how, when his own leadership was viewed negatively, he took the time to look internally at how he could improve himself for his own benefit, and that of his team.

Learning Through the Ups and Downs with Valerie Webster

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Valerie Webster, President of HealthWorks, a Cincinnati based health and well-being company.

When Valerie first stepped into the role of president in a new company, she took it upon herself to meet with every employee for a one-to-one conversation within the first 30 days. For her, trust is one of the most important aspects of being a good leader and building a successful team.

Even though Valerie is still fairly new to her current position, she’s had a long road of ups and downs that have led her to be a formidable and compassionate leader. From being one of the youngest of seven siblings, to deciding early on that she did not want to fit into the mold of working in the automotive industry like most in her Metro-Detroit community, Valerie knew since high school that she wanted to carve out a career that gave her purpose.

Fast forward to now, and she’s doing just that. Valerie talks to Paul about the eight dimensions of wellness that HealthWorks both embodies and promotes, as well as the challenges she faces, being the leader of a growing organization. But her biggest message of all is that nobody knows what lies ahead, and to keep turning every corner, because you never know what you’ll learn along the way.

Unpacking the Past with Eric Rieger

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks to Eric Rieger, founder and CEO of WEBIT Services, a people-focused IT strategy, service, and support company based in Naperville, IL.

After working for other software companies with poor culture, Eric decided to take matters into his own hands and start his own company. 25 years later, WEBIT Services is a Better Business Bureau accredited company, and has made it onto the Inc. Best Workplaces list.

“There’s harmony and vision and unity with the leadership team, which then translates down to the rest of the company,” says Eric. “The gears are really starting to align, and we’re gaining traction because of it.”

Eric moved his company to open book management in 2016, and as of last year, transformed WEBIT into an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). He wanted to make sure that he had an exit strategy in place that would benefit the people who have made his company a success over the years.

“My purpose for starting the company was to help make lives better, not enrich my own pockets.”

With the help of mentors, peer groups, and being involved in therapy, Eric has come to recognize the impact his parents have had on both his personal and professional life, both good and bad. His father was a huge positive influence in his early life. As a truck driver (that’s ‘transportation engineer’ to you) with very little education, Eric’s father broke down stereotypes and took great pride in the role his job had in maintaining the country’s economy. And he did this all while upholding his morals and being generous with those around him. Eric’s mother, on the other hand, was a narcissist who expected perfection, and it took Eric some time to realize that he was perpetuating that onto his colleagues and employees, and so had to make a change to end the cycle.

Eric’s life has been full of instances where he’s had the courage to take action. From cutting ties with his mother, to taking control of his health after an unwelcome diagnosis, to forming the ESOP, Eric has learned the importance of taking care of oneself in order to take care of others.

Listen as Eric discusses with Paul how WEBIT makes technology with a human-centered mission, the importance of both mental and physical health for being the best leader possible, and being conscious of making both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions.

The Accidental Entrepreneur with Andy Fowler

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Andy Fowler, CEO of Nutshell, an all-in-one CRM and email marketing platform based in Ann Arbor, MI.

“My trajectory in life was never to start a business, or even to lead a business,” says Andy. “I was always motivated by my own curiosity and making things, that’s what always made me tick.”

This curiosity for learning was instilled in Andy at an early age. He was homeschooled by his mother all the way through high school, which gave him the flexibility to really dive into topics that he was most curious about. One of these was computers, which led him to intern, and later work at a local dialup internet company. It was there that he learned the fundamentals of computers and software, and where he met three friends who ended up being his co-founders in eventually creating Nutshell.

One of these friends, Guy Suter, was CEO until other business ventures took more of his time. They then brought in a CEO from the outside, and just a couple of years ago, Andy stepped into the role. He claims that even ten years at the company didn’t fully prepare him for the responsibilities, but that his passion for continued learning and for helping people through his problem-solving are what drive him on his leadership journey.

“The reason I ended up starting companies and being a part of them in early stages was because of what I like doing, and that was solving problems, and often for businesses.”

Andy had the impeccable timing of becoming CEO just a couple months before the start of the pandemic, which has brought about its own challenges and questions, such as the concept of remote work after having developed a strong office culture over the past decade. But Andy said it’s also allowed them the space to hunker down and develop new products, and start redeveloping their company vision. Some things that Andy will always keep at the core of his leadership and of Nutshell, is the integrity of their products, and developing people with potential. After all, the owner of the dialup internet company back in his hometown took a chance on Andy based solely on potential.

“When you find someone who is interested in what you’re doing, and you treat them well, and they stick around because they’re excited about the mission and what’s happening, you can go far.”

In this episode, listen as Andy tells Paul about his early days of getting into the world of CRM when it was just beginning, how his lifelong curiosity led to him being an accidental entrepreneur, and why everything at Nutshell starts with a well-designed product.

The Sweet Side of Leadership with Kate McCrea

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Kate McCrea, CEO and “Chief Caramel Visionary” of McCrea’s, a quality confectioner. Kate is also a longstanding member of the Small Giants Community.

At a glance, Kate’s road may be a very windy one. From being an avid dancer as a child, to training as a scientist and living in places like remote Alaska to conduct fieldwork, to now being at the helm of a rapidly growing candy company, Kate has worn a lot of hats in her life. But to her, these transitions haven’t been huge leaps, but rather, stepping stones.

After Kate’s husband, Jason, a fellow scientist, lost his job in 2008, he started making caramel in his kitchen, working with sugar molecules to stabilize the candy rather than using preservatives. Before long, it turned into a family business.

“It’s easy to look back now, and see we had this itch to step into the business world to be makers,” says Kate. “Once Jason had this amazing formulation… it was not a huge step to taking it to markets.”

In this episode, listen as Kate discusses with Paul how she and her husband successfully run a business together, how their scientist background prepared them to have an innovation mindset in their company, and how recently creating a human-centric vision for McCrea’s has gotten her excited for their future.

Empowerment through Financial Literacy with Angela Barbash

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Angela Barbash, CEO of Revalue Investing, a values-based investment advisory firm.  She is also a current participant in the Small Giants Leadership Academy as well as a recipient of our inaugural LIFT scholarship.

For Angela, all roads lead to making an impact. Growing up, she observed how her separated parents both struggled financially to navigate a society that didn’t allow them access to resources or knowledge. This, along with her love for math and the stories from her activist grandmother, Maria Elena Lucas, set Angela on a clear path. She wanted to work in finance, but she wanted to do it differently. She wanted to make the industry accessible for people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds.

After years of traversing the industry to understand how it worked from the inside out, and then more time researching and developing, Angela and her team launched Revalue Investing in 2013. They are a boutique investment firm, with three types of clients: entrepreneurs, multigenerational inheritors, and individuals who have been otherwise excluded from the industry and want to gain financial literacy. No matter how much or how little wealth they are handling, each of Revalue Investing’s clients chose the firm because they are a socioeconomic inclusive business.

“We’re just one little mark on the map and we try to have the best impact we can.”

In this episode, listen to Angela tell Paul how she and her team prioritize mental health so they can be the best advisors to their clients, what she learned (or didn’t) from working within a traditional firm, and how she believes the sharing of knowledge is one of the most important ways she can make an impact.

Reframing How We Think and Talk About Race with Mel Gravely

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Mel Gravely, majority owner and CEO of TriVersity Construction. He is also the author of nine books, including his most recent, Dear White Friend.

 As a self-proclaimed product of Affirmative Action, from an early age Mel understood not only that his presence as a black man in professional settings was met with negative perceptions, but also that the intentionality of inclusion offered him opportunities that the systems in this country would not have naturally led to. After a successful career at IBM, earning his PhD, and starting several other companies, Mel went on to lead TriVersity Construction, which is a consistent member of the Deloitte 100 list of the largest privately owned companies.

After writing eight business books relating to his PhD in entrepreneurship focused on African Americans, Mel felt compelled to contribute to the social justice movement with his book Dear White Friend (in which he intentionally left out his PhD). Through a series of letters to his white friends, Mel cites extensive research and data to support his own sentiments around race, and how our country’s history and systems have led us to this point in history, but has not prepared us for it. As he says, “If we can’t figure out how to talk about what we’re feeling and experiencing and what we see, how can we hope to solve it?”

In this episode, hear Mel tell Paul his approach to this book and what kind of impact he hopes it can have on future discussions around race. Plus, hear how Mel’s parents helped prepare him to be a successful leader, and what his definition of success is for his company.

Small Giants Community