Ep 13: Brea Starmer: Building a Bridge to the Future of Marketing

On this episode of Marketing for Good, Brea Starmer joins Erica to talk about the power of communication and marketing. They also discuss the role gender dynamics play while working from home, creating a virtual think tank with specialists to solve problems, and women and vulnerability in being authentic in the workplace and on social media.


This is a transcript of  Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Brea Starmer on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


people, marketer, business, vulnerability, inspire, hear, founder, feel, female entrepreneur, nonprofit

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:08

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! That expression has always made me giggle. And now I love it even more because I learned it’s the inspiration for my guest, Brea Starmer’s company, Lions and Tigers. Lions and Tigers is a marketing and strategy consultancy. Listen to this, that is building a bridge to the future of work, so timely. In 2018, Brea started the firm in response to a need she saw as a consultant, and simultaneously mom of two young boys. And that need was for what she refers to as flexible, fractional high impact work. And I gotta say from there, she just went for it. Her team is now 50 plus, and they serve clients like Microsoft and Google, and also smaller businesses and startups. As the founder, Brea created a company that operates on purpose and for cause. On purpose and for cause, she talks more about that. And I just, I love the phrase, I love the intent and I can’t wait for you to hear more from her about what that means to her and the company. I met Brea while doing a project for Microsoft philanthropy a number of years ago, and at that time, she was growing a global staffing firm from a startup to eventually was 120 plus consultants with 16 million in revenue. And they did that in four years. Whoa. Brea’s got a lot of energy. She is she’s really truly passionate about helping people thrive in their highest and best use through courageous acts of action. You can hear that she also likes her some words she’s you know, I’m using phrases that she shared with me. She’s a marketer for sure and a founder and an entrepreneur and just a super cool chick. Oh, and her office is a she-shed in their front yard.  Once you’ve listened, join me in the Marketing for Good Facebook group and let’s keep chatting and okay, there’s a lot, there’s a lot to take away from this episode about marketing and changing the world one project, one person at a time. Brea, welcome to the show.

Brea Starmer  02:56

Thank you happy to be here.

Erica Mills Barnhart  02:58

I want to say out of the gate that this is take two and that you are an incredibly patient, wonderful, kind, human being. Because we had this conversation before and I forgot to record.

Brea Starmer  03:10

But what a chance to make it even better.

Erica Mills Barnhart  03:17

I love the positive take on that. So you’re in your she-shed. I feel like I want to acknowledge that because we’re all in these kind of I mean you can see this is my right behind my husband’s in like we’re sharing an office and there’s just a lot of closeness right now under COVID. But you have your she-shed.

Brea Starmer  03:35

 I’m so lucky, Erica. So when my second son was on the way, I had to give up my home office, which was just a bedroom to him because well he needed a place to sleep and so we didn’t have anywhere else to put me and I work from home so much. So we invested in this she-shed, which is in my front yard. It’s like a 12 by 12 tuff shed and I spend a lot of time here and I know just how lucky I am, especially with my children home. So this is a great place for me to spend time.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:08

Especially with little children.

Brea Starmer  04:09

Yes, yeah, I have a four and a half and a one and a half year old. So they come out here because I keep the best snacks out here though.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:17

So you actually invite them into the she-shed? Thats encouraging!

Brea Starmer  04:21

Well, I know. I know. I know. I do like to see them throughout the day, which is such a nice little treat but then I shut the door eventually.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:28

Little rays of sunshine and joy, right?

Brea Starmer  04:30

Yes, yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:32

Okay, so thank you for being on the podcast times two, kind of. I really, I appreciate it. One of the reasons I was so so so excited for listeners to get to know you is we’ve known each other in various capacities, but you are somebody who in all of those different contexts has always been just like so you. And when I think of like the word marketer, I have to say you always come to mind. I don’t know if you think about yourself that way or not. But you you just think in the best sense of the word like in the true sense of marketing for good, like using marketing as a force for good. So I would just love to hear you share what your reaction to that is, do you think of yourself or identify that way and what attracted you to marketing in general? Because you have held marketing roles.

Brea Starmer  05:18

Well, thank you for that compliment. I have in the past identified as a marketer. Most recently I’ve been identifying as an entrepreneur and a founder, which is a new hat that I’m wearing, and I guess I’m still getting comfortable with those titles. But I’ve I’ve been a long standing marketer, yes. My first job out of college was marketing in a role at Microsoft. I remember when I interviewed there, they’re like, well, what do you want to market? There’s 5000 marketers here and I’m like, I don’t care, I’ll market bananas. Like I’m just I just want a job here like and I just have the business cards. So I remember being not very, you know, frugal about where I spent my time but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really found great joy in the power of communications and the power of kind of bringing people along the journey with you. And so that’s been this, like most recent chapter of my life has been around marketing in my own life and this work that I’m doing lately. So yeah, I guess I do identify as a marketer. I don’t think I’m the best marketer in the whole world. Like there’s lots of people who I look up to, but I certainly love the profession and love studying the art of marketing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:23

Who do you consider to be like an uber wonderful marketer?

Brea Starmer  06:27

I tend to watch like, I love Seth Godin. I tend to I really love some of these more folks that are marketing themselves, which I think is really fascinating, like Marie Forleo has B School, which I think is really interesting. I’m a big fan of Sarah Peck, who leads a podcast called Startup Parent that I am obsessed with. I think Amy Nelson at The Riveter does some incredible work and is a really great example of having a platform and a business and a social presence all at once. So I tend to be attracted to folks that maybe aren’t natural marketers but have done a really fabulous job of marketing themselves and their businesses.

Erica Mills Barnhart  07:05

Hey, I was doing some research on content marketing. And of course you can’t do that and not come across Gary Vee.

Brea Starmer  07:12

Sure, sure.

Erica Mills Barnhart  07:12

I’m not even gonna try the last name. And I remember somebody saying like, don’t you know basically the whole adage about like, be you because everyone else was taken and them saying like, no one’s gonna out Gary Vee, Gary Vee. Like, I don’t want to try that. So I find it like, I look at his approach to marketing, which is like, I’m gonna be everywhere all the time and to me, that just feels exhausting. But to him, it clearly like revs them up and that’s, that’s how he does it. So I think it’s such a fun time to be able to see what different people are doing. Like you can actually you can follow the breadcrumbs. Right? Yeah, you can compare Gary Vee to Marie Forelo to you know, whoever else is on your radar, which is helpful. I think you have to be a little bit I would say you know, I’m not trying to, I how do I want to say this, not from a FOMO perspective. I mean, like, I really I worry a lot about how much anxiety contributes to, how much marketing contributes to anxiety. And we already have so much anxiety, you know, right now, I mean, in general as a culture, partially because of social media, partially because of other things. So, you know, marketing can contribute to that. So I’m not trying, I’m not recommending to listeners to like go to stress yourself out to be like, how are the other people doing it? More from like, I really respect this person. How do they like the mechanics of it can be quite interesting.

Brea Starmer  08:38

Yeah, for sure. And the barrier to entry right now is so low. I mean, you know, we talked about UGC or user generated content right now, like it’s totally cool to pull out your cell phone and take a selfie video in your backyard with your thoughts of the day. And I mean, that just wasn’t even that wasn’t acceptable, it was pretty radical a year ago, and now it is what we’re all craving and it’s it’s very performing super well and even even you Erica, who now you know, launched a podcast because it feels like that’s the modality you want to explore right now. So cool, right? And you could do it as a series and then put it back down again, like there’s no expectations of what this should look like. And that has just really opened the door to people to feel like they can approach this in a way that couldn’t have before half.

Erica Mills Barnhart  09:20

I hope so. I mean, I feel like you can make more what I refer to as like for now decisions versus forever decision. I make, you know, those distinctions a lot in my life. And, you know, back in the day if you were all print, I mean, that was like a big commit, it wasn’t a forever decision. But if you were printing a brochure and even now like, that’s a big investment and a big commitment, whereas if you’re like gonna, you know, try podcast or I mean blogging almost seems so passe, although, I feel like it’s gonna have a comeback. I’m gonna go on record right here right now. I feel like it’s gonna have a comeback. It’s just going to look a little different. You use the word radical and so my brain is spending a lot of time on on this idea of radical realness. So we hear a lot about authenticity and with user generated content and you know, I would say the precursor to that was, you know, really reality TV and all of us becoming like, accustomed to watching other people’s lives, which, when that first came out, it was like, that’s kinda weird. Now it’s like, oh, that’s what Kim Kardashian is doing today, that’s fun. But you are such a real person. And I think so the reason I’m intrigued by radical realness is because I’m seeing one of the one of the things I’m actually seeing more positive things out of all this COVID stuff is so the not good thing is people are exhausted. People are really, really tired and people of color and people living in marginalized communities are particularly so, so I don’t want to make that seem any better than it is. What I am seeing that gives me reason for hope is like just people putting down the pretense of being something other than who they are because they can’t carry it any longer. And you seem like somebody again, right from the start, who was just always like very clear on who you were and good with it. I wonder did that come naturally? Do you work at that? How does that happen?

Brea Starmer  11:11

Um, yeah, I think my mom would probably say that I’ve always been pretty, pretty, like confident and clear about what my wants and needs are. I was raised mostly as an only child. I have a half brother, that’s younger than me. But so I think, you know, being raised as an only child in a divorced home, you just you learn some independence skills at a pretty young age. I was four when my parents divorced. And I watched my mom work tirelessly her way up the corporate ladder. She’s now a CMO and a coach for marketers, actually. And but I watched her literally move from the receptionist desk to a corner office while I was a kid, and that really made a huge impression on me. On the kinds of things that, you know, she didn’t have a college education, there was no, there’s no blueprint for how she could have a career and watching a woman that I admire, chart her own path, despite a bunch of odds really was inspiring for me. So I went into life feeling like well, there’s no boundaries, like I can be really, really authentic and ask for what I want. And now this business that I’ve created, what I try to teach the people who come alongside me in this journey is that they shouldn’t think of their needs as accommodation. We should think about people’s lives and keeping them in the workforce as strategic advantages. And I feel very strongly especially for working moms like myself, who, where time is incredibly precious that we have to really be clear and and ruthlessly prioritize our time. So yeah, but I will say there I still have moments where I question how much to share publicly about the messy life and versus the polish. There’s like a polish and a messiness continuum, that you have to fall somewhere on, you know, in social, like, there’s like my corporate presence, and there’s my personal presence and how did those things come together and I’m still learning that I’m still really trying to figure out that dial for myself. But the more I push towards authenticity on that dial, which is a little bit newer to me, the more I get back, the more validation I get from people, the more I hear from people, and so it gives me confidence to push even further so I’m looking forward to a year ahead, that’s even pushing me out of my comfort zone even more.

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:37

I’m looking forward to that too. I can’t imagine what that’s gonna look like. I feel you I balanced that all the time. I have kids as well. You know, I think there’s a difference between choices where it’s like, how am I gonna respect the people I love you know, like, how do they want to be brought into this and of course, when they’re really little like yours, they, you know, that’s different, my littles are, you know, almost, you know, teenagers. So they have opinions about these things. But I, you know, I think these lines are definitely blurrier and blurrier and it doesn’t mean you have to show your everything. But I have had the same experience and, you know, when I look at organizations and companies that have like a really strong following, there is that thread. And I’m not saying you just like, throw it all down, you’re like, this is me people, like this is all of me. It’s more like, I’m going to be so true to my values, and so true to who I am, and unapologetic about that and I think, you know, especially right now folks are craving that. So.

Brea Starmer  14:31

Yep, yeah, we have a term for it. So we have, we have three corporate values that we filter everything through at Lions and Tigers. So first is stewardship. We’re really precious with our resources, time and money. Second, is wired for impact. That means that we focus on the things that will be the most impactful with our time. And third is around intentional community, meaning that we come together on purpose and for cause and the culmination of those three things if they’re done well, we call the concept fearless because. And it’s this idea that if you work within your values that you have the opportunity to be fearless. I don’t think fearlessness is an end state. Like I think it’s like yoga like you practice your whole life and at some point you, you know, kind of conquer fear or use fear in a different way. So that’s something that I’ve really been studying for the last couple of years is how we use fear as a tool, and then surround ourselves with the people that lift us up.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:35

Will you talk a bit more about the idea of doing things, I won’t get it exactly how you said it, but for on purpose for purpose?

Brea Starmer  15:43

Yeah, on purpose and for cause.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:46

Yeah, say a bit more about that.

Brea Starmer  15:48

Yeah, you know, I was a freelance consultant for a while because I was laid off when I was seven months pregnant, and no one would hire me. I was un-hireable in the market, and so the only thing I could do was to become a 1099 contractor and hope that people would like, hire me for my expertise and so I kind of became this overnight consultant. And that has been a career that I actually loved. I didn’t really mean to get into it, but it’s been a really wonderful, flexible model for my family. So, what I found though, and doing that is it can be a bit of a lonely existence, like you can really go all day long and talk to a whole bunch of people and, you know, do coaching all day long, and still go home and feel like you don’t have a team around you. So when I was pregnant with my second son, Scout, I decided that I really want to do this with people like I just I really wanted to scale this thing. I wanted to teach other people how to have this like flexible consulting arrangements and so I started this business and what I’ve learned in doing that is that this, this whole point of bringing people together to solve challenges alongside each other has been the greatest joy that I could possibly have because it is so stinking fun and you can do really powerful asynchronous work, thanks to technology. So for us intentional community means that we’re, we’re drawing together these teams of people to solve these big challenges. And that for us that shows up like, you know, we’ve got these, this really great Slack channel where we bring our problems in, and we showcase templates and we do show and tell and we try to kind of literally solve these problems collectively. We do these, these monthly all hand calls, where we share our wins and our successes and how we have gotten our clients to a much better place, like we really focus on the kind of impact we have because we’re working together and it feels so good. It feels so different from when I was consulting on my own and so this is just a team that I’ve always dreamed of building.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:49

It’s pretty incredible what a gift to work with a team that you’ve always wanted to work with.

Brea Starmer  17:56

It is, it does feel like a gift for sure.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:58

How did you come across the name Lions and Tigers? I mean, I can guess that there’s an oh bears, oh my type reference. But it’s such a strong thing from a brand personality perspective, which gets sort of back to radical, real realness, like how do you come forward into the world in a way that’s authentic yet differentiated? Tell us about that.

Brea Starmer  18:17

Yeah, so I get asked about the name all the time. When people think of lions and tigers, they generally think of one of two things. One is Wizard of Oz, lions and tigers and bears, Oh, my. And then the other is sort of this like fierceness that real a lion or tiger and the fact that they’re sort of in this pride, so both of those themes seemed really true to what we were trying to provide in the what we’re trying to build here. But honestly, you know, Wizard of Oz, and the story of Dorothy is one of the best stories of a female like going on this big long life journey and bringing people along with her that I could possibly think of. So that really did inspire me. I did think of the name driving back over the I-90 pass with two kids sleeping on either side of me, I was jotting down a bunch of names in a notebook and came across lions and tigers. And I just knew the second I wrote it down that that was the kind of courage brand we wanted to build.

Erica Mills Barnhart  19:12

I love that. You mentioned being a female entrepreneur and founder. How does that factor in I mean, how does it, I mean you only have one perspective obviously, being a woman entrepreneur, but how are you finding, well and I want to tie this I guess to the idea that part of what you put out there for Lions and Tigers is is this idea of you know, bridge to the future of work. I think we all just got catapulted whether willingly or against our will into kind of what the future might look like a little bit but I you know, one, you know, how much how much of this right sheltered in place trying to work which isn’t the same as working from home will be the future of work and like, what role are gender dynamics going to have you think?

Brea Starmer  19:55

Oh, my gosh, this is my favorite question. I’m so glad I asked your favorite question.I mean, so I’m really passionate about flexibility, like this is a core concept of my business. And that is because I think we have stumbled upon a need that employers and employees share, which is this idea that brands organizations, they need the ability to be agile. And talent, by the way, 96% of employees cite that they need flexibility in their lives, 96%. And yet less than half report actually having flexibility in their work. Now, this is all pre COVID. Now we’re all seeing this giant experiment, the great reset that we’re all in and so of course, this is going to change the dynamic. Before this, 60% of women were dropping out of the workforce, citing childcare as the number one reason they had to drop out of the workforce. And to me, that is a huge drain on our society that we need to stop like that, that is something that is hard for me to wrap my head around. I just heard, there’s a story on Twitter of a founder, she was a woman that had a business of about 13 people and her husband was a stay at home dad and unable to care for their son. So she needed to shutter her business and lay off her employees to step in and care for her son, which is a really extreme example of the kind of caretaking responsibilities that women are being asked to do, or not asked to do, and they’re responsible for and so not everyone has that kind of experience. There’s a lot more parity and other kinds of partnerships. But the model that I built is for part time flexible consulting. So that means that, you know, I’ve got a big group of a lot of ladies, I’ve got 75% of my workforce are women. 77% of us are parents. So we are already built to be agile. And so what I allow people to do or what I enable people to sign up for 10 or 20 or 30 hours of work, and they can do that work as their schedule allows, and it feels like I might have come up with the most obvious business of all time, which is part time work, but it has unlocked this talent gap that otherwise brands wouldn’t be able to access. So we’re giving opportunities to people who are highly skilled and keeping them in the workforce, which is critical right now.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:13

So from a gender perspective, do you, you were citing some some research. Is there a different, I mean, I think you said 75% of talent say that they want flexibility?

Brea Starmer  22:24


Erica Mills Barnhart  22:25

Oh, gosh, 96. Okay. But they don’t have it. Is there, is there a difference between men and women?

Brea Starmer  22:30

There is, yeah, there there is a lot of difference. There’s been a number of studies even just recently, so leanin.org, Sheryl Sandberg’s organization has conducted a study since the pandemic and they have asked women and men how much more caretaking they’re doing now versus before and the women on average have responded that they’re doing 71 hours of caretaking and housekeeping, which is almost two full time jobs before they do their full time job. I mean, this is staggering amount of responsibilities.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:01

So when you say we’re tired, like yeah, girl, we’re tired.

Brea Starmer  23:05

And and men are reporting that they are, of course helping and I not male bashing. In fact, my husband is a stay at home dad right now. So in our family, I’m really lucky to get to work as much as I am because my husband is enabling that for us. So I know it’s not everyone. But generally yes, women are responsible for much of the caretaking and much of the, even the planning, buying the shoes, buying the groceries, all of those elements, in addition to their full time jobs, or their part time jobs in my case, and so we’re just looking at that and saying, like, how can we offer a different solution?

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:39

Do you think that this solution, you said you think you might have stumbled across most obvious business model ever, because you were mainly correct me if I’m wrong, but mainly with like bigger companies?

Brea Starmer  23:50

Yep. Well, we do we have a mix of of small business startups and enterprises. But yes, we have a lot of big support from large enterprises.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:57

Do you see this model, this idea of flexible part time working for all sorts of all shapes and sizes?

Brea Starmer  24:04

I do, because you can, you can really procure the kind of talent you need. Yes. So yes, generally, I think this is going to be a global trend. I think I call it skill shift work. And so we’re doing something different. We’re thinking about we call it highest and best use. We think about the kinds of talent that are, that reside within an organization already, nonprofits, for profits, it all is applicable. Of the work that you need to do, who in your room, who on your W-2 payroll do you already have and what is their highest and best use? And if you consider down sourcing or outsourcing some of the additional work even at added cost, can you get more gain out of that? Can you bring in a specialist who knows something you don’t know or someone to lighten your load through a sprint, or what I’m seeing a lot of is people now especially with, you know, Zoom and technology as it is they’re filling up their virtual boardrooms, to make these key decisions and they’re accessing people and talent they wouldn’t otherwise have. So yes, I think that is completely applicable to small business all the way up to large. It’s just of course, large enterprises have more budgets, so you might be able to get a little further. But yeah, we do this thing called Virtual Think Tank. So we’ll bring a problem in and I’ll tap, say, five resources, five specialists, and we’ll hire them for a couple of hours. And they’ll just noodle on a problem with the client. And they’ll try to break through during that time together. So there’s tons of ways that you can think about tapping talent, no matter your budget.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:27

So this idea of like, very problem specific think tanks I find very intriguing. As I you know, I’m always influenced by my teaching, and right now I’m teaching my undergrad class on nonprofits, philanthropy and social innovation. And so we all of this culminates in an innovation for impact competition, I am air quoting competition. It means it’s their final presentation. But then they do you know, like we vote and whoever gets the most, you know, votes gets the top score and blah blah blah. But why I mentioned that is because, you know, wicked problems, which a lot of these issues for profit, nonprofit doesn’t matter, you know, they’re intractable, really challenging, not discrete challenges and problems. And so this idea of bringing, like a very intentional group of people together with the express purpose of, is there a way to slice these, so that we can just try to come up with new ideas around them. And right now, I mean, I think network leadership, which, you know, has been on the rise, but this idea of, you know, sort of challenging some that the wisdom is at the top of the food chain all the time, you know, that creates such an interesting way of just getting new energy and new ideas and new eyes and ears and braincells on these issues that are, you know, you can run out of steam pretty quickly when you’re trying to like eradicate extreme global poverty or self homelessness or just a couple things. I think that’s a very intriguing idea.

Brea Starmer  26:55

Yeah, yeah, it’s been a popular one. I mean, there’s just so many ways to think creatively right now, I mean, the walls are down, like now is the time for us to really question who’s doing what and why and to again, I think just, I’m just naturally tuned as a person who is up still with children in the middle of the night to feel like my time is so precious, like I have to be so conscious of where I spend it. And where I am not an expert, I tap people that are, and I have this matrix, I can send it to you. That shows, it was published in the Harvard Business Review that shows your value of your hour for $10 an hour tasks versus $1000 an hour versus $10,000 an hour tasks and they’re just things that I’m the only one that can do. And those are the categories I should spend my time in and the rest of the time I should try to bring in experts for that. And I get that there are real costs there. But I would challenge people to think about the opportunity costs of your time and what you could be doing with that otherwise.

Erica Mills Barnhart  27:52

Well and the value of you. I mean, I really it breaks my heart how much people don’t do those sorts of things. I mean, there is real cost. Let’s just say that one more time. But sometimes it’s like a I’m not worthy. Right, that kind of upper limiting. I’m not worthy, you know, really, is there anything in me that’s worth $1,000 an hour? I think that there is something that that we are all if we use that terminology, all of us have something that is in our zone of genius, where we are the people who should be paid the most on the planet. That’s our little bit of uniqueness. But you know, if you can find that that’s a that’s a gift in life for sure.

Brea Starmer  28:33

That’s the dream. That’s it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:34

That’s the dream. Yeah. And it’s, I mean, I will, from, you know, sitting from a place of a lot of privilege, it’s easier to it’s easier to access the dream for sure.

Brea Starmer  28:44

It is.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:44

I get a lot of questions from people who are more in their sort of, you know, the more Gen Xers about how to manage and communicate with their millennial staff and peers and colleagues.

Brea Starmer  29:02

I think I’m on the border. I’m like the very high end.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:04

You got to be right there. Right?

Brea Starmer  29:07

Yeah, I think so. Yeah. It’s so funny. I don’t know if I necessarily identify with that group. There’s got to be like a subgroup of us, right? That are like-

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:14

I mean, it’s also unless you’re like, right in the middle, you’re like don’t put me in the corner.

Brea Starmer  29:22

Okay, so communicating with us. I and I also, I mean, again, like, I’m not great at texting. I mean, I’m not like, I don’t know if there are like these normal. I like kind of do Instagram. So like, there are definitely-

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:34


Brea Starmer  29:36

No, no, I don’t do Snapchat.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:37

What is your preferred method of communication?

Brea Starmer  29:39

Actually, it’s Voxer. Are you familiar with Voxer? Like Voxer and Marco Polo are, maybe this does make me younger, but so it’s a it’s a walkie talkie app? And so you can send voice memos back and forth, and it’s actually faster than typing in my mind and then I get to hear the voice, so I conduct business that way. I talk with my team on Voxer and I’m in a few like, different women’s groups. Right now I’m on a Voxer thread around personal brand and authenticity. I’m debating with a number of other female founders about how they’re approaching it. So and it’s just so cool. You can pick it up whenever you want. When I have time, like when I’m walking, you know, from my she-shed into the house or something like, I can pick up a 32 second dialogue and so that’s my favorite way to communicate actually that and email.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:20

Do you think that that’s generational or that you’re more of a verbal communicator?

Brea Starmer  30:24

Oh, I think I’m more of a verbal communicator. I just love when you see people and when you talk to people, like I just get so revved up by that. I love a big room of people, I mean, give it to me all day.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:34

So you’d be an extrovert.

Brea Starmer  30:35

I’d say so.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:39

Well, I’m tying that back in my mind to you saying you would get to the end of the day and feel lonely even though you had been with people.

Brea Starmer  30:47

Yeah. Yeah, I think you know, because it wasn’t necessarily because I wasn’t connected to the same mission, right. Like it’s, it’s like this like purpose driven culture where you’re all rowing in the same direction and that there are people around you that are smarter than you like, that’s just so cool. Like the team that I’ve hired, I’m so proud of and I’m like, go go, go, let me get out of your way. Like that’s just, I just feel so lucky that they would choose to partner with me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:11

So if you were talking to a pure Gen X person who was in a leadership position, what tips would you have for connecting with their Millennial and increasingly, the Zoomers?

Brea Starmer  31:26

You know, I actually have to pull out a Gary Vee on this. So I don’t watch all of his stuff. But I did see a little video.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:36

Who could keep up with all of his stuff?

Brea Starmer  31:37

I couldn’t possibly. I draw the line. But he did do a really awesome video that I thought was really helpful and he said, as a CEO or as a founder all you need to do is set up 30 minutes with each one of your staff. Just go to them and don’t talk, don’t talk. Just go to them and say how can I best support you and he said, you know, I guarantee the loyalty that you will get and the insights that you’ll get out of that 30 minutes is so worth your time investment, it costs you nothing. And to simply go and talk to your staff would be hugely valuable. And in the case, of course of either for profit or nonprofit, certainly in that case, I would consider shareholders, stakeholders, board members, like just going and doing an informal check in I think, goes so far. And so I try to do that as often as I can. It’s hard when the company gets big, and you’ve got to scale yourself. But, man, I get more out of those conversations than I do out of any of my other working meetings.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:31

Interesting. I mean, it’s not unlike when we’re thinking about messaging and, you know, people come and say, it’s not working, and they’ll say, who’s your target audience and there is sort of like this hmmm, that’s oftentimes that’s a, we gotta start there. And actually start with what success looks like, then we talk about target audience, who’s your target audience, and then we get to the how, which is messaging. And the number of times that I say, well, have you asked? You know, have you? And they’re like, no, which, you know, really is about vulnerability. And I think, you know, one sort of interesting connection is Gen Xers and you know, Boomers and what not, we, you know, we were brought up to think like if you get to a certain, you know, place, you’re supposed to have the answers and like, if you don’t have the answers that doesn’t look good for you, that’s not a good look to not have the answers. And it’s interesting now, thanks to Brene Brown and others to you know, actually have a conversation about vulnerability. And you know, one of the really uncomfortable suggestions I always make in terms of messaging and elevator pitches is you want it to you want people ask questions, like that’s good, because then you know what they heard, you know what they’re interested in and blah blah blah, and people are like, but what, that means that I didn’t like preemptively answer every single question that they ever had ever about your thingy dingy. No you didn’t, because that’s boring and you sound like a robot, but just be open, like getting people to open to the idea of like questions are good feels-

Brea Starmer  33:54

So vulnerable.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:56

It does but boy so powerful.

Brea Starmer  34:00

Gosh, I love Brene Brown, don’t get me started on that. She’s my hero. But you know, so in addition to marketing, I think the other sort of biggest category I spend time in is business development. So I sell a lot and I don’t know if I’m a non traditional seller or not, but I never start with the pitch. I always start with questions first, you know, tell me about where you’re at or what you’re looking for and boy, that is not it. Of course, it is vulnerability, because a lot of folks would want to go in with a lot of polish. But boy, does that give me so much information about what they actually want to hear next. And it’s the same thing for leaders. I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers. That’s why I started a company and scaled it, because I couldn’t do it alone. Like I there was only so much I could accomplish and so now, I’m very happy to be wrong. That is just a really awesome sign that I have hired great people. Now, you know, sometimes you have to take that on the shoulder but, you know, I’ve worked for some folks that I think were really ego driven, and that I think limited our business. I mean, I was in a number two spot for a long time and I watched ego play a huge role in how our business decisions were made, personal ego, and that was something that I just vowed that would color the way in which I lead a company. And so that’s, I’m really mindful of how ego shows up for us and man, I still have so much to learn. So there really is a big journey ahead. I couldn’t imagine being exhausted of this business because I just have so much still more to contribute and learn along the way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:30

I wish that leaders felt like they could be like that, that will be a good world.

Brea Starmer  35:35

Yeah. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:36

And, I think that, while, you know, doing good in the world doesn’t, isn’t the sole purview of nonprofits, although every single one of them is doing good in their own way. But there are some structural barriers I would say and civil limitations that are put on nonprofit leaders that are different than for profit leaders and founders, but I actually I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts as a you know, female entrepreneur myself, of female entrepreneurs because I find it incredibly inspiring, and one was, oh I am not going to remember the name, oh, dang it, Emma, something she’s Irish, but her company is Wild Fang, the clothing line. And she’s just super candid about how challenging it is and how lonely it is and how as a female entrepreneur, like, vulnerability is really, really not encouraged at all and I think that that’s quite similar to the the nonprofit executive directors, you know, we’re seeing like a bit of an openness to it more so but it does, it feels like folks can you know, walk differently through those spaces?

Brea Starmer  36:35

Yeah, I sometimes compare it to grief, I heard this concept about grief where you process in these outward circles. So this is kind of a similar concept-

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:44

I am a huge fan of the topic of grief. It’s important and we suck at it.

Brea Starmer  36:49

We do we do. And so vulnerability I think falls into the same category. And so if you cannot be you know, on Twitter about how, you know, your vulnerable day, which understood that a lot of roles can’t be and in fact, I don’t tend to go that far either. There are circles and appropriate places where you can be vulnerable. And I guess I would encourage everyone to find that space. So you know, sometimes for me, that’s with my partner, my spouse. Other times, I’m in these like, sort of female focused communities where I’m either paying a membership fee or I’m in sort of a founder circle and that’s where I’m authentic and sometimes it’s with my staff or in one on one. So there’s like, all these different I don’t know, maybe right now, I don’t know if you’re feeling this way too. I’m feeling an extreme amount of compartmentalization. Like so each 30 minutes of my day is so different and I have to treat it so differently, which is just a really interesting challenge and then my kids will run in to have a snack. So you just go from one thing to another so quickly right now, but that vulnerability.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:46

It is very taxing on my brain.

Brea Starmer  37:47

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that’s another reason why we’re do tired.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:50

Switching costs are like they are real and they’re high right now and they are fierce.

Brea Starmer  37:54

Yeah, it’s hard to get into flow. But even talking about not being productive is a risk right now. Right? Like Everyone’s trying to make sure that they’re still showing up.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:02

Which is quite goofy. I mean, honestly, really, really, you’re at your most optimally productive while sheltered in place because of an unprecedented global pandemic? Let’s let go of our obsession with productivity. And I mean, it’s just so harmful to us, you know, and I definitely have clients and I’m, you know, hearing from from lots of folks who were like, no, I’m still expected to like be in the office, quote, unquote, you know, online from eight to five or eight to six every day.

Brea Starmer  38:36

Yeah, there’s like be-er’s and doers. I’m definitely a doer, and so to get into a place of being is really a challenge for me like just to sit and appreciate or not do things is just a really big challenge. So I think there’s, we’re all being forced to have some awareness of ourselves right now that we maybe otherwise wouldn’t be facing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:55

Or given the gift of figuring out I mean, I’m always a little split about referring to a global pandemic as a gift but I think I’m such a silver lining person and I’m like just clawing my way to every single silver line that it might offer us. You know?

Brea Starmer  39:08

Yeah, you know, I’m with you. I’m with you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:10

Just so much self awareness sometimes I’m like, that’s enough. That’s enough. Thank you so much for the additional insight.

Brea Starmer  39:19

Yes, yeah, there is a lot of that right now if I read one more blog posts about productivity hacks from home I am going to keel over, although I have bought a lot of office supplies, that’s been my like a pandemic purchases. It’s like mini whiteboard markers.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:34

Well, why not? I mean, whatever keeps you happy.

Brea Starmer  39:38

That’s it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:39

You and Beth Kanter. She loves office, well not office supplies, specifically, she likes pens and markers because she’s a facilitator. So yes. Okay, I want to, I mean, this is take two so I really want to be mindful of your time, because you’ve given me a lot of your time and attention. You know, I always close by asking guests, what inspires them and what motivates them. So you know, inspiration being about breath and keeping you sort of willing to do the work and then motivation being what drives you to action, and we need both. And so we’ve heard a fair amount about what inspires you. But what comes to mind, what inspires you and keeps you motivated to do this work?

Brea Starmer  40:14

Simply put, it’s a workforce that looks different than it does today. It’s a place where people feel included and accessed and needed, and that I’m contributing to that kind of change that we want to have in the world.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:32

That’s both your inspiration and your motivation?

Brea Starmer  40:35

I’d say so. I guess I should say my kids. I don’t know.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:39

You don’t have to.

Brea Starmer  40:40

Yeah, they are, I mean, they, of course, they are a lot of the reason but, you know, but so many people, they, they want a different kind of working environment and I just feel like we’ve got to get us there.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:51

Yeah. Well, I am very appreciative to you for trying to bridge us to the future to a workplace that is flexible, inclusive, that sees people for who they are, that elevates them to be working toward, you know, their higher purpose. What’s your term, their highest and best use?

Brea Starmer  41:06

Yes, that’s it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  41:07

That is a very, very dreamy world. I hope that everyone listening has gotten as much out of this as I have. I feel like I’m as the host the one that always benefits the most from every single one of these conversations. If folks want to continue the conversation, just a reminder to head on over to the Marketing for Good Facebook group and we can continue the conversation there. Be good do well and see you soon.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?