Kyra Reed, Founder & CEO, Kadin Academy
Kyra Reed is a social media industry veteran and founder of Markyr Digital and Markyr Cannabis. She has spent over 15 years working with small businesses as a marketing consultant and educator. Kyra is the Social Media Mentor at Kadin Academy.
[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
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[00:01:06] Welcome, everyone. This is Thinking Outside The Bud. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host. Our guest today is Kyra Reed. And Kyra is a social media industry veteran, a focus on community brand innovation. She has been a social media pioneer. She was deemed social media pioneer by Entrepreneur magazine, has been featured in The New York Times text crunch. NPR 2020. She's also founder of Marker Cannabis, which is a digital media and social media strategy agency. She's also involved in Women Entrepreneurs and Cannabis, which is a Facebook group, and Kadin Academy and Kadins List, which we're gong to learn more about that. So very involved in the cannabis space. Lots of different facets. I'm excited for this conversation. Kara, welcome to the program. Hi, Bruce. Thanks so much for having me. So let's let's unpack all of that. There's a lot of different pieces. Give us a sense of your background, like professionally. What was your background? What was your connection to cannabis? How did all this kind of come together to form what you're doing today?
[00:01:58] So my background in cannabis, my mother was a hippie in San Francisco when I was born. I you know, I was a flower child in northern California living. So I've always been exposed to cannabis. It was never something that carried much stigma in my family. My background is in filmmaking, music management that transitioned into digital marketing and branding. I got very involved in the social media world before it was called social media and I was fortunate enough. My first client was the Roxy Theatre and the Sunset Strip. Now back in 2006.
[00:02:34] So we were number 19000 on Twitter and we were able to really take the the tools that were available to us all of the sudden to be community driven, to collaborate with our partners. And we really use these new ideas to rebuild the Roxy and the Sunset Strip.
[00:02:52] And it's gone from being kind of the has been of the L.A. music scene and L.A. and general to again, one of the most lucrative spots in all of L.A. estate are hard to come by there. And everybody wants to be a part of what's going on. So that kind of gave birth to what I do now, which is running a community of women and helping brands to in cannabis to step out as socially focused brands, brands that are ready to live in an environment where there's two way communication, the need for authenticity and transparency and a unique value set. So that's what I do. And then I got pulled into cannabis. I tried many years in L.A. I had a cannabis doctor. I worked with clients who were interested in participating in the industry. But every time we got close, the feds shut things down. So I step back for a few years because it was just becoming spinning my wheels to try and move anything forward. And then when we recognized in California, we are definitely this is going to pass in 2016. I jumped back in and said, you know, this industry is really going to need some help understanding marketing, community building and branding. So I refocused my agency solely on cannabis and really dug in to learning what was going on with brands. What we're going to be the challenges in promoting themselves and branding themselves. And that led me to understanding what was happening in the women's movement in cannabis. And that is really where my passion and my heart pulled me. And that's why I'm there today.
[00:04:22] And tell me. So why is it. I mean, I think it's important in every business and every industry to find better ways of incorporating, empowering, you know, supporting women as executives, as founders, as leaders.
[00:04:34] Why in cannabis? Give me a little sense of from your point of view, why it's so important cannabis to really make a conscious effort around us.
[00:04:41] So it's very rare that we have an opportunity to pioneer a new industry and in cannabis, in the gray market, in the black market. There are a lot of women who were driving the industry now that we have moved into the legal market. We recognize there is not a lot of infrastructure. So women have the opportunity to build alongside men to move it from being a perceived as a male dominated industry. Like we perceive health care in technology and entertainment and education so that we can actually created as a female inclusive industry because we are right there alongside our male counterparts. Building it as we go. And what this means is we don't. Have to now fit ourselves into a predetermined structure. How work is done? We can actually say, you know what, we really like collaboration. We like sharing resources. We value the things that make women incredible employees and entrepreneurs because of the life skills that they have, because of the sensitivities that they have, because of their ability to manage multiple relationships and the value that that brings to a company and the value that that brings to a CEO or an entrepreneur. So rather than just trying to kind of you know, I often say rather than trying to have this knife fight for one seat at the table. Women organizing, we're building a table together. That's going to be big enough for all of us. And that's the difference. We don't we don't have to come into something already built. We get to decide how it gets built.
[00:06:22] What have you seen as being the corner? The challenge is to keep it keeping that happening. I mean, I you know, I certainly I've seen, you know, as the cannabis industry gets bigger and more and more money gets put into it, that it's it's looking more like other industries or it's you know, it's it's adopting a lot of the kind of habits and systems and structures of, you know, other big developed industries. What are the things that you notice that are particularly, you know, that you have to be very conscious of where we have to be careful of to make sure that we don't lose this opportunity?
[00:06:52] Several things. Number one biggest one is funding. Women are not getting funded. Men are getting funded. Women are not getting funded. The percentages are extremely low. And yet a recent study showed that 50 percent of the cannabis businesses are either women owned or women majority owned.
[00:07:10] We sort of get that sense instead again.
[00:07:12] They that they have all of the independent businesses in cannabis. Fifty percent are women owned or women majority owned.
[00:07:22] Fascinating. And this is both planned, touching and non planned touching cannabis related businesses. And so what? And what's the well, what do you think that is? Is it just because of the previous markets and people coming out into the legal space?
[00:07:36] No. It's what has happened in every other industry. And, you know, it depends on what data you're reading. But there was a really interesting article in Fast Company that was highlighting some research that was done just in the last year that says wind when it comes to investing.
[00:07:53] Investors have a bias that they are more inclined to invest in someone who's sitting across the table from them. That reminds them of themselves. Now, of course. And since most investors are men, it just perpetuates. Right.
[00:08:07] Exactly. So it just the most basic level that is problem number one. Yeah. Problem number two. Beyond that is that most investors don't realize that the statistics show that women have a 30 percent faster ROIC on their investment. They scale faster. They have less turnover at every point of of significance in the growth of the business. Women do better than men. Yet those are not part of the discussion when women are going in to talk with investors.
[00:08:41] So, you know, we don't know that. And then there and then the next level of it is where's the education? I know women who are absolutely brilliant at what they do. They're incredible product makers. They're great leaders. They really understand the financial workings of a business, but maybe they don't really understand how to write a pitch deck. That's just nothing that they've been educated on. You don't even necessarily know what it is. So we're leaving women out of this game because of these these kind of structures that we've set up that you have to follow in order to get your foot in the door. Yeah, well, we don't know what they are and we don't know how we're supposed to present ourselves. That leaves us out. And then, you know, we go into a deeper level of the problem as well, which is not just women, but all minority groups. Women of color. Those numbers are absolutely shameful and abysmal. How few of them are being funded yet? Their companies when you look when you pull back the curtain and you really look at how they run, these companies are very successful. Some of the most credible women I know in this industry have the most successful and in, you know, their companies employ a lot of people. Their employees are incredibly happy. They're getting a good return. They did. They get completely overlooked. And so we've also got veterans. We have the disabled. We have LGBTQ. All of these minority groups are deeply affected as well in cannabis. And we have to address this if we are going to truly have an inclusive industry, which is what I want. I want to see that happen, because at the heart of it, we're dealing with a healing plant, dealing with a life plant that can change the world. But if it's coming from an industry that is corrupt, that is not inclusive, that still is disparaging towards women and people of color and people who are disabled, we will not have everything that this industry could be.
[00:10:29] And I say, how do we start addressing that? So I think, you know, I get to the situation where N and the that this the structures that are kind of in place are the biases that are in place that are causing some of these things. How do we remedy this? How do we undo it? How do we counteract some of these forces?
[00:10:45] Well, one is talking about it, and I appreciate the fact that you're willing to have this conversation with me. You know, in recognizing this isn't like I said, we want to move from being male dominated to female inclusive. It isn't about being against. It's about, you know, including it's about making sure there's room for everyone. So we've got to have these conversations. And then we also have to start showing people how can be done differently. So one of the things that I'm really focused on is allowing women to have a safe space where they can ask questions, where they can find the support they need, where they can find themselves in a group or a community that makes them feel inspired, welcomed and supported genuinely, not just because, you know, oh, I'm a celebrity or I'm the CEO of a company that just got funded. So now I have some cachet. All women who want to participate in the cannabis industry should have a place where they feel welcome and safe.
[00:11:43] And then the other piece of it is making sure that we're attracting high powered, high level, highly educated and successful women from other industries. We must have these women come over if we're ever going to push this towards legalization and mainstream acceptance. We need these women. So we are very openly saying, ladies, please come. We have a place for you. We will support you. We will celebrate you. You should belong here with us. So these are some of the things that we can do on a daily level.
[00:12:15] But also, you know, I just had a son contact me on LinkedIn and he said, you know, I just watched an interview with you. And you had mentioned the fact that, you know, you look through LinkedIn, I very active on LinkedIn and the number of women that show up, meaning, you know, when they see suggestions on who you should follow, it is 10 to 1 men. And this man, you know, I just I went through and I looked at my network. And you were right. I actually actively need to start pursuing building a larger network of women. So, you know, not having this kind of resentful perspective of, you know, you can't tell me how I'm supposed to be and don't accuse me of that.
[00:12:57] That's not what we're here to do. We're here to say, just take a look, OK? Just be willing to look at the fact that maybe your network doesn't have enough women in it. Do you ask yourself, why don't I have more women in my C suite? Why do I have no women in my C suite? Why are the only women employed in my company in marketing H.R. or admin?
[00:13:14] Yeah, well, you know, like some of the some of the Nordic countries and I'm actually having governance laws that your board boards of directors of certain type companies have to have a certain gender mix and things like that. Some people are are working to actually create, you know, overt structural changes. I mean, is this do you think things like that are going to. Are those good strategies? Are they not good strategies? I mean, what's what's your take on how we kind of make sure that our our networks have a certain percentage or hour boards or leadership or company or the staff in our company? Is that, I guess, what is the benefit and what is the what is the risk of some of those things?
[00:13:53] It's a dicey question because, you know, it's like rule laws are created when people behave badly. The fact that we have to say you can't do this or you have to do this that way.
[00:14:03] So it's it's a step in the right direction because it forces us to look at the disparity. It forces us to acknowledge the fact that the way it is now, we are having to be forced into doing this. So it's not all of our solutions are comfortable for everyone. Make everyone feel like it's the right thing to do. But it's the it's the next step. It's some that has to be done because we have to be forced to look at this issue if we're going to move forward. If you don't want to be somebody who's moving things forward and you want to keep the status quo, you're going to hate that. But for the rest of us, it feels like, hey, finally we're getting acknowledged for the things that we've been saying for how long now that it is not right. It is not OK. You know, as much as these things are happening and they're happening in California to where we're being now, you do have to have a certain number of women on your board. But yet, if we again pull back that curtain, we're seeing that fewer women are taking these positions. Fewer women are promote. Fewer women are being hired. How is that possible that with all of this conversation we have on a daily basis, not just in campus, but across every industry, that despite that, our numbers are falling? So, you know, we need to have I really believe we need more allies like you. We need more allies like the man who left a comment in Millington today about his roles in awareness, where we realize when we're not fighting. We are in this together and companies are better when they're diverse. Study after study shows they are more stable, their employees are more happy, they have better, better business. It's a better business model.
[00:15:40] Yeah, I mean, look, I think I think at some level I get I get somewhat abstract about it. And I just you know, if you look at just allocation and use of resources. The whole idea that only half of half of the population, you know, is you know, is in these kind of senior level roles. I mean, it's just from a from a utilization of the brainpower we have as a society seems like a very efficient way of doing things. So no kidding.
[00:16:04] So I guess one thing I'm kind of curious about, it's something that, you know, anytime I get into this kind of discussion with you, regardless of industry. But this discussion of kind of gender, kind of gender vs. kind of structural definition of a business, I mean, how do we avoid. There's the makeup of gender and then there's the way in which we do business. And it could I could see a situation where we could easily change the percentage of women in the business, but we haven't changed the way business gets done because we just have more women that are acting like men.
[00:16:31] You know why you're so right? Absolutely.
[00:16:34] What it does beyond just getting more women in seats that previously men were in, but acting like men like what are the changes we're looking for in the industry that are actually let's change the way we do business, because now we have more women in the business and their skill sets, different sensibilities, their different skills, they're different. It's a sort of an approach. And models, you know, that we now can apply or we can use one of those kind of changes that you're either seeing or hoping the cannabis industry can benefit from.
[00:17:01] So you are 100 percent right. And it goes back to the question that you asked me before about forcing women on board. Right. That's now this requirement. What did it? But it doesn't guarantee that those women are not just going to be trading pants for skirts at basically the same opinions and attitudes that are expected of them and expected of the men will be showing up. That is not going to move us forward. And it's a really interesting question that we need to evaluate deeper. There was this Facebook ad shut down in a program that was reviewing resumes because it taught itself how to be sexist. Yeah, exactly. And I don't believe necessarily that the programmers of that A.I. embedded in the A.I. that it will be sexist. But it shows how deep in the system our views are about women that what these these AI bots were written to do was to evaluate based on the things that we find value in men and the way men work. It's like, let's say when women didn't show those traits in their resumes, they were knocked down. This is the problem. We only look at value in the workplace based on the things that men traditionally bring.
[00:18:12] What about what women bring? You men have a skill set that is entirely different often from men. We and our families are the arbiters of our relationships. We know how to deal with sensitivities and multiple personalities. We know how to balance budgets in our home. There are in any you know, I don't want to just kind of keep equating the woman to the homemaker. But these are the things that become inherent in us culturally and how we're raised. And until companies recognize how to value and place importance on these skill sets and not only that, but the way that women present themselves, we are trained through our social conditioning that we are supposed to present ourselves in a certain way to be acceptable. So that shows up in our resumes. It shows up in our. Right now. Exactly. So if we come in, we are more about sharing resources, collaboration, building partnerships. The person interviewing you may think, wow, that's a big sign of weakness. That scares me. I don't want that in my company yet. That may be exactly what your company needs to expand their market and be seen as a brand that has more sensitivity towards its customer. Yes. So, you know, it's in medicine. This is one of the things that just drives me crazy. Women are not studied as subjects, not been studied in terms of our heart. We are given medicine at the levels that it has been tested on men. I had a family member that just spent a woman who spent six days in the hospital who had a fib because they couldn't figure out what the right dosage of medication was. So she became a medical experiment. So we see this at every level that women, even though, as you said, were 51 percent of the population, we are not considered for the uniqueness of the way our bodies operate and our minds operate. And the contributions that we have to give.
[00:20:04] Yeah. Yeah. It's been so fast. I mean, I would love to dig into it more, you know, both personally, professionally of the difference is kind of the the ways in which women approach business and approach planning. I mean, I've heard some good stuff around. Women are more likely to think multigenerational and even there in their business planning and kind of strategic planning, like they will make decisions now that will make it make it better for two or three generations later, you know. To be much more kind of, you know, single generation focus. The other one I always love is snipers. You know, women end up making very, very good snipers. Their ability to make decisions around, you know, this is a threat. And this is threatening the system and the family and things like that that they have. Whereas I think they're often portrayed as, you know, very emotional. And, you know, they get very kind of caught up in emotions and decision making. Well, in fact, they actually make better clear decisions and high emotional situations like that. So I think are really interesting. And I would love to kind of figure out from a business point of view how, you know, how it changes the nature of business and how we plan and how we manage and how we structure, you know, even how we conduct ourselves between businesses with more women in it. I think those are fascinating questions. And I think that cannabis is kind of why I'm curious about cannabis as it is an industry which is growing, you know, early. It's forming, it's growing very quickly, you know, has these kind of opportunities. I'm very curious to see how this plays out from. How is this industry different than other industries? If we can get more women and women in leadership, you know, entrepreneurial roles.
[00:21:29] So there is one thing that I do want to point out, and that is that in the news recently, though, as of the last month, month and a half, there are two companies in cannabis who are well-known who have come under severe fire for the inappropriateness of their CEOs and their management. All men all invested in very heavily by other men. And if we look at this just as a snapshot of our society, at the same time that this is going on, the news is kind of being swept under the rug. Everybody kind of knows about it. And the industry, there is murmurs, you know, it's making the industry look bad.
[00:22:05] We have headlines that are saying, oh, you know, warning that cannabis industry is more of a fad than we expected and it's not good for the industry. But there's nobody up in arms about it. There's no major protests. There's no upset. Now, granted, she's outside of our industry. But you look at someone like Elizabeth Holmes from thoroughness. You know, what she did has been turned into podcasts, documentaries, but her name has become synonymous with corruption. No one woman does this and she is made a flaming example. Now, I do not agree with what she did at all. I am not justifying what she did at all. It was wrong and she deserves to be punished for it, if that's what the law determines. But we don't do that to men who do this in business. We do it to women. And if a woman had been at the head of these companies in cannabis and done the things that these companies have done, which are very public, what do you think the reaction would have been? And God forbid, it had been a woman of color that did it. Yeah. So, you know, we also have to stop making examples of women where we won't make examples of men.
[00:23:13] Yeah. Yeah. I think you're certainly being kind of evenhanded across the port. You know, at minimal reasonable. So do you think it's. Do you think these situations are people are looking for evidence around this stuff and so they use these examples saying, oh, see, you know, this is this is what happens when you do things like this.
[00:23:29] Is that the you know, I think it's way more sensational because so few women have ever achieved the level that she did.
[00:23:37] So it all it does is it hurts the rest of us down the chain.
[00:23:40] So this is I mean, is this just a time thing? Like we need to just phase out a couple of generations of business folks to get to a new generation that's gonna think differently? Or can we do something about the people in business today? Like, how do we change the way we always use the phrase, you know, no, no one that got dealt four aces is going to want to deal. Right. So how do we how do we deal with the current situation and provoke and still change in the industry?
[00:24:06] Now, women need to take up arms. And I don't mean that literally. I mean, we need to empower and embolden one another. We need to support each other. We need to take these conversations to the streets. We need to not be afraid. I was a speaker at MJ Biz in November on a panel for gender parity in the industry. And I had several women approach me and say I feel so invisible. I will walk up to a booth and the men in that booth will look right through me. They will talk to the men that I'm standing with and act as if I'm not even there. And I didn't hear this once. I heard this over and over and over the entire weekend. The entire week. And my response was, that's it. Next year, we have to roar through these halls. We have to let ourselves be known. Now you have to shout it from the rooftops. We are here and this is what we bring. And we are not going away. And we are going to help make you money. And you are gonna help make us money. And we're going to find a way to work together. And I'm not going to be invisible anymore. We do have to rise above. And, you know, it's not easy for women in a way that it might be for men to come out and be more vocal about things. So that's fine. Let's link arms and do it together. We are better together. And there is nothing wrong with having a. Collective voice over A sink or voice that we have to do.
[00:25:33] Yeah. Yeah. And I think I mean, I always look at it as, you know, from an investor point of view, it's an unrealized benefit. It's like investing in women led a company of women founded company, women run company.
[00:25:45] You know, you're basically you're you're automatically getting, you know, 10 to 20 percent increase in your likelihood of return just because they've had to be so much better than their competitor, their male competitors. And that's that it makes sense from an investment point of view, certainly as a leader and a manager of hiring folks. You know, women that have been successful in these roles in this industry have had to be that much better. So, you know, they're an under essentially an underutilized or under compensated workforce or value in the market. So why not take advantage of it? So I think I think there's a lot of but both kind of moral ethical reasons, but also practical business reasons to really make this stuff happen. You know, from a from an industry point of view.
[00:26:22] Absolutely. Absolutely. And I just would like to give a quick shout out to Amy Margolis. She's launched the initiative and the commune in Portland. She has the very first incubator that has been set up for women in plant touching businesses. So she is someone who said, I see a problem and I have the ability to help make a change. And that's exactly what she's done. Treehouse Ventures on the East Coast has launched a fund for women, women in the industry like Emily Pax, the who has Poseidon Adventure Ventures, Poseidon assets. She is also doing everything that she can to educate women, to put them in a position where they are able to compete when it comes to funding. So we have really great women in this industry who are working very hard to give as much opportunity and information as they can to other women. And it's really incredible to see how many women are willing to step up in this industry and offer their expertise to women who need it so that we can all advance. And it's really one of the things that inspires me to keep going and makes me feel like we actually can make a difference because so many women at a high level in this industry are willing to put aside their time and their energy and their expertise to make sure that this playing field is level. And that is we need more women like that and we need more allies like you. And I think that those two things, plus the awareness and the information on, hey, when you give women and minorities an opportunity, your company will do better.
[00:27:58] Yeah, exactly. So let's talk about some of the things you're doing. I know you've got the women entrepreneurs and Canada's Khan Academy Kayden List. Tell me more about those and how people can get involved. So create an academy.
[00:28:08] First of all, Caden means woman in Turkish. So, Kate, an academy is an education platform built to help women who are new to the industry gain some understanding about how what you need to do to start your business. A lot of women who are drawn to the cannabis industry have come here because of their passion for the plant, because it has saved their children. It has relieved them of great pain. So they come here with passion and maybe an incredible product, but not a lot of business acumen. So we set up a course called business one to one for cannabis. And it is taught by professionals in the field. So, for instance, the legal module is all about the basic things you need in order to get your business tightened up legally. Oh, and by the way, you're in cannabis, so you also need to know these things. So we kind of address every area of your business from that perspective. And then we also have series education series called the Smartest Women Series. And what I do is I interview women on one topic from across the supply chain and across the country. Give me what I need to know right now to be the smartest person in the room, because I believe that through education, we can show up in investment meetings, we can show up to make deals.
[00:29:22] And because we know exactly what's going on, the wall cannot be pulled over our eyes. We cannot be taken advantage of if we have the knowledge we need to sit in a room and negotiate on an even playing field. So I'm very, very focused on continuing these programs of education from other women in the industry who have expertise. Cadence list is something that we have developed and we're going to be releasing in the next few weeks. That's a directory for women working in cannabis. And it was born from Women Entrepreneurs and Cannabis, which is our Facebook group. The Facebook group has 50 100 women in it who have all been vetted to either be in the cannabis industry or interested in becoming part of the cannabis industry. And in that, we have a lot of conversation around what's happening in the industry, women connecting with each other on a local level, women sharing information and news. It is become an epicenter, a hub for women in the industry to connect and to feel that they have the place I was talking about earlier in our conversation.
[00:30:27] Safe's. Bass. Explore my questions to find the network that I need and get the support that's gonna help push me over the edge. So that group is so incredibly active that I have over 400 pending posts right now. I approve because if I did, it would shut the conversation down because everyone wants to share their events. They want to share their job listings. And they should be able to do that in an environment of people that they trust. So we realized Facebook cannot hold it all. And I don't want to get shut down one day and lose everything. So create a list. And it's a directory where women can list job events. They can find each other based on women's groups that they're in the area that they live in, what they do, where they are on the supply chain. So it's a it's a directory that's made just for women working in cannabis. And those are just as we have been very selective about women entrepreneurs and cannabis. We will be about this group as well. Awesome. So that limit can continue to feel that they've got a safe place to connect and share information.
[00:31:32] I love it. If people want to get more information on all of those things, what's the best place to go?
[00:31:37] What are the your URLs? How do I find this cadence?
[00:31:40] Kadinslist.com and Kadin is spelled k a d i n so kadinslist.com, Kadinacademy.com and on Facebook. I know I never know whether there's the shadow ban applying to it or not. Some people having a hard time finding it, others do not. But it's a Facebook dot com. Women Entrepreneurs in Kana Biz by Zee. Got it. And let's see, you can also find me on Twitter it at Kara Reed. You can find me on LinkedIn at Kara Reed. Yeah, I think that cup o and then marker dot com MHR K Y R dot com. If you're interested in learning more about branding in cannabis.
[00:32:21] I will make sure all those links are in the show notes so people can click through and get that information. Sure. There's a bit of pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time. Great conversation. I'm excited to see Kerry's list launch. Look forward to helping out with whatever I can do with that.
[00:32:37] Thank you so much, Bruce, and thank you for allowing me to have this as a platform to share our ideas and inform you about what's happening in the women's movement in cannabis. Again, I've said it twice. I'm gonna say it again. We need allies like you were willing to share this message. And from all the women in cannabis, we greatly appreciate it.
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