Look At What Already Exists
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Look At What Already Exists
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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well i mean definitely what i said earlier of really looking at what already exists in your community and like not just like oh well i've never heard of someone doing this it's like no you really need to like dig in there most cities have non-profit councils of some sort or um like really dig in and see who is at least serving the demographic of people that you want to serve um and what are they already doing with them and can you partner with them on adding something to those services [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the cereal entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you're needing help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat now today we have another great guest on the podcast costanza raider and uh costanza grew up in a musical family so when she was about 13 years old she also had leukemia and figured out that arts was a important tool for her to cope with the illness and during that or later on also had an opportunity to move from california to texas and study music in psychology in college after graduating went to uh do musical theater as an actress and was a music instructor for a while and uh during that volunteered as an oncology unit in the hospital and there weren't a lot of activities for adults in the oncology unit um and the peter saw that these patients were suffering needlessly um decided to sign up for patients to lift them up started a non-profit and saw an opportunity for artists to uh to share their their different things and help with those units so with that much is an introduction welcome on the podcast thanks i mean that's that's my story i think i'm done we're good hey that's it's always a good it's always good to get a nutshell and now we're going to go and back it so i just condensed a much longer journey into about 30 or 40 seconds that was pretty impressive actually i do what i can so with that let's go back a bit in time to where your journey started which was uh growing up in a musical family and also having to deal with at a younger age with leukemia and how that got your journey going yeah i um yeah my mom was really musical she was a singer and we did um performances and shows with different groups as a family growing up that was a big part of our of my childhood and we had a piano and you know from like i don't know barely able to stand up i was pulling myself up and and playing on the piano in our home and um uh i little did i know that that was gonna be kind of what i did the rest of my life and would also be the thing that would um heal me later on when as we were um as i faced challenges throughout my life so uh so yeah i so yeah grew up in physical family in california i was diagnosed with leukemia at 13. um i had 130 weeks of chemotherapy um so most of my high school time was was dealing with with cancer and um i was fortunate in a lot of ways like you mentioned in the introduction because i had access to the arts when i would go in to the clinic for infusions when i was admitted to the hospital there was always someone coming by trying to like cheer me up or do um coloring pages with me or you know fill in the blank whatever it was um there's so many resources actually that get thrown at supportive services for um pediatric oncology patients which as it should be like that's it's a it's a really challenging thing for patients and their families to go through but when i graduated um from college and i should let you know i have been cancer-free um since 2002. so almost almost 20 years whoa it's a long time um i uh um went on to study music and psychology in school like you said and in san antonio i started volunteering on an adult oncology unit and saw that there it was very different than the environment that i had that i was in when i was treated and a lot of the patients that i worked with weren't much older than i was when i finished treatment and yet they were alone for long stretches of time whereas i was never alone when i was in the hospital um but i mean if you think about it especially young adults like they um often have like young families and so someone has to stay home to take care of the kids or keep working so that you can still have insurance and all those issues um so yeah a lot of the patients lived in the hospital for weeks and months at a time and the boredom anxiety depression isolation was it's deadly in a place like that and if it's not addressed um patient outcomes suffer that's um well established in the research that um that these psychosocial issues impact our body's ability to heal it influences the rate that tumors and cancers grow in our bodies actually and yet we we're still really lagging in supportive services especially for the adult population which is the vast majority of people that are in hospitals are adults and so yeah started singing for patients and it just that little bit of bringing that little bit of beauty and human connection into a place like that is um it was just it was transformative and incredibly powerful and my patients usually cry um good tears you know and just begged for more and they wanted things that i didn't know how to do and so i i started um my non-profit so that we could now let me just jump in because non-profit because you were at the time if i remember in our conversation so backing up the journey just a bit so you got the degree in music psychology but before you kind of started the non-profit you were also worked as a actress for a period of time or musical theater actress and i went to music instructor so help us understand a bit of that journey was this you know did you start volunteering while you're doing those or did you do those first for a while and then start volunteering you're kind of what was that portion of the journey yeah that's always a tricky thing how do you go from your day job to your dream job right when you're an entrepreneur um so yeah i uh and not that the work i did previous wasn't fun and i loved it uh yeah i um i did a lot of performance um after college and started a voice studio which is my like other love i just absolutely love um when people come into my studio especially those that have been told that they can't sing or beca that they have some sort of wounding around their voice and around their creativity um and to create safe space for them to explore and learn and build skills and build confidence um in their voices when you when you change the voice you you affect the whole person when you free up the voice you free up the whole person and it's it's it's addicting to watch it happen and to get to be a part of that process so um i was actively doing all those things for many years while i was volunteering and initially i was volunteering very occasionally and i would bring castmates in to do little performances on the units and um i would bring friends to come and you know play and sing with me and and that was really fun but as it went on i just really felt the strong sense that this is really what i want to do with my life this is my favorite place to perform like i don't like on stage is great and i love the camaraderie of of theater it's such a that's its own healing process to um to do theater and be part of performing groups like that uh but the level of fulfillment and impact that i saw through the work in the hospital was there was just no comparison to it so um so yeah i was was doing both for a long period of time and slowly did more and more and more and how long when you say long period time was just a space over one year five years 20 years you know how long was you kind of doing the volunteering on the side doing it as kind of a hey i want to get back or want to you know i've been through this experience and i want to help others how long was that period of time where you're kind of volunteering as you were working the full-time day job i started volunteering in 2009 and i started my organization in 2016. so there's a good chunk of time and some of that too was the the emotional hurdles that i had to overcome because when i would go into the hospital it would re it would trigger some of my own trauma that wasn't fully resolved yet and i i would sometimes call my mom on the way to the hospital like crying like on the edge of a panic attack and she's like just breathe like she'd talk me through it and because she knew that i i really wanted to be there and i was making an impact um uh but it was still really hard so i couldn't do it as often as i wanted to even with the other job um there was some emotional stuff i had to get through first and so i had a really lovely uh mental breakdown in 2012. which um it's actually pretty common in survivors about 10 years out there's sometimes there's often this resurgence of our this emergence of all this um trauma that's kind of locked in implicit memories that kind of bubbles to the surface and then it's like okay you're in a safe place now now you get to deal with all of this all this junk uh so got some really great therapy and as i got through that i really felt like okay i'm free from all that now i can really be present and serve in this way that i want to serve so yeah no i think that definitely makes sense now so as you're doing that so you're working the full-time day job you did the volunteering it sounds like you know from about 2009 to 2016 you're basically working as an actress and you're working and coaching others and helping them and doing it the you know instructions and that um and then it sounds like in putting words in your mouth you can correct more i'm wrong but 2016 you decided to make the non-for profit a more full-time endeavor kind of what was that transition from going part-time you know kind of doing this as a volunteer work on the side while supporting yourself just saying hey this is really where my passion is i'd like to focus on and i know i'm asking a compound question so i apologize the other part of to that is what was the kind of the trigger to say hey i've had enough of this there i've had i want not had enough in a bad way but i really want to make this my full-time focus and what was kind of that trigger that said okay now i'm going to make that leap what was the inciting incident um in my story yeah uh let's start there because that start that was um a year or so before i started my organization i um met this patient uh one of our young adult patients and her name is gracie i have permission to tell her story and which i'm very grateful to her husband um for um and i met gracie like the day after she was diagnosed with cancer and she was um her early 20s she was far from home she was about three hours away from her hometown and when i first went in to work with her she was sitting in a ball huddled in a ball in her bed and just really flat affect and i went in and introduced myself and said hey do you want to hear some music and she's like well i'm not really like a nazi person i don't even really listen to music so you know maybe not today and i was like okay that's fine um we never we're never mad when people say no it's the no is part of as part of the um therapeutic aspect of it it's it all centers around giving patients choice and that's something that she could say no to that day but then before i left she stopped me and she's like well actually um actually if you know a christian song i feel like i could really i really need to hear that right now um and so i sang um i don't know if you know the old song his eye is on the sparrow and i know he watches me he's i on the sparrow and i know he watches me and i much better than i've ever seen so that was awesome that's why they paid me the big bucks not really uh but yeah as i sang through the verses of the song i just watched the tension melt from her body and and tears come to her eyes and when i finished she just looked up and said thank you and i actually got to work with gracie a lot over the months she was in the hospital she lived in the hospital for six months while she was receiving treatment she couldn't they couldn't discharge her because of the way her insurance was they wouldn't be able to re-admit her to finish treatment so they had a keeper in the hospital and she was alone a lot and um i worked but her favorite day was wednesday because i would come in that was my day to come and um play music and we had a group for young adults with cancer on on the unit on the at the hospital and we would play music and share stories and we just had a great time connecting with each other um and she did finally get to she did find we did finally get her in remission and she got scoped she finally got to go home we were super excited for her um but a few just a few months later she was back in the hospital because her cancer was back and this time as soon as i found out i i went to her room and expecting devastation because this is like the worst nightmare for survivor and this time i found her sitting on her bed smiling i was confused and she's like oh my gosh i'm so glad you're here i want to show you something and she pulled me over to her bed and she rolled up her sleeve and there was a brand new tattoo of of a sparrow that she had designed herself that she'd gotten as soon as she got out of the hospital and she said you know i'll never forget that first song you sing for me and i know now that no matter what happens that he is watching over me and of course i lost my mind and just cried for three days like you too um and then you know unfortunately they weren't able to get her cancer back in remission but um before she went home on hospice she called me to her room again and she grabbed my face and she said we need more we need more art and music we need more reasons to get out of our rooms and out of our isolation because we need to remember the reasons why we're alive as much as we need the things that keep us alive she made it very clear that while she appreciated that i was there once a week that it wasn't enough and that there were many patients that would come after her that needed more and she said you gotta do something about this and i was like yes ma'am um and it had been it had already been an idea forming for a while but she really gave me the kick in the pants to say you you got to take action now um and so i did i did the research like googled how to start a non-profit and did a lot of research on other arts and health programs like ours that do bring the arts into hospitals uh like how do people do this and um all of that and then started my nonprofit in 2016 and we hired our first visual artist the next month well that's awesome now that's a that's a great story and uh certainly is uh heartwarming you know when it's something that comes out of a loss but also gives you an opportunity to serve others and kind of make that the transition of that full-time focus so yeah that was just as you've done that you know as you put that as more hey we're gonna do this as a full-time focus and really make it uh the endeavor you're gonna do you know i don't know a ton about non-profits i've worked with some and i know some but i've never dived into that very deeply but you know is that a you know generally the model is you have you're continually going around trying to fundraise trying to get people to donate otherwise doing it and a lot of them tend to not make it very long just because you're having to continually get donors and you get people that are willing to contribute on a regular basis so as you're getting that up and going you almost have to focus a bit on the you know not just the mission which is definitely important but also a bit more on kind of the business related side how did that go for you was it something where you're able to get people that saw the vision and really you know bought into it where they're supported was the hospitals on board kind of how did all of that go for you that's a great question because it is there's not really i think a straight line of um or like template that really any nonprofit founder necessarily follows like each kind of takes their own path to um get to stability like what's kind of the goal is to have stability so that you can continue to execute your mission in perpetuity that it's not just this like one-time thing because a lot of nonprofits do fail within the first three to five years uh so i um you the second part of the question you asked previously was that transition between my other job and then the work i do now and the first three years of the organization i didn't take a salary i employed artists and because you know it's a core part of our values is providing economic opportunities for for creatives because they're generally underemployed um and this is it takes very skilled artists to do this work and so they should be paid for the work that they do um it's also an issue with equity too because if you only if your nonprofit is only run by volunteers then only people that can afford to volunteer can be part of the mission and that won't necessarily be a group of people that if reflects the diversity of the people that you're serving um so we have people we have artists on our team that wouldn't be able to they couldn't afford to volunteer but they're some of our most valuable artists because they they can connect with a demographic of people that we serve that um that i might not be able to connect with or someone else that's like a little side piece a lot of people think nonprofits like oh like it's all volunteer no one's making money and yes volunteer work is an important piece of nonprofits i don't want to totally negate volunteering um but for anyway for this type of work it's really important to to pay our artists that was a priority and i in in nonprofits a lot of nonprofit founders um well let me back up if you are a person thinking of starting a nonprofit please um don't until you really search and make sure there's no one else in your area that is doing is serving the people that you want to serve or is doing something related because you can you can it's much easier to partner with an existing non-profit to to fill a need that you see in your community or to og and augment what someone's doing because it's a big drain on resources to create um a separate nonprofit i ended up deciding to start a non-profit because there wasn't anyone in my community that was doing what i knew needed to be done um and nonprofit founders generally are on the founding board as well and when you're a board member you can't be paid or it's not best not good practice to be a paid staff member and the board because the board employs the executive director essentially so you would be your own boss and you're you're not getting those checks and balances so i didn't take any salary for the first three years so i'm still teaching um i and each year i slowly knocked off a few of my students as my workload increase but the only reason i was able to do that is because of my husband and i do want to acknowledge him and the the fact that like i went to him i was like i'm not i'm quitting my job or i'm like cutting down on students and he's like yeah do it this is what you're supposed to be doing like we can make this work and um go for it so um our the organization wouldn't exist without him and he was our first and largest donor was my husband because he let me donate huge chunks of my time and my um my economic potential if you will um but eventually we were able to transition into you know recruiting enough board members so i could exit the board and could start um drawing a salary and um and devote more of my time to um to the nonprofit um so yeah it's not it's a lot of people are like oh i want to get paid to do i want to start a nonprofit so i can get paid to do this work that i want to do and it's going to be a long road if that's your goal um and anyway so uh there's a lot to unpack in this topic well there's so many directions you can go but i will say the thing that gave me a give me an advantage is um my aunt happens to be one of the top persuasive communication experts in the world and i got i learned from her um how to how to do that how to even storytelling and and create persuasive presentations so that we were able to build our donor base a lot quicker than um we would have otherwise because i could explain to people in a way that connected with them so they could see what we were trying to do and they could see the part that they could play in in achieving this this vision that i had so well that's definitely an awesome journey and sounds like you know as with i think a lot to do with whether it's non-profit or worse or you know a startup or a for-profit business you're going to have a lot of the same things of making a sustainable model something that people are willing to purchase or you know donate or contribute to and figuring out how to do that is definitely always a journey and sounds like certainly no exception here so we could go on and i'm sure for a lot more and it'd be fun to have you maybe come back on in the future and talk a little bit more specifically about non-profits and some of the thoughts and the pointers and people if they're looking to get into that so we'll have to have you back on i'm there at some point but as we do wrap up this episode i always ask two questions at the end of each uh and end of each podcast we'll go ahead and jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it um so this this um the answer to this actually involves ip so i feel like this is perfect for your podcast um it ended up being okay well this whole street so there was did you watch um a series of unfortunate no no that's not it um oh my gosh what is the name of that show that was on netflix um with count olaf and the children do you know what i'm talking about i do like series of unfortunate events series of unfortunate events i think that's the right name okay i i did get it right in one of the episodes um a few years a few years ago when it was first coming up there's an episode of where they show people going into the hospital is like singing and like trying to cheer up patients and it's just this parody on the work that we do and it was so funny and i sent it on and it was intended to be kind of disparaging about that but i thought it was hilarious so i sent it to my team and they're like this is amazing we should try to do this art like do our own version of this and so we um we uh started making putting together script and we found a photographer like a videographer and we were getting into it and we were um recording it and on location at the hospital anyway this whole thing and then we were like halfway through it and we're like you know i don't think what we're doing is enough parody to co to consider this fair use and um we're gonna have to scrap this whole project because it's we're just recreating what they did um and like maybe it would have been okay but you know we're an arts organization that's a bad look ripping off giving the appearance of ripping off other people's art might be a bit of a problem right right so we sunk a lot of time into that project before we stopped it um but we ended up having this whole blooper reel that we played for our staff um at the christmas party that year and so we all had a really great laugh about that that blooper it was a blooper reel of of a blooper it was fun well there you go that is a good mistake you know it's one where i again because that is a fine line to walk between parity and what's fair use and what's not and then you pile on top that you are an arts organization where it's going to come off looking even worse for you if you don't do it right and so definitely is one that makes sense as to how you go down that road and how you might make that mistake but the definitely fun to hear we got our our excitement got ahead of us but yeah go ahead i understand so no i was gonna jump to now the second question i always ask which is if you're talking to somebody that's uh just getting into a startup or small business and maybe we'll shift the question just a little bit to say a non-profit startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you give them well i mean definitely what i said earlier of really looking at what already exists in your community and like not just like oh well i've never heard of someone doing this it's like no you really need to like dig in there most cities have non-profit councils of some sort or um like really dig in and see who is at least serving the demographic of people that you want to serve um and what are they already doing with them and can you partner with them on adding something to those services so that's the first one we have too many non-profits and it lessens the effectiveness of of the sector in general at attacking some of the world's biggest problems that we're trying to address as an industry and second i would say a lot of people come to service work because they're trying to fix something in themselves where i need and and that was you know part of my journey too of starting with okay this is something that i had and i needed and people i knew needed and so there's there's a piece of me that needed to get healed in the process and that was a really important process of stepping over like doing something for myself versus really looking clearly at the person i say i'm trying to serve and app and asking brutal questions am i actually accomplishing the goal that i say i want because um and i experienced this a lot as a as a as a kid there were so many people that wanted to help me that needed to help me they needed me to respond in a particular way so that they felt validated for doing something good or or whatever it is and me as the recipient did not feel um that didn't feel good right because that's putting extra burden on me when i'm already in a vulnerable tough place so you gotta do the tough inner heart work and and ask yourself why do i want to serve and that and that place of um that place is often a starting point for something good but you got to clear out you got to clear out your own ego stuff so that and get those needs met elsewhere so you're not overburdening the people that you're trying to serve with your own stuff no and i think that's a great takeaway and it sounds like you know not an area i'm is a it's uh familiar with as far as doing it myself but it certainly seems like you know a lot of times when you're going to go through the passion of doing a non-profit and uh and doing something that is a much more of a kind of a giving in nature you're going to have to make or find that balance so that it doesn't get overwhelmed with other those those additional things so i think that's a definitely great takeaway and just real quick for small businesses too i think sometimes we get as entrepreneurs we get attached to certain ideas and and lose sight of because entrepreneurship is service too we're finding needs and trying to address needs but sometimes we get attached to address attached to our own ideas or how we think something should go or look or should look when we're and we stop we lose focus of of who we're trying to serve and and then we're frustrated because they don't get it or whatever the reason is you know how can we how can we as entrepreneurs um really connect empathetically with people we're trying to serve um so that we are addressing real needs no i think that's a definitely a great takeaway and good advice so now as we uh wrap up the the episode if people want to reach out to you they want to connect up with you they want to be a customer they want to be fine they want to donate they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be an artist that works for you or they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you to contact you or find out more sure well i highly recommend going to our website heartsneadart.org uh if you're interested in learning more about this field of arts and health and how the arts impact our health and why like what is the mechanisms behind that um check out our podcast it's called arts for the health of it and it's on all the podcast platforms and you can learn more from researchers and artists and all the amazing people that we get to talk to also on our website you can um you can browse our artists that we employ and actually you can choose one to support so if you find one that connects with you um that you want to support on a monthly basis uh then you get um monthly messages of stories of impact that they made in the hospital because of your gift and it's a really cool way to kind of stay connected to this mission and to support to support this mission and now that we're serving virtually in addition to in person our resources are available and for any caregivers or patients out there survivors and that you can access on our website and click on the virtual resources and you can actually make appointments directly with our artists and there's no experience necessary we just we we're there to have a good time and hold space with you as you explore your expressive and creative voice awesome well i think that's definitely some great resources definitely encourage people to connect up and whether it's donate whether it's you or share their talents or any other way definitely a great mission and a great thing to to support so with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show also as a listener make sure to click subscribe share review because we want to make sure that everybody finds out about all these awesome episodes and last but not least you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else in your business just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat well thank you again uh costanza for coming on the podcast and what's the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you for having me [Music] you