Clay Keel | Uncorking Sustainable Success

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In this episode, Clay Keel, President of Keel Farms & Keel + Curley Winery, explains what it takes to be a successful purpose-driven entrepreneur and insights into how Keel + Curley scaled to offering their wines in over 800 Publix locations, while remaining committed to their core value of sustainability. Keel + Curley Winery is an official partner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their wines can be found in Publix, Total Wine, ABC,  Walmart, Winn Dixie, and more.

On Keel Farm’s Success Since He Became President: “I think Florida’s a great place to do business, and the last four years it’s been a great place to do business, thankfully. And we’ve benefitted from that – so many people and so much business coming to the state of Florida. And secondarily, it’s just been the people, right? The people that are working with me, and then the people that we’re able to get in here as customers and get loyal to the brand. Those two factors have made [the business] a success over the last five years.”

The Challenges of Working in a Family Business: “You really can’t include a lot of emotion in those business decisions in a lot of instances, and to try to separate the emotion from a family situation, from a business situation, is extremely challenging… I think a lot of it was setting expectations right in the beginning, with, ‘Hey, this is my role, this is your role, this is how we’re going to work together.’ And then from there, it’s just tons of communication, just like any other relationship.”

Putting Family First: “One of my goals, if [a huge success] ever happens, great, but I don’t want that to happen and then not have my family there to celebrate that with me. And friends, right? For me personally, it’s one of my top three goals, and I think it needs to be there at the top.”

Keel Farm’s Values: “Our values are quality, sustainability, and community. That’s sort of overarching of everything we try to do here. And I think that comes through a little bit in the wine. We’re a local Florida brand. Everything’s made here in Plant City, outside Tampa. It’s a small community, and we employ a lot of people in this community. And then we’re using sustainable practices when we make it… it’s very authentic, farm-branded. And you can come here! Our biggest asset is our tasting room. People come here and they see the blueberries, they see the strawberries, they see the winery, and they go, ‘Man…’ And it tastes good! Quality is the most important thing. It has to taste great, otherwise the rest of that is just for fun. All of that together, I think it comes through onto the product and sets us apart on the shelf.”

The Official Sangria Partner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “We worked out a deal with the Bucs, and it’s super neat that they’re focusing on working with small suppliers like us… We’re the official Sangria partner. And it’s awesome to partner with such a well-known brand. And that was one of the things that put me over the top, right? The amount of interactions, you know, it’s in the millions weekly, just social media interactions that they have with their fan base. It’s just insane… For us it was really a legitimacy play, I think, where we could say, ‘Hey, look, we’re partnering with a really big, successful brand in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,’ and I think it has succeeded in that.”

Advice for Other Purpose-Driven Brands: “I think it’s important to find why you’re doing it. Because it’s going to get really hard. It’s going to get really exhausting and repetitive and challenging… But making wine and farming blueberries and getting to see smiles on kids’ faces when they meet our goats and our chickens, I mean, that’s pretty great. That’s pretty rewarding. So that’s one of my whys. And then the other one is the people… Seeing that growth and getting that gratitude back, I don’t think there’s anything you can buy that feels that good.”

Work for Your Whys: “Simon Sinek talks about the infinite game… Business is like that. There’s always going to be challenges. There’s going to be people doing it when you’re gone. The rules are pretty loose, they’re not firm. Your competitors aren’t necessarily going to be following the same rules that you’re following. Understanding all of that stuff, it takes a little bit of a load off, because when you say, ‘I’m going to get here by that point, and then i’m gonna be done, I’m gonna be finished.’ – either you don’t get there, or you do get there, and then you go, ‘ Well, that’s it? Now I’m here.’ But I think if you understand the infinite game and you’re doing it for those whys, then you’re gonna do great.”

Michelle McBride | Launching & Scaling a Purpose Driven Brand

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GoodSport® Founder & CEO, Michelle McBride shares her journey from practicing law to leading a non-profit, and ultimately creating a first-of-its-kind sports drink that’s disrupting the category. She also explains what it took to launch GoodSport® in more than 1,000 Walmart stores, and offers advice for other entrepreneurs who are launching or scaling their own purpose driven brands.

GoodSport®’s Why: “When I decided to leave my career… to try to make an all-natural sports drink… I thought, ‘If I’m going to do something this crazy, then I need to do it in a way that will make an impact, and I need to create a brand that we can use as a platform for doing good.'”

The Significance of the Decline in Youth Sports Participation: “We’ve had this sharp decline [in youth participation in sports], and the implications are huge, because sports help kids not just have a good time, but teaches them important life skills to help them succeed in the future – teamwork, hard work, grit, perseverance, leadership skills. 90% of women in the C-suite played competitive sports at some point. And so, when you are talking about having this huge decline in sports participation, that’s more exaggerated when we’re talking about female athletes, by the way, it really impacts a person’s potential later in life.”

Supporting Local Youth Sports Teams and Coaches: “The benefit of participating in sports is there regardless of what level you play. You don’t have to play at an elite level, you don’t have to be on an elite travel team to get all of those benefits where you’re learning about leadership, and teamwork and collaboration and perseverance and how to work through tough times. All of that kind of stuff, you can do that in your parks and rec league, house league level, with your school team. But because of funding issues, a lot of schools are losing their sports teams. Parks and recreation facilities are closing, and COVID worsened the problem greatly. And so, we need to be investing in those types of programs, and we also need to be training coaches.”

Making the Decision to Work with Walmart: “When you take on any customer, but certainly one as large and as valuable as Walmart, you want to make sure you’re ready for it. I’ve had other entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space reach out to me since, asking, ‘What has you experience been like? We’re trying to decide if we should apply to go into Walmart or not. We don’t know if we’re ready or not.’ My decision really came down to the team that I have, who have all worked extensively with Walmart. If I did not have that team, who understood the ins and outs and really what a big undertaking it would be to work with Walmart, we definitely wouldn’t  have done it.”

Learn To Say No to What Is Not a Fit, and Yes to What Is: “Everybody wants their business to grow, grow, grow. But to make it grow successfully, you have to be willing to say the word “No” every once in a while. You really need to understand the retailers… Before saying yes to any retailer, really understand who the retailer is, who their shoppers are, what the geography is, what the population is around it. For us, is it an active population? That’s definitely one of the lessons, is understanding your product-market fit, and looking at it retailer by retailer.”

Advice for Other Purpose-Driven Brands: “Have a focused purpose. Don’t just say, ‘We’re purposeful. We want to do good. We want to help.” You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. So what is it you’re going to do? What organizations are you going to support? What is that thing or two that you’re going to do? You can’t do them all. There’s a million great organizations, opportunities, causes. Pick your lane, pick what you are personally passionate about, and pick something that resonates with your brand.”

Commit Fully To Your Brand’s Stated Mission: “Be absolutely committed to your mission. Don’t waver. If you are about X, you are always about X and that is going to permeate every decision you make, from your supply chain, to the partners you work with, to the sponsorships you do, to the people you hire, everything. It’s going to permeate your whole business and it’s going to create the purposeful culture that you want, but you must commit to it.”

Mark Cantrell | Mushing and Music: Lessons in Leadership from Sled Dog Racing to The Florida Orchestra

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Mark Cantrell, President & CEO of The Florida Orchestra, shares his incredible journey as a musician, airline pilot, and sled dog racer, to ultimately leading the largest professional symphony orchestra in Florida. He offers insights on how these experiences helped him to think creatively and problem solve, and the importance for effective leaders to possess these abilities.

He also shares how The Florida Orchestra builds community and breaks down barriers, as well as how leaders succeed by putting their egos aside, surrounding themselves with great people, and doing what’s right for the organization.

The Florida Orchestra’s Impact: “The Florida Orchestra is recognized as Tampa Bay’s leading performing arts institution, the largest professional symphony orchestra in Florida, and one of the most vibrant, innovative orchestras in America. Through extraordinary musical performances, the orchestra has inspired the people of Tampa Bay for over 50 years, and serves as a leader and beacon for the musical arts throughout the state.”

The Arts as a Means to Unite a Community: “Our whole goal is to break down barriers. We can bring people together from very diverse parts of our community, to unite in peace and enjoy something beautiful. We’re such a divided people right now, and the beauty of the arts, whether it be music or live theatre or visual arts, it brings us together as human beings in a peaceful setting. It helps us to become one and to unite as opposed to divide.”

The Tampa Bay Community’s Giving Spirit: “We have fantastic patrons, donors, and sponsors. This is an incredibly caring and an incredibly giving community that values what we do, and the better we tell our story and the better we demonstrate to our community that we’re here for everyone, not just for us, the way better response we have from our patrons. If I help promote other non-profits that are doing great work, surprisingly enough, people respond in kind and give money to us. It’s not a competition, like they’re going to quit giving to The Florida Orchestra and give to somebody else. If anything, they just double down and give more.”

On Tampa’s Bright Future: “Tampa Bay has the ability to become the cultural capitol of the world. All of the pieces for that puzzle exist right now. We have amazing growth going on, a lot of money moving into the area, we have an incredibly vibrant and rich cultural scene that just wants to get better and better. If we can pull all of the right people together, within the arts world and in the business world and the community, and assemble that puzzle, we have an incredibly bright future sitting right here where we live.”

Lessons from Sled Dog Racing: “There was a lot with the [sled] dogs about, you know, you just don’t quit, and you find a way around. The only time that you quit is when there really is nothing left to do, and even then if you keep going, a lot of times you’ll find there is a solution to what you need.”

There is Always a Solution: “Never, ever quit. Never give up. It’s rare that there ever is not a solution. It may not be a solution that you like, but if you’re willing to be flexible and you’re willing to put your ego aside and you’re willing to do what’s right for the organization and surround yourself with great people on your team, you cannot help but succeed.”

Never Stop Learning: “Leadership, first and foremost, to me means an insatiable desire to learn, and to never stop learning. And when you’re learning, you’re flexible, because you’re always taking something that you can apply to your life.”

The Road to Success Starts with Putting Your Team First: “As the musher on the back of a sled, the dogs come absolutely first. If they’re not healthy, if they’re not happy, and they’re not well-fed, they’re not going anywhere and they will literally lay down on the trail and quit. So it’s always about taking care of others and putting the needs of others [first]. I do that here at The Florida Orchestra with our musicians and our staff. Their needs are more important than mine.”

What Being a Purpose-Driven Leader Means: “For me, great leaders are those that are here to serve the people that support them and work under them. And I think every organization, when you fulfill that purpose of serving others, you do well. And that starts at the top, when I’m here to help serve everyone else.”

What You Will Be Remembered For: “Making money and being successful is all great, but at the end of the day if you don’t have anything to truly be fulfilling, which is making a difference, what’s the point of having all that money or what’s the point of all that success, if you haven’t changed anyone’s life for the better?”

Richard George | The Keys to Advancing Your Organization’s Mission & Ensuring Success

Episode 1 - Richard George - The Purpose Driven Leader with Jay Taylor

Episode 1 - Richard George - The Purpose Driven Leader with Jay Taylor

Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsAmazon Music, and Spotify.

Richard George, President of the 12th largest Junior Achievement in the nation, explains the impact that Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay has on more than 60,000 students annually.

Richard shares the keys to advancing your organization’s mission and ensuring its success, such as fiscal responsibility, engaging in community partnerships, attracting the right people, and organizational culture. He also shares the number one reason people support non-profits, and it’s not what you might think.

Whether you lead a non-profit or a purpose driven for-profit, this episode is packed with incredible insights from Richard’s experience leading Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay for over 38 years.

Junior Achievement Tampa Bay’s Impact: “JA Tampa Bay offers over 20 experiential, hands on learning experiences that help students, grades k-12, discover and apply entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy concepts and skills.”

Community Partnerships and Attracting the Right People: “It used to be with JA that board members represent their company, but now it’s personal. We have people that stay way beyond retirement. One of my longest relationships with a board member that I still work with today is Tom James of Raymond James- I met him 38 years ago. Tom really gets it, he is one of the toughest calls every year because he challenges you to do better things, think creatively and solve problems. That is how you really grow as a leader.”

No Money, No Mission: “You can have a great mission, but if you don’t have financial resources you will be reliant on volunteer support.”

Successful Planning, Peer Groups and Mentors: “There are many helpful leadership tips that George shares with us. One of the key takeaways from this episode he stated is to become well acquainted with peers that you inspire to be like. George has found a group of leaders with similar goals that push him to not only be a better leader, but a better individual overall. His advice is to attend that national conference, or whatever your company may put on, in an effort to meet people that have the same purpose and drive that you have.”

Being Passionate About What you Do: “Don’t default just to getting up, you need to have a reason. Find a purpose in your work every day. You’ll know it when you feel it, you’ll just fall upon it.”

A Culture That Doesn’t Accept Mediocracy: “Our whole company culture is the fact that we do not accept mediocrity. This is not just a job, all these people care so much. Our turnover rate is practically none, because people love what they are doing.”

The #1 Reason People Support Non-Profits: “The #1 reason why people support non-profits is the trust in the leadership- not the mission. Having a strong leadership team that people can trust is the biggest way to gain and maintain support for a nonprofit organization.”


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