As president of the HCA Hope Fund and the HCA Foundation, Joanne Pulles oversees activities that help and uplift thousands of HCA employees. We took the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the HCA Hope Fund to talk to Joanne about the Power of Hope. HCA Hope Fund has assisted more than 18,000 HCA employees and their families, but it is a marketing challenge to reach the more than 220,000 employees with the message of the Hope Fund.  Many healthcare employees are in clinical settings throughout the day without access to conventional methods.  Delivering  messages to them must take different forms like social media, texting, place-based media and direct mail.

1.  How did the HCA Hope Fund get started?

The HCA Hope Fund was born out of a desire from our employees to help their co-workers who had suffered loss after prominent natural disasters as well as individual losses from cancer, death, car accidents and more.  The out-pouring from employees in 2004 after Hurricane Charlie was the catalyst that launched our exploration to set up a fund as a public charity to help our 200,000 employees in times of crisis.  We had completed our application with the IRS for charitable status in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated our employees and facilities in the Gulf Coast.  With an emergency ruling from the IRS in-hand, we quickly went into operation assisting hundreds of our employees who had lost homes in the storm.

2.  What makes the HCA Hope Fund unique?  

It’s prominence in our culture.  We share stories with our employees every month on the what the fund has meant to their colleagues during their personal crisis.  Personal stories are also told locally in our hospitals from employees who want to their co-workers to know how they have been helped when they needed it the most.

Our leadership support is outstanding – from our executives at corporate and from our hospital leadership across the country.  Not only do they give generously from their personal resources, they lend their voice in staff meetings and employee communications to signal the fund’s importance as part of our wonderful culture at HCA.

3. Who are other companies like HCA who have instituted Employee Emergency Assistance Fund?

Many, many companies have employee relief funds. Some do it through a fund at a community foundation, which is an easier entry point, especially if you just want a fund set up for disasters. Other companies do it like we do at HCA – establish their fund as a public charity and invite employees to support each other in a true “employees helping employees” model that helps workers in a multitude of situations beyond their control such as a serious illness or injury, death in the family, disasters and more.

We are part of a growing group of companies who hold a conference each year and have quarterly phone calls to share best practices. This group includes Home Depot, Levi Strauss, Dollar General, Asurion, Macy’s, Cracker Barrel, PetSmart, and many others.

4. How do you promote the fund? What type of messaging resonates with donors?

We use multiple channels to promote the fund: company email and print communications, at-home mailers, social media like Twitter and Facebook, and even posters still get the attention of our employees who work in busy clinical settings. We have a compelling value proposition for employees when we ask them to contribute financially:

1. It is something they care deeply about – their co-workers in a crisis

2. Thanks to HCA, we are able to offer employees the chance to double their impact through company matching funds, which is a strong motivator for donors and

3. HCA also pays for the staff time that is allocated to the fund so that we have the ability to let employee donors know that none of their contribution goes toward administrative expenses – 100% goes directly to an employee in need. Donors love the value they get from contributing to this fund.

5. What makes the Hope Fund an important choice for employees among other non-profits they might support?

We see giving to the community through other charities as equally important as supporting our own employees through the Hope Fund.  We support more than 1,000 charities with millions of dollars annually through our employee giving campaign, corporate sponsorships and The HCA Foundation.  We offer the same match opportunity to an employee’s charity of choice as we offer for own employee relief fund.  We promote the idea that employees should make at least two gifts – one to our employees in need through the Hope Fund and another to their charity of choice.

6. What are some new ways you are working to reach employees?

It is a challenge to reach our employees in the course of their very important work saving lives and providing critical care in our hospitals and surgery centers. Last year, we can began new experiments with social media to provide other popular channels to connect with employees. We also conducted our first text message campaign. We are now exploring the effectiveness of sending more mail to employees’ homes. This is important for us because, when you are trying to reach your own employees for charitable giving, you tend to over-rely on the cheap and easy methods like company email. But raising funds through direct mail is still the most important tool for most charities and continues to show a positive ROI. Given the clinical nature of our business, this channel may need to become a bigger part of our approach.

7. What are the metrics you use to determine how successful your donor campaigns are?

We measure dollars (in total and by business units) like every other charity because, at the end of the day, this is what it takes to help our employees when they need it most. But our primary message and focus is not dollars – we do not set or impose dollar goals on any campaign leader in a business unit. What we want is engagement. We ask employees to just join our movement for as little as $1 per pay period. We believe the thousands of inspiring stories from our employees who have been helped will motivate donors to give at an appropriate amount that fits their individual capacity. This has worked well for us thus far and we have thousands of donors who give at “Leadership Circle” levels, which for us means gifts of at least $500 annually.

8. What continues to excite you about the Hope Fund?

For me, it is the feedback we receive routinely from employees who have been helped. As I sit here responding to your question, I am thinking about the letter I read this morning from a married couple (both employees) who were in a serious car accident last year. She took three pages to re-count her accident that almost claimed her life. She never expected to need the help of a fund like ours, but now she wants to remind us all that life can literally change in a split second. Unexpected bills began to pile up while she recovered for a period of months and was not able to work. It was the gift from her fellow co-workers that gave her hope during the most difficult battle of her life.


lM8OzyGsQdfGYzY3iniEdhW4TsMz3VtyX3fp1a2Ve7gCourtney Seiter is a great fount of information on social media and culture.  She is a writer and editor at Buffer, focusing on the intersection of social media and workplace culture. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Fast Company, Lifehacker, Inc. and more. On the side, she’s the co-founder of Girls to the Moon, an amateur DJ and an excellent dog petter.
1. Tell us about Buffer and what makes it different from other social media tools.
Sure thing! Buffer is a tool that helps individuals and companies share easily to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. Buffer will help you find the best times to post for the most engagement, and then you can fill up your queue so you’re always in touch with your audience. We offer great analytics so you’ll always know how you’re doing and have the insights you need to keep improving. I think our customer support sets us apart; we treat each and every customer with the utmost respect and gratitude, because they’re why we exist!
2. We understand that Buffer has a unique organizational structure, unusual employee benefits and commitment to total transparency.  Tell us a little about it.  
Buffer is a very cool and different type of company; I feel very lucky! We’re a remote team of 60+, with teammates scattered all across the globe. We get together every 6 months or so at a different location–we’ve been to Cape Town, New York, Sydney, Reykjavik and next up in January is Honolulu! We have cool perks like unlimited paid vacation ( plus an extra bonus you only get if you take a vacation!) and free Kindles and all the Kindle books you can read for yourself and your family. We’re also very devoted to transparency as one of our 10 core values, so anyone can learn all about our salaries, our revenue, our team demographics, and what every cent of their subscription to Buffer goes toward. (P.S. We’re hiring!)
3. How are you creating a welcoming environment for teammates and customers? 
Awesome question! Our customers come from all walks of life, all around the world; and we believe our team should reflect that diversity in order to make the best product decisions and create the happiest and most inclusive culture. We have a unique opportunity to add teammates from anywhere in the world! So we’re working toward being very deliberate about growing our culture in a way that celebrates our unique differences. We’re getting news of our open roles to new, different and underrepresented groups and tracking closely how we’re doing with growing the team in a diverse way. We have a lot of important work to do here, and a lot to learn. It’s an exciting project to work on!
4. What are you currently working on?  How does your role affect inclusiveness at Buffer?
My role at Buffer is a mix of culture, content and inclusivism, which is such an awesome opportunity. I edit and write for Buffer: Open, our blog that focuses on workplace culture topics. I get the coolest opportunity to share the stories of my teammates, open up about how we work and promote all kinds of unique and innovative workplace culture strategies and movements. It’s also a perfect fit for sharing openly all the experiments we and others are trying to create more diverse and inclusive work environments.
5. What’s new for social media in 2016?  Do you have any crystal ball prognostications for the new year?
I loved seeing the rise of tools like Periscope and Blab this year; it felt like a return to the kind of real-time engagement that made social media so special from the start. In 2016, I predict and hope for more movement in this direction, toward more authentic moments and conversations!
6. What are your passion projects outside of Buffer?  
I love working with kids to create a more just future for the next generation. I am a founder of Girls to the Moon, a startup that works to empower young girls to own their confidence and passions. And I’m a tutor and volunteer at Fannie Battle, an amazing program providing resources for underprivileged youth in East Nashville.
7. Bonus:  What didn’t I ask you that I should have?  
Hmm, good one! Well, if you’re in need of any book recommendations, I’ve been reading a book a week throughout 2015 focusing on awesome lady authors. You can find all my selections here!

Sharon Brawner 2015_headshot 2_DM_2_23A8432Sharon Burns Brawner is Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum where she has day-to-day oversight of the museum’s traditional revenue-producing areas including ticket sales, restaurant/catering, and retail.  Oh, and there’s the fabulous Hatch Show Print and Historic RCA Studio B.  Over the course of 13+ years at the museum, she has made a significant impact on many fronts. Under her direction, ticket sales revenues have increased over 111% since 2003. From 2003 to 2014, revenue for special events have increased from over $677,400 to upwards of $11.7 million. From 2006 to 2014, Brawner has overseen a 102% increase in retail sales and has grown their retail presence in the museum from one store to three, in addition to an art gallery.

1.  How has marketing for the Country Music Hall of Fame changed over the years?

I have been with Country Music Hall of Fame  for 14 years, starting as the director of sales for group sales and events.  We have exploded in all the earned income of ticket sales, retail, special events and licensing and product development.  We now have 17 different businesses under one roof.   In 2003, we started a rotating exhibition program that started with one and now is up to a dozen in a year.  Repeat visitation has not risen to a big number but we are appealing to a much larger, diversified overall audience.  We now have a marketing team of 23 folks divided into four teams – PR, Digital, Creative and Marketing Services.

2.  Has the newfound popularity of Nashville contributed to the popularity of the Country Music Hall of Fame?

I thank the good Lord everyday for the blessings that have happened to our wonderful city.  In 1991, I came from Dallas, Texas and it has been wonderful to see the growth.  A lot of credit goes to our mayors, governors, and convention and visitors.  The museum has been positioned as part of Nashville’s Triple Crown – the Ryman, Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame.  We have partnered with the Ryman and the Opry.  They were leading the pack at the time and now we are seen as a trio.  We also work a lot with the Frist and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.  We work hard to be viewed as a community asset. The new Music City Center campus has done so much to make us a great convention destination.   So much of the new convention space is new event space bringing more social events, more weddings, more fundraisers.

3. What is the typical target audience for the Country Music Hall of Fame?  Are women a significant part of your target audience?  Are you seeing many of the bachelorette groups coming to Nashville?

Yes, women are very important.  About 65-70% of our target audience is female.  The majority of the women are the decision makers of what the groups of visitors are going to do.  The bachelorette groups come to Nashville for the party scene, but weddings are part of our business.  Weddings have grown because of the beautiful spaces we have for ceremonies and receptions.

On the business side, there is something I do appreciate about the museum.  In our Senior leadership, we have 3 senior vice presidents that are women.

 4.  We understand Rosanne Cash is the current Artist-in-Residence.  How do strong women like Rosanne and Emmy Lou contribute to the country music landscape?

Rosanne is so great, so humble.  She is only the second woman accepted as Artist-in-Residence.  It is a very high honor given to an artist that has a canon of work very deep and broad.  Rosanne followed Connie Smith.  She asked her friend Emmy Lou and Lucinda Williams to make guest appearances.  They were  magical and commanded the room.  She is well revered and a great and brilliant songwriter and performer.

 5.  What are some of the challenges you face in marketing next year?

Kyle Young , our Director and Chief Executive Officer, has talked about it.  The city of Nashville has to be very careful not to lose our authenticity. We appreciate and respect every tourist. We can’t let the brand get so big so fast that we forget why the tourists came here.   We need to take advantage of  serving our new guests but as we build, we need to keep our roots.  All music has a home here and that’s why we call it Music City.  We don’t want to lose site of  our values.  At the Country Music Hall of Fame, we have to keep waving the flag of our history.  We think we are an anchor to staying authentic.

 6.  What has been your favorite moment at Country Music Hall of Fame?  

I am a huge fan of this music.  It is why I came here.  One of my favorite moments was being there when George Strait was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  I have a dual role as both a fan and a professional woman now working with country music.  I started watching him in college and now it is part of my job to keep his legacy alive.

 7.  What’s going on for the holidays this year? 

Every year we do Deck the Hall.  We have a treelighting in the lobby.  It’s the day after Thanksgiving and it’s the first in the city.  We also have a free concert.  Last year it was Brenda Lee.



Jen-Drexler-HeadshotJen Drexler is warm, funny and engaging.  She is also a powerhouse in spotting trends, uncovering truths about women, and developing poignant brand solutions.  Her knowledge of gender drivers had made her a frequent speaker and writer on gender marketing.  Jen is a fabulous spokesperson on gender related consumer insights. Jen’s uncanny business acumen and knowledge of gender drivers has been the anchor of several groundbreaking projects at Insight Strategy Group (e.g., Comedy Central, Mondelēz International, Maidenform, and Kellogg’s). Previously, Jen Drexler co-founded Just Ask a Woman, a women’s marketing consultancy and co-authored “What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It.”
We spent some time together and talked about some of her relevant insights.

1.  I have heard you say that “men get the point, women get the picture”.  What does that mean?

Neuroscience proves that women use their brains a bit more holistically and consider the context of situations more than just the linear takeaway.  Example: Man: I like to drive  Woman: I like to drive because it means I’m in control of my day and it makes me feel successful when I pick my friends up to go out.

2. Do you feel that marketing is beginning to understand how to appeal to women?

I think marketing is just getting smarter overall. I’m not certain that brands have succeeded by appealing to women as much as they have by being better at being gender agnostic and not turning women off.

3. What are your top tips for talking to today’s women?

Remember that women want brands to laugh with them, not at them (stereotypes of women as overly emotional and stressed out aren’t funny).  Also remember that women are multidimensional and switch the roles that they play fluidly – from friend to mom to employee – in the same 5 minute period.  It is tone deaf to only speak to one of her identities at a time.

4. What are some brands that you feel are getting it right?

Some brands I am following now are Amazon Prime, Lane Bryant #imnoangelcampaign, Stitchfix and American Express.

5. What are some things that women aren’t telling us in research? Are there techniques to get at the what they really want?

Women tell things to people they trust and in research it is crucial to build that trust quickly. Some of the ways to do that include getting rid of the two- way mirror and using a more casual setting.  Some focus groups look and feel like witness interrogation.  Ask questions that eliminate posturing or one word answers and feel comfortable going off book to let the conversation evolve naturally.

Bonus: What do you ask people interviewing with you wanting to be in research? 

I always ask people if they talk to strangers or what they do if strangers talk to them. If you aren’t a stranger magnet, then qualitative research might not be right for you.


GTTM_Logo_ColorThree Nashville women came together last fall to launch a social enterprise company called Girls to the Moon. Knight Stivender, Courtenay Rogers and Courtney Seiter are all friends working in technology with a passion for their community and for empowering young girls. Girls to the Moon is about surrounding the next generation of girls with truth and education on topics ranging from creative writing and coding to healthy relationships and sex.

“We want to be a catalyst for conversation about how girls should love themselves, feel comfortable in their own skin and ultimately guide them to be the best humans they can be,” said Courtenay Rogers, the COO. “This is a community for smart girls to meet other smart girls and for parents, specifically mothers, to learn the best way to connect and communicate with these girls.”

Amanda Valentine, two-time Project Runway contestant and award-winning Nashville fashion designer, will tell her personal story during an afternoon keynote address.  The day will begin with a morning musical performance by Nashville Symphony Chorus Director Kelly Corcoran and a trio of musicians performing contemporary pop songs with classical instruments.  At the end of the day, Girls Up Loud camp leaders Fleming McWilliams and Laura Donahue will direct a short musical performance together with Sarah Bandy, founder of Southern Girls Rock Camp.

Session speakers are:
Neeti Agarwal, engineer and owner of local franchise of Engineering For Kids
Sandy Brainard, certified peer recovery specialist
Jeni Lind Brinkman, Regional Director for External Affairs for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Emi Canahuati, sexuality educator and founder of Nashville Alliance for Sexual Health
Krystal Clark, Associate Director for Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt University
Tiana Clark, Pushcart Prize Nominee and poet who serves on the board for The Porch Writers’ Collective
Sarah Hays Coomer, health writer, personal trainer, and nutrition / wellness coach
Mignon Francois, owner of The Cupcake Collection
Kia Jarmon, owner of MEPR agency
Laurie Kalmanson, lead user experience designer for Qualifacts
Rachel Layton, Director of Marketing for A Marshall Family Foods; former professional radio talent and newscaster
Dr. Sharon Y. Moore-Caldwell, M.D. specializing in pediatrics
Dr. Juli Oyer, principal of Fairview High School in Williamson County
Rebecca Price, founder of Chick History, Inc.
Dr. Kristin Rager, MD, is a Nashville pediatrician in private practice
Kayla Weber, former Army Intelligence Sergeant deployed to Afghanistan


The inaugural Girls to the Moon “Campference” is on Saturday, September 26th at Nossi College of Art from 10-4. There are four tracks of learning: Relationships/Creativity and Innovation/Health and Wellness/Caregivers. Girls aged 814 are encouraged to come and check out all of the sessions ranging from “How to Deal with Mean Girls” to “Engineering Careers for Girls” to “How to Say No: Tips for Standing up for Oneself”. While the girls are engaged in hands on sessions, their caregivers have their own sessions focusing on how to talk to their girls about topics ranging from social media to understanding the value of money.

Tickets are on sale now at www.girlstothemoon.com and volunteers are needed for the day of the event. Want to get involved?  Email girlstothemoon@gmail.com Follow them on Twitter @girlstothemoon and find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/girlstothemoon

Gigi Butler 2014Gigi Butler, founder and Chief Brand Officer of Gigi’s Cupcakes, turned family recipes into the largest cupcake franchise company in the nation, with more than 100 stores.  This year Gigi was given the opportunity to appear on CBS’ “Undercover Boss” where millions of people were exposed to the successful cupcake chain.  Gigi talked to us about the Undercover Boss experience, challenges to growing the business, and what it means to be the face of a brand. And of course we had a cupcake, or two.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be in business for yourself?  

Yes!  I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs.  My dad was an entrepreneur and my aunts and great aunts owned and operated bakeries.  I started a cleaning business at the age of 15 so that I could have flexibility.   When I moved to Nashville in 1994, to pursue a country music career, I operated my small cleaning business during the day and would sing at the clubs downtown at night.   I’ve always worked for myself and I don’t know any other way.

Q:  What was the impetus to begin a cupcake business?  

My entire family loved to cook and bake, so I grew up around it.  My Aunt Bennie owned a bakery and catering business and I would spend summers with her. I’d help her bake, cater events, and read her cake decorating books. I loved to bake and had a passion for it at an early age, but my dream was to be a country singer.

In my early thirties, I realized that my music career was unlikely to take off so I decided to focus entirely on my cleaning business.  A few years went by and then my brother called me while I was cleaning a home and told me that he had waited in line at a cupcake bakery in New York for hours. He said, “Your cupcakes are better than these. You should open up a bakery.” I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and decided to go for it.

I opened my first cupcake shop in February 2008 with only $33 left in my bank account. Now, seven years later and against the odds, Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown to be the largest cupcake franchise company in the nation. We just opened our first international location in early 2015 in South Korea and hope to continue to expand in other countries.

I think back fondly on those summer afternoons with Aunt Bennie, who is now part of the Gigi’s team, and consults on product development in the kitchen with me. We have over 300 recipes at Gigi’s Cupcakes and many of them have a rich personal family history originating from my grandmother, great aunts, my mother and other relatives, many of whom are bakers.

Q:  How many cupcakes do you sell daily? 

The average store sells about 500 cupcakes a day.  Here are some other fun facts that you might be interested in.  In 2014, we estimate that all of our stores used:

1.8 Million Pounds of Powdered Sugar

965,000 Pounds of Butter

600,000 Pounds of Flour

63,000 Pints of Vanilla

67,000 Pounds of Cocoa

33,000 Pounds of Cream Cheese

 Q:  Your Undercover Boss episode is ran again this month on CBS.    How did you make the decision to participate in Undercover Boss?

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t turn it down.  We were one of the few small companies that they have ever highlighted.  I had to do it and I’m so glad I did.

Q:  What was the most surprising thing you learned from your Undercover Boss experience?

Filming Undercover Boss was an amazing experience that I will always be grateful for.  Two things that surprised me during this experience were:  1) I was surprised by how many passionate and wonderful people work for us.  It’s not just a job to them, they truly care about the business and the brand.  2)  I was also surprised that we were consistently inconsistent.  We didn’t have the exact same procedures from one store to the next.  I knew we needed to address that immediately.

Q:  Did the experience benefit your business?

Yes, the experience greatly benefited us!   We learned a lot during my journey and we haven’t been the same since.

Q:  What has been the biggest marketing challenge in growing your business?

Staying relevant and continuing to think outside the box.  We don’t just do cupcakes, we have a lot of products. While we’re best known for our signature swirl – icing piled high on top of a freshly baked cupcake, we strive to have a diversified product line that not only includes 300 cupcake flavors, but also stuffed cookies, bread loaves, muffins, cakes, cheesecakes, pies and specialty coffee.

Q:  What have you learned from your role as the face of the brand?  

It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve truly had to make a transition from behind-the-scenes to being the public face of the company.  Sure, it’s always been Gigi’s, but as we’ve grown, my role as the spokesperson for the brand has also grown.   It doesn’t allow me as much time working diligently behind the scenes as I’m accustomed to, so I’ve had to adjust and find appropriate balance.  We have a great team of people working for us, and I have learned to let go (at least I’m working on that) and allow our seasoned veterans to do what they do best.   I’ve also learned that people like knowing that there is authenticity to our brand and that there is actually a real person named Gigi that started the company.

 Q:  Where do the new cupcake ideas come from? 

I used to wake up in the middle of the night with song ideas and lyrics.  Now I wake up thinking about new cupcake flavors.  I still use my creative spirit, just in a different way.  Our new summer menu includes Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy because we wanted to focus on summer fun flavors.  I remember going to the state fair as a kid and eating cotton candy.  It was one of my favorite things.   We wanted these flavors to bring back those childhood memories as soon as you taste them.   It’s like tasting a memory.

 Q:  What do you want your daughter to learn from your experience as a female business owner?

I want to leave a legacy of love for my daughter.  I want her to know the power of hard work.  I also want her to know that there is strength and a sense of community when you give back to people.  That’s what’s most important.

Liz serious twoAs co-owner of Gamma BlastLiz Denning is producing consumer-centric videos that live in a place between advertising and programming. It allows her firm to produce web series like the Nashville Predators “Beneath the Ice” that brings 50,000-75,000 people to the Predator’s website to get to know their players better.  She is helping brands like HGTV and the Food Network understand how to appeal to consumers passions in a totally authentic and engaging way.  We asked Liz to tell us a little about her views on video.

1.  How are advertisers using video content to enhance their brand and  what results they are seeing?

Smart brands have pivoted to understand that the customer is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to whether to consume media. These companies are creating media that starts with the interests and passions of the consumer and then figures out how the company’s message can fit into the consumer’s world in an authentic way. Red Bull, GE and, of course, Lego are masters of authentic, branded content.

We produce regular content for HGTV and Food Network, who are keeping viewers interested when programming ends because it focuses on people’s interests, not a sales message. Another example is our web series with the Nashville Predators, “Beneath the Ice”. It includes sponsor integration and is bringing 50,000-75,000 people to the Preds’ site for every episode.

 2.  You often say that you are in the storytelling business.  How do you help brands find their story?

We use time-tested storytelling techniques to keep people interested because people are more distracted than ever. To help companies find their story, we ask them a lot of questions about their brand and their audience in our creative briefing process and, if needed, conduct informal focus groups. For brands who need a lot of help and additional research, we partner with smart folks like you, Jamie!

3.  Give us an idea of how video content is growing online and why it should be part of a brand’s marketing.

With YouTube ranking as the second largest search engine and video viewership making up one-third of online activity (according to Digital Sherpa), these are just two of the many indicators to show online video has exploded. Brands can’t ignore people’s interest in video when it comes to marketing.

4.  How does video impact social media today?

Every brand wants to be shared. The social media content that is most often shared makes people laugh, smile, feel joy or gives a sense of awe (according to Buzzsumo). Video’s combination of sight and sound taps into these emotions like nothing else.

5.  What are some of the important things brands need to keep in mind about video production?

  • It’s about the viewer.
  • Only the new and different ideas break through.
  • There are ways to create consistent video content for your brand that is high quality and reasonably priced.

6.  Where do you go for new ideas and learning?


NAMA (Nashville American Marketing Association)

Content Marketing Institute

Smart folks in and out of town

8.  What are your passions outside of work?

Besides my husband and two boys, one of my big causes is arts education for kids. Being a Board Member of the Nashville Children’s Theatre, I’m continually amazed at the production quality and education they’re able to provide, on a shoestring budget, for children at all socio-economic levels.

Liz Denning is Co-Owner and Marketing Director for Gamma Blast, a firm that specializes in creating entertaining and compelling branded entertainment, programming, commercials and web and social content. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Gamma Blast serves national clients from mid-size to Fortune 100 companies such as Nissan, The Grand Ole Opry, the Nashville Predators NHL hockey team and HGTV.  

Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

We reached out to Jaynee Day, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to find out why we should give locally.  The facts about the need and 46-county area they help serve are staggering.  The Second Harvest brand is synonymous with the fight against hunger.

1.  What are some surprising facts about those at risk for hunger in Middle Tennessee?

•   Hunger impacts the lives of 1 in 6 Tennesseans and 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger every day right here in Tennessee.

•   There are 395,770 people in our service area who are food insecure, which means they do no know where their next meal will come from.

•   Food Insecurity Rates: Davidson Co. 17.5%, Weakly Co. 18.4% (highest in service area), Williamson Co. 8.9% (lowest in service area)

•   Every day, a neighbor, coworker or family member could be forced with the choice of paying for food or paying for other basic living necessities.

•   Almost one-third of the people we see seeking food assistance have incomes much higher than the federal poverty level, which means they are ineligible to receive help from federal nutrition safety net programs like SNAP or WIC. These families’ ability to access food from Second Harvest help relieve pressure on their expenses so they don’t have to make the tough choice of paying for food or paying for medical care, which allows them to get back on their feed, helping avoid falling deeper into poverty. We’ve also seen the number of people living in poverty slightly increase, about 5 percent, which means more and more families are making tough choices about paying for food or other basic living necessities.

•   Hunger doesn’t care who you are. It affects all types of people. According to the 2014 Hunger in America Study, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serves 83,000 households a year, including 64,000 children and 47,000 seniors – and those numbers are unduplicated, which means we could serve some of those multiple times throughout the year.

•   Nearly two-thirds of our adult clients have attained a high school degree and almost a quarter have a post high school education. Now more than ever, we are seeing a trend of students seeking food assistance – people struggling with hunger are trying to increase their education level to drive employment opportunities, and, in turn, income.

•   One of the most eye-opening results of the 2014 Hunger in America study is the number of clients with medical issues. Locally, the number of clients with diabetes or high blood pressure is much greater than the national average. Illnesses and medical disorders can be caused by a poor and inadequate diet and can present a substantial financial burden causing tough choices and trade offs to keep food on the table. 80 percent of our client households report choosing between food and medicine or medical care in the past 12 months.

2.  Why is giving locally important to Second Harvest?

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee could not do what we do without our 450 plus non-profit Partner Agencies. Every dollar donated provides four meals to our neighbors in need within our 46-county service area through our partner agencies who distribute groceries and serve meals to our neighbors. And without our corporate partnerships we would not be able to fund all of our feeding programs to distribute food to our Partner Agencies. It is due to the collective generosity of individuals, businesses, organizations and government in our community that we are able to do what we do every day.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee gives thanks this season for the tremendous support that helps us fill the need in our community.

3.  How are ways we can give to Second Harvest during this Holiday Season?

•   Anyone can join Second Harvest to make a difference in the fight against hunger. Whether it is donating a can of food, a dollar to provide four meals or an hour of your time to help sort food, you can make a real difference for a neighbor in need. Visit our website, secondharvestmidtn.org to learn more.

•   Celebrate the season this December by giving to Second Harvest, where good does the most good. Your donation will provide meals and groceries to those in need effectively and efficiently this holiday season – 96 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to our Feeding Programs.

4.  Tell us about the Backpack Program for school children.

The BackPack Program provides easy-to-prepare food for at-risk children on weekends and during school breaks when other resources are not available. A typical BackPack includes two canned entrees, such as chili and beans and franks, applesauce, two cereals, 100% fruit juice, shelf-stable milk and a snack. The Second Harvest BackPack program serves more than 6,700 hungry children each week at more than 100 schools throughout Middle Tennessee.

5.  What continues to drive you to assist the hungry in Middle Tennessee?

I am proud of what Second Harvest has accomplished throughout my 26 years with the organization. However, our work is not done. Children, families and seniors in our community are going to bed hungry, and it is our duty as an organization and our moral obligation to continue the fight against hunger until we create a hunger free Tennessee.



LeeAnn Maxwell (left) and partner Carrie King (right) took an unforgettable girls trip to St. Simon’s Island and came home with the genesis of Vixen Vodka, a new vodka company targeted to women. Their research into vodka and distillers showed that vodka was ready for a female revolution.  Their vodka is available in five states in the Southeast.

1.  How did you decide to start a vodka business focused on selling to women?

It all started on a girls’ beach trip.  We’ve all been there – lying around the pool, coming up with these great ideas.  Then we get back to life, to work, to kids, to husbands, to school, and then next year’s beach trip comes around and we go, ‘remember that great idea we had last year?’  Well, we put actionable steps behind the crazy idea of starting a vodka by women for women (not a skinny, not a mix, not a flavor, just a pure 80 proof vodka that talked TO women, not down to them), and made our favorite quote come true:  a dream without action is merely a fantasy.  We made our dream a reality!

2.  How has being an entrepreneur changed your life?

It’s the best job; it’s the worst job.  You’re never ‘off’.  You live –  eat – breathe – sleep the brand.  It’s the first thing you think about in the morning and it’s the last thing you think about at night.  And I wouldn’t change a moment of it!

3.  What has been the best moment since you started the business?  What has been the worst?

The best moment (and it still is!) is seeing our dream a reality on the shelf.  Every time I see that bottle on a liquor store shelf or on a back bar or in someone’s cart – I get a chill up and down my spine.  I honestly can’t say there’s been a ‘worst’ moment, I’ve learned from every so-called mistake and obstacle.  I believe that the fear of never trying is much much worse than the fear of failure.

4.  How does having a partner help your business?

There are some entrepreneurs who live by the mantra:  ‘small ships, tall ships, no partnerships’.  I could not disagree more.  I don’t know how I would do this without my partner in crime, Carrie King.  We have a big age difference; I say she was born on the night of my high school prom.  But we’re targeting women ages 28-54 and we are living our own demographic.  We balance each other, we have similar work styles, similar work ethics.   And if we don’t agree, we don’t do it.  And it has served us very well.

 5.  What is the biggest surprise in starting your own business?

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is tough.  But surprisingly, most people want to help you.  They want to see you succeed.  All I do is ask people to ‘hold my hand’ and I think when you do that, it gives them permission to help you without condescending to you or being resentful of you. Oh yeah, and having to do everything!!!  I was just asked to coach at a business event.  They asked do you specialize in marketing, business start up, branding, social media, financing, or sales?   I said yes, all of the above.  Because as an entrepreneur, you have to do all that and more!

 6.  What does success look like?  

Success to me is not the sale of a bottle of vodka, although yes please everyone who is reading this go out and buy a bottle.  But success to me is the stay at home mom who comes up to me and says that I empowered her to turn her passion into a project.  Success is the wedding photographer who says after meeting us at an event she decided to start her own business of portrait couture, bringing out a woman’s best self.  Success is the woman who introduced herself to me as a sculptor, not a kindergarten teacher, because I inspired her to describe herself as her purpose not her paycheck.

 7.  Have other women been supportive of your business?

Absolutely!  Because it’s not about the vodka; (but again please go buy a bottle), it’s about the fact that Carrie and I took the leap.  We went for ‘it’.  Our ‘it’ happened to be starting a vodka company that is tailored to a female palate and does not look upon women as arm candy or sex objects.   But your ‘it’ may be climbing a mountain, running a marathon, becoming a race car driver (ok, I admit that’s on my bucket list).  We’re just using vodka.  And I started this company the year I turned 50, the year my boys moved out and my ex-husband came out. (oh by the way, he’s now the creative director for Vixen Vodka – life’s too short to be madJ)   If I can turn my life around from sitting at home watching “Dancing with the Stars”, anyone can!

BW HeadshotPat Shea said when she was a little girl she wanted to be independent and able to take care of those she loved.  Well, she has done that and more.  She deftly handles working with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Tennessee Titans to raise awareness of domestic violence, opens a new upscale thrift boutique, hosts the annual AWA event, and stops by Brand Wise to answer a few questions.  All in just one week.  And all in the name of “moving women from safety to self-sufficiency” at the best YWCA in the country.

Here a little insight into her world and why Domestic Violence Awareness Month is more than a date on the calendar for Pat.

1. How have recent NFL domestic violence situations elevated your ability to advocate for women on the issue of domestic violence?  

The conversation has been turned up…and the outrage that has come from the Ray Rice incident is intense; it’s palpable.  What usually happens behind closed doors was put out there for the whole world to see in all its brutality and ugliness.  And now, the conversation we have been having in Nashville these last few years is finally spreading.

One in four women will be victims of domestic violence in her lifetime.  Three women are killed each day in the United States by men who say they love them.  In fact, Tennessee is still ranked in the top ten worst states in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men.  And yet, our country’s attention hadn’t really been focused on domestic violence until the Ray Rice video hit national news.

2.  What is the role of men in changing behavior towards women and championing appropriate male role models?

I am hopeful that our country’s collective outrage will be channeled into prevention and ongoing education of men and boys on healthy, respectful manhood.  Our dream is to change the current culture that supports violence against women.  We need men and boys to join us – join the women who have been shouldering  the message of violence against women for years –  and become part of the solution.

I continue to be excited about the YWCA’s Engaging Men Initiative.  We have strong male leaders in our community who are standing up and speaking out – people like our Mayor, our Chief of Police and District Attorney,  our YWCA male board members, local college and high school coaches and most recently, the Tennessee Titans.  Because as sportscaster James Brown recently said “Men’s silence around the issue of domestic violence has been deafening and deadly.”

3.  How do you describe the purpose of the YWCA to those who don’t know the organization?

The mission of the YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.  For 116 years, the YWCA has provided services aimed at empowering women and girls, keeping them safe and helping them become self-sufficient.  We want to help women create a better quality of life for themselves and/or their families.  We want to help them increase their financial strength and independence through better jobs and more education.  We also aspire to be a voice for women who have no voice in our current society.

4.  How are you different from other YWCA’s in the country?

Although all YWCAs share the same mission, each YWCA is afforded the opportunity to develop their own strategic and tactical plans.  Our YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Tennessee.  We remain the local affiliate for Girls Inc. (a separate national non-profit focused on girls helping girls to grow up strong, smart and bold).  We have opened four neighborhood literacy centers where we provide GED/HiSET preparation classes and other literacy services. We have recently been awarded the affiliation to re-launch Dress for Success Nashville and their much needed services in our community.  And our most recent news…we have opened 2616 – our very own resale boutique located at 2616 Gallatin Pike.  2616 is a revenue generating business started to help us fund all of this great work.

5.  If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?

I would create a world where everyone had the opportunity to become all they could be; a world where education and employment were available to everyone equally.  A world described as compassionate, creative and competitive with everyone, striving to be their best.