Women In Leadership: A Need For A Greater Systemic Change With Belinda Clemmensen

BYW 40 | Women In Leadership


Do you find yourself feeling restless in the status quo? Do you have that urge to take things and make them better? If so, then you are like this episode’s guest. An ultimate innovator, Belinda Clemmensen is passionate about the potential positive change when women lead at scale. Having co-created Paddle to a Cure and founded The Women’s Leadership Intensive, she discovered the power in having women work together and doing things differently. In this conversation, she sits down with Dr. Gary Sanchez to share how her WHY of Better Way continues to motivate her work with the feminist movement. She dives deep into the systemic change that needs to happen to encourage more women in leadership roles, equipping us with data and insights on diversity, equality, and meritocracy in the workplace. Find out more about Belinda’s work and let it inspire and empower you to lead the change the world needs.

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Women In Leadership: A Need For A Greater Systemic Change With Belinda Clemmensen

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the Why of Better Way. If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator and you are constantly seeking better ways to do everything. You find yourself wanting to improve virtually anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvement with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and better systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased, but never satisfied.” You are excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another, always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

In this episode, I’ve got a great guest for you. Her name is Belinda Clemmensen. She co-created Paddle to A Cure in 2000. This women-led series of sea kayaking expeditions for people living with breast cancer taught her that there are different ways to build and lead organizations and that women working together do things differently. Many years later, Belinda founded The Women’s Leadership Intensive with the mission to inspire, empower, support, and equip women to lead the change the world needs. Now, she serves as CEO of the organization, a certified B corp.

These two formative experiences drew Belinda to work with women in leadership. Her passion is for the potential for positive change when women lead at scale. Belinda loves her work and feels honored to work and mentor amazing women who make a difference daily through their leadership. She has received the gold Canada Award for Excellence in Training and is a certified professional coach, training provider, and member of the International Coaching Federation. She is also a SheEO Activator and member of the Equal Futures Network and the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Belinda qualified as a finalist for the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs Extraordinary Woman of the Year Award. She’s published articles in The Journal of Experiential Education, Adventure Kayak Magazine, and Kanawa Magazine, and was a finalist in the National Flare Magazine Volunteer Awards. She is a regular presenter at conferences around the world.

Belinda earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Waterloo and her Master of Education in Workplace Learning and Change from the University of Toronto. Any place that takes her to the peace and beauty of nature is Belinda’s happy place, especially when she is in her sea kayak, backcountry camping, or learning to sail. Belinda lives in Ontario with her partner, Shane, and son, Gabe. Belinda, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

That was a mouthful. You got a lot going on there. Right now, you’re not in Ontario. Do you live outside of Ontario?

I live in Ontario but North is relative in Canada. I am in what’s called the Near North because there’s so much more North of me, but whenever you get North of that band that’s right by the Canada-US border, that’s where all our big cities are. I’m North of that in a little town called Huntsville, Ontario.

Where did you grow up? Take us back to what you were like when you were in high school or even before. What was your childhood like, Belinda?

I grew up in a very quiet, rural place. That’s where my love of nature came from right from the beginning and my love of peace and quiet. I grew up in a small town in Ontario and that worked for me when I was in elementary school for the most part. By the time I got to high school, I was looking for something bigger in my life.

Small-town high school for any of those in your audience who also grew up with a small-town high school, you either love it or it feels a bit like you’re in this small pond and you’re trying desperately to get out of it. That was me. High school for me was a time to rebel. It was a time to look at the systems and structures around me and ask a lot of questions and do a lot of pushing back on those things. I think that set me up pretty well.

For those that are listening, Belinda’s why is Better Way which we already talked about. Her how is to challenge the status quo, push the limits, and think differently. Ultimately, what Belinda brings is a way to contribute, add value, and have an impact on people’s lives. It sounds like you were already doing that when you were very young.

I think so. It’s interesting because having done my WHY.os felt a little bit like telling me back my life story.

You have a high school in a little town. What kinds of things were you into in high school?

I was into theatre and books. I was into anything that took me to the bigger world outside of my small town and my small high school. I was already a feminist in high school and a pretty strong-minded feminist at that. I remember co-writing a feminist magazine in high school with a good friend of mine who felt like the only other feminist in my school.

I’m sure that was not true, but it felt like it way back then. I was a fringe kid in high school and that suited me pretty well. I feel like I’ve always been a little on the margins. I am always questioning and pushing. As you said, it’s the better way. It’s the challenge and it’s the, “What can I do about it? How could I make this better?”

What got you into the feminist movement or consider yourself a feminist? What was that turning point for you?

It was my experience of seeing the differences between my own family and my own community. A big turning point for me was early in my career, I worked for Outward Bound Canada. I did a little bit of work in the US as well, but mostly in Canada. I’m a big believer in Outward Bound. I learned to be an amazing facilitator and expedition leader there. They do great work and the outdoors is a very interesting place to notice gender differences.

For example, we always had instructor pairing. There would be two instructors for any expedition that we were taking out on a canoe trip, a sea kayaking trip, or whatever it might be. Whenever there was a male-female co-instructor pairing, people would inevitably go to the male for all things technical, all things hard skills, and inevitably come to me as the female for all things relational, emotional, and facilitative.

I love both of those things. I love the facilitative conversational stuff, but I also like technical things. I like learning them. I like knowing how to fix things. I like knowing how to navigate and how to tie a knot. I find that fun and engaging too. I always felt in those situations that we had this gender binary and I was always put over here. It’s not that I needed to completely flip it, but I wanted to be the whole thing. I wanted to be able to be a whole person. The downside of the gender binary is it pushes us into these boxes that may not feel like us or it may not feel like the entirety of us.

The downside of the gender binary is it pushes us into these boxes that may not feel like us or may not feel like the entirety of us. Click To Tweet

Define for us what you mean by a feminist. What is a feminist?

I go back to a simple definition, which is a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights and opportunities for all people regardless of gender. We’re thinking now these days of gender as a spectrum, which is healthy. There are shifts that we’re making in our society. We’re moving away from the strictly binary, “You are masculine or feminine,” and saying, “There is a lot of gray area in between these things.” Feminism, although it’s a tricky word because it has a history, the way that I use it and the way that I like to work from it is believing that everybody deserves equal rights and opportunities. Right now, we don’t have that.

Outward Bound showed you that women could do just as much as men and shouldn’t be marginalized or put into the box of, “You’re just a relationship emotional gal and we’ll go to him for everything else.”

Yeah and vice versa. I’m assuming there are probably men who also got tired of only being asked technical questions and might want to have a relational question or be on the other side of it. I’m assuming that maybe there was a longing on both sides to be able to be more of a whole person.

How was that received in your high school?

Small town Ontario, I imagine, is a small town with lots of places. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough in terms of getting out into the bigger world and trying to meet new people. Also, expanding my worldview and wanting to travel. That was my response to it. I knew that I could not continue to learn and grow in that small-town context and a lot of people can, but for me, that wasn’t working.

We are off to college now. Where did you go to college again?

I went to do an undergrad at the University of Waterloo, which is a school in Ontario and stayed in a five-year co-op. I met lots of people. Co-op’s great for getting out and working. That was my next step in moving out into the world.

Did you do some education after that as well?

It’s interesting because I have a Science degree. I’ve never worked a day in science. It was through doing a Science degree that I learned that I probably didn’t want to be a scientist but it was still a good experience. Education, in and of itself, is so beneficial on so many levels but then I realized what I was interested in is more about human systems and human relationships and human dynamics.

That’s where I went in to do a Master’s degree in Workplace Learning and Change thinking that we spend so much of our time, our energy, and the contributions that we make in the world in our work that if I was going to start looking at, “How can we make things better,” that was the place that made sense to do it.

You got your degree there. What was your first job after that?

I worked all throughout my Master’s degree. I come from a history of business people. My dad’s got a construction management business and his dad had a concrete business. When I graduated from my undergrad, it didn’t occur to me to go get a real job. I started building my own facilitation and training company early on and did a lot of subcontracting work to get that off the ground. By the time I did my Master’s, I was looking more at, “What does a leadership development consulting or training firm look like? What would that mean?” That’s where I went from there with my business.

You first business was a leadership training. What was that called?

It was called Clemmensen Consulting. I chose the name so that I had the option to change my mind anytime about what I was doing. I keep it open and flexible.

How did that go for you? How did your first business work out or maybe you’re still doing that?

I’m not still doing it, but it worked out great for me. I love freedom. I love being able to do what I think is best fit at the time. Being a business owner allowed me to do that. I was young. I was in my twenties so I didn’t need to be making big bucks. I was happy to be having experiences and working with great people and great companies. I did that for quite a long time. There came a turning point as I got older where I started to look at that work and say, “I am supporting a system in the corporate world, in the capitalist society that we live in, that I’m not sure I fully believe in.”

That was a bit of a crisis because my business was doing fine and I loved doing the work that I was doing with the people that showed up in my spaces whether it was training programs or whatever but there was this doubt in the back of my mind saying, “Am I doing the right work? Am I helping these people to perpetuate systems that I don’t think are best or that I don’t think are working for a lot of people?”

It took me probably 3 or 4 years of going through a process of wondering and asking myself those questions and having a bit of a crisis to be honest about what am I doing with my life. I’m sure lots of people have that crisis around that point in their life too, in their late 40s. You start wondering, “What’s this all about? What’s the last third or hopefully half going to be like?”

That’s what led me back to my feminist roots and to start asking the question, “If I was going to support leaders, whom do I want them to be? What work do I want them to be doing in the world?” By then, we finally had some good research and data on not only the fact that our numbers are still low in terms of women in leadership, but also when we do have women in leadership, we see incredible benefits, not for women, but for businesses, for communities, and for societies.

All of these things started to line up to the point where I shifted my focus and changed my business to The Women’s Leadership Intensive. That’s where we come in with this mission to inspire, empower, support, and equip women to lead the change the world needs. There you’ve got your better way and you’ve got your challenge and your contribution and they all line up again.

What you said was you didn’t believe in the system that you were in. What do you mean by that? Give us an example.

Even without doing research, I could tell that some people were being promoted over other people. It seemed like some people were being heard at the table and other people were not. I’d look at executive teams and I still do this to this day whenever I’m looking at an organization that I might want to work with. I look at, “What does your executive team look like?”

If that executive team all looks the same, which almost all of them still do, then we know we’ve got a diversity problem. Diversity problems are not accidental. Systems are designed to maintain and uphold what we know as those norms. We can design those systems differently. We can design them better so that they are more inclusive but we have a lot of work to do to get there.

When did you start The Women’s Leadership Intensive?

That was probably 2018.

What’s the purpose of The Women’s Leadership Intensive?

It’s to support women in their leadership development for a couple of reasons. One, so that they are ready to level up in their career. They’re ready to take on the next leadership role. Another is for development in place. How can you have more influence in the role that you’re in because some people aren’t looking to be promoted? They love what they do, but they want to be able to do it with more influence and scope.

Regardless of where you go with that leadership development, one of our core ways of working with people is it’s about leading as you. It is not necessarily emulating the leadership styles or the approaches that you’ve seen in the past, because frankly, those are already outdated even though they’re still everywhere. It’s about figuring out what matters to you, what are your values, and what feels purposeful and meaningful to you as a leader. What conversations do you want to be having?

It’s this idea that if you are in a leadership role, let’s say 50% of your job is the functional stuff. Maybe you’re a finance person, maybe you’re in sales, or maybe you’re in operations. That’s great. In a leadership role, I call that half of your job. The other half of your job is leading people. It’s having hard conversations and vision. It’s understanding the context of the world around us. Also, knowing that, “We don’t exist in a world anymore where we can ignore things like diversity and inclusion or sustainability.” Even if that’s not part of your job, if you’re a leader, it’s part of your job.

I have two daughters and this is interesting for me as well. I have a lot of women on our team here, also. What have you found makes a great leader?

The willingness to know yourself first. Understand your own life experiences and be reflective. The skill of reflection. Can you look back and understand your own life experiences? Can you understand your own privilege?

What do you mean by understanding your own privilege?

We have a bit of a myth of how everyone is self-made or there’s a myth of meritocracy that the best person rises to the top and that’s why they’ve got the job. There has been some interesting research that’s debunked the idea that a lot of the people who have those positions or those roles also have a lot of other things like resources for White skin or they happen to be men or even their name can be predictive of where somebody might end up in a certain organization.

It’s not to say we should necessarily feel bad about that, but it’s to understand that it exists. My starting point to go somewhere is different from yours. It is different from somebody else’s. It’s the idea of that intersectionality. What are the factors where we have privilege in our lives? What are the places where we are marginalized in our lives and start to understand our own picture so that we then have space to understand that others’ pictures are very different from ours?

I can see how this could all become pretty controversial.

This is the leadership courage of the future, which is being willing to have those kinds of conversations.

It’s hard to tell how much of it is true. When I look at my own friends, my own friend group, my father was a dentist, we had all the advantages that you could have. My brothers and sisters have done well but if I look at most of my friends that have done well, most of them came from nothing. They came from working their butts off. Even some of my friends that are doing well now are wondering about their own kids. “Should I not give them what I could give them and have them struggle?” It’s because it seems like the people that had to struggle have risen to the top and the ones that had everything given to them are not at the top. What’s the truth?

It’s this interesting interplay between individual experience and then themes and trends when we look at bigger population groups. Anything that I say in general, there’s going to be individual exceptions to that. Generalities are inherently inaccurate. However, when we look at bigger themes and populations, let’s say, women in leadership, we can look at data that will tell us that Fortune 500 CEOs hit 10% women in 2023. There have never been more than 10% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who were women.

We can look at that and say, “We have a disparity here between these two groups of people when we look at it at the population level or those big group levels and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is only one metric but it’s an interesting metric because those are people who have a lot of impact and influence in the world. It’s interesting to say, “Who’s setting the tone for business culture in North America?”

It’s not women or not at scale. We start to say, “Are there individual women who are being incredibly successful in business?” There are and both are true. It’s not either/or. It’s both. There are individuals who struggled and that’s what made them great. Other individuals had an easier path and that’s what got them to be great because they had all the resources and they were able to use those resources. Both are true.

BYW 40 | Women In Leadership
Women In Leadership: There are individuals who struggled and that’s what made them great. Other individuals had an easier path and that’s what got them to be great because they had all the resources, and they were able to use those resources. Both are true.


One of the things that come out for me is looking at the gap versus the gain. You said there are 10% women CEOs in the Fortune 500. What was it several years ago?

Something I talk about in the book a lot is the idea of things getting better and they’re still bad. We want to look at both of those things. We want to look at the progress made and we also want to look at how big is the gap left to go. Again, it is not an either/or, but if we look at progress made, two thumbs up across the board. There are more women CEOs in Fortune 500 now and if there’s a graph that will show that curve and it’s going in the right direction.

This is true almost everywhere. We see some drops in the data where it says, “We had a bad year or we were on a trajectory where we were seeing this progress towards equality and equity, but then something happened and it dipped down.” It’s looking at both. It’s saying, “The trajectory is going in the right direction. That’s progress. That’s the gains,” and the gap is still 40%. That needs to be made up. If we’re going to get to 50/50, women are past 50% of the population and 48% of the workforce.

Is the goal then to have 50/50?

It would be an interesting experiment. We’ve never done it. I would love to see what happens.

What is the goal of feminism? What is a feminist trying to accomplish?

I can’t answer that question for all feminists, but I can certainly answer it for myself. There are two things. Certainly, we want to get to equality, which is where we get the same thing. That would be the 50/50 idea. We’re going on the Fortune 500 CEO things because we’ve got the numbers, but it’d be cool to see 50% of those CEOs be women and see what changes. We know that there’s good research that shows that things do change when we have women in leadership so it’d be cool to see what happens.

That’s the equality piece of getting there but the other interesting thing is when we look at the workplace, for example, it wasn’t built for women’s lives. It’s because women weren’t there in the past when the workplaces were set up and things we’re moving towards parental leaves and acknowledgment that all workers are potential parents in the workplace as well as workers in the workplace. However, in the past, that certainly has been on the shoulders of women.

How can we also create different kinds of systems that take into account different kinds of people’s lives? Now if women are 48% of the workforce, what needs to change about workplaces to make them friendlier as a culture to women and women’s lives? Childcare is an easy one to look at because we can see the impact that a lack of parental leaves has on women’s careers particularly.

Should a leader of a business or an organization have the ability to pick whoM they want as the successor, or should it be dictated to them that they have to pick a woman?

The ability to choose for yourself is important and makes it even more imperative that you do the work to understand your own bias. Interestingly, in this research about the myth of meritocracy, what they found was that the more people believe in meritocracy, the more likely they are to demonstrate bias in hiring.

The ability to choose for yourself is important and makes it even more imperative that you do the work to understand your own bias. Click To Tweet

What is meritocracy?

Meritocracy is the idea that you got there because of your merit alone and because you’re the best person for the job. It’s not because your skin is White, because you’re a man, or because you had the right connections or were introduced to the right people.

It makes it sound like having a White skin color, having a family that’s done well in the past, working hard, having the right school systems, and working your butt off is a bad thing.

Not at all.

How can somebody reading this not believe that based on what they’re hearing right now? How would they not believe that?

It’s not about feeling bad about it or thinking that it is a bad thing. It’s understanding that your starting point’s a little different than somebody else’s or it’s understanding that we tend to hire people who are like us or look like us. That’s well-documented. It takes intention for us to go, “Why do I think that candidate who looks more like me and behaves more like me is the best person? Is it because they are or is it because it’s so familiar to me? It feels right. Can I challenge myself to say, ‘I want someone beside me or with me who is very different, who doesn’t look the same, think the same, and hasn’t lived the same kind of life?’”

Again, I don’t want people to feel bad and it’s not helpful or constructive for us to feel bad about being White or about having had resources in our lives. What’s much more constructive is to be able to say, “I recognize the difference though. I see it in myself.” To be able to go, “Because of that I see the world this way.” It’s important for this day’s leaders to expand that view significantly and say, “How are other people seeing this world? How can we ask that? How can we find that out?” If people around us all look like us, it’s hard to get that information.

I could see that. I have a friend who writes a weekly email newsletter in the finance world. He’s one of the world’s leading economists. I went to an event at his house and it was amazing the diversity in that group. It was just crazy. Every possible walk of life you could imagine was there, even his own kids. He has seven kids. 2 are biological and 5 are adopted by 5 different races.

I asked him one time, I said, “Why do you have such diversity in your group here?” I’ve never seen something like that. He said, “If all I do is look at the world through my own eyes and I don’t get the perspective of everybody else around me, then I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t write or talk about it because all I know is what I know. My job is to tell the world what’s going on, but I can only see it through my eyes if those are the only ones I use.”

If we scale that out a little bit, if all the other people who are telling the world how things look the same way and have that similar life path, then we’re going to get one slice of the story unless we have people like your friend who’s working intentionally to expand the viewpoint, expand the perspective, and have it be a lot richer, diverse, and inclusive of all kinds of threads in this story.

BYW 40 | Women In Leadership
Women In Leadership: If all the other people who are telling the world how things look the same way and have that similar life path, then we’re going to get one slice of the story.


I can see it being challenging to get people to even care about what you’re saying because if I’m in a leadership role, it’s worked great. I got a great business. I got great things going on. I’m living the life that I want to live. I don’t care what you have to say. I don’t care about diversity. I don’t care about all the stuff. It doesn’t matter to me because I already know what works. This works. What you are telling me is, “Let’s see what happens.” I’m not willing to go to a, “Let’s see what happens.” I want to know, “This already works. I know it has for generations. Why do I want that?” I don’t.

It works for some people much better than others. I’m certainly seeing a movement here in younger generations coming into the workforce in a lot of the industries that I work in where they are starting to say, “If there’s not real diversity, equity, and inclusion work happening in an organization, I don’t want to work there. If they don’t care about sustainability and it’s only about profit, I don’t want to work there.”

The rubber will start to hit the road as the workforce changes and puts pressure on organizations and other stakeholders start to put pressure on organizations, which is already happening. It’s happening through policy. It’s happening through the court of public opinion. I do think the pressures are there for courageous progressive leaders to be able to start looking at the context and the culture that surrounds us and say, “What’s happening here? What do people care about? What do I need to do differently to not be the leader now, but be the leader tomorrow?”

Tell me the downside to feminism. I want to give you an example. In one of my daughter’s schools that she went to, they hired this diversity expert. There was no diversity in the school. There wasn’t any diversity in the whole area and they made it up. They had to create diversity and it turned such a great school into not a very good school. It had a lot of hate after a while. The whole thing turned negative. I know that wasn’t the intent, but it did go south and it did go sour. I’ve seen that happen as well. What are some of the downsides to that movement?

One thing that I struggle with all the time is, “How do we have these conversations and not be pointing fingers at each other and blaming and creating further positionality?” It’s because I don’t think that’s helpful. If we’re not all on board with doing this together, it’s hard to get anywhere fast. Creating a gender-equitable world is going to take women and men working together who both want it. Both see that there are benefits for all of us and for our children in a world that is more gender-balanced and more equal.

Creating a gender balance, a gender-equitable world, is going to take women and men working together who both want it. Click To Tweet

The same is true for anti-racism work. That work needs to be done together. If we have a bunch of people who are feeling like they’re on sides and they’re positional and they can’t talk to each other, that’s a problem. Hopefully, as we’re learning how to have these difficult conversations about things like gender, race, social class, and wealth, I hope that we’re getting more skilled at it.

A lot of people will say, “We got to call out people who are doing things wrong. I always think of it as, “How do we call people in to have conversations, even if they’re hard conversations?” The idea that we won’t be uncomfortable is not a thing anymore. We’re going to have to be uncomfortable but again, isn’t that part of leadership being willing to be uncomfortable?

It’s an interesting path you’re on. I’m sure it’s had not been without challenges and won’t continue to be with challenges. You’re trying to challenge the status quo to find a better way so people can have a bigger impact.

It’s not the path of least resistance, that’s for sure and I recognize that. I feel it.

How do your husband and son feel about your path?

My husband is an amazing feminist and ally. He’s a high school shop teacher. He teaches construction and woodworking. He’s been a huge advocate for getting girls into skilled trades, and for having girls-only construction classes. He’s 100% on board and it’s great. We get to have these conversations together. We’re learning about it together. Neither one of us is perfect. We make mistakes. We make each other mad but it’s been a pretty cool journey together. My son is a younger generation. They talk about this stuff in ways that we did not when we were kids.

You brought something up right there that I would guess some of the other readers picked up on. You said girls-only. How do girls-only fit in with inclusion?

It’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked that. In certain spaces, you are used to being a minority if you’re one of the few. That could be an executive team. Maybe you’re the only woman or there are only 2 women on a team of 12, which happens a lot. That’s the stats right now. You’re usually 1 or 2 on an executive team or if you’re in an industry like mining or skilled trades, which is a male-dominated space, you’re probably the only woman on the crew.

In those kinds of environments, it is helpful to have some women-only spaces because it takes away the work of being the only one. Imagine you’re the only woman on a construction crew. You’re the only woman at the executive table. I’m telling you, it’s extra work to be that only. Maybe you’re the only person of color, maybe you’re the only LGBTQ+ person. Whatever it is being an only is a lot of work or one of the minority.

BYW 40 | Women In Leadership
Women In Leadership: In those kinds of environments, it is helpful to have some women-only spaces because it takes away the work of being the only one.


It’s helpful in those situations to have some, in this case, women-only or girls-only spaces because in that case, you don’t have to do that extra work. It’s like the first story I told about working with a male co-instructor on a sea kayaking expedition. When I’m working with women on a sea kayaking expedition, it takes the whole gender binary dynamic out of it for a little while. I don’t have to worry about it.

The same might be true of men-only spaces. I don’t know because I haven’t been in them, but I’ve certainly seen that magic happen in women-only spaces, whether that’s leadership development, skilled trades, or whatever the environment might be. There are lots of places we don’t need that, but there are some places I think we still do.

How do you feel about men-only groups? They’re frowned on right now. If you have a men-only club, it’s frowned on. If you have a men-only golf club, they are frowned on. If you have a men-only business group, it’s f frowned on. “I want to join.” How do you balance that if it’s supposed to be inclusive? I want to take a second to thank you for answering all these challenging questions because I’ve never had an opportunity to ask these kinds of questions and get answers without all kinds of emotion involved.

It’s so good. I am not saying we don’t need men-only spaces. We need a healthy men-only space where men can be whole human beings including emotions and the whole picture. I don’t know if all men’s spaces are like that. They’re probably a mix. Some are, and some aren’t. The difference is when it is the socially dominant group.

If it’s a men-only space in a society that is male-dominated, which we have now. We still have a more patriarchal male-dominated society, it’s a little different because you have a different goal with your men-only group than you do with your women-only group. The women-only group is trying to move from a marginalized position to be able to be one of many. That’s not the case with men-only groups.

This could also be true of a lot of the people that I work with who are doing anti-racism work. They say, “We need spaces for people of color to gather or we don’t have to explain anything to anybody. We don’t have to explain it to people who have never had that experience. We can talk to each other and it takes some of the weight and some of the pressure off.” Whereas, if we were to say the same thing, “Let’s have White-only spaces,” it would be perceived very differently. It depends on which end of the dominant marginalized spectrum you’re on and what you need from that space.

It’s interesting because you are only looking at it from one perspective, which is the minority perspective but you’re not looking at it from the majority perspective. Let’s say the men’s club, the executive group has 1 woman or 2 women in it. It’s not easy for them either. It’s not easy to have a woman in the group because the dynamics change. An all-guys group is totally different than you throw a couple of women in there. They’ve got to deal with that too. It’s a one-sided affair.

That’s where it’s good to come back to things like human rights law or policy or things like that where we can say, “What’s reasonable here?” It’s reasonable to say that in a business setting, we potentially could have an equal number of men and women in leadership roles or that we would have representative people of color in leadership roles.

In an ideal world, would you say, “It’s 50/50 men to women, so we need to have 50% in leadership, men to women?” I don’t know all the percentages of Black and Asians. Let’s say it’s 30% Black. Now, 30% has to be Black. Do you believe that life should be fair?

It’s a goal. It’s idealistic. I grant you that but I do think it’s an interesting shift in perspective when we start to think about it that way. Why not? What are the arguments not, and I know that there’s some upskilling that might need to happen for people who haven’t had those roles in the past? There’s also some great research that’s showing that this idea that we don’t have enough qualified women or we don’t have enough qualified people of color is being debunked too.

How is that different than a socialistic view? Why would I work hard to get to the top when it’s supposed to be fair and I’m not supposed to be able to get to the top if I’m at the top, then it’s not fair? Maybe I started at a different level and I got here because of my skin color, my parents, or whatever. Why would I bother to work hard?

You’re asking a question that, for example, women and people of color, and other marginalized groups have probably been asking themselves for a long time but they haven’t, though.

They have.

Not at scale.

It won’t ever be at scale.

I don’t know. I am still idealistic enough to hope that it will. I don’t see why it shouldn’t. I don’t see why. If we’re going to use gender math, which is easy math because it’s 50/50. I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t aspire to have 50% of all leadership roles be women. There are great benefits to it. There are tons of research behind it.

Can you see how confusing what you are saying could be to somebody? It’s because we go round and round. “We got binary, but we don’t want binary. It’s 50/50, but we don’t want to use 50/50 because we don’t want to say there are men and women. We want to say there’s a spectrum of gender. We want to talk 50/50 when it’s to our advantage, but we don’t want to talk 50/50 when it’s not to our advantage to talk that way. We want to talk spectrum.

We still live in a gender-binary society fundamentally. I don’t want to, but I feel like we got to work with what we’ve got. We fundamentally live in a gender-binary society. There’s no way we’ll achieve gender equity unless we level set that and say, “Here’s the gender binary that is inherent everywhere in our society.”

It’s not. You don’t want it that way.

No, I don’t want it to be that way. What I would like is for this is going to happen in steps. First, we can start talking about ideas of equality and equity, and say, “Given that the gender binary is not dissolving anytime soon.” We’re making some interesting movements on the gender binary with things like non-binary trends. We’re starting to pick away at the gender binary, but it’s still alive and well. Working with what we have, which right now is a pretty deep gender binary in everything in our world, let’s move towards equality in that. On the road there, let’s also question the ideas of how binary we need to be. It’s complicated.

It’s very complicated and confusing. I don’t even know what to think about it, but it’s out there and it’s a mission that you have. I think it’s going to continue. Last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever given or the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice I was ever given was given to me by my mom who’s not an advice giver. This was a rare event and I was struggling to decide what to do next as a young person. She said, “Just do something right. Take a step and then you’ll take another step and you’ll take another step. Nothing is irrevocable. You can change your mind. Just start doing things and see and learn that way.” That stuck with me. We can’t get paralyzed by these things. We got to take a step. It won’t be perfect. That’s okay. Take a step.

Just do something right. Take a step, and then you'll take another and another. Nothing is irrevocable. You can change your mind. Just start doing things and see and learn that way. Click To Tweet

You can’t steer a parked car, right?

That’s right.

Thank you so much, Belinda, for being here and coming to the show. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and I love how open you are to talk about everything. You can ask anything and we’ve been able to have a conversation without emotion and drama.

I so appreciated it too. Thank you so much.

If people are interested in what you are doing, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?

They can go to the website, because we’re up in Canada and probably the best entry point is there’s a book page there. We’ve published a book about women in leadership and that’s probably a great place to start to get to know the work that we’re doing around women in leadership.

Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you.

It is time for our last segment, which is Guess Their Why. For this week, I want to use Tom Cruise. What do you think Tom Cruise’s why is? He’s part of Scientology and has been in lots of movies. He had a big blockbuster come out again with Top Gun. He’s been in so many different movies even when he was a kid. I’ll tell you what I think it is. I think his why is the same as our guest in this episode which is a better way. I think he’s always looking for a better way. He sees Scientology as a better way and that’s what I’m guessing. I wish I knew.

If you know Tom Cruise, connect me with him and we’ll find out but that’s what I’m guessing Tom Cruise’s why is. Let me know what you think and thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why or WHY.os, you could do so at You can use the code PODCAST50. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe below. Leave us a review on whatever platform you’re using so that we can bring this to more people. I will see you next week. Have a great week.


Important Links


About Belinda Clemmensen

BYW 40 | Women In LeadershipI help leaders dig into your own leadership potential, learn from other ground-breaking leaders, and gain the confidence to show up as the leader you want to be.

Today’s workforce has changed and traditional leadership models no longer fit. Most of what we’ve been taught about leadership is based on a reality that no longer exists and certainly doesn’t represent the future of leadership.

At Women’s Leadership Intensive we provide leadership development programs BY women, FOR women. Our mission is to inspire, empower, support and equip women to lead the change the world needs.

At Leader Coach Intensive we provide ICF accredited coach certification training for leaders in business and organizations. Our program is built on a set of values that has humanness at the core, while strongly anchoring in a practical application to business.


Marketing, Media And The WHY Of Contribute With Travis Brown

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute


Someone who embodies the WHY of Contribute wants to be part of a more significant cause – something bigger than them. They don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause, but they want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. Travis Brown, the CEO of Mojo Up Marketing + Media, uses his time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations. To Travis, to contribute is an equal success. Therefore, the idea of saying “No” falls on deaf ears, or worse yet, it makes you feel guilty. The key to overcoming this challenge is identifying where you can make the most significant contributions and then committing to focusing your efforts on those areas. Tune in to this inspiring episode to hear more from Travis!

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Marketing, Media And The WHY Of Contribute With Travis Brown

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the Why of Contribute, to contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily need to be the face of the cause, but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way.

You love to support others and relish successes that contribute to the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories. You are often behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations.

In this episode, I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Travis Brown. He is the CEO of Mojo Up Marketing & Media. Mojo Up is an MBE-certified, Black-owned, and minority-operated full-service brand marketing agency that is made up of a diverse and talented team of marketing professionals and creatives. Their focus is to tell the story, shape the brand, and guide the marketing future for their clients as they make their greatest impact by using their greatest asset, their own authenticity. Travis, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Gary. I’m excited to talk about how we make this impact in this world.

Where are you now? What city are you in?

I live in Fishers, Indiana, which is right outside of Indianapolis in the gray area of Indiana.

I’ve been to Indianapolis twice and something stood out to me, which was the size of the potholes in the street. I don’t know if that was only when I happened to be there or what but I had never in my life seen potholes like that.

It’s amazing that with all the technology and everything that they figured out in this world, they have not figured out how to fix those potholes to last longer than one season. It’s a heck of a business. I wish I were in that paving business because you never run out of potholes to fill.

For the people that have never been to Indianapolis, explain the size of those potholes.

You can step your whole foot in it. It will ruin your morning on the way to work because if your car hits it, you’re on the side of the road calling your AAA trying to figure it out. They are significant for sure.

Where I was, they were the size of trash cans. They were huge. The whole side of the road was gone. That may have been just when I was there. Let’s go back to your life. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school, Travis?

I’m from Lafayette, Indiana, the home of the Purdue Boilermakers. I grew up in that era but in high school, I was a three-sport athlete. I would say twelve varsity letters, baseball, basketball, and football, and my life was consumed with sports. It was the first place that I was able to get outside of our family’s poverty, the fact that I grew up with only me and my mom primarily.

To some of the dysfunctional things that were happening in our family, sports gave me a way out. It gave me a place to excel. It gave me a place for people to see me as something that I wasn’t off the court and I liked that. I spent a lot of time diving into sports. I was pretty good. It created a lot of opportunities and probably a more equal playing field for me as I navigated through high school.

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Sports gave me a way out. It gave me a place to excel.


First of all, let’s stay in high school for a minute. What were you like as a friend or as a teammate? What would people have said about you back in high school?

What was cool is that when you see people in your adult life that say, “You stood up for me. You sat by me. You did something.” Because of my athletic status, I had a level of influence solely because I was an athlete. I wasn’t a very good student but I still had something on the inside of me that never sit right to watch people make fun of other people.

Now, I’m old. This was way before we talked about bullying the way that we do in this environment. I was a kid who was willing to help people and do things that were different because I felt like I was different. I’m a biracial child. I have a White mom and a Black dad. I went to a school of 1,500 kids and there were only five people of color in that entire school. We were different. You then tack poverty into that scenario.

It’s always felt like that outcast outside of sports. I was the kid that wanted to see everybody be good and do it. I was ultra-competitive and that probably drove some of my negative side of me. I was always competing in every way, shape, or form unless it was with my grades because I didn’t compete with those. Outside of that, as people see me now in my adult life, it’s been great to hear him echo, “You’ve always been like that. You have always been the motivational guy and the helper.”

It is right in line with contribute which is what we were talking about. You graduated from high school. Did you go off to college?

I did. I accepted a college scholarship to play at Illinois State where I was going to play baseball and football. I found myself in an environment that wasn’t conducive for me. One night, I packed up all of my stuff and quit in the middle of the night the full scholarship, going to school for free, and living out what my dream was. Before I realized it, there was trying to figure out what to do next in my life. I got a call from Purdue University. They said, “Come walk on. We think you can still play here.”

I did that and I did something that not many people have done in their life. I became a two-time college dropout. When you do that, now you have no education. It was the late ’90s and you were trying to find your way. I was working at the pawnshop and I remember asking myself this question, “How did I get here? I’m not supposed to be here.”

Maybe as a statistic, I was, but not in my mindset. I was supposed to do something bigger, go on, and represent my family in a way that we’ve never been represented, which was a college graduate and a success. I was at that crossroads that every single person gets to in some way, which is, “How do I get out of here?”

What did you do?

Interestingly enough, I connected with some people at the time that were in the Amway business. The one thing that it did for me is it helped me understand the value of continuing education, tapes, books, learning, self-development, and empowerment. I learned how to stand in front of people and speak. It fueled me to go, “I don’t have the traditional path as everybody else, which I never did, but I can still be something.”

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Understand the value of continuing education, tapes, books, learning, self-development, and empowerment.


It started me down the path of going, “How do you help other people get what they want? How do you help motivate people to see this more in life? How do you take your situation and turn it around?” Unbeknownst to me, that became my life’s commitment to not only helping myself get into a situation that I wanted to be in but helping other people.

Through Amway, you got into personal development and personal growth.

Yeah, because back in the late ’90s, when I was involved in that, it was all about out listening to tapes and there’s just education. It was personal development. How could you get better? It was reading Think and Grow Rich, The Magic of Thinking Big, and all of these books that I’d never wanted to read ever. Now, here I was 19 or  20 years old consuming all of this information and content. It set me up for who I am now.

Isn’t that fascinating? It’s so common to hear that the turning point for people that are not on the right path to getting on the right path is personal growth, being a book.

It’s either a book, a connection, or a person that does it. Nowadays, it’s a podcast or a social media clip that you’re scrolling. You watch it and it touches you. Back then, we didn’t have some of that stuff. It was that book or that person who took a few minutes to invest in you and your thought process and give you that good old like, “You can make it. It’s your choice.”

Did you start with Amway? How were you with Amway and what happened to that career?

It’s funny because I knew I was going to retire a gazillionaire in that business and it didn’t happen that way but it led me to the connections that got into the mortgage business. At an early age, 21 years old, I was in the mortgage business. I had a ten-year stint in that business. It led me to even start my own mortgage company, which I sold, and then I became a VP at a large mortgage broker in Indiana and across the country.

It was at that point in time of my life that I was taking that whole personal development and the training acumen that I developed, but then I had to put my leadership style and stuff to the test. When I was 25 or 26 years old, leading 25 to 30 people in an organization in a sales climate fueled this desire to go empowering people and also create an opportunity for myself to make money as I’ve never made my life before, which is tough to handle. There’s some negativity with that as well but it started me on that path and down the right direction.

You went from Amway to mortgage. You were there for ten-plus years? What happened? Was this right when the mortgage business crashed?

Right before that, I got out in 2007. The reason why I got out was that I love sales training. That was my thing in the mortgage business and I took a bunch of my guys to this sales training. The guy tried to bring people up in front and embarrass them to teach them how they need to do sales training. My guys were looking at me like, “You got to go up there.” I go up in front of my guys. I shut the guy down. We all high-fived and laughed about it but it was that day that I realized, “That’s what I wanted to do.” I just didn’t know if that was possible or how to do that.

That’s what led me to launch my motivational speaking career, which I did spend many years collectively and even now, on the speaking circuit traveling the entire country. It led me to a fun space. I did a passion project on anti-bullying. I became the most booked anti-bullying speaker in the country. All of that was still part of who I am in helping impact people in their lives.

You are continually helping others do better and pushing their limits so that they can have a bigger impact.

That’s the warm, fuzzy version of that, which is all true but I was also battling that entire time, “Who am I? Can I do this?” It’s the imposter syndrome that people often talk about like, “I’m in these rooms. I’m doing this, but I’m struggling financially at different times.” I was working so much in the mortgage business at the time that it costs me my first marriage. It’s understanding that you can have all this money, you can work yourself to death and you can work in a bad culture but that has its lifecycle.

You can have all this money, work yourself to death, and work in a bad culture, but that has its life cycle. Click To Tweet

I remember going, “I’m not the pawnshop anymore,” but I’m at another place in my life where I’m going, “How did I get here?” This isn’t where I wanted to be either but I didn’t know because the money which I was chasing, alongside this burn to help people come along with me, was reaching a boiling point. That was a tough time in my life for me to recognize, “Who are you, and when you grow up, who do you want to be?”

Because you found success in business, did it make you immune to all the typical problems everybody faces?

No. It ran me faster right into them. What’s more dangerous than a 25-year-old making several hundred thousand dollars a year who’s never had money, who came from poverty, and who never saw his parents handle money? Now, you go through a new rich phase where you’re buying stuff and you have cars, houses, Rolexes, money, and stuff because that’s what you thought was a success.

You’ve chased it and you want it, but you left so many bodies and baggage behind. You didn’t do it the wrong way like it was unethical, but it wasn’t family-centered. It wasn’t others-centered. I was helping people to get what I wanted and to get me to a point where I was successful. That’s where a lot of people chase success.

Zig Ziglar may have had the right mindset, which was, “If I can help as many other people get what they want, then I’ll get what I want,” but that gets misconstrued a lot to manipulation to get you to do what I need you to do for my own benefit. Before you realize it, you’re in a spot. You’re making money, but you’ve had to sacrifice. Everything that you said was valuable.

People do this all the time. They say, “My family is my number one priority,” but you don’t see any real resemblance to that. Growing up, my dad was a great guy. He was a better dad to me than his dad was to him, but it wasn’t very good. My mom was doing the best that she could, but I didn’t have a lot of those examples of understanding money in its place, also, people in its place, and how to save, value, and do things that I’ve never been taught. There I was, short of 30 years old going, “This is not what I thought it was going to be,” and having to make another major decision at that time.

What was the turning point for you? Take us to that moment when you said, “This is not it?”

It was right at the crossroads after I talked about that training incident where I had to decide what I want to do. I knew that the mortgage could provide money, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me. I left that behind to go chase my dream of being a motivational speaker. It was a long, hard road of going from making a lot of money to trying and figuring out how to build a business and how to learn the skill. I was traveling all over the place.

Now, I was speaking and training, but I was developing something. I was creating an opportunity for myself. Before I realized it, I’m like, “This is where I was supposed to be.” All of that failure and I’m a big believer that failure gets you places. All of those setbacks, hard knocks, and poor decisions have all brought me to this place where I get a chance that most people don’t get and that’s to rebuild it the right way.

What was the best part and the worst part of being a motivational speaker?

The worst is easy. It’s the travel. I joke with people and I say, “You don’t pay me to speak. You pay me to travel.” You come to my house on a Saturday afternoon. You bring in your whole team and you show up on my backstep, but I’ll talk to you for 30 minutes for little than nothing. If you want me to leave my family, get on an airplane, travel, stay overnight deal with TSA and all that stuff, and be gone, you’re paying me to travel.” That was the worst part.

Also, the loneliness of that too, because it’s not that glamorous. I can think of all these wonderful places where I got to go by myself without my wife or my kids. That was never glamorous, but the most beneficial thing is this. I almost think almost every motivational speaker would probably echo this if it’s about the one. What you quickly realize is when you walk into a room with an audience where there are thousands of people or hundreds of people and you’re giving everything to it.

You know you can’t change everybody. You can’t inspire everybody no matter how great your message is, but there’s always one. When they come up to you afterward or you’re down the road, several years. They were the ones that, in my world, were thinking about suicide. They were thinking about walking away from a marriage. They were thinking about, “How can I go on?” They were thinking about they were not good and valuable enough.

You can't change everybody. No matter how great your message is, you can't inspire everybody, but there's always one. Click To Tweet

Through my transparency of my own failure, encouraging people to do what they never thought they could do, became this badge of honor for me to say, “God didn’t do all that stuff to me. He was trying to do it through me so I could help other people on the other side.” Once you realize that, you feel so on fire for the purpose that it drives you to leave your family, get on those planes, and go do that for years.

You did that for ten years. What was the turning point to say, “I’m done being a motivational speaker? Off to my next thing.”

I have three beautiful kids and I have an incredibly beautiful wife who loves and have supported me through all of this in the last few years. My oldest was getting to be in late middle school or freshman high school. I have two littles. I had this epiphany one day and this is about my oldest, more so than my two littles but I’m like, “I don’t want my kids to look at me and be like, ‘My dad was amazing. He was out there trying to save the world, but he was never home for me,’” and that hit me.

She didn’t say it that way but because I had to leave so much to go help other people and to speak. I became enamored by the fact that I was on CNN, and headline news and speaking everywhere. I’m getting to do a lot of cool things making an impact but the one thing I said when I rebuild this is, “I’m going to do it right.” I felt like there was too much sacrifice for my family.

My wife was feeling like she was doing a lot on her own. She’s an executive herself. It was a crossroads and I was tired, I was worn out but my challenge was, “I know this is part of my purpose.” I’ve got too many people’s lives, thousands of people’s lives that’s been changed. How do I stay committed to that but not have to leave my family? The one thing you learn quickly about the motivational speaking business is that you better be a good marketer or you will starve.

It doesn’t matter how great your message is, if nobody hears it or knows you exist, they can’t book you. They can’t give you a check and all of a sudden, you’re broke and you can no longer do what you’re purposeful for. I had developed a lot of marketing skills. I had hired coaches. I decided I wanted to transition out of that.

A couple of my buddies had a mortgage company. I went back to the mortgage business. I used now my marketing skills to help them build a division that was super strong in the Indianapolis market. I didn’t have to travel very often. I got to do what I love, which was still helping people and helping stories and I got to be local. It was a perfect storm coming, “This is why you’re supposed to be here at this point in your life.”

Is that when you went on to start a Mojo Up?

Yeah. I did that for three years, working for them, and decided, “I wanted to tell stories.” In June 2019, I left and started Mojo Up Marketing & Media. A few months later, we were right in the middle of a pandemic, which I had to shift and try to figure out what does that mean. We had a video team. On March 1st, I hired a video production manager. I hired a CMO and a head of graphic design on March 1st and 18 days later, we were all shut down. I was trying to figure out how to make this all work.

How did you make it work?

Probably the word outside of COVID for 2020 and 2021 was pivot. You had to learn how to pivot. You had to say, “What can I do?” We did a bunch of virtual stuff and at that time, I still was speaking some, but not very often. I was speaking to sell our company or to pick up some checks while I was building the business a little bit but I have to go back to virtual. I learned how to build a strategy for people and people were trying to figure this out. “What do I do and how do I pivot?” We became a great arm for so many people to do that.

2020 was tough. 2021 got things rolling. Now, fast forward, I have ten full-time employees. I have three part-time employees. We have a 5,000-square-foot office here. We work with major brands to build and market them. It’s been a journey. When I look at it, Gary, all those things that I did all those years were just building blocks for what I do now, which is to help people tell their stories through authenticity so that they can make their greatest impact. Every person you meet is different, but whether it’s a non-profit, a corporate entity, or the city, they all have a purpose for existing, and we get to be a part of telling that story.

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Help people tell their stories through authenticity to make their greatest impact.


When you say you help people tell their stories through authenticity, what do you mean by that? Give us an example of what you mean.

When you sit down with somebody, a lot of times it’ll take people 20 or 30 minutes to try to get out like, “What problem are you solving? What makes you unique? What’s your proven process?” It is super important to articulate that brand value. We have a thing called a Brand Blueprint, where I sit in a room and I figure out what that problem-solving statement is. That’s all the content that we create and that we use in marketing that we help people understand and develop so they can use it to grow their business.

Whether you’re a coach, an author, an entrepreneur, or whether you’re in the corporate realm trying to figure out the DEI space, all of them are still struggling with that same thing, which is, “Who are we?” When I sit in a room with people, it’s easy for me outside and this is part of my own gifting. I would say, “God gave me two gifts. One is standing on the stage and speaking to people and the other is sitting in a room and figuring out how to build a strategy that helps people.”

When you put it together and people hear it, they see the light bulb goes off and they’re like, “I can say it that way. I’ve been struggling to share that.” The other piece of that is, as a speaker, the more authentic you are and the more vulnerable you are, the more people love you. The more they engage with you. The more real that experience is. I learned that through speaking. Now, I’m working with brands and not only personal brands but companies to go, “Let’s unpack your authenticity so people can see how amazing you guys are.”

The more authentic you are, the more vulnerable you are, the more people love you, the more they engage with you, and the more real that experience is. Click To Tweet

For those of you that are reading that know the Why.os, Travis’ why is contribute, but how he does that is by making sense out of complex and challenging things. Ultimately, what he brings are simple solutions to help people move forward. It tells us that you want to help people have a bigger impact by helping them understand who they are and deliver it in a simple way where other people get it. Does that feel right to you?

100%. In our world, we put brands in front of everything. It makes it sound better, but brand identity is like, “Who are you at your core?” We have core values as do many people, but most people don’t operate within core values. The reason why they’re called core is that it’s supposed to be who you are at your core. You hire, fire, reward, and punish for that. Everything is about that and building a culture. Some people have done a good job at that. The world just doesn’t know it.

Therefore, because the world doesn’t know it, they can’t monetize it financially and they can’t build a culture that can do bigger and better things because people aren’t attracted to that. A real thing that companies are struggling with is how we do that. How do we find that space? Especially now, what we help companies a lot is in attracting talent. There’s a war on talent, as they say. Your story is paramount to being able to attract that good talent. We can touch it in a lot of different ways, honestly.

How important is it to have the words to be able to articulate what makes your authenticity?

The best way I can explain that is, first of all, it’s super important and almost essential. I know that because when I use the wrong words with my wife, it doesn’t go very well. I’m like, “That’s not what I meant.” She’s like, “That’s what you said or you didn’t say.” We all know that context. If I say it well, people resonate with it and they want to be a part of that. When we don’t say it or we say it wrong, you get the opposite. People begin to repel to who you are or how you represent.

One of the things I learned in my tenure of growth was this. I don’t believe you should compartmentalize your world. This is my own philosophy. That means the same Travis Brown you’re getting on this show is the same one that’s going to walk right out into his office with my team or go to have dinner with my wife, my mother, my kids, and my buddies. I’m that guy all the time.

The reason why it’s so important is that in 2022 and 2023, in this era that we’re living in, the difference is that people don’t want to buy companies without knowing who they are. We will not buy something because of what the company stands for or we’ll buy a lot more because of what the company stands for. That’s why in this environment, being able to articulate what that is, is so important to the success or failure of your business.

You walk people through a process to help them understand what they stand for at their core and then help them articulate it in a simple way where others get it quickly and can make a decision whether I like you or I don’t like you. I want to do business with you or I don’t want to do business with you. I resonate or I don’t resonate.

Let me give you a little clarity there. Most people already know who they are. They’re living it, but they don’t know how to articulate it in a way that other people go, “That’s what you do. That’s who you are. I had no idea.” There are people sitting next to you in rows in church, in baseball and softball games, or in transit and they don’t know who you are and what you do, and how you can help them or other people.

There are so many businesses that if they did a much better job articulating that through their design or videos that ultimately show up on their website, social media, or media buy. When they’re able to put that message in front of people and people can consume it, it’s like, “Yes, I want to work with you. I want what you have. I’ve been looking for it. I just didn’t know that’s what you did.”

The right message gets the right response.

Let me say this. One of the things that we can take and what President Trump and every president taught us is that you still only need 51% of the vote. This isn’t even a political statement. This means that you need to know who your audience is and you have to appeal to your audience. When you get your audience to know who you are, whoever that is, it doesn’t matter if the other 49% doesn’t like you or doesn’t engage with you.

Now, I’m not a proponent of making them matter or doing bad things to them. I’m simply trying to point out to people that when you understand your authenticity, it’s okay to say, “Here’s who we are. Here’s who we want. Here’s what we don’t want.” When brands start to do that, does it propel them into greater success by owning who they are and not worrying about who they’re not?

I bet that’s scary for companies to dive into because they want to focus on what we’re doing here. We don’t want to know why we’re doing it or what we are at our core. Let’s talk about our product over here.

They’re like, “Can we get to the end result?” I’m like, “Yes, but let me tell you how we get there. We got to do this strategy thing, then we’re going to do some design stuff and we’re going to have to shoot some video around it. We’re going to craft this message and then we’re going to put it on your social and on here and tell the story.”

It’s not an overnight fix. If you’re trying to get out of this or you’re trying to even, “We’re doing good. We want to go to great.” There’s not an easy button to push that just allows you to get there. One of the things that good companies do is understand their niche. When you understand your niche, it allows you to double down on a specific thing that allows you to be known for that and people can embrace that a lot more than if you don’t.

It sounds like you use the story quite a bit. Why so?

If you think about what Walt Disney said many years ago, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video with a great story is worth 1 million. It’s a culture that we live in. We want to understand the narrative. We want to understand who somebody is. We want to understand what a company believes. We want to feel it. The movie industry has been a gazillion-dollar industry for all of our lives and what do they do? They tell stories.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And if a picture's worth a thousand words, a video with a great story is worth a million. It's just a culture that we live in. Click To Tweet

For years, on an individual and a company level, we felt that’s not our job. If we make a great product or service, they will come. I’m telling you, there’s been a lot of people that built it and they didn’t come because it’s the story around it. If you think about the movie business, here’s the power of the story. Most of the time, we go watch movies based on a trailer. It’s in 1 minute and 30 seconds, a version of this movie where they capture the who, the what, the where, the why, and the suspense.

It’s drama filled and action-packed but you’re compelled to say, I want more of that. You then go give them your $22 for you and one person to go get tickets to a movie and some popcorn to be able to see it all but that story. That’s the articulation of a story that’s compelling and that gets people engaged. One of the things that are an obstacle for people, and this is what I dealt with when I was motivational speaking, is they don’t believe they have a worthy story to tell.

Do you have to work with them on figuring their story out?

Yeah. Because most Americans in general, we’ve grown up in this ideology that we don’t want to be arrogant. We don’t want to brag about ourselves. Most of us have been raised on that and marketing feels like a lot of people bragging about themselves. It’s counterintuitive for them to now create a campaign. That’s why it’s very difficult for people to do their own marketing because I’m going to look at you and say, “This whole White thing, you got to do this and this with it.” You’re like, “I don’t want to feel arrogant. I don’t want to feel boastful.”

I’m saying, “I don’t want you to feel that either but if the world knows about it, they’re going to engage. They’re going to be on board with it.” We got to convince people many a time that it’s a big component of this thing. I’m using this phrase, “telling this story,” but it’s giving people some understanding of who you are and what you do, and why you do it.

I had on the show a gentleman who was voted the number one marketer in the world. He told me, “I can help anybody with how to brand and market their business, but I could not figure out my own. I had to hire somebody to come work with me. I felt like a loser.” He said, “I’m supposed to be the expert and I could not figure it out for myself for the life of me,” and that’s just the way it is, right?

100%. For any of your readers that have kids, people that get kids that get it, or even a spouse. You can tell your spouse something all the time and it’s like, “It doesn’t resonate as hard as when somebody else does. I think that’s where we all live. I take myself through the same process that I take everybody else through.

My coach taught me something a long time ago. He’s like, “You got to be Mojo Up that’s talking to Travis Brown on what you need to do. You can’t go in the mindset being, ‘I’m Travis Brown trying to talk about myself in the third person and come up with a narrative. It will feel too awkward for you to do that.’” Most people have to hire an outside company, even the best of the best. I’ve done it in spots where we’ve been stuck to help them think through it but here’s the thing.

We get that in almost every other realm. That’s why we hire a coach for our kids for sports and somebody that’s doing our weight training and somebody to do like X, Y, and Z. There are people that are called and have a high level of skill to do something very specific that can help you. I wish more people were willing to tap into that and say, “I’m not good at this. My philosophy is, ‘I call it, pay the man or woman to do something way better than I could.’” If I’m doing it, I’m going to jack it up. It’s not going to work right and then I’m going to have to pay them anyway after I’ve already messed up.

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: Some people are called and have a high skill to do something very specific that can help you.


Tell us about the name Mojo Up.

Mojo came from when I was speaking. I had established this whole idea around the things that “It” leaders did. I felt like there were leaders. Some leaders had “it” and some people leaders didn’t. I didn’t want to go around and build a whole business off of speaking around it factor so I called it the mojo factor. I had these factors of what great leaders did that others didn’t and great cultures had that others didn’t. That then became the basis for that.

It’s funny because I used to speak all the time and one old lady in the front row of one of my public seminars one day is like, “Hey, Mr. Mojo Guy.” Another lady did it and I thought, “Huh.” That was the formation of Mr. Mojo, which was part of my speaking persona. That then rolled into our company of Mojo Up as speaking, coaching, and consulting. When I went into marketing, I was thinking, “What am I going to call my marketing company?” I thought, “Why would I change exactly what I’ve already called myself and the brand for the last few years?” We stuck with Mojo Up.

Who would be an ideal client for Mojo Up? For the people that are reading, who would you like to have connected with you? What companies?

We do three main types of services that connect with people. One is more of the small business brand refresh. You’ve started down a path. You’ve been trying to do some stuff. You’re successful and you may be doing well, but now, you’re ready to go to the next level. You realize that the logo that you initially did on Fiverr is not enough or the design that your brothers, uncles, or sister did something for you is not enough.

By enough, I simply mean you’re going after accounts now where people are like, “You got to be on point and your stuff has to look great.” It’s the same thing with video, your social media, and your website.” We come in. We build that strategy and we turnkey all of it and say, “Here’s a refresh of who you are, what you do, and how well you do it.” That’s client number one.

Client number two is more of a mid-market with the corporate side of things. Now, you’re talking corporate and C-Suite executives that are probably going, “We have a story to tell, but we can’t figure out how to tell it.” You see a lot of this. For us, it’s in the DEI area. We spend a lot of time helping people understand how to track that talent, how to create that culture, and how to crystallize it so that people go, “I want to work there. I want to be a part of that.”

We have a whole group of diverse and talented team members and we’re very diverse in the way we look, the way we think, and the way we operate and age. We’re able to tell a client’s story not because Travis Brown is great but because Travis Brown has a team of people that are great that have so many different vantage points that we can come together and build that messaging. The second one is the enterprise-level type of client. The third one is individual services. We have people that go, “I need A.” It could be a logo. It could be a podcast show created. Whatever that thing is inside the marketing realm, we have the ability to turnkey that solution for you.

You have tapped into the power of diversity.

When people talk about diversity, it means a lot of things to people. For us, I wanted to build what I wanted the world to look like. We have a lot of racial diversity that’s visible to the eye where people can see that. We have some religious diversity that was very new to me to embrace, very male-female diverse. Our youngest is a recent college graduate who’s phenomenally talented. We got 50-plus people in there. We have experience differences. If I go down the line, I could check all the boxes at some level and say, “We have this diversity, but why?”

People talking about diversity means a lot of things to people. Click To Tweet

It matters to our end clients and they’re trying to figure out how to market to all of us. If it was only me times ten sitting in a room, I’m so limited in thought and perspective that I can’t be as good as anybody else. If I don’t have people that come from my background, the poverty, the driving of money, we have all of those things. What that means to our clients is that you have somebody that gets you, but equally as important, gets your clients and could help you connect and engage.

I don’t know if this is a fair question or not and I don’t even know if you want to answer this question or not, but it popped into my head because of the way you described diversity. Would you be able to tell which type of diversity has been the most beneficial or most helpful for your company? Has it been racial diversity, age diversity, or education diversity? Is that a fair question? You can say no if it’s not. That’s okay.

It’s a fair question because people have it. That’s what makes it a fair question. I don’t think we could pick any one of those to say it helps us create value outside of here. The easy answer is that our racial diversity is what brings the attention. Number one, we’re a Black-owned marketing agency. We’re the largest Black agency in Indiana. We have thirteen people. We have six Black males. Six Black males don’t probably exist in many companies in Indiana alone, let alone in size of 13, 2 black females, 2 people of Asian descent, and White. That is a visual makeup. We have a gal who’s Muslim, so just by her outer appearance.

Those things create buzz around people looking at us and can noticeably see that diversity. What I’m more excited about is yes to that because it doesn’t exist, but secondarily what that means. That means we bring such an array of different thoughts that ultimately is what makes our product that we put out so different than the people that we’re competing against in our market.

BYW 35 | WHY Of Contribute
WHY Of Contribute: We bring an array of different thoughts that ultimately make the product we put out so different from the people we’re competing against in our market.


It’s interesting because diversity has a different meaning for so many different people. For some, it’s a positive. For some, it’s a negative but the way you explain diversity was positive in the ability to think, see, and connect differently. Sometimes, you don’t get that definition when you’re talking about high schools or middle schools. It’s a forced diversity versus, “We wanted to have different perspectives, opinions, and insight. I don’t know everything. I got to see it from different angles.” I like the way you talked about it.

There’s so much scarcity around this conversation and transparently, if you’re in a majority, I understand some of that thought process of like, “What is this going to mean for me and what does this do?” Our campaign in 2020 and 2023 is called diverse and talented, not diverse or talented. So many people had this mindset that if I’m choosing diversity, then that means I must be choosing less talented and it’s not the case. It’s “and.” It’s about being able to have both.

However, for people that had to look around and do that, sometimes it creates a little bit of fear. Sometimes that creates some unknown. Where our world is going, we have to be more receptive to things that are different. We’re starting to do a better job with diversity. The real scary thing for people is equity. If you’re talking DEI, the equity portion is, “Are we willing to provide different sets of resources for different people to get them all to be at their best?”

The hardest shift that we’re still seeing is because we think equality is the answer, but it’s not. It’s about equity, which means, “I may have to do things.” As parents, we know this. If you’re a parent, you already know this. I’ve got three kids. There’s no equality to it. It’s equity because this one, I have to do this for. This one, I do something different for, and this one, I do something completely different to get them all to the same exact level. That’s what we’re saying in the workplace. That’s what’s going to take to create opportunities to make the biggest impact and change our world.

If there are people that are reading that want to get ahold of you and want to follow you to learn more about Mojo Up, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

It’s easy. It’s It’s our website, but it’s also all of our social media handles. You can reach out to me at Feel free to email me. If people go and they start to watch what I do on LinkedIn, watch our Instagram and see some of the things that I’m putting out, there are two things I would tell people. One is to figure out if you can do that yourself. If you can do that yourself, then you do not need me or our team. Secondly, if you can’t do it yourself, then the question becomes, what would it look like if I hired Mojo Up or somebody like us?

Travis, thank you so much for being here. Talking with you reminds me of the quote from Steve Jobs, which is, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking back,” and you’ve talked about that a lot. There are so many things that happened to you. You didn’t know why, but now that you are where you are, you can look back and say, “That’s why that happened.” You’ve come an amazing way and I love what you’re doing. I’m looking forward to staying in touch and following you.

Thanks for having me, Gary. I want to encourage everybody that you can make it. You can do it. You can be it. I’ve always loved helping people achieve things that they didn’t think were possible and although I may not be the one to lead you to it, there’s somebody in your sphere of influence that can help you get to where you’re going to go. You got to ask and then you can get there.

You can make it. Do it. You can be it. Click To Tweet

Thank you, man. Thanks for being here.

Thanks for having me.

It’s time for the segment, Guess Their Why and this is a person that some of you are going to know and maybe not all of you are going to know. His name is Joe Polish. I met him at an event that I was speaking at. He was speaking there as well. We got a chance to sit and talk, but I didn’t know a whole lot about him other than I knew he was a good marketer.

He wrote a book called Piranha Marketing, but I found out after the fact that he is known as being the most connected person in the world. He knows everybody. He is good friends with everybody and it turned out that a couple of days after I met him, a movie came out about him and it was called Connected. The book Who Not How was written about him in the power of knowing people and connecting with people.

I did send him the Why.os discovery so we will know his Why.os but I’m going to guess. If you know him, then you’ll appreciate it but I’m going to guess that his why is to contribute. To contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others because he cannot help himself from contributing to others’ success. When we were having lunch, there were other people at the table with us and he almost went around the table and tried to figure out how he could help everybody. He wants to help and he’s very much about giving. Be the giver. Give First. I believe that his why is going to come back as contribute.

I’ll get back to you and see if you know him. I’d love to hear what you think, but soon in the next couple of days, I’m going to know and I’ll be back and let you all know what I came up with. If you enjoyed this episode, please make sure that you leave us a review on whatever platform you are using. If you’ve not yet discovered your why, you can do so at and use the code PODCAST50. Please go to whatever platform you are using and subscribe. Leave us a review because it’ll help bring this to more and more people. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you next week.


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About Travis Brown

BYW 35 | WHY Of ContributeTravis Brown is the CEO of Mojo Up Marketing + Media. Mojo Up is an MBE certified, black-owned and minority-operated, full service, brand marketing agency that is made up of a diverse and talented team of marketing professionals and creatives. Our focus is to tell the story, shape the brand, and guide the marketing future of our clients as the make their greatest impact by using their greatest asset – their own authenticity.