Antonia Hock | Most Transformational Women Leaders of the Year | Exeleon Magazine

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Transf o rmational WOMEN LEADERS OF THE YEAR

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A to ia Hock COVER STORY

Creating The Future of Experience



Founder of Antonia J.A. Hock & Associates, Inc.

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of fast-paced advancements and increasing complexities, the role of futurists and visionaries is to create a roadmap that drives innovation. The best and brightest companies tap these futurists to transform the way they go to market, and Antonia is leading this charge in the arena of Customer and Employee Experience. She has been heralded as a ground-breaking Luxury Futurist and credited with transforming the way companies serve customers and employees.

Transformation starts with leadership, and the qualities needed to lead now have changed dramatically. By nurturing relationships, articulating a compelling vision, and championing the growth of their team members, transformational leaders create an environment where extraordinary achievements are not just possible but inevitable. Antonia Hock is an example of one such transformational leader who believes in the power of action.

A world-renowned expert in customer and employee experience, Antonia has held executive roles at major tech companies like Microsoft, HP, and Siemens. Leveraging her years of experience working in the corporate space, she began Antonia J.A. Hock & Associates, a global consulting irm 14

that delivers employee, customer, and luxury experience design for companies that want to win on experience in their market.

Antonia's focus on action enables her as well as her team to not only envision but also actualize a future where exceptional customer and employee experiences are the norm, not the exception.

Fittingly, Antonia Hock features on the Cover of Exeleon Magazine's 2023 Edition of The Most Transformational Women Leaders of the Year. We recently sat down with Antonia to discuss her irm, the lessons she learned along the way, and the power of innovation to transform.

Q. What does being transformational mean to you? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

Transformation is about thinking ahead, looking around the corners, and not accepting the status quo just because it is the status quo. I am naturally curious, so I focus on asking questions that lead me to new ideas and exploring what would be possible if we thought freely and authentically. I believe that transformation must be rooted in action, so for me, being transformational is the intersection of bold ideas and execution that creates tangible E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E


I believe that transformation must be rooted in action, so for me, being transformational is the intersection of bold ideas and execution that creates tangible results.

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results. I pull this through my leadership style by encouraging authenticity - which often gives people the permission to tap into their best ideas - and then understanding that testing ideas means that sometimes failure will happen, but that is part of driving innovation.

Q. Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader / entrepreneur that you can remember?

My early years were spent in Athens, Greece, and like many Greek families, the local market was a big part of our lives. During Greek Easter, the market always had baby chicks for sale, and, as an animal lover, I desperately wanted a baby chick. My parents were against having a chick in our apartment for obvious reasons, but my godmother delighted me by purchasing the biggest desire of my 6-year-old heart. I knew from the beginning that my new baby chicken and my other prized pet, a lizard, were going to be best friends. I fashioned little leashes from string, so I could walk them together on the pavement outside our building. My irst lessons in leadership and life came from what happened on our walk. I was certain that we were going to have a beautiful family walk until my baby chicken grabbed my lizard by the tail, whacked him on the pavement a few times, and swallowed him whole. One friend just ate the other one. That day, I learned that things aren't always what they appear on the surface, everyone has their own agenda that might not be obvious, and just because you wish for the best team environment doesn't mean it will happen.

Q. From working with some of the leading tech companies to starting a global consulting irm to being globally recognized as an expert in customer and employee experience, what has the journey


been like for Antonia Hock? I would characterize this all as a journey of self-discovery. I am an “experience collector” by nature, and my time working across big technology companies, consulting irms, and multi-national hospitality irms taught me so much about process, capability, and taking calculated risk. This was all very valuable, but I was always thinking bigger, innovating in ways that made the establishment uncomfortable, and having to stop short of implementing the programs that I knew would have a big material impact. I decided inally that it was time to take my vision and ideas out to the market by founding my own irm, and I discovered that there were companies across the globe that are excited and ready to transform in innovative ways, rejecting the status-quo, and seeking new ways to lead their markets. Many have become my clients. I have never looked back.

Q. Looking back at this journey, what would you do differently if you were to start again? I bought into the traditional career model for too long, and I waited too long to leave. As I re lect, I had too many advisors and mentors who were whispering in my ear that I had a great career and leaving corporate America to found my own business was too risky. I let their agendas in luence my choices, until I decided one day that my passion, relentless drive, and vision deserved a chance to thrive.

Q. As the CEO Antonia J.A. Hock & Associates, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company? How do you ensure work-life balance?

I have an incredibly talented and trusted team that runs the day-to-day function of our irm,


“I was always thinking bigger, innovating in ways that made the establishment uncomfortable… it was time to take my vision and ideas out to the market by founding my own firm.”

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and I have always made hiring for culture, talent, and drive a core feature of growing our company. This global team gives me the latitude to spend time creating new intellectual property and working with our most strategic clients to design and implement transformational projects. I don't operate on a model of work/life balance. For me it is one big life, and everything is interconnected. For example, I take 2 hours most mornings to trail run in the desert, explore mountains, or rock climb, and during that time, I dream, create, and let my mind free-form design new concepts. I also take the occasional conference call, and my teams and clients know that we might be talking from 12,000 ft. That is part of living and working on a continuum. Q. How do you balance or align strategies that target both customer experience and employee experience enhancement?

Everything starts with engaged employees and a strong culture of empowerment and trust. When employees know that their creativity, authenticity, and talent are valued and appreciated, that is re lected in the experiences that they design and deliver to customers. It is a virtuous cycle that allows innovation to thrive while ensuring that pride in execution and results are core to the business.

Q. How do you want Antonia J.A. Hock & Associates to be remembered in the consultancy arena? What are you most excited about in the coming years?

Our irm is on the cutting edge of innovating luxury, designing experiences, and creating exceptional environments where employees, leaders, and customers all feel valued and thrive. We want to stay at the tip of the spear in these disciplines, so that our clients are always ahead of the market. Our goal is to work alongside our clients to create their future by implementing strategies that are at the forefront of both art and the science of our practices. We are thought leaders and futurists that also understand how to implement practical, structured tactics that drive sustainable results. As we move forward, I am excited to bring our groundbreaking work on the future of customer experiences from our consulting clients out to more entrepreneurs and broader industry.

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One Book Entrepreneurs must read – Faith, Hope, and Carnage from Nick Cave & Sean O'Hagan. The human condition is such a complex and powerful experience, and I believe in being inspired by authentic conversations.

One Productivity Tool / App that you use – TikTok is one of the most used apps on my phone. It's the number one search engine for GenZ for a reason, and I love the creativity, global accessibility, and insights. It's a controversial platform, but the sociologist, anthropologist, and technologist in me inds it fascinating on several levels.

One Quote that Motivates you the most – “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Winston Churchill

One Marketing Advice that you Follow – Be authentic. There is only one you.

One Experience that you're Grateful for – Being alone on the side of a mountain in a snowstorm at 14,000ft of altitude. The sense of fragility, being acutely alive, and empowered to use your own wisdom and knowledge for survival was a tremendous spiritual experience.

Photography – Marley Domeck



“When employees know that their creativity, authenticity, and talent are valued and appreciated, that is reflected in the experiences that they design and deliver to customers.”

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We Embrace Excellence! Exeleon Magazine features some of the leading players in business and shares their journey of excellence to inspire aspiring leaders across the globe.







ounded by Susie Taafe in 2019, Skanties offers a refreshing alternative to traditional, restrictive shapewear. The company stands out as a revolutionary brand, championing comfort and body positivity.

Susie's personal struggle with thigh cha ing, a common yet often ignored issue, sparked the inception of Skanties. Frustrated with the existing undergarment options that neglected comfort and body positivity, she envisioned a product that would address these gaps. Skanties emerged as a solution, promoting not just physical comfort but also empowering women to embrace their natural beauty.

What according to you makes one transformational? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

A transformational individual is someone who not only envisions change but also acts to actualize it, challenging the status quo and 22

inspiring others to move towards a collective goal. This person sees beyond the present, identi ies the potential for improvement, and innovates to bring about a future that others might not yet see.

In my leadership at Skanties, I embody this transformative spirit by actively seeking to revolutionize the way women experience both their bodies and the undergarments they wear. I integrate this by fostering a culture of innovation, inclusivity, and empathy within my team. We don't just create products; we strive to transform the everyday experience of our customers, inspiring them to love their bodies and feel con ident and comfortable. Every design decision, every piece of material chosen, and every message we share is imbued with the intention to empower and uplift, ensuring that our products are not just worn, but experienced.

By nurturing a brand that listens to and acts upon the real concerns of women, we are not E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E

Susie Taafe Founder & CEO Skanties

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only part of the conversation about body positivity, but actively pushing it forward. This commitment to transformation is at the heart of Skanties, driving us to challenge conventional beauty norms and create a world where comfort and con idence are accessible to all.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader / entrepreneur that you can remember? As a child, my irst taste of leadership and entrepreneurship came from a simple yet heartfelt project when I was just eight years old. Our neighborhood was full of busy parents, and I noticed they often rushed in the mornings. So, with a child's eagerness to help and a dash of creativity, I started putting together lunch box kits to sell. It was my own little business, right from our kitchen.

I remember being excited about organizing my order forms and 'stock' of sandwiches and healthy snacks, and the joy of handing them over to parents who seemed to have one less thing to worry about. This early adventure wasn't just about making a few extra pennies for candy. It was about spotting a problem and trying to ix it, even in a small way.

This experience was fun, but it also taught me so much about taking the lead and making decisions. It was fun and serious all at once, and it gave me a glimpse into what I could do when I set my mind to it. These childhood memories of leadership have in luenced my 24

journey with Skanties, where I've taken those early lessons of caring and solving problems into the heart of my business.

What was the pain point that led to the start of Skanties? Talk to us about how the company is empowering women with body positivity? The journey to Skanties began with a personal struggle—the discomfort of thigh cha ing under skirts and dresses, a problem that many women face but rarely talk about. Beyond the physical discomfort, it was the emotional discomfort that really struck a chord with me. The existing solutions were far from ideal, often involving restrictive, hot, and uncomfortable shapewear that didn't celebrate women's natural bodies.

I wanted to create something that would not only solve this issue but also champion the message of body positivity. Skanties was born from the idea that women deserve to feel comfortable and con ident in their own skin, without the need for compression or the goal of altering their natural shape. Smooth lines have never felt so great!

At Skanties, we empower women by providing undergarments that celebrate their true forms. We designed Skanties to tackle the physical discomforts of traditional undergarments like muf in tops and digging elastic, panty lines and thigh cha ing, and foster a positive body image. More importantly, we integrated an extensive cotton panel to prevent infections – an

issue many women face but seldom discuss. Skanties isn't just about comfort; it's about empowering women to feel happy and con ident in their bodies.

We are empowering women to love their bodies through our inclusive size range and our messaging that focuses on con idence and comfort. By addressing these oftenoverlooked issues, Skanties stands as an advocate for body positivity, encouraging women to embrace their natural beauty and feel liberated every day.

Since launching the brand in 2019, what has been the overall response from the consumers? What has been the biggest challenge?

Since Skanties' launch in 2019, the response from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive and truly heartening. Women have reached out to share how Skanties have been game-changers for them, providing comfort and con idence in their daily lives. We've heard from customers who tell us that they inally feel seen and considered, with undergarments that cater to their needs without compromising on comfort or style. Essentially, they make them feel AMAZING! However, the most profound impact has been in the unexpected areas where Skanties has made a difference—supporting women through a variety of medical conditions such as ostomy bags, gynecological surgery recoveries including hysterectomies, IVF/pregnancies/post-natal, and even during signi icant life



transitions such as puberty, menopause, gender af irmation surgeries and HRT. This feedback has been af irming and brought tears to my eyes, showing us that our vision for Skanties aligns with real-world needs. The biggest challenge we've faced is raising awareness about this

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new category of anti-shapewear. Traditional shapewear has been the norm for so long that introducing an alternative concept requires not just marketing, but education. We're tackling this by engaging with our community, sharing real stories, and leveraging platforms that resonate with our mission. Our goal is to ensure that

every woman who could bene it from Skanties knows that there is an alternative designed with her in mind. Breaking through the noise and reaching potential customers continues to be a focus as we grow and expand our reach. What does a day in the life of Susie Taaffe look like? How do



you ensure work-life balance? Life at Skanties is dynamic and ever-changing. My days are a juggling act between personal life and the demands of a growing business. With kids' activities often taking precedence, we've cultivated a culture that embraces lexibility. Whether it's managing international calls with our US team, organizing stock, participating in photoshoots, or simply being there for my children's milestones, no two days are alike.

The silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the increased lexibility in how and where we work. I've adapted to taking calls at unconventional hours and locations – even during a hairdresser appointment! I am often a guest on podcasts at midnight, 1am, or 2am and regular calls start from 5am or 6am. This works really well as I have often done quite a few hours of work before the kids need help getting ready for school. This adaptability has been crucial in managing the intricate juggle between my personal life and Skanties.

Recognizing the importance of mental well-being, I've incorporated a 'brain break' into my daily routine, dedicating 30 minutes to guided meditation. This practice, inspired by Tim Ferris's concept of a midday nap, has been transformative, allowing me to approach each half of the day with renewed vigor. Looking ahead, what is your vision for Skanties? What are you most excited about?

As we look ahead, my vision for Skanties is one of 'world body-love domination.' It's about creating a global movement that shifts how people perceive and relate to their bodies. Skanties is more than a brand; it's a tool for transformation – fostering self-con idence, selflove, and body con idence. My commitment to this mission is unwavering, and every step we take towards helping individuals love and celebrate their bodies is a step towards ful illing this vision.

In summary, the journey of Skanties is more than just the story of a brand. It's a testament to the power of transformational leadership, the courage to address unspoken pain points, and the unwavering belief in a vision that challenges and reshapes societal norms. As I continue on this path, my focus remains steadfast on empowering individuals, advocating for body positivity, and ultimately, leading a movement that celebrates the beauty of being comfortable in one's skin.



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What according to you makes one transformational? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership? Transformation in most circumstances is a very slow process. At least slower than most of us would like. Showing up every day and actively caring about your company and the people it affects is 90% of the battle. If you dedicate time consistently, there's no way you can avoid transformation. It's going to happen as long as you give it patience and time.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader that you can remember?

Co-Founder Crowd Surf

One of my earliest memories of being a leader is being the “director” of the theatrical “plays” my cousins and I would put on for our family. I always had ideas on which play we should do, who should be in what roles, and I would always make sure everyone showed up to watch the performance! I was probably 5-7 years old during my “play director” phase.

What has been the journey like for Cassie Petrey, from your childhood fascination for Backstreet Boys to running a leading marketing and music management irm?

The journey has been slow and steady. It doesn't feel surreal because the process to get here has been really consistently paced. It has all seemed to happen as I'm ready for it. It's fun to think about who I was when I was 12 years old, and I know that person would be so

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excited about their future. I always believed in myself, though.

This has always felt like what I'm supposed to be doing. I see the future too, and there's still a lot more to accomplish. I don't feel nervous about it. I know I'm on the right path and showing up every day doing my best.

Looking at this journey, what would you do differently if you were to start again?

I would try to better understand that there will be big moments you need to miss in your career in order to be there for your family, and that's okay. In the moment, you may think it will hurt your career, but it won't. More opportunities will always come in the future.

When my grandmother was passing, there was an important meeting that week. She told me to go to the meeting instead of coming back to see her. I wish I hadn't taken her advice. I know she was looking out for me, and I admire that unconditional love as she was rooting for me. However, I regret taking her advice at that moment.


Talk to us about the impact of social media for artists new and old. How do you leverage these powerful platforms to help them reach a wider audience? Social media is an incredible tool. We have to constantly remind ourselves that it's a tool, and nothing more than that. I like to help my artists ind what their goals are outside of social media and construct a plan to use social media to help accomplish those goals.

Looking ahead, what is your vision for Crowd Surf? What are you most excited about? The overall goal for Crowd Surf is simple. I want us to keep evolving to help artists as much as possible and I'm excited for what that will look like! I didn't know what social media would become 25 years ago, and I don't know what our company will look like 25 years in the future. In terms of goals for the next couple of years, we want to sign a few more artists to manage and plan on launching a record label. Separate from the company, I'm also working on writing a book and I'm pretty excited about that as well.


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Amanda Ludwig on Leading the #AntiHustleMovement


or Amanda Ludwig, her advocacy for the #antihustlemovement is not just a trend; it's a testament to her personal journey and a pivotal aspect of her leadership philosophy. As a transformational leader, Amanda intertwines her exceptional business acumen with a profound understanding of the human element in the corporate world.

Her approach goes beyond traditional metrics of success, focusing on cultivating a culture that values rest, critical thinking, and personal well-being alongside professional achievement.

In this exclusive interview, Amanda Ludwig discusses her journey from 34

a self-driven entrepreneur to a visionary leader advocating for the #antihustlemovement. She delves into the importance of understanding the "why" behind the "how" in leadership, the need for unconventional thinking, and the signi icance of identifying the root causes of restlessness.

What according to you makes one transformational? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

A truly exceptional leader not only boosts a company's inancial performance but also shapes its culture. These two components are vital for long-term growth and prosperity in any organization.

As a leader, I prioritize two key elements that achieve both


Unlocking the power of unconventional thinking. Critical thinking skills are in short supply in today's workforce, regardless of age, gender, or education level. My aim as a leader is to help teams see things that may not be obvious at irst glance. I encourage them to ask questions, voice theories, and contribute their insights to solve problems. Teaching the "why" behind the "how." Any leader can provide standard operating procedures (SOPs) to their team. However, a truly transformational leader goes beyond that and explains the reasons behind the tasks they E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E

Founder | Increase Expert

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assign. By doing so, I empower my team to excel in their roles, boosting job satisfaction and con idence.

Implementing these two approaches may require extra time when onboarding new employees. Yet, I have consistently witnessed the bene its over the years. Empowering employees in these ways cultivates self-suf iciency, con idence, and independent decision-making abilities, ultimately leading to signi icant time savings in the long run.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader / entrepreneur that you can remember? From a young age, I displayed a natural knack for managing money, staying organized, and taking charge of my time. According to my mother, I kept track of my allowance money in a ledger when I was 4! (I think I was likely closer to 6!)

By middle school, my entrepreneurial spirit was evident. I chose homeschooling because I believed I could save time by teaching myself rather than relying on a teacher. At the beginning of each school year, my textbooks would arrive, and I would sit down with a calculator, divide the number of pages in the text by the number of days I wanted to study (usually 3-4 months), set my daily goals, then get to work. My mom mentioned that if she saw me playing outside, she was con ident that my work was done for the day! 36

By my senior year of high school, my passion for business led me to work at a prestigious inance company during the day and complete my studies at night.

But it wasn't just innate traits that shaped my entrepreneurial journey. My father, a lifelong entrepreneur, passed down a mindset of endless possibilities. He instilled in his children that everything is igureoutable long before Marie Forleo wrote about it! His example instilled in me the con idence that I could “ igure out” how to succeed at just about anything!

How are you helping entrepreneurs and executives improve their overall business performance without sacri icing their personal lives? In 2021, my life took an unexpected turn. I was forced to step away from my thriving career, sell my client list, and face a challenging illness head-on. Burnt out from the demanding pace of working nonstop, I realized I needed a different approach to not only ight this illness, but also to prioritize my overall well-being when I returned to my career.

Throughout my journey, I had the privilege of working with top doctors, therapists, mentors, and coaches. Drawing from my experience as a business advisor and fractional CFO for over a decade, I've developed a unique methodology that blends professional success and personal well-being.

Let me share the core idea behind my methodology through this funny story. I once con ided in my sister about a tough situation with a client, expressing my wish to escape to a tranquil tropical island and have a zero-responsibility job at a snow shack. I'll never forget her life-changing response. She reminded me that my ambition and drive would inevitably lead me to not just manage the snow shack, but “You'd open your own snow E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E


shack, and soon, you'd start a snow shack franchise, and you'd be on all the islands. It's just who you are.” And she was right! I irmly believe that our inability to unwind and embrace rest is often a symptom of a deeper issue. That's why my work focuses on: Ÿ Identifying the root cause of our restlessness.

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Ÿ Objectively viewing whether pressures that are causing stress are from external factors or internal insecurities.

Ÿ Implementing effective strategies to maintain focus and productivity during peak business seasons, while also allowing for periods of rest and recovery that fuel mental clarity and creativity.

You have been vocal about the #antihustlemovement. Talk to us about this movement and the importance of attaining worklife balance. When I am speaking on this topic, I often have the audience envision their career goals. I can always feel the energy in the room while people are envisioning the status or the income they aspire to. 37


increased signi icantly, so the competition is now worldwide.

So, my best advice to emerging women entrepreneurs is to be 100% authentically and unapologetically you. There is only one you, and if your brand shows the world who you are, you will attract the people who have been looking for you! Looking ahead, what is your vision for your brand? What are you most excited about?

Then I ask them to envision themselves when they reach that goal. Who will they be? Will they be happy or stressed? Do they look tired or energized? Are they surrounded by friends and family?

Sadly, every time I reach that point in the exercise, the mood in the room plummets. So much of what we learn in our youth revolves around an “achievement leads to reward” structure. Especially in America, we are taught that hard work and dedication always pays off. To hustle and to grind is to win. But what is missing in that tale is that without substantial teaching on the bene its of rest and a focus on health, the hustle isn't sustainable. And then comes the guilt and shame we put on ourselves for becoming too burnt out to remain successful. So, we hide it and push even harder, often leading to serious health consequences. 38

Having nearly lost my life to success, I'm on a mission to ensure others don't take the same path that I did. Coining the term #antihustlemovement, I am here to give hope that sustainable success is achievable without giving up everything! What would be your advice for emerging women entrepreneurs when it comes to establishing market presence? I am seeing a huge shift in the market over the last 5-7 years, and what it boils down to is that people are truly seeking out authenticity. Between social media and userfriendly platforms that allow us all to create our own websites overnight, the market is overwhelmed with choices of service-providers. And, since COVID, the increased level of consumers/companies willing to have work done remotely has

Sharing my experiences and methodology from the stage, through podcasts and workshops, and in 2024, in a book, is extremely powerful and ful illing work. But the vision doesn't stop there. I want to be in the room when corporations are having the conversation about converting to a 4-day work week for the wellbeing of their employees.

I want to educate and inspire the leaders that decide our labor laws. And most importantly, I want to see the #antihustlemovement become part of mainstream culture, which means that in my lifetime, I'll see a decrease in stress-related illnesses, less people suffering from depression and anxiety, improved family structures and wealth generated by executives and entrepreneurs who have the energy and vision to ful ill their purpose.



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At the Heart of Real Estate


the world of real estate, Betsy Phillips stands out as a remarkable woman who is rede ining success through empathy, compassion, and a deep understanding of her clients' needs. With a background shaped by personal challenges, she has honed her listening skills and advocacy abilities. Betsy's journey, from overcoming dyslexia to navigating the complexities of raising children with learning differences, has given her unique problem-solving skills.

Her journey, fueled by compassion and a commitment to serving others, is inspirational. Herein, this exclusive interview, Betsy Phillips shares her journey, philosophy, and mission going forward.


What according to you makes for a successful woman realtor? How have you integrated the same thought into your real estate journey? A successful woman Realtor needs to be able to fully understand not only her clients' current and future housing needs, but also their equally as important emotional situation. This requires the ability to listen actively, act compassionately, and provide viable solutions. My own experiences have given me these skills. I faced many challenges early on as a child with dyslexia. I learned to navigate school by using my listening skills and by speaking up to advocate for myself. I would seek help from teachers and others, and I was able to graduate with a BA in American Studies, while never inishing a novel. Audio books had not come into being yet.

Then, as a mother of three children who all have learning differences, one with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I used my evolving problem-solving skills to get them the services they needed. I was determined to help my children through their early years.

But I also had inspiration. My father was an entrepreneur and built his business on strong relationships where he always put his team and customers irst. I learned from the best. As an agent today, I use the skills that I developed throughout my life to connect with and serve my clients. I hear their problems and help guide them through manageable actions, alleviating their concerns.

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the real estate space?


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I often say that my life's journey has provided me with the skills and expertise needed to run a successful real estate business that is both pro itable and embodies my core values.

I married very young and quickly discovered that my husband was a master carpenter and master gardener. We bought our irst condo before we were even married, but then he needed a yard for gardening. We tried to sell our condo, but with interest rates at 17% this became impossible. We discovered that we could rent our unit, cover our expenses and depreciate the property. We became landlords, and our journey began.

Throughout the years we moved several times, building homes, renovating houses, and owning various rental properties. I now have a son who is a professional carpenter and a daughter who is an interior architect.

As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, talk to us about how you're helping seniors transition out of their homes.

Unfortunately, my husband and I divorced, and years later he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I quickly became personally involved with caring for a senior who needed to transition out of his current home and into a community. My children and I navigated the entire system including his medical diagnosis, the guardianship process and then ultimately the management of his estate. He died of COVID in 2020. The experience made me instantly passionate about helping others 42

through this dif icult life-changing transition. It was frightening, stressful, and all-consuming. Most of us are not at all prepared to face the time in life when we can no longer care for ourselves. There are so many misconceptions and a great deal of information that is sales and pro it driven. Consumers are left to fend for themselves and are often taken advantage of or misguided during a time of crisis.

Hence, I became a Certi ied Senior Housing Professional. I studied and continue to study the best practices and have now devoted the rest of my life to advocating for, educating, and empowering seniors and their families through the emotional and physical demands of late life transitions.

I truly care about my clients, and I get deep satisfaction from helping them through this dif icult time in their lives. Maybe I have gone from being a full-time problem solver for myself, as a dyslexic student, and for my kids, to doing the same for seniors.

What are some of the emotional and logistical challenges that you face when it comes to providing seniors with housing solutions? There are many challenges that seniors face as they begin to contemplate transitioning into alternative housing. As we age, leaving a legacy and maintaining control becomes increasingly more important. Emotionally, we catalog the years of our lives and begin to try to make sense of their meaning. Our homes are a physical representation of that, compounding the emotional trauma of selling the home and parting

with many of our treasured possessions. Moving often also signals the end of our independence; another emotionally charged step. This is why appropriate listening skills and legacy coaching of a skilled Realtor is so important.

While emotionally and logistically handling the needs of seniors might be cumbersome for some, for me it is easy. Clients may need help with electronic signing or may call several times a day with the same question. But after so many years of juggling my children's emotions primarily on my own, I absolutely do not mind handling whatever my clients bring my way. In fact, I tell them, I answer all calls as long as the call is not one of my kids asking for money.

For me personally, I ind that helping seniors has helped me to reconcile my own legacy. I have found a purpose and a passion that I am hopeful will result in the betterment of others' lives. What does a day in the life of Betsy Phillips look like? How do you ensure work-life balance?

I am an early riser and do my best work in the morning. This is when I write and do any kind of detail work. I am often attending networking and educational events and spend a great deal of time meeting new people and exploring options for my clients. The senior space is ever changing, and we need to keep up with the moving pieces.

As far as work life balance is concerned, my children are grown and I have plenty of time to do what I truly love. While I do spend most


of my time working, I now have the opportunity to “read” by listening to audio books, which I love. I am also a gym rat and a devoted dog lover. Anyone who knows me certainly knows my dogs, Leo and Kramer.

Finally, talk to us about your vision going forward for your brand and network. As our population ages, both

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healthcare and housing are becoming increasingly more complicated to navigate. In response to this, beginning in January 2024, I will be offering a free educational series called “Strategic Senior Solution Strategies” with monthly panel discussions designed to separate truth from iction on senior related topics. My vision is to create a trustworthy resource with easy access for the ever-growing senior population. I am hopeful that

through my work more seniors will face their housing options with knowledge and less stress.








A world-class company vision statement — one that inspires the hearts and minds of all stakeholders — can distinguish extraordinary companies from ordinary ones. Here are five critical steps to creating the type of company vision that elevates an organization and changes lives.

STEP 1. SHOOT FOR THE MOON Company leaders often create a vision statement that feels achievable. But a truly great vision — one that makes people want to work at your company every day — is both ambitious and meaningful. It tackles a worthy problem that is bigger than your company itself. Examples include:

Ÿ In 1994, Interface's late CEO Ray Anderson read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. Anderson called it a “spear-in-thechest moment,” as the leader of a highly extractive carpet-manufacturing company. What Anderson and his team did next exempli ies the difference between a mediocre corporate vision and a gamechanging one: rather than simply launching a new sustainability initiative or department, they aimed to entirely eliminate all negative impacts of their company and inspire their entire industry to do the same.

Ÿ When Biggby Coffee co-CEOs Bob Fish and Mike McFall crafted their vision, they set the W W W. E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E . C O M

goal of supporting every single employee in leading a life they love, which later extended to engaging their coffee suppliers, too.

Ÿ Oklahoma-based First United Bank set a bold vision to elevate 10 million lives through love and impact by 2030.

STEP 2. TRULY UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES Bringing a game-changing vision to life requires company leadership to have a multidimensional understanding of the issues at the heart of their vision, which requires the perspectives of company stakeholders and topical experts. Examples include: Ÿ When Interface embarked on their sustainability journey, they created a “dream team” of environmental experts — including the author of the book that irst inspired their CEO. This team educated Interface leadership on the primary issues of sustainability and was intimately involved in developing implementation plans for the organization for years.



Ÿ When Bob Fish wanted to explore direct-trade relationships with Biggby Coffee's farmers, he visited one of his coffee suppliers to understand their needs irst-hand. He and his wife Michelle now personally visit every coffee farm they plan to establish direct-trade relationships with to ensure they understand the key issues through their initiative One Big Island In Space.

Ÿ First United Bank embarked on a two-year listening tour with local business owners, government of icials, nonpro it leaders, employees, and customers from the communities they sought to impact, which helped identify solutions that each community actually needed when it came to elevating their lives.


To ensure your vision doesn't fall lat, you must create speci ic metrics to measure progress. Examples include:

Ÿ Interface created Mission Zero, which set the aspirational goal of reaching zero carbon emissions as a company by 2020. Once achieved, they set their next ambitious vision through the Climate Take Back program.

Ÿ Biggby Coffee set two goals: 1) Have 90% of their team respond with a score of 9 or 10 on a 10point scale when asked, “Is Biggby Coffee supporting you in living a life that you love?” 2) Procure 50% of their coffee from direct-trade farmer relationships by the end of this year and 100% of coffee from direct-trade relationships by the end of 2028.

Ÿ Private equity giant KKR has an ambitious vision centered on employee ownership and has the goal of transitioning 100 portfolio companies to employee ownership by 2030. STEP 4. ALIGN YOUR TEAM

It's imperative to build team alignment around successful implementation. Employees must have clear direction around how their role relates to the vision and feel they have the necessary knowledge and opportunity to contribute to progress. Examples 46


Ÿ All Biggby Coffee corporate employees and franchise owners are enrolled in an internal program called LifeLab. They're paired with a coach and led through customized curriculum to help them build a plan for leading a life they love.

Ÿ Charter Next Generation holds quarterly ownership meetings to work toward its larger vision of generating collective wealth through successful employee ownership for their more than 1,700 employees around the country. Everyone on staff is invited to review fully transparent inancial performance, cultural performance measured by the Gallup Q12 survey, and progress toward their growth targets. They're then invited to provide suggestions to help the company achieve its inal goal.


The organization must regularly communicate how much progress has been made and how much still needs to happen to reach their inal goal. This shows all stakeholders that the company's vision is a priority and is constantly in motion. Examples include: Ÿ Interface has weekly sustainability meetings, factory-level awards, staff-wide summits, immersive deep dives, and day-to-day metrics regarding waste and energy used on whiteboards at all of their factories.

Ÿ First United Bank developed Key Purpose Indicators to track progress on their four main company values and the impact of their community initiatives, which is regularly shared with staff.

Each of the companies mentioned has either already or is well on their way to achieving something extraordinary. With meaningful and ambitious goals, a nuanced understanding of their key issues, metrics for progress, team alignment, and consistent communication, they're bringing their gamechanging visions to life, bolstering company performance, and changing lives in the process. all focused on making business better for all. E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E


The Co-Founder of Stakeholder Business, Meghan French Dunbar's work has touched the lives of nearly 1 million people worldwide. To date, she has launched five successful brands, including the first nationally distributed print magazine in the U.S. focusing on impact-driven business, Conscious Company Magazine, and the largest event in North America for purposedriven women leaders. She's a sought-after speaker on women's leadership and the future of business, writes for leading business outlets like Inc. Magazine and Business Chief Magazine, and leads executive workshops and retreats for leaders of major brands like Leonard Green, Charter Next Generation, and Onyx Renewables —all focused on making business better for all.

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Akshita Iyer Reimaging Cooking with a Smart Kitchen Solution


magine a world where your stove is as smart as your phone—capable of being controlled from anywhere, helping you multitask, and minimizing risks in one of the most hazard-prone areas of your home. Thanks to Akshita Iyer and her innovative product - Ome Smart Knobs, this is now a reality.

Inspired from personal experience, Ome Knobs offer an unprecedented level of control and safety in your kitchen. Even more impressively, these smart knobs can automatically turn off your burner if you forget to, thereby preventing potential disasters and bringing peace of mind to millions of households. But according to Akshita, the mission goes beyond just preventing accidents.

"This isn't just about preventing accidents—it's about fostering a sense of security and control," says Akshita. "Our ultimate aspiration extends beyond saving lives and preventing damage. We aim to encourage positive cooking practices that contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of those we love." W W W. E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E . C O M

Read this full interview to know more about the technology behind Ome Smart Knobs, Akshita's journey, and her vision going forward.

Talk to us about the challenges you had to face in building the Ome Smart Stove Knob. Switching from a background in neuroscience to the tech industry as a irsttime entrepreneur was not easy. Fortunately, being out of my comfort zone actually fueled my unyielding attitude. I tackled hurdles without ixating on what lies ahead. My strategy was to overcome one obstacle at a time, without worrying about how many might still be waiting.

Among the major hurdles, one stood out: iguring out how to raise capital. I had absolutely no experience in this world. Even though I had plenty of support from friends and family, I soon realized that fundraising was a whole new ballgame. Having a brilliant product and a solid idea didn't cut it. I needed to dive deep into the psychology of raising money to really make it work.



For example, when I started pitching my idea to investors, I had no idea that each investor had a speci ic focus, like SaaS or Health Tech. I vividly remember pitching our consumer device to a manager who specialized in B2B software. By the end of my spiel, his face was a picture of complete confusion.

This experience taught me a crucial lesson: thorough preparation and understanding the venture capitalists' perspective were essential. I made it a habit to research the people I was going to talk to well beforehand. This allowed me to adjust and adapt the conversation in a way that was relevant for them.

Even more, learning from other entrepreneurs who walked this path before was a game-changer. I soaked up as much as I could by listening to their journeys and taking the most useful advice for myself.

What makes Ome Smart Knobs a must have solution for kitchens and households? Ome's technology bridges a signi icant gap in the smart home by addressing the lack of connectivity with the most used major appliance — the stove. Unlike other smart kitchen gadgets that add to counter clutter, the Ome Smart Stove Knob is a retro it solution that allows you to upgrade your primary cooking appliance without sacri icing valuable counter space. Our device not only solves the leading cause of house ires — unattended cooking — but also 52

sets the foundation for a comprehensive connected kitchen experience. By integrating auxiliary sensors with recipe content and grocery delivery, Ome will enable consumers to cook easily at home while saving time.

We stand alone in our category because our technology extends beyond the consumer market. Ome enhances safety in multi-unit buildings, such as dorms, condos, and retirement communities. Our centralized dashboard enables remote monitoring and proactive safety measures for property managers, reducing the occurrence of hazardous events and providing support to at-risk residents.

From being a Teaching Assistant in Neuroscience at Duke University to innovating a irstof-a-kind kitchen solution to appearing on Shark Tank. What has this journey been like for you?

Believe it or not, I never expected to know so much about kitchen appliances. After I inished my neuroscience undergrad at Duke, I decided to work at a hospital to gain some experience before applying to medical school. During that time, I got hooked on Shark Tank. It amazed me how entrepreneurs were creating businesses to solve big problems in the world — often because they faced those problems themselves. What fascinated me the most was that many of these entrepreneurs didn't have traditional engineering or business backgrounds. This got me curious about creating something myself, although I didn't

have a clear idea yet.

Around that same time, my mom accidentally left the stove on one too many times and started a kitchen ire. While looking for solutions, I realized how outdated kitchen appliances were, especially stoves (which we use a lot!). Smart appliances were expensive, and “dumb” ones didn't do much — plus, they last for ages.

That's when it hit me — my "aha moment." I was determined to make a retro it device (like the Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell) that is intuitive for the user and signi icantly cheaper than buying a whole new appliance. I thought, "how hard could it be to make a smart device?" I didn't know what I didn't know, so I jumped right in. It turned out to be much trickier than I thought. Thankfully, I've had smart and capable people by my side throughout this journey. I wouldn't have made it this far without that village. What would be your advice for emerging women entrepreneurs in the tech space? Speak with conviction, no matter what you're saying. As someone venturing into the world of smart technology and as a woman, it's been quite a journey. This ield is male-dominated, and as a irsttime founder, I've battled with feelings of imposter syndrome. Being in rooms with seasoned individuals who are older and more experienced used to overwhelm me. I'd undermine my own ideas or even hold back from contributing — even when I had valuable insights on the topic. E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E


But over time, through trial and error, I've come to understand the signi icance of having con idence and conveying it through the things I say. I've learned to embrace my strengths, like my knack for storytelling, connecting with others, and nurturing relationships. Con idence, I've learned, has the power to change your game.

Finally, what is your vision going forward for Ome? What are you most excited about? Our journey of growth and innovation continues as we dive into the development and launch of our Gen 2 Smart Knob. This W W W. E X E L E O N M AG A Z I N E . C O M

upgraded version will be compatible with an even wider range of stoves, boast some muchrequested feature upgrades, and be offered in delightful new colors, adding a touch of vibrancy to various kitchens. Personally, I'm thrilled about our plans to introduce the Ome Smart Knob to senior living communities, aiming to provide valuable support for those who wish to age gracefully in their homes.

What truly excites me about our system is its potential to make a difference in the lives of older adults. Beyond just enhancing

kitchen safety, we attempt to bring a holistic approach, empowering caregivers to assess the wellness of their residents.

This isn't just about preventing accidents — it's about fostering a sense of security and control. Our ultimate aspiration extends beyond saving lives and preventing damage. We aim to encourage positive cooking practices that contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of those we love.


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