Demario Davis – Outside Linebacker, New Orleans Saints

Demario Davis was born in Collins, Mississippi. His friends and family often refer to him by his nickname, Double-D. He and his wife, Tamela, have two daughters, Bailey-Grace and Summer-Joy, and a son, Roman-Parker. Demario attended Brandon High School in Brandon, Mississippi, and played wide receiver for two seasons before moving to linebacker. As a hobby in his free time, Demario is learning how to play piano. His favorite movie is The Lion King and his favorite TV show is Power. He lists hip-hop as his favorite type of music and Trip Lee as his favorite artist.

Played in 48 career games at Arkansas State, starting the final 37 of his career. Amassed 230 career tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, including one he returned 53 yards for a TD. Demario also added seven career passes defensed, four interceptions, and a 75-yard interception-return TD. Three-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection and he also earned his bachelor’s degree in communications.

Drafted by the New York Jets in 2012 in the 3rd round, 77th overall pick. Rookie year blossomed as a key special teams player, then started three consecutive years for them. Amassed over 350 tackles, 6 sacks, and became a vocal leader in the locker room.

Signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, and was voted by teammates 1 of 5 team captains. On June 1st, 2016, was traded back to the Jets by the Browns for S Calvin Pryor. On March 19, 2018, the New Orleans Saints signed Demario to a three-year contract.

How do you define success?
Success is knowing what you’re placed on earth to do, and maximizing it to the best of your ability.

What is the key to success?
Knowing your purpose, and aligning your walk with it.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The key to finding your purpose is knowing who gave it to you in the first place.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.

What are some of your favorite books?

The Bible, and any self help books.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as a professional athlete.
NFL – Getting my snaps cut down because I wasn’t performing well.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Faith in God, knowing that in every trial he will teach me something that I can use once elevated from the situation.

What advice would you give to young athletes?
Have your priorities in order, and never sacrifice them.

Scott Baradell – Founder & CEO, Idea Grove

Scott Baradell is founder and CEO of Idea Grove, a public relations agency that focuses on building brand authority for B2B technology companies. Idea Grove got its start as an industry blog that Scott began writing in 2005. The blog’s mix of entertaining and educational content—supported by Scott’s promotion of it via PR and social media—attracted attention from major media outlets, public relations journals and conferences, and ultimately, B2B technology companies seeking PR and digital marketing services. To this day, Idea Grove has earned virtually all of its clients through PR, customer referrals and other strategies fueled by organic third-party validation. This is the unique expertise that Idea Grove lends to its clients. Prior to Idea Grove, Scott served as a senior executive at Fortune 1000 companies in the technology and media industries. He began his career as a journalist for major-market newspapers. He grew up in Virginia Beach, has a B.A. with distinction from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Southern Methodist University, and lives in Dallas with his wife and four children.

How did the concept for Idea Grove come about?
I had just left my job as corporate communications VP for a billion-dollar media company after three years. The job had been a disappointment for me because like many traditional media companies, it simply wasn’t nimble enough to change at the pace required by technology. The low point was when I had to defend the company’s decision to send legal letters to critics of its news coverage who had “deep linked” to pages within its website. That’s right; it was complaining about inbound links and traffic. It was so backward and the opposite of where everything was going.

When I left, I knew I wanted to be on the front end of things, so I immediately started blogging. This was at the beginning of 2005, and at the time blogging was mostly associated with politics and entertainment, not business. But I felt like this was the beginning of a massive change. So partly because I was early to the game, I became a top blogger in the PR space, shot to the top of the search rankings, and started to get business as a result. The blogging is really what kickstarted my career as first a freelancer and then an agency owner. I was having fun doing it and charting my own path, so I couldn’t imagine going back to corporate work.

How was the first year in business?
It was incredibly difficult. I was overwhelmed by challenges at home. My mom passed away unexpectedly late in 2004, and in 2005 my wife was diagnosed with cancer and my brother had a severe stroke in his mid-40s. Mentally and emotionally, it was more than I could handle, really. The blogging was therapy for me. I was posting eight times a day sometimes. I went from an executive paycheck to making about $20,000 in 2005; I had to dip quite a bit into savings. But the blog ended up setting the table for a successful 2006, and by the middle of that year I knew I had a business that could last.

What was your marketing strategy?
I preached what I practiced. Most of my early clients had no idea that blogging and social media could even be used for business purposes. So I got those clients in on the game early and it really paid off for them. For example, I started working with an HR technology startup in 2007 and I got them into blogging and even created a site for them that ranked the early HR bloggers based on various popularity metrics. It got that startup’s CEO on the radar of every top influencer in the HR tech space. And the company went from two guys bootstrapping an idea to a $100 million exit eight years later. They were Idea Grove’s client through that entire run.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It grew quickly in the first two years but it plateaued after that because I was a one-man show. Then in 2011, I finally took the plunge of leasing office space and hiring my first employees. That was pretty scary. I still remember being so anxious about signing that first three-year phone contract. But once I started hiring, the company took off. We ended up ranking in the Inc. 5000 three years in a row.

How do you define success?
Just being happy. I have never had financial goals, to be honest. I just like having the freedom to pursue the things I find interesting. And I’ve come to enjoy the idea of having a team of folks to share that with.

What is the key to success?
It’s cliché, but it’s definitely passion. It’s the gasoline that runs the engine. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to drive into a tree, but you won’t go anywhere without it.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I mentioned that my wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. She died in 2010, and we had two small children. That was the worst experience of my life, but it also made me stronger. It made me less afraid to take on risks. I had already been through the most terrible thing that could happen, so what was there to be afraid of at that point? If I hadn’t gone through it, I don’t know that I would have ever had the courage to sign that first office lease.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
After my wife’s death, I posted a quote by Kenji Miyazawa on the wall over my computer: “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” I lived by that and it allowed me to put things into focus.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Only a few months after we moved into our first office, a close friend who I had brought in as a business partner told me that he was moving to China. I had planned to rely on him for so many things that I saw as weaknesses of mine, from sales to operations. I really only liked the client work. When he lowered the boom on me, I realized that I had to take on a lot of roles and responsibilities that I wasn’t comfortable with. I got through it, but that was a very scary day.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family. I remarried and we have four wonderful children. They are depending on me. I’m pretty sure if not for them, there are a dozen times I might have said, “Screw it.”

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
You know in your gut if you are ready to be an entrepreneur. Some people are entrepreneurs from their childhood lemonade stands onward. Others, like me, never cared much about money or business. I started out as a newspaper reporter, so obviously money was not my motivation. But I was always intellectually curious and sought out new challenges, and that’s what eventually made me realize I was ready to take the plunge.

Tance Hughes – Founder & CEO, Southern Designs

Tance Hughes is an entrepreneur based in Vidalia, Louisiana. His company, Southern Designs, was started when he was just 17 years old. Through his leadership, the company grew to almost $4 million in revenue in 2016 and was named to the Inc. 5000 list at #558!

Southern Designs is the the 9th fastest-growing company in Louisiana, and yet, they are based out of a town with only 4,299 residents. He was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 as well.

How did the concept for Southern Designs come about?
We actually started as a screen printing company. I was coaching a pee wee football team and had a used printing press. I started printing shirts for our team, word spread, and it just took off from there.

How was the first year in business?
Exciting! Lots of learning and mistakes, but lots of fun as well. I became very excited about the potential of my company.

What was your marketing strategy?
Well, our company originally was in printing so we were just a local business running a few Facebook posts and cheap newspaper ads. As we’ve grown into the metal decor, we market through Facebook Ads, Google Ads, e-mail promotions, third party sales channels, etc.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We doubled every year for the first three years.

How do you define success?
Happiness in your professional and personal lives.

What is the key to success?
It may sound cliche, but finding what makes you happy. I enjoy a challenge, and when I can overcome the challenge and grow both personally and professionally, I feel as though I have succeeded.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To “get it in writing.”

What are some quotes that you live by?
I don’t really live by many quotes, but I do enjoy Mark Twain’s “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I really believe that everyone needs to travel as often as they can because it’s really helped me open up my mind in my business.

What are some of your favorite books?
Mainly non-fiction books. I really enjoy Good to Great, Jeff Walker’s Launch, and Sell or Be Sold.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Any day that I have to fire an employee is very tough. Once I had to fire a friend and I didn’t have a choice, so it was very difficult because that was a closer relationship. I explained that it was strictly business and luckily we’ve been able to maintain that friendship. I think the person understood why it had to happen, but it makes me physically ill to fire anyone.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Knowing that we are doing the right thing and have integrity in all our pursuits. I really try to ensure that all of our customers, vendors, and suppliers understand that we want what’s best for both sides and that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be patient and read a lot. I have learned so much from reading business books and opening myself up to other concepts that I thought were stupid. You’re not going to take over the world in one day, so be patient and smart with your decisions. Be slow to speak and never assume anything!

Olivier Chateau – Co-Founder & CEO, Health Union

Olivier Chateau is co-founder and CEO of Health Union, where his vision and desire for innovation is a driving force behind its platforms, services, and solutions. During his ten years in pharmaceutical marketing, Olivier gained experience in consumer marketing, insight creation, digital technology and analytics, which he leverages along with extensive commercial knowledge of the healthcare market to develop unique opportunities that connect patients, professionals, and industry partners to improve health decisions. Olivier’s passion and enthusiasm for Health Union is contagious, inspiring the team to think bigger, to be creative, to do what hasn’t been done. His favorite saying (written on the wall in Health Union’s office) is, “If you believe your dreams are achievable, they are too small. Dream bigger.”

How did the concept for Health Union come about?
Health Union was created as a result of both personal and professional experiences that led to the discovery of unmet needs. As a professional marketer in the pharmaceutical industry, it was always a challenge for us to engage patients in meaningful ways. I then went through my own personal health challenge, and felt like information was spread all over the place. I wanted to find one place that would give me the answers that I needed for my specific challenge. These two experiences led to the creation of Health Union, a digital health company that creates condition-specific online health communities tailored to meet people where they are on their journey and deliver the information, support, and connection they seek.

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was incredibly exciting and challenging at the same time. Transitioning from large corporate America to entrepreneurship was a roller coaster that nothing in life could prepare me for. It was a year of incredible achievement, as well as failures, and we learned so much.

What was your marketing strategy?
The marketing strategy was to generate awareness and interest among key decision-makers in the pharmaceutical industry. Because we had spent so many years on the client side, we had a lot of contacts, and were confident in the value Health Union would bring. We initially focused on leveraging those personal contacts and generating word of mouth. As we saw our vision to help people with challenging, chronic health conditions be successful, and saw the community development model working, we began replicating it. Providing new, original content daily, and moderating social interactions that fostered a safe and supportive environment proved to help these people live better and provide valuable opportunities for our clients. With more online communities, we expanded our team and our awareness efforts further into the pharmaceutical industry.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We learned a lot in the first two to three years, mostly by trial and error. Once we refined the community model, we were able to scale and expand to address many more chronic health conditions. From 2010 to 2018, we have expanded our family of online health communities to 19 chronic health conditions and expect to launch 15 more in the next 24 to 36 months.

How do you define success?
To me, success is based on creating value for all parties involved – the people impacted by these conditions, industry partners and our company, Health Union. We pride ourselves on doing well while doing good for people, and we see that every day through the number of people who visit, return, and engage both online and through social media. The sense of community is nothing short of spectacular. That’s success!

What is the key to success?
First and foremost, we never step away from our mission to help people, regardless of revenue opportunity. Our focus is on people, not profit. We believe if we bring value to people, we can then bring value to our partners, which in return generates value for the company.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Never give up! Entrepreneurship is hard and doing it right is even harder. In the early days of building a company, it is tempting to cut corners or take shortcuts at the detriment of doing it right. A business’s long-term value is realized when things are done right and there’s a true purpose that is far greater than generating revenue.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
“If you think your dreams are achievable, they are too small. Dream bigger.”
“Facts are friends.”

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When you are challenged with selling the value of your services and differentiating your company and money is running out.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I am convinced that what we are doing is making a difference and creating value at the same time.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Understand your market extremely well. It is easy to focus on, or fall in love with your idea or product, but understanding how it will deliver value in the marketplace is the real challenge. How will differentiation be created and valued? How will success be measured?

Finally, company culture is not a nice thing; it is the only thing. Culture in a small company defines everything people do and is the single fastest enabler of future growth. We wouldn’t have achieved the impact or success we have today without the people who make up Health Union. People leave bosses and company culture, not products or marketplaces.

Michael Mogill – Founder & CEO, Crisp Video Group

Michael Mogill is founder and CEO of Crisp Video Group, the nation’s fastest-growing legal video marketing company. He’s helped thousands of attorneys—from solo and small firms to large practices—differentiate themselves from competitors and earn millions in new revenue. Crisp has been named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies and has been awarded Best Places to Work. A sought-after speaker, Michael often presents at national conferences on innovative ways to create exponential business growth. His advice has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc., Avvo, ABA Journal, The Trial Lawyer, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

How did the concept for Crisp Video Group come about?
Essentially, I was always an entrepreneur at heart. When I was thirteen, I worked out of my living room running my first business: a web design company. I’ll never forget how funny it was watching my mom letting my much older clients in the front door. As an adult, this drive led me first to do some marketing work for an events company, and then to an important role in a fledgling streaming-music business.

Eventually, I found the perfect balance between both my entrepreneurial side and the creative elements of my life that were near and dear to me, and I started a video marketing company.

Crisp had found some success in our early years producing video content for some major brands, but because we hadn’t defined our ideal clients, we were having trouble differentiating.

However, after working with an attorney passionate about her craft but struggling to get the phone to ring, I saw a wide-open market with a lot of passion and a pressing need, so I decided to pivot our business to focus on helping attorneys like her. We now almost exclusively focus on providing video and marketing services to law firm owners.

How was the first year in business?
The experience I had during my first year in business is an experience I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It certainly wasn’t glamorous – I had no money, no clients, and no team. Which makes sense, because it’s hard to hire people when you have no money, and it’s hard to find clients when you have no team. I also built my business from the ground up, so I had no loans to fall back on, but I put in the work and I kept going.

What was your marketing strategy?
During the first year or so my only real “strategy” was meeting every person I possibly could. It relied solely on hustle and grit. I attended every networking and industry event, tried to meet as many people as possible, and then would call/message/email every single person who I thought might be interested in working with a person who was handy with a video camera.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Crisp has grown 200% year-over-year since our inception.

How do you define success?
For me, success is when you are engaged and fulfilled by your role. It means you’re doing things every day that align with your unique strengths while challenging yourself and continuing to push your capabilities.

What is the key to success?
The key to success is knowing yourself: knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, and your passions so you can align your role with those strengths.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
There’s always a way.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Build and maintain a culture that rewards high-performers, and weeds out continuous, unimproved low performers.”

“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” – Simon Sinek

“We are kept from our goals not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” – Robert Brault

What are some of your favorite books?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Radical Candor, and Extreme Ownership.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
We were in dire straits with the company and I was hinging on one deal to help us keep the doors open. I had a great call with them, they said they were ready to move forward, and I sent over a contract.

Needless to say, I was elated. I called my parents to let them know the good news (that we’d be able to keep the doors open a few more weeks/months) and felt relief.

Later that afternoon, I still didn’t have the contract back. I never heard from that business again. It was a tough day for me, because I was starting back at square one.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I never want to live in a world where I regret not becoming the person I could have become if I had kept pushing forward.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Stop being an information consumer and start working. Stop looking for the perfect process and just start working. Work more. Work harder. Work. People always say, “Work smarter, not harder.” But the problem with that is that you can’t find ways to work smarter unless you’ve maxed out your ability to work harder. Because chances are, you aren’t doing enough.