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Proatmeal by Shuster Brothers

For the last ten years, Greg Shuster, 33, took on the role of creative executive for several successful IT start-ups, including Canvas, Audax Health, and Ruckus. This year, Greg decided to launch a start-up of his own. Together with his brother and business partner Jeff, Greg co-founded a health food manufacturing company based out of Leesburg, VA - called Shuster Brothers.

In a recent interview, Greg – who has recently launched a fundraising campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter - agreed to talk to us about the company’s flagship product, a conveniently packaged high-protein instant oats breakfast called Proatmeal: “My brother and I are putting all of our energy into Proatmeal at the moment. We are in the later stages of trademarking the product. We've been working on this project on the side for a couple of years now, and focusing on packaging, ingredient R&D and so on. Our Kickstarter campaign is our first move into the market as well as our first attempt to raise funding.”

Proatmeal is made from premium organic and all-natural ingredients, including brown rice protein, gluten-free oats, freeze dried blueberries, and stevia extract. Greg described the product as follows: “Proatmeal contains 20 to 25% of your daily fiber, and delivers 27 to 30 grams of protein per serving. It also delivers complex carbs to kickstart your metabolism, and because of its high fiber content, it keeps you full longer. It comes in three different flavors: Plain & Simple, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Banana. I eat Proatmeal everyday. It’s easy to prepare - just like instant oats. I use about half a cup of hot water, and all you need to do is stir well and you're ready to go. All of our ingredients are organic, vegan, cruelty-free, and all-natural. There's no meat or dairy in it so we have no animal involvement.”

Greg told me that he and his brother have been working on finding the perfect formula for Proatmeal for several years: “We settled on the final mix and ingredients last year on Christmas Day. We went through countless flavor combinations. We carried out different protein tests, and found out that the hemp and pea protein were turning everything green! We decided on the serving size, and developed Proatmeal’s branding and look. It also took us a few months to find the right suppliers for each ingredient. The hardest being the gluten free oats.”

Greg explained that he is introducing Proatmeal at a higher price than he would like - as a result of the high cost of shipping – but that he is working on delivering his product to his customers at a much lower cost in the near future: “We’re starting at a little over five dollars for one package, with discounts for volume purchases. We're hoping to get enough capital together to do bulk buys of our ingredients, which should drive down the price. Our goal is to deliver the product to our customers for around $2.50 to $3.50 per package.”

Greg also explained that packaging concerns have contributed to Proatmeal’s production costs, and expressed hope that Shuster Brothers would raise enough funds to develop a better and lower cost packaging option: “Packaging is expensive. A cup sealing machine, for example, costs tens of thousands of dollars, so I decided to go with bags instead. Most bagged oatmeal or high-protein products are considered “bulk products” and compete in the cereal aisle. We really wanted to create a single serve product. So, I found a small sealable coffee bag on which I could imprint graphics using a custom made stamp, and on which I could hand write the flavors. Right now, we’re filling all of the bags by hand, so the bags are designed with ease of fulfillment in mind. This has reduced our packaging cost to $0.20 per item. Without this solution, production costs would be considerably higher.”

So far, the response to Proatmeal has been positive: “Other than people like my dad who don’t like oats, the response has been good. Trainers especially love it. It's taken several iterations to develop desirable flavors, but we're starting to land the casual oatmeal fan. We want to cater to the suburban housewife who shops at Whole Foods. Hopefully, she’ll buy Proatmeal and serve it to her family.”

Greg’s plans for the future include developing a larger distribution network and outsourcing product fulfillment: “Eventually, we would also prefer to have a spoon/cup combo, which would make Proatmeal a great “grab and go” option for any consumer. We hope to deliver additional products in the future, but for now, we’re developing and tweaking the main Proatmeal recipe. For instance, we're working on a recipe for Strawberry Banana and Apple Cinnamon.”

Greg described the future outlook of the health food industry as promising: “It's already dominating the high end market. If you've been into any Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, or Trader Joe's you’ll know what I mean. You can even go into Target and see organic products all over the place. I feel that organics will be the standard soon. Consumers are more educated than ever. They definitely don't want GMOs anymore and are skeptical about ingredients. So we want to fulfill part of that need. We're trying to bridge the gap between the results you can hope to achieve by consuming GNC products with the ingredient quality you can expect from Whole Foods.”


Greg credits the inspiration behind Proatmeal to his brother and business partner Jeff: “The inspiration really came from Jeff and his bodybuilding roots. His room seriously looks like a GNC! He introduced me to mixing protein powder with instant oats. We used to eat strawberry whey protein and dry oats every day in the office because we thought it was good for us and that it tasted okay. Most importantly, it was cheap and more nutritious than the bagels and other junk that is standard office fare.”

“About five or so years ago we started to experiment with the idea of creating a better breakfast. First off, we wanted to make it taste better. We tried different ingredients. We worked with different consistencies. We wanted to make it convenient to consume, much like the Quaker Oats packets, but without the ungodly amount of sugar. Most importantly we wanted to focus on the wellness market. Why not make it better than the standard, right? You can buy buckets of whey and oats on bodybuilding sites, but these products aren't about giving you premium ingredients or taste. You tend to find the same flavors for everything - chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry - so needless to say, these products get old after a while. Also, there really isn't a focus on taste versus nutritional value or results.”

“And then we took it a step further: What about people with celiac disease? With dairy intolerance? So we decided to remove the preservatives. We decided to use three or four main ingredients. We wanted to focus on finding natural solutions where we could.”

Greg says that eating better has become an important priority in recent years: “I'm into my 30s now and my bread and butter is in web design and UX/UI. So that means I sit most of the day. My fiancé and I do Meatless Mondays and try to keep it organic when we can. We're also trying to set a good example for her daughter when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. My fiancé is much better about eating all-organic than I am. I tend to be more cost focused. I unfortunately lean on convenience foods more than I should. I've spent the last couple of years buried behind a desk getting start-ups off the ground, and it hasn't been great for my physique. Now that I work for myself, I hit the gym four to five days a week, and I do some cross-training as well. I haven't felt this good in years. It's been one of the biggest benefits to working for myself.”


Greg is no stranger to the world of start-ups, having worked for over ten years as a creative executive for various IT companies, including Canvas, Audax Health, and Ruckus. He also worked as an intern for Custom Ink: “At Audax Health, I was brought on as Creative Director and later promoted to VP of Creative. It was a great experience to help build a company from the ground floor up. I was employee number 7. Audax now has over 200 employees. My greatest takeaway from that experience was learning how to navigate the politics of being on the senior team. I was with Custom Ink and Ruckus when they were very small, so I really had to learn to manage a shoestring budget with my teams. They consisted of only one or two folks.”

Greg explained that on top of Shuster Brothers, he is working on two other start-ups: “Star Mods is a company that is designing a high-end e-cigarette product. My partner and I just had our first thirty units machined and are in the process of finishing and engraving. And Thrd Rail is a web design firm. Shuster Brothers and Star Mods are in their infancy, but Thrd Rail has been around for a couple years and supports my other two ventures financially. I went full time with Thrd Rail last October when my freelance work out-earned my salary. I really wanted to get these projects out. I've been talking about them for years, so it was really a ‘now or never’ scenario.”

Greg describes a typical day as follows: “I'm the standard ‘always working’ guy. I work from home now since I just need my clients and an internet connection. This way, I'm also free to run leads at a drop of a hat - which I think is necessary to get things moving. Until you really free yourself from the 9 to 5, you're only going to go so far. I've tried working on these projects while working other jobs and it's been incredibly difficult to get anything done in a timely manner.”


Greg admits that there have been many obstacles and challenges along the way, but expresses faith in his ability to overcome them: “There are always major road blocks when you're trying to get something out of the kitchen or garage. I'm lucky enough to have had a lot of experience with shoestring budget scenarios, so I can design my way out of problems. Our largest obstacle so far has definitely been with finding funding. Everyone loves the idea. Once they taste it, they love the product, but we get stuck in a lot of gaps since we’re such a small operation. Also, marketing and PR have been tough because they require a lot of time and energy.”

Greg described his business relationship with his partner and brother Jeff, as follows: “Jeff is our resident CFO. He’s a numbers man. He is currently earning his MBA from the University of Maryland while also handling finances at VW North America. Jeff has always been in great shape and has made healthy living a priority. He is in charge of the numbers. I pretty much take care of everything else.”

Greg and Jeff are currently looking for funding for their project: “Jeff has worked out a cost analysis for what we need to break even. At the rate we’re going now, we will need to sell at least $50,000 worth of product a year to break even. Any investment in excess of that amount would help us ramp up quicker - which I think is the best way to get the word out about our brand. We've been kicking around our business plan for months now to determine the amount we will need from an angel investor. It's all dependent on finding fulfillment and distribution centers, so we still have a lot of leg work to do.”

Greg’s advice to fellow start-up entrepreneurs: “Be prepared to wear many hats and learn new skills. Starting your own business is going to take you way out of your comfort zone. It's almost impossible to have “one foot in” without burning out quickly, but it’s a good idea to have a skill to fall back on in a worst case scenario. Just believe in what you're doing. It sounds corny, but it helps drive you. Don't fool yourself either. Do the due diligence. Don't jump in without doing your homework.”


For more information about Proatmeal, please go to:

To view Greg and Jeff’s fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, please go to:

For more information about Thrd Rail, please go to:

For more information about Star Mods, please go to:


Image Credit: Shuster Brothers

Greg Shuster hails from the DC suburbs and is a diehard entrepreneur. He has worked as a creative executive for multiple IT start-ups, including Canvas, Audax Health and Ruckus for over 10 years. Together with his brother and business partner Jeff, Greg co-founded a health food manufacturing company based out of Leesburg, VA - called Shuster Brothers.

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Sacha Nasan's Talenty

Sacha Nasan is the Belgium-based child prodigy behind the free downloadable video sharing app called Talenty, and is now - at the ripe old age of seventeen - a one-man tour-de-force who has also become an ardent supporter of start-ups: “I run Talenty on my own. I take care of nearly everything from design to marketing, administration and social media. Only the development of the app was partially outsourced. I’m passionate about start-ups because they are usually innovating in some way. I believe that, in today’s world, we have to keep innovating and modernizing. Start-ups provide new solutions to common and usually simple problems and continuously develop new technologies. By doing so, they contribute to the well-being of mankind.” At the age of fourteen, Sacha launched his first mobile app, which sold 83,000 downloads in only two days: “I had been developing simple apps for a while, and I wanted to go further than that. I had always been interested in Forex trading and therefore wanted to develop my own currency converter app, so I developed Currency Converter Pro – which is still available to download for free at the App Store.” At the age of sixteen, Sacha built Talenty, an app-enabled social network that invites people around the world to upload videos which display their skills and talents: “Talenty is a social network where people can showcase their talents - from singing, to dancing, to magic tricks and more. It gives talented people the opportunity to put themselves out there in the world, acquire fans and gain a loyal following. I hope that this will eventually translate into discovery by top talent executives from all over the world.” Although Sacha has not yet issued a press release or launched a marketing plan to attract interested users, Talenty has already managed to attract four thousand active registered users. Talenty is currently free to download, but works on a freemium model. Users can upload a one-minute video for free. To increase the length of their talent video, users are required to pay a one-time fee of $0.99. Credits may also be purchased, which users can cash in to promote their own talent video, or those of their friends. ***** In May 2013, Sacha came to the realization that there were probably thousands of talented people who, for whatever reason, couldn’t get through the first rounds of popular televised talent shows like The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent: “That didn’t necessarily imply that they did not have the talent. It simply meant that on that day, they were surrounded by people who may have put on a better show than they did. In my opinion, there’s a lot of interest in a social network for talented people. There are many people who want to share their talents, but don’t know how to do it and how to get the exposure they need.” He continued: “Due to the fact that I had been active in the app business for more than two years, I started to assemble my knowledge and resources in order to see whether it was possible to create a new social network on which everyone could share their talent and gain exposure. Being passionate about startups, I crowdfunded my project and started to work on it right away. I paid four developers to develop it. While they handled the development, I took care of the rest – design, marketing, social media, etc.” “The first version of Talenty took approximately six months to develop since the infrastructure of a social network is quite complicated. The public beta test of Talenty started in December 2013 and ran for about two months. Approximately one thousand people tested the app. Thereafter, we took two weeks to adjust Talenty by fixing bugs that were reported, and we added features that users had suggested. During the beta test, I noticed that most of the users were mainly teenagers. This is understandable since one can find a lot of talent in these age groups.” ***** Sacha started his project in Antwerp, Belgium - his hometown and the city in which he was attending high school at the time: “While Antwerp is far from being a hub for start-ups, it really didn’t matter that much because Talenty was a one-man project. There are very few resources in Antwerp. I have only heard about Idealabs, which is an accelerator program in Antwerp. In addition, there are some start-up events outside Antwerp, like Bizcamp for example. Later on, after having established a fully functional social network, I started travelling to start-up cities like London and Tel Aviv, where I met a few people who helped me greatly in terms of advice and suggestions.” He continued: “Except for a few people from Antwerp who were running their own start-ups, I mostly learned from people outside my own community. I think cities like London and Tel Aviv have developed reputations for being great start-up cities because of the presence of many popular start-up companies. Moreover, the presence of talent, VCs, and highly reputable universities play a role as well. I also think that start-ups are locating in certain cities and not in others because of the general business environment and because of what is offered by the local authorities - such as loans to incubators, easy and cheap credit and so on.” ***** Sacha explained that he was raised in a family of entrepreneurs who encouraged him to learn how to code: “We don’t have programming lessons at school and that’s why I started learning iOS programming by myself when I was fourteen. At the beginning, I developed simple apps, but some time later, I developed a currency converter, which was ranked as the #1 top overall free app in Belgium and France for two days.” Sacha is grateful to his friends and family for supporting his work: “Both my family and my friends help me greatly, and they completely support Talenty. They demonstrate their support on social media, where they help me to increase the app’s viral effect by sharing Talenty’s posts.” Sacha describes a typical day as follows: “My days are quite different from those of most start-up entrepreneurs. High school takes up a big part of my day. I wake up at around 7am, and I manage my e-mails for about twenty minutes. Then, I leave home for school. When I get back from school at 4pm, I manage my e-mails, call some people on Skype, answer users’ requests, review some talent videos on Talenty manually, and lastly I take care of everything else that is unexpected. I always try to finish things right away, instead of postponing them. When I’ve finished everything for the day, I study and do my homework.” Ironically, Sacha does not consider himself talented – well, not in the traditional song-and-dance sense anyway: “The whole idea behind Talenty is to give other people the opportunity to express their talents on the app. I do have some hobbies like sailing, tennis and skiing, but unfortunately I do not have much time to practice them. I enjoy organizing events, as well as managing projects, and I like to be involved with my community. I am currently a Scouts leader for twenty ten-year-old boys.” Sacha runs Talenty while juggling the demands of homework and high school life in general – but it doesn’t look like he has any plans to slow down in the near future: “I plan to partner with TV shows like The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent in order to give talented people the opportunity to put themselves out there in the world. I hope to make Talenty THE social network for talent, on which people can post their videos and top talent executives can discover fresh new talent.” Sacha is quick to point out that passion has been the key to his endeavors: “For me, believing in my idea and being passionate about it have been the key to motivation. Nevertheless, I want to mention that I will never regret having created Talenty - even if it fails. Talenty is the best thing that has happened in my life so far. I’ve met so many people and I’ve learned so much from it that it will always be a plus in whatever I do in my professional life.” ***** Sacha has the following tips for fellow start-up entrepreneurs: 1. Consider starting your project with equity crowdfunding, which you may be able to obtain, for instance, on These investors will help test your product, spread the word and eventually open some doors for you. 2. If you prefer not to give away any equity, other kinds of crowdfunding are also good options. Take Pebble for instance. On Kickstarter, this project successfully raised $10 million - which is a huge amount for a startup - without having to give away any equity. Most of the funds came from people who had pre-ordered the Pebble Smartwatch. Besides raising that much money, they also succeeded in creating an early success story as a result of all of those pre-orders. That, in my opinion, is quite impressive. Therefore, I’d strongly recommend that people and start-ups take part in this new trend, that they believe in their project and explore all of the possibilities in order to develop it. This requires a lot of time and energy, but if it's a good project, it will definitely pay off. 3. When pitching to investors, make sure you already have a team in place, and then make sure to find a mentor for your team. Don’t pitch to investors if you don’t have a team in place. And then practice, practice, practice. Before introducing your start-up to investors, make sure to practice your presentation, since they will grill you with questions and expect you to have the answers. 4. It’s important to have your developers sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before sharing information about the project you’re working on, and then make sure to test the developers with a small project beforehand. Ask the developers for client references so that you can check that they indeed fully developed the app displayed in their portfolio and that the app functions properly. It’s also a good idea to contact the developers’ previous clients for references. 5. Most importantly, make sure to learn the basics of programming so that you can understand what your programmers are talking about. Doing so will also help you hire the right people. To download Sacha’s currency converter, please go to the following: To join Talenty, please go to: ***** Image Credit: Used with Sacha Nasan’s permission

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A Collaborative Effort

by Bree Marie

Film producer, screenwriter, and former ESPN radio host Richard Botto also happens to be founder and CEO of Stage 32 – a rapidly growing social network for film, television, and theater creatives. Known to most as “RB,” the visionary and multi-talented Botto recently talked to me about his love for movies, his career in radio, his current work in film production, and his motivation behind the creation of Stage 32. Referring to his adoration for cinema and for the professional world of filmmaking, Botto told me: “I love the process, the chase, the creation, the collaboration, the hearts, minds, and passion of all the creative people I have worked with and those I will work with along the way.” Despite his commitment to cinema and to the creative process, Botto freely admits: “It’s a ton of work. You have to handle rejection. You have to be able to keep your head above water during the ebb and flow. But the purity of pushing something through the machine from concept to completion, from idea to screen is worth the fight.” Richard Botto was Associate Producer of “Another Happy Day,” starring Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Ezra Miller and Ellen Barkin - which was exhibited in front of a packed audience at Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Botto recalled this experience with fondness: “The film was written by Sam Levinson, Barry Levinson’s son, when he was 23. It was his intention to direct the piece, and it took him a few years to get the project off the ground and gain some traction. Ellen [Barkin] was a big champion of the work and helped with securing some of the other talent. Everyone worked for scale. They believed in the project. It’s one of those true independent film stories where everyone comes together because they believe in the material and the vision of the filmmaker.” Production was incredibly fast paced, even by Hollywood standards: “Filming began in August and the movie premiered at Sundance in the middle of January. So, you’re only talking 5 months from “Action!” to premiere.” The long hours that the cast and crew put in obviously paid off: “Both shows sold out days in advance. And to be associated with that, the response, the applause, the interest, of course, was a thrill. And then Sam [Levinson] won the Best Screenplay Award, which served as a nice topper to the whole experience.” As former editor and publisher of a men’s lifestyle magazine called “Razor,” Botto understands writing from both a creative and business point of view. He attributes his success, in part, to the importance of understanding all aspects of filmmaking: “… It certainly aided my filmmaking career. When you’re publishing a magazine, you really need to know everything about the business, including the creative end. How the editorial works. How you can best use the editorial demographically to help improve things on the business end. This informed my creative decisions when I switched chairs and became editor. I understood how both ends worked.” Elaborating on his film ventures since his stint at Razor, he said: “I made it my mission to learn everything about the business end of the industry. And I think if you are a writer or a filmmaker trying to get a script made or sold or a film off the ground, you are doing yourself a disservice and putting yourself at a disadvantage by not learning everything possible about the business. This is why so many brilliant concepts die on the vine, by the way.” Richard Botto has received a great deal of recognition for his screenplays. His screenplay “End Game” was a finalist at the Creative World Awards in 2012, and his script “Rocket’s Red Glare” was a semi-finalist in 2012 at the prestigious Page Awards. I asked him to share some insight about the concept behind the script. He responded: “As for Rocket’s, it’s simply a story I wanted to tell and it includes some elements of my life, although it’s far from autobiographical. The story is set in Bayside, Queens during the bicentennial year of 1976. It’s a story about faith - religious, yes, but also the faith you put in people, your marriage, and your neighborhood. It's about decay - of the spirit, one's will, and the body. It's about boundaries - both forced upon and self imposed. It's about the loss of innocence as seen through the eyes of a child growing up in a nation in decline.” As a writer, I was curious to know what he thought writers needed to do to master their craft. He answered: “I am no master. And I would argue that while there are some tremendous screenwriters out there, I doubt any of them would consider themselves a master either. Screenwriting is an ongoing education. It’s about telling an interesting story well. And that means understanding structure. It’s about understanding arcs. It’s about economy. Many screenwriters, especially those working at the highest level in the studio system, understand this not only in theory, but can execute and implement those principles better than most. But no screenwriter out there is batting a thousand.” Botto told me that he was very young when he discovered his love for movies and his inspiration in the world of filmmaking: “I’ve always been a voracious reader. And I found film at an early age. Not just enjoying movies, but appreciating them. I think my earliest teachings, although not something I recognized at the time - just came naturally through consumption.” He explained that filmmaking allowed him to explore his interests and to find a medium to “pay it forward”: “I remember at a very young age my grandmother saying that I was going to grow up to be an attorney, so I guess the talking was always there as well. I never took any classes for public speaking, but I’ve always loved conversation and debate. But I also believe in sharing knowledge, paying it back, paying it forward, helping, assisting, guiding. It takes so little. And, honestly, it shouldn’t require effort. To me, you expend much more energy being cynical, negative, and rude.” Many people recognize Richard Botto’s name (and voice) from his work as an ESPN and Fox sports radio host. Botto told me that broadcasting has become an important part of his life: “I had my own sports radio show on Friday evenings for almost a decade and I have to say that I looked forward to the last show as much as I did the first. Each show was guest and caller heavy, so it wasn’t just a “report the news, talk about the news,” kind of show. Because it was interactive, there was much more creativity that went into each broadcast. And that’s something I truly enjoyed. The banter - the reacting.” Botto’s charisma and passion for entertainment even earned him a spot as one of People Magazine’s “Most Eligible Bachelors” in 2003. He called the title: “Unexpected. And, of course, it provided some great bar stories.” In 2011, Richard Botto went all in on his dream to create a social network - Stage 32 - the objective of which is to encourage creative amateurs and professionals around the world to collaborate. Members include writers, actors, directors, and producers - with backgrounds ranging from indie to blockbusters films. On the subject of Stage 32, Botto said: “The site is truly a labor of love and a venture I am overwhelmingly proud to stand in front of.” He continued: “… reflecting back on it now, it seems to me that there were many incidents along the way that fueled the concept. Having been around this business for a while now, having realized rejection, both my own and through the experiences of friends in the industry, having had phone calls go unreturned, promises not kept, and, finally, having seen so many talented – and I mean talented – people give up because they simply did not have the resources or connections to build a network that could make a difference, it just seemed to me that the scales were unbalanced in a way that favored a select few.” Reflecting on the importance of bringing talented people together from a wide variety of creative backgrounds, Botto added: “… I felt what was missing was a hub for all film, television, and theater creatives to congregate, share ideas, and work together regardless of talent level or location. Creativity is global. Film is not just Hollywood. Theater is not just Broadway. And too often, ambition is stunted because of dead ends. We wanted to open more roads to success.” Botto’s aim was to create something new: “There are other social media outlets out there, but many are for friends and family, or for pushing out bursts of information. None are as focused and offer a support system for film, television, and theater creatives like Stage 32. Second, although I’m the CEO, I’m also a writer, actor, director, and producer. So, in short, I’m no different than anyone else on the site. I network just like everyone else. I scratch and claw to get my projects moving or to land my next role just like the next member. Third, our membership ranges from child actors to Academy, Tony, and Emmy winners. They’re all active and they all contribute...” Talented amateurs and seasoned industry professionals alike have signed up to Botto’s network, including Dan Rubin, screenwriter of epic comedy Groundhog Day. Academy Award nominee actor Terence Stamp was quick to recognize the ingenuity of creating such an important network: “I was not born into the age of technology. There was nothing like Stage 32 available to the hungry young artist. Support and connections were made in the foyers of theaters or at the local pub most frequented by actors and directors, mostly out of work. Richard Botto has given artists a gift of the new age, a cyber connection that works on so many levels.” Currently, Botto is also CEO of Fair Warning Productions, a film production company he co-founded in Los Angeles. When asked about the benefits of owning his own production company, Botto replied: “… on the surface, to be blunt, there aren’t any. Anyone can form an LLC and create a production company. What matters is that you create content. What that means for each individual is up to them.” In closing, Richard Botto reflected on his journey: “From a young age, I always imagined directing. But, to be honest, I never thought it was something that was attainable. And I never ventured into screenwriting because that seemed even more unattainable. Who would ever let me film something? Who would I send my scripts to?” For Botto, his persistence and his love for the craft came to prevail: “Ultimately, I became a passive admirer of the greats. But it was always there. Always in my heart. That love. That desire. Eventually I found that path in the forest that led to another, and then another. And I’ve never looked back.” Regarding Stage 32, Botto concluded: “I always talk about how being a creative means being a collaborator on and off the set. But the reality is, life is a collaborative effort in many ways." Image Credits: Cover and accompanying images used with Richard Botto's permission For more information about Richard Botto and Stage 32, please go to:

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Sujay Tyle

SUJAY TYLE went to Harvard at the tender age of 15, and then was awarded a Thiel Fellowship of $100,000 as an incentive to drop out of school to change the world. In an effort to "make his own road," Tyle dropped out of Harvard at the age of 17 and joined mobile social gaming start-up, SCOPELY.COM as VP of Business Development. The start-up has since raised 3.5 million dollars in funding (2011). To top off a whole list of accolades, Tyle was also a former winner of the International Energy Olympiad, was named New York's "Top Young Scientist" and co-founded ReSight, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to eradicating blindness. He is now 18 years old. In the following very inspiring TED Talk, Tyle talks about the importance of creating your own path. Forget the road less taken, everyone! Tyle says: "Own the path. It's yours."

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Blake Mycoskie

BLAKE MYCOSKIE, founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, the revolutionary start-up that has managed to win the hearts of shoe lovers around the world by promising to donate one pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair of shoes sold, has published a book called START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS. In it, he encourages start-up founders to consider contributing to the world in a positive and meaningful way, and to take part in the global movement to effect social change, by - there is no other way to put it - factoring "giving" into your business model. Not only is it good business, says Mycoskie, it's also a great way to get your story out there, where your fans can take up your cause and share your ideas (and your product) with the people they love and care about the most. The Wall Street Journal has called Mycoskie's business model "a creative and open-hearted business model for our times." In his book, Mycoskie advises start-up founders to build their businesses out of the "metaphorical garage," as he did when he got started in 2006. In Mycoskie's case, the "metaphorical garage" was his apartment: "The apartment had two other bedrooms, occupied by my two roommates. Both of these guys had nine-to-five jobs, so when they went to work, I turned our home into the TOMS office. The roomies were cool with this as long as everyone was gone and the apartment was clean when they came home by six o'clock. And they didn't want us to use their bedrooms, which was fair. Because the place was small and we had boxes all over, that summer I decided to move my office outside into the yard, where I placed a desk and a chair. As a result of being outside all day, I looked tanner than I ever had before. When people came to meet Jonathan, they would walk past me and then ask him, "Who's the random dude out there in surf trunks?" So, if you're working out of your garage or your basement or your studio apartment right now, please DO NOT DESPAIR. Greatness may very well be right around the corner! Source: Start Something That Matters, Blake Mycoskie, p. 72-3

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Squidoo's Seth Godin

In the following podcast, SETH GODIN, founder of SQUIDOO and international bestselling author, talks about how society has brainwashed people to believe that we must "accept" things the way they are, instead of questioning and challenging the status quo. The result, of course, is that we have stopped learning about how things are made, about how success is crafted, and about how businesses go on to do great things, relegating these stories to the shelves of history - as if these accomplishments were beyond our understanding and therefore, beyond our grasp. Godin believes that EVERYONE has an opportunity to do great things. As such, he urges start-up founders to "never give up" because, according to Godin, businesses are now easier to start than ever before, with risks considerably lower and easier to mitigate. Very few of us have a job, says Godin. What we have is better described as an "opportunity." Whatever form your "opportunity" takes, be it in the form of a position at a firm, or as a start-up founder, or as an entrepreneur with many years of experience, Godin tells us that if we are ready to cast off the shackles of "acceptance," to take part in the revolution of ideas that is currently taking place all around us, then success will never be very far behind. The following podcast starts off slowly, but Godin has plenty of insight and wisdom to share. It is definitely worth watching all the way through! (P.S.: My tip for start-up founders out there: Inspirational start-up videos keep me moving when I feel like turning in early. Listening to Godin talk in his very animated, diplomatic and soft-spoken manner always makes me see the logic behind the insanity of starting up a business!)

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