For the better half of his life, Bryan didn’t belong to the common narrative of the world. Sports teams he didn’t make, friend groups he didn’t fit into, a fraternity he dropped after one week in rush, and jobs where his potential was tied to a direct report’s approval.
Simply, he wasn’t on the right path and didn’t know how to articulate it until he hit a quarter life crisis (rock bottom) his junior year of college. Through self discovery, he became clear on his individuality, leading him to find a new community propelling him to stand out fully on my own and find the path that was meant for him all along – entrepreneurship.
Traversing this pathway hasn’t been easy. However, what it has provided him is a chance to show up everyday personally and professionally 100% authentically as himself. On this journey he has been able to help build multiple startups at the center of helping others find their pathways by building tribes of their own and sharing their voices. Today that represents BW Missions where they help transform experts into thought leaders such as Allen Gannett (Author of The Creative Curve), Rick Smith (CEO Axon formerly TASER), Denise Gosnell (Head of Data at DataStax) and many more.
He has been given the opportunity to share this message of crafting pathways to belonging in Thrive Global, PRSUIT, NGEN Summit, UGA Terry College of Business, and countless podcasts. His clients messages have also been shared in Forbes, INC, Morning Brew, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and more.
As Robin Williams asks “What Will Your Verse Be?” in Dead Poets Society, BW Missions shapes the verses that help the people stand out and build their path forward that will connect them with others in a meaningful way.
Email: [email protected]
Where did the idea for BW Missions come from?
For the past 10 years, I’ve been working to build communities online and beyond. In college at the University of Georgia, I became fascinated by building grassroots communities for the first time, and in 2014–15, I developed a campus-based brand ambassador program to drive ticket sales for the Atlanta Hawks and Braves. Pre-Covid, that program pulled in over $200,000 in ticket sales.
That experience armed me with the skills to mobilize people online, and led me to cultivate digital connections through meaningful content production and shared storytelling. My senior year of college, Wish Dish, a space for 800+ people to share authentic stories about overcoming life’s challenges, was born. Creating and growing Wish Dish highlighted for me how transformative and healing sharing online could be––when done through the right channels.
After graduating, I worked with an investment fund in New York, running their content and scaling their global community across more than 70 countries. I learned the foundational elements of building a brand and doing it right.
The lightbulb went off when I found the personal brand space. I could draw on all my experiences to help individuals build their brands, communities, and online voices, to help them connect to others in a meaningful way and thus embark on a path meant for them.
To be clear, that “lightbulb” moment didn’t just occur by happenstance; it was the product of numerous experiences, put together and brought under one roof.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m generally up by 6–6:30 AM and meditate for 10 minutes before getting out of bed. I move into knocking out my top priorities for the day. Next, I often look at the Wall Street Journal headlines to be informed and bring current events and different perspectives into conversations.
I fill the afternoon with more meetings and less head-down work and handle email in between. Typically, I find myself in the gym or yoga studio around 5 PM or 6 PM for daily exercise.
My nights are spent doing a lot of creative work, such as writing, scripting videos, and––recently––reading and practicing the guitar, which is helping me get in touch with myself and approach life more fluidly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, I think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Usually when I have an idea, (e.g. for an article), I sit on it to let it marinate and formulate on its own. When I’m ready, I let it out stream-of-consciousness style. Often, my best ideas come from the conversations with people in my life.
The next step is to understand what it will take to bring a particular idea to life, and then assemble the team who can usher it to its full potential.
Luckily, my team at BW Missions is very talented and has helped me bring all my ideas together and integrate them into the business effectively.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is the shift in how companies are looking at people as more than transactional elements of their business, and creating holistically minded workplaces that value employee health and give people the freedom to design their schedules in a way most conducive to them, while still meeting deadlines and goals.
This next generation of leaders needs autonomy; those who don’t provide it won’t be able to attract the talent who will disrupt the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
For the past couple of years, I’ve worked really hard to fully shut down on Saturdays. I don’t do work or check my email, and instead make the effort to be present and recover from a long week of thinking and working really hard.
Additionally, I set aside the last half of Sunday to be proactive, ensure meetings are confirmed, and adjust my schedule in a manner that allows me to accomplish my priorities for the week, while also giving myself space for creative endeavors outside of the day-to-day grind.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Given the Westward journey I’ve been on recently (link below), I’ve learned some hard but powerful lessons. I’ve let external relationships and feedback complete me (e.g. work) for too long. As a result, I’ve felt that something was missing for years.
With that in mind, I’d tell my younger self to focus on being able to stand confident on my own without attachment to the external aspects of life. I’d teach him to love and value himself for what he brings to the world and understand that I’m enough for who I am.
Lastly, I’d teach him to be present. I’ve worked to make a lot of changes, which has allowed me to better show up for those closest to me, and recognize the long-term impact of that on all aspects of my life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I could beat anyone in the world in an all you can eat sushi competition.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Have a strong health routine. It’s the most structured aspect of my life. Without it, I can’t show up at work, in my closest relationships, or for myself. From good nutrition and yoga/working out, to working with coaches/therapists and following spiritual practices, these efforts keep me centered.
You don’t fill a nice car with low-grade gasoline. The same goes for your body, when you want it to perform consistently and show up for you, you have to show up for it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My Dad told me growing up the one thing he wished he did earlier was build relationships. He thought that would have enabled him to get much further along, much faster.
My Mom always made it okay to reach out to those who have been there for help, so she didn’t have to learn the hard way all on her own.
Put simply, finding the right people at the right time helps you overcome the hurdles in front of you. In a business, there are always new problems and challenges that must be addressed, and the entrepreneurs who are willing to go out of their way to find solutions, build relationships, take an interest in others, and ask when they need help are the ones who will get where they want to go faster.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My first startup out of college was an economic failure. I didn’t make it sustainable, and ran out of the life savings I had poured into it. However, the concept of failure is relative. It served as a fundamental investment in myself. Spending that time and money taught me how to get an idea off the ground, navigate the web, and understand the relationship between vulnerable content and growing a community, and the connections I was able to build are still having a positive impact on me to this day.
Afterward, I knew I eventually wanted to build a business again. So, I reflected on what went wrong and the tools I needed to put into my toolbelt, then went and found two jobs that paid me to learn the areas of business where I needed the most refinement. I called it a “paid master’s degree,” since the expense of learning didn’t come from my pocket.
From there, I was able to take all my experiences and build a business, which today represents almost 30 active clients and nine full-time employees––which should grow to 12 by the end of the year.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Content is a conduit to create meaningful relationships when you share it with vulnerability. With the right platform, and the right community, adding AI to the mix to derive or reinforce those connections could be extremely powerful.
For instance, when someone shares something super meaningful on Facebook or LinkedIn, why doesn’t the platform connect me to 3–5 other people who shared on similar topics around the world and tell me why I should reach out, as opposed to building superficial connections based on shared data points (e.g. work industry, interests).
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a camera and equipment to support it. It’s been great to have a tool to tell my story digitally. I’ve always been one to write down my thoughts, but thinking about storytelling through a different lens and how to connect it to meaningful writing has been an extremely fulfilling personal journey.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Grammarly: Such a good investment. I put so many work emails, proposals, and personal pieces through it to help make my communication more fluid.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Entrepreneurs are wired in a unique way, and further groomed to think with the end in mind. But those who can connect their head and their heart and really show up in the moment are the ones who have the opportunity to truly “win” in all areas of life. The book encourages that kind of presence.
What is your favorite quote?
“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.”
– Albert Einstein
We all face extreme pain in life. It’s up to us as to how we deal with it––whether we choose to sit in it, run away from it, or face it head on.
If you choose to face it head-on, there are always silver linings and growth opportunities.
- Cultivating a positive relationship with yourself allows you to show up as a whole person. It helps you lead with your heart to address and seize issues that go far beyond functionality.
- Our relationships are crucial to personal and professional success. They make the tough roads easier to navigate, provide meaning, and allow us to reach our goals and dreams.
- Without our health, we are nothing. If you prioritize one part of your life, prioritize your health, and put the right resources and structures in place to show up for yourself and others everyday in the most optimal way.
- Cultivate a long-term vision for what you want, then work backward, and manifest opportunities in your life that give you the skills, relationships, and paycheck to help you get there faster.
- Ideas are like pimples; only pop them when they’ve come to a head.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.