July 15

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Serial Entrepreneurship and How She Does It All with Jody Levy

By Mimi MacLean

July 15, 2021


serial entrepreneurship Jody Levy
Jody Levy

How She Does It All and You Can Too

Serial entrepreneurship, applying creativity to a business idea, and growing multiple businesses at once are all topics addressed in this week’s episode with powerhouse Jody Levy! She is a partner, advisor, and investor in many category-disrupting brands and companies connected to the clean living, wellness lifestyle space that empowers people to take care of themselves and optimize their happiness and purpose.

She’s an artist, designer, serial entrepreneur, executive, and investor who is the shining example of why you don’t have to do ONE thing if you love the process. She talks us through her multiple businesses, including WTRMLN WTR and the Milk Cleanse, and how she balances it all.

Badass CEO Episode featuring Jody Levy

Episode Contents

  • Her Start and Background
  • Balancing Her Time and Energy
  • How She Got Into Serial Entrepreneurship
  • Knowing Your Weaknesses
  • Her Advice For that Pursuing Serial Entrepreneurship
Founder of WTMRLN WTR & The Milk Cleanse

Her Start and Background

Mimi:
Jody, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I'm excited to talk to you on so many levels because you're a line warrior like myself, but you're a true entrepreneur.

I was looking at your website, you have so many things going on and wearing so many hats. And I appreciate that because I'm that type of person. I don't know if you've ever read the book. I think it's One. Is that what it's called? One? They tell you to concentrate only on one thing. I got through the first chapter, and I'm like, "Oh, this is not me. I've got to put it down." I can't focus on just one thing. That's just not who I am. So I think I met somebody, like a girl after my own heart. So welcome. Thank you so much for coming on.

I would love to just start by just telling me about what you're doing and how you got into serial entrepreneurship. You have so many different things, I don't even know where to start, so I don't know what you want to concentrate on first.

Jody:
Well, I'll follow your lead, but I'll tee a few things up so that we can get going. I'm an artist, and I'm professionally trained; I went to college for fine art. I like to say the best way to articulate how I think about business is that it's my favorite artistic medium and I really believe in how products and brands, and things can interface to a bigger story. So because of that perspective, I tend to love the process of coming up with a solution to a problem and bringing it into the world.

Mimi:
That's great.

Jody:
It's my favorite pastime.

Mimi:
And that's not typical. Artists and I are generalizing, so don't anybody be offended, but generally, artists who are so talented in using that side of the brain tend not to see the business side. That's a total generalization, but to have that knack of doing both is just unbelievable.

Jody:
Yeah. It's definitely rare. For me, it's probably a little bit of my spirit and a little bit of how I was conditioned. I grew up in a family of serial entrepreneurs. My dad was always doing large-scale events for the variety club, children's charity, and all these charitable organizations, and I loved it. They would throw me on the headset when I was really young, and I'd run around kind of orchestrating things.

Mimi:
That's awesome.

Jody:
And so, I grew up in that process of assembling stuff. I was a total producer, like born a producer, but it was the balance to fine art, which was very internal and personal and expressive and introverted. So I think I was always sort of pursuing these two, kind of like balancing introvert-extrovert dynamics.

Mimi:
Yeah. And just the aesthetics. And that's like what you're going back to, like brand and building a brand is so important because you can have the best product. Still, if you don't have it branded properly and marketed properly, which is all artistic and how you tell the story, right, your company's not going anywhere.

Jody:
Totally. I like to think that I call that my plot process for everything that I do, whether it's developing a brand or launching a brand for another company or helping somebody refine what they're doing related to an invention or product or a story of some sort or a mission.

Or even if I'm helping somebody through a healing journey, it all comes down to the core of where we're starting from and how we make sure that that core story or communication is always expressed the same in everything we're doing.

Jody:
It's like the difference between just doing something at the surface versus managing the micro details, which sets something apart. And that's how I think about business.

Mimi:
That's great. I mean, that is a special way of kind of just boiling it down and simplifying it. Right? And then making sure that gets told. So which is the business that you spend the most time with?

Milk Cleanse Products
Milk Cleanse by Jody Levy

Balancing Her Time and Energy

Jody:
So right now, I have come on as a partner and the global director and the chief executive officer of SUMMIT, a community of 50,000 people worldwide that all kind of has this entrepreneurial spirit in common. It's a lot of the makers, the more avant-garde investors, the people that have ideas and are bringing them into the world. SUMMIT has been a platform for the past 14 years where people kind of support one another, and two parts or 10 parts to a whole come together and then make something amazing.

Jody:
I've been part of the community for a long time, and during the pandemic, I jumped in. It was really an opportunity to define who we are and what we're doing and what our legacy will be moving forward and really think about bringing our people worldwide together to do even more meaningful things.

Mimi:
That's awesome. That's great that you've gotten involved with that organization and trying to take that to the next level. And then, so how did you get involved? You must've already been an entrepreneur and started other companies before getting involved with them.

Jody:
Yes. I started my first company when I was 21, and it was an experience design firm. The world's first, actually, early on, really thinking about how multi-sensory communications can tell stories. So kind of the concept of like Montessori learning, right. People learn from different sensory inputs. When we design an immersive installation or a theatrical experience, or even a brand, and all of the expressions of a brand in a way that stimulates as many senses as possible, it forms memory. And when we can form a positive memory, people tend to distill the story and then share it. So I did that for a long time.

Mimi:
So you graduated from college or during college. When did you do that?

Jody:
I graduated from the art institute of Chicago after a five-year adventure around the world studying art. And honestly, my five years in college were the only time in my life that I really have never made art. I've been making huge scale paintings and drawings and immersive installations my whole life, and then I was in art school and got grants and traveled the world. I finished school. I think I got a diploma four years later because I needed it to teach an art class or an experience design class at a college somewhere.

Mimi:
So you were working and doing things the entire time? You weren't a typical college student where you were. When did you see serial entrepreneurship being the path for you?

Jody:
Totally.

Mimi:
Okay, cool. And then that was just like a natural extension of what you were already doing. It wasn't like, "Hey, I graduated. I'm going to start a company."

Jody:
Well, it was very serendipitous. I kind of surrendered to the flow of life, but an opportunity up, and I was creating a lot of like installations telling stories about sustainability and the ecology of our planet, and it was not something that most people in America were talking about.

And so I got very involved with Global Green USA and some of the bigger organizations and 501c3's that we're doing things to try to make people aware of what was going on on our planet.

“It was really an opportunity to define who we are and what we're doing and what our legacy will be moving forward and really think about bringing our people worldwide together to do even more meaningful things.”

Jody:
Now we're more aware, but we were behind, and we still are behind in the lifestyle choices that need to make us more responsible citizens and protect the world we live in.

Mimi:
Right. Yes. Of course.

Jody:
And then from there, I was like, "Okay, well, if I want to make real change, I need to go into the belly of the beast," and so I had the opportunity to get into the automotive industry. My design firm was launching non-traditional fuel technology, nontraditional mobility, hybrid vehicles, fuel cell technology, hydrogen platforms, and battery technology. We were involved with Toyota and Lexus and Ford and GM, Tesla, Fisker.

Mimi:
That's awesome.

Jody:
It was fascinating.

Mimi:
And how did you get those leads? I mean, you're making it sound so easy, but I'm sure it wasn't as easy as that.

Jody:
I was one of four founding members, and two of the other members had come from the automotive industry in more traditional marketing and PR. So we've brought these two worlds together to think about how you tell stories with large-scale animated architecture and projection mapping and holograms, and interactive interfaces. We would build these custom art pieces or sculptures to touch your interaction with transforming huge environments.

Jody:
It was like 2001, so we were aggregating content from SMS photos taken on flip phones, but it was great. It was like boot camp for business because we were working with Fortune 50 companies and C-suite executives.

Mimi:
That's amazing. And so from there, did you left and started another company, or you started with a company at the same time? What happened after that?

Jody:
There were lots of different adventures and overlaps. I was doing many installations at the Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. And a lot of interactive experiences at Coachella and different festivals. That was like the balance to the other work. I was in New York producing a show on Broadway, and I was at a surprise birthday party.

Mimi:
You amaze me.

Jody:
I was very invested in this communication around sustainability and how we can change our day-to-day lives to keep our planet and the people on our planet healthy. I had this hilarious encounter with Harlan Berger, who was my co-founder in a company called WTRMLN WTR.

We're on the roof of a building, and somebody came up and gifted him these couple bottles of cold-pressed watermelon juice. And I'm like, "What is this?? You know, this is your birthday present? "What is this?" And Mike, the guy who handed it to him, said, "Happy birthday, man. I hope all your dreams come true." And that’s when serial entrepreneurship really presented itself to me.

Jody:
At that point, Harlan shared with me this crazy fact that we're not sure why he knew that there were 800 million pounds of unused watermelons in America every year, which represents an incredible amount of money and energy and work, et cetera. I was fascinated by this. At first, I was like, "Oh, well, watermelons can make ethanol, right? Let's fly rocket ships on watermelon ethanol, naturally."

So I went to Columbia and talked to all of these vertical farming and ethanol exports, and it was there that they informed me that watermelons are low-glycemic and can't make fuel. And then, in my belief that brands can be interfaces to bigger, more important messages, Harlan and I started talking. I was like, "You know, we could create a beverage," which is what he really wanted to do, "that has all these things that are good for people, make it super clean, et cetera. But we could really use it as a way to tell stories about food waste" because this is a huge issue.

Jody:
The amount of food waste in every part of our food system really needs to be discussed. It directly coincides with food as a social justice issue and has clean food accessible to everybody in our country, and really everywhere. So that was the inception point for my first CPG product in the beverage space. And then I now am involved in quite a few clean food supplements, beauty, psychedelic brands, many of which are my own. I have two beverages, two beverage companies. I have two beverages, two beverage companies.

Mimi:
Okay. Because I was looking at your portfolio, which is impressive, you're not just an investor. Are you also acting as the CEO of each of these?

Jody:
So WTRMLN WTR we sold to this incredible company in the Dominican Republic that actually grows their melons, makes WTRMLN WTR, and does everything for that company. That was late last year, around the same time that I got involved with SUMMIT, actually the same day. It's funny how the world works, right?

Mimi:
Yes.

Jody:
And then I have a Mezcal company called Gem & Bolt, which Gem & Bolt is this amazing Mezcal that's distilled with Damiana, which is a really potent aphrodisiac. It's kind of been known as a cure-all from ancient times, but our Mezcal is super clean and grown like all biodynamically in Oaxaca, Mexico. So that's a business that I'm on the board of, and I support, but at this point, it's got its wings, and it's all over the world, and it's kind of flying on its own.

Mimi: So you're not running day-to-day operations of that?

Jody: No. The businesses that I'm running right now, besides SUMMIT, which gets almost all of me, are the products that are really dear to my heart. Throughout most of the journey that I just told you about, I went undiagnosed with Lyme Disease for 18 years.

In terms of serial entrepreneurship, you have to be selective with your time and energy which is why a solid team and foundation are crucial.

How She Got Into Serial Entrepreneurship

Serial Entrepreneurship Business WTMRLN WTR
WTRMLN WTR Products

Mimi:
Amazing. Because I have Lyme, and it's debilitating, you've done so much, which is amazing.

Jody:
It was like my survival. Nobody could figure out what was wrong. Everyone thought I was nuts. People were just like, stop working so hard, stop dancing so long, you know?

Mimi:
You're stressing yourself out.

Jody:
All of it. And I was like, okay, yeah, yeah, got it. But I sleep eight hours a day, and I eat super clean, and something's not right.

Mimi:
Did you felt not well? Think how much you could have accomplished if… Did you accomplish that much not feeling well? I always say that to myself. I get a lot done, but can you imagine how much more I'd get done if I actually felt well. I'd maybe do it with a bigger smile instead of trudging through the day. You did all of this while you were sick.

Jody:
And then, when I figured it out, it took me four years. So I was basically like, you can tell the type of personality I am. I was like, I am going to CEO my wellness. Forget all these other opinions, all these reports, and all this noise. Nobody's giving me answers. I know how to solve things. I know how to create things that have never been created before. I'm going to get myself better to get anybody else who wants to get better, better. So I have three businesses that are separate under the umbrella of Biotoxic RX and in my serial entrepreneurship portfolio.

Mimi:
I've tried that.

Jody:
Thanks. The first one is called the Milk Cleanse, which absolutely saved my life. In this wacky journey where I was like having conference calls and running my businesses from the coat closets in my doctor's offices with IV bags in my arm that nobody could see for years, I finally, after trying absolutely everything across the planet, discovered this amazing woman named Dr. Linda Lancaster, who put me on an adapted Ayurvedic milk mono-diet with particular supplements that you take every two hours.

I was rolling my eyes and being so snobby about the whole thing. I carried it around in my little computer bag for probably eight months before I actually did it. It finally got to the point where I felt so at the end of my rope.

Mimi:
I know that feeling.

Jody:
My sister was like, "Why don't you do that weird milk thing. It's not going to hurt you. Just drink goat milk for eight days. Let's see what happens. You've literally tried everything else. Everything else you tried is way more invasive."

Mimi:
Yeah, totally. I'm the same way. So wacky.

Jody:
Right? So whacky. So I did it, and it was crazy. I would cycle through symptoms and pain and light sensitivity and all these weird things. On day six, I had this wild rush clearing from my brain. My vision got super clear.

Mimi:
It was in six days?

Jody:
On day eight. I climbed a mountain in Colorado with my sister without any pain. And I was like, "Oh my God." She looked at me. She's like, "I haven't seen you in years." We were dancing. And I wasn't like trying to like hide my weird stuff. And then I was like, "Okay, well, I feel good, but now what?" How long is this going to last? And it lasted forever, but in four months, I was still great. And I was like, "Okay. I think I could jump back in and run one of my businesses."

Jody:
So I jumped back into WTRMLN WTR, my main beverage business, and what I was focused on full-time. And for two and a half years, I ran the business and fixed much operational stuff. I went as hard as anyone could go, and I felt amazing. Serial entrepreneurship is not out of the question for people with chronic pain and this helped me prove that not only to myself but to others.

Mimi:
Amazingly, you never crashed.

Jody:
I have never crashed. I have never crashed. That was in 2016.

Mimi:
Wow. So this is your own little concoction, and then you kind of went into her and said, "Let's do a business out of this," or did she already have a business out of it?

Jody:
So Linda's a very well-known doctor between New Mexico in New York, and she's been using the Milk Cleanse for 40 years. She's had thousands of people use it, and not just for Lyme. I mean, people use it for all kinds of things. It is the most incredible gut reset, full-body reset parasite cleanse. People use it for hormone balancing. Basically, when you go on only milk, you can also drink coffee and water.

Mimi:
That's it.

Jody:
But you can drink as much as you want. But people are so used to cleanses being deprived and so challenging. It's not. It's like the perfect balance of protein, fat, and carbs. And for most of us that have been in the healing space, it's more carbs than we're used to, so it makes you feel amazing. Almost everybody on day eight asks the question, "Can I just say on milk? I feel so good. Can I just stay on milk?" And there is a phase two, so you take supplements for another three weeks afterward with a regular clean food diet. It's incredible. It's had profound effects on so many people.

Mimi:
That's amazing.

Jody:
And then another business's sort of connected to it. One of the things that we have discovered with serial entrepreneurship, "we" being sort of the underground wellness practitioners that, and I'm not a practitioner, but that treat a lot of patients that have mold toxicity and viruses and weird kind of invisible diseases, is that the limbic system can loop in patterns.

Mimi:
Yeah. It's a PTSD type of thing.

Jody:
Yes. So along the journey, I was better. My brain and memory were back. My energy is back, but I was still having pain in my lower back. And I was like, somebody put something in me or cut me open or cut me in half. I don't care what, and it was around the time that this awareness around how the Olympic looping works related to symptoms.

Jody:
I was living in Denver. I was running one of my businesses. My sister was about to have twins. I very serendipitously met Lisa Wimberger, who is the inventor of a modality called neurosculpting. I was just like hanging in Denver, and she's in Denver, and she has the Neurosculpting Institute in Denver. So I went to see her for the first time. I think it was like Halloween. I was in a hand-crocheted white unicorn, honesty, She burst out laughing, and I burst out laughing, and we were just like ancient friends reuniting. Right?

Jody:
We did four sessions, and my pain was gone. So I sat down and outlined every symptom, physical, emotional, psychological, and mental, that anybody I know who's been through chronic illness has suffered from. She and I built an iPhone app, and there's actually a web app version for people that don't have the iPhone called NeuroPraxis. The first library that's up is for biotoxicity, which includes Lyme and mold and all the things that go with it, parasites, et cetera. Right now, in this coming out of this crazy kind of pandemic pause and experience, it's been really amazing for many people who have been recovering from COVID or the fears around COVID.

Jody:
We have all these users around the world that are using Neuro Praxis. We have four new libraries coming out that are like general fear and anxiety, and we have a NeuroPraxis for peak performance.

Mimi:
Awesome. So let's get back to the serial entrepreneurship thing. How are you managing this all? So for people who are listening, who have one company and multiple companies, how are you managing the different serial entrepreneurship boxes? I mean the different hats. Let's talk with the nitty-gritty. Are you using paper? Are you using an app?

Jody:
Okay. Cool. I'm like super old school, and because of my memory stuff over the years, I've created these weird systems for myself because I have a weird relationship to time. I don't like being late, which has sort of gone out the window at this point because I'm doing too much, but I keep one email open on the left side of my computer all the time. It is like a catch-all, and I am in that email all day long.

Jody:
I prioritize and reprioritize all day long, but there's something that I do ahead of that's really important. First of all, I have gotten genuine about what I'm bad at, so I hire for what I am not good or not efficient at again like I said before if you want to do the serial entrepreneurship thing you have to HIRE the right people!

Mimi:
Right. But you make it sound easy.

Know Your Weaknesses

Jody Levy Quote
Quote from Jody Levy

Jody:
The hiring part?

Mimi:
I think hiring is hard. Finding the right person, not feeling like you're being taken advantage of.

Jody:
Oh, it's impossible.

Mimi:
Because you try to like interview somebody and they want to charge so much money and then hire them and don't produce the results you think they will produce. It's just this vicious cycle. Then you're like, "Wait. I'll just do it myself." So how are you finding good people? How are you finding those people?

Jody:
It's really the hardest thing. I like to experiment with people. I'm not afraid to try things, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I'm very open about that with people, especially with the early stage stuff, which tends to be more passion-driven partners and people that really care about what we're building. I am not afraid to take risks, giving people an opportunity; if they get excited about something, I typically will do so with a light consulting commitment, just to see how we float together.

I'm also very organized and detailed, but in a very non-linear way, so I'm aware that my way of doing things is not for everybody. So part of it's also for them to really see what it's like to kind of flow with me. Serial entrepreneurship requires a level of openness with hiring and trial and error to find the right fit for the company.

Jody:
There's something else that is important. I know how much of my time is spent on my work and specific parts of my work. I will take a piece of paper and write all of my life parts. Then, I organize it by the businesses that I'm involved with. I'll oftentimes, out of a hundred percent of my waking time, know how much I'm spending on each – something I highly recommend for serial entrepreneurship. So I'll usually do like a now, and I try to be honest with myself, a lot of times where I want things to be and where they actually are are out of sync.

Jody:
I'll ask what do I want it to be? Right. Then I'll do, in September 2021, what do I want it to be? Sometimes I want my time related to music and dance and intimacy to be much higher than my work percentage. Work right now is at 92%, and all these other things fill that other 7%. I kind of need work to be at 70% so that I can have a good balance. I know it sounds so analog and silly, but having an understanding of what I'm committing to on how I spend my time and not giving up the things that are important on the other side of my life keeps me sane and focused and feeling really good about the hard stuff because running businesses and building businesses and hiring and firing and all the things, it's hard. Serial entrepreneurship is massively overwhelming but only if you let it be.

Mimi:
Because your email is open all the time, do you feel like you're just reactionary, or how do you make sure you're getting things are done that need to get done? Like do you say, okay, today I'm going to make sure I address these three things? Because I do that, and then the next thing you know, it's been the whole day, and I've just been answering emails.

Jody:
Yeah. I wouldn't say I like Slack or many of the project management tools that my teams use. I like having texts, and email and I kind of have boundaries around both. Texts for kind of quick design creative stuff or, hey, there's an email I need you to look at. I like everything in my inbox.

Mimi:
My inbox is my to-do list.

Jody:
I'm interested in the details of stuff because I think that's what really differentiates. I really trust my teams to do their work, and I trust them to pull me into stuff when they need me. I wake up early and give myself two hours early morning before my phone starts ringing, and everything happens where I try to get through my email. So everybody loads me up at night and knows that I'm going to prioritize based on if it's investment stuff or investor stuff, it comes first.

Mimi:
Yeah. Exactly. Do you have somebody who's like the right-hand person that helps you with all the company? Like all your companies?

Jody:
Mm-mm (negative).

Mimi:
No?

Jody:
No, but I should.

Mimi:
Yeah. Exactly. You amaze me because I'm just sitting here thinking about my problems, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, how does she get-?" You said you don't like Slack or any of those systems, but you said some of your teams are using them. So does that mean that each company or each team has a different version, or have you tried to make everybody on the same one?

Jody:
No. Everything's totally separate.

Mimi:
So literally could one could be on Asana, one could be on Slack, one could be… Oh, my gosh. My gosh.

Jody:
I mean, most everybody is using the old school stuff except for the bigger businesses. WTRMLN WTR and all SUMMIT businesses are obviously a lot more connected, a lot bigger, and we're building more global in scale. So things are bigger. Right? They scale. I just tend to forget to look at stuff. So everyone knows that like, even if I have too many Google links, that's the place where I get overwhelmed. I'm like, I don't know where to find the links.

Jody:
My organizational system on digital files is great. But when it comes to me having like, I need a map, and then I need a map.

Serial Entrepreneurship Is Focusing On The End Goal

Quote from Jody Levy
Quote from Jody Levy

Mimi:
Totally. What would you recommend, or what advice would you give to anyone listening to an entrepreneur or wants to be an entrepreneur or trying to start a company or want to make it to the top of the corporation they're at? What kind of advice would you give them?

Jody:
I think that there are a couple of essential things when it comes to serial entrepreneurship. So first of all, if I don't love the process of what I'm doing, for me, it's not worth doing, so I have something in the mind of where we're going as a team or as a business or for myself if there's a goalpost I want to hit, so to speak.

Jody:
But serial entrepreneurship is really about enjoying the moments that we're in. It's not always easy, but I still enjoy the hard, right? As long as I'm learning or growing and quenching that kind of constantly curious thing in me, I'm happy. So I feel like the place where people sometimes can't find their joy and can't find the inspiration to wake up every day and love what they're doing is when they do not love the process.

If somebody doesn't have a system where they know how to manage their time, and they're feeling overwhelmed and underwater all the time, that's not fun. I think people should only take on to the point of madness, so to speak, that they can maintain that balance and feel really excited and happy.

Jody:
I think the key to that is what I said before: know what you're bad at. If you know what you're bad at, and you focus… People sometimes make a mistake where they try to hire people that do what they already do and when it comes to owning multiple businesses and serial entrepreneurship – you have to hire in the areas you are lacking not already succeeding!

Mimi:
Like why? You're already doing that.

Jody:
Hire for the thing that someone will do better than you, and let them help you.

Mimi:
Right. That's true. This has been amazing. Thank you so much. I wish you the best with your serial entrepreneurship and business ventures! I feel like we have to have you back on and dissect your investments and talk about that whole aspect, too. There are so many different things to talk to you about, but thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else that we haven't touched on that you think … Last minute words, or do you think we got it covered?

Jody:
I think we're covered, and thank you so much for having me.

Mimi:
Okay. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Where To Find Jody and More About Her Businesses

https://www.themilkcleanse.com

http://www.wtrmlnwtr.com/

https://neuropraxis.com/

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