CEO & Founder of Makher Studio

In this episode of Lead With Who You Are, we have Wanona Satcher, CEO & Founder of Makher Studio- a green manufacturing and design-build firm that specializes in innovative modular real estate and civic revitalization strategies.  

Wanona has been a troublemaker in one setting and a visionary in another. In our conversation, we explore the issue of context- how context can make who we are a problem or an asset. 

She talks with us about how fundraising is friction, the word no as one of the best words out there and she tells the story of her own journey to find the contexts that make who she is an asset and not a liability.

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In this episode of Lead With Who You Are, we have Wanona Satcher, CEO & Founder of Makher Studio- a green manufacturing and design-build firm that specializes in innovative modular real estate and civic revitalization strategies.  

Wanona has been a troublemaker in one setting and a visionary in another. In our conversation, we explore the issue of context- how context can make who we are a problem or an asset. 

She talks with us about how fundraising is friction, the word no as one of the best words out there and she tells the story of her own journey to find the contexts that make who she is an asset and not a liability.

In 2020, Wanona was selected as Inc Magazine’s 100 Top Female Entrepreneurs, and in 2019, she won two Auburn Alumni awards (Diversity & Inclusion; Sustainability). In 2018, she was chosen to participate in the LAUNCH Founder University in Silicon Valley for minority and women-owned businesses. In 2016, Wanona was a finalist for the Dell/Cosmo Magazine Women's Entrepreneur Network Award and Keynote Panelist for Moogfest- the world-renowned music, art and technology conference. In 2013, she was also a semi-finalist for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, she attended Aspen Institute/CityLab 2.0 and was chosen as a national Next City Vanguard’s Top 40 Under 40 program. She has been featured in GOOD Magazine and the Huffington Post.

Find Makher Studio here.

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  00:19

Hi everyone, this is lead with who you are. I'm Dia Bondi, and in this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just that. In this episode, we're talking with Winona, Sacha, founder of Makher Studio about the intersection of design and equity and to talk about the power of context, how in one place our talents can be a liability, and in another they can be an asset. In this conversation, Wanona talks about how the word know isn't a bad thing, and can be extremely useful in asserting our boundaries and amplifying our impact because it hones our focus. Winona also tells us about the moment in her career that changed everything and sparked her journey to becoming an entrepreneur. Let's go. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere and you can always listen to the show at DIA If there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Wanona Satcher is the founder of Makher Studio, a green manufacturing and design build firm specializing in unique modular shipping container spaces that transform how we build community employ locally and make meaningful connections. She's an urban designer, landscape architect, city planner and community engagement strategist. Winona has a unique perspective on the transformational power of designed spaces. Wanona, thank you so much for being here.


Wanona Satcher  02:19

So excited. Super excited to see you again. Diaz man a couple of years, maybe


Dia Bondi  02:23

I know I was before we got on the mic. I was thinking about how much I feel like I could just like knock on the wall and you and be like, Hey, we're not Oh, can you? Do you have any sugar? But really, I've just been like gazing at you from afar over the internet for those last little while, but I always just feel like I hold you close anyway,


Wanona Satcher  02:38

saying, yeah, definitely same vibe over here. So, so excited to get back to at least seeing you virtually, hopefully one day in person.


Dia Bondi  02:48

I know. I know. So I'm having you on the show Lead With Who You Are, which we relaunched this year, because I remember. So clearly, it's clear to me, but it might be like filling in the blanks here. One call we had a few years back, when you said that in your previous life, your pre-entrepreneurial life, you sort of got in trouble, so to speak a fair bit, that's true. And those that those might not be the exact words, but the feeling of it was like you telling me that you often got in trouble. But that I understand now that today for you, you are maybe even more you than you could have been when you were leading inside of a system that had a hard time absorbing your talent and your vision for what was possible in and around the world of design. Definitely. And to me, this is context, like context is everything. In one context, we who we are is a liability and another, it's an asset. This is how then this is how we can lead with who we are we when we find sort of the right context, where who we are is actually an asset and in some way I know that you're passionate about and interested in how we use design and spaces to create certain realities and containers for things. And so in that way, this idea of context, being the thing that can make who we are an asset or liability, you know, in that way space, that space allows for something or doesn't. And so I just that's sort of the territory I want to be in and when we have our conversation today, so I want to start where I always start, which is if you were to answer in a few sentences, who you are, how might you do that? Winona Satcher, who are you?


Wanona Satcher  04:41

That's a great question. That's this, this the question of them all? Well, I am an Atlanta native and CEO and founder of Makher Studio, which is a design building green manufacturing company. And we really focus on at the end of the day democratizing access to community living Moment less specifically around the intersection. And you mentioned it earlier, design, the built environment, and also how we can support and inspire under resourced communities to participate in their own clean and green future. And we do that through building, passionately building and engaging communities around affordable housing, and rapidly deployed affordable housing. So I am someone that I think, has always been interested and invested and understanding how all the pieces fit together, I think naturally interested in taking those pieces and building new systems and new ways of, of living on this on this planet living within our communities within our neighborhoods on our street. But doing it in a way that's highly collaborative with those that inspire me. So it's not, I don't feel that we empower anyone. I think that that's something personal and internal. But I will say that I hope that we inspire others through the work that we do, to find their own solutions, we just happen to use, I just happen to use design and construction to do that.


Dia Bondi  06:07

So give folks listening sort of a picture of the kinds of builds that you do the kind of spaces that you design and install in particular places. And the kind of impact do you want to have with those designs?


Wanona Satcher  06:23

Sure, yeah. So we started out at Maker Studio, recycling shipping containers and retrofitting them. And we still do that today, retrofitting them into modular real estate. And so the idea is recycle and an abundant material that we have in our in our country on our ports in some of our states, and utilize that as an affordable way to rapidly deploy real estate that is needed specifically around small business spaces, affordable spaces for entrepreneurs like me, and around a residential housing, we know that everything starts at home. And so what's critical, really, we've sort of transitioned since last time, we spoke dia from using shipping containers for everything that that spoke to equity, to really starting to focus on affordable housing, that's really our impact space, and how can we build housing quicker, efficiently, effectively, but the quality and say it with better and safer materials for those that need it. The cool part about how we do that work, though, is we have a workforce approach. And so we focus on hiring local tradesmen and women in these communities to build the change that they want to see. And so we as far as our skill set, I mean, we see the world holistically. And so it's not just about building these spaces. But it's also about how they fit within the context of existing communities, and how they fit together. And so academically and professionally, I'm a landscape architect and city planner. And so looking at the entire landscape, especially in cities urban landscape, and how we can influence reimagining spaces that are vacant or spaces that are blighted reimagining the use of materials in the urban landscape, reusing those tiered materials to retrofit and create more value. So that you have kids that look like me, who don't want to and don't have to leave the communities to be to be considered better have better opportunities, they can stay where they are, because we help to build those spaces.


Dia Bondi  08:26

And I hear in that that you're not just talking about Will it fit meaning will this design that is this length, this dis you know, this width and this height fit into that particular block, or that particular corner? Lot. You're talking about the whole context of the experience? Am I off on that?


Wanona Satcher  08:45

No, you're absolutely correct. And how do we do it? How do we take the experience and influence how we design and what the solutions are, we are 100% solution driven. And part of that is understanding the actual problems, but building within the existing context with those individuals who helped to create the cultures that exist in those communities. And so it's building with and collaboratively as partners with residents with neighbors with communities and stakeholders versus building for or or not, for those individuals. It really has to be an engaged process to do you


Dia Bondi  09:21

partner with developers and city development agencies together as a multi stakeholder group to design slash redesign.


Wanona Satcher  09:32

Yeah, I mean, we started out really direct to consumer you know, I remember that for remember that Yeah. In which, you know, I guess is a natural progression for companies and we are slowly but strategically turning more to b2b customers. So those larger real estate developers, larger cities, and housing authorities, even the military would be an interesting partner because of the need for quality military housing and support for families and veterans. So so we we are really start to grow with who and understand who exactly is our audience? Who are our buyers? And what's the difference between fills that dwell in our spaces and those that buy our spaces.


Dia Bondi  10:15

So when folks that you're needing to collaborate, or that you do collaborate with to have sort of a multi stakeholder group come together to imagine and design a space that is integrated and serves the community and the way in which in a way in which it is aligned to the kind of impact do you want to have? I mean, is there a moment before you get going where you have to be like, here's how we do this? And if you're not on board with what this collaboration model is that we do, we can't work with you, Mr. developer or Mrs. developer with really deep pockets? Who has ambitious ideas? I mean, is there a little bit of like, if you do you have to do some enrolling and designing your alliances with them such that there's room in your process to co create with the community and not just develop on top?


Wanona Satcher  11:03

Well, yeah, I mean, and do that's always been in the beginning, for us, that that is part of what we call due diligence, you know, for a lot of companies due diligence is simply more of the technical aspects of understanding existing conditions for us to diligence, understanding the relationships, that we are going to build future relationships with both the client and again, those individuals that they're building for, or who we're building for. So it's imperative for us to understand that the beginning and build that into how we move forward, and either we do or we don't, and we've had to make, and we're continuing to have to make more of those decisions, as we grow and as more people find out about us, because that's, that's we only do work that aligns with our mission and values.


Dia Bondi  11:42

Have you had to say no to some partnerships in the last couple of years,


Wanona Satcher  11:46

we have had to say no, to some smaller partnerships. And it's, we are also we also just had to make as a team, a decision to say no in the future, to any and everything that has nothing to do with affordable housing. So they No, no pools know. We get called for fact, we're working on a shipping container restaurant right now. And while that is very interesting, that is not where our where our heart is, that is not where our impact is. And so part of that is letting go that we need to position ourselves to do anything at end of the day is also just an operations conversation. We just can't be effective doing that. Yeah,


Dia Bondi  12:29

yeah. It's such an interesting idea to like, decide now. Would you say we do decide to say no to things in the future? Yes. I mean, that seems obvious. Like, yeah, figure out what you want to say yes. To what you want to say no to but you're making a decision now, for every opportunity in the future. Yeah, we've


Wanona Satcher  12:46

learned the hard way. And, and it at the end of the day, it's all about building integrity and credibility. You know, we don't, I don't look like and, and I'm not considered a good ol boy. And so I don't have the luxury of not being smart about who we say yes, and who we say no to. And the other thing I've learned in this entrepreneurial journey, is that no, necessarily isn't a bad word. And we're always taught that No, was so bad, but it actually is probably one of the best words out there. It allows you to set healthy boundaries, for yourself. And for others, it also helps you save money and time. And it also helps you to focus. So yeah, while you're a startup, you need to make money, gotta make money. But where does that lead you at the end? Are you left unhealthy? And have a major impact? Or have you said, Listen, I might not have made the amount of money that I wanted. But I made the impact that I needed to make, so that I can actually start attracting the energy and the people that we need to be successful. So how do you build that into a business model? Is the question and that's what you know, we hope to do by saying no to things that just don't align to what we're trying to do.


Dia Bondi  13:56

You're so you sound so clear. Oh, no, no, I mean, you were you were pretty clear, when when we had some deeper conversations a couple of years ago, when you're doing more, sort of flexible spaces, pop ups, clinic spaces, etc. You know, you were really clear on what kind of impact you want to have. And that still remains, you know, in hearing you talk today, but how you're doing it and what you're focusing on in order to do it seems much more laser focused.


Wanona Satcher  14:26

Well do I appreciate that now, I guess that's part of the the cool thing about that we haven't spoken in so long because, you know, it's for you to see and plus the work that you do in coaching entrepreneurs to be able to you're such an amazing listener, to be able to see outside of our forest, how much we have grown it really makes, makes me very happy to hear that because you're so in the weeds working on the business. But we hope that we are, you know, transforming and getting better at telling our story, which is you know how we met


Dia Bondi  14:59

Yeah, it isn't Have we met I mean, it's almost like your the way in which we're talking about it now is like a more concentrated version of how you talked about it a few years ago. It's like it's, it's, it's got it's turned into a you know, it's like in pill form now in the good way, you know, where, you know, it's just what's actually essential and nothing else. And that's so congratulations on that. I love that. It's like, I love seeing entrepreneurs that I work with and have worked with become a more potent version of themselves and their own vision so that I hear that coming through and how you talk about it. So speaking of potent, okay, I want to talk about you as a and that the part of you that used to maybe still does get in trouble. So, you know, so a few years ago, you shared with me this project that you were that I'm going to use the word instigator where the instigator on called the state's longest dinner table. Can you tell the story about what that was? And then I want you to if you would share with everyone like, how you got in trouble for it?


Wanona Satcher  16:03

Yeah, so I used to last nine to five, I was a city government employee. And I lasted about four and a half, five years, and still short of you know, shaking that off. But while work there, I've ran and started Innovation Lab and the innovation lab was a culmination of a civic engagement, fair housing, code enforcement, community engagement, tech, working with the techies in the Durham RTP, Chapel Hill, Raleigh area, you name it, and coming up with an in designing, you know, what I consider a mixture of like tactical urbanism, a mixture of small Economic Development Planning do deal with, again, going back to that due diligence, how do we bring people together that normally don't sit around the same table? How do we build those tables? What does that look like? And what do we use as the tool to do that, in our realize our food, food always brings a variety of people together, I had already sort of make friends and create this external extended family of food entrepreneurs into North Carolina, who, still I can still consider family today. And really work to put together what we call North Carolina's longest dinner table. And initially, I put out a call to other city staff who can fix the best chili or who can fix this, we put out a call to urban farmers, because we knew I knew a lot of urban farmers have worked with them on some projects and programs. We spoke to the surrounding restaurants, even a brewery. And we put out a call to all of these neighborhoods within this one intersection that really wasn't a district, it was just an intersection of other districts. So we created this morning dinner table, I suppose in 2014, I was just hoping to get 100 people, I would have been so happy. We ended up getting about 1200 people


Dia Bondi  17:58

and to paint the picture. So were you actually cordoning off this this sort of intersection where these four districts came together to build an actual physical table, not a metaphorical table, but a physical table. It was


Wanona Satcher  18:10

a physical table, we cornered off all the cordoned off the major streets that sort of radiated into this intersection with other city staff within our department, other departments, the community started bringing so what was happening was, every time a family would come, they bring their own table. So not only did we create this table, people were adding tables to our table. And then they were bringing their own food. And then we had food trucks bring in their own food. The Brute one of the breweries totally forgot about the idea, but ended up quickly bringing a whole bunch of beer which we couldn't drink at City staff. But what was interesting was, we have music, you know, some of the churches, they were grilling out. What was interesting was one of the guys that was there, he at the end, I saw him walking with a big tray of barbecue. And he said I didn't know where I was gonna get my food from today. You saved my life tonight. And then the person next to him was a mayor of a nearby city in North Carolina in the triangle, try it area. And then you had other city council members, you had county commissioners, I mean, it was some of the most interesting people around one table. And the reason one of the other reasons why I decided to do this was because a community group had come together to create a project called Mary Durham, where everybody would marry to the city, which I thought was pretty neat. So we consider what they will consider what I was doing as a first family dinner. And so we did that after that event. So it went well. I didn't want to do it again. I just want to sort of prove the point. And everybody kept running up to me saying can I do this next year? So I had no complaints. Everybody was super excited about it. Come 2015 This is where you get in trouble is where we get in trouble. We To the to a different location with not far from that first location to Central Park in Durham, and set up the tables similar setup, but for whatever reason the county was like, you know, if somebody's going to get sick, then we're going to be in trouble. We got to have the health department there, you can only have people who who are, you know, registered to cook in the city in the county? Who are the farmers. You know, some of the city department supervisors were angry because they didn't want their staff taking off time to cook meal. So that was a problem for whatever reason, and


Dia Bondi  20:33

how dare you take six hours out of work here


Wanona Satcher  20:35

out there. And the city staff that supported us were so excited, because they felt that there was an opportunity to do something to actually participate in the city that they work for that we pay, you know, people were paying us to provide services for them. And this one, we also work with a lot more artists. So one of the artists that I worked with, took these big, huge palettes and created a wall. And each section was themed a different category. So one was urban agriculture. One was transportation, one was education. One was housing. And we put buckets of markers on each wall. So people could write how they felt about each of these things. And a lot of people loved writing on that wall because it wasn't forceful. It wasn't a meeting. It wasn't, you know, people were standing over you watching what you had to say. Yeah, there


Dia Bondi  21:25

nobody was, you know, yeah, under a under a hot Zach light and a spotlight.


Wanona Satcher  21:30

Yeah, you know, just free to, to feel and to express themselves. And these are also people who, maybe they work third shift and never had the opportunity to go to a meeting, a community meeting. So I'm standing around monitoring, managing the project, dinner had just started. And one of the police officers ran up to me on his bike and said, You should be ashamed of yourself for even allowing this event to occur. And I'm like, What is what's the problem. And he said, Somebody wrote on one of the walls, that when white people move into my neighborhood with their dogs, it scares me. And I feel terrorized. That's all they put. And he said, You're gonna start a race riot by allowing someone to put that in writing on a board. Well, my director was standing right there when he said it. So she asked one of our other one of my co workers to spray paint over what that person had said, written. And that's when I knew my time was going to be short, working for the city. So I ended up telling one of the city council members, my director finds out, I started getting scolded for that. Meanwhile, dinner was going great, we had double the amount of people since about 2400 people this time that showed up. And one of the ladies is the older white woman came up to me and said that this was the first time that she had seen such a diverse and inclusive amount of people at this park since the citizens that she participated in, during and supported during the civil rights movement back, you know, back in this in this in the late 60s, and to hear that really, you know, support it, the the idea that I had to put to use food to bring people together in a way that promoted equity, but using spaces and we actually design the spaces for different components of that park strategically to support this, this purpose, the serendipity, this, this, these really cool collisions that people will create just by sitting next to each other. One other gentleman came up to me and said, You know, I'm actually homeless, but I don't feel homeless because nobody knew I was homeless, right? Because we were all sitting at the same table. And we were all in line getting the same food and all this was free. So to hear those kinds of responses, really made everything worthwhile. Once it was over, that's when everything went downhill. Because I was then told by the city manager, you need to stay in your lane. I was told, you know, how dare you invite other staff city workers without talking to their supervisors to support this effort?


Dia Bondi  24:15

I mean, right there just how dare you and then you can just fill in the blank with whatever How dare you wear that blue shirt? How dare you you know, give people an opportunity to post their feelings on a wall How dare you allow for food sharing without a permit? How dare you like you can just fill it in from there can you stop and it's so it's so interesting to me that this story that you know, I'll let you finish but I want to say that like the idea of how dare you is such a go back to what I how I set this up that like in that context. The fact that you dare Winona at all was such a problem in that place. But now it is essential To your success, isn't it? It is.


Wanona Satcher  25:01

And you know, it's funny you say that because when when I was extremely insulted when the city manager said, You need to stay in your lane, because as a city, as a city employee, we're we should all be in the same lane on the same highway, you know, on the same team. Now, I actually think that's kind of a cool statement, because not only am I staying on my own when I'm creating it as well. But the hard part, though, was after that dinner, and that was the last time that we had that dinner that was 2015. We didn't do it in 2016, which is actually the same year that I resigned. And I can't tell you how many people I can't even count who were running up to me asking me, when are we doing this again? I even had other meetings in other cities way in Asheville, because they wanted me to show you know how we did it? How can we take that and scale it to their community? I mean, we have there were people who were thirsty, and the community was thirsty for because everybody's so divided. People were hungry for this. And the I even had people from other departments say you're making us do more work. That is not why we're here. You know, you're having more people ask us questions, because you've brought some things to light. That is not why you're here. And they ended up moving me out of my, my office to a cubicle in front of everyone, and made me move out all of the different art materials and everything that I had to use, and was it actually the community provided to me to to build out this dinner, we had lots of artists and lantern parades, and there's all kinds of things. And I think what hurt me the most was the staff. Because there were so many people with, again, within the city, who were not supervisors, lower level staff, who were running to me saying, Well, I'm gonna be doing it again, and I already have my my new chili recipe. And, you know, I never thought that I had the I was never given the opportunity to to help it actually be part of the community that we that we suppose at least, you know, provide services for, you provide the opportunity for so many of us, I didn't even know that. And I would have to tell them, we can no longer I can no longer do this dinner tonight in trouble for that used to be a change agent, we all have been to make a difference to leave an impact. And I thought that that meant in my mind that I could change that system. And so when it didn't work, that just tore me to pieces. And it took my aunt to say, Yeah, we taught you that. But there are some systems, you're not going to be able to change. And once I understood what that meant, it took me about five minutes to get over it and get over the anger that she's like, of like she's right. And and in this lift, you know, it just it just it just kind of it just left. And that's when I made the decision to resign and become an entrepreneur and move back to my hometown of Atlanta.


Dia Bondi  28:06

I think it was so powerful. I think you and I met through CEO, which is now coreless. And you know, the notion that you know that we can't change a system that wasn't built for us, instead to step outside and build and imagine new systems that do can change everything for what's possible, you know, while you're getting your hand slapped to use design to imagine and create opportunities and containers for community connection. Now, you know, that vision the guy started this podcast saying that, you know, you were in a context that had a hard time absorbing, you know, your energy and your vision for this and now it's like what you can commit to so now that you're outside again, it doesn't make you a problem. It makes the context disabling to your talent and vision. So when now that you're in an entrepreneurial setting, now that the context is different for you, how is your energy and vision and your I don't know your edge working for you? And is it?


Wanona Satcher  29:14

Yeah, I mean, I think so in a lot of that has to do with just my being comfortable with being unapologetically me and taking those nose and those frustrations. And, and being as very as creative as possible with providing solutions and building those new systems that you you were just talking about. You know, entrepreneurship is hard. And it's extremely emotional. But when you when you when you have 100% of freedom, there's a freedom there with being able to determine and decide who is your audience to begin with. That context then shifts because now I have have more of an opportunity to build in safer spaces and find those familial connections that are necessary to grow in those spaces, those philosophical moments that where I can meditate and shed what isn't, isn't going to work for us and and grow what what does. And that's really a big part of it is just having the time to be able to, to not have to go to a nine to five. And I can take a full day or two and just meditate on that context and what is needed to move to the next level. And there's no micromanagement, you know, there's no, you know, somebody's misunderstanding, you purposefully. There is no competition in that way. You know, it really is a freedom, you know, thing about freedom. And the thing about growth is that it's uncomfortable. And most people don't want to be uncomfortable. I think the what those lessons taught me with the Thanksgiving and spring, that dinner table, a lot of the other lessons that I learned working there, and in other jobs as well. But then transition entrepreneurship is, I think the most success, at least for me, comes with the ability to be able to thrive in being uncomfortable, and, and practicing that. That doesn't work in that kind of a system, because it's not built for it to be shaken up. It doesn't respond well to that. Yeah. It doesn't respond well, two questions, it doesn't respond well to light, you know, it doesn't respond well. It's nothing it nothing about it is proactive, and that is totally opposite of what I do. And I think dia, we talked about this, when we first met this idea of resilience and being proactive. First, before we acting, because that's really all especially government, everything is so reactive, it's very


Dia Bondi  31:51

interesting that you point to this idea of like, you know, it's not very responsive, in that all your efforts are like shouting into the void, you know, right, and, and how demoralizing that can see, again, because we're grappling with a system that doesn't want us and not in a way in which that is just resisting, because change is hard. But it's just out and out rejecting the input. So so as you think about, you know, you said something, want to go back to something you said a minute ago around being, you know, misunderstood. Now, I people are not, you know, misunderstanding willfully, you know, or purposefully, but I did in our early engagement, you and I talk about sort of the struggle and the feeling of being misunderstood, you know, as you were first articulating, and helping the world understand what you were trying to build, it's not just like, we'll build a spot for somebody, you know, we'll build a house for somebody to buy, that there's a whole ecosystem that you're trying to cultivate in and around housing, and spaces that you're using housing and spacing places to sort of designed spaces as a catalyst for you. Right? So what has it been like for you, even in the context of entrepreneurship, to thrive in the face, maybe of being misunderstood? And how do you keep going when you are experiencing that feeling of being misunderstood? Yeah, that's


Wanona Satcher  33:19

a very good question. Well, it's highly frustrating. And part of it is because it's a waste of time. And you know, it's one of those things where it's like, Come on people. I mean, there's nothing really new under the sun, it's just potentially those new perspectives, this new way of of, of making that recipe right, same ingredients, different recipe. You know, why is it so difficult for you to understand? No, I'm not speaking to some language that is otherworldly. Why do you seem to understand this person, but not but not me? And I think there's a fine line between a fit and an understanding. And I've had to, I think part of it is has been going through and and it's gotten harder, just because we are getting better. And so which is weird. Yeah, you


Dia Bondi  34:03

think we're getting we're so good at this. We know what we're doing. It should be getting easier. But you're saying no, actually, it's getting harder. There's more photos here.


Wanona Satcher  34:10

What's this more there's more friction. Yeah, there's more friction, because we have done more with less compared to other companies and in built in and and and founders who have had more resources, capital, mentorship, whatever, and have could have done less. And that entrepreneurial system, a system of trying to attract investment of having to pitch what you do. That is where the friction is, because how can she do more with less and do it better? We have all these resources and we haven't done as much as she has yet. And then when I sell what we do, the expectation is I don't know enough about our work, because I don't look like the person that should be doing it. And they find out that that's not correct. And so they There's that friction and a lot of it has to do with their own biases. And a part of it to do is just recognizing that some people are actually not wanting to understand you for a lot of their own personal reasons. For me, though, the practice recently actually some exercises, the exercises that I participated in a recent climate accelerator that I had never done before. A helped me to understand well, why are you focused on that noise? Because that's what it is anyway, instead of focusing on your who actually is your audience, they seem to get it, they seem to understand. And so that's when you start to design comes in of designing, and strategically designing partnerships. And those those familial connections, those relationships, that understand enough to be able to ask really intelligent questions and provide critical feedback needed for us to move in the right direction. So we've had to just understand who our audience is to begin with, and leave the rest behind.


Dia Bondi  36:00

Is there a good kind of misunderstanding? Like, can you tell the difference between That's a misunderstanding that's worth staying with? And ones that were like this, it's just not going to happen?


Wanona Satcher  36:11

Yeah. Oh, yeah. So so the good ones, like what I was just saying about those individuals who provide the positive critiques and feedback and ask a lot of questions you can intuitively because intuition has a lot to do with it. You can intuitively tell. Okay, clearly, they want to know more information. You know, one of the things I learned when I was back in architecture school, was after you do your presentation, and everybody's quiet, you're in trouble. Like you don't, that's what you don't want. So I welcome those those questions, but it's also how people ask the question, what is the tone behind that question? What is your actual question? And part of that is, and I have to get better at this, but I am practicing little by little is my ability to really listen to what's being asked and how it's being asked. That's really the key.


Dia Bondi  37:00

So when you think about so just for folks who are listening, who might be experiencing, you know, that feeling of what do I stay engaged with when I'm experiencing being misunderstood? And what do I walk away from? Where do I recognize that like, oh, no, this is the right context for me to deliver the my own vision energy, you know, my own pill form of myself, in this in this leadership moment in this business decision, whatever it is, and which ones to go like, Oh, that's a brick wall I'm gonna walk away. Is, is I hear you saying that when you notice, there's as much work going on on the other side of the table to try to understand, and there is work that you're doing to help them understand,


Wanona Satcher  37:41

right? That's a good way to put it, because the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. If I have to work three or four times, it's hard for you to understand what I'm saying something's not right. And usually that happens, when it's on the on the first call. It's not like someone says, Okay, let me think about what you're saying, Let's have another call to keep talking about because that's a great, that's a great sort of relationship, potentially. But it's this is the first same call, when someone keeps repeating the same questions. And the misunderstanding is built into their own, purposely not wanting to understand what you're saying


Dia Bondi  38:18

and work to me, I want you to work harder. And


Wanona Satcher  38:21

it will that end to come to a note like I had this one investor that claimed he was so excited, he kept asking me to to provide him with all this information. And each time that I did the simplest things he will find, he would pick out and say, well, this concerns me and it's like, Dude, this is an easy fix. Well, but but but you know, there was always a but I had all the references I needed. And these were great references. So that was an issue already of products market. So that wasn't an issue. You This guy was deliberately trying to find reasons to say no. And that's when I said, we this is this is this is wasting our time and your time, we need to move on, because part of that is that energy will prevent other opportunities, that that are sort of flying around in the ether from being attracted to you. And that was really my concern. I'm not even worried about you anymore, because we already figured out that this is a waste of time. It's your other opportunities that are being hindered because of this foolishness. So you can tell very quickly if you just sort of pay attention, but I always go back to the intuition. You know, intuitively, this conversation isn't working. Absolutely. You have to be prepared to say also to say, no, no, that's okay. Thank you. Just because you have the resources doesn't mean those are the right resources for us. So somebody else can use them.


Dia Bondi  39:40

So as you think about your own entrepreneurial life, you know, the experience of forging ahead and you know, carving a path for the impact that you're trying to have in the world. Where do you find community because I hear you very concerned with cohering community, you know, I don't want to say it's not include Have you but it's easy to like create containers and watch other people connect and hear the feedback. And that's beautiful. But it's like you're backstage, you know? Where do you find community? Because I know entrepreneurship can be a lonely road.


Wanona Satcher  40:14

Definitely. Even when you have, you know, two people in the room, you still feel that you're the only person in there. That's just the nature of it. So a couple of things. You know, I will say that home is a very interesting place, moving back home is is I assumed that that was going to provide the community that I once had when I used to being from here, and I left a soccer career. But home changes sometimes, and sometimes it passes you or or you pass it,


Dia Bondi  40:46

yeah, or you change and you can bring your shoe back, you can come back, but you're not the same. And so nothing can be the same. That's very, right. Right,


Wanona Satcher  40:53

right. And so and so I realized that home is a wonderful place, because it number one is home is familiar. It's so that makes it a great place to be able to start a company experiment, explore, essentially in your own backyard. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that's the best place to create a community that can support our work. In fact, I've learned that I think the future of successful entrepreneurship in the future of our planet as a human race really is should be anyway embedded in multidisciplinary approaches, you can't be successful in my mind without collaborating with others that bring other perspectives to the table. And if you're not able to do that, and manage that, and and allow that to flourish, then you're not that great of a leader to begin with. My communities have included writers, journalists, scientists, I mean, I get super excited watching welders, especially women, watching people just get so excited about their expertise gets so excited about being able to partner with me to share what they do. So that has been how I have created communities.


Dia Bondi  42:06

I hear you saying that, you know, your you find community and other makers? Yes, whether they're scientists or artists, welders, creatives, designers, like it's almost agnostic to the discipline, but if there's a maker spirit in it, that's a community, you can feel less alone. And


Wanona Satcher  42:24

that goes back to what we were saying earlier about systems that personally I don't, is this just not my, my piece is not within tearing down systems, like you said, the ones that aren't built for us anyway, is really my time. And my space really is within building new systems. So I need to be, I need to be surrounded by builders, and makers, again, in those spaces from food entrepreneurs that I mentioned earlier, from farmers, people who grow and make In fact, when I was working for the city, the lowest point, those those terrible days, I would get these gifts from community members from farmers who will leave fruit on the on the door, who will leave vegetables. And to me, that meant more than my paycheck. Because it's like, okay, clearly you care about my person you care about my health and wellness. And that's not easy to find these days. So to constantly be, and these are people who problem solve every day, you know, they focus on solutions versus problems. And you can tell that they don't focus on the struggle, they focus on how we're going to move forward. And that that's what really makes me optimistic. Because I think there are more makers than we? Well, I definitely know, they're more makers than what the media shows. I definitely know there's more makers than people talk about, you know, in online or on social media. If you walk down your street, you can find those makers now. We know that all these makers are not going to have the same resources and the opportunities and access that's the problem, which is why I do what I do. But they're all makers, all ages. And I just I love watching people just create and that that makes me extremely optimistic and very excited about the future.


Dia Bondi  44:19

So for the last question, for you know, not what does it mean to lead with who you are,


Wanona Satcher  44:24

it really is being unapologetically you. It means never compromising that it means going to war in a battle to keep to sustain that, you know, it means it means being on a constant road to inspiring others and working in service. For me. It means demanding quality, but it means to be extremely colorful in how you do it and that especially mean being being loud, but it means to be quite expressive. and really being able to articulate and efficiently articulate what is the change that you are creating? For me being me, it's all about impact. It's all about change, I cannot not see. Like, there are some people who when they look at life and look at the world, they see equations for me, I see connections, how can this person or this idea be connected to create some new solution that will then support the work that we're doing? We're not here to build your solution. But we are here to build the infrastructure for your solutions to flourish. And so how can I help support that it's all about being an all about being empathetic and in love, bringing love to that, you know, and caring and kindness, that that's, you know, really, that's really me? And I just happen to, you know, do it when I'm blue hair tends to stand out, but that's who I am.


Dia Bondi  45:56

Well, no, no, it was so great to talk to you and to see you and to hear what again, what has remained so steadfast in your getting the you know, the word impact the impact that you're trying to have in the world and what you've continued to refine, so that you can be, you can have a very sharp sword.


Wanona Satcher  46:18

Well, the Listen up, as always, I appreciate what you have done for me, and really helping me to tell my story become comfortable in that story and how my story changes. That was the other thing, one of the things that always remember that you said was never give away all your cookies. And that's been so valuable to growing, and to saying no, you know, and really taking care of the energy around what we were doing and who we meet. But just super thanks for, you know, this continue opportunity to share my story, and my company's story and the work that we're doing and the impact we're trying to create. And course, Thanks for always sharing on social media, what we're doing as well. So anytime, you know, hopefully, we'll do this again, and it'll be even better.


Dia Bondi  47:06

I know, maybe we'll be in Atlanta live live.


Wanona Satcher  47:08

Yeah, that'd be so great.


Dia Bondi  47:10

I know. It'd be so great. Great. All right. I'm gonna see you and I'm still watching.


Wanona Satcher  47:14

Thank you, friends. I really appreciate it.


Dia Bondi  47:19

Lead with who you are is a production of Dia Bondi communications, scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at Hello at DIA Or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Go to For show notes, and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

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