Denis Estimon is the creator of We Dine Together, a program that aims to combat social isolation within schools to make sure no-one has to eat alone. Denis and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, when he was in the first grade. He faced the challenge of making friends not in only In a new school but in a new culture. Now he helps students make connections with others. Anna first discovered We Dine Together while watching CBS This Morning and was blown away by what Denis is doing. Denis is also the director of Be Strong, a national non-profit organization focused on preventing bullying using a student-led approach.
Tell us about your story and how you came about creating your mission:
Denis and his family moved to the United States from Haiti. He had the challenges of both being the new student at school and being in a completely new environment. Since he didn’t speak English he struggled to connect to people and form relationships. He spent lunchtimes and recess alone. This experience inspired him to start We Dine Together to create a culture of the community in schools. School is one of the most segregated environments we experience. For a new student or a student who has been experiencing social challenges it can be a safe haven. A student can come into a new school, not knowing anybody and find a We Dine Together Club that they can go to.
We walk around with a smile on our face but it’s really hard when we feel lonely inside:
Denis agrees. The problem we are facing today is that people can show the best of themselves and can act like everything is going well but truly not everything is not always fine. Now, when something is going on in their lives, students do not turn to people, they turn to social media. They don’t learn how to build real relationships with people. Part of the Be Strong State Rep program is to work in 3 key areas every month – advocacy, acts of kindness and awareness. For the acts of kindness they do simple daily acts such as hold the door open for 10 strangers and look them in the face. Because even small acts like that make a difference.
What are some things you teach with how to actually approach someone who is sitting alone?
Often what you say is not as important as just saying something. It is important to step out of our comfort zone. Denis’s family stepped out of their comfort zone to come to a new country. We have to step out of our comfort zone and try to connect with people.
You must hear those stories all the time, about how somebody said hi to someone and how that led to another thing.
When Denis first founded the club, he approached a young man. They didn’t have much conversation as the young man was very shy. Denis felt slightly rejected but he went back the next day and the next day and the next. At the end of the week the young man asked Denis why he was sitting there and he told him they were friends. The kid started crying. Denis was the first person in 3 years to sit with him. The following week 2 other students sat with them. The young man had invited them.
What made you approach the same person, even though you were in some ways getting rejected by them?
Denis thought that if he didn’t do it then who would approach the kid? He didn’t want to wait for somebody else to do it. It took him about a week to approach him.
I saw that people of all different ages are involved in the We Dine Together initiative. What age does it start?
There is really no age limit on it but what they’ve been seeing lately is that the program works best with 4th-12th grade. They have also gone into elementary schools and taught kids about resiliency.
How does someone become a part of We Dine Together?
The first step is nominating a student and then that student goes through an interview process and find out about the program and how it works. As a state rep they then need to find 3 other people to form a club. These 3 people should be from different communities – athletics, academics, creative or disabilities. After the group is formed they do their monthly challenges based around advocacy, awareness and act of kindness.
How many schools are you in and how have you grown?
We Dine Together is now in over 170 schools. They have mostly been growing through word of mouth and students have just been starting clubs. Kids are going into other schools and starting clubs there.
I want to ask you about a story I heard, where a lady took an apple and cut it in half. Can you tell me about that?
This is a story that changed Denis’s life. If you cut an apple, you can count the number of seeds in apple but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed. The seeds you plant today will bring about harvest later on. Denis wants people to plant a seeds of generosity, kindness and compassion.
Do you have mentors that support you?
Denis has had many mentors throughout his life and every mentor has taught him something different. The things they did when he was younger planted the seed for who he is today.
The students that are leaders in your program – what changes are they experiencing?
Overall growth. They are learning about different people and different cultures. They are building relationships with people that they wouldn’t otherwise. By being able to build relationships on a school campus they will be able to do this in their careers in the future.
What happened after you were featured on CBS Good Morning?
Before the CBS episode, he did not see many people with the idea of welcoming people and building relationships over the table. The CBS piece created a snowball effect of welcoming other people and building relationships. Denis saw other clubs being created with a similar mission. It also created interest in We Dine Together and bought more reps to the organization.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
One person can’t help everyone, but everyone can help one person.
Where do you see this in 10-15 years? What impact do you think you can have as a culture?
Denis wants to see the rates of suicide and depression decrease. Not just because of his organization but because of all the organizations that are working to combat this issue. He would like to see a We dine Together club in every school. Then students wouldn’t have the fear of going to a new school and wondering who they will eat lunch with. He’d like to completely eliminate that narrative.
Tell us how we can get involved
Diana House is a lawyer turned serial entrepreneur who is obsessed with empowering entrepreneurs around their business finances. She has been featured as one of the top female entrepreneurs in Canada by the w100 and also recognized as a top 20 under 40 entrepreneur by Business London.
Diana has built a highly profitable 7 figure company, been on Dragon's Den (the Canadian version of Shark Tank), done a successful crowdsourcing campaign and sold two businesses in the e-commerce space. She now works with her fellow entrepreneur husband on Fast Forward Ventures a company focussed on private financing and commercial real estate investing.
Diana currently consults 1-on-1 with entrepreneurs on their business’ finances and is writing "the" book and course on entrepreneur finance "by an entrepreneur."
What do you think has contributed to your success?
Diana would like to say it was talent but admits it was grind. She is not one of those people that think you need to grind your whole life and work 60-80 hours a week. But she got to where she is today through hard work and determination.
When her companies were in start-up mode she worked her butt off. There are certain seasons where you need to have laser focus and, determination and do whatever it takes.
So let’s talk about your first business and the grind there. What did that really look like when you were first starting out?
After applying for creative roles and not getting a single interview Diana was struggling. This was her time to get out there and start adding value to the world, but no-one wanted her. One day she went to a job fair and instead of applying for a job, she ended up applying for a business grant. She received a $3000 to start a new company. The day she launched her e-commerce website she paid for the site in a single day and did over $10K in sales. This company was Tiny Devotions which sold mala beads and yoga inspired jewelry. This was the first company to make a product in this niche in North America.
After you decided not to become a layer you started making mala beads. How did that come about?
After law school, knew she didn’t want to be a lawyer but didn’t have a better plan. So she sold all her belongings and fled to Bali where she signed up for a yoga teacher training. In Bali, she started to look for a business idea. She came up with 3 ideas, import art from Bali, do yoga teaching and retreats or create yoga jewelry. She had followed the rise of Lululemon and could see that yoga was growing in popularity and an industry was springing up around it.
Where did money fit into her mindset?
Diana knew she was going back to Canada from Australia in 2 months and that that was when reality was to set in. She felt going to Bali was her last opportunity to do something crazy before going back to Canada and she even went into debt in order to go. When she went back to Canada she did a legal placement while living with her parents. After a talk from her father, she realized she needed to minimize her discretionary spending and pay off her debt. After that experience, she decided to learn to manage her money and never be in debt again.
How did you find customers when you launched?
What worked 10 years ago would not work now. She used social media and influencer marketer – before influencer marketing was a thing. She did this by sending products to influential yoga teachers.
With her current company, which she started 3 months ago, she is not yet doing paid marketing. Although she has the money for it, at this stage in the company she is leveraging relationships she has built over the years to get access to audiences.
What has been your experience with exits?
The second company she created was actually sold first. This was an e-commerce sock company that was also a social enterprise company. It loaned profits from the socks to entrepreneurs in Cuba.
Tiny Devotions became successful very quickly, but Diana struggled to feel in alignment with the business for many years. It took 2 years to sell the business and she had 20 deals fall apart before she was able to sell the company. Now looking back, she realizes she should have started the process of selling the company as soon as she started to fall out of alignment with it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a transition because they are out of alignment?
Having awareness is really important and coaches can really help with that. Diana worked with career transition coach Rikke Hansen for a year when she decided to sell Tiny Devotions.
She also points out that it is important to take baby steps and that trial runs can be extremely helpful.
I’d love to hear about your current business. What are you offering?
Diana has a private lending company that gives loans to people who banks won’t finance. She is also a commercial real state developer and investor. These are things she runs concurrently with her entrepreneurial ventures.
Since she had experience in the finance space she decided to start providing financial consulting to entrepreneurs. She is currently started working 1 on 1 with entrepreneurs in her network, taking them through the framework she has developed over the past 10 years. In the spring she will be launching the Profit Accelerator which will be a group-based program for entrepreneurs.
What do you do to maintain your level of ability to perform?
She is finding that being in startup mode, she currently has an unstoppable mindset. As a Christian, she puts her faith first, with a prayer practice and regularly going to church. She finds journaling important to be reflective and self-aware. She also likes to have a community of strong women around her to call her on her bullshit.
Although she loves the grind, it can be crazy and she tries to make sure that she is able to dial it back when she needs to.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice she’s been given was from her neighbor, who was a very successful entrepreneur. He told her that ‘what is more important than what you do with your life, is who you spend it with’.
What’s an action step that you want to offer someone listening to this podcast?
She has an opt-in on her website www.dianahouse.com that has her framework – 10 profitability essentials for entrepreneurs.
Outside her own stuff, if you’ve never had a coach, hire a coach. Hire a great coach and do the work to enable you to grow as fast and as big as you can.
How can we get in-touch with you?
Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors by Basil Peters
Gregg Clunis is an entrepreneur and author obsessed with helping people become better versions of themselves. While we receive lots of negative messages In today's world, some of the positive messages we received are filled with fluff, such as "follow your passion," or "dream big," that are supposed to spark change and accomplishments in our lives. But often these ideas aren’t practical and how do you achieve those lofty goals exactly?
Gregg explores the reality behind big change — that it comes from the small decisions we make daily. Using scientific and psychological research, Gregg, shows you what hidden factors drive our behavior and gives you the tools to form daily habits to accomplish your goals. His core philosophy is “All big changes come from the tiny leaps you take every day.” Gregg hosts a podcast and has just released a book Tiny Leaps, Big Changes: Everyday Strategies to Accomplish More, Crush Your Goals, and Create the Life You Want
Was there a time in your life when you realized that tiny leaps can create big changes?
It happened after Gregg launched his podcast show called Tiny leaps. He has been hosting the show now for almost three years and he started it because he was frustrated with personal development and how it has become fluffier than it needs to be. Gregg thinks personal development is a very practical thing. To move forward and to make progress is a desire that is embedded in every human being. It does not need to be a cultish kind of thing that it is becoming these days. Gregg’s vision behind starting the show was to bring personal development back to practicality.
The idea of just focusing on day-to-day behaviors and taking actions on daily basis towards the right path is something Gregg learned from his parents. Gregg is an immigrant and moved to the United States from Jamaica when he was eight years old. Gregg learned from a very early age that if you want something, you have to be willing to sacrifice for it and you also need to be clear about it. All this built the foundations for tiny leaps.
How do you push through moments of doubts and insecurities in the creative process of self-discovery?
It is really hard at times. Sometimes, Gregg is so frustrated that he has to bail on the idea that he is working on at that moment. One of the things that he had to do with tiny leaps and numerous other projects is to make a commitment to finish something before starting it regardless of how frustrating and annoying it is. He tries to focus exclusively on the behavior of doing something regardless of how frustrated he is. This has been the biggest hack for Gregg to push through in self-discovery process. Gregg credits this to his father who advised Gregg to see through things rather than giving up on something in the initial phases.
What do you think is the downside of personal development?
The biggest downside is that motivation and inspiration disappears. These are the two biggest things that people are actually selling. Unfortunately, these things do not support actual change. They might support a change in behavior in short term but do not have an impact on your behavior in the long run.
How can someone get practical in bringing about a major change in their lives?
Gregg talks about the idea of identity. We act in a certain way because we identify as the type of person who acts that way. Someone who goes to the gym regularly identifies the type of person who goes to the gym regularly. If we really want to bring a change in our lives, we need to back ourselves with an identity. There are a lot of different steps you can take to find yourself an identity.
What is an identity that you did not have before but have managed to gain it now?
Gregg never considered himself a salesperson. For a very long time, he thought he was terrible at sales and could not hold those conversations with potential clients. He has been able to make some very controlled efforts in his life to overturning this limiting belief. One of these efforts consisted of taking up a crappy sales job at a company with less future prospects. The job helped him get over a lot of fear and anxiety that he had related to sales.
What was it like making a transition from a regular job to entrepreneurship?
After Gregg started his first sales job, he worked there for the first six months of 2017 after which he was offered another job. He got a job in a big corporation and worked there for about a year. However, the job was on a contract basis and Gregg was working as a freelancer. He started his business in April of 2018 which at that time was mainly a podcast marketing agency which focused on promoting great shows and helping them get the right audience. It went well for Gregg and he was able to help a lot of different clients.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice Gregg has been given is something his brother said to him when he was a young kid. He said to him that money does not equal influence and that money does not equal power.
Who is your favorite personal development person?
Gregg is following James Clair these days. He is a blogger and a photographer who writes very good articles on human behavior and its relation to personal development.
How can we connect with you?
Erin Stutland is an author, coach and an entrepreneur who has helped many people connect with their inner self through movement. After years of yo-yo dieting, exercising only for weight loss, and struggling with self-confidence, she longed to figure out how to treat herself with consistent love and respect. Erin was tired of thinking “I wasn’t (fill in the blank) enough.” So, she dove deep into studying psychology, spirituality, meditation and more in hopes to change this internal conversation to one that uplifted and inspired her daily. But still, with all the tools out there, Erin felt as though something was missing. How does self-love, kindness, confidence, and compassion become ‘muscle memory’ rather than afterthoughts or just another intellectual idea? Can we use our bodies to fortify our belief in self and tap into a deeper sense of strength and courage? When you put the mind and body in motion, they begin to heal themselves. It’s the reason she wrote her NEW book Mantras in Motion: Manifesting What You Want Through Mindful Movement. She is passionate about shifting the way we think about exercise, so it is not a punishment, but rather an opportunity to step into your power. Furthermore, she wants to see people like you living BIG lives, unafraid to go after your dreams while you are filled with happiness, love and abundance. Erin believes being connected to your body is essential to achieving this.
How did you come about writing this book?
Erin’s background is in dance and so she has been a mover ever since her childhood. She grew up as a dancer and later went to college to study dance. It has always been in her focus. When she was a freshman in college, her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This was devastating news for Erin and she was caught up in confusion. This happened twenty years ago and it rocked Erin’s world in a way she did not expect. She was on her own and would question every day if her mother would make it through her disease.
During this phase, Erin says she came across a kind of darkness she had never experienced before. It was around that time that Erin went to see a therapist who helped get through this phase in her life. Her therapist recommended her medication but Erin refused to take any sort of medication. She wanted to figure this out without any sort of medication.
Erin thinks she learned a lot from her mother who despite the continuous pain and agony from her diseases never gave up. She would always look at the bright side. Erin believes this set her on the path of controlling her mindset and her perspective. It was at that time she came across a book called The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. Soon, Erin felt a positivity in her life and realized her happiness and emotions are all linked to how she perceives things in her life.
How do you think a change in physiology creates a change in our minds?
Erin talks about a typical example of a workout and when it gets hard, we start to have an inner dialogue with ourselves. At that moment, our mind goes to a couple of different places. It will go to complaining, it will go to doubting yourself or some other limiting thought. Every time we give up doing something or feel like our body cannot take it anymore, it all stems from our mind giving up first.
What has been a negative belief in your life that you had to work on?
One of the beliefs that Erin thinks held her back was around the time she started to run her own business. She started her business by conducting small workshops throughout New York City. They were very intimate yet very powerful. Erin wanted to expand her business and reach more people outside the New York city wellness world. She had no idea though how to expand her business. She realized she had a limiting belief that she could only have an impact on other people’s lives if she was in the same room as them.
Do you have a process that you take people through in order for them to be able to manifest?
Erin’s book deeply talks about the process through which she takes people in her work. The first step in manifesting is to be clear about what you want to achieve and tuning into your deepest desires. A lot of time we don’t allow ourselves to feel our desires and wants.
The second step is then looking at your belief around the desire. You need to see if your beliefs are aligned with your desire.
The third step is to take some inspired action. We have to find what actions can help us achieve our goals.
The fourth step to be able to manifest is to move into the space of allowing and accepting. There needs to be a little bit of letting go.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice she has ever been given is to keep taking actions, in particular when it comes to business. It is very easy to get stuck when starting a new business but you need to keep going. This is something that has helped Erin not only in her business but also in her life.
What is your current mantra for your personal life?
The mantra Erin always comes back to is the following:
“I am tuned in, I am in the flow, I have all that I need, the rest I let go.”
Sometimes there is just so much going around in our lives and in those moments we really need to keep things simple, deal with one thing at a time and have an inner belief that we have the ability or potential to get things done.
How can we connect with you?