The Aunt Bertha Blog

[Interview] Building a business for social good with Brian Johnson [Philosophernotes]

Welcome To Aunt Bertha's Blog
Aunt Bertha is a website that helps struggling individuals and families find programs based on need(food, health, education, etc) in seconds. Think: 911 meets Google meets the Aunt that keeps it real at Thanksgiving and is always willing to give you a hand when you're in need.

Interview Series
Aunt Bertha is still organizing all the need-based programs in the United States. We are still recruiting volunteers for team Bertha, but we also realize the need for real conversations.We want to talk to people who care, who want to make a difference, and who have been where we want to go, and shares our values. 3 other important reasons:
-We want to share our journey of becoming a national organization.
-We want our readers to have strategies to keep going on their projects for social good or social work.
-We want to break down the process of building something bigger than all of us for social good.
Our first interview is: Brian Johnson
Why are we interviewing Brian Johnson?
  • He has experienced setbacks and overcome difficulties.
  • He knows how to integrate passion+purpose into businesses.
  • He has successfully built and sold two extremely valuable companies.
Who is this interview for?
  • Human service providers: I specifically ask questions in service of non-profit and human service professionals on how we can stay in our best shape to serve the world.
  • People who start amazing projects and want to know how to stay focused.
  • People who have great ideas on how to improve the world and don't know what to do next.
  • Anyone who wants to know how to integrate serving the world and being financially sustainable!
  • Advanced business advice (you will be surprised by the answer)!
Brian Johnson Interview with Aunt Bertha by aunt bertha

Find Brian:

Full Bio:

Brian Johnson is the Philosopher & CEO of en*theos--a company that creates cool stuff to help people optimize their lives. He's the co-founder (with his wife, Alexandra) of the en*theos AcademyPhilosophersNotes and Blissitations and is the author of A Philosopher's Notes. He's also featured in the documentary Finding Joe and has a monthly "Big Ideas" column in Experience Life magazine.

In one of his past lives, as a 24-year-old law school dropout turned Founder/CEO, Brian led the creation of eteamz-the world’s largest amateur sports site that currently (and profitably) provides team and league web sites and a comprehensive suite of services to over 3 million teams from over 120 countries around the world. (For example, Little League Baseball® uses the technology.) After spending the requisite time in “garage-mode,” eteamz won UCLA’s Business Plan competition, raised over $5 million of capital, grew from 3 to 45 employees in less than a year (including the CEO of Adidas and the eventual winner of Apprentice II) and was sold for over $13 million of stock and cash to The Active Network, Inc. in 2000.

After successfully leading the integration of the two companies as a Vice President at Active, Brian spent a few years as a philosopher, immersing himself in philosophy, psychology, mysticism and optimal living. He read hundreds of books and traveled a bit-studying Jesus in Jerusalem, Marcus Aurelius in the Danube of Hungary, Rumi in Konya, Turkey, and Socrates in Greece. On his return, he created, a site where he began distilling the universal truths of optimal living. Over 10,000 people signed up to receive his daily newsletter where he shared the wisdom of his favorite teachers, showing how everyone (from Nietzsche to Buddha to Emerson) is saying the same thing.

In 2004, in an effort to integrate his philosophical and entrepreneurial selves (yes, he’s a Gemini :) and to put the truths he was studying into practice, Brian created Zaadz (now Gaia)-a company named after the Dutch word for seed committed to leveraging world-class social networking tools to connect, inspire and empower people committed to transforming their lives and our planet. (Think: Facebook for people who want to change the world.)
As the Philosopher & CEO of Zaadz, he raised $3 million to finance the launch of the business. Investors included a billionaire and his family and the CEO of Whole Foods. Feeling the dharmic pull to immerse himself back into studying and living the universal truths, Brian sold Zaadz to Gaiam, Inc. (Nasdaq: GAIA) in the summer of 2007.

Before all of that, Brian graduated Magna Cum Laude with Phi Beta Kappa honors from UCLAwhere he studied Psychology and Business. Brian has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and various other publications on everything from philosophy and business to his vision on how to change the world. He has presented on various panels, served as a judge for the Anderson School at UCLA’s Business Plan writing competition, and given lectures on conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial finance and the Internet economy at USC’s Marshall School of Business, Claremont McKenna and Cal Tech.

Brian is also a contributing author in Michael Strong’s book Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs & Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems where he joins Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, legal reform expert Hernando de Soto and others in discussing how we can leverage entrepreneurialism as a force for good. His chapter focuses on the role of the conscious entrepreneur in transforming our world.

And, look for Brian in the upcoming documentary on Joseph Campbell calledFinding Joe-all about the role of myth/ritual/spirituality in the 21st century.

If you enjoyed the interview please share!

Mozart Guerrier is a social worker and the community manager at Aunt Bertha.
Volunteer with us Follow us on Twitter "Like" us on Facebook

What BIG idea did you take from the interview?
Topics: entheos brian johnson eteamz hedgehog concept philosophernotes good to great

Social Media Club Austin: Crowd Sourcing

Aunt Bertha was honored to be a part of Social Media Club Austin's Crowd Sourcing Panel this week. We got the opportunity to engage with digital strategists in the ATX community and shared ideas with changemakers on our panel. Erine represented our organization: 

The idea that stood out for Erine on the panel was:
One of the attendees asked a fascinating question about the possibility of crowd sourcing the writing of legislation. Imagine that. A group of citizens writing and editing legislation is an idea whose time has come. Once a certain level of quality of a crowd-sourced proposed legislation is met, I think it would be as good of a starting point as any to reach legislatures and city governments. I think we have a long way to go with civic participation, but this represents a real way to get buy-in. I think it'll take one great success case at a higher form of government (major city or any state) for the idea to really take hold. I'm hopeful though.

Richard Spiegel @CrowdTogether CEO - CrowdTogether
Richard has been working in the digital media and interactive advertising space for over 11 years, most recently at Razorfish, one of world’s top interactive marketing firms. . Most recently Richard is the Founder and CEO of CrowdTogether an Austin based startup that provides a free crowdsourcing platform business can use to activate, engage and connect with their communities.
William Hurley @whurley GM, Chaotic Moon Labs
WHurley is a leading authority on open source, open innovation, and augmented reality. He is the co-founder of Chaotic Moon; the world’s most proven mobile application studio, providing everything from initial brainstorming and strategy, to custom development and publishing, to managing your entire mobile presence in any application marketplace.
John Pointer @johnpointer CEO of Patronism
Founded and launched, an online subscription publishing service, to connect the the people who make music directly with the people who love it, in a way that catalyzes the creative process. It empowers artists to crowdsource a more stable, dependable income than previously possible, and deliver more content, more regularly to patrons.
Erine Gray @berthausa Founder of Aunt Bertha
He is the founder of, whose mission is to make human services information more accessible in order to help more people reach self-sufficiency. Aunt Bertha is currently utilizing both a community of volunteers and workers to help build our nationwide database using standard crowd-sourcing techniques.
What was your biggest take away from the panel discussion?
Like this post? : tweet a quote
Topics: austin crowd sourcing web 2.0 information social media

How EAPs Can Help You With Personal Problems

Guest Post: Aunt Bertha knows that working families sometimes need extra help. This guest post by Kieron Casey will help you understand and navigate this process with your employer. Spelling is based on British English.

An employee assistance program (
EAP) is intended to provide workers who are coping with a significant work-related or personal problem with the counselling services they need. Businesses are aware that any employee can experience such a problem at some point—a problem that can affect their ability to function both at work and at home.

By offering these programs to their workers, employers realize the following benefits:

● Professional counselling can help eliminate those distractions that prevent their employees from doing their very best on the job.
● When employees have to be replaced because of these problems, the employer inevitably bears the expense of hiring someone new, along with losing what they have already invested in someone who leaves the company.
● Providing workers with a good program shows them that their employer is sincerely interested in their well-being.

EAPs vary in scope

Not surprisingly, a large company is able to offer their workers a more extensive list of programs, and in some cases, the services they provide are even extended to the employees’ family members.
As a rule, businesses allow counselling and other assistance to take place during the work day and/or after hours. The counsellors are skilled in helping employees find a solution to their problems, and when they feel it is necessary, they also refer workers to volunteers or trained professionals in the local community for additional help.

Getting workers to participate in a program

As an incentive to those who need help to participate in a program, employers usually offer these counselling services without cost to their full-time employees. However, they often restrict the number of counselling sessions that can be conducted prior to charging a fee. Generally speaking, the cost of any referrals the counsellors make is usually covered as a benefit of a more traditional health care program. Please check with your Human Resource Department.

Assistant programmes are thankfully available all over the world and are accessible for most workers. Examples of prominent not for profit EAPs include Long Island’s Open Arms program which aims in assisting the region’s labour unions as well as small businesses and major corporations. The program helps individuals and their relatives who may be struggling with alcohol and drugs issues and provides interventions, referrals and follow up schemes too. WorkLife Hawaii is another local EAP service provider which helps companies assist with risk management so as to not allow an individual’s personal problems put themselves or others at risk. In Canada FSEAP are specialists who provide confidential counselling via professionals who all hold Masters or Doctorates in Social Work or Psychology and all boast a minimum of five years counselling experience each. Other prominent EAPs include Buffalo’s Child & Family Services and Ontario’s Family Services. Each of these programs aims to help individuals in both their personal and professional lives overcome any potential problems.

Confidentiality is a concern

When a worker agrees to meet with a counsellor, the employer has him or her contact the program administrator, who is usually an employee in their Human Resources Department. While this step is necessary from the employer’s viewpoint in order to maintain control over the program, participating workers sometimes raise the question of confidentiality when they have to do this.
In order for an EAP to reach its goal, the participants must be convinced that any information they share in conjunction with the program will be regarded as confidential. In other words, any personal and private information revealed to counsellors must not be shared with those who are outside of the program.

If a referral to the program is issued by the employee’s manager or supervisor and also includes disciplining the employee because of poor on-the-job performance, that information should not be revealed to the counsellors.

Author Bio

Kieron Casey is a BA (Hons) Journalism graduate who blogs regularly on a number of topics including employment, careers and assistance programs

Topics: Social Work employee assistance program therapy working class families counseling

Austin Content Marketing Group

Erine will be in the hot seat this Friday!

Austin Content Marketing Meetup will be asking tough questions and learning more about our young organization. You should come. Sign up herehere, and here. He will be sharing common questions and observations such as:

  • Poor People are Online Too - "A question I get often is on the digital divide. Our target user is someone who makes between $15,000 - $35,000 per year, what are things we can do to get the word out to this population? We found some interesting data from our research.
  • Making a Difficult Subject Fun (or at least not as sucky) - "How do you take a depressing thing - like looking for programs that can help you - and add some dignity in that process? That's the challenge we face. Hence, Aunt Bertha - the eccentric aunt we all have that shoots you straight, and makes you laugh."

Come to the Austin Content Marketing Meetup on Friday the 9th of Sept. armed with your questions.

Erine is ready for some rapid-fire questions, so don't be shy! Sign up now

Topics: austin marketing public speaking tough questions social media austin content marketing group

LBJ Musuem

This weekend was a rare occasion. I got the opportunity to visit Aunt Bertha headquarters in Austin, TX for a team meeting and a discussion of our values and goals for the new year. In between talking to Caritas, a leading human service organization, and eating Trailer Food, we visited the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library & Museum. LBJ was a charismatic man who entered the Presidency after the tragic assassination of President Kennedy,this is his usual anecdotal reference in history. Yet, LBJ was a high impact president. He passed important legislation to support basic healthcare and a basic standard of living for all Americans, and he legislated important civil rights policy, even when some of his strongest supporters came out against him.

The museum chronicles LBJ’s relationship with Lady Bird and his daughters, captured the iconic moments that defined his presidency, and shared the turmoil and hope that underscored our lives as a nation during this time period. The museum does a great job capturing LBJ’s sensitivity to the common good. Here are some pictures of exhibits that resonated from our trip.






Aunt Bertha is not in the business of politics. Yet, the amount of courage that is stored in those two levels of exhibits made us question the work we do.

How can we help others in a crisis?
Are we doing enough?
How can we create partnerships that serve the common good?
How can we exhibit courage as a company?

LBJ's museum chronicles the life of one man and his family and it tells the story of a nation during one of the most turbulent instances in our history. There are many parallels between then and now, we just hope we can have half the courage of those who came before us.

Do you have a leader or cultural center that shares or affirms your beliefs?

P.S If you go to LBJ's Museum for any reason, go for the talking robot!

Mozart Guerrier, MSW, is a social worker and the community manager at Aunt Bertha.

Topics: austin history healthcare racism the great society museum the 60's United States History lyndon b. johnson