Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! Spiffy here, your trusty interplanetary journalist bringing you the scoop on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today, I’m excited to chat with Brian Femminella, the co-founder and CEO of SoundMind. Let’s see what he is doing to have a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Brian! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Brian: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! At SoundMind, we are working to address the widespread lack of access to mental health resources by providing a music therapy solution for those in the youth and Gen-Z space. Our mission stems from our passion to make members of society more empowered to live bolder and stronger, regardless of their past. Our academically-driven research is backed by human emotions and a deep commitment to ensuring the strongest correlation between understanding and execution. SoundMind is committed to advancing the field of mental health research and connecting that with the latest mental health technologies, which are now in the palm of your hand.
Spiffy: What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Brian: Well, I joined the United States Army at 17 years old and ever since then have been involved in public service. This gave me the opportunity to witness the struggles of my brothers and sisters in uniform as well, ultimately seeing firsthand the mental health struggles (e.g. anxiety, trauma, etc.) of those who dedicate their lives to service. My motivation has always been to give back – and now using technology – and especially to help those who do the same.
Spiffy: How are you and your team at SoundMind working towards a more equitable world?
Brian: We have created a solution that targets those in underrepresented communities to which we all belong. As a military- and LGBTQIA-led company, we have found that music combined with artificial intelligence yields a powerful technology which offers a solution that is different and much-needed for those struggling with their mental health.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by SoundMind. What impact does that make?
Brian: We recently completed our first round of clinical testing showcasing how SoundMind is able to reduce stress, anxiety, and discomfort among individuals in the Gen-Z space! As a result, we teamed up with NYC Youth Pride to bring our solution to a market similar to our recent testing, which would in turn help those in the LGBTQIA+ community (which has been a major goal of ours since the beginning).
Spiffy: Congratulations on that achievement! Please also share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?
Brian: I previously had "tunnel vision," a situation in which I found myself devoting 100% of my time to finding a way to materialize the ideas in my head. Although it's important to have drive, you have to remember the people around you. I failed at that, I let people down, and I wasn't listening to people in my life who only wanted to help. Now, I have made sure to continually hear from every single voice on our team and let the vision I have always had be enhanced by everyone at our startup.
Spiffy: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Brian: That you can't wait for life to not be hard anymore before you start being happy, because we truly don't know how long we have.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience?
Brian: It's ok to have flaws and failures. When you admit and learn from them, you are already becoming a better leader.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Brian—it’s been an honor!
Brian Femminella is a TEDx Speaker, USC alum, United States Army Officer, and current CEO of SoundMind. Brian has a strong digital forensics and political policy background: he previously worked for White Sands Missile Range and the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the years, he has risen to become an influential LGBTQIA+ and mental health advocate through his time in the entrepreneurial and military space as a Gen-Z changemaker. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 1, 2022.)