Episodes

Exploring the Senses with a Blind Chemist

The Be My Eyes Podcast
April 23, 2020

Growing up in the rolling hills of Northern California, Hoby Wedler always had a passion for exploration. Blind since birth and profoundly curious, Hoby explored phenomena small and large. He hiked mountains and rode bikes through rural landscapes. He learned about the plumbing and electrical wiring of his suburban home. But when he found his love for science he also found himself suddenly blocked by teachers and so-called mentors who said he should try something else. Now a PhD chemist, Hoby has found his way into a fascinating new career which started, oddly enough, leading wine tastings for Francis Ford Coppola. Hoby talks with us about his new business, Senspoint Design, and even convinces our host to try some of Dave Matthews' wine (yeah, that Dave Matthews).

Notes:

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Episode Transcript

Will Butler:

You are listening to The Be My Eyes Podcast. I'm Will Butler. Hoby Wedler wants everyone to come to their senses. Growing up in Northern California, Hoby went to UC Davis and got his PhD in Chemistry, but he didn't land in academia, he landed with the director of The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola, doing blind wine tastings at Coppola's winery. He went on to start his own multisensory design agency, a branding and marketing outfit known as Senspoint.

Will Butler:

Hoby joined us on The Be My Eyes Podcast this week to talk about chemistry, wine, growing up blind, but also how do you design product marketing to appeal to all five senses? This is a fascinating conversation and an absolute must listen for anyone who might be considering entering the business, marketing, branding, or entrepreneurial fields. Here's our interview with Hoby Wedler. Thanks for being here today, Hoby, and thanks for joining us here in San Francisco.

Hoby Wedler:

Will, thank you so much. This is such an honor and I'm really excited to be having this conversation. I think it's one that I've been excited to have with you for a long time. And here we go.

Will Butler:

We're from the same hometown, more or less.

Hoby Wedler:

We are, yeah.

Will Butler:

You're from Petaluma, right?

Hoby Wedler:

I am. And you were telling me you're born and raised in Santa Rosa?

Will Butler:

Santa Rosa, yeah.

Hoby Wedler:

Great place.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby Wedler:

You to got to love the North Bay.

Will Butler:

When you tell people where you're from, they always cock their head and then you're like, "Wine country."

Hoby Wedler:

Where all your good wine comes from, that's right.

Will Butler:

And then they go, "Oh..." And then they get excited.

Hoby Wedler:

Then they'll want to come visit.

Will Butler:

Yeah, exactly.

Hoby Wedler:

It's just the way it works.

Will Butler:

But until then, it's just a country town that no one's ever heard of.

Hoby Wedler:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:01:42] What was it like growing up in Petaluma?

Hoby Wedler:

Man, you know it's a small town and it's one of those things that you feel like, yeah, this is great, but you also have that sense of, "I got to get on to bigger and better things," but it takes leaving a place like that to realize that you just want to come back to it. I don't know, I always had a love for... I never really got that itch to leave like a lot of kids did. I always really enjoyed what the community had to offer and what was going on around me because it felt normal. It felt natural, but I was not opposed to leaving. When I left when I was 18 to go to school at UC Davis, it was funny.

Will Butler:

So you liked Petaluma?

Hoby Wedler:

I did. I did like it was [crosstalk 00:02:21]

Will Butler:

It was a pretty country when you were growing up, right?

Hoby Wedler:

It was pretty. Yeah, it was really nice. But there's also parts of it that... It's a small town.

Will Butler:

It was fairly rural.

Hoby Wedler:

It was rural, yeah. I graduated high school in '05 and moved away in the fall of '05. What was really funny is I had a decision between Davis and Berkeley and I know you went to Berkeley, right?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby Wedler:

So literally, it was decision day. It was April 30th of 2005, 2005 and it was Davis or Berkeley. My brother was at Berkeley. I thought Berkeley would be a really neat place to go. There's something that I really liked about the Davis atmosphere, the town, the ruralness, it reminded me of home a little bit. It was really funny when I got out to Davis, took a couple of months, but I realized, okay, I'm actually in a town that's a lot like Petaluma transposed like 70 miles East. So-

Will Butler:

Davis is the spot for people who are in the ag and sort of viticultural fields, right?

Hoby Wedler:

... It is.

Will Butler:

So it was probably an obvious choice more for you, right?

Hoby Wedler:

What's really funny is that I actually went to Davis and took a couple of wine making classes and ended up doing some exciting work with the Robert Mondavi Institute out there, but I actually did not study or major in anything agriculture related. I did chemistry and history as an undergraduate and then went on to do a bit of a graduate degree in chemistry. So, not having... And I wrote about wine because I loved wine. Some of my papers are studying little compounds called terpenes in wine, but I never actually took any... Or worked extensively aside from like three classes in the school of agriculture and analogy.

Will Butler:

I didn't realize that. I-

Hoby Wedler:

It's kind of a funny thing.

Will Butler:

... Yeah. Okay. We'll get there, but I want to just go back a little bit. You grew up in Petaluma, you've always been blind, right.

Hoby Wedler:

Totally blind since birth, yeah.

Will Butler:

What was it like? What kid were you? What-

Hoby Wedler:

I was a different kind of a kid. I was definitely a nerd. I was always curious about really understanding things. I feel like I was a bit of an old soul who wasn't super mischievous, who wasn't super... I was outgoing, I asked a lot of questions, but I was more interested in learning and had a lot of friends who were my age or a little bit older, two to four years older than me. I really sunk in with that crowd pretty well.

Will Butler:

... Yeah. Well, what kind of stuff were you into?

Hoby Wedler:

I was really into playing a little bit of music. I learned piano at a young age. I do not play anymore.

Will Butler:

It's hard to keep it up.

Hoby Wedler:

It is. I was really into hiking. It's an outdoorsy kid.

Will Butler:

Nice.

Hoby Wedler:

Did not do much of the high school partying. It's really funny thinking back on it retrospectively, I wish I had been a little more wild. I wish I had gotten that energy out in high school and in college because I had my core group of friends, which I'm really proud of. I had like five friends that were really, really good friends and less acquaintances. A lot of kids have... And I knew a lot of people, but I never really went out to their parties that much and I feel like man, maybe I should have done a little more, looking back at it. Hindsight's always 2020, I didn't get out as much as I would've liked to, but I was definitely into solving problems, doing work, figuring out little ways to make money.

Will Butler:

Do you think being socially underperforming or whatever has more to do with your personality or anything to do with blindness?

Hoby Wedler:

I don't think that it had much to do with blindness. I think it more had to do with me just trying to find my niche. And of course I'd be remiss if I said that it had nothing to do with blindness because as a blind person in a sighted world, you push up against the envelope a little bit.

Will Butler:

You're set apart by default. [crosstalk 00:05:51]

Hoby Wedler:

Yeah, growing up. But I would do funny things, like I'd braille people's names or braille messages that they wanted, whatever they wanted and then sell them to kids at school. So I was always hustling a little bit. It's always fun.

Will Butler:

I love it.

Hoby Wedler:

And sometimes they'd ask for messages that were maybe not appropriate to speak into the microphone and yeah, whatever. We'll do it.

Will Butler:

I love it. But you were into hiking and the outdoors and stuff. How does a blind kid earn appreciation for the outdoors?

Hoby Wedler:

I have-

Will Butler:

Asking for a friend. Just kidding. I'm asking for myself.

Hoby Wedler:

... No, thank you. It's a great question. And what I would say is that I have a great set of parents who always had a really can-do attitude. I think right when I was born, they were like, "Shit, what are we going to do? How do we raise this blind child, we know nothing about it." And they were actually really helped by a group called Blind Babies Foundation, to go way back. And just a really amazing counselor that we got, a woman named Gail Calvello who really taught my parents that having a blind kid is not that different than having a sighted kid. You just have to do things a little bit differently and you have to really explain what's going on around you.

Hoby Wedler:

And I always loved the outdoors, I always loved spending time in the mountains. We are fortunate enough that my mom's side of the family has a very old cabin from about a hundred years ago up near Tahoe on a little lake called Fallen Leaf Lake. So I spent a lot of time as a pretty young kid up there and it was just not this question of, "Gosh, can Hoby do that?" It was like, "Yeah, we're going to go hiking." And when I was 10, we hiked up Mount Tallac, which has a 10,000 foot peak and it's rocky and there's drop-offs all over. But it's like, "Yeah, we're just going to do it," you know?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby Wedler:

They didn't put up the barriers to make me question myself. And what I think that really comes down to is super high expectations and never lowering the bar. So for anyone who's listening to this, who's in the industry of teaching blind people, helping blind people succeed, or if you're just a blind person in general, the thing that's given me the most pride and the most ability to jump off is you can't lower the bar for yourself or for anyone you're working with.

Hoby Wedler:

And to be honest, being a blind person in a sighted world, you have to do things... If you're going to get a job, this is very much talking, not the professional world, but if you're going to do a job, you have to honestly be better at what you're applying to do than the other pool of sighted applicants because the employers are going to revert to, I'm going to hire the sighted person, unless you show that, okay, this person's really, really good at this.

Hoby Wedler:

And getting out there, that's not as much having to do with hiking. I was no expert hiker, let's get that straight. I'm an amateur hiker. I still do a lot of it. And I actually grew up when my brother was I think 12 and I was like 10. We got a little sailboat, a little 29 foot sailboat because my dad had spent his childhood sailing, so all the way through junior high and high school, we spent at least one day a weekend out on the boat learning to sail. Sailing around the Bay. It wasn't a luxurious yacht, but it was the whole idea of going out there and just learning and doing overnights every now and again, but really learning from my parents how to just be a normal person.

Will Butler:

So you didn't pick up nerves from them, like they must be nervous watching you teeter around mountains and-

Hoby Wedler:

They were pretty cool. Honestly, they were nervous but they never... And they would tell me, "Okay, that looks dangerous. That looks annoying. Please don't do that." They would be very much safety first, very safety-conscious people. And we've talked about it after the facts. It's like, yeah, there were definitely times when they'd be nervous.

Hoby Wedler:

One of the things that I would do as a kid is with friends of mine, I had a tandem bike and with a lot of friends of mine, I would just say, "Hey, let's go for a cruise." They'd love it. They'd camped in the bike, I'd stoke and we'd just go around town, do whatever. You know what, it was great to have this medium, this vehicle, for lack of a better word, that I could just use with my friends.

Will Butler:

And tandems are great because you never get a chance to move that fast.

Hoby Wedler:

Right.

Will Butler:

Right?

Hoby Wedler:

Right.

Will Butler:

The only time you're moving that fast otherwise is in a car and so you never get a connection with the environment when you're moving that fast, you don't get to run freely in the same way. So I think there's a really unique feeling that comes from being on the back of a tandem.

Hoby Wedler:

It's amazing. And it'd be like, I think the longest trip we did, I told my parents, I was eight or nine or something. I said, "Hey, we're going to head up to Rohnert Park and get lunch." And they're like, "Okay."

Will Butler:

Which is like 15 miles or something like that.

Hoby Wedler:

Something like that. And I think my mom, she tells that story. She even followed us in the car. She got in the car... And she's a mom. That's just what she does. But she was like, "Are these people are going to make it? How is it going to go?" So she was just nervous about that. And my parents both let me do my life. They didn't try to control my life. Both my mom and my dad in different ways were really that type of, "Hey, this is your life to live and by the way, you need to take..."

Hoby Wedler:

One of my dad's favorite things to say that I live by now and I tell anyone who I'm working with or mentoring is that you need to take responsibility for yourself and for your actions. What was nice is, growing up, if I did well in school, that was my thing to celebrate. And if I did poorly, the only person to blame was me.

Hoby Wedler:

And there's a really nice thing about that because you learn what success and failure feel like. They let both my brother and me do our lives how we wanted to do them and they were very supportive. They commanded respect and they dished the highest respect right back to us. But they really let us run with it and go.

Hoby Wedler:

This whole idea of letting kids and people who are just growing in whatever fashion they grow sort of take that responsibility for themselves and jump off is really what's been so great for me because I was able to run around on the boat, I was able to climb mountains, I was able to do whatever and like I'm saying, these five or so really close friends, I was really tight with them and we'd hop on a tandem and go wherever we wanted to go.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Okay. So, you grew up in this rural environment, you've got tight friends, you've got good parents, more into the natural world and the things that your environment has to offer as opposed to just social butterfly status.

Hoby Wedler:

Sure.

Will Butler:

But you're good in school, you do well in school.

Hoby Wedler:

I did well in school. I took great pride in doing well in school and people somewhat described me and my brother too as trying to be in all three camps, the nerd camp and the more fun jock camp. But I think above all else, I definitely prided myself in doing well in school and asking good questions and I was probably considered a nerd. I didn't change when I went to college, but no, I did.

Will Butler:

So you get into college and you decided to go to Davis and you studied chemistry, right? Tell me about the chemistry thing.

Hoby Wedler:

Let me just go back one step to high school chemistry and that was a really interesting experience where I wanted to take honors chemistry. I had had the same instructor for physical sciences-

Will Butler:

What kind of kid wants to take chemistry?

Hoby Wedler:

... I was a nerd, man. I loved it. And there was just something about it, like thinking about how reactions happen even as a freshman in high school was so interesting to me and it was just something my brain enjoyed. I gripped into it really well and I wanted to take this honors class and I was getting pushed back.

Will Butler:

Really?

Hoby Wedler:

Like how are you going to do this stuff in the lab? How are you going to succeed? And then there would be these times when... I figured out with the science department who was very supportive at Petaluma high school and my hat is off to them for being so supportive. And after I say all these things of, no, no, I want to take these classes, I want to do honors bio, I don't want to do honors chemistry, they figured out how to make it happen.

Hoby Wedler:

So, as much pushback as I may have gotten towards the beginning of pushing to take these advanced classes in high school, they worked with me to make it happen. And I think that's a big deal right there, where I'm sort of getting at and starting to unpack a little bit is this idea of we just need to advocate well for ourselves and know it's not on someone else-

Will Butler:

Right. Don't budge when someone pushes back a little bit, stand your ground on it.

Hoby Wedler:

... It's also not totally on them to do stuff. I know a lot of blind people and it's like, "I need these accommodations and I need them met," but they're not really willing to work to make those accommodations come true for themselves. What I did is I found a couple of people who were upperclassmen who had clearly taken the courses before that I wanted to take and I brought them forth and said to the science department, "Hey, this person's willing to help me out and they want a TA credit for doing so. Can they be a teacher's assistant and do that?" And they're like, "Well, yeah, that's actually really cool." So it's about not just saying what you need and then going back and ruling with the iron fist saying, "This is what I need now and I'm going to sue you if I don't get it."

Hoby Wedler:

No. It's about saying, "Hey, it would be really awesome for all of us if we had someone to be my eyes in the laboratory, be my eyes." [crosstalk 00:14:52] Yeah. If we had someone to basically be a set of eyes in the lab, and I'm not going to leave you hanging, I'm going to work with you to find the right person.

Will Butler:

Right, right. You're not just going to demand it and make you try to figure it out.

Hoby Wedler:

Right. I know you've not had to do this before. I'm probably the first blind science student a lot of them have had and we're going to work on this together. And it was fun because I was learning too. And the process of really picking out and working with my own assistant set me up really well for college. But anyway, what I was getting to with high school chemistry is that eventually, I was able to take the class because I found a good assistant who was fine, looking at stuff in lab and being a lab assistant basically, and an assistant on when we had to do in class worksheets or fill out exams. She was a great scribe and an excellent lab assistant.

Hoby Wedler:

So we got into these situations though where the instructor would talk to the class about chemistry is everything. You should totally consider a career in it because everything around you is chemistry. Physicists, of course, argue that everything is physics, but it's chemistry. We breathe molecules, we don't breathe nuclei. Nuclei are embedded in molecules, but we breathe chemistry, we live chemistry quite literally. And then I would go up to her during tutorial or afterschool and say, "Hey, you were talking about we should think about pursuing careers in chemistry. I really want to do that. How feasible is it?" "Gosh, I don't know how you're going to do that as a blind person. Chemistry is such a visual science."

Will Butler:

Wow! Still getting the pushbacks.

Hoby Wedler:

Yeah. And I started thinking about it. I said, I know, I know there's a way to break in here and I know there's a way to make this make sense. I just haven't thought of it yet. Thought and thought, and it was the beginning of the second semester and I got it. I figured it out. And I went to her and I said, "I hear what you're saying about chemistry being a visual science, but who can see atoms anyway? Chemistry is really something that happens in our mind and yet, when we're working in the lab, maybe we need to see a color change to know that something happened, but that's something an assistant can tell me about. I don't need necessarily to be able to see to think about and understand science and understand chemistry.

Hoby Wedler:

And what was really funny about that is it immediately she became... She was never an adversary, but she became not at all concerned or cautious. She became a total ally, convinced me to go to school at UC Davis, encouraged me to study chemistry and she became that mentor that I needed because I showed her that nobody can see atoms, right?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby Wedler:

We can't. And that was a huge thing for me too because it was this turning point. I knew that there was some way to get her super excited about me doing chemistry and to show her that I really wanted to do chemistry, but it was often trying to figure out what the heck is that way of showing her, that way of doing that. And when we figured it out, that experience is what made me feel confident to vouch for myself and speak out for what I needed and not be afraid to do so in a calm and relaxed way.

Will Butler:

What do you think that gestalt is... Why does someone resist a blind person wanting to do chemistry?

Hoby Wedler:

I think there's a bunch of reasons. I think a lot of them are societal.

Will Butler:

Right. And so you can call it ignorance, like they have low expectations?

Hoby Wedler:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

But why would they not just say, "Try it?"

Hoby Wedler:

That's a really interesting question. Why not say, "Give it a try, give it a go." And I think one of the main reasons is they don't want to lead someone astray. So they don't want to tell you... I really think there's a lot there where a teacher needs to teach the subject matter, but they're also trying to be a mentor. And if they really don't understand how the heck this is going to work, it's hard for them to say, "Yes, go forth and conquer with that path that you want to branch out on." And I think it took me convincing her by saying, "Hey, nobody can see atoms," for her to understand, okay, this guy can go out there and if he tells people at the university that, they're going to listen, they're going to support him.

Hoby Wedler:

And I think it's, for me, getting the support that we need is all about just being a collaborator and never ever being an adversary. It's that can-do ability of being able to say, "Hey, we can do this together." I'm not going to come in here and tell you what I need and scare you that we have to build all these accommodations and that having a blind person is this big legal battle where I'm going to demand all this stuff.

Hoby Wedler:

And that's something that I come back to a lot. And it's even something I deal with as an entrepreneur. Everything is a collaboration. Everything is a partnership from day one as a student for me, all the way through to working with clients who we work with today. And I'm lucky to have a whole team at Senspoint. The whole team of partners really views collaboration the same way.

Hoby Wedler:

It's about figuring out that there's a problem that needs to be solved, and then in a non-scary, non-intimidating non-threatening way, finding the solution that makes sense to everyone. So to give you a good example, I did have instructors at UC Davis who said, "I don't know how you're going to do this as a blind person."

Hoby Wedler:

And I would literally go meet with them and towards the end of my career, really after the second year of college, I would purposefully schedule meetings with them before the course started and sit down and say, "Hey, this is who I am. I'm blind. I'm not going to be afraid to sit near the front row. And when you don't say something that you're writing on the board, I'm going to put my hand up and ask," and 90% of the time, that 90 plus percent of the time, that really helps the remainder of the students as well because it slows down and it reinforces and it gets them to say what they're writing.

Will Butler:

Right. You might be asking the thing that everyone else thought they should know because they can see the board but that everyone else needs to know.

Hoby Wedler:

Totally. But it's about, literally, and this is I think some of the best advice I could give to students, to teachers, to anyone, any blind entrepreneur or anyone, it's about finding a way to partner and make everybody feel at ease and comfortable. And then everybody's going to be willing, if you can-do that, and this is so true in the business world as well, I don't care whether you're selling widgets or services or vodka or wine or whatever the heck you're selling, if you can find a way to make people feel comfortable and excited by the challenge of this or by the product or whatever it is, or by the challenge of teaching someone who learns a little bit differently and make it a fun challenge that we're all working at together, man, then it becomes fun and it doesn't become an accommodations hassle.

Will Butler:

Yeah, it becomes fun. I keep thinking of when I used to walk up to my professors in college after class and looking back on it, that's such a bad time to try to secure an accommodation because they're like... Sometimes it works but sometimes there's like five other kids and it's like you catch them off guard and they don't know what the solution is and they don't have an immediate answer for you.

Hoby Wedler:

Sure.

Will Butler:

I love that you are setting up meetings in advance with them. Like you said, it's almost like a business meeting in advance to discuss your con... Most college kids don't think of that. They just slink up after class and they're like, "Hey, I'm different, I need some help." And then the professor responds in an unenthusiastic way and it's a negative feedback loop, right?

Hoby Wedler:

Right. It's funny that you say that. And again, I attribute that to my parents. So my mom was actually looking for a career, thought she was go into... She was a classroom teacher before I was born and thought she was going to get back into some sort of teaching. She hated-

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:22:04]

Speaker 2:

... before I was born, and thought she was going to get back into some sort of teaching. She hated classroom teaching. She taught seventh grade science and math. And I don't know, that just sounds really hard, dealing with the disciplinarian side of things and all that. And when I was born she said, "Well shoot, we've got this great program at San Francisco state for teaching teachers of the blind and visually impaired." So she did that program, and became a Sonoma County teacher of the visually impaired for like 25 years.

Speaker 2:

And it was that... both my parents had that charisma to say, "Hey, sometimes you need... you're going to get to college and you're not going to have a teacher for the visually impaired at all. So why don't you start getting materials from your instructors and giving them to your teacher of the visually impaired for them to braille." I mean, obviously I wanted to get my tests and kind of look over them ahead of time and give them to my TVI. But they wouldn't let me do that.

Speaker 2:

But everybody else.. they taught me to advocate for myself in high school. So it wasn't a big jump. I had a really great TVI and O&M specialist who taught me awesome independent skills. And it was how to clean the bathroom, how to walk home from school. And Will, I've got to tell you, this is just a bit of a digression, so I'm sorry about it, but-

Will Butler:

Yeah, yeah. No, go ahead.

Speaker 2:

The time when I felt the most independence, and the time that I knew life was going to be doable, was when I walked home from my high school the first day, that I did it completely independently. I remember it was September 5th of 2004. It was my junior... sorry, it was 2003, it was the beginning of my junior year of high school. And that day, it was a Friday afternoon, I'd been working up to it, most of the route by myself, meeting up with my O&M specialist for little bits of it, little crossings, just sort of check-in points.

Speaker 2:

And then she was... I wasn't doing a lesson. It wasn't any trial. I just told her, I said, "Hey, I'm going to walk home tomorrow." And when I walked home successfully, here's the deal. I knew how to get to downtown from high school campus. I knew how to get to the airport bus stop on foot. I knew how to get to the local bus stop. You remember the route [crosstalk 00:24:02] You remember that Golden Gate Transit bus. It's like, "Well shoot, now I can get down to the city. Now I can get up to Santa Rosa." It was the last piece. The last missing piece was that route home. And that's when I said, "I can go to college. I don't need to stick around here and have other people do stuff for me. I can go to college. If I can make it home from the high school, that means that I can always make it home from the Amtrak bus stop and I can go to and from my college completely independently."

Speaker 2:

So it was that moment. And I just encourage some of the blind listeners especially, to think about what are those aha moments that really set it off. And there was a reason that I was getting at this story, and that was really to bring it all back, full circle and say that it's about accommodating for yourself. It's about figuring out these things that really make it possible to thrive and to succeed. With professors and that sort of thing... the other thing that I did a lot of, is I took advantage of office hours. No other students... I mean there'd be this 500-person chemistry lecture, no one else would go to office hours. I had the professor all to myself. That's advantageous because not only am I the blind kid, but I'm the one that went to office hours, so then when I asked for a letter of recommendation in 10 years, they're like, "Oh yeah, I remember you." It's important to just get out there and figure out.

Speaker 2:

It's all about... and I know you and I share this, from the years that we've known each other and chatted and just from our conversations over the past weeks. It's all about being a collaborator. It's all about creating that feeling of oneness and that feeling of no adversary. It's not worth it.

Will Butler:

Being on the same team, being in the same tribe, whatever it is.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, it's not worth it. I know for a fact that it wouldn't have been possible for me to study chemistry at UC Davis, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, if I was adversarial to anyone in that department. They were my biggest cheerleaders. They even went and vouched for me to the student disability center, when the student disability center wasn't providing some accommodations.

Will Butler:

Right.

Speaker 2:

That's what you want. It's like the department that you're in vouching for you to the center that's supposed to be vouching for you.

Will Butler:

Yeah. As you started to sort of rise up beyond undergrad and then started really getting into academia, like pursuing your PhD and whatnot. How did things change there, as you become a researcher and more of a professional?

Speaker 2:

That's a really interesting question. So what I found, as a nerd, self-proclaimed nerd, we've already talked about this.

Will Butler:

Yeah we... the cat's out of the bag, sorry.

Speaker 2:

You know things take a little longer as a blind guy, right?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

You've seen that. It just takes a little longer.

Will Butler:

We don't talk about that enough.

Speaker 2:

We don't. So this is the biggest thing that I would say, is that, let's face it, we're blind in a sighted world. And the way that I describe blindness, is just a lack of efficiency. And especially when doing something like organic chemistry, when you really need to work with an assistant and describe exactly what that assistant needs to draw for you in order to turn in class assignments, in order to get examinations done.

Speaker 2:

So as an undergraduate, I was the nerd who spent 100 to 105 hours a week, literally, no joke. It's a combination of class time, doing homework and then just practicing. You have to get... I don't care what it is that you're working on training your palate or you're trying to learn how to play guitar, or you're trying to be the best organic chemistry you can possibly be, it's all about practice. So I wasn't afraid to spend that time. My peers did not spend anywhere close to that time. So I was still able to come out really on top of the class and be well above average.

Speaker 2:

And I just sort of assumed that academia was going to maintain that way and that I could still flourish at that level. But when I got to graduate school, I was surrounded by people who were sighted, who were willing to work just as hard, who were willing to put in a hundred hours a week. And what you feel then, is you feel the pressure of the real world. And you feel the pressure, "Things do take me longer." But you just put up with it.

Speaker 2:

And then I... I Wouldn't say that I ever was below average, but I went from being... and this is a funny thing about research too. So if you're a really good undergraduate student and you get... you had to have an A average, where everything works and it's this what I call vacuum environment where you study for the test, you read the book. If you do your work, you're probably going to do well on the test. And then you write up your lab reports and it just works out. You know, you do well.

Speaker 2:

Go into a research lab, and you go from an A average to an F average in a big hurry. Right? And why is that? Research never works. Things don't work. Things are not in a vacuum. You're dealing with the real world. You know, if you're a biologist, your rats die, you know? "Okay, that's an issue. I was trying to keep this thing alive for six months. Now it died. Now what the heck do I do? I've got to raise another one.

Speaker 2:

You're a chemist and... man, one of my friends, we had a great conversation. He was a chemist that studied a lot of things that were oxygen sensitive. So it was done, all his work was done in a glove box, which is a box that you stick your hands in these big gloves, and the box is under a nitrogen atmosphere. So you can do all your work without it being in the oxygen, right? You can kind of look in at your hands and your hands are in these gloves.

Will Butler:

That's cool.

Speaker 2:

The poor guy spent about four months making a compound that was this beautiful bright color. And he had it all vialed up, pull the thing out and dropped the vial on the floor, and just watched this substance go from this beautiful turquoise to this brown mass on the floor in like 20 seconds.

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

Totally... oh my God. And that's just an example to show, research sometimes doesn't go as planned, right?

Will Butler:

Fails, yeah. You've got to get comfortable with failure.

Speaker 2:

And you've got to get comfortable as a blind guy with, again, things might take me a little longer than they would take my sighted peers, and that's just the way it is.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I think we don't have to dive too deep into this, but I think that it's great that things are being designed for inclusivity and accessibility and all this stuff, but just because those things are designed to work for us, it doesn't mean we're not going to have to work really hard to compete.

Will Butler:

I mean competing is hard enough for anybody who can see. So I don't want to be like a pull-up-your-pants type of blind person, but there is an element of like, you have to be willing to work hard. And if you're not-

Speaker 2:

And harder.

Will Butler:

Yeah, yeah. And if you're not, then you have to be willing to settle for something different.

Speaker 2:

You know what this reminds me of Will? It's just a really funny thing and it's a bit of a digression, but it's this whole idea that the sighted world faces too. You know, why... there's someone who I think you and I both admire a lot. He's taught us a lot about the business world and that's a man named Gary Vaynerchuk.

Will Butler:

Oh yes.

Speaker 2:

And one of the things that Gary says that's so crazy is, "I'm going to give you a bunch of free stuff. I am going to give you all this free stuff that you can then go use to your advantage." Why do people still come back and pay Gary hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for agency work and branding work, and work in the wine industry? Guess what? It's because they don't know how to work hard enough to actually use the stuff that he gives you.

Speaker 2:

We can get... and it's so crazy. You know, how many agencies are getting success by giving people free stuff, by giving them eBooks, by drip marketing. A lot of actionable information, and it's not fake. It's the real deal. But the number of people who actually turn around and then use that stuff, is so small. And as blind people, just to extrapolate that a little bit into blindness, I'm sorry. Thank you for giving me the space. Maybe you regret giving me the space to say this on this podcast, but we have to work harder that our sighted peers. If we want to be successful in this world, we have to work... and I don't want to be that pull-up-your-pants and get-to-work sort of curmudgeon. I will also say that yes, there are great tools out there and yes, there are amazing tools, like Be My Eyes, which I use all the time. Yeah, for identification of things going on around me, but we have to work to use them. These things are not spoonfed to us. Right? We still have to make the call to know what's in front of us. Just do it.

Speaker 2:

My grandfather, my maternal grandfather was really sort of a, just-do-it kind of guy. That was his motto, and he worked hard and he didn't complain. And I think I learned a lot from Gilbert Smith in that way, just really learning, you've got to step out there and you've got to just get it done. Sometimes over analysis gives your paralysis. And he always said, "Hey, don't struggle from analysis paralysis." And that was really painful. It's like, "You know what? You're right. Let's just get out there and let's get it done."

Speaker 2:

That was just something about getting the PhD, that I had to face, is that I was a blind person. There were certain areas, the way that I imagine and envision organic... and this is actually something that that is worth saying, is that I realized really through... it was kind of in the middle of my undergraduate tenure, as I really pursued organic chemistry heavily, that the reason that I loved organic chemistry so much, which is the most visual, probably the most visual representation of chemistry, is because it's all spatial. And I realized that I've been using the same skills ever since I could walk, for my survival as a blind traveler, that I use in organic chemistry.

Speaker 2:

You know, we can't see chairs in this room that we're sitting in. We can't see... I'm speaking for myself here as someone who's been totally blind. Like I can't look out on the street and see, "Okay, there are these traffic posts. Here's what's around, here's a planter." No, we have to walk around and explore or hear about an area and visualize it in our mind. You can think about how to get from here to the civic center BART station, but why not make the distances between things which are meters and kilometers when we're navigating a city like San Francisco, why not make those like angstroms and nanometers and use the same exact skillset to think about atoms and molecules?

Speaker 2:

And I had this very similar conversation with a woman named Wanda Diaz, who's an astronomer, a radio astronomer. You've probably heard of her?

Will Butler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 2:

And she was saying exactly the same thing for stars and constellations. It's like a meter can just be a light year. There's no difference. You just think about it the same way. So that's why I love organic chemistry. And I think that's an advantage that I had, is because I didn't rely on the crutch of needing to see things drawn out in front of me. Cyclohexane, which is a ring of six carbons, saturated with hydrogens, was never-

Will Butler:

Of course.

Speaker 2:

... never looked like a chair. I didn't have to draw it out in a certain way to think about, yeah, it's going to be in the lowest energy confirmation where all the carbon items are in the same plane.

Will Butler:

The whole thing is abstract, so you don't need to, it's not a sightist practice.

Speaker 2:

That's it. But the other side of that, and the other fun thing about all this, is to say that there were shortcomings as well. So I had to find great assistants, I had to find ways of doing things differently and luckily my advisor was such a great supporter and just a cheerleader all the way. And he and I actually built out, among others, built out a really pretty robust 3D printing way of thinking so that we use 3D printing to actually print out chemical structures that I would feel and use-

Will Butler:

That's awesome.

Speaker 2:

... in my navigation. And it was a lot of proof of concept, because it was slow, and 3D printing still is slow, but I think it's just going to be getting faster. And I view it, personally, in the work that I do, I just view it as my duty and my due diligence. If I'm going to go get a graduate degree in something, I want to make exactly what I did to make it accessible, available in the literature. Because if someone else wants to come do that, I don't want them to have to figure out all the same stuff I figured out. I want to-

Will Butler:

No, totally.

Speaker 2:

... be able to give them the stuff and say, "Hey, this is really cool. Check it out."

Will Butler:

Yeah, totally. Do you know Mona Minkara?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Mona's a dear friend. Holman prize winner from the Lighthouse.

Will Butler:

Right, and chemist, right?

Speaker 2:

Chemist, yeah. She actually just got a really exciting faculty position at Northeastern-

Will Butler:

So awesome.

Speaker 2:

So she's doing well. But you know, that's what it's all about, is being able to figure out those opportunities to help people, and to motivate people. And I would say that 30 to 40% of my PhD was actually figuring out how to make a lot of what we did, a lot of the research that we did, accessible. And 60 to 70% was actually doing the hardcore research. And my dissertation sort of reflects that. I actually have a lot of accessibility stuff in that document that is, I think, useful. Hopefully useful to another blind chemist sometime in the future.

Will Butler:

So. Okay, how did you get from PhD chemistry-

Speaker 2:

I love it.

Will Butler:

... to the branding world.

Speaker 2:

I love it.

Will Butler:

And this is Ford Coppola somewhere in there. Walk me through how it has happened and wine is the character in this story too.

Speaker 2:

So what I would say... yeah, and we're going to, actually we're going to taste some wine on the show here in a minute. I brought some really fun wine.

Will Butler:

Really?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. I've got some cool wine. It's a-

Will Butler:

Oh my Gosh.

Speaker 2:

Hope you like wine.

Will Butler:

What time is it?

Speaker 2:

What? So it's-

Will Butler:

It's 12 o'clock.

Speaker 2:

It's five o'clock somewhere.

Will Butler:

It's afternoon, so that's okay, right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. There we go, we're good. In the office we can have a glass of wine at noon. We're going to get to that in just a minute, but-

Will Butler:

Awesome.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but really good question. What I would say my graduate work taught me more than anything, is how to think critically and how to problem solve, in a way that's not super stressful. Like, "Oh my God, we've got all this stuff on our plate. What are we going to do? How are we going to get through it?" It's like, "No, we've got some problems. Let's just think about them logically and let's come to a conclusion that makes some sense."

Speaker 2:

And that's what grad school taught me, but it also taught me, and this is where I'm going to be really candid and really honest. I wanted to teach chemistry. That was my goal. And I was lucky enough to get a pre-doctoral fellowship, so I didn't have to work as a teaching assistant and guest lecture for the first three years of my graduate school. I still thought teaching chemistry would be doable and easy. I had a realization... and the place where I love to think about chemistry, and the place where I have a lot of chemistry knowledge. And I think what sets me out a little bit, is that I like to know about the general knowledge of chemistry. I really have a deep, general understanding of the science, not necessarily the highly, highly specified stuff.

Speaker 2:

Even, I know computational chemistry, but there are better computational chemists than me. I just like to know a lot. And that's what my PhD was in. I just like to have a good general concept of chemistry, which I feel that I do have. And that's what motivated me to want to teach entry-level chemists coming into college, freshman year. Teaching Chemistry 101, or at Davis it was Chemistry 28, that's where it all gets started. I wanted to help shape some kids into wanting to be chemists.

Will Butler:

Yeah, some more blind chemists, maybe.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, maybe so.

Will Butler:

So what happened?

Speaker 2:

What happened is that I ended up working with an assistant who was a fellow graduate student, actually, to teach chemistry. And I would spend hours building out PowerPoints that I could totally talk through without his assistance. So I needed him in the lab, but I tried to make it so that I could teach chemistry in the discussion sections in the room, just by virtue of showing PowerPoint slides and not really by meeting him to be there to draw stuff on the board.

Speaker 2:

What I realized, Will, that was really kind of painful, is that a lot of students don't speak chemistry. And when they're learning it, they want to hear this here and that there. Because they don't want to hear the calcium two plus cation. They don't get that. That doesn't make sense. This thing [crosstalk 00:38:00]

Will Butler:

They have over-there syndrome.

Speaker 2:

You got it, they do. And it's because they're learning. And then grading tests and working in the lab, you know, grading tests is a hassle.

Will Butler:

Oh my Gosh, yeah. How do you grade, it's all graphical.

Speaker 2:

Well, some of it's graphical. The way that I would write tests, and when I teach chemistry... I am going to teach chemistry one of these days. I'm just going to do it, because I want to do it.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I mean this story is not written yet, but I appreciate your honesty, because we don't give it to people straight enough. We tend to forget... we tend to remember our successes and forget our failures.

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

And when we come to a place where we've arrived, we leave everything else behind. And it's not very helpful to the people who are starting out or struggling or have questions.

Speaker 2:

And to be honest, I don't feel like a defeated chemist. But I also sometimes feel like I did have to find a line of work that required less assistance. And I don't think that's on me. But I think it's really more or less the fact that the scientific community expresses things visually because it's the easiest way to do it.

Will Butler:

I love that you're able to admit that, because it's like sighted people have had far more shameful career trajectories. You know what I mean? And have made decisions based on much more superficial factors, right. So like we have to be honest, we have to be honest with people.

Speaker 2:

And I love inspiring people. I love inspiring young blind folks and visually impaired folks to do whatever it is they want to do. But because of my experience, and I'm going to say this publicly for the first time ever, I feel a little bit hesitant to tell them, "You should all go on to get graduate degrees in science." And I know that they're out there. A lot of my students are out there and they're doing it, and they're making great careers of it. But it's hard and it is really hard to figure out how to make a career in chemistry work. I could have done it. But ironically, right as I was graduating from my undergraduate tenure... so let me go back to... I think we're going to transition to wine here, okay?

Will Butler:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I grew up-

Will Butler:

When do we get to drink the wine?

Speaker 2:

You want to do that now? Do you want to start?

Will Butler:

When do we get to talking about school and drink the wine?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there you go. We'll get this port here in just a minute. But you know, I grew up in Sonoma County, just like you. And I don't know about you, but I've always had a love and appreciation for things that are hyper-local, having it right around me, right in my backyard. My parents drank a little bit of wine, but they weren't super into it. You know, a lot of these hardcore people can be really into their wine and what's going on around them. My parents weren't really that way, but really it was all about, for me, growing up in that area and just thinking, "This stuff has being growing in my backyard and then it's sold all over the world, this wine." This is kind of fascinating. I was always interested in all the very local community systems around me as well.

Speaker 2:

It's just the sort of the kid I was, I was really interested in understanding how water systems work. I was always a nerd. Okay, this is really what the kind of kid that I was, Will. I was a nerd. Yeah, I enjoyed the outdoors, but I knew everything about the plumbing of my house. I could fix plumbing problems. I loved understanding how water got into my house, how sewage left my house. I wanted to know it all. I wanted to know why electrons getting shoved through this wire actually turned my vacuum on. Like what? That's weird. And I wanted to know about it and my dad is always doing things, you know, he's repairing everything himself, working on the whole house. He's basically rebuilt both in our places and he was very willing to show me all this stuff and still is. So that;s-

Will Butler:

So a nerd for the world, not just a nerd for school.

Speaker 2:

Kind of a nerd for the world. But it was wine that was right along those same lines, I wanted to know how grapes were picked, I wanted to know what was going on.

Will Butler:

Yeah, how did it turn into this weird drink.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Welch's grape juice didn't taste anything like this.

Will Butler:

Right, right.

Speaker 2:

Anyway, then I ended up at Davis and admittedly in the confines with family, I did get into wine a little bit while in high school.

Will Butler:

Yeah, drinking a glass of wine here and there, yeah.

Speaker 2:

You learn to drink before you learn to drive.

Will Butler:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

You know, it was really about getting to Davis and taking a cup, like I said, I didn't actually study wine at Davis, but I took a couple of classes in wine appreciation and intro to wine making, and I developed my pallet, sort of... And I always have really, and I didn't really unpack this until 2011, but I've always been developing my talent and my sense of the world. What do you things sound like? What do you think smell like and encapsulating them in my mind, you know?

Speaker 2:

So a friend of a friend, actually someone who's on the board of directors for the Lighthouse, Chris Downey, had formed some work on the new Francis Ford Coppola winery before they opened up. It used to be Chateau Souverain, up in Geyserville, California. So Chris did some work for him as a sighted architect. As you know, Chris, when he lost his sight-

Will Butler:

Did you know him when he was sighted?

Speaker 2:

I didn't, at all. I actually met Chris at a National Federation of the Blind event, where we were both mentors. And I was honored to be able to kind of help him understand some things, because he had just lost his sight, I think four months before.

Will Butler:

Whoa.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So it was really an awesome time to meet Chris, and get to know him. Chris knew that I knew some stuff about wine and dropped my name to Coppola.

Will Butler:

Oh, wow!

Speaker 2:

Then Coppola's team calls me out of the blue one day. He says, "Do you want to host a truly blindfolded wine experience? Francis did this in Asia and he kind of thought it was gimmicky, with food. You know, he had to take a thick walking stick and walk across to find a little present and this sort of thing. But he thought we could do a way cooler version of this at the winery, and we think it should be led by a blind person. "

Will Butler:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

And I said, "Yeah, okay." So I thought I was going to be co-developing it with Francis, but Francis really threw me the reigns and said, "Build something cool." "Okay." So during that summer between undergrad and grad school, I was able to build out with their team, their hospitality team, a really cool experience around different aroma compounds followed by really focused tastings of wine.

Speaker 2:

But it was funny because we started this as like a once-a-quarter experience and then not even a quarter went by and it went to once a month. And then it went to every two weeks. And then it... it came about that we were doing this a couple of times a week. So my weekends were being filled with this while doing graduate school by week. And soon enough Francis' sales team picked it up and my boss was, my graduate advisor was amazing because we were computational chemists. So my laptop is my laboratory, essentially. I was able to travel around the country with Coppola's team while still getting chemistry work done, doing this experience for all sorts of sales and marketing opportunities. I then thought, "You know, there's really something here. And-"

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:44:04]

Hoby:

Opportunities. I then thought there's really something here, and there's really an opportunity to build this into something.

Will Butler:

Can I just stop you because I want to hear about blind tastings.

Hoby:

Let's talk about that.

Will Butler:

I'm going to play the skeptic here.

Hoby:

Yep.

Will Butler:

Everybody thinks blind people have super powers and super senses. How is putting a blindfold on them and having them taste wine not... How is it doing something positive as opposed to playing to that myth?

Hoby:

That's a fantastic question. And I've been really careful, all the work that I've done, to make the truly blindfolded experience not about the blindfold. As soon as we put blindfolds on, we sit down and we have a conversation about, "Guess what? You did not just become Daredevil because you put this blindfold on. You might be able to focus in on your senses differently, but your sense of smell is not heightened, your sense of hearing is not heightened, but you might notice things differently."

Hoby:

My sense of hearing is no better than any sighted person's, I can guarantee you that. But we have to learn how to listen to traffic and that sort of thing. We have this conversation, and we say, "The blindfold is not meant to enhance anything." Literally what it's meant to do is focus our attention and hyper laser-focus our attention because, Will, we use vision for... I like to call it eyesight. I think we all have vision. Just some of us lack eyesight. We use our eyesight to obtain 85 to 90% of the information we take in from our surroundings.

Hoby:

That means that when we remove that key sense, we have to rely on our other four senses to obtain 100% of the information from our surroundings, which means that we're going to be vulnerable, and I think and my research has shown that people's attention is definitely very focused because of it. It heightens our ability to pay attention to conversation and then to pay attention to what we're tasting, and my joke is that when it's legal for me to use cannabis to heighten people's attention, I won't need the blindfold anymore.

Will Butler:

It's almost there.

Hoby:

It's meant just to... And I think the blindfold will always be somewhat of a part of what I do, but it's not the only thing. A lot of people, "Oh, he did this great tasting in the dark," and that's what they write about. And it's like, Hoby is the one trick blindfolded tasting pony. And that's not... The big thing that I want to debunk is that that's a small element to experiential marketing.

Will Butler:

And if people focus on that in the press, that's fine. Whatever it takes to get headlines, to get people in the door. But as long as the actual experience is substantive, it's a lot different than one of these canned empathy experiences.

Hoby:

Exactly. And you know-

Will Butler:

You like that word, empathy?

Hoby:

I like it. I think it's an interesting word. I think the word empathy is important.

Will Butler:

Shout out to Empathy Wines.

Hoby:

Yeah, Empathy Wines, absolutely. Gary's project is really cool. And Gary does a really good job at making wines affordable and being empathetic. I think it's important-

Will Butler:

That empathy word has totally taken over the tech industry, or did, had a wave over the tech industry. Everyone was talking about empathy, and as words do, got wrung out.

Hoby:

And I don't think it's necessarily about... I think empathy is definitely a part of the experiential marketing that I like to do, but I also really think that it's about making people feel wholesome, making people feel appreciated for exactly who they are. That's a big part of what I do, because I like to give people that value of feeling appreciated and feeling excited about themselves and what they do.

Hoby:

That's really what happened with Coppola, is that I branched out and did some work for Sierra Nevada in the beer industry, lot of work in the olive oil and vinegar industry, somewhat dealing with the blindfold, somewhat not, because I realized ultimately that, and this is late in my graduate school career, end of 2015 on into 2016, I finished at the very end of 2016, but what I came to realize is that I interviewed at some really big food companies, and I had some good chances with those companies. But I decided that, you know what, I don't want to sit in a cubicle from nine to five, Monday through Friday.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby:

I want to be doing something a little more rewarding for me personally, and I know there's a lot of people out there that love the life of working a nine-to-five, and trust me, as an entrepreneur, there are times when I wish that I was working a nine-to-five because you know that on March 15th you're getting X number of dollars, and that's going to come in, unless you really screw things up and get fired, every two weeks, whereas now I'm like, the way that I've structured our company and that my partners to think about it as well, is that we pay ourselves very boring salaries.

Hoby:

So it's not, "Oh wow, this month we had this great deal and then we had nothing for three months." It's not like that. It's just steady, we try to keep a sustainable steady process going. Anyway, to make a long story short, my business and life partner, by the way, Justin Vallandingham and I founded Senspoint in early 2017 after really thinking about it and having some great conversations about it. Justin actually did a lot of really exciting business IT management for Coppola. So he ended up there as well, in the wine industry.

Will Butler:

Where did you meet Justin?

Hoby:

I met Justin when I was six years old in elementary school.

Will Butler:

No.

Hoby:

We've been solid friends ever since. And a testament to a good relationship is that life partners can also be business partners was working well.

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh, from six years old?

Hoby:

Yeah. No, we've been together for 10 or 12 years now, but officially... And doing business for three, going on four. And it's an exciting opportunity.

Will Butler:

So what is Senspoint? And and who is Senspoint? And what is it exactly that you guys do?

Hoby:

So what is Senspoint? That's a great question, Will. Thanks for asking it. Really, in my opinion, Senspoint is an experiential marketing and multisensory branding agency. So we can do everything from building a brand from the ground up, and using all five senses as we do that, all the way through to activating that brand, doing some really wonderful experiential stuff to get media engaged, we've had a lot of success with PR, building brand opportunities, educating staff members, really helping... I like to think of it as transparent marketing as well.

Hoby:

So if I'm going to sell something, or if I'm helping a brand manager sell something well, what I'm really doing is marketing from concept to the actual sale. I don't want the product development team, for instance, to be in a vacuum of what sales and marketing is doing. And I don't want sales and marketing to just see this new product, whether it's a wine label, whether it's a new line of detergent, whether it's a high tech product, or whether it's even coffee being imported from Ethiopia, I don't want my sales team or marketing team or any public relations team to just be told at some meeting, "Okay, there's this new product."

Hoby:

I want them to hear from product development, why? What went into this? What is the R&D that went into this? So they really understand the full essence of everything having to do with how this brand was built, how this brand was created, and they can really come together. So transparency in marketing, and I do the term empathetic marketing, not selling something just to sell it, but trying to figure out how is this actually going to help? How is this going to be good? And a lot of that is thinking about all five senses, from packaging design, to label texture, to eventing and experiences, to explain this product.

Hoby:

For instance, I was chatting, I was down in Texas a couple of weeks ago at a wine and grape show, and was chatting with a guy who sells a steaming device for barrels. And I said, "We need to get out there and we need to tell the world why your device is so valuable. Now barrels don't have to be washed by using 365 degrees steam." And this is not a sales pitch for this guy by the way. This is literally just saying we can build out experiences where people smell a barrel that hasn't been cleaned and then a barrel that's been cleaned and can really sink their teeth into, "Yep, that's why my winery needs to have this."

Will Butler:

Wow.

Hoby:

Yeah. So that's the idea of a lot of what we do. But then I don't want to not talk about Senspoint being a truly creative agency. We have a full creative studio. We founded Senspoint being really designed through all five senses, and let's bring the approach of not being able to see the world through branding and marketing. And we've since partnered up with a couple of amazing people. So Senspoint is now me, Justin, Ilene Liff-Mier, who is our marketing and production director out of Atlanta, who actually comes to us from CNN where she did a bunch of news production there, and Jody Tucker, who's our creative director based down in Australia, Adelaide, Australia.

Hoby:

And Jody actually has a company, a very successful company, creative studio down in Australia, and has been working in wine and spirits for the better part of 25 years himself, and his dad had the company before, and has had it for nearly 50 years. Jody bought it from his dad in 2000 and Jody saw a real opportunity to grow his business offering in the US by partnering with us. And it's just been a tremendous partnership with the four of us. I mean we get along, and what's great, Will, is that now we have everything associated with building a brand.

Hoby:

So we have access to Jody's studio, and Jody, of course, as creative director, does everything, all the visual graphics, anything web and digital. They've now figured out how to build accessible websites because this is a big thing in the wine industry. So often these lawyers are out, big, bad lawyers, are out there suing companies for not necessarily being accessible. And then Justin directs operations, like I said, Ilene is doing all of our B2B marketing and production of any videography or photography that we need either for us internally or for our clients.

Hoby:

And then I have this really fun thing that I'm doing, which we're calling sensory innovations. I'm sensory innovation director, really trying to bring high touch point experiential marketing to compliment all of the brand building that we do, and brand activation. So that's a big thing, finding the right experience to activate a brand. And the tasting in the dark that we've talked about, which is, but one of many opportunities to build experience. Like I said, we're going to be probably collaborating with a laundry equipment company to think about how to build experiences, to show buyers why their commercial equipment is better than their competitors.

Hoby:

And I'll tell you, it's all going to be about experiential. It's going to be about listening for vibrations, how much laundry detergent aroma is seeping out, how much off vibration do you see when the device is really rolling, all the way to consumer reports and buildability studies of how rugged and how well-built is this equipment. But it's all about the experience. And maybe that's going to be done while drinking wine, you know. I call it out of the glass and into the drum.

Will Butler:

I'm into it. Let's do it.

Hoby:

Yeah. But what I'm saying is, it's just about figuring this stuff out in any way that we can and building experiences. And it was really my work with Coppola, and a lot of, I definitely think a lot of my graduate tenure got me thinking about, "Yes, science. Totally." This is all science, but it's also art. Simply put, science really gives us a lot of tools in our toolbox, hammers, nails, computers, smartphones, whatever, art is how we use those tools to be creative and to get something out of the world. Right?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Hoby:

Which I really love. So speaking of art, I'm going to go ahead, while you're asking the next question, and pour you some wine.

Will Butler:

Oh yes.

Hoby:

So by the way, what I've got here-

Will Butler:

I thought you were never going to open this bottle.

Hoby:

Oh man, here it comes. So what I've got here, unfortunately, you've got to get that really iconic sound of glassware hitting the table, the base of a stem hitting the table. These are Govinos, so it's not the most exciting sound here.

Will Butler:

It's plastic?

Hoby:

Yeah, it's plastic, you'll feel it in a second. So, of course, you've got to have the iconic wine opening sound.

Will Butler:

Oh yeah.

Hoby:

Got to hear that. And this one, by the way, I'll tell you about it once you taste it. It's a really wine, been made for a few years now. I'm just going to pour you a starter glass and, then trust me, there's more.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Hoby:

You let me know.

Will Butler:

Wow. This is going to send us right into lunch. This is great.

Hoby:

This is awesome. So I'm going to hand you a glass of wine.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

I want to talk a little bit about... Okay, got it? And it's got a little finger dimple on it. These Govinos are the perfect picnic wine drinking glass.

Will Butler:

Nice. So what did you just put in my glass here?

Hoby:

So what we've got here, I actually got a really exciting story about this, this is a wine called Dreaming Tree Wine. And this is their blend called Crush. It's a red blend made by Constellation Wines.

Will Butler:

Am I allowed to taste it?

Hoby:

It's actually Dave Matthews wine label. Let's go ahead and smell it.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

So let's talk about the five senses here, while we're initially smelling this wine.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

I like to think of the senses in a pyramid, from most vulnerable to least vulnerable. Smell and taste, super vulnerable. You trust me enough to make what I just handed you a part of yourself, right? You're about to sip it. You're already breathing all its-

Will Butler:

Smelling is not really... Is smelling making it a part of me?

Hoby:

Maybe you're breathing in some of the molecules in the feadspace above it, but no. Let's say "cheers" and let's taste this wine.

Will Butler:

Okay, cheers.

Hoby:

So I'm out to your right there. Cheers.

Will Butler:

Clink.

Hoby:

They don't have the nice glass clink, but clink. When you taste it, I want you to really swish it around your palette.

Will Butler:

I'm not going to lean too close to the microphone, for the benefit of our listeners here. For all the people who have the mouth noise phobia, I'm going to back off the mic a little bit. Wow, that's really, really nice.

Hoby:

So it's funny. This blend is, it's a red blend, it's got some Cabernet Sauvignon, some Merlot, a little bit of Malbec in it and a few other things. But it's funny because it's not totally dry. In wine, we talk about dryness. That's really the amount of sugar that's there, and this is just a little bit sweet, to the point that, I don't think a standard consumer would necessarily notice the sugar until maybe the second or third glass, like, "Dang, this is pretty sweet, this is a little bit sweet." But it's just enough to really, in my opinion, to really satisfy that US-based palette.

Will Butler:

So the dry means the little the lip-smackingness of it, right?

Hoby:

Dry literally means less sugar or no sugar.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

So you can have a dry white wine with no astringency, which is the tannin. By the way, tannins are weird. You know the things that-

Will Butler:

Make your tongue feel sticky?

Hoby:

Pucker?

Will Butler:

Yeah, pucker.

Hoby:

What's happening there is the tannic acid in the wine is denaturing the protein in your saliva. So what you're feeling is the protein from your saliva on your tongue.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Hoby:

Yeah. So take another sip and think about that and feel that puckery nature.

Will Butler:

And so you're saying this wine is a mix of puckery and dry, and also-

Hoby:

A little bit of residual sugar.

Will Butler:

A little bit of residual sugar.

Hoby:

And they didn't add sugar back because grapes are nice and sweet, they just didn't ferment it 100% of the way because when we make wine, we take sugars and we convert them to alcohol.

Will Butler:

So is this a nice wine?

Hoby:

Yeah, this is a good wine. It's an affordable wine sold in the grocery store. But to me this is nice wine.

Will Butler:

Why is it that people don't understand wine, or why is it that people find it to be impenetrable sometimes?

Hoby:

I think wine should be so approachable and so much fun. And I think it's the industry, it's expensive wines. It's this thing that gets people thinking, "Oh my gosh."

Will Butler:

Ironically it's marketing, right?

Hoby:

Yeah, it is marketing, it is totally marketing. People think, "Oh wow, I don't know enough about wine. I have to have someone at my dinner explain to me what I'm drinking, and tell me, help me figure out what to order when I order food." And I think it's a funny thing, we don't drink wine as often as we look around our surroundings and look at visual art. But in my opinion, wine is an art, just some painting or some sculpture you might look at. And it's an art combination of the wine maker and the fruit that you start with.

Hoby:

We don't need help deciding, "Oh, I this pretty picture. I'm going to hang it somewhere in my wall." We just hang it up and we're fine with it. There's no embarrassment about being subjective when it comes to visual art. When it comes to wine, it's like, "Oh, I don't know if this wine is going to be that great. I don't know what it's going to be." And I've got to tell people, the only way you can get better at tasting wine and feeling wine is more approachable is to drink more of it, practice.

Will Butler:

Maybe it goes back to your vulnerability thing. Because if you're saying taste is the most vulnerable-

Hoby:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

And sight is the least vulnerable-

Hoby:

I think so.

Will Butler:

Because you can see 85% of the time without 85% of your mind processing, and you're always seeing, and so you can look around without risking-

Hoby:

You can look at the moon, but you can't feel it.

Will Butler:

Right. And you can look around without risking your life-

Hoby:

Or involvement with someone or something.

Will Butler:

The animal peering out of a cave can look a far distance and know that it's safe or something, it's a safe sense. So maybe with art people feel it's safer because it's experienced through a safe sense.

Hoby:

They can look at it and understand it. And they use it a lot. It's a well-used, it's a well-practiced sense.

Will Butler:

Whilst taste is so vulnerable. It requires a lot more scrutiny.

Hoby:

Right. And Will, I've spent my life smelling things and tasting them and really remembering aromas, just someone might learn to play the guitar or the piano and practice hours a day doing that, I've done it with a lot of things other than wine, but I think there's... It's a sense that we might not use all the time because we need to eat and drink, probably don't need to drink wine, but we do. But we need to eat food, so we're always tasting things, but I don't think we often think about what we're necessarily tasting as we taste them.

Hoby:

And it's really mind opening, I think, to engage that sense a little bit more and use it a little bit more, and really give it the time of day. Eye sight just comes into our lives. We don't need to work to get good at it because it's just what we use. And that's the least vulnerable sense. I'd say the next least vulnerable sense is our sense of hearing. I can snap my fingers and hear. Of course, there's paneling that is sound dampening on the wall, but you can hear that there's a wall-

Will Butler:

Without sticking your neck out.

Hoby:

Yeah, but you don't know what's hanging on that wall. Or if I walked by a piano, I can hear that, "yeah, there's something there," but I can't get the dexterity of, "Okay, those are the black keys, those are the white keys. This is in fact a piano." What's really funny, Will, is that sound and light are really, really similar. Sound is just a longitudinal wave while light is transverse. Light is just way shorter and way more fine tuned, that's all. That's literally the difference between light and sound.

Will Butler:

Show me how you coach people on that.

Hoby:

So our tongue is really pretty stupid. Our tone can pick up flavor, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, and a few other things if you're really nerdy like me. But our nose fine tunes the heck out of your tongue. It gives us the fancy nuances, it gives us the treble in the base, it gives us everything that we don't get with our tongue. I want you to do something with me.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

Take a sip of wine, but just normally, and taste all that nice baking spice, nice star anise and all that stuff. Now what we're going to do, it's going to be uncomfortable, but you're going to plug your nose and taste the wine.

Will Butler:

Okay.

Hoby:

And then hold it, hold the wine on your palette for five seconds. And then unplug your nose and see how crazy it is.

Will Butler:

Whoa.

Hoby:

You notice, without air passing through your nose, how limited you are in taste.

Will Butler:

That's why you plug your nose when you eating bad tasting medicine or something.

Hoby:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

So taste comes through your nose.

Hoby:

Taste comes through your nose. And noses are really amazing because they can smell what's on the inside by exhaling, that's called retronasal. And then we breathe in and we smell what's going on in our surroundings, that's orthonasal.

Will Butler:

Wait, our noses can smell what's inside of us?

Hoby:

Inside our mouth cavity. That's when you breathe out through your nose, what you're smelling is not what's going on out in the air around you, you're smelling what's happening in your mouth. And then when you breathe-

Will Butler:

I never thought about that.

Hoby:

And that's why plugging your nose makes it so hard to taste wine on your mouth, because you can't breathe out through it.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Hoby:

Kind of weird.

Will Butler:

Breathing out is smelling, just like breathing inside.

Hoby:

Totally. Everything's going up to your little factory ball.

Will Butler:

So this is what you do... But then I want to talk a bit about, how do you take all this stuff about sense, vulnerability, this sciency stuff, and how do you apply it when you work with a food brand or a product of some kind. What is this multisensory branding thing all about? Tell me some stories that illustrate that.

Hoby:

Let's talk about some stories. The first one I want to tell you is a project that we did with a major glass company and a tech giant in the Bay Area, working with-

Will Butler:

Someone we've probably have heard of, but we're not going to talk about.

Hoby:

Working with a major glass company based in Japan and a tech giant in the Bay Area, as well as IDEO, which is a design and creative studio based here in San Francisco, but really worldwide. So what happened is this tech giant calls their glass company and says, "Our industrial designers are saying that we need a glass that feels more silky for our next release of smart phones and computer [inaudible 00:01:04:44].

Will Butler:

Silky?

Hoby:

Silky, smoother. And they said, "What the heck does silky glass mean? Let's call our glass manufacturer." They called their glass manufacturer and the glass manufacturer said, "I don't know, we have different coatings that we put on glass, but I don't know what's more silky. I don't know how to talk about class texture, let's call IDEO. They seem to be really big into experience and design."

Hoby:

So they called IDEO and IDEO said, "Oh God, that's interesting. We know that there's a sensory guy up in Petaluma, let's call him." And then at this point, Senspoint a just been started a month before, we were pretty new. So they called us and we were able to take four glasses that they were interested in using. And they said, "We don't understand these glass surfaces, we can't talk about this texture. Coach us on explaining how these glass surfaces feel."

Hoby:

"Oh that's cool." So what we ultimately did after a couple of weeks of planning with IDEO and both other companies, is we built out a tech day that saw over 300 people, over a period of about five hours, where at one station we paired four different glass textures on a tablet, so they can select which glass they thought paired with which food the best. So we paired four glass textures with four different cheeses. And when we realized in this whole process that you can have glass that's sticky and smooth, or grainy and smooth, or rough and-

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:06:04]

Speaker 3:

... or grainy and smooth, or rough and kind of rough to the finger and kind of squeaky, or also rough and gritty. So there is really two dimensions of tactile, from very rough to very smooth, and from very sticky and silky, to very gritty.

Will Butler:

What?

Speaker 3:

And we were able to simulate that with cheese and we brought them [crosstalk 00:00:21], station and had them taste fruit and then at the end of the thing, we paired the texture of glass with four different wines on their palette. So glass it was a little bit bumpy and a little more tractive below your finger, perfect to pair with a champagne where you can feel these tiny little bubbles popping all over your palette. So that was... You know, it might sound like, okay, yeah, they did this tech and they paired glass with food. Ultimately what we did is we helped this tech company choose which glass to use-

Will Butler:

[crosstalk 01:06:49]. So you were using something like taste to help them understand what they were feeling under their fingers, but couldn't find the words to describe?

Speaker 3:

We used a little more nuance than that because we used a sense that they all have, which is texture of food on your palette. You know, it's tangible. To compare to texture of glass under your finger, which before that point was really intangible for them.

Will Butler:

Wow. And so did they suddenly... Like did it click? Did they see-

Speaker 3:

It clicked and they found the glass they wanted to use and they used it.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Speaker 3:

That was really exciting you know and they used it to-

Will Butler:

Is that glass out there in the world today?

Speaker 3:

It probably is.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Speaker 3:

It probably is. And they didn't understand how this could happen you know. So that was a really fun one.

Will Butler:

That's really interesting. That's a total curve ball, right?

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Because you would think that like it would be like, Oh, they wanted to do glass that felt a particular way and so we did research on what glass felt a particular way and we gave them a glass that felt that way, but like leading them through like a tasting exercise is like-

Speaker 3:

Kind of fun.

Will Butler:

It's really out there.

Speaker 3:

Oh, it was a lot of fun.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Speaker 3:

And here's another one that I think really, really explains a little more of what we do kind of from an experiential perspective with wine. I'm an adjunct faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America. I like to say that rather than CIA, because people get weird ideas [crosstalk 00:02:06]. We were asked and tasked with by them, we had the opportunity to create an experience around wine and music to prepare their guests at their Sommelier summit and summit for beverage professionals to go into a silent disco of music and wine tasting and they asked us to really put together an experience that might help outline and shape this sort of, we call it music in the wine mind. So how does music impact our ability to understand and discuss actively wine? Right. So we took a shot in the dark. What's the worst they can do, right? They can say no. So I email Sean McKenzie, who is the wine maker for this wine that's right in front of you, Dave Matthews winemaker.

Will Butler:

Okay. [crosstalk 00:02:52], the Dave Matthews band?

Speaker 3:

Dave Matthews band. Yep, yeah. And then he owns a little bit of this wine label on his own. The band doesn't own it, but-

Will Butler:

Okay. Wow.

Speaker 3:

He said, "Oh man, that sounds so cool." So we used blindfolds and we used music from the Dave Matthews song book, which I was able to personally select with Sean and Dave to pair with wines from the Dream and Tree collection and what was really crazy is, it was an hour and a half experience. We're going to have a video of it pretty done soon that'll be available if people-

Will Butler:

Nice.

Speaker 3:

... want to request it.

Will Butler:

Yeah, will link to it and-

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I don't know if I can share [crosstalk 01:09:24]. It just depends on what we all find out but what was crazy about it, there's just one story that is really awesome and exciting about the whole thing. We threw in a little bit of a monkey wrench in the middle. So we started with a sob plonk and a really good song called Do You Remember? Then we went on to a Pinot noir and another newish song by Dave's called Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin) and then we moved into Rosette and now for the Rosette, Dave made it for his wife because she loves Rosette. So we used a marriage song from his new album called Here On Out. Then I said, let's really try to trip people up.

Speaker 3:

Let's pour the Rosette again, the exact same wine in a different glass and play a different song and that one we paired with a song called When I'm Weary, which is all about having someone in your life to help you sort of keep on trying when you feel down and you feel tired and for me that's all about having something that's familiar that we can fall back on, whether it be a great friend, a life partner, you know enjoying wine with those great people and that Rosette sort of brought me to that place. So we played that song, talked about the wine a little bit differently and I would say 90% of this audience, which was all trained Sommeliers had a hard time identifying, yes in fact, this is even a Rosette. A lot of them said white, just regular white wine. They didn't know what it was.

Will Butler:

Wait, this was the same wine that you had just served them before?

Speaker 3:

Same wine, same bottle.

Will Butler:

What?

Speaker 3:

It's crazy.

Will Butler:

And do you think it was the song or do you think it was the way you talked about it?

Speaker 3:

No, I think it's the combination, but I think the song had a lot to do with it and we had grown men tearing up because of the song and the wine and it's [crosstalk 01:10:52], that's bizarre. You know what? It's different you know.

Will Butler:

So what does that mean? What does that tell you about sensory you know-

Speaker 3:

I mean it tells me that focusing on all five senses is really important when trying to connect with an audience, you know and what's exciting here Will, that I should also point out is that what's amazing about this collaboration that we have with our creative director and our marketing and videography production director, is that I was able to work with Jody, who's the creative director for Sense Point, to create a really beautiful card that shows all the wine and music paintings so people could take home with them.

Speaker 3:

So that's sort of a silly example, but basically it's the idea of taking experiential offerings and being able to tie them right into the normal mainstream branding world through visuals. So it's really not just doing one and forgetting about-

Will Butler:

[crosstalk 00:05:43], still visual, you still-

Speaker 3:

Oh, yeah.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And that's what I love about working with Jody's. He and I have created a really awesome working relationship where I can describe stuff the way I see it. He describes it the way he sees it and we can come up with some really cool visual representations that take the extra sensory into account.

Will Butler:

Cool. So what type of brands do you currently work with? What type of brands are you looking to work with?

Speaker 3:

You know, we currently work with predominantly food and drink brands. Not only actual like wineries and food companies themselves, but sometimes the suppliers to those brands as well. That's sort of our bread and butter. No food and drink, pun intended there but really we're not afraid of challenges in any industry. Like I really want to start thinking about getting into the automotive industry. How to make the automotive sales experience more experiential, more about the way the car sounds, the way it smells.

Will Butler:

I was listening to something about like a water bottle, right? The way a water bottle crinkles like-

Speaker 3:

[crosstalk 01:12:39], I did a project like that.

Will Butler:

You did?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, with-

Will Butler:

Then maybe I heard that from you. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

We're the company that's the largest producer of bottled water in the US. Actually an IDO as well, and we created a product that... This is kind of a fun one, created a product that they wanted to launch and they're still in R and D with, which is a lightly flavored, lightly carbonated, perhaps lightly caffeinated water. So we came up with the flavors for it and at the end of that project I said to them, I said, "Okay, so what are you going to put this in?" They said, "We don't know. We're thinking about some plastic bottle or whatever." I said, "Wait a minute. We spent all this time putting this work into getting the water the flavor of what's inside the bottle rights. We did the product development. We need to create a brand for this, we need to create all the visuals and we need to design the bottle this is going to go into. You can't put this in some boring generic bottle that you already use."

Will Butler:

Right.

Speaker 3:

"You've got to really change it up," and they said... What was good is they said, "Well you're right," and then they contracted with us for more time so.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Well people notice those things. Like even I'm looking at this water bottle on the table and it's like... Just by our listeners like-

Speaker 3:

Oh, yeah.

Will Butler:

Just by like hearing-

Speaker 3:

[crosstalk 00:07:40], this.

Will Butler:

You could probably guess what type of water this is.

Speaker 3:

Right. You can imagine the 20 ounce glass bottle, you can imagine the whole thing and you can here-

Will Butler:

[crosstalk 01:13:49], only certain brands of water crinkle that way.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Will Butler:

Whereas if it was like Smartwater-

Speaker 3:

Right. It would not-

Will Butler:

It wouldn't crinkle. It would [crosstalk 01:13:57], pop. It's more like stiff.

Speaker 3:

So you've got this, you've got the sensory design [crosstalk 01:14:04], yeah.

Will Butler:

And then like what was the other thing you were saying about automotive? Like car doors.

Speaker 3:

Car doors, the way they sound when they shut. How can we interact? Like a lot of people are so afraid of talking to the sales person. You know, they'd pull in the car, slinker out in the car lot to look at potential cars they want that but then they see that person come out of the shop and they are like, "Oh my God, they're going to try to sell me a car." How can we make this more fun? How can we make it more interactive?

Speaker 3:

You know, how can we create like an experience around looking at cars and buying cars? You know, that it's more casual. It's less sort of cut throat. Can we sit down and have a meal with the person who is selling us a car? Can we find little destinations to go on test drives to? What are the possibilities? Why are Teslas quiet? Well yeah, it's great that they're this electric car, but it's also they have more torque than the biggest gas powered muscle cars that I can think of. They need a little bit of sound to make you actually feel like you're driving forward.

Will Butler:

Is that a call out to Elon? Are you like Elon [crosstalk 00:08:59], I need a design sound for you?

Speaker 3:

We're always out there. We're always out there willing to help out with anything that we can.

Will Butler:

That's awesome. Do you have like an ecosystem of like people you partner with like [crosstalk 00:09:10], designers and-

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we've got a great guy out of Italy who's very in touch with a lot of sound designers and that sort of thing and he's really big into the fashion industry. So we've been doing some really interesting chatting with him. Got some great photography partners, great consulting partner, I mean we just-

Will Butler:

Pete once you start thinking about it like... Okay, I feel like food and drink has got multisensory branding nailed or not nailed, but they're so far ahead. Like you go into a fine dining establishment, what do they call it? White tablecloth.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Will Butler:

There's these multisensory branding right there, right?

Speaker 3:

Right, it is.

Will Butler:

It's not just about how they look, it's about how they feel-

Speaker 3:

[crosstalk 00:09:45], underneath.

Will Butler:

The type of paper they use for the fancy menu, whatever it is. Like the food industry is ahead on this, but that's because you're using that vulnerable sense. You're putting food in your mouth. So they have to make you feel very safe and comfortable if they want you to put some... You know, if they want you to like ingest something.

Speaker 3:

That's just it.

Will Butler:

But you start thinking about other industries like fashion-

Speaker 3:

Fashion's huge. Getting cloths to feel right. Getting zippers to feel right.

Will Butler:

Like there are things I want to wear it simply because of how they feel and it doesn't matter if they look great.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Here's a funny one for you. Oh, man. I think you'll love this one. The medical industry crazy. Like how sterile-

Will Butler:

Wait, they're kind of having a UX revolution right now, aren't they?

Speaker 3:

They're. So here's a great case study that I unfortunately didn't work on, but I love and it's exactly the areas that we want to get into and collaborate more. Stanford medical center. You know, we're having such a hard time getting kids to get into these CAT scan machines in their pediatrics department.

Will Butler:

I have been in the machines at Lucile Packard. Yeah, [crosstalk 01:16:48]. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

So imagine being a little kid and imagine what they've just done. They've made it an adventure. It's a pirate ship and now-

Will Butler:

No.

Speaker 3:

... you go into the pirate ship and you hear all these cool sounds, you feel different like cool air on your face and it becomes not an annoying, horrible medical procedure, but it becomes a fun ride through a pirate ship and you go into this cave and you spent some time in the cave and you got to be really still because you don't want to excite the pirates and it's just like that's really cool.

Will Butler:

So do they play like audio and like-

Speaker 3:

You know, I don't know exactly. I don't want to speak out of turn about exactly what they've done, but I just think I read about it a couple of weeks ago-

Will Butler:

That's awesome.

Speaker 3:

... and I think it's so smart-

Will Butler:

Yeah, there's so much here. There's so much potential.

Speaker 3:

... and now kids love, but "Hey mom, dad take me back to the CAT scan machine.

Will Butler:

Right. Every... "You only get to go once a year honey." [crosstalk 01:17:42], and that can have real life health effects.

Speaker 3:

Oh, yeah.

Will Butler:

Like if someone dreads that and has a traumatic experience as a child, they might not go get checked up regularly as an adult and that could risk their life.

Speaker 3:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

You know like that's really, really powerful stuff.

Speaker 3:

Or like for me, here's another one that I think is really important. I've done a little bit of dabbling in it. So you know, one of the things that we do a lot of is we think about inclusivity and accessibility with everything that we do.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Totally.

Speaker 3:

And that's what I love about Be My Eyes. You guys are really the foundation of inclusive thinking and I honor that about you tremendously.

Will Butler:

It's very nice. Thank you.

Speaker 3:

But the thing that I find so interesting is looking at this ever-growing senior market and by that I mean the market of individuals over the age of 65.

Will Butler:

The silver Tsunami.

Speaker 3:

And it's growing so quickly as baby boomers get to that age level, that I think we need to create facilities for... And products that are easier to open. That are easier to access. Like, I believe that a lot of the technology that we can invent and create that's really multisensory even for people who are blind or visually impaired is going to expand and revolutionize itself in that industry.

Will Butler:

It's really going to catch in about five to 10 years when all the boomers start having visual impairments and that's not to be scary. That's just real.

Speaker 3:

It's real and you and I are going to black out.

Will Butler:

And well it's just like we're going to be there to help. Like-

Speaker 3:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

... we're going to.... Like all this stuff is going to make sense I think.

Speaker 3:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

Not that it doesn't already, but I think it's just going to make even more sense.

Speaker 3:

But let's just take it one step further and think about how can we make assisted living facilities not smell like old canned soup?

Will Butler:

Right.

Speaker 3:

How can we make them feel like a party-

Will Butler:

Right.

Speaker 3:

... you know?

Will Butler:

Yes.

Speaker 3:

If I'm 95 years old, I want to go... I want to have a party.

Will Butler:

Well yeah, you didn't get enough in high school.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Will Butler:

Like let's make sure that all the way to the old folks home we are partying.

Speaker 3:

And that's another industry that we were doing a lot of work in is-

Will Butler:

That's great-

Speaker 3:

[crosstalk 01:19:44], hospitality.

Will Butler:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 3:

And it's exactly the same thing from a hotel that you pay a bunch of money to stay out to a senior living facility that you pay a bunch of money to live at. Let's make them fun. Let's make them feel good.

Will Butler:

Do you ever do any work in Japan?

Speaker 3:

I have not yet.

Will Butler:

I feel like that'd be the place to test some of these theories because they have such an attention to detail, such attention to craft and they have such an aging population. They're a little isolated in terms of... You know, there's all these amazing Japanese companies that they have to work with and I'm sure they have sensory designers out there. It seems like a cool market.

Speaker 3:

That's a really interesting place to think about-

Will Butler:

Yeah, [crosstalk 01:20:16], what other dreams have you got now? Looking ahead a few years, what are your goals for the next year?

Speaker 3:

That's a really good question. I want to make multisensory branding. It's becoming a thing, but I want to really make it even more of a thing. I want to make it something that people understand that they need to be successful in this 21st century world that we live in. Let's bring it to high tech, let's bring it to medical. Let's definitely think about hotel hospitality, tourism and food and drink but let's really try to push the envelope there and that's what's so amazing about having these great partners at Sense Point. We're all motivating each other and we're all holding each other accountable and it's great like especially working with Jody over the past year or so.

Speaker 3:

I actually met him along with Eileen, who's our marketing and production director when working on another project in the spirits industry but just being able to communicate with him and have him share his view of the world, which is much more visual and then me share my view of the world, which is not visual at all and arrive at a happy medium that's right in the middle and to be able to co-create with someone like that is, it's just so special and so much fun. The other thing I really want to work on is building up a personal brand, building up a podcast of my own and building opportunities where I can really help people understand more of what they love and what they want to do and use that to get people excited about Sense Point and what we do.

Will Butler:

Yeah. You ever think about like VR and AR and all that stuff?

Speaker 3:

Oh my gosh. Yeah. So that's another industry that we really want to get into is [crosstalk 00:15:37], audio VR.

Will Butler:

Seems like VR and AR seems like the most potential for you.

Speaker 3:

I'm going to send you a crazy audio VR experience, which is a virtual haircut and it's insane. Like you can hear... Like because of the microphones that they use. You can hear everything around you and it's really scary, man. When the scissors come close to your ear, it's like, Oh God, they're going to cut my ear off. Like it's-

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3:

And then I think we can link to that.

Will Butler:

Yeah, we can put it in the show notes.

Speaker 3:

It's just fun.

Will Butler:

Wow. Yeah. I mean there's... Like haptic sound, smell, the feeling of wind on your face. Like this is where all the things that you're workshopping out in the world are going to come home to roost because you can create whole experiences without having to leave your dystopian warehouse or [crosstalk 01:22:19]-

Speaker 3:

Now we can get all the food we want. Uber eats, [crosstalk 01:22:24], get all the experiences we want. We can-

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3:

Yup. Feel the wind at the race track without even going, you know. Man.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

We're always talk about these driverless cars and how much they're going to help us. I like to think pretty soon no one's going to drive anymore. I'm just going to sit at home. That's a pretty depressing reality but-

Will Butler:

I mean seriously, do you ever think about... Like does it make you nostalgic for like the days out on the sailboat or out on a hiking? Like where does that fit into our lives? We have all this amazing experiential marketing and social media and designed experiences and like the whole frigging world is designed for us. Like where does the natural world fit in there?

Speaker 3:

We need to allow it entrance into our lives. One of the things that really frustrates me about millennials, which I think we're both in that camp-

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

... and I think we can acknowledge that we are millennials, but also talk about some of the shortcomings, which is that so much of the world is in their own little world on their phone and we don't need to go out sailing if we can look at a picture of someone seeing a huge whale just off the Faroe Islands on a sailboat.

Will Butler:

Right.

Speaker 3:

Right but the truth is... And I actually just co-wrote a really interesting article about sensory literacy in the restaurant space and oftentimes in this fast casual 21st century, we like to go out and grab a bite. We don't really think about what we're eating. We don't really think about what we're doing. We just kind of go do it and then come home and we go through the motions but I think we should start doing is designing to bring more of these elements to people. You know more outdoor seating, more sort of cocoon like atmospheres and that doesn't really depends on the environment that you're trying to create within that restaurant but really being mindful of getting back out to the elements, getting ourselves back into the world as much as we can, I think is a really important thing and that's what I love about brick and mortar stuff and we still see a lot of that in Petaluma.

Speaker 3:

Justin's family owns Rex hardware. It's a great hardware store up there and it's old. You know, it's from 1907 and it feels old and you can go in there and get all the service you want and talk to people and have them actually explain how to solve a problem. Well I'm nostalgic for that and to be honest Will, that's a lot of what sensory marketing and sensory design is, is trying to bring these things that we're missing out on as millennials and gen Z folks back to society.

Will Butler:

Yeah. I have like an amateur theory, which is that like staring at your phone basically because there's just all these amazing apps basically satisfies like 99% of your need for feeling of connection, information intake.

Speaker 3:

It's crazy.

Will Butler:

But it's like there's something it's not reaching. Like there's something about it about seeing it behind glass, which is like, it can never give you the neurotransmitters that make you feel a true connection that you would feel sitting around a campfire, out on a boat, whatever... and so my theory is that we're all just staring at our phones desperately, desperately trying to feel that, but we're never going to get the actual biological feeling because we're not actually experiencing anything.

Speaker 3:

I think that's so spot on and I honestly think even if we build VR and AR experiences to bring that campfire smoke and crackle and heat into your own home, it's not going to be the same as going up into the mountains and sitting by a campfire or cooking dinner at home. This is a really funny one. I heard from a good friend of mine who's a highly respected food market researcher.

Speaker 3:

She was saying that 65% of the gen Z population would not know what to do... In answering a survey would not know what to do if their microwave broke aside from literally needing to order everything on Uber Eats and it's like that's another one. Like just get into the kitchen and cook. That's another thing that I love doing. It's like get the eggs out and make something delicious. Don't buy it on Uber Eats. There's so much convenience now that we lose track I think of what we can do for ourselves.

Will Butler:

Yeah, right. One glass of wine and we sound grumpy old men.

Speaker 3:

We do. You got to work harder and you got to cook your own food.

Will Butler:

[Alby 00:20:22], this has been such an amazing interview and I'm really excited to introduce everyone to Sense Point and to the work you do and I hope that we get to have you back sometime and hear more about some of your branding projects.

Speaker 3:

I'm really excited about that Will, and it's such a pleasure to be able to chat with you in this environment and I'm excited to meet all your listeners and get to know them.

Will Butler:

Wonderful.

Speaker 3:

It's a great podcast that I admire a lot. Cheers to you.

Will Butler:

Thanks. Thanks for listening everyone. Check back in two weeks for another episode of The Be My Eyes Podcast for your tech fix. Go check out 13 letters. There's new interviews with all the leaders from the accessibility world every week. Email us at mystory@bemyeyes.com. We want to hear from you.

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:27:05]