Hillari Zighelboim and Moniek in den Bosch-Cohlst from Unplug Revolution believe that people who are conscious about their use of technology, and deliberately unplug from time to time, will be more connected, mindful, creative, focused, and perform better at their jobs. Moniek, after moving to California from the Netherlands, was spending most of her time staying “connected”, and realized that she was distracted from actually living her new life – not living in the present moment. Hillari was getting lost in ‘busy-ness’ as a working mom of three young boys, and was just trying to keep her head above water most days and away from what she values most: being connected to herself and others. From these acknowledgements came Unplug Revolution – it is about inspiring people to grow and truly connect with themselves and others around them. Unplug Revolution is a mission-based company based in Los Gatos that inspires people to unplug, recharge, and connect by providing digital wellness workshops and creative tools to support them.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
UR: For us, entrepreneurship is about believing in a unique idea enough to find ways, and do everything possible, to put it out into the world. We also believe that if you have a mission that really resonates with people, they will be inspired to collaborate and help you succeed.
How did your company come to be?
UR: We were friends before we were business partners, and one thing that we were challenged by, and observed around us, was that chronic busyness and overuse of technology was inhibiting real connection. At the same time, we knew that if it were as simple as just turning off our devices, people would already be doing it. So we ventured to create practical tools that would not only help people unplug, but provide activities with meaning to do as an alternative.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
UR: Before COVID-19, our business was primarily D2C. There is a backstory to Unplug Revolution and we think its best explained, and our tools are best shown in person. With SIP, it was difficult to continue with the same types of meetings. Additionally, something didn’t feel right about “selling” to people who we knew were really struggling. We quickly realized that businesses were looking for ways to support their employees who were now working from home, and we knew we could provide the content they needed. With endless Zoom calls, FaceTime, and screens for entertainment, we think digital wellness is now more important than ever.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
UR: As first-time entrepreneurs, there have been many proud moments. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and every milestone is one that we weren’t sure we would reach. One moment that really stands out is the first time we had a physical sample of the Unplug Toolkit. After over a year of design, meetings with experts in the field, and pilot testing, it was such a thrill to see this unique thing that we had actually created. I don’t think either one of us would describe ourselves as creative types, but this was clear evidence to the contrary and a huge confidence boost to keep going. Our “darkest” moments have been mostly about learning how to do QuickBooks and our taxes…we would have no problem outsourcing the accounting piece. LOL!
How is your company changing the landscape?
UR:The irony of Unplug Revolution is that we are located right in the heart of Silicon Valley. We are literally surrounded by tech companies whose innovations have a tremendous and positive impact on the world. We also know that some of the leaders of those same organizations will be the first to express the need for a healthy balance with technology. We are human, and it makes great sense to spend quality time offline. While the concept of unplugging may not be new, we are changing the landscape by actually helping people do it.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
UR: Starting a business was daunting at first. There were so many things we had no idea how to do. We relied heavily on the expertise or opinions of others. Looking back, we wish we had been more confident in our own experience and abilities. No one had ever done what we were trying to do, and in effect, we were the “experts”. We didn’t have all the answers, we still don’t, but we are much better at following our intuition and just figuring it out.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
UR: We believe that people who are conscious about their use of technology, and deliberately unplug from time to time, will be more connected, mindful, creative, focused, and perform better at their jobs.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
UR: Success for us has always been about inspiring as many people as possible to make positive changes in their lives. Unplug Revolution is a mission-based company, which helps us stay focused on creating things that will be both meaningful and practical. We think that if we continue to do this authentically and effectively, success is inevitable.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
UR: If anything, COVID-19 has driven us more to succeed. This is hard. People are really suffering right now. We need accessible resources that help facilitate well-being. We are relying more than ever on devices for work and entertainment, and as a result, we need to be even more conscious about unplugging. If we can inspire people to create habits that make them feel better, or be happier, then we will have succeeded. And by focusing more on B2B, we can achieve this more quickly by targeting companies that can quickly deliver Unplug Tools to their employees.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
UR: Having a business partner who happens to be a close friend can be tricky, but we both know we couldn’t have done this alone. We are lucky that our differences complement one another, and we value our friendship enough to really respect those differences. Having someone to collaborate with, bounce ideas off of, have your back, and motivate you when you need it, is invaluable. Our advice would be to 1) have the tough conversations (about investments, exit strategies, and personal values) before things get tough, 2) identify mentors that you can turn to if you get stuck, and 3) keep your egos in check!
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
UR: We believe so much in daily habits, that it’s one of the 12 themes in the Unplug Toolkit! Our morning routines differ slightly, but we feel it is so important to have one to start each day in a positive way. They involve waking up a little early, spending a few minutes stretching or doing yoga, going outside or opening a window/door for a few breaths of fresh air, 10 minutes of meditating or some other mindful activity, taking a cold, 2 minute shower or playing a favorite song to get going, and setting an intention for the day.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
UR: Staying motivated during this pandemic has been challenging, in part because we have less time and energy to give while home-schooling and with our families at home. We also don’t underestimate the impact of the collective emotional stress of this unprecedented time. By pivoting the business in a different direction, one that aligns with a more feasible path of distribution, we have greater confidence in the financial viability of the company, and that has really energized us. Our primary sources of motivation have always been our families and having a positive impact on people’s lives. That hasn’t changed.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
UR: We aspire to be known as trailblazers in the digital wellness space, and for expanding awareness about the healthy use of technology. We hope our legacy will be to have inspired people to take good care of themselves. We want to empower people to make the choices that will allow them to be well, feel worthy, and be the healthiest version of themselves.
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