Shane Barker was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in influencer marketing, alongside Kim Kardashian, Gary Vaynerchuk and legendary PR leaders such as the CEO of Edelman. He’s also an instructor of personal branding and influencer marketing at UCLA and a contributor at Inc.com, Huff Post, Forbes and Salesforce. He’s also an international keynote speaker with over 20 years of consulting and has been a driving force in the influencer space for over six years.
In This Episode
“Influence marketing found me,” says Shane Barker. He met Zoe, who had a large social following on instagram, when she approached him to help her become an influencer, and together they built her brand that now generates a million dollars a year. Shane has built a team of 31, who have mastered the process of content creation and processes. In this episode, Shane, an expert in SEO and digital marketing, shares about the importance of mentorship and networking along with the challenges of starting a business in the competitive world of digital marketing.
0:50 Accelerate with networking
Shane shares the two things he wished he had done from the beginning — networking and building relationships. He now passes this wisdom on to his son and hopes he will learn from his mistakes.
2:11 The technique that’ll inspire someone to mentor you
Value people’s time, build relationships, and offer them cash. When Shane started looking for mentorship, he never assumed anyone would help him for free. Now he is on the other side of it and is happy to offer his mentorship and knowledge to others.
3:49 Get into their rolodex
You can get referrals through your mentors that otherwise wouldn’t have been available. You also want to find a mentor who is interested in what you’re doing and really wants to work with you to build that trust and ongoing relationship.
6:19 A people person kind of guy
Shane has a natural aptitude for assessing and engaging with people. These leadership and management skills have helped him build his 31-person team.
7:14 An educator on branding and influencers
When Shane isn’t at the office educating influencers on how to work with brands and teaching brands how to work with influencers, he is teaching classes on personal branding and influence marketing at UCLA.
8:50 It isn’t about early retirement
A misconception people have about influencer marketing is that you will retire early and be drinking coronas in the Cayman Islands. It’s takes time and effort to build your brand; in most cases it can take years.
9:04 Scale with content
With the right processes in place, Shane’s team has fine-tuned the art of creating content.
9:45 Influencer marketing found me
Shane was approached by Zoe, who had started building her following on instagram by posting about her workout journey. Shane saw an opportunity and, with his team, they helped grow Zoe’s business to one million a year.
10:40 A one-person sales team
Laying the foundation over many years, Shane is a one-man sales team generating enough leads through inbound marketing efforts to run his thriving business.
11:45 Overnight success doesn’t happen
It takes time, effort and years of creating great content to become an influencer. Shane talks about how a big part of Zoe’s success was because she happened to have the right product, at the right time.
14:29 Systemize your processes
Don’t get sucked into all the new trends. Think about how to make the best systems and processes that free up your time to work on the most important projects..
16:10 Thinking forward and looking back
Shane had many businesses that failed in the past, and he wants to help people avoid his mistakes by giving back through mentorship. He is always striving to keep things positive and keep things moving.
17:06 Easier tools but more competition
Being an entrepreneur is challenging even with opportunities and software to help. Where to start and how to deal with competition can be confusing.
18:54 Treat them all like gold
It can be an uphill battle when you’re starting a business from scratch. A good rule of thumb, treat all your customers like gold.
21:28 Get your ducks in a row
There is always something new and shiny. Figure out what to focus on and make sure you are prepared.
– Shane Barker
LR: Welcome to MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR. I’m Landon Ray, and today we have Shane Barker who was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in influencer marketing, alongside Kim Kardashian, Gary Vaynerchuk and legendary PR leaders like the CEO of Edelman. He’s also an instructor of personal branding and influencer marketing at UCLA and a contributor at Inc.com, Huff Post, Forbes, and Salesforce. He’s also an international keynote speaker with over 20 years of consulting and has been a driving force in the influencer space for over six years. Thank you so much for being here. Does this sound like you?
SB: That was impressive. I want to be that guy when I get older. That’s awesome.
LR: Awesome good. Well, let’s talk about how you can be that guy.
LR: Tell me about actually that exactly. If you could go back a bunch of years – you’ve been at this a long time; you’ve gotten to a place where people listen to you and care what you have to say – what would have made that path smoother or faster for you?
SB: Yeah, it’s funny. We were just talking about this earlier. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, in the digital space at least. I was actually talking with one of your interns and telling her, listen, I never did an internship, and I never really had a good network of people that I worked with. I never tapped into my network the way that I should have. I didn’t really appreciate the network side things until probably ten years into my career.
My son is in college and I tell him, hey listen – he went to Jesuit High School – I said, “Listen, the reason I had you at Jesuit … Your mom is one side of the reason you’re at Jesuit, my side is the networking. So really getting to know those people that are there. They have businesses. They’re successful. Putting yourself in those places and getting to understand those people’s businesses and how they work and how they do life.” So that’s been, for me, that would have been something I would have changed. I’m real happy where I’m at today, but I feel like I probably could have cut off five years by looking into mentorship or looking at other people to help me accelerate my process or get me to where I want to be. So I think that, to me, that would be the big thing.
LR: That’s interesting that you say that because the very last interview we did in here, the woman basically said the same thing, that she would have found mentors earlier. So I’ll actually ask you the question that I asked her which is, how do you sort of inspire mentors or somebody who’s … if they’re successful, time is precious for them and they’ve probably got a lot of people asking for their advice, or to use her words, to pick their brains … how do you inspire that person to spend any time on you?
SB: Cash. Cash always works. It seems to always work when I offer money. For me, I usually don’t ever ask for anything for free. So for me, I’m like, hey listen, “I’ll pay for your time, whatever your hourly is.” The idea for me is to build a relationship and then maybe over time they say, “Hey let’s go do coffee,” or I’ll buy them dinner or whatever that is. In the beginning, I value people’s time so I don’t ever ask for anything for free.
Now, it’s funny. On the opposite side of that, I meet with people all the time for free and I don’t ever charge people because I want to help people. I feel like there’s certain things that I have learned in the business, and just through life, that is extremely valuable to people. If I can help you cut off two years of “don’t do this” or “don’t spend money doing this”, or whatever I can help educate them, I want to be able to do that. But on the other side of it, I don’t want to assume that people aren’t willing to … They shouldn’t be paid for their time. So I look at it the opposite. I go, “Hey,” – maybe after meeting five or ten times – “You seem like an awesome guy … or maybe not an awesome guy, or whatever the deal is. If you are an awesome guy and think that, then we should move on and maybe we can do some stuff that’s more of a social type thing and less of a paid type thing.” I assume that everybody’s time is valuable.
LR: I’ve always found that advice taking is challenging. Typically, my experience with mentors has been that they don’t spend enough time to really understand my challenges, or at least I feel that they don’t.
LR: So I basically will tend to not value what they have to say because they don’t really understand. It’s easy to not sort of take that advice when you don’t value it a ton. So how would you say it’d be useful to go about getting advice that you’ll actually act on?
SB: Yeah. I think it really depends on the types of questions. We talk about a mentorship or somebody that would help you, they’re obviously probably not going to understand your business as well as you do because you’re in it on a daily basis. But when I talk to mentors, and even when I go and see other people’s speeches and stuff like that, for me I just want to be able to get one or two nuggets from that. So, if I go and see an hour speech, I don’t expect for the whole time to be riveting. I want to be able to pull out a great website or pull out what I call an aha moment of like, “Oh I didn’t even think about that.” So the same thing with mentors. I look at it like … I come and say, these are some of my issues or certain things that I have. Maybe through the whole hour, maybe there’s only one or two things that I really go, “Okay that was extremely valuable. This is something that can change.”
Or really, what I do with mentors is try to jump into their Rolodex if possible because that’s the idea. It’s like, “Hey, if you have a great accountant that’s rocked for you for 30 years, I would like the introduction.” I don’t want to have to go through these other 15 accountants to find the one that absolutely understands business and is always being proactive about stuff. So I look at it more that way, like once you trust me and once I’m in your network, not I’m in the trusteree, whatever you want to call it, this network of people. I think that, for me, is where the value can come in.
Not every mentor is going to be super awesome. You have to kind of evaluate that as well. I think that’s where the paid thing works for me. It’s an interview. As much as I’m interviewing them, they’re interviewing me. It’s both. So for me, even though I’m paying, I still have to figure out where I should be spending my money. If I’m asking you certain questions, if you’re very basic, you’re not engaged, then there’s no reason to continue. If you go, “God I’m really interested in your business model, things that you’re doing.” That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for somebody that wants to work with me and this is hopefully down the road. I’ll continue to pay, if my mentors are watching this, I’ll continue to pay you. But if not, then there’s also that side of it like, “Hey, let’s develop a deeper relationship and something down the road.”
LR: Yeah, awesome. So tell me what you feel like your unique skill set is.
SB: I don’t know. I can create content. I have a 31 person team. We produce a lot of content, writing blogs and stuff like that. So I would say I’m a pretty good people person as well. It’s not anything I learned in school or through life, just engaging with people and having good conversation. So I really enjoy that side of it. Speaking is obviously a lot of fun, and obviously being here is super awesome. I just enjoy engaging with people. I think that’s where I kind of have that natural … I was actually in GATE, gifted and talented education. Leadership was one of my strong suits for me. They recognized that in second grade.
LR: So, who knew?
SB: So we don’t know where I fell off, but we just know early on they were on to it, and somehow I went left, or right, either way. Yeah, I would say that’s probably it, all joking aside. Probably leadership, just being able to evaluate people and assess people, and have a good management, the way that I handle things in assess situations.
LR: Yeah. So tell me more about your business. You’re doing influencer marketing. So how does that work?
SB: For my business, there’s two sides of it. We have influencer marketing that we do for clients. I’m actually creating education now, so courses. So what we’re doing is how to educate influencers on how to work with brands, and then also for brands how to work with influencers. I teach a course at UCLA, so that’s what it is. It’s a personal branding course on how to be an influencer and, once again, on the other side of the other quarter, because it’s a quarter system at UCLA. Then we have the other stuff; we’re teaching, the brands how to work with influencers, because there’s just a disconnect there.
They want to work together doing this, but there’s just certain guidelines and stuff that they don’t put in place. So I love influencer marketing. It’s a little difficult to scale because there’s so many variables to it, unless you find great influencers that you can use all the time. I enjoy this space, but really where we’ve excelled is the content side of things, where we have the team, have editors and writers and stuff. We write for a lot of the bigger websites, so we can see a good PR push for companies that are looking for that. So, for me, that’s scalable because it’s just finding good writers.
We have good processes in place. You talked about that on the stage early about processes. The content side of things, we have good processes. Always need to be improved of course. With the influencer side of things, we have some processes, but you have a lot more variables that are potential issues. For us, we know how to find great keywords. We know how to look at the competition. We know how to look at great titles. We know how to put great content together with great graphics and all that. We have good systems in place.
But with influencer marketing, I can go reach out to 30 new influencers and I don’t know if they’re going to be good or bad. You have to evaluate that, so it’s a lot more time consuming. I think people think that it’s a lot easier because, hey you just reach out to somebody and they post a picture. You give them some money and you retire, and you go to the Cayman Islands and drink Coronas and you retire. But it’s not that way anymore. There’s a little bit more to it these days.
LR: Interesting. So you’re producing content on behalf of brands, as well as helping them to contact influencers?
SB: So we work with a lot of SAAS companies. There’s a number of different companies we work with, but really the goal of this is that we say, “Okay you want to produce whatever, one blog post, two blog posts, three blog posts, and you want to go after keywords. Let’s say your competition is crushing you for whatever this is.” It’s process automation, or let’s say it’s something like that. What we would do is we would go in and take a look at the competition, see how difficult the keywords are, and then produce some content around that. Then, after six months, hopefully be able to take over for those certain keywords.
LR: Almost SEO.
SB: Yeah, absolutely. My background’s in SEO. So, that was … Influencer marketing kind of found me. There was a client that came to me and said, “Hey I need some help with social media marketing.” I said, “Yeah this is interesting.” That’s what I talked about on stage was her. She was making 400 thousand dollars, 22 years old, as a fitness influencer, 180 thousand followers on Instagram, and she was crushing it. She was like, “I don’t feel like I’m doing that good.” I’m like “400 thousand dollars. You’re 22 years old. You have a gym membership as your overhead. You’re not doing too bad sister.”
She didn’t really get that. For me, I’m like, you have a $65 gym membership. Literally, that’s your overhead, and rent. She ended up buying a house and we got her to a million dollars. She was making a million dollars a year off of fitness ebooks. I mean, who knew? It’s crazy, crazy, crazy.
LR: Yeah, I should be in that business.
SB: Yeah, that’s what I was going to talk to you about. I was like…
LR: That guy looks really fit.
LR: I’d like to follow him.
SB: Build a better booty. That was the program, so I don’t know if you’re into it. I’m not here to judge. If you are, that’s cool.
LR: So you have this agency. You’ve got 31 employees, it sounds like. So you have to keep a stream of business coming in.
SB: I do.
LR: How are you making that happen?
SB: We’re not. We’re not. We’ve got about two months left. No, I’m just kidding. We can cut that. No, it’s funny. I talk about this on stage. This isn’t something I’m bragging about. I’m the only sales person, and that’s not to brag because I really probably need sales people. So, if you guys see this video, please send me your resumes if you’re a good salesman. If you’re not good, then we don’t need you.
Yeah, so for me, the speaking engagements help. The writing stuff that we do, I still write a lot. My team writes a lot. So it’s all inbound marketing for me, and that’s because of what I’ve built over the last five or six years. So I don’t need to do any outbound. I’m not saying I shouldn’t. We do some Facebook ads and stuff, but mainly it’s because of what I’ve built from the inbound. So now it’s those leads coming in and the automation side of it, right? Obviously you go in and qualify the lead and figure in that. So the people that come to me are, the ten people that come in a day, I have that one person that would be somebody that would be a good potential client for us.
LR: Sure. So that sounds like pretty traditional modern marketing, build a content engine and drive leads. How long … Our process to build all that has taken a long time, years. How long do you feel like, if somebody wants to build a better booty business and they’re like, I’m starting out, what does it take to build that edifice do you think? How long does that take?
SB: A long time. Zoe was the right product at the right time for the right audience. It’s not always that way. So, with Zoe, her thing was that she was a runner. So she was pretty skinny. Then what happened was, because she’s very passionate about what she does, she quit; she didn’t run that much. She just started building muscle. So for her, her audience saw her literally from having no booty to what I call her inner J-Lo two years later, her booty popped out because she was doing her exercises.
LR: I see.
SB: Yeah, I’ll give you a copy of the e-book. You’re welcome. So that whole process there was like, the girls that were following her, because she had a heavily engaged audience, said okay this is me today and Zoe two years ago, and look what she built. That’s what I want. So the before and after pictures were like instant gold. So what happened was what we did is, when Zoe ended up hiring us, we ended up revamping everything and making it so in the beginning you take a picture of yourself so you can compare it to the you today. Now you have Jennifer 2.0 down six months, or whatever three months. It’s a 12 week program. Then you can go and see the difference in the results.
So that was the winner for us. If people want to go and have that type of success, it’s going to take a lot of work. It just is. Zoe hit at the right time, had that right audience, and was already kind of building that up. So we got very fortunate. If somebody came to me and said, “Hey I want to be a fitness influencer and I have one follower,” it’s going to be a long journey. It is. There’s definitely ways to do it and there’s things that you can streamline that, but assuming you want to do it full-time and make the kind of money that influencers make, you have to put in the time. You’ve got to put in a lot of time, a lot of effort.
SB: Years, absolutely. Yeah, it’s like anything else. You think you’re going to get overnight success, that’s just not going to happen. You really have to … You probably want to make it a side gig, and then once you get to a point you get some brands involved, then you can start producing content. There’s multiple revenue streams you can do through that.
SB: But it definitely is not an overnight thing. People think it’s like, “Hey I can just become an influencer overnight.” It’s not. Even then, you have to create great content, so it’s not … It’s a different beast.
LR: It’s competitive just like everything else.
SB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there’s a lot of competition there. You’re fighting for … I tell the people that I work with, like influencers … I’m like, if you’re not onstage performing, then they’re going to go to somebody else. If you’re not putting on a show, if you’re not putting out content, they’re going to move on to the next person, so you’ve got to make sure you stay active.
LR: Yeah, for sure. So what is your kind of cutting edge right now? What are you learning about?
SB: The whole blockchain stuff and all that, I’m trying not to get sucked into it too much because there’s always more. There’s always so much stuff that’s coming through and AI’s interesting. I don’t know how it’s going to effect content or influencer marketing. I’m intrigued on the influencer side of things on how you can make those processes easier and better, assuming you’re working in different industries and with different influencers. That’s probably where I’ve been kind of spending some of my time. I try to … because once again, it’s like trying to drink out of a water hose, is always the analogy. So I try to … What I’ve been doing to kind of systemize things is, I have a lot of people on my team that will do the research for me, that will come back and say hey this is what we found, this is what we’re looking at. I’m doing podcasts and stuff like that as well, and I have my team. I’m trying to figure out these systems. How can I spend less time doing stuff that I don’t necessarily have to do? So I’m always intrigued by that, about making it so … As an example, two months ago I hired somebody to take over my emails, which was a scary, scary thing. Everything comes in there, right?
LR: That’s a tough one, yeah.
SB: Yeah. I’ve done extensive training to be able to get him where he’s at today and he’s going … Ian. Shout out to Ian … doing and awesome job. He’s just crushing it, and it’s really nice because now I can spend two or three hours less a day on that.
Systemizing stuff that I want to systemize and having the real stuff that I should respond to, the podcast interviews and all that kind of stuff, taking up the time that I want it to take up. So I’m always interested in looking at what I can do so that I’m spending my time and it’s going to be more time that I have to spend on other things, where I can hire somebody else to be able to go do that.
LR: Yeah, exactly. Perfect. So, when you think back, or if you can think forward rather 20 years, and look back on your career, you know what they’ll say about you. What do you hope your legacy will be?
SB: For the legacy question, I don’t know. For me, the legacy side of things, I would be … I want to help more people. I want people to know that I had a good heart. I guess, being successful and making money, I’ve had businesses that were extremely successful and I had businesses that failed miserably. I think through that whole process, I want to help educate people to streamline their process to … Once again, kind of like with the mentorship, where somewhere I feel like I missed out on that. I want to continue that forward and help other people, and have people come to me and say that Shane was a good speaker and he did this, but he also had a good heart and wanted to help people, because I think that’s extremely important. Especially these days with the current climate, I want to keep things positive and keep things moving.
LR: Yeah, awesome. So what do you think it means to be a modern entrepreneur? We’re in this maybe unique time. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur today that’s different than what it might have meant five or ten years ago?
SB: Yeah, I think it’s challenging. Being entrepreneurs is challenging. I’m a marketer. I have a 31-person team and I’m talking about starting … I used to own a bar back in the day. It’s a long story, but I thought about opening a restaurant recently and talking to my wife about it. I have all the tools to do that. I have the knowledge and everything, but even then it’s like that jump is just going to be … For me, the reason why the restaurant doesn’t make sense is because I want to be able to go travel and do more things. I don’t want to be tied down like that.
I think with the modern entrepreneur, the thing is it’s just a little more challenging. This is what’s crazy. It becomes more challenging as there’s more competition, but then you have softwares and you have other stuff that also make it easier. So it’s not quite … You would open a restaurant, let’s say 20 years ago, how do you get the word out. It’s like a flyer or something, right?
SB: So now you go, wow there’s a lot more competition and now you have online, but then there’s also other ways that I can go create a flyer in five minutes online or I can go do this or I can develop communities in different ways. So maybe it’s to have these people come in and this, but now we have proximity marketing where I can go and send a message out to somebody’s phone within a .7 mile radius of my restaurant and pull people in. There’s some really, really cool and creative ways, and that I think makes it a lot more interesting because there’s, once again, different ways to be able to get in front of people. It’s not just a flyer and something you put up on a billboard or something.
There’s a lot of creative ways, but it’s once again, you have to have the time and the knowledge to be able to do that. I think that’s what’s hard with being an entrepreneur is we’ve all had it. It’s like, okay there’s five thousand things I need to do today. Where do I spend my time? What do I do?
LR: That’s interesting you say that because most people, their response to that question is something like, gosh there’s so much opportunity. It’s so much easier than it used to be, and stuff like that. That’s true, like you say, but also competition is radical.
SB: Oh yeah.
LR: I’m curious what you think, if five years from now, what about that restaurant tour who grew up in restaurants, his mom or dad was a chef, he’s been waiting tables since he was 14, and he knows food, and he knows the restaurant business, but maybe was never exposed to online marketing or this kind of radius marketing, or creating communities online and the stuff that we’d probably think of as modern marketing. Does that guy compete in that future world?
SB: Yes and no. I guess it depends on if they have the clientele and they have the people that come in. I think you can … as long as you
LR: From scratch though. Two business from scratch.
SB: I think it’d be difficult. I think it’s going to evolve, it’s going to change. If this was a brand new business and you had experience, and it was a brand new business, I think it’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s difficult because you’re vying for … not necessarily eyeballs, but butts in seats.
SB: That’s not always the easiest thing. If you had a restaurant for 30 years, it becomes a little easier because of
SB: They you have Yelp and all this stuff. Because of this stuff that you guys have done, the shaking hands and kissing babies for 30 years when people come in your restaurant. So I think that’s an easier win. If you start from scratch, you’ll see. Restaurants have an 80% failure rate.
SB: There’s a reason for that. It’s because most people are a chef. I can make great food. I can get people in seats because I make great food. They make great food and then don’t get butts in seats, because it’s a different beast. Just because you have great food doesn’t … Just because you have a great product doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to buy it. You’ve got to go find where those people are at and pull those people in, treat them like gold, and then be able to pull them back in again.
Shane Barker: That’s a challenge. It’s not just by … great food is one variable of it.
SB: There’s the other side of it that everybody … We look online, we do this, we do all kind of research. I come to Santa Barbara, what’s the first thing I do. I look on Google, what’s the best restaurants and I have ten great restaurants that
LR: On Google?
SB: Well, on Yelp.
SB: But what’s crazy about it is there were like eight restaurants that had like a thousand plus reviews and they were all five stars, five, five. So I’ve got like eight restaurants to hit in two days. I’m probably going to gain a few pounds, but that’s a side note. That’s okay.
LR: So given that, do you think it’s getting harder or easier to be an entrepreneur. If that kind of stuff is required, the technology … From my perspective, the technology and the skills around how to wield it is not getting easier. It’s getting more complex all the time.
SB: Well I think this is the hard part, and even as a marketer it’s the hard part. There’s always something new and shiny. So it’s always difficult … and we talked about, like you said, hey what are you into outside of marketing. I say blockchain. I try not to get sucked into that too much, and I think this is the hard part as an entrepreneur where you have a great product. You have to figure out where you want to focus your time. So let’s say it’s Yelp and my Yelp reviews. I know that’s going to be a big indicator on whether people are going to come into my restaurant. Then treating people like gold, and what am I going to do to pull those people back. Then trying those different things.
I do think it’s going to be a challenge. Everything’s a challenge. If you go into anything and don’t prep yourself correctly if you’re going to open a restaurant, if you don’t have six months working capital, that’s going to be a problem. There’s certain things that people don’t think about that we would look at and say, okay you’ve got to make sure you have these ducks in a row to be able to go do that. I think that’s the number one problem.
Then the other side of it is, it’s just hard. You have to … It’s like, how do you go hire somebody to help you with the marketing side of things and hope that they know what they’re doing, because you have the restaurant. I’ve got this under control and now we have this. I’ve seen plenty of people partner up with restaurants with marketers who can give you some type of results, but then you’re giving up a piece of the pie, so that’s a variable as well.
SB: I don’t know. I love entrepreneurs and I love working with them, but I have entrepreneurs that will come to me and say, “Hey Shane, you’ve got a $500 budget and we want to go do this.” I’m like, “I’ll meet with you for free because I don’t want to take your last $500.” But it is, it’s hard times. It’s hard times when it comes to marketing, but there’s … Like anything else, you get punched in the face a few times, you’ve got to keep going.
SB: That’s the thing. The minute you give up because of finances or whatever, I get that, but it’s not going to be easy. I can tell you, and we all know … I’ve had businesses that were phenomenal, but 80% of my business have failed. That’s where I learn today. So entrepreneurs are … you’ve got to have that heart to get into it. It’s not easy.
LR: Yeah. Good. Hey, thank you so much for coming.
LR: Really appreciate it.
SB: Thanks for having me.
LR: Very interesting stuff. Would you sign our wall?
SB: Yeah, let’s do it.
LR: Good, thank you.
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