Brian Femminella is the CEO and Co-Founder of SoundMind. He is credited for creating a company that helps combine the power of music therapy and technology to help those with mental health illnesses. Aside from his work at SoundMind, Femminella is an accomplished rising senior at the University of Southern California where he is finishing up a double major in Cyber Security & Political Science before he commissions as a second lieutenant and heads off to graduate school.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s an honor to be here, so thank you for inviting me. I sit back and oftentimes reflect on who I am today, and especially what got me here. After being involved in the fire department, EMT services, military, and politics, I really found that my niche seems to be in doing something that immediately serves the public in one way or another. These involvements have and continue to keep me on my feet, and most importantly keep me humbled.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The journey is never easy, especially when it required me to move across the country to be the leader that I am today. For me, I admit that sometimes I pile too much on myself, especially doubt, at times. These doubts built up, they hurt, and they caused me to question my own life choices and if the path I was going down was the most beneficial to me. Just remember, taking risks is a learning process, and I learn something every day.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My drive came from my parents, as I watched them give up their lives for me. My parents always made me feel loved and accepted regardless of what was going on. I was the one who people would bet against, the kid that was “different” and I remember how much my parents fought for me. Despite all that was said, both my parents would truly in their hearts believe differently and have full confidence that I would prove those people wrong. Turns out, at least I hope, that they were right.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson did you learn from that?
When we first started SoundMind and we would speak to an investor or mentor, I would say a sentence starting with “oh ya um,” and whatever I said after that was me winging it in order to attempt to pretend like I understood the question. The best was when I was in New York and my co-founder was in Los Angeles and I told the guy “Oh yeah, I’m in Los Angeles too,” and when he said “Well, how come it’s dark on your screen and not on his?,” out of nerves, I responded “We are in different parts of LA,” which was when his face went blank. The morale of the story, don’t let your nerves take over and that having everything perfect for a mentor or investor is an unrealistic expectation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our ability to understand the people who we are working to help is irreplaceable. SoundMind is not a team of random people who came together and made an attempt to make a quick paycheck. We are a young ambitious team of college students and recent graduates who have all been impacted by mental illness and are directly involved in the communities that our app targets. If you have a passion for something and you have the tools up your sleeve to solve it, DO IT and prove people wrong.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find the community of people who have your back. Once you start, it is going to become your life and you will find yourself having to make decisions that could affect some of your personal relationships and life in general. This is tough, something that is not written in a “how to do life” book, and it’s a course that is unique to each person to navigate. My biggest piece of advice is to stay close to the people who support you.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The community of people that I have found in Los Angeles has allowed me to truly feel like I found a second family. I want to shoutout Travis Chen, John Shepherd, Tyler Jensen, Jon Joei, Savannah Greene, Sydney Jaffe, Mitchell Bias, and Hayes Waycaster for being by my side through the highest highs and the lowest lows of my college journey. Their continued love and support has allowed me to feel confident in starting off my professional career in politics and as an entrepreneur. When I’m stressed, I can always count on them to practice their imitations of me (as they love to do) to make the day just a bit easier. To all of you, thank you for your loyalty and love.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been fortunate enough to use the success I have had thus far to share my story with thousands across the globe and also use my success at SoundMind to ensure we are reaching the people who need it the most. If we can turn around and say that SoundMind is able to help people, even in the slightest, we have succeeded.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can follow my social media on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, & LinkedIn at (@brianfemminella).