Broadcasting from Peoria’s Widecast Studio on Jan. 16, 2018, Washington residents Cindy Byrd and Melissa Smith launched “Business Minds,” a weekly, 30-minute podcast streaming live at 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday.

Audiences can tune in to the Peoria Life “Business Minds” website, www.peoria.life/businessminds, to stream live shows as Byrd and Smith discuss business topics and challenges with business owners, entrepreneurs and community leaders from all over central Illinois.

“Our efforts right now extend to reach those primarily in central Illinois since businesses function in many little towns on both sides of the river,” Byrd said. “Widecast is well established and happens to be located in Peoria, but their reach extends well beyond the Peoria limits. By using this platform, we felt we would be able to reach not only those residents in Peoria, but well beyond into central Illinois, including Tazewell County residents.”

Sandy Sanders, founder and owner of Really Design, a Peoria business that creates fabric art, was one of the first guests on the show. Smith and Byrd offered Sanders strategic planning advice to apply to her business.

“The live coaching element is a key uniqueness to ‘Business Minds,’ along with the social learning, learning with and from others,” Byrd said.

Each week’s topic relates to an overarching monthly theme. February’s theme, Infusing Heart into Your Business, coincides with Heart Health Month. The monthly lineup includes shows entitled “Manage Thoughts to Manage Stress,” “How to Evaluate Your Company Culture,” “Workplace Civility” and “Leading with Presence,” with the remainder of the shows taking place Feb. 13, Feb. 20 and Feb. 27, respectively.

The shows are based on “topics that support individual and workplace well-being,” Byrd said. “We will wear red all month and encourage our guests to wear red in honor of heart health and especially the Go-Red for Women movement — heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in women.”

The interactive website for Business Minds allows the public to submit ideas for shows and nominate guests.

“We are looking for (guests) that are excited to learn new things about every day topics that really do impact our overall well-being and community vibrancy,” Byrd said. “So, from the new bakery down the street to the business executive opening another location, we really do want to invite all those with questions, insight or challenges to join us on ‘Business Minds.’”

Byrd and Smith pride themselves on keeping “Business Minds” a community collaboration. For a schedule of upcoming shows, to share suggestions for topics, and for details about participating as or nominating a guest, contact Byrd and Smith via email at businessminds@email.com.

“We both take a holistic approach to our coaching and realize that everyone can benefit from being more mindful, having a collaborative workplace culture, and just being willing and able to share ideas in a positive and impactful way,” Byrd said.

Byrd started working in secretarial and administrative positions at Illinois Central College in 1974. In 1984, she pursued a business management degree from ICC, taking one class at a time for seven years. Byrd went on to Sangamon State University, now University of Illinois at Springfield, for another seven years to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in management, then another four years to earn a master’s degree in marketing and management.

In July 2002, Byrd started her own business, Image Potential Training and Consulting, on a part-time basis while continuing to work full-time at ICC. During this time, Byrd also started teaching business courses at Robert Morris University, Peoria campus, and took a full-time business professor position with RMU in 2004. Byrd stepped away from full-time teaching in July 2015 when Image Potential grew to a full-time commitment. Byrd is now a professor emeritus at RMU, occasionally returning to the classroom to teach senior-level courses and a graduate course in leadership.

Image Potential, currently serving 12 active clients, provides customized learning opportunities focused on leadership and organizational development, personal and business branding, interpersonal communication and public speaking skills, professionalism and strategic management.

“As I studied business, especially management and leadership and branding and marketing, I saw all the connections, which can be summed up in one phrase I continually share: ‘Everything we do sends a message,’” Byrd said, “Simply put, people want to have positive and satisfying experiences on a consistent basis, whether as a customer or an employee, yet I see businesses struggle with this concept. They try initiative after initiative, yet people continue to have negative experiences. Brand, and consequently the image a business portrays, has to run much deeper than putting logos on shirts for employees.”

Smith is also the founder and owner of her own business, Cadence 22 Business Coaching, although her path to business ownership differs greatly from Byrd’s. Holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice from St. Leo University, St. Leo, Fla., and a postgraduate paralegal certificate from ICC, Smith has also completed half the coursework toward obtaining a Master of Science degree in acquisition and contract management. She is currently participating in Dale Carnegie’s “Effective Communications and Human Relations Skills for Success” eight-week program.

Smith is a U.S. Army combat veteran, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the recipient of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. Smith worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and as an Army contractor in Key West, Fla., supporting the Joint Interagency Task Force-South counter-narcotics operations. Upon returning to central Illinois in 2007, Smith worked at Caterpillar and Komatsu before taking a break to raise a family. Smith returned to Caterpillar in 2012 as a paralegal, eventually transferring to the business side to support Caterpillar’s research and development contract with the federal government.

“Due to decreased spending on R&D and fewer contracts to manage, (I) was part of (Caterpillar’s) workforce cuts and that is where the idea for Cadence 22 came about,” Smith said, “Seeing the workforce and businesses in central Illinois operate under duress due to the panic of Caterpillar leaving the area — headquarters moving to Chicago — and the amount of people leaving the area due to their workforce reductions, I really set out and prayed about where the Lord was leading me and He continuously kept putting the small business population on my mind.”

According to Smith, Cadence 22 helps businesses identify and implement solid visions, mission and core operating values. Smith said, over the past nine months, she has had in-depth conversations with more than 50 business owners and has worked closely with a dozen more.

“I really developed a passion to help business owners by meeting them right where they are, facing their most pressing problems head-on and developing simple strategies to help solve those problems,” Smith said, “I have always been an out-of-the-box thinker and able to solve problems creatively, so I decided to put those gifts to use.”

Byrd and Smith, members of the I’ve Decided organization, www.ivedecided.org, met at a business networking event.

“We sensed early on that we were kindred spirits, with a passion for helping people and businesses to be successful,” Byrd said. “Our bond was already growing when we learned from Tim Johnson, a fellow I’ve Decided member, that Widecast/Peoria Life was looking for new programs, especially a business-themed show. We literally looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it!’”

Although neither Byrd nor Smith has any prior experience hosting a talk show, they maintain that the concept for Business Minds is their “brainchild.”

“We knew firsthand the power of connecting with each other and then collaborating to learn from each other, broaden our minds, and develop fresh insights, and we decided to make that experience the platform for our show,” Byrd said. “We’re combining our expertise and experience to provide live coaching and social learning in a fun and engaging way.”