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Local flavor is good for the soul

A highlight of all Madison+ conferences is their outstanding local flavor element, which showcases unique businesses and goings-on in the Madison community. For 2014, Madison+ Ruby welcomed Yumbutter, Madison Music Makers, and Prana Flow Yoga.

Lark Gibson, owner of Prana Flow Yoga, lead Madison+ Ruby 2014 attendees through basic yoga poses during breaks on both days of the main conference. The goal of the poses was to enhance overall circulation and help everyone regain focus.

“Tech workers can benefit from yoga because it helps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome with certain postures, prevent common back issues from cropping up after long hours of sitting, and increase one’s energy and focus level,” Gibson says.

“It’s easy to download break reminders or apps that have lights that flash or timers that go off to remind us to get up every hour and do just one minute of yoga or walk down the hall,” she adds. “Just that little bit of movement each hour can make a huge impact on one’s health physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

Adrian Reif, founder of Yumbutter, got the local flavor spot on Friday started by explaining the genesis of his “World Changing Nut Butter” business. He started four years ago with a farmer’s market stand and interesting nut butter flavor combinations. With 100 markets under his belt the first summer, Reif met Matt D’Amour and partnered with him to grow the business. They launched a KickStarter campaign to put their nut butters in convenient pouches and raised $20,447. Today, Yumbutter has expanded to a little over 200 retail partners around the country.

Their mission is to try to nourish the world with every aspect of what they’re doing. To this end, they’ve partnered with Primeros Pasos in Guatemala to feed children in need. Yumbutter is also a certified B Corp, one of only three in Wisconsin. B Corps solve social and environmental problems and seek to operate with complete transparency. Finally, Yumbutter gets more nutrition into people’s daily lives by blending superfoods into their products, which are rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Quoting Buckminster Fuller, who said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete,” Reif challenged Madison+ Ruby 2014: “Think about how your business impacts the world. Think about your footprint.”

Next, Madison+ Ruby attendees met Bonnie Greene and Alida LaCosse from Madison Music Makers, which was organized to provide music lessons as well as instruments and transportation to children whose families could not otherwise afford it. Formed seven and a half years ago, the program has gone from 17 children to 100. Addressing primarily the South Side of Madison, Music Makers has a partnership with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and recently had one of its students qualify to participate in it.

“I’m so passionate about teaching music because music saved me,” says Alida LaCosse, an instructor for Madison Music Makers. LaCosse lost her parents at a young age and music helped her to cope. “When I couldn’t speak it, my piano teacher taught me how to play it. I believe that music education is a right. It’s not a privilege. Whatever it takes so our students understand they are valuable.”

Madison Music Makers has a community partnership with Zion City International Church on Madison’s South Side and welcomed Pastor McNair to speak. “We had an amazing thing happen to us in February,” he explained. “We had a building gifted to us. I had no idea all this music was going to come back to us. The South Side is kind of starved, and we’re trying to bring things back to life there. Check us out.”

LaCosse then introduced Madison Music Maker Lexus Anderson-Carter, a student at Memorial High School who started the program in the very beginning. Taking the stage alone with her violin, Carter played a gorgeous version of “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, bringing the entire conference audience to its feet in a thunderous standing ovation.

The deep commitment to local engagement and cross pollination with all different types of makers impressed Madison+ Ruby 2014 attendees. “So happy I came to #MadPlusRuby!” Sara Nutter said in a tweet. “I can’t believe I was ever on the fence. Such a great experience for my first conf.”