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'What makes you happy?' Green Bay entrepreneurs aim to take clients on a 'Joy Journey'

Green Bay Press-Gazette
Green Bay Press-Gazette
 2022-08-27
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Karla Brooks and Jessie Coffman-Riewe (also known as "Nurse Jessie") of Green Bay are on a mission to bring happiness. They have separate, yet connected, businesses.

Coffman-Riewe is owner of Nurse Jessie LLC ; Brooks owns It Makes Me Happy LLC.

“I formed Nurse Jesse LLC with a mission to change how health care interfaces with the people we serve,” Coffman-Riewe said. “I am also corporate facilitator for It Makes Me Happy LLC. Karla is the founding creator of the business and enjoys creating content and curriculums, and I love bringing that content to life.”

The result of their collaboration is a program that is changing the face of corporate culture by recognizing the burnout and unhappiness that many workers face.

“We like to say, ‘Who doesn’t want to be happy?’" Brooks said. "We help people answer two questions, ‘Who are you? What makes you happy?’ And, rather than just talking about it in theory, we offer practical tools, backed by science to improve happiness levels.”

She cites research by the iOpener Institute at Oxford that compares the happiest employees with their least happy colleagues. The happiest take one-10th the amount of sick leave; are six times more energized; stay twice as long in their organizations; and are two times more productive.

Statistics like that have human resources departments trying to find ways to combat unhappiness. Brooks has created a program called, “Take the Trek Joy Journey, Impact Emotional Health and Culture,” to fill that need.

The 12-month trademarked program includes three different “Joy Journey” paths that companies can select from depending on the amount of assistance they want in implementing the program. All include the use of “team champions,” employees within a company who are identified by human resources to bring the program to life.

“We’ve identified 12 areas of happiness and focus on one of those each month, from scents and smells to pets and hobbies,” Coffman-Riewe commented. “Participants receive videos, a workbook, emails and prompts to identify their personal happiness and collaborate as a team each month.”

She says that the program builds authentic relationships to help people connect with one another on a deeper level. This, in turn, leads to improved workplace engagement and increased productivity.

The program and focus on company wellness, rather than small groups and individuals, shows how far the pair has come since one of their first meetings with Green Bay SCORE mentors about seven years ago. They have continued to stay connected with SCORE, especially mentor Bob Jahnke, and have had other mentors, as well.

Brooks has had assistance from Brand Builders Group and follows some of the superstars in the wellness field. With this inspiration, and the experience she has gained in working full time in strategical development, her vision for the company is one of strong growth.

“As the number of companies we are working with grows, we will add more facilitators,” Brooks said.

“Mental health is one of the top medical expenses for employers these days due to depression and anxiety," she said. "And, kicking that out further, employers are struggling to recruit people so once they get them, they need to keep them. Employees are selecting a company based on company culture.”

Coffman-Riewe echoed that comment, “People are burnt out and lonely. There is significant data emerging about the power of emotions and human connection and the impact on health. As a nurse, this is fascinating to see the body-mind-spirit connection play out in health outcomes and to be part of a positive solution in a world that can feel overwhelming.”

Both believe that the pandemic heightened the feelings of anxiety and increased the need for intervention. Brooks says that while 50% of a person’s attitude is genetic, and 10% is environmental, 40% of it is our attitude toward it and that’s the part that can modified, regardless of negative events such as the Covid crisis.

She gives an example of something she came up with called the “15-second rule.” It is one of many techniques the program uses and is based on the Velcro/Teflon theory that says our brain treats positive thoughts like Teflon and they slide right off while negative thoughts tend to stick like Velcro.

“I used that science and came up with the 15-second rule to get people into a positive mode,” Brooks explained. “Focus on something that makes you happy for 15 seconds, and by doing that on a consistent basis, people do become happier. Stop and smell the lilacs; embrace it for 15 seconds. We can train our brain.”

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.

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