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The Art of the Shift: Culture Shift Team’s Origin Story

CST founders, Ann Gillespie, Marcela Gómez, and Robert L. Wilson at The Lab in Nashville, TN. Their first office space in 2017 was in a shared space. The building where The Lab was housed was destroyed in the 2020 tornado.

Some folks have a business-idea-on-a-napkin moment and others have a carrying-an-oversized-check-on-a-windy-day-in-DC moment. The latter is how Culture Shift Team took flight.

Marcela, our CEO, and Ann, our COO, were business acquaintances turned real-life business besties who wanted to join their professional passions.

Ann, our Chief Operating Officer, a skilled connector of people and ideas, who’d left her small town in North Central Illinois and headed all the way down south to Tennessee and eventually further south to Brazil and back again, knew that culture was the #1 challenge that was subtly creeping up on businesses today. So did her business partner.

Marcela, our Chief Executive Officer, had experienced years of back and forth between her home country of Colombia and the U.S. finishing high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. From first hand experience, she also knew what that #1 challenge to connecting with new markets was: culture.

Entrepreneurs in their own right, Ann and Marcela had been making big waves and deep-rooted changes for the better by bringing people together. And then along came their client-turned-business partner, Robert.

Robert, our Chief Strategy Officer, an engineer by training and shaped by his Jesuit high school education, was the architect and first leader of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) at Nissan North America. Having engaged Ann and Marcela on several projects for Nissan, Robert knew that culture and creating community were core to understanding and tackling business challenges.

After leaving corporate America, Robert reached out to Ann and Marcela asking about the idea they had planted of launching Culture Shift Team as a collaborative. This act solidified their resolve to ignite life into Culture Shift Team as a consultancy. Immediately, opportunities started coming their way.

Starting with the Takata Airbag Recall, the CST partners blended their years of experience and expertise to develop our three-step approach to respond to a complex challenge, where business as usual was getting their clients poor results. Data, to identify where to launch the campaign. Culture, to understand how best to create a response from the target audience. Transcreation, to speak the right language to create action. Metrics, to measure results of the campaign.

It’s no longer just the three founders. With each client and each challenge, the CST team grew, developing tools and processes to position their clients as the superheroes of their own stories. From non-profit executives to clinical researchers to corporate leaders, CST walks with their clients as they break new ground, ask deeper questions and sit with the discomfort that comes with change.

Up Next: CST Goes Deeper

The importance of deepening our understanding of how to support and connect with the people in our organizations and communities has never been greater.

Culture Shift Team (CST) is excited to launch its new blog series– “Deepen Understanding.” Throughout the year, we will have the opportunity to interview and learn from our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging (DEIAB) and Multicultural Marketing & Advertising team members.

This year’s theme is deeply rooted in CST’s core value of Forward Thinking. Our clients and the challenges faced inspire us to innovate. We learn, unlearn, and deepen our understanding of ways to better connect and transform.

Stay tuned to hear about how to go deeper from our team here at CST!

Culture Shift Team at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition for their annual retreat in Nashville. Oct. 2022


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