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Startup Savants Podcast: Interview with Rachel Cossar of Virtual Sapiens

Business podcast Startup Savants is joined by Rachel Cossar, former ballerina and founder of Virtual Sapiens, an AI-powered body language improvement tool for businesses and professionals.

During the interview, Cossar walks hosts Ethan and Annaka through launching her startup, professional reinvention after a life-changing injury, and how listeners can improve their body language to optimize their professional interactions. These are a few of the most notable insights from Cossar’s conversations with Startup Savants. 

What is the History Behind Virtual Sapiens? 

“Virtual Sapiens is very much an evolution of the work that I was doing very much live, in person, either through one-on-one coaching or in a workshop setting before the pandemic, focused on helping professionals, particularly client facing professionals, increase their body awareness and have the congruence of what they’re saying match with the way that they’re saying it, through body language, through the non-verbal communication. Virtual Sapiens is really taking that to a more democratized level, in the sense that we leverage AI and the fact that people are on video more frequently, to provide access to this coaching, which typically was pretty hard to get at a personal level.”

What Advice Do You Have For Entrepreneurs Looking To Reinvent Themselves Professionally?

“You can’t protect yourself from the process. You have to go through the grief, you have to let that thing go. You have to figure out what it is that you learned from that period of your life and how you can continue to build on top of that. So, there’s no safe haven of “do this, and then you won’t experience pain,” unfortunately. In terms of a framework that I think can be really helpful is in that reflection around, what was it about that thing that I loved or that I valued or that I really identified with, and where else can I find that, and/or where else might I be able to bring some of that magic with me?

Because I think sometimes when something is very painful for us, especially when it involves change, we have a tendency to be like, “Okay, I’m going to shut that in a box. And I’m never going to think about it again.” And then all of a sudden, you do yourself and the world such a disservice because you have this amazing, unique experience that could be just what someone else or some other industry needs.”

What Body Language Mistakes Do Entrepreneurs Routinely Make?

“Speaking from a virtual perspective, I think everyone at this point is sick of hearing your lighting has to be good and your framing has to be good and make sure you have a clean background. But actually from a nonverbal perspective, those three things are so important that it is worth mentioning them again. […] You just want to be very intentional about these things. Because in that moment, you have the option to show up as someone who has clearly prepared, who respects the time of the other person on the other end, who is an updated professional and who knows exactly how to show up in a way that represents and reflects their brand on video. Or you can say, well, it doesn’t really matter because what matters is what’s going to come out of my mouth, at which point you’ve already left a lot on the table in terms of your credibility.”

What are the benefits of being on video and connecting to someone “face to face,” versus audio alone?

“The question that really needs to be asked is not video on or video off, but what is this communication event? Should it be an email? Should it be an asynchronous document sharing? Does it need the benefit of the full spectrum of communication, including body language, in which case unless we’re going to meet in person and take all that time, absolutely it should be a video meeting. Or, can it be a phone call? We need to have the conversations. Having a knee jerk reaction to always have your video on in any meeting is also not the answer. And so, it’s what is the context? What is the goal? What do we need to see in order to be effective?”

What Is Your Advice For Aspiring Entrepreneurs? 

“My biggest advice to entrepreneurs, either aspiring entrepreneurs or current entrepreneurs, is to remember the needs we have in terms of social creatures, and surrounding yourself with people who are there to support you consistently, people who might be going through a similar journey, just so that you can gut check and know what is normal, what is to be expected, because that can often alleviate a lot of the stress that we tend to layer on top of an uncomfortable situation, which is, is this just me? And most of the time, no, it’s not just you. A lot of people are going through that. It’s totally normal for this to be such a slog and a struggle and hearing that from other people commiserating can really be very helpful.

Related to that, really doing everything you can to build in rest and opportunities to recharge and re-energize. I know that’s something that I really struggle with because I do feel this pressure to be doing everything I can, every single day. And next thing you know, you’re very close to burning out. And then you’re not serving yourself, you’re not serving your investors, and you’re not serving the mission.”

Listen to more episodes of Startup Savants podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts for more startup stories, entrepreneur advice, and industry insights. 

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