Everybody has a story, and each can be a gem in its own right. That is what Justin Breen, a journalist, entrepreneur, and the Founder of BrEpic Communications, found in his conversations with thousands of people. Coming from a twenty-year career in journalism just when the industry is not having its best time, Justin built his own company while still working under reduced salary as a journalist. His amazing skills at connecting people brought his company to where it is now – a story he encapsulates in his book, Epic BusinessAs you listen to his conversation with Paul Higgins, you get an absolute master class on building and leveraging relationships, finding newsworthy stories, and the common denominator that all successful people have.

Listen to the podcast here:

Building Epic Connections And Telling Epic Stories With Justin Breen

Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins

Our guest is someone who was a journalist for twenty years and is a self-declared entrepreneur. He left and started his own PR firm in 2017. He seeks thought-provoking stories that the media craves. He is a connector and finds the best stories from visionary entrepreneurs and executives who understand the value of investing in themselves and their business. You get an absolute masterclass on building and leveraging relationships, the two elements that make a newsworthy story. This guy is brilliant at it. The third thing is the one thing every successful person has in their life from interviewing thousands of people. Over to Justin Breen from BrEpic.

Welcome, Justin Breen from BrEpic Communications to the show. It’s great to have you on, Justin.
Paul, it’s great to talk to you.
I always love to start with something that your family or friends know about you that we may not.
My family and friends, especially my kids and wife would know that I’m a very silly person. I come off very serious to a lot of people, especially in the entrepreneurial community, but when it comes down to it, I’m like a child.
Has anyone ever mentioned that you even may look like one of the actors in Friends?
That’s so interesting because I was watching a movie with Matthew Perry, and it was the one with Salma Hayek. This is a total coincidence. I was watching this movie. Multiple people have told me that I look a lot like Matthew Perry.
You do. I saw your LinkedIn profile, not as much but the first time we spoke on the video camera, I’m like, “That’s him.” I love watching owners and dogs. You look at the dog and you look at the owner and I can see exactly why you’re a match. I also have this thing where I always look at someone and go, “That reminds me of whoever.” Unfortunately, my daughters had that carry down through the genes as well. People are like, “I don’t think so.” In this case, most people would agree. You’ve had an amazing career in journalism. You worked for some big brands. Through that, were you working as a contractor? Were you a full-time employee? How did that work as you went through the different businesses?
I was a full-time journalist for twenty years and I was in every single position that you could ever imagine because starting a company for years of being an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that they gave me all these weird full-time jobs as a journalist because they didn’t know what to do with me because I was an entrepreneur the whole time. Any job you can ever imagine, hybrid role or whatever, I’ve done it in media.

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BrEpic Communications: It has never been a more exciting time because there are all these new media outlets or traditional journalism trying to figure out a new way of doing things.

You’ve been in journalism for a long time and some is on the top of the journalist tree. What have you seen as some of the key changes in journalism over the years?
I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1999. My whole life was at the college newspaper and the high school TV station. The first photo that I can recall was me as a baby on my mom’s lap reading the Chicago Sun-Times. I was six months old. Changes in journalism had been fascinating. I got into it to work at a newspaper. Now you see newspapers struggling, but what’s been very interesting is that for a PR firm owner like myself, it’s never been a more exciting time because there are all these new media outlets, whether it’s traditional journalism trying to figure out a new way of doing things or a podcast where a lot of high-level entrepreneurs on a global level listen more than necessarily reading Forbes or Wall Street Journal. Communicating on podcasts has been such an interesting revelation since I’ve started my business. Since I’ve started doing interviews myself for the book, it’s been a very interesting avenue to communicate and how people absorb the news.
Someone asked me in the LinkedIn post, “What was the last book you read?” I had to be honest, I don’t read books anymore because I listen to podcasts. I can pick the exact topics people like. It’s free. I can listen to it at 2.5 times speed. I can do it while I’m multitasking. That’s something I’ll consume knowledge. It’s very different traditionally. In Australia, it’s the Australian Financial Review. I read that every morning. It’s dead. It’s fast-tracked. Who were the winners that are coming out that you’re saying? Is there any consolidation, anyone that’s winning in the space?
In Chicago, I live about 30 kilometers north of Downtown Chicago as a foundation here. I was at a new site called DNAinfo Chicago. I resigned and then they shut it down about six months after I resigned. What happened with that is the former editors and reporters that created a nonprofit called Block Club Chicago where it’s totally subscription-based, there’s no advertising or anything. That has provided an interesting model for a mainstream traditional type of journalism. What you would see in a newspaper reporter thing moving forward where it’s based on subscriptions, they’re not slaves to having tons of print advertising or anything.
It’s easily able to pivot and easily able to publish locally and not having to worry about a print product. That’s going to be a big winner now and then moving forward as well. I don’t want to say it’s a startup but you’re seeing a lot of types of outlets being created in that format. Again, the other big winner is these podcasts. It is crazy to me. I don’t read a lot of books either ironically, considering I wrote a book and I’m a very slow reader. I consume news by looking at Twitter highlights and then clicking on links through that of reputable news outlets. I consume a lot of news by listening to podcasts.
Amazon Alexa is my best friend. I brush my teeth in the morning, I go, “Alexa, flash briefing.” That’s it. I’ve got my key news outlets that are listened to. It’s short, punchy and I can listen to in the shower. That’s the way I consume my news whereas commercial TV, it’s not on my agenda. That’s becoming more the case but let’s go to the transition. You had a great journalistic career. You’re an entrepreneur like you said, and I must admit I was a bit like that in the Coke company. What caused you to make the step to completely start your own business?
I am fascinated by people overcoming obstacles, hurdles, never giving up because that’s what I’ve had to do to create a successful global company. On February 10th, 2017, I was working as a full-time journalist. Two other full-time journalists were terminated that day. My salary was cut in half due to cutbacks. We were talking about how certain media has struggled while others have been successful. In the next couple of weeks, I try to find a full-time job. I couldn’t because finding a job is very difficult in any market.
In April 16th, 2017, I decided to incorporate and create this company while no one knew about it while still working full-time at a reduced salary. Over the next six weeks or so, I reached out to 5,000 people to get my first five clients, 1 out of 1,999 noes for every yes. I got the fifth client. Essentially, those five clients paid about the same monthly salary rate as I had been making previously to the salary cut as a full-time journalist. I resigned from my job the next day. A couple of days later, Robert Feder who’s the top media columnist in the Midwest of the United States wrote the story that I had started my own firm. That’s the story of how I created my company. It’s been onward and upward ever since.
What methods did you use to get to the 5,000?
The media just needs a good story, which everybody pretty much has. Click To Tweet
As a journalist, I had a gigantic network of people, tens of thousands of people. I started reaching out to people. I’m carefully doing it to make sure that it wasn’t overlapping potential sources or contexts that knew I had a full-time job as well. I was begging and pleading to thousands of people saying, “I started a firm. I’d love to write stories.” I pitch them, run social media accounts, or any other PR firm type of thing. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I didn’t know anything about a business before starting this. I didn’t know what an LLC even stood for. I had no business acumen, training, or education. In college, I learned to be a journalist. I grinded it out to get that fifth client. I begged, pleaded, did whatever it took and got there, then resigned and then kept trying to figure things out from there. Here we are now.
Go into the Build section because it’s a beautiful segue as they say in your industry. When someone asks you, “How do you help entrepreneurs?” how do you answer that?
In terms of connecting people at a global level, PR getting people in mainstream media and my client’s mainstream media at a very high level, there are very few people in the world that are better at it than I am. I’m a good dad, above-average to average husband, and useless to society besides that. it’s funny but it’s true too. In terms of helping people, there are very few other people on the planet that help the right people more than I do because I am constantly connecting entrepreneurs at a very high level to people all across the world.
I’ll be talking to someone in Canada, Austria or something and they’ll say something totally obscure and I’ll be like, “I know someone in Tokyo or in Australia that thinks the exact same way.” I’ll connect them. A week later, I’ll get an email from one of those people or both of them and they’ll be like, “I don’t know how you knew how to do that. We’re best friends now or we’re doing business together. I introduced this person to a bunch of other people.” I am the most giving of givers. The by-product of all that is I’m constantly getting introduced to companies around the world that want to hire my firm. It’s minimum ten great intros I provide a day to people on a global level, I get at least 3 or 4 every day.
That’s the classic jab-jab-right hook summed up there. How do you keep all of these networks? Do you have it in your head or do you have it in a system?
It is so rare that people understand my brain or even are able to ask a question like that. No, it’s all in my head. I don’t write anything down. In terms of connecting people on a global level and the way my brain works where I remember weird things because as a journalist, I talk to amazing people all day for many years. I could remember certain things about certain people and then be like, “I talked to that person thirteen years ago.” They said this and like, “I’m talking to someone else who’s similar thirteen years later.” I can do that. I don’t know how. It’s just in my head and there’s no CRM or anything like that. Most people need one of those, but I don’t. The beauty is there’s no limit to it. My wife is a doctor. She has a photographic memory. The first date she and I ever had was the day before she started medical school. I watched her study and learn things. Her brain is phenomenal in that regard and mine in this way is interesting too. I’m almost useless besides this and PR so I’m good at these two things and being a dad as well.
I must admit I’m similar to you. I have a video memory. I can remember most moments in my life. A lot of my friends don’t enjoy it because normally things that I don’t want to remember especially when I was younger, “I remember you did that.” “Shut up.”
My wife was like, “Thirteen years ago, you did this.” She insulted me with that. I’m like, “I don’t remember saying that.” She does.
When I had the worst of my kidney condition, I was about 6% kidney function. You get kidney fog. It’s brain fog. I couldn’t remember anything. I lost all of that. It’s slowly coming back as my new kidney is working, but it’s never quite the same. Now, I do have to rely on a CRM. You’ve got a wonderful gift and it’s spot on. You do get people and their stories into bringing them places. I’ll ask you a couple of quick questions. First, what makes a good story?

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BrEpic Communications: BrEpic is a global incubator of geniuses, constantly introducing each other for mutual gain.

You said it about what you went through with your kidney. No one cares about what you do for the most part. They care about who you are and if they care about who you are, they will care about what you do. Connecting people for me is a superpower. Another superpower is I wrote 2 to 3 stories on deadline every single day as a journalist, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on the weekend too. I can talk to someone for an hour and 55 minutes and will be totally useless to what anyone cares about, but in five minutes I’ll know what the story is and I’ll weave everything around that. I have an ability to talk to people and immediately figure out what’s interesting, inspirational, emotional, overcoming the odds. That’s why I mentioned my story of how I even started this company.
The media needs that, a good story which everybody has and a news peg meaning, why it’s a story now. Did you write a book? Are you running across Australia? Did you launch a new company? Are you creating some new technology that’s helping people? That’s it, it’s very simple. My company has one very simple thing that it does at a super high level, and it only works with visionaries who look at things as investments, not cost. Someone’s like, “What do you cost? What do you charge those people?” Go away immediately. I only work with people with a very high level of abundance mentality and investment mentality. What that has created is this global incubator of geniuses around the world, and we’re constantly introducing each other for mutual gain. As you said, it’s a gift. I don’t take it for granted how my brain is in this regard. I’m very lucky to have a brain like this.
You talk about human stories. I know from Facebook Ads’ perspective, those ads that made you cringe, the big arrows and it was all feature-based. It seemed like the new world, the start of 2020 was all about human-based stories. If I had a dollar for every time I heard human-based stories, I wouldn’t have to work. From your perspective, has there been a change in that or is that always been the case?
In the way I approached journalism, a lot of the journalists that I know have seen and looked at stories. No, it has not changed. People care about people. They want to know who you are and if they care about who you are, they will care about what you do. What’s been interesting with COVID because it’s hard to see people in person, humans are social. There are bad people out there, but for the most part, people are genuinely good and they want to know what makes people unique, interesting or what makes them tick. I’ve interviewed tens of thousands of people in my career from homeless drug addicts, the poorest of the poor, to multi-billionaires. There is one common denominator for successful people. That is they had at least one person who cared about them. That’s the one common denominator I’ve seen from talking to tens of thousands of people. Even now, successful entrepreneurs had at least one person, whether that’s a mentor or whatever, care about them. That’s what I mean. People and journalists want to find the human aspect of people.
I did have a guest who had an amazing story. His mother came from Vietnam. She was semi-paralyzed and got here. She was in the 1 million of the 20 million that left and got to the US. There was one teacher who took the kid on. He graduated from Harvard. He’s got an amazing career, but there’s one teacher that made a difference. Every year, the guest goes back, talks to that teacher, and takes him out for dinner. That resonates with me. You’ve got the story which is excellent. How does it work? How do you get your client’s stories into the media versus some people that end up on the cutting floor?
Your brain fascinates me, by the way. Usually, I don’t talk to people who have similar brains to me but we have a lot of similarities. It’s weird because in years of running this business, I’ve met 3 or 4, maybe 5 people with similar brains to mine and you’re close to that. As journalists, you get hundreds of these useless press releases a day from people you don’t know sent in bulk email form. Companies hire my firm from a journalistic perspective for two reasons. One, as we talked about, I know what a good story is. It’s not a press release, it’s an actual newsworthy story. Two, I have media context all over the place. I’m able to connect directly with journalists whether it’s social media, email, calling them, or whatever it is. The other thing is I reach out to a journalist in some obscure market or publication that no one’s ever heard of, but it’s very important for the client to be in there.
Journalists are very high fact-finders for the most part. If you’re not a high fact-finder and you’re a journalist, that doesn’t make any sense because journalists are endlessly curious. The journalists will look up, “This guy was a high-level journalist in Chicago and wrote all these amazing stories.” We’ll see all these articles about what I did, all the coverage about me since I started the business. They’d be like, “This person knows what they’re talking about. I’m going to want to work with this person.” That’s the difference. It’s real relationships with journalists and journalists looking up who I am and what my firm does. They’re like, “This person knows what they’re doing.” As opposed to like, “Here’s another dumb bulk email about someone who got hired at a company I don’t care about.” They didn’t tell me anything about the person that was hired.
It’s that sunk cost. It’s like podcasting. To get on some of the best podcasts in the world, there’s a bouncer at the door. That bouncer at the door is normally a podcast, and they will be able to get you into that nightclub quicker than anybody else. If you can up all the time that you spend your time and your team’s time trying to get on the roadshows, it’s far cheaper to get a valet. It’s the exact same thing with media. You spent twenty years in the industry. Don’t try to spend all of that time yourself where you could go to an expert like you. Some people might say, “I don’t have a story to share.” Talk about that when someone says, “I don’t have a story that would work.”
I can’t recall talking to one person who didn’t have a good story because that’s part of my unique ability. One of my superpowers is I can find out. It’s very hard for people to look at themselves and know what a good story is. They don’t think about things in those terms. One, I get that question or comment all the time from people that are like, “I don’t think my story is that interesting.” I go, “Trust me on that. It’s very interesting. What you’re up to is interesting too.” You talk about having experts, that’s why people hire my firm because I know what a good story is and I know how to talk to people to get that story out of them.
There is one common denominator for successful people: they had at least one person who cared about them. Click To Tweet
It’s almost like a therapist. Talking to someone in that because I can’t tell you how many times people have told me personally like, “I’ve never told that to anyone else before.” I know how to extrapolate or dig that out of them. It’s like digging for little gems in a pile of rubble and then finding it. I have no attention span and I get bored very easily but when someone says something cool or I know it’s a story, my brain pings immediately. It’s like, “That’s the story.” There’s no hesitation. I’ve done this my whole life. I know how to do this. It’s the experience you’re paying for and the expertise.
There’s a classic saying of, “It’s hard to see the label from within the jar.” That’s why you need to hire someone like Justin to do that. The next section is the Live. What are some of the daily habits that make you successful?
I’m glad you mentioned your expertise and what you do. I passed 22,000 connections on LinkedIn. It’s a goldmine for connectivity. I use it as a commercial for other people and talk about how to highlight my clients or highlight great people that I talked to on LinkedIn or something like that. It creates endless joy for people. The by-product of that is it leads to business from my end. For me, I know how to do that and your expertise is complimentary. Living and habits, there are so many. I run six days a week outside, no matter the weather condition. I’ve done that for many years.
I’m very focused on unique ability meaning, what I like to do and what I’m good at. I know that I’m good at writing stories and pitching them to media. I know I’m good at connecting people on a global level and I don’t do anything else besides that. There’s a little bit of admin in my company, but 99% of it is focused on my unique ability, habits, knowing what you’re good at, being intentional with how you communicate with people, weeding out the people you don’t want to work with, focusing, and magnetizing the people and business brands that you do want to work with. It streamlines everything and it eliminates all the noise.
This question is going to be a bit tough for you because you’ve already made it and Sarah’s got a photographic memory. She’s going to read this and she’s going to remember every word for the rest of her life. What would you like to say to her about all the support she’s given you through this transition and doing the thing you love?
From a practical sense, if you look strictly at things in black and white, my wife is a pediatrician. She has an amazing job. We have incredible health insurance and that specifically has allowed me a great deal of runway and ability to take chances that if I had to have been the breadwinner early on with this company, it would have been much more difficult. I own that experience. I’m very thankful and grateful for that. That said, she and I met the day before she started medical school and I’ve seen what it took for her to get to that point. What it’s like to date a med school saying, “We didn’t date.” There was no dating.
It was like watching her study. She wakes up at 5:00 in the morning and reads a book while I’m sleeping next door. That was our dating experience. I needed to say that because people need to understand that’s part of the journey as well. Thank god my wife is not an entrepreneur. She is stable. She is not high and low. She’s very practical. She’s been excited two times since I started the company. One is when I started. She said, “You’re going to have an incredible business.” Two is when I wrote this book. She said, “It’s going to be unbelievable and change people’s lives.” She does not say stuff like that unless she means it. When she does say stuff that I don’t like, it’s not her being a supportive wife.
That sounds a little bit like the two moments you buy a boat. The only two moments she enjoys is the day you bought and sell it. I thought that’s where you’re going.
It was not and I’m not comparing my wife to buying a boat or selling it. I’m certainly not selling the boat. I’m going down with the boat, for sure. I would be like one of those captains that goes down with the ship. There’s no way she will never get rid of me. I’m like a leach with her. I throw a lot of cool parties, like client appreciation parties and stuff company things. People meet my wife and they’ll go, “Your wife is amazing.” They’re flabbergasted that she married me because it doesn’t make any sense. I’m all over the place and entrepreneurial way I can do.

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Epic Business: 30 Secrets to Build Your Business Exponentially and Give You the Freedom to Live the Life You Want!

She’s kind, loving, sweet, beautiful, a great mother, and a successful doctor. It’s a very interesting match of brains. I picture myself without my wife sometimes and I’m like, “That would not be good for me or society.” She’s given me a life in every way. In fact, the book, like a lot of people have these big dedications or whatever. Mine is like, “To my wife who has given me a wonderful life in every way imaginable.” It’s not even to my kids, it’s to my wife. It’s because I would be nothing without her.
She’s going to be very happy with those memories. The book, Epic Business, what’s the URL?
It’s BrEpicBusiness.com because my company’s name is BrEpic. You can find it on Amazon or Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble. It’s all over Australia, all over the world and all sorts of different places. It’s easy to find.
If someone gets it, what are they going to walk out with? What’s the key thing they’re going to take away from the book?
The number one thing that entrepreneurs have told me about it is that they have valued the chapter about, only work with people who look at things as investments and not costs. That’s when my business started to take off. I raised my rates exponentially. If anyone said, “What do you cost? What do you charge?” I don’t work with anyone like that because those people are only looking at things in a transactional way as opposed to a relationship way. I have real partnerships with the people in my network and my clients, for sure.
The people I work with ask, “What does an investment look like?” The people that look at things as costs, they’re toxic because they’re looking at things in a black and white money type of way. They’re going to nickel and dime you with that kind of nonsense. The people in their networks usually are the same type of pains in the butt cost mindset, scarcity mindset. The people with an investment mindset, their network is filled with people with an investment mindset because you hang out with your tribe. That’s what my company is. It’s a giant global network of incredible people who have an abundance, a visionary investment mindset.
The next section is the Give section. What’s a charity or a community that you’re passionate about and why?
One of the cool things about being an entrepreneur is you have this freedom of time, relationships and money. You get to do whatever you want to do with the people you want to partner with. One of my clients is The Chicago Academy for the Arts. It’s a private arts-based high school in Chicago and it’s also a nonprofit. In 2019, I started a BrEpic Scholarship Fund for the school. I was a journalist or whatever which is great, but now that I’ve started a scholarship fund for an entrepreneurial mind high school student who’s already started and it’s given once a year. It’s given to a student who’s already started a nonprofit, a business, or is thinking about running a business. It’s been a great way to pay things forward. Any student at that school is exceptionally brilliant. It’s amazing how their brains work in a visual way, artistic way, and performing type way. Some of them have cool business acumen as well. To be able to pay that forward and again, have a real partnership with the Chicago Academy for the Arts and one of my clients is great to invest with them as well.
All of my book proceeds that I spoke about before goes to the Purple House. You can go to the PurpleHouse.org.au and you can find out more. The last section is the rapid-fire section. I’m going to ask you some questions and get some rapid-fire responses. The first one is what are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Work only with people who look at things as investments, not as costs. Click To Tweet
Do what you would like to do and what you’re good at. Only work with people who look at things as investments and not costs. This is a personal/business, but when you start a business, it takes two full years to figure it out.
I believe that. I say double the time and have the income. What’s a piece of tech that is essential for running your business?
My business is entirely virtual. Nothing has changed for me since COVID except businesses exploded in a good way, and then I have no in-person meeting. Zoom has been gigantically beneficial for me.
What is your best source of new ideas?
I have many good sources for new ideas. To sum it up, I talk to a minimum of 7 to 10 people like you on a global level every single day. Talking to an amazing genius like you, that’s the best way to find new ideas.
The last question is the big question and I always leave it to the end for that reason. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
I’m involved in numerous, very high-level global entrepreneurial organizations. A lot of entrepreneurs and those groups want to 10X their revenue. I don’t care about revenue at all. My company’s all profit, which is a whole lot different than revenue. My 10X thing is a network on a global level because that creates endless opportunities for my network, myself, and experiences in life. As my network grows, I create more and more opportunities in life, changing interests for people in my network, these intros do change people’s lives, help build businesses, create friendships and endless connectivity. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I must admit, you practice what you preach. We had an amazing conversation. You introduced me to people and did a post on your LinkedIn about me. I can tell you everything you say, you practice and you do.
I preach and live this. I only work with people that think the same way. When you do that, it magnetizes other people like you and repels people that don’t get it. When you magnetize the right people, it builds and builds, it grows and grows, and there’s no limit to it. It keeps growing and growing.

BLG 224 | BrEpic CommunicationsBLG 224 | BrEpic Communications

BrEpic Communications: One of the cool things about being an entrepreneur is having the freedom to do whatever you want to do with the folks you want to partner with.

You can find out more about Justin. I want you to do two things. I want you to go and check out his new book and you can go at BrEpicBusiness.com. The second thing is I want you to go to his LinkedIn profile and even his Facebook. Share it on his socials how much does he look like Matthew Perry.
If you do that, that would impact someone. Some visionary way I could do who’s reading this is going to do a side-by-side photo of me and Matthew Perry. I want that done. I will post that on my social media platform.
It’s an absolute joy having you on. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Paul, you’re the man. I’m going to intro you to many cool people. It’s only the beginning of greatness for sure.
Thanks, Justin. Bye.

I love how Justin focuses on his gift. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that interview. I’d love you to share on your socials if you think Justin looks like Matthew Perry. Go on his Facebook and LinkedIn. I hope you think there’s such a strong likeliness like I do. I would also like to apologize to Davis Nguyen. He was a guest on Episode 186 and I forgot his name during this episode, but I will never forget his memorable story. If you believe someone you know would benefit from the show, please share it with them. Please take action to build your business and lifestyle. Most importantly, stay well.

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About Justin Breen

BLG 224 | BrEpic CommunicationsJustin Breen is CEO of the PR firm BrEpic Communications and author of the international best-selling book Epic Business. Justin is hard-wired to seek out and create viral, thought-provoking stories that the media craves.
And he finds the best stories when he networks with visionary entrepreneurs and executives who understand the value of investing in themselves and their businesses. Justin believes strongly in the power of introductions and creates important relationships through those introductions.

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