009: Empowering The Craniofacial Community with Thane & Cynthia Murphy
Cynthia Murphy was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, and her husband Thane is a disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Both of them have become successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists in spite of their respective adversities, creating Assuaged, a website and app that points health-conscious users toward organic and vegan food choices. As well, they advocate and run online resources for those affected by craniofacial disorders.
In this conversation, Thane and Cynthia discuss how a plant-based diet helped the two of them overcome their own physical challenges, how they give back to those suffering from similar disabilities, and give advice to those looking to create similar apps.
- What was it like for Cynthia to grow up with Treacher Collins syndrome, and how did these experiences shape who she is today?
- Faced discrimination for her physical appearance both in her personal life and at work.
- What steps can people suffering from significant physical disabilities take to bolster their self-image and drive?
- Cynthia poured all of her resources into working so she could earn something, be it money, education or respect.
- Never undervalue education and how it can enrich your life experience and how you interact with others.
- How did Thane treat and ultimately heal his physical condition?
- Cut out convenient junk food and snacks, researched how one’s diet affects and health and longevity of their organs and systems. That’s how he came to settle on a plant-based diet.
- Through a vegan, organic, plant-based diet, Thane went from obesity to being in the top percentile of healthy veterans.
- How difficult was it for the two of them to make such a massive lifestyle change?
- Actually not that difficult. The real challenge was consistently reading labels and being mindful of ingredients.
- How did the Assuaged app come to be?
- Realized that guidance was the trickiest part to making healthy diet a habit. Assuaged is designed as a guide to the best ingredients and dishes.
- They got the name from the movie Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
- What was the most challenging part of making Assauged a reality?
- Letting go of their financial fears, accepting that the app might be a loss and just going forward with it.
- Focusing on helping at least one person or family.
- What’s their advice for someone who has an idea for an app but aren’t sure how to start?
- Just get started. Actually take tangible steps.
- If you don’t know how to develop on your own, find a solid development team to outsource it to.
- Make sure that your code is copyrightable.
- Do they have plans for selling the Assuaged app?
- No. They’re interested in keeping it their own.
- What was the entrepreneurship learning curve like for the two of them?
- Thane and Cynthia have been personally limited by their own disabilities.
- Needing to stay on top of the work while also feeling satisfied.
- How have mentorships impacted their professional journey?
- Bestselling author Bonnie Hearn Hill; Cynthia contacted her when wanting to write a memoir. Bonnie was honest with Cynthia about the importance of becoming self-reliant and gaining control over her anxieties.
- Bonnie also introduced them to Craig and Jenny D (see episode 4).
- When did Cynthia realize she wanted to become an activist for the craniofacial community?
- After having a negative experience auditioning for America’s Next Top Model.
- While she didn’t get the part, she realized she had the courage to put herself out there.
- How does Cynthia think her experience growing up might have been different had social media existed back then?
- She thinks such direct access may have invited abuse, but on the other hand it’s great for raising awareness.
- May have been much harder than what she experienced.
- What inspired Cynthia to create a craniofacial social media community?
- Movies like Mask and Wonder made her realize that audiences were being exposed to craniofacial disorders through media, and that people living with those conditions could better speak to their own experiences online.
- What are the best things the average person struggling with a craniofacial disorder can do to raise awareness of these conditions?
- Be authentic online. Be brave and put yourself out there.
- How has their definition of fulfillment has changed as they’ve gotten older and gone through their experiences?
- They started thinking of a more fulfilling diet, one that covers all of the necessary nutritional bases.
- Who has been the most impactful person in Thane and Cynthia’s journey to do well and achieve financial success?
- Bonnie Hearn Hill.
- Who has been the most impactful person in their drive to do good?
- Each other, and their families.
- When Mike or Cynthia is having a bad day, what do they do to get themselves out of their funk?
- Take a nice walk; essential oils (geranium, rosemary, lavender, peppermint).
- What book do Thane and Cynthia recommend to those seeking a more successful path in life?
- What is one thing on their bucket list?
- Would like to travel overseas to Rome.
- What are the worst and best pieces of advice Thane and Cynthia has received?
- Worst: Anything that focuses on denial.
- Best: Anything focused on affirmation and accomplishment (“I did,” etc).
- Places to find Thane and Cynthia:
Do Well & Do Good Challenge Nomination:
“Children’s Craniofacial Association is a national, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Nationally and internationally, CCA addresses the medical, financial, psychosocial, emotional, and educational concerns relating to craniofacial conditions. CCA’s mission is to empower and give hope to individuals and families affected by facial differences. CCA envisions a world where all people are accepted for who they are, not how they look.”
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