Creating a Conscious Company – Sue Heilbronner & Vlada Bortnik

On Day 1 of the 2023 Conscious Entrepreneur Summit, we had the pleasure of hosting two incredible entrepreneurs, Sue Heilbronner, a Conscious Leadership coach, and Vlada Bortnik, co-founder and CEO of Marco Polo. The conversation was a deep dive into the emotional aspects of being an entrepreneur and managing a company culture. Here’s a recap of the enlightening discussion.


The Emotional Landscape of Entrepreneurship

Vlada Bortnik opened up about the emotional challenges she faces as an entrepreneur. She talked about her “Susie” persona, a version of herself that is overly nice and avoids conflict. While this persona has its benefits, it also has a dark side. It can get in the way of making business decisions and can lead to a culture of “too much niceness,” which can be detrimental in the long run.


The Importance of Feedback

Both speakers emphasized the importance of feedback in a company culture. Vlada shared that Marco Polo has reintroduced public feedback sessions within small teams to foster candor and eliminate gossip. She also mentioned that she actively seeks feedback and has received some that felt like a “gut punch,” forcing her to confront her own limitations.


The Role of Conscious Leadership

Sue Heilbronner introduced the concept of conscious leadership, which is about owning your actions and being self-aware. She pointed out that many people are willing to be self-aware and take risks only if everyone else is also willing, which can be a limiting factor. Vlada admitted that the adoption of conscious leadership in Marco Polo is still a work in progress, with some employees not yet fully on board.


The Money Question

Sue questioned Vlada’s attitude towards revenue and money (which also came up in the Consciousness of Money panel on Day 2), suggesting that her beliefs might be affecting the company’s growth. Vlada, who immigrated from Ukraine as a teenager, shared her complex relationship with money, acknowledging that while it’s good to have, she also has judgments against people who don’t use their wealth wisely.


The Future of Marco Polo

Vlada’s goal for Marco Polo is to help a billion people feel a sense of belonging. She believes that her own limitations, particularly her “Susie” persona, could be the biggest obstacle to achieving this goal. She also expressed a desire for the company to be financially successful, not just to sustain the business but also to funnel money towards philanthropic efforts through


Final Thoughts

The conversation ended on a poignant note, with both speakers sharing what they would want to say if their lives ended right now. Sue expressed boundless gratitude for the creative opportunities in her life, while Vlada simply said, “You are enough.”

The discussion between Sue Heilbronner and Vlada Bortnik was a powerful reminder that entrepreneurship is not just about business metrics; it’s also about the emotional and psychological journey. As we continue to explore the landscape of conscious entrepreneurship, these insights will undoubtedly serve as valuable guideposts.

Thank you for joining us at the Conscious Entrepreneur Summit. Until next time, remember: You are enough.


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