Featured Episode

Featured Episode

Learning Life with Jon Tota

Each week Learning Life strives to teach you something new, deliver interesting stories and share best practices to take your learning to the next level.

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Latest Episodes

Byron Batres

Our guest this week is Byron Batres, a wealth management advisor and financial planner in the Burlington area who is the founder and CEO of EZ-Probate.

After realizing the trials and tribulations of dealing with the court system for the probate process of wills and estates for families, he set out to build a turbo-tax like system to avoid the hassle during an already emotional time. Now EZ-Probate helps families prepare legal documents themselves and get through the process quicker.

Sascha Mayer

Happy New Year! This week, Learning Life is talking innovation for moms with Mamava co-founder Sascha Mayer.

A certified B corp, Mamava was founded in 2013 by Mayer and Christine Dodson, now COO. Mamava has over 2000 lactation pods across the country, providing mothers privacy and security while breastfeeding or pumping, as well as digital resources, community, and advocacy.

Jason Levinthal

This week Jon gets down with Jason Levinthal, who founded LINE in his parents’ garage back in 1995 and is known for creating some of the first twin tip skis.

Today, J Skis is known for its limited run ski designs, gear and clothing with frequent Vermont collaborations, including Stowe Cider Apres All Day skis and Ski the East Ice Lightning skis.

Cyrus Schenck

This week Jon sits down with Cyrus Schenck, CEO of Renoun and co-founder of Mission V Sports. If you’re a skier or snowboarder in Vermont, you’ve surely seen Renoun skis all over your favorite mountain, but many people don’t really know what makes these skis so special.

Listen to how a Vermont entrepreneur went from washing windows in college to changing the ski industry and building a technology used across surfing, boating, and even flooring.

Tom Messner

This week Jon sits down with Vermont’s favorite weatherman, Tom Messner. After 31 years at NBC5 serving Northern New York and Vermont as Chief Meteorologist, Tom is retiring from our televisions and moving on to a new chapter as a media consultant, early stage investor and advocate for the Vermont entrepreneurial community.

Messner may be leaving TV, but he’s invested right here in Burlington. Between the beautiful state and the people of the community, Tom says Vermont is the perfect place to build a business.

Ryan Nakleh

This week Jon sits down with Ryan Nakleh, founder and CEO of Local Maverick, a sales and marketing platform that makes it easier to discover, shop, and support local businesses.

Listen to the story as Ryan got a local business off the ground during the pandemic, and how he aims to bring the Amazon buying experience to communities and help them buy local.

Sophia Rabe

This week Jon sits down with Sophia Rabe, founder and CEO of Olive and Milo Social. Olive and Milo is a digital marketing agency that focuses on social media, offering services such as consulting, strategy, management, and measurement.

Rabe grew up in the Mad River Valley and is a Champlain College alumni, choosing to set up her business right here in Burlington. Rabe chose Vermont over big city life after trying out a year in New York, finding the smaller towns less isolating and a better work and social environment, including a more personal way to build a business.

Barry Finette

This week Jon sits down with Barry Finette, founder of ThinkMD. ThinkMD is an innovative healthcare and technology company, seeking solutions to expand quality healthcare coverage across the globe. Barry is also a professor in pediatrics, microbiology, and molecular genetics at the University of Vermont.

ThinkMD aims to put physician-based decision logic into the hands of anyone, so areas underserved by physicians can be aided by technology.

Adam Liszewski

This week we have a UVM student entrepreneur with a firey new idea – all natural fire starters that are sustainably sourced and safe for the environment. Meet Adam Liszewski, CEO and founder of Stokes Firestarters.
After making fire starters as holiday gifts as a child with egg cartons and dryer lint, Adam has moved on to production models using food-grade paraffin and recycled sawdust from East Thetford Vermont.

Mieko Ozeki and Bethany Andrews-Nichols

This week we are excited to have Mieko Ozeki and Bethany Andrews-Nichols, the co-founders of Vermont Womenprenuers, an organization driving the mission of helping women entrepreneurs build their businesses in the Green Mountain State.

Don’t miss the upcoming Vermont Womenpreneurs Summit, “Navigating the Unexpected” — a 4-evening virtual event focused on navigating change in uncertain times.  The Summit run November 1-4, 6:30-8:00pm nightly.  Get your ticket at https://vtwomenpreneurssummit.com

Scott Finn

This week we have Scott Finn, President and CEO of VPR and Vermont PBS.

With the recent merger of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, Scott is now leading the green mountain state’s largest media organization with a reach of over a million people each month and the goal of expanding to a broader and more diverse audience.

Matt Murray

This week we have Matt Murray, founder and CEO of Widewail. A Vermont native and Navy veteran, Matt has worked through numerous tech and automotive companies before starting his company to help businesses with their online reputation.

Widewail provides a suite of management tools for online product and service reviews, helping businesses invite their customers to review and engage with reviewers.

Sarah Morris

This week’s entrepreneur story goes back more than 100 years! We are excited to have Sarah Morris, a fifth generation host and concierge at Basin Harbor, the historic 700-acre resort in Vergennes, Vermont.

Basin Harbor began as a working farm back in the 1800s, and in the 1920s, Sarah’s great-grandfather was inspired by the tourism boom in Miami and began to build out cottages on the beautiful Lake Champlain waterfront. Today, the resort features over 77 cottages, dining, golf, and tons of maritime activities.

Peter Miller

This week we have Peter Miller, owner of Mini Golf on the Go and a student at the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College.

Peter is another great Vermont entrepreneur story with a miniature twist – his company designs and rents mini golf courses at any event, indoor and outdoor, complete with clubs and balls.

Ryan McDevitt

This week we have Ryan McDevitt, co-founder and CEO of Benchmark Space Systems.

Based right here in Burlington at HULA Lakeside, Ryan is looking to go from Vermont to space with micro-satellites that will change space systems as we know it. 

Dawn and Sarah Lancaster

This week we have Dawn and Sarah Lancaster, mother and daughter co-founders of Pure Energy Apothecary, focused on healthy and accessible skincare and home fragrance products. 

A graduate of Champlain College, Dawn is acting CEO and owner, while Sarah is a current student at Champlain and a fellow at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, headed up by our previous guest Dr. Kylie King.

Benny Boas

This week we have Benny Boas, CEO of Burlington Code Academy and Upright Education. Benny began teaching coding and software development with online courses and bootcamps through BCA right here in Vermont.

Now, he’s going national. Upright Education partners with colleges and universities to prepare adults for software-based work with rapid re-skilling courses, teaching a wide range of skills from Javascript to UX/UI design.


Kate Williams

This week we have Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet. 1% for the Planet is a global network of businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations tackling our planet’s most pressing environmental issues, headquartered right here in Burlington VT.

1% creates pressure for big businesses to truly pay the cost of doing business- cleaning up the earth in the wake of human pollution, and has given over $295 million to date.

Rich Tarrant

This week we have Vermont entrepreneurial success story, Rich Tarrant. Tarrant founded what would become IDX Systems Corporation back in 1969, later acquired by GE Healthcare.

His latest company is Marathon Health, based right off the Winooski Circle. Tarrant sits down with Jon to discuss his basketball career at St. Mikes, and how it led to being a pioneer in healthcare technology. Tarrant also talks about the function of health insurance in modern healthcare and his educational philanthropy.

Sas Stewart

This week we have Vermont serial entrepreneur Sas Stewart. You may know Sas as the co-founder of Stonecutter Spirits and creator of the sought-after popup Adventure Dinner events.

Sas sits down with Jon to discuss making things special – from food and drink to experiences for customers and employees alike. Sas has been running Adventure Dinners since 2014, providing a bespoke experience of locally-sourced food and wine, and one-of-a-kind surprise adventures around the beautiful state of Vermont, including secret island getaways and a Shelburne Vineyards residency.

Dr. Rob Williams

In this live episode, we have Vermont serial entrepreneur, Professor, and friend of the show Dr. Rob Williams. Whether you know him from the Yak it to Me Burger stand, teaching at University of Vermont and Champlain College, or a major voice on Vermont Independent Radio, Dr. Rob will be there to show you something new and interesting.

This week, he sits down with Jon to discuss Peak Flow, a course to teach the Wim Hof Method, a breathing, cold exposure, and focus technique designed to help you live a better life.

Bill Cherry and Craig Wilkinson

What makes Switchback Brewing Co special? From the classic Ale to the Karsten Lager, Citra-Pils and the IPA, and now their first Double IPA and Smoked Beers, it’s not just the hops, it’s the process, and more importantly, the people.

This week Jon sits down with Bill Cherry and Craig Wilkinson, the president and production manager of Switchback, to talk about the Flynn Ave-based brewer’s 100% employee ownership setup, running for five years now, via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

David Bradbury and Sam Roach-Gerber

This week we have special guests David Bradbury and Sam Roach-Gerber, fellow podcast hosts and President/Vice-President of VCET, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies.

VCET offers programs, capital, and business mentoring for Vermont entrepreneurs. Through VCET, David and Sam co-host the Start Here podcast, showcasing business success stories across the state and the Vermont Startup Collective, a community of entrepreneurs to help start conversations and build better businesses together.

Ben Krueger

Having collaborated on hundreds of podcasts since 2012, he has developed 8 Podcast Principles that when applied, lead to highly effective business podcasts. Built on these principles, they’ve developed a proven system for leaders to host their own world-class podcast in a fraction of the time. In this episode, Ben and Jon discuss how to make a truly great podcast and engage your audience.

Dan White

Dan White knows what it means to go local. He likes to think of Localvore as the “Patagonia of tech,” dedicated to sustainable practice and reinvestment in community. What better way to do that then with food? And where better than Burlington Vermont?

Jackson Latka

Jackson Latka is a Vermont entrepreneur with a family-first photo app: Notabli. Built right in Burlington, Notabli is a scrapbook for parents that keeps photos, videos, audio, notes, quotes and more in a privacy-first library with printing and sharing capabilities.

Michael Ly

Ly is the CEO of Reconciled, the cloud-based virtual bookkeeping and CFO advisory service. He has previously worked as a controller, consultant, and CFO. On top of all that, he’s the co-founder of Humnly on-demand HR.

Listen to Michael Ly’s story on building his businesses, remote work. and scaling up in a small city like Burlington.

Russ Scully

From windsurfing and paddleboarding on Lake Champlain to creating a lifestyle brand and one of the hippest Spots on the lake, to building a one-of-a-kind incubator designed to keep Vermont’s most innovative businesses thriving here in-state, Russ has no shortage of stories to share. Hear who inspires Russ & Roxanne, how they decide which industries to invest in, and the impact they hope to have on the Burlington business community.

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