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CR Celona of CLUSTER: “Collaborate and conquer don’t be a lone wolf”

Collaborate and conquer don’t be a lone wolf. That’s a term when a founder sets out to do it all by him or herself not needing anyone else’s help. It’s micromanaging and it’s the worst. Don’t do it. A solution here is to bring in people you trust once you have an idea of what […]

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Collaborate and conquer don’t be a lone wolf. That’s a term when a founder sets out to do it all by him or herself not needing anyone else’s help. It’s micromanaging and it’s the worst. Don’t do it. A solution here is to bring in people you trust once you have an idea of what it is you want to do, unless you have co-founders which are also perfectly good. But it’s mission critical that you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve before you try to create it because too many people have an idea and wanna go out and manifest that idea without a game plan and strategy on what it is they’re trying to achieve. You have to understand what success looks like to be successful at all levels.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing C.R. Celona.

C.R. Celona has 20 years of Digital Media Management experience with National Senior Agency + Client Relationships. He is an Influencer Marketing Founder and has also specialized in: Ad Sales, Lean Thinking, Business Development, Social Media, FTC/GDPR Compliance, SaaS Product Development, Scalable Growth and Emerging Technologies. He has Innovative experience in branded entertainment and start-up environments, married to his soulmate, power girl dad for life… #LiveWithPassion


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Life has a way of placing us on the right path even if we are not expecting it at first. Technology has always been something that I have had the fortune to be exposed to at a young age. Working in and around startups from e-commerce, mobile, video, social media, influencer, and now social impact. It’s been very much of a natural progression; I’ve always wanted to effect positive change and CLUSTER provides us with the platform that can achieve this without changing too much of our natural digital behavior.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

In raising money for CLUSTER, going into the pandemic we ended up losing all of our investors as the economy collapsed and I remember sitting there at 3 a.m. with my pregnant wife at the time asleep thinking what is it we were going to do with no clear path forward for funding. The next morning, I woke up and called our CTO and engineers and decided to double down and said we’ll figure out the funding. A few months from that point and non-stop activity we ended up meeting some amazing people and a family office who changed the game for us. Raising money, launching a business and having a new baby is not something that usually happens all at once, but it allowed us to think quite dynamically and originally about how we wanted to go about affecting positive change and creating a community of inclusion through clients through kindness.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s probably more than five things I’ve learned in the last five years or so of running in building this business. But I think I can summarize it down to five key important ones.

Believe: so much of being an entrepreneur or building a business from the ground up is about believing in your vision and believing in your team. There have been many instances where I thought I had the right people going for us and we were moving forward only to have the entire thing come to a complete stop as people walked away or financing fell through or major issues popped up, but all those things never really deterred the belief in one social impact and then idea that people can work together to effect change. When I say believe, one has to believe in himself so much that it borders on ridiculous because people will tell you you’re wrong, but ID is not good your hair is far too spectacular, but all of these things are just distractions and if you believe in what it is you want to do then you must see it through at all costs.

It’s personal: I remember stories of people telling me it’s not personal it’s just business that’s BS. We need to be more personal now than ever in business with relationships with our interactions with strangers. There is an absolute need to respect each other, respect each other’s space, and offer kindness before judgment. I’ve always taken everything personally, my failures and my success. I always advise companies and founders to make it personal but make it inclusive because the mission that you’re out to endeavor upon and the story is very important for the people who are learning about your company/idea and those who are working with you to make that idea a reality. The arc here is balancing the reaction to negative feedback when you feel very strongly about your subject matter and my two cents as a person who struggles not to react quickly. It’s always taken a small step back, breathe then respond.

Collaborate and conquer don’t be a lone wolf. That’s a term when a founder sets out to do it all by him or herself not needing anyone else’s help. It’s micromanaging and it’s the worst. Don’t do it. A solution here is to bring in people you trust once you have an idea of what it is you want to do, unless you have co-founders which are also perfectly good. But it’s mission critical that you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve before you try to create it because too many people have an idea and wanna go out and manifest that idea without a game plan and strategy on what it is they’re trying to achieve. You have to understand what success looks like to be successful at all levels.

Make time: this is a tricky one because I’m not the best at having free time as I chose to go back to school, launch a business, raise money in a pandemic, and have my child all happen at the exact same time. We should not celebrate the overworked individual; we should celebrate the individual who is good at maximizing their efficiency. People need time to reflect, to decompress, to think about life. To live life balancing all of these things is much easier when you care deeply about what it is, you’re trying to achieve. When you’re working this way, you’re able to do other things like play with your children, go to school, and become a better XYZ or make time for the ones you love. Yet it is exceedingly important that you respect the time you have for yourself so that the time you spend with the ones you love is meaningful.

Balance: this one is always a work in progress over the last 20 years I’ve worked hard to try and balance my personal life and work life fairly unsuccessfully. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful while being generally unsuccessful. I think if you look at the before mentioned points and realize that to believe in something holistically, it’s the reason why you must take things personally, so you hold yourself and the ones around you to account. This will allow you to share in the pieces of success with the core team so you can make time to find the needed balance to become the person you’re supposed to be so that your dream can become a reality

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

CLUSTER empowers Millennials and Gen Z to mobilize their digital networks to give back to their community through the app, where users create or join CLUSTER’s and rally their followers and friends to unite them in social impact causes.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We launched this holiday season with a number of beta partners like Aspiration with their #PlantYourChange campaign with a goal to mitigate climate change by planting as many trees as possible via debit/credit card purchases. Additionally, the City of San Antonio where we’re looking to help build awareness and drive action to both digital and live events to combat food insecurity.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Think more unification vs division in the community, get involved in those communities, and utilize their digital footprints to create true change in their communities. Our platform allows each of these respective groups to achieve these goals and help solve their respective local problems all while driving impactful change

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Give people space, opportunity, and support to thrive, you can’t change the flow of a river, you can only guide it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

My parents always said, “Patience is not a virtue, it’s a pillar for success.” That statement is a work in progress because I’m sometimes a little extra. As I think about 5 things that I wish someone would have told me when I first started, they all centered around an idea of collaboration and conquer. 1)Empower those around you, 2) Inclusion over avoidance, 3) Seek the truth, 4) Speak the truth, 5) Show compassion and kindness is the only weapon we need. I’ve never had the burden of being cool or a beautiful person, but I always have the benefit of being observant and understanding why and what it is that really motivates us.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My Mission is to weaponize kindness, slow down judgment and create micro moments for people to connect around ideas/moments larger than themselves. If we do this, people will gain perspective on what matters from one another. From there we can get the country back on track. Regarding social movements, all movements that inspire or move people to action will be supported by CLUSTER.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

(Albert Einstein) “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Back in my 20’s when my father was alive, he was big on exploring ideas, philosophy and what love was all about. This quote was one that speaks to those like me, who never fit in and always seem to be thinking in a different way. It’s that very fact that we’re different that makes our country so special.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are a few, top of my list would have been Harriet Tubman, she was the template that I’ve always admired, one of the original influencer activists and ahead of her time. She was a freedom fighter, who believed in the humanity of humanity, she saved lives and was basically our real-life wonder woman. To have been able to listen to her speak and just hear her perspective, I would accommodate her schedule however she could fit me in.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/celona/

Instagram: im_artsy

CLUSTER Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/clusterforchange/

CLUSTER LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wearecluster/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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