A Foreward from Matt:
I came up with the idea for Smilocracy over four years ago in Chicago when I was inspired by my former wife Elizabeth. Fate and a series of wild twists and turns, though, led me to 81 year old Lois Severin, and the unbelievable adventure you’re about to read. It was Lois who finally brought my dream to life and in the process redeemed me and the Smilocracy Vision. This 7 Billion Smile Campaign is my gift to her. No words, money or recognition could ever repay her for what she means to me.
Lois, thank you. I love you with all my heart.
My ‘First Supper’
By Matt Goodman
This wild, unbelievable tale began last April around the Jewish holiday of Passover. I was going through the typical struggles entrepreneurs face: lack of funding, partners dropping out, and a whole host of other headaches and pains. My dream, Smilocracy, was a big idea: a digital platform whose mission was to make the world smile. It needed a lot of help. Little did I know that it would come in the form of an 80-year-old hippie with a ridiculously infectious smile.
I had heard stories about Lois from my aunt. They were curious to say the least: She didn’t wear bras, she “collected” boys like baseball cards, she twice tried out for the St. Louis football cardinals cheerleading squad, and for several years she lived in a VW van with her 3 kids.
My aunt knew we’d “do damage together”, and waited almost a year before finally introducing us. Finally in April of 2015 I was invited over to Lois’ famous house with the pink door for Passover. It was an offer I was desperately waiting for!
To say Lois and I had an instant connection would be an understatement. The second I walked into her house, I felt the gravitational pull of something extraordinary.
First there was the house. It was unlike anything I had ever stepped foot in. From Lois’ mountainous hat collection to her collage wallpaper of boy crushes, every square inch was covered with random oddities she had “collected” from her unique life. I describe it as Pee Wee’ Herman’s Playhouse meets Grandma’s house. It was a five course meal for the eyes.
Then there were the Passover guests. They were as eclectic and colorful as the scenery. There was a former nun, a gay couple, and several pillars of the African American community. It was unlike any Passover dinner I had ever attended, and I’ve been to quite a few crazy ones. The conversation was engaging, funny, lively, and contested.
Finally, there was Lois. She was simply put out of this world. She cooked, she cleaned, she served, she entertained, she danced, she made outrageous sex jokes. She was like a Grandma on steroids, “Groids”, as I call it. I could hardly believe she was 80. She was awe-inspiring to watch.
I knew after this first dinner that I had found a kindred spirit in Lois. I even had a vision: Lois’ home would one day be the home of Smilocracy, and she would be its joyful FIRST ambassador.
Lois gets diagnosed with cancer
Fate, however, has an interesting way of working. It was just one week after that glorious dinner that both our worlds got flipped upside down.
I called up Lois one day to check in, and she told me the upsetting news: She had breast cancer. I was shocked. My glorious vision of making the world smile with this extraordinary woman suddenly vanished. I now envisioned the somber road ahead: radiation treatment, hospital stays, and who knows what else. I knew I had to change my thinking. After all, I was the Chief Smile Officer of Smilocracy!!
Once I got over the crushing blow, I sprung my platform into action. I figured Lois wasn’t just going to lie down and die. This was a perfect opportunity to get the smiles going and uplift Lois and her loved ones around her.
Inspired by her ridiculously positive attitude, I came up with the concept, Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month, and asked if I could move in. I thought it was an ideal situation. Lois was a widow and I was a bootstrapping entrepreneur that needed to save money on rent. It just made dollars and sense.
Unfortunately, Lois’ initial response was NOT what I anticipated.
However, I remained undeterred and persisted. And after several weeks of lobbying and laying on the charm thick, she finally relented. I moved in, and the “House with the Pink Door” became official Smilocracy Headquarters.
Now to disclaim: Lois and I weren’t a match made in Smile Heaven right away. There were your typical challenges to overcome like giving each other space, the divvying up of chores, and both of our strong wills to always be “Right”. But we found a way to make it work. I cooked, Lois cleaned. Lois cut the grass, I took out the trash. Sometimes. And I learned pretty quickly that I was always “Wrong.”
But it was the morning cancer treatments that really strengthened our bond.
Every morning the two of us would wake up at 5:30 am, and plan our smile-filled day. Lois would make me a cup of coffee, and then I would ‘chauffeur’ her to radiation treatment in her famous “pimped-out-pink” Volvo.
I saw an amazing side to Lois those mornings. I was awe-struck by her courage, attitude and positive spirit. She genuinely seemed happy to be going through cancer treatment.
Nurses, doctors, the receptionist, when we got to the hospital, EVERYONE got a smile and a hug from Lois. To me, Lois was “treating” her doctors and nurses with her positive spirit and smiles as much as they were treating her for cancer. And I still think her treatment worked better! She must have given out over a hundred stickers each morning… It was a sight to behold.
Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month
I felt the world needed to witness what I was witnessing each and every morning. I made it my mission to share her story in words, pictures, and song as loudly, compellingly and dutifully as possible. I developed out the Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month concept with my business partner Shad. And with her help we painted her whole yard pink.
It’s been now over two years since her successful breast cancer fight, and I still think her journey is as inspirational as ever. Below is the video that my team created in her honor. The song is Lois’ choice: Heroes by David Bowie.
It hasn’t always been sunshiney smiles for Smilocracy founder, Matt Goodman. Matt’s life has been full of ups and downs including going to rehab for addiction, almost joining the mafia in Chicago and being a block away from the Boston Marathon bombing when the bomb went off. Yes, his own life could be a movie.
Fortunately in 2012, Matt had a eureka moment that changed his life for good. Inspired by his former wife, Elizabeth, he got the idea for Smilocracy, and began working on the social network that became the basis for the Smilocracy Platform and his upcoming children’s book The Boy Who Made The World Smile.
Matt sees the smile as the ultimate teaching tool for children to learn more about positive social media habits both on and offline. Currently he and the Smilocracy team are working on many projects including the Smilocracy social networking app and The H.O.M.E. Path, an innovative program to improve homeless outreach efforts in St. Louis called.
To learn more about Matt, or to connect with him, visit his LinkedIn.