Once upon a time, the internet was a sad and scary place. The by-product of a polarized world, it had become increasingly difficult to escape the vortex of images and news stories that induced fear, anger and negativity. At least that’s how the founders of SoulPancake felt when they established the website, soulpancake.com, back in 2008.
When co-founders Rainn Wilson, Devon Gundry, Shabnam Mogharabi and Golriz Lucina Gundry first got together, soulpancake.com just represented their nascent idea of creating a little oasis of light and meaning on the internet. What started as a simple online platform where users could ask and respond to some of life’s big questions in a friendly, joyful and inspiring way, has now grown into a multi-award winning media company with over three million YouTube subscribers.
The Los Angeles-based media company SoulPancake continues to create compelling daily content. They’ve produced over 45 digital series on their social platform, and created a library of more than 6000 videos which have received over 700 million views. They also wrote a New York Times Best Selling book – SoulPancake – Chew on Life’s Big Questions – and said yes to creating content for some of the industry’s biggest producers, including Oprah Winfrey, who referred to their content as “little pieces of light.”
In 2016, SoulPancake became a division of Participant Media, expanding their already extensive reach and unique voice into branded entertainment and partnerships.
In this episode of Cloud9, we chat with SoulPancake co-founder and Head of Creative Golriz Lucina Gundry. We begin our conversation with some clarifying questions regarding the SoulPancake story and mission, and Golriz elaborates on the distinction between the SoulPancake platform and the Baha’i Faith. She emphasizes that although the site was co-founded by Baha’is, the website and content they create strives to celebrate inquiry and facilitate discussions in a creative and joyful manner, rather than indoctrinate a certain belief or provide answers. Golriz shares, however, that the guiding principles and approach behind her work as Head of Creative all combine to promote the oneness of humanity, the value of diversity, and the search for truth:
God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 291.
Then our conversation begins to explore in more depth the concept of joy – and how, despite the current political and social climate, SoulPancake strives to be a safe, happy place, for meaningful, joyous and uplifting content. Golriz shares how joy is considered as part of SoulPancake’s “special sauce,” and opens up about how holding a position of joy goes against the tide. Remaining joyous, Golriz says, asks a lot of us as both content consumers and creators. Joy plays a central role in the way that SoulPancake tells stories, and reminds us of our inherent purpose and potential:
Joy gives us wings, that in times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 109.
Our conversation takes a turn as we ask Golriz to share more about her time with SoulPancake, more specifically, her role as Head of Creative. Golriz always had ambitions to pursue a career in children’s storybook writing, but soon realized that she preferred to be surrounded by people, creating as part of a dynamic team.
Golriz first heard about the SoulPancake idea through her then future husband Devon, as she worked in marketing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Centre. While simultaneously falling in love with Devon, she also fell in love with the SoulPancake project. She joined the very small, nascent team as Co-Creator of Content, which required an enormous amount of work, but had all the key ingredients of what she loved to do. Today, the co-founders of SoulPancake have built a strong, dynamic team of creatives that Golriz oversees as Head of Creative.
In the interview Golriz reflects on her own approach to her role as Head of Creative, and on the aspects of the Baha’i Faith that find their way into her work. She shares her gratitude that her day-to-day work is rooted in the spirit of service to humanity, and reminds us to be our best selves. She also emphasizes the importance of creating a working environment free from backbiting, invites consultation from everyone, and encourages the diversity of all perspectives and beliefs:
… regard backbiting as grievous error … backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265.
All effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. – Ibid., pp. 176-177.
Golriz attributes much of SoulPancake’s success to the fact that the company has always remained consistent with their mission of serving humanity and bringing joy to the lives of others. Over the years, SoulPancake has produced moving, insightful, uplifting, and viral content. For example, SoulPancake shows like Kid President have accumulated 44 million views alone, and Kitten Therapy is just shy of 10 million views. Other popular SoulPancake productions include My Last Days, Tell My Story and Science of Happiness, to name a few. Golriz credits the success of these videos to the sincere love that’s poured into their creation, and the pursuit of excellence and mastery that each individual at SoulPancake infuses into their work.
We close our Cloud9 interview with Golriz by learning about what motivates her and her team to continue creating original and uplifting content for SoulPancake. Golriz also elaborates on how work, marriage and motherhood continue to be her main passion projects and keep her at full creative capacity.
To learn more about Golriz and her work with SoulPancake, visit soulpancake.com