By Megan S. Willman

When I walked into DBS Interactive, a Louisville company specializing in web design and programming, to meet with CEO and Founder Cyndi Masters, I was greeted by both Cyndi Masters and her dog Super Cooper Masters. This warm welcome set the tone for an engaging conversation about the ups and downs of business and life, as well as Cyndi’s unfailing efforts to live out her values in all she does. It sounds like a tall order, but Cyndi is up to the challenge. A survivor of a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, a bout with cancer, and a back-breaking fall that led to spinal reconstruction, Cyndi twice had to learn to walk again. She has not just survived; Cyndi has thrived.

Cyndi cuddles with her dog Super Cooper Masters or Cooper for short in the conference room of DBS Interactive.
Photos by Melissa Donald 

How does she do it? Cyndi says she has pushed uphill all her life. “I’m the least qualified and least likely person to succeed, but I put one foot in front of the other, no matter what.” Cyndi founded DBS Interactive in 2000 with support from the Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund. Her struggles have helped her define what matters most in her life. “Even when I lost everything, I was still happy.”

These smaller SIPS panels are recycled and used for other projects.

Cyndi believes in showing kindness first, and that value was never more evident than during the recent recession. In order to keep DBS going, Cyndi could have laid off her employees, but instead she took a huge risk. Cyndi says, “I maxed out my credit, turned in my retirement, and mortgaged everything.” Today, DBS Interactive is a thriving and debt-free business. “I did what I felt I had to do.”

Cyndi stands in the construction yard at the FischerSIPS facility where the Mighty Small Homes panels are made. 

Similarly, when Cyndi and Damian Pataluna co-founded Mighty Small Houses in 2013, they were drawn to do so out of a desire to provide durable housing to survivors of natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti. Cyndi explains, “The panels we use are flexible in a hurricane, strong enough for elephants to stand on, and light enough for anyone to put up.” The small house movement has gained a lot of attention recently, and Cyndi believes it’s a reflection of the growing desire to own an affordable, beautiful home but to also be able to enjoy other facets of life.

Cyndi used smaller recycled SIPS panels to build a chicken coop located in the back of her home.

Quality of life means everything to Cyndi, and she believes that we must all work together to achieve it. Problems ebb and flow, and we can lean on and learn from each other. Her values of love and kindness are at the core of the tips she offers:

Cyndi’s Tips for Success in Life

  1. “Make friends with your competitors. Collaborate and learn from each other. It will benefit your clients and will develop your own strengths.”
  2. “I believe giving it away always gets us more. Love is the answer, no matter the question. It’s impossible to give love without it amplifying.”
  3. “Don’t lead with fear. When fear stops motivating us, we realize there is an abundance for everyone.”
  4. “Surround yourself with great people. My success is more a testament to them than to me.”
  5. “Hire based on kindness. You can teach the skills needed for the job but not kindness.”
  6. “Put checks and balances in place for everything. Mistakes can be made even trying to do the right thing. We have to have a safety net.”
  7. “Business is lonely. It’s hard to have complete transparency when things are rough. Find people you can trust.”
  8. “It’s OK for me to be the first one to give. I always start with giving.”
  9. “My business is not my identity. It’s a vehicle to help me make a difference, accomplish things, and help people.”
  10. “Business is real life. I used to try to live my business, spiritual, and personal lives separately. We have to be our whole selves everywhere we are. It’s harder, but it makes life more meaningful.”