Watch my appearance on “Got Girlfriends,” a New Haven, CT based show, where 8 business women share their passion, knowledge and experience with other women in business.
This was an interesting experience for me because I was able to talk about some of my passions outside of advocating for the LGBT community. You’ll get a chance to learn more about my life’s journey, some of my past professions and what I feel to be my most important achievements in life.
Note: The audio of the video begins about 20 seconds in. I had to mute the sound because of copyright issues. 🙂
My appearance on “Got Girlfriends” originally aired May 2014.
Would you prefer to read the transcript than watch the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below.
AUDIO TITLE: Got Girlfriends Interview
AUDIO START: [0:00:00]
Donna Marino: Hello and welcome to Got Girlfriends. My name is Donna Marino and I will be your host for today. The girlfriends are a group of eight women in business who had come together because we had the same philosophy. To help, educate, support and inspire not only our clients, but other women. So we came together and we developed our program, and we hope that with our discussions and fabulous guests, we can help and inspire you too. Remember girlfriends are very important in your life, and those difficult times, it’s great to have someone to rely on. So don’t worry, you’ve got girlfriends. I’d like to have the girlfriends introduce themselves. There are eight of us, but we’re not all here today. But can we start with you Paula?
Paula Murphy: Sure. Hi everyone, my name is Paula Murphy and I’m an independent beauty consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics, as well President of Celtic Grove Consulting.
Peaches Quinn: Hello everyone, I am Peaches Quinn, and as of June I hope to be President of the Connecticut Coalition on Aging.
Bernadette Welsh: Hi everybody, I’m Bernadette Welsh with Contessa Insurance. I’m an independent insurance agent out of North Haven, Connecticut, and we pride ourselves on our customer service.
Donna Marino: Last but not least, I’m Donna Marino, I’m a reverse mortgage consultant with Primary Residential Mortgage. So welcome.
Welcome back to got girlfriends. We have a wonderful guest this afternoon, and we’ve waited a long time to get her on the show.
Paula Murphy: Yes we did.
Donna Marino: I’m going to have our girlfriend Bernadette make the introductions.
Bernadette Welsh: So it is my great pleasure to introduce everybody to my friend Jenn Grace. And we have been friends for many years. We worked on business expos, and we’ve conducted business together. Jenn is a published author, and her current book is entitled, ‘But You Don’t Look Gay.’ And in this book she teaches straight people how to market to and effectively communicate with gay people. She has an advanced degree in Marketing, she’s been in retail and Corporate America, and now she is absolutely thrilled to be a full time entrepreneur. Jenn is married to her soulmate, Andrea, they have two young children, and they live right here in Connecticut. So Jenn, welcome to Got Girlfriends.
Jenn T. Grace: Thank you for having me.
Peaches Quinn: You’re here, woo hoo!
Jenn T. Grace: It has been a while.
Peaches Quinn: It has been a while, yeah.
Jenn T. Grace: I’m happy to be here. I feel like my back is to you.
Donna Marino: That’s okay.
Bernadette Welsh: So I’d like to start off asking you a question, could you tell us a little bit about your childhood, growing up in Rhode Island? Your book says you were a born entrepreneur. Now how did that happen?
Jenn T. Grace: How did that happen? It’s one of those things that you just know. And if I look back at all of the instances over my childhood, I can think of so many examples of when I was just doing things that were business owner-ish. So I can think for example, when I was maybe nine or so, I collected every book I could find and I started my own library, and I was renting it out to the neighborhood children.
Peaches Quinn: Not lemonade? Not lemonade?
Jenn T. Grace: No, nope library. I had a library.
Peaches Quinn: Library?
Jenn T. Grace: Yeah so it was like a dime, a nickel, whatever it happened to be. I was like nine, I don’t really remember if it was profitable or not per say, but I do remember specifically taking my sister’s books and then renting them back out to her. So a little opportunistic.
Donna Marino: That is so like Corporate America.
Peaches Quinn: That’s a great story.
Jenn T. Grace: That was really young. And then when I was about seventeen I started a landscaping company with a couple of friends of mine who were- we were doing my yard for my high school graduation, and we were like, “Oh this is easy, let’s start a landscaping company,” not having any idea what we were doing. But we would put advertising in the paper, we were negotiating, we did some yards.
Peaches Quinn: Was this pulling things out? Or putting plants back in?
Jenn T. Grace: Both. And our company name was Chicks with Sticks.
Peaches Quinn: Chicks with Sticks.
Jenn T. Grace: I kid you not. We had bumper stickers and everything.
Paula Murphy: That is awesome.
Bernadette Welsh: And it speaks to your marketing ability, I mean right there, Chicks with Sticks.
Jenn T. Grace: It got people’s attention, I can tell you that much.
Peaches Quinn: Jenn what does it mean to the rest of us though if we didn’t have any thoughts when we were nine?
Bernadette Welsh: We’re not born entrepreneurs.
Peaches Quinn: I mean I’m really jealous that you were so focused.
Jenn T. Grace: But I don’t know that- it’s one of those things that when somebody asks you a question you have to start digging and thinking like, ‘Well what made me do the things I was doing?’ So I was really just kind of thinking, ‘Oh wow, I was renting out library books.’ Like the more- the landscaping thing was more official, but at nine, who knows? I had other visions of being a business owner as well. Printing companies for some random reason when I was in my teens. I have no idea where it came from, it just kind of happened.
Bernadette Welsh: Is your father a business man? Is your mother a business woman?
Jenn T. Grace: Neither.
Paula Murphy: It was just innate.
Jenn T. Grace: Just the thing- hence the born entrepreneur, it just runs in my veins.
Donna Marino: What did you want to be when you were nine, though?
Jenn T. Grace: I wanted to be a meteorologist for so many years-
Peaches Quinn: You knew what a meteorologist was at nine?
Jenn T. Grace: I did, I did. But then I realized how much math was involved and I was like, ‘Numbers and I, we don’t really get along. So I’m going to go with the more creative fields.’
Paula Murphy: Moving forward, because I’d love to know more about you. And obviously you’re a very accomplished woman, and a young woman. What is one of your most proud achievement?
Bernadette Welsh: A baby.
Paula Murphy: What have you achieved that you’re just so proud of? I mean is it your book? Can you tell us?
Donna Marino: Besides being on Girlfriends.
Jenn T. Grace: Well yeah, Girlfriends is first and foremost.
Peaches Quinn: This is a milestone.
Jenn T. Grace: Let’s start off on the right foot here. But I would say I have a couple of things. Number one- and it might sound corny or cliché or what have you, but finding the person I was meant to be with is- it takes the cake for everything. And we’re celebrating our third year married this summer which is exciting. I don’t know, there’s just something about being able to know that you found the right one. Like it’s just that gut feeling.
Peaches Quinn: We’re still asking that question, aren’t we?
Paula Murphy: No we’re not.
Peaches Quinn: Oh, no we’re not?
Paula Murphy: We’re not.
Donna Marino: I don’t know how many people realize that.
Peaches Quinn: And very uncommon.
Jenn T. Grace: I feel like it seems uncommon. No it really does feel that way so I think it’s an accomplishment, but it’s not the accomplishment in the way that I think a lot of people view accomplishments. And then the other thing is we were talking before we started airing was that in August of 2012 or so, just had some kind of- I say like a mental meltdown or some sort, and it wasn’t that dramatic but how it comes out sounds far more dramatic. And I just didn’t feel happy with what I was doing, and I decided I’m going to put my health first before anything else. I’m going to put exercise, eating healthy, and I’ve lost fifty pounds. 5-0. I went from a size twelve to a two. Which was not my intention when I set out on it.
Bernadette Welsh: That I am definitely jealous of.
Jenn T. Grace: I wasn’t thinking like, ‘Oh I want to lose fifty pounds,’ it was just I need to get clarity on what I want to be doing right now. Like I don’t want to be working with people who don’t make me happy, and it was just kind of one of those things, and it was like when I was younger I remember exercising a lot and being outside all the time, let me start with that, and it’s just kind of transformed. Now I’m training for a half marathon.
Peaches Quinn: Did you find though that you were not feeling well for lack of a better term? I mean was your energy low?
Jenn T. Grace: I think so. I look back at pictures of me, I’m like I don’t even know what to think, it was just so not attractive, but I didn’t feel bad at the time. But I can actually remember it was probably in that August where I was at my friend’s house, we were at the pool, and this is going to sound crazy but it was just the way my thighs rubbed together one day. I’m not kidding.
Peaches Quinn: We relate to that.
Jenn T. Grace: And I can say that because I’m on the Girlfriends Show which is why I’m saying it.
Peaches Quinn: I thought that was designed.
Jenn T. Grace: You would think, and it was just one moment- one split second and there was just something about this, and it just snapped. I’m like, “I’m done with this,” and here I am fifty pounds later.
Peaches Quinn: How did you do it?
Jenn T. Grace: Just starting to count calories and watching what I was eating. It’s amazing how much you overeat and don’t realize it.
Donna Marino: But that’s so important I think for women to hear that how you approached it.
Jenn T. Grace: Baby steps.
Donna Marino: It’s such a challenge for so many women.
Jenn T. Grace: It was very much baby steps. Let me just count how many I’m eating. Alright it’s way too many. Let me just cut it back a little bit and then it just slowly started compounding.
Paula Murphy: I think you had the right idea because I did that a few years back, I lost some weight.
Bernadette Welsh: You did.
Paula Murphy: And I started the same way you did. I’m going to get healthy first. I want to feel good, get healthy. I don’t like the thigh rub. For me when I sit down and there’s an extra roll right here, I don’t like that.
Donna Marino: But that’s the right approach because most women think approach it with ‘I want to look different,’ rather than feel healthy.
Paula Murphy: But it’s the beginning of the feeling, and you know what, it gives you the discipline to do other things. Like author a book- sit down and write a book. So that’s good; it shows you, yourself that you can do it.
Jenn T. Grace: I think- and I talk about this a little bit with some of my clients of mine. I feel like running certainly has helped me in terms of mental clarity. I can’t even describe how much. But it’s almost like if you compare running and trying to run a marathon to running a business. It’s so similar. It’s a little bit scary because there’s so much of that day-to-day that you have to do whether you want to or not, whether you’re tired, whether it’s raining, you have to be focused. And then you finish the race, that’s what everybody sees, but nobody sees all of that other stuff. So it’s helped my business certainly because now I’m far more focused.
Peaches Quinn: Are those the two main themes that you wanted to mention for what you’re proudest of?
Jenn T. Grace: Yeah and I would say I’m very proud about my book too. I know you kind of jokingly said it, I’m really happy that I was able to put it out and-
Paula Murphy: Is this your first?
Jenn T. Grace: It’s my first and my second will be out in July.
Donna Marino: Your second?
Jenn T. Grace: I have five planned.
Peaches Quinn: You are a writer!
Paula Murphy: That’s very good.
Peaches Quinn: Tell us about that.
Jenn T. Grace: Well the first book that I created was really- as you’d mentioned in the opening, I try to help well-meaning straight allies market to the gay community, which it’s also referred to as the LGBT community. Just doing it the right way, being authentic, being sincere, being genuine, and I kind of wrote that at the beginners guide. So it covers marketing, covered communications. So the second one is really going to focus on communication; all those faux pas and the do’s and don’ts you don’t really want to catch yourself saying or doing in a business setting that are ultimately not going to bring you more business..
Peaches Quinn: Not even bring you friends.
Jenn T. Grace: Yeah. Absolutely.
Paula Murphy: And then three, four, five?
Jenn T. Grace: Three will be marketing. So we have the marketing and communications one, two is communications, three is marketing, four is on a concept called Supplier Diversity which I won’t even get into trying to explain what that is, it will take way too long. And then the fifth one is the whole comparison of business and running.
Paula Murphy: That’s quite a lineup.
Donna Marino: So I’d like to ask you. I know that you had many different jobs, you were a welder.
Jenn T. Grace: I was.
Peaches Quinn: A welder? A landscaper, a welder, and we keep going.
Donna Marino: And every position you took, you just kept moving up, doing it better and moving up. And to be where you are today. But there must have been personal hurdles that you’ve had to overcome.
Jenn T. Grace: Let’s see, in terms of jobs. I feel like- I don’t know if you could call it a personal hurdle, but a business hurdle of mine across the board in general is that I get bored very easily. So I’ve had a lot of different jobs because I’ve gone through and I’ve found that- I started off welding, and so I worked in a factory that made expansion tanks for hot water heaters. So those little grey things that are usually attached to your hot water heater, and I started off in the packing area because that’s where all the women worked, was in the packing area. And it was all men, and I was like nineteen, and I worked my way through the entire assembly line; I hit every single thing except for painting on the assembly line and ended with welding. And the personal hurdle I guess there was I didn’t get bored because I just moved from one job to the next as I kind of moseyed through. But it was the adapting to being in an environment where you’re one of four women out of hundreds of men. And you’re immediately kind of put into a certain category of, “Oh she couldn’t possibly do this,” which is why I was in the packing area, which is where all the other women were. And you have to prove yourself much harder and it takes a lot longer. So it’s almost like an accomplishment and a hurdle at the same time because I was like, “Well the hell with this, I’m just going to do it my way,” and there I was. And it was kind of funny because the guy I ended up welding with was this 6’4″ Kenyan man who was the darkest Kenyan man you have ever seen, and there is my pale, short self. So we were quite the team.
Peaches Quinn: Your light blue eyes. Yeah.
Jenn T. Grace: He was awesome, he was great to work with.
Peaches Quinn: Did you find yourself being a Norma Rae type? I mean were there opportunities to bring change to this environment?
Donna Marino: Oh yeah, there was.
Jenn T. Grace: There were, and that’s I guess one of the themes of everything that I’ve done in business, is that I get so frustrated by inefficiencies, it’s just something- it drives me crazy. So if I see that there’s a faster, better, more effective way of doing it, I’m going to do it. Some people might look at it like, “Oh she’s trying to take a shortcut.” But it’s like if there’s a shortcut that’s effective, why wouldn’t you take that shortcut?
Donna Marino: Why wouldn’t you do it? Absolutely.
Jenn T. Grace: So in that case I did manage to change the way the packing department was laid out, because the way that the tanks came off the line, the way they rolled, they were adding extra steps that didn’t need to be added. So I went- every job I was at, I found different ways to do it more fast, more effectively.
Peaches Quinn: The redesign is great, but I kind of meant the question on the personal side. Because you mentioned being one of four women in this very male-dominated area. Were there opportunities to maybe educate, raise the bar for men’s perceptions?
Jenn T. Grace: I was a young, dumb, 18-19 year old. Like there’s not a whole lot I was trying to do at the time.
Peaches Quinn: It was more powerful to redesign the workplace.
Jenn T. Grace: It was, I had fun. I did. And I made friends with everybody; most of them thought of me kind of like one of their kids. So it worked out well though, I enjoyed it a lot. It was one of my fonder experiences in my career.
Bernadette Welsh: Okay Jenn, do you have advice for other women that are trying to pursue their dreams, and could you tell young women out there how they might be able to find their passion a la the Jenn way of doing things?
Jenn T. Grace: Well the Jenn way of doing things is trying 24-25 different jobs before you find what fits, which is clearly the entrepreneurial way. And I would just say that if you’re stuck, or if you’re in a rut, to just start thinking about what genuinely makes you happy. So for me, I don’t want to report to somebody else, I don’t want to have- I’m stuck in the building from 9:00 to 5:00, I want to have freedom, I want to have flexibility, I want to spend time with my family and my kids. And it’s one of those things that you just have to find what works for you, and kind of- if it’s not working and you feel stuck, try something else. And just keep trying until you find what works for you. It’s a little bit simple but-
Peaches Quinn: You’ve had to have thick skin though, would you say?
Jenn T. Grace: I would say I’m resilient.
Peaches Quinn: Yeah. Kind of resilient?
Jenn T. Grace: Yeah I’ve hit some hurdles.
Peaches Quinn: Can you talk about any of those?
Jenn T. Grace: I would say the one that sparked my weight loss and my mental clarity was like the big one. It was kind of like the volcano that just kind of erupted one day and I’m like, “I’m not going to allow myself to be treated a certain way. I’m not going to allow somebody to speak to me a certain way. I’m going to take that into my control.” And that’s kind of where it all started.
Peaches Quinn: Wow that is so interesting.
Paula Murphy: Well you know it’s interesting just listening to you saying what you like, what you don’t like. You said, “Follow what you like.” But what you first listed were things that you didn’t like, so when you know what you don’t want, then you can find what you want.
Jenn T. Grace: So that’s a good way of getting to the same place.
Paula Murphy: Yeah but you’re very powerful Miss Jenn. Very powerful.
Jenn T. Grace: Thank you.
Donna Marino: We want to thank you for being here today.
Jenn T. Grace: Oh this was fabulous.
Donna Marino: Doesn’t time go by fast?
Jenn T. Grace: It does.
Donna Marino: When you get a bunch of women together and they start talking.
Jenn T. Grace: Gab, gab, gab.
Donna Marino: But thank you so much, it was a great conversation.
Jenn T. Grace: Thank you for having me.
Donna Marino: We’re going to take a public service announcement break right now, and we’ll be right back.
Welcome back to Got Girlfriends, and we just had a really wonderful conversation with our fabulous guest, Jenn Grace.
Bernadette Welsh: T. Grace.
Donna Marino: Jenn T Grace, I’m sorry. And I think I have to go home and regroup.
Peaches Quinn: Yeah, regroup.
Donna Marino: I definitely have to regroup.
Peaches Quinn: I’d like to go back to nine and regroup. Nine years old.
Donna Marino: You probably didn’t even realize you were nine when you were nine years old.
Bernadette Welsh: Where were you Peaches, when you were nine years old?
Peaches Quinn: I was playing with dolls, I was playing with dolls.
Paula Murphy: That’s what I remember.
Bernadette Welsh: What I liked about what Jenn was talking about, is how to not only find doing what you want to do, but having the insight into creating a book that will help people market and not make a fool of themselves. And also to learn. So there’s stuff in her book about marketing, and there’s stuff in her book about how to speak correctly to gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people that you might want to market to. The community is very loyal, so it’s a very wonderful thing that you might want to do if you want to make some money in business. And I just admire her for going ahead and doing what she really wanted to do.
Donna Marino: Well I admire the fact that she walked away from some very good employment that she had, her opportunities, because she wasn’t happy. And how many women are stuck?
Peaches Quinn: So courageous to do that.
Paula Murphy: Very brave.
Donna Marino: Fortunately we’ve had a lot of women on the show who were able to make that decision that I’m not happy, I have my dream, I’m going to pursue it. And that takes such a great amount of courage to do that.
Peaches Quinn: And how about relationship? Finding the gift, the blessing of finding somebody that you know you want to be with for the rest of your life. And being able to make that commitment and understanding, and I know Jenn does. But it’s a growing process.
Donna Marino: And to hold out for that.
Paula Murphy: And even that-
Peaches Quinn: We didn’t ask her that question, though. Maybe she-
Paula Murphy: She’s got to come back. That’s it, she’s got to come back. But yeah, it was awesome, she’s just an incredible woman. We applaud you, Jenn.
Peaches Quinn: And we should show the book again.
Bernadette Welsh: Yes, can we do that?
Paula Murphy: I love the colors.
Bernadette Welsh: This bright, wonderful color, ‘But You Don’t Look Gay,’ is one of the things you certainly wouldn’t want to say to somebody. It’s like saying, “Oh you don’t look Italian.” Well what does that mean?
Peaches Quinn: “You don’t look straight, Bernadette.”
Bernadette Welsh: “You don’t look straight.” “Is that diamond ring on your finger to a man or not? We really want to know.” And there are some lame things that you just don’t want to say. You know what it means? When you’re in business, it’s not supposed to be about asking personal questions, it’s about getting down to business.
Paula Murphy: That’s right.
Bernadette Welsh: And so many people forget about that.
Peaches Quinn: Doing the right thing for your clients.
Bernadette Welsh: Jenn reminds us to do the right things because it’s the right thing to do.
Donna Marino: Well I have to wrap up, but good closing thoughts because all of us also believe in doing what’s best for people, that’s the bottom line. And so we had a wonderful show today, thank you all. Please, we’d welcome your comments and suggestions so check out our email addresses and telephone numbers on a credit. We’d love to hear from you. See you soon.
Bernadette Welsh: Bye bye.