Courageous Entrepreneurship: Tanya Morgan

Tanya Morgan is using her creativity to help change lives for the better.

In 2022, she merged her roles as an actor, improviser, mental health professional, and social emotional learning (SEL) interventionist and opened the doors of the Sawubona Creativity Project – a theater space on the vibrant East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Tanya’s mission is to create “brave spaces where children and adults can learn and practice vital interpersonal skills,” and in this episode, you’ll hear about Tanya’s own brave journey to launching Sawubona Creativity Project and how she found the courage, support, and funding to make it happen.

Plus, Tanya gets real about raising her family while nurturing her dream creative business. Don’t miss this candid conversation with a creative, compassionate rockstar. 

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Episode highlights:

  • [01:12] What led Tanya to opening the doors of the Sawubona Creativity Project
  • [05:30] How Tanya found the courage and the funding to manifest her vision 
  • [11:02] Tanya’s struggle to make time for her own creativity – and the importance of delegating 
  • [17:15]  Why Sawbuona prioritizes a family-oriented space
  • [20:23] Tanya’s relationship with the word “No” — it’s a complete sentence, but not a closed door
  • [22:08] Why it’s so important for women to raise their voices and ask ALL the questions
  • [27:23] Tanya’s one tip to rock it 

Links from this episode: 



Hello and welcome to the She Rocked It podcast. I’m your host Karen Gross. So excited to be here with you as part of our courageous entrepreneurship podcast season. So many exciting conversations that we’re having.Without further ado, let me introduce Tanya Morgan to She Rocked It. Welcome!  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah. Hi. Hi. How are you?

KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT: This I mean, I’m a performer myself, I was so curious how you translated your gifts into actually like a brick and mortar. So I definitely want to talk about that today too. Because I think that’s so impressive, too. As a as a true creative entrepreneur. I want to hear, how did that happen? How did you go from kind of being a performer— you’re a comedian improviser—like once you decide to actually open up like a physical location. 


Yeah. So the Sawubona Creativity Project is the brick and mortar theater space. And it kind of came about this is like probably years, I’m sure in the making. I’m part of a couple of improv teams. And one of my improv teams is called Daddy Issues. Right? That’s the name of it. When I first joined that team, and it was the first improv team I’d ever even auditioned for. And I got on the team and I after I think like a year in I had mentioned to them I was like, “We need a building, we should get a building”. This is maybe four years ago or so. And I had mentioned that to them. 

And then like the pandemic happened, and I got approached by some other people creatives in Philadelphia to be like, “Hey, we should talk about you know, starting theater company”. And then we did a few things but never got a space. And then again, it’s at this past September, I think it was over the summer time I got approached again to be like, we want to open a theater company, and we want to get scared of space. I was like, “Awesome, let’s do it”. So I like immediately started looking for space, there was a group of people who I really respected in the community in the arts. And I was like, “this is going to be awesome”. 

People are busy. Other things, get in, get take precedence, you know, over someone else’s stream, of course. But I was like, it, so that that group kind of fell apart. And I was like, “You know what, I’m just gonna do this on my own”. And then I will bring people on. So that’s what I did. 

So in September 2022, I was like, “I want to space so that I can bring people together, though, what I do now is I teach” — I love to teach, I’ve been a teacher off and on, like substitute teaching, things like that for probably 14 years or so. And I started in mental health, child protective services. And that’s where I was. And I really I love that, that. 

So my whole idea of combining mental health with Creative Arts is not new, that has been around forever. But I wanted a space where I could teach that when I wanted to, and how I wanted to. The organizations that I work for during the day, like during the school term are wonderful. And they really kind of lit a fire under me to be like, “You know what, I want to do this, too, I want to be an organization and provide space for kids, teens and adults to come together, learn creative arts, learn those social emotional learning skills, or soft skills that people call them, so that we can better connect with each other”. 

I think what also kind of made me feel that way is the state of our world. Right now the lack of communication and how people treat each other. We’re so so reactive, so reactive, and we don’t listen to each other. You know, I’ve never been the type of person to like Facebook fight with people. But I found myself during the pandemic, because I didn’t have anything else to do. Not necessarily getting into fights with folks, but wanting to hear more. You know what I mean? Wanting to hear more about their perspective, like, “Why do you think this way? Why do you feel this way, what is going on?” Because most of the time, it’s a lot of pain and hurt, things like that, that people are carrying around with them. So that also kind of added to me wanting to teach these communication skills, because that’s really what it boils down to is, is us connecting to each other. 

So having that space, and then offering things for free. To like that’s been a really important aspects of what the theater does is having free family friendly, dropping classes, game nights, like doing things like that, and then offering space for other people to be able to offer their talents for free. 


That’s amazing. You know, I think it takes a lot of courage on a lot of levels to do what you do. Well, first of all, comedy, I think is a courageous thing to do. But number one, being a creative and being a performer and really taking that seriously, I think is a very courageous thing. And then to actually take out a lease on a storefront focused on the creative arts is a brave thing. What what has given you the courage to wholeheartedly pursue your dream creative business? 


Yeah. Oh, man. I’m like, what has given me the courage? 


Give us your secrets, you know, because I think it takes, you know, to sign those on the dotted line. Yeah, right. 


No, yeah, you’re right. Like, because it’s why isn’t everybody doing this? Right? Why isn’t you know, the groups that I had belonged to why aren’t they doing it? Especially if there’s 10 people it’s like, you got 10 heads here you have 10 bank accounts you have 10. 

So why isn’t everyone doing it is because it is very scary. It is very hard. You have to give up a lot of things or sacrifice a lot of different things. And I will say what gave me the courage to do follow this dream in particular is several things. Number one, my personality is fearless-ness. I guess I’ll if I’m saying that right anyway, I’ve never been afraid to do something. Like, I just haven’t, I just like I’d rather do the thing and fail than to be like, “Man, I wonder what would have happened if I had done the thing.” 


Yeah, totally. So give us a sense of the types of stuff that you’re offering, at Sawbuona and now that you have a space. And I you know, when you’re so graciously and generously trying to do a lot of free stuff for the community. Be real with us. How do you make that work? Like, are you getting donations, sponsorships, nonprofit, because I know like, as a creative, we’re generous folks, creatives,  


KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT: Sometimes I don’t like to look at the dollar. We want to make art. We want to bring people into the you know, our world as a musician myself, like I’d rather sometimes not think about all that I’d rather just sing and have people show up. But can you give us a window into how you know, your, you’re you’re thinking about that, making that obviously add up so that you can you know, pay for this wonderful new space that you have opened to the community, which is so awesome.  

Yeah. That is like I’m, I’m a creative too. I’m like, everything should be free, like everyone needs to have access. It’s beautiful  

TANYA MORGAN: Yes. And I absolutely believe that. So my goal is to get grants and funding and offer as many free things as possible. Now, of course, grants are not guaranteed. But I will say, and this was such a blessing. We got the Bartol Foundation grant, I put it on I 


Hello! Is everyone out there saying congrats? 


Yes, I posted it on social media, I have to figure out how to add it to the website. So working on that kind of stuff. But um, they are such a wonderful and amazing arts foundation. 

They offer, like they really take care of teaching artists and like organizations, they’re so amazing. Like, I’ve taken classes there with them too, like for how do you market yourself as a as a teaching artist like they are so supportive in the community. So to receive that grant from them, that was like another level of affirmation of like, “Tanya, you are on the right track, like, keep going”. 

Because you know, it gets it gets hard. And it’s like, oh, you know, where? How do I continue to do all these free things and offer this space for free. And it’s more work, it’s work to go and find that funding to apply for those grants, and do those things. But I am willing to do that so that I can keep costs very low or free. So I spent a lot of time looking for grants, applying for grants, reading about how to do those things properly. 

We have a fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas. And they’re amazing like the the amount of resources that they offer. It just blows my mind. Just having this support because I don’t know everything. I don’t know what I’m doing. Honestly, like I’m learning as I go. 

I’ve been a creative for a long time I’ve been an actor, I’ve done all that stuff, that front of house kind of stuff. But that theater in the back, learning the business aspect of things is like, “no, Tanya, you can’t just do anything you want”. 

You know, even though this is my business, I can’t just do anything I want. There’s rules and all kinds of stuff surrounding having a space and taking care of people and making sure that it’s your space is safe for folks to come in and do different things like that. So all of those things that I didn’t take into account in the beginning was just like, I’m just going to open my theater, and it’s gonna be great. Like, there’s, there’s rules to this. 


Yes, And you know, I’m dying to ask you this, because it’s a question that I think about a lot. How do you reconcile your creative self with your business self? Because sometimes it can be so hard to feel split in two, I just sometimes want to sit and sing and play piano and then it’s like, oh, wait, I gotta work on these contracts. And I got it, you know, and you know what I mean? 

Like, have any thoughts about how you divide up your brain or your life? Do you have? Do you time block your day? Or do you kind of like, have certain places you like to sit and have coffee while you’re working on your admin or how you do at Tanya? And do you? Or do, do you still make time? Right now for your creative self? 

Or are you kind of like, I’m just gonna kind of be the boss of this business and get this off the ground? And then I’ll come back to the stage. How’s that goin’ for you? Give us the scoop.  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah, that part’s hard. My husband constantly. He’s my my touchstone. I guess he’s like, “okay, it’s midnight, are you done? Like, come to bed”. And because that happens often where I’m just I sit in one spot, and I will just go in on the administrative part of this business. And him, I need him to be like, “okay, stop, turn off the computer, you’re done”. So that part is hard. 

As a creative, I have not been able to be as creative as I’d like to be. I miss my improv team. We meet every Monday, I think I’ve missed the last four Mondays. I’m doing a lot of, you know, business stuff. So I haven’t been in a play, like, you know, play where I have to memorize things. I think last year was probably the last time. 


And you still have your sort of daytime gig that you mentioned before about, you know, you work in the mental health space. And that’s still part of your life as well? 


I still have my I have to still find daytime jobs as a contractor.  


TANYA MORGAN: So I still I work for the Unscripted Project. And I work for Philly Young Playwrights. 


Amazing. That’s amazing, though. 


Yeah, I just got another position. I don’t know if I can say this yet. So I won’t say it. But I just got another position where I’ll be teaching in the public schools, teaching theater, creative arts. So that’s what I do during the day and like preparing for all of that I have to write curriculums and the classes that will be happening at Sawbuona because the enrichment program is going to be starting in the fall after right all the curriculums for that. So there’s a there’s a lot of admin type of things I have to do. I don’t have a ton of time for the creative part.  

KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT: And you’re a mom as well, correct?  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah, I know, Mom. So like, that’s, 

KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT:  Which is, you know, I would imagine, yeah.  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah I haven’t even gotten to that part yet. By the way, right?  Like, oh, yeah, kids. 


Like, can I just say, rocking it? I mean, every time I’m in your presence, even virtually as we are now, I’m just getting energy upon energy from you. Like I’m not seeing a wilted like, “oh, I can’t stand up anymore”. I’m just getting like, all kinds of positive vibes. 

So give us a little secret into how you’re keeping the energy up. I mean, I’m glad the hubby’s like go to bed. But you’re still managing to stay up with all this energy. So what’s your secret for kind of maintaining your energy or at least your positivity as you juggle all these incredible things you’re doing? 


Yeah, I do want to say I do have a little bit of like, creative stuff I do. That’s what I love about improv. Because I don’t have to necessarily prepare for it anymore. That’s doing it for 20 years. So that’s like my little bite of creativity there to perform and be on stage. And then the how do I stay positive? 


Right and adjust?  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah, no, I was thinking about that the other day. I was like, “am I faking this or do I do it?” Really because there’s so much that I do. And I do get upset when, mostly when I’m not there for my family like that, that probably is what makes me upset the most because that’s my kids and they need me. 

So that, when there’s something like that, that pops up like, “Oh, you forgot to fill out their physical form”, or “you didn’t print out this to send”, like that, almost like that, that is what will break me a little bit. To be like, “I can’t do this”. Like, I can’t do this, my kids, or if they haven’t had lunch or something, it’s like, “I can’t do this”. 

And I snap out of it. I do, I snap out of it. Mainly because I don’t have babies like my my oldest who still lives here is 17, because I have another one. He’s 23. And he and he’s, you know, out. But my 17 year old, my 14 year old and then my daughter, she’s 11. So I don’t have babies. So I snap out of it and be like, “okay, one of you could have made lunch”. 



TANYA MORGAN: Yes. So, yes. 


The first thing an entrepreneur should know, delegate, right?  

TANYA MORGAN: Yes, yes.  

Ask for help. Yes. And that’s where I really do honestly, I do snap out of it. And I’m like, “Okay, I want you to do this. Oldest do this, drive this one here”. So that delegating part. And that’s when I realized, like, “Okay, you didn’t delegate today, make sure you do that”. Because I can’t do everything. 

Even if I wasn’t running a business, I still can’t do it everything. Like, I’m always advocating for for moms, especially new moms, to be like, I need help. It’s perfectly fine. That’s how you build your village. 

You know, that whole thing of it takes a village is accurate. I think I said this before that you need people ,we need people we are we are creatures of like, I don’t even know how to say this, we need each other. 

Like, that’s the whole reason we’re on Earth, in my opinion, is to, to be there for each other to help each other. So I live in a community where I have a village of moms and dads,we carpool, we pick each other’s kids up, because they all are in sports and band and me and my husband wouldn’t have been able to do it. 


I would think too with Sawubona that, because you have so many family-oriented offerings that you yourself are providing a great space for families too to be together I would I would assume that’s informed by your own life as a parent as a mom, is that so?  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah,oh, absolutely. I, my identity is performing. And when I had my first son, I had to stop everything. And I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how to have a child and still do things for myself. I had no idea how to do that. No one tells you like, “No, you can still go and do this and do that”. 

But the theater didn’t offer a space for me to bring my baby with me. You know, there was no show that I was in where they like “Yeah, bring your your kid will have childcare for you”. No one did that. 

So for me, like I’m hiring teaching artists because of where we have the enrichment program every it’s gonna be Monday through Friday. So I want people to know, like, if you have your child, you can bring your child they can be in the class, you know what I mean? 


I love that you’re like reinventing what that could look like in your own business. 

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah, yeah, I want, I just remember that, like the loss, I was grieving. When I had my my child, like, I was grieving the loss of my creative side for years, and it took a toll on my marriage. And when I did start getting back into it, that was very difficult in itself. 

And, me and my husband we went through it, like we really did, and it was that missing piece every time I had to stop being creative, because you know, I had another child, it, it hurt so much. So I was like, I don’t want people to feel like that, as, as creative folks.

 And I think we all have, we all are creative. No matter if you’re an actor or performer, whatever it is, and you work in engineering, you have to be creative. There’s always that piece of us that wants to go out in the world and contribute our talent. It doesn’t have to just be acting or onstage. So to have that taken away from you, or you, you can’t figure out how to access it anymore. Just doesn’t seem fair. And I don’t think you can be a whole person. And you know, fully be present when you are parenting if you have to just or if you’re forced to give that up. 

So the little bit of space that I have to like No, bring your kids bring, especially bring them to an improv show. They can be as wild as they want to be like improvisers I know I’m, I’m ready for that. If there’s kids in the audience, and they’re being loud, and they’re being just like, yes, that’s where they should be. 

The theater is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be raucous. Like, it’s not supposed to be sit with your hands on your lap, and you just watch what the people on stage are doing. It should be that your two year olds is there and you don’t feel like oh, no, we’re, they’re too loud. Or they’re too this. No, they should be. I, bring them. I want them! 


I love it. I love it. And you know, we’re talking about, you know, a couple minutes ago, we were talking about courage and the courage to take all this on and to reinvent the paradigm. Is there like any, any, are there any lessons that you’ve really learned in these first like four and a half or so months? Or like a key lesson or a key challenge that you’ve had to face down? And tell us about that. And like any lessons you’ve taken away so far things that you’ve learned that you’d want to share with us or share with an aspiring entrepreneur? Perhaps? 


Yeah, um, I would say, and my girlfriend had brought this up to me. And she was like, “you, you don’t take no for an answer”. And I need to learn how to do that. And I was like, “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t take no for an answer”. 

And when I, if I ask someone to do something, or be a part of something, or whatever it is, and they tell me, “No,” my brain doesn’t compute that as a no for me. That’s a no for you. That that’s where that stops for you. And that’s totally fine. But for me, find another way. Ask another question. Offer something else, right. I don’t feel like they’re ever a no. 

And I probably learned that in improv, like, you never say no, you always say yes. And like you, you know what I mean? Like, you’d love everything for 10 seconds. Oh, “someone told me told me that like, yeah, love, love that idea that I just gave you for 10 seconds, because it might help you”. Maybe the thing I’m saying is, “uh, no”. But if you take the time, you might find something else that you can do, or participate in or whatever it is. But like I said, we’re also reactionary, and we typically respond out of fear. So no comes out first. Like, no is the thing. So I just, I don’t accept. I don’t accept. 


I love that. I love that so much. And no, it’s not a closed door for you. 


For me. Yeah. I’m also the same person to be like, “no is a complete sentence”. On the flip side, yes. On the flip side, because I don’t want anyone thinking like, you have to compromise your beliefs and your values to, you know, bend to someone else’s will like, no is a complete answer. So like I said, if you say no, I asked you to do something, you’re like, “No”, I’m gonna respect that. But it’s not enough for me. So I will still move on with what I’m doing. You know? Like, make sure that’s clear. Yeah. 


I’m learning. I’m learning, about the power of saying “no”, oh, yeah. It’s hard for me as a notorious people pleaser. 


Yes, yes. I know that people pleasing thing, it will have you doing stuff and you’re just like, “why am I doing?” 


Just in saying the no and that’s it, no explanation, 


No explanation. It’s like, no, no, no, just just No. 


I love it. like, in your opinion, why is it important for women to raise their voices in particular? 

TANYA MORGAN: Men I’m finding, and I, you know, don’t have a problem asking for what they want, or telling you what they want, zero problems. So that’s why it’s important for women to speak up to say, “Hey, can I do that thing there?” Okay. You said no, that’s a no for you, I’m gonna check in this other space. And to not be discouraged by closed doors. 

You know what I mean? Because that’s, that’s where it is, most of the time, the people who, you know, hold all the cards look like the people who are knocking on the door. So that’s why there’s so many men, because there’s men in charge. So more women being in charge will start to open up those doors for other women as well.

 So that was like, I think where it needed to start is, you know, up top, we have to make sure we have a diverse group of folks who are holding the holding the keys to the especially the theater, or holding the keys, these doors. So that is not just saying things being regurgitated over and over and over again. 

KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT: That’s a great point, or even literally getting a lease on an avenue like, you know, as a black woman, you know, going after a lease asking for money, all these things. I mean, it’s awesome. And I’m curious, like, did you feel any resistance on that journey that you encountered? Anything you want to share about that? 


I, it was.I’m gonna say it was easy, but not simple, I guess. It was, you know how when things come to you really easily, you’re like, “Whoa, what’s the catch? Like, oh, this is scary”. So that’s how I felt. I want to be honest,  

KAREN GROSS / SHE ROCKED IT: That’s was great.  

TANYA MORGAN: Yeah, it was like, Whoa, this is scary. Like, like destiny. Yeah, it was literally, I came back from an improv camp, like we camp out in the Poconos for four days, I got back, I was so energized, because they’re so amazing. And all of those folks, not all of them, but most of them run their own theaters. And I was like, “can you guys set up a Facebook were like, tell us what you did? What did you use? Like what companies like share your wisdom?” And I took their wisdom, like, this was me asking for help, which is I’ve learned to do. 

And it was like, “Tanya, why haven’t you been asking for help your whole life? Why haven’t you been doing this?” People want to teach you people want to share it. I know, there are like gatekeepers and stuff out there. But for the most part, there are folks who will share their expertise with you. So I was like, “I’m just going to ask because I’m out here by myself, and I really don’t know what to do”. And those folks were so generous with their information that when I got back, it was, I think I got back September 5. I started looking for the place then, and found it October 1. 

And the only reason I didn’t sign the lease until November 15 is because I have an attorney and I wanted to make sure that that contract that lease I was about to sign was, you know, beneficial to me, as well as the landlord. You know what I mean? So it was like a whole month of contract negotiations. So that was big, that like, that if there’s anything that I could say to take away before you sign anything, read it, read it thoroughly have an attorney read it and ask the dumb question, aske all the dumb questions. You know what I mean? Sometimes we’re afraid to ask the question. I ask all the dumb questions. I do. 


Great advice. Yeah, I think especially as women, we don’t want to sometimes ask those questions, because we don’t want to look like we don’t know. But sometimes I find like, there’s actually some bullshit that’s being thrown at us. And that’s why they don’t want they want us to feel like we don’t know. 

Yeah, down to and I’ve been talked down to like, this isn’t… I remember once I was gonna sign a contract for communications thing. And the guy’s like, yes, the guy is like, “this isn’t rocket science”. And I’m like, actually, this contract is baloney. Don’t make me feel Yeah. certain kind of way. You know. So I’m really glad you brought that up. Because I feel like, right? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Very important. Very tiny. Just said, read the contracts. Don’t think that you don’t know. Because probably you’re you’re correct. And being confused, then you’re correct in wanting to clarify, right? Yeah. Absolutely. 


Clarify, clarify, clarify. And if anyone has loved that, and if someone is being like, “Oh, this is this isn’t rocket science, and you need to just go ahead and sign”. I wouldn’t trust that person. Because you everyone knows you have as much time as you need to read that contract is very important. Because once you sign it, you’re legally bound to it. And you don’t get to say, “Oh, I didn’t understand this. I didn’t understand”. Well, why didn’t you ask? That’d be the first thing. Why did you ask? So ask? Yeah. You don’t know what you don’t know, sometimes. So ask. 


Super important. Yes. Advice and just like encouragement to, you know, cross your t’s dot your eyes. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. Tanya. You know I like again, I want to hear more. But I always wind up these conversations with asking our incredible Rockstar guests What is your one tip to rock it you’ve shared so many great ones with us already but if you leave us with one more tip, one final tip to rock it, what do you want to share with us? 


My final tip. So, okay, take care of yourself, whatever that means to you, right? That whole thing of, oh, you’re working so hard, you need to take care of yourself. My taking care of myself is working so hard is working hard to take care of other people. That is me taking care of myself. When I don’t do that, that’s when I start feeling down. So whatever taking care if it’s going to a spa for the day, go ahead and do that. If it’s writing a grant, go ahead and do that. Whatever that means. Take care of yourself so that you can be whole for other people, because there are folks out there that need you. 


I love that I never actually thought that maybe self care would involve care of others. And that would be nourishing of your own self. But that’s a beautiful thing. I love that. Yeah, I love that. Well, Tanya, thank you so much again for joining us. I cannot wait to continue to see all the things that develop with your business. And thank you for inspiring us with your journey of Creative Entrepreneurship and courageous entrepreneurship. 

OUTRO: Thanks so much for tuning in to the She Rocked It podcast. I’m your host Karen Gross. This episode has been produced by Tori Marchiony with audio engineering by Teng Chen. The She Rocked It theme song is by Karen Gross and Tim Motzer. Please join us over on Instagram and check out our website at to check out our Rockstar Network and check out all the cool things we have going on. Hope to see you soon!



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