empowered woman

The Journey to SHE ROCKED IT with Karen Gross

On this special episode, SHE ROCKED IT founder and host Karen Gross shares the behind-the-scenes story of this new platform dedicated to raising the volume on women’s voices. A professional writer and singer for two decades, Karen Gross has a unique understanding of the power and impact of the voice. As a singer, she has performed everywhere from prestigious theaters, to HGTV, to intimate jazz and cabaret clubs. As a speechwriter and journalist, she has had the opportunity to write about, write for, and get to know some of the nation’s most distinguished and pioneering female leaders. Karen speaks to consulting producer Tori Marchiony about how the SHE ROCKED IT podcast and virtual community came to life during lockdown, and why it’s essential to elevate women’s voices going forward.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [1:56] Why the SHE ROCKED IT vision took shape during lockdown, and why Karen thinks women’s voices are essential to a healing, thriving world
  • [4:58] How Karen’s experience as a solopreneur writer, singer, and communications business owner informed her new direction
  • [8:53] The lightbulb moment of marrying the dual trajectories of writing and singing under the banner of “Communication that Sings”
  • [12:26] Why living an aligned, creatively fulfilling life doesn’t preclude financial abundance
  • [15:48] How it’s key to take leaps of faith and follow your intuition as an entrepreneur
  • [19:55] A behind-the-scenes “backstage pass” into the SHE ROCKED IT universe, including the podcast and Rockstar Network
  • [23:19] Karen’s one tip to ROCK IT (or really, two tips)

Links from the episode:

SHE ROCKED IT is a podcast and virtual community dedicated to raising the volume on women’s voices. We believe that when women listen to, learn from, and lift one another up, we can ALL soar to greater heights.

Episode Transcript:

TORI MARCHIONY:
Hello and welcome to the SHE ROCKED IT podcast. I’m Tori Marchiony, consulting producer, and today we are turning the tables on our wonderful host and founder, Karen Gross. A little bit about Karen- she started out as a journalist and did that for many years until, in 2013, she launched her own communications business. At the same time, she was also rocking it as an accomplished singer, making a name for herself in the cabaret world. So she brings it all together under this wonderful tagline of, “communication that sings”. And today she’s helping other women raise their unique voices through SHE ROCKED IT. You’ll hear a little bit more about Karen’s journey and the SHE ROCKED IT vision, stay tuned.

So tell me, first of all, just what is the, the outline of your vision for SHE ROCKED IT? So, you say elevating the voices of women? What’s, what’s the seed of the idea that you’re, you’re bringing forth into the world? Tell me a little more about it.

KAREN GROSS:
(01:56) Sure. Um, yeah, we love to say we’re “raising the volume on women’s voices” because I believe, you know, with my whole heart that women’s voices are essential to a thriving world. And it’s very personal to me because, um, throughout my career, I’ve used my own voice, as both a writer and as a singer. So the voice is something that, um, I hold very close and I think that our voices are really the ticket to change and positive change in so many ways. And this idea really started to take shape, um, during the lockdown. And I feel like now that we are gradually emerging here in the U.S. um, from, uh, from lockdown to some degree, that women have an important role to play and that our voices are really needed right now, as we kind of re-imagine, I think what the world can look like, what our society can look like, the ways that women are working, the ways that women, um, live their lives. And I felt like this was the moment when SHE ROCKED IT had to happen. And, uh, as I mentioned, I’m a writer and a singer. So obviously the rock and roll energy yeah, infused.

TORI MARCHIONY:
And, this is not just for musicians though, right? Like there’s the rockstar energy, but if I’m not getting on a stage and performing songs, I’m still invited, right?

KAREN GROSS:
(03:20) That’s a great question. And, you know, I gave that a lot of thought because originally I thought, “okay, maybe, um, this would just be about musicians and women who raised their voices as singers or as instrumentalists”. But what I realized, you know, obviously it’s a big lightning bolt moment, is that we’re all rockstars in our own way. And unfortunately, I think that women sometimes forget about their inner rockstar and how fabulous they are— whether they’re a physician, whether they’re a mom, whether they’re working at a school, an educator. I mean, we all have something about us that is absolutely a shining rockstar. And I don’t know that we always give ourselves credit for all those things. So this is a way to celebrate that and to invite women to celebrate their rockstar selves. And I always like saying this too, I love being like, “you rocked it!” You know, “you rock this and that!” You know, I love saying that (04:11). And so, you know, I wanted us all to feel like we rock it. And I think a good way to do that is to listen to one another’s stories and to hear the ways that women are rocking it in different professions and in their lives. Especially amidst challenging circumstances this past year. You know, we, um, we’ve talked to women in various professions and, you know, uh, various parts of the country and, and heard from them already about, um, their resilience and their courage and maybe their pivots. So I think it’s a really a great way to listen to women, to learn from women, to lift one another up, and to celebrate our rockstar selves.

TORI MARCHIONY:
So I’m wondering what experiences led you to feeling like this was the right next step and also what gave you the courage to make this leap?

KAREN GROSS:
(04:58) I am very grateful because, for almost eight years, I have been a solopreneur. I’ve had my own business, uh, in communications and I’ve been a copywriter, a speechwriter, communication strategist for really uh, prestigious organizations, universities, philanthropies. And it’s been a tremendous honor. And in fact, I’ve had the opportunity to write a, for some incredible women as their writer, speechwriter. And, uh, prior to launching my own business, I had the chance to be a journalist and I interviewed some really outstanding women. What I wanted, SHE ROCKED IT to do was to open the doors of these conversations that I’ve been able to have with women leaders and executives so other women can hear what makes them tick and get some of the secrets that I get to hear as a speechwriter, previously as a journalist, and share those more broadly. So other women can be inspired as I’ve been. (05:49) So I guess you might say that all this was leading up to the vision. And I think along the way, I had kind of a seed of an idea of having a wom- of a women-focused interview show. Because like I said, I’m a journalist, I love learning about people and their stories. And throughout my career, like I said, I’ve had a chance to interview women and kind of elevate their stories through media outlets. Um, but also throughout my life, I I’ve had a passion for convening women. And going back to my days at Wesleyan University, where I went to college, I was the house manager of Womanist House. And, uh, I’ve always just felt strongly about the power of women coming together and supporting one another and even just being in the same room and listening to one another. So, you know, fast forward to, as I was saying, being kind of isolated, uh, in 2020, I really felt the need to create a virtual community of women and a space where women could still connect and listen to one another and support one another and maybe envision a different path for themselves in their careers than they had been on prior to lockdown. (06:55) And I decided, uh, somewhere in that time period to join a mastermind program, um, for entrepreneurs. Now it’s focused primarily on women entrepreneurs, but it was mostly women even at that time, that Melyssa Griffin, uh, presents. And in that mastermind program, I developed this idea of SHE ROCKED IT. And at first, I didn’t really even have a name for it. I just had kind of a vision and it gradually, gradually took shape with the support of the other entrepreneurs in that program, the coaches, and me thinking about it and SHE ROCKED IT was born. And as I mentioned, it does take courage though, to go from being kind of a lone wolf entrepreneur, writer, uh, and a singer. And I should add, I haven’t really mentioned as a singer, as a cabaret singer, I performed at a lot of venues in New York City and Philadelphia for many years, uh, was a professional singer. (07:50) And performing has been a huge focus in my life and singing and, um, you know, feeling that amazing magic between an audience and a performer on stage is a huge passion of mine. So I call my, my business tagline is “communication that sings” because I do believe that my singing life and my writing life go hand-in-hand. So all that to say SHE ROCKED IT feels like the next chapter of my life in a really important way, because I feel like there’s only so much that I can do with one pen or one voice as a singer and as a writer.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(08:20) I  would love to hear a little bit more about your path as a singer and as a writer, because there are a lot of people who would say that those are really incongruous, that being a speechwriter for high powered executive types and, and being, uh, a cabaret singer in, in the evenings in New York, that, some people would tell you not to do that. But then when you hear, uh, “communication that sings”, it’s like, “oh my God, that makes perfect sense!” So did it always make perfect sense to you or just how did all of that, uh, evolve?

KAREN GROSS:
Um, no, it did not always, they, they did seem incongruous to me for many years. I must admit, and I almost was keeping them intentionally separate for a really long time, too. Like, I didn’t necessarily want my writing clients to know that I was a cabaret singer by night, or likewise didn’t necessarily want my cabaret, you know, audience or my email list to know that I had a writing life and a business. So it wasn’t until— I think a moment when things started to crystallize for me was when at the, uh, speechwriting world conference that I traditionally go to at Georgetown University every year as a member of the speechwriting community. I was approached by, um, a wonderful guy who I was literally just casually talking with. And he and I, it came up that I’m a singer and he looked at me and he said, “really?” he’s like, “you should do a presentation here about being a singer and a speechwriter”. (09:51) And I literally kind of looked shocked, like it had never occurred to me to really think about how my singing life was influencing my speechwriting life and my copywriting life. And all of a sudden I realized that it’s all communication— whether you’re singing, whether you’re writing, whether you’re helping someone else communicate— it’s about getting a message across and connecting with an audience, really. So after doing that presentation at the speechwriting conference, and I was thrilled, it had a really warm and wonderful reception, it was a lightning bolt moment for me, or a light bulb moment for me, maybe both. And I ended up actually working with a woman who helped me with some kind of branding around my business, where I further hashed out that idea of these are not two silos that need to be isolated. In fact, that makes me who I am, that I’ve had (10:39) these trajectories, these kind of dual trajectories, that I’ve been very serious about both professionally and really tried to make inroads in both, um, the, the, the cabaret world and music world and the writing world. And I’ve been fortunate to do a lot in both worlds and realizing that that makes me a more effective, um, person to work with. Because when I’m working with a speech writing client, I’m not just thinking about the words, I’m thinking about how that person is going to connect with an audience. What is the kind of energy in the room? What is the, the musicality of the words as they’re going to be spoken? So, um, that’s why I say I’m passionate about communication that sings because truly our messages, our words need to resonate the way, uh, the, a song does the way music does. And it’s, like I said, it’s all about communication and really it’s all about the voice. So that translates over to SHE ROCKED IT and celebrating the voices of women, whether they use them as a musician, whether they use them as a physician, whether they use them as an educator, as an artist, as a photographer, I think we all have something to learn from women who have, um, you know, courageously raised their voices in their respective industries.

TORI MARCHIONY:
Definitely. And I, I see you as such an example of that. Like, if we talk about sort of blazing an unconventional trail and finding a way to bring your whole self to every part of your life like that, to me is the dream. It’s not about a salary, necessarily. The like certain caps would be nice…you know what I mean? It’s about, can I, can I show up wherever I, in whatever situation I am and feel aligned that feeling?

KAREN GROSS:
(12:26) Yeah. I agree with that. And I also don’t feel like they have to be mutually exclusive in terms of abundance, because I think that women should be, uh, rewarded and honored financially for what they bring to the table and for showing up as their whole selves. And I will tell you that after I left my last full-time job and started my business, my income doubled in that first year. And that’s part of the goal of SHE ROCKED IT is encouraging women to step into their truth, to step into their true voice. Not to say it’s been easy for me, not to say it came naturally for me. As I mentioned, it’s something that I really had to figure out and work on. And that’s something that I would love through SHE ROCKED IT to help guide other women by, uh, hearing one another’s stories, by me sharing my story by some of the programs we’re going to be creating that, as you said, um, women can feel more aligned, more whole, that they can bring their whole selves to the table and whatever they’re doing and also be successful.

TORI MARCHIONY:
It’s so interesting. I wouldn’t like, I totally just sold myself short on the money thing, and I didn’t even think about it, but like it’s so ingrained, I guess, somewhere in this belief system that they, that feeling aligned and making a good living have to be separate, that they don’t belong together. That it’s impossible. And I mean, as you demonstrate, it’s not impossible.

KAREN GROSS:
(13:41) Well, you know, d- don’t get mad at yourself, because I actually think that society tells us that, that, and especially as women, that we need to suffer. We need to just, you know, show up at a job we don’t like. I hope for everyone, women, and men, that they can follow their passion and they can live in more alignment. Especially this past year we learned like,  life is really precious. Life is short and things can change very quickly. So, um, I hope everyone learned something from these interviews about following your true aligned calling and making a good living and, um, feeling like, like I said, like that, that both can co-exist well. So again, don’t, don’t beat yourself up on that. I think that it’s something we’re all figuring out. And I also can’t say that the creative and artist path has always been an easy one for me, either. It wasn’t like every year, you know, hitting it out of the park. There’s definitely been a roller coaster of, being an entrepreneur is like that. So I also think that part of having a community around you is like having people around you to help you ride the waves of following your calling and being an entrepreneur, being a creative, following your heart. There’s always going to be rocky times. So when you have people around you that you can bounce ideas off of, I think it just makes those times a little easier to get through.

TORI MARCHIONY:
It’s definitely good to have people cheering you on, not just constantly telling you to quit and that you should have never left that corporate job.

KAREN GROSS:
I, totally, you know, you’re doing it! Um, I have to just turn the turn- the, uh, this is what I do as a host, I guess I can’t help, but turn the spotlight on you. You’re a powerhouse producer. I’m so grateful to get to work with you here at, SHE ROCKED IT. You’re independent. You’re carving your path as an independent creative.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(15:16) Thank you. And I’m so excited for everything that is to come. Um, and I’m, I’m also excited to just pick your brain a little bit more about kind of the, the nitty-gritty of launching your business. Cause I truly, it sounds terrifying. And, um, can you tell me about how you started your business and what those first couple of years were like, kind of finding your feet and like, did you launch with a whole plan or did you kind of feel it out? Like, did you know you were going to be able to take care of yourself?

KAREN GROSS:
So, yeah, in 2013, um, I launched my communications business and it was definitely a leap of faith. And I tell people who I, who asked me this question, “how did you do it?” Number one, yes. You’re going to have fear. Number two. It is a leap of faith. And I, and I’m not a religious person, but I do think there is a spiritual aspect to following your calling and to listening to your intuition, and to just trusting that the net will appear. I just had faith that this would work out. And I know I have obviously the privilege that I was able to do that, not everyone is in that situation. I don’t have children. Um, I don’t have, I didn’t have a mortgage. I had, uh, I did have a partner at the time, um, who was very supportive of me. So I, there were definitely circumstances in place, full disclosure that made it a safer thing for me to do. (16:39) But I would say that it was still very scary and that, um, I had one big client at the time who I knew was going to be that first client who could really kind of help the boat rise, but it took, you know, a year or two to get that stable of clients and especially one big anchor client, um, who I came to, you know, really rely on and really kind of became part of their family in a certain way. So that’s been a real blessing, but I have to say starting, SHE ROCKED IT, it’s almost like learning how to do it all over again, starting this aspect of my business. Because this is a whole different animal to have a wonderful team for the first time, I’ve hired an amazing team to help me realize this vision. So grateful to have such amazing colleagues now. Um, but learning to do something like this is again, starting over the process of, the leap of faith process. And every day I have to remind myself that, “yes, you can do this”. And I’m so affirmed by the amazing people I’m working with them. So affirmed by the feedback we’ve gotten the energy we’re getting on Instagram. People thanking us for what we’re doing, Tori, that it’s already causing ripples in their lives. So that helps me to get over the terror.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(17:52) I’m curious with clients, if, if as a solopreneur, you were immediately able to be doing aligned work, or if, as we talked about there was that sacrifice mindset of, “oh, well, I’m getting started. So I have to do X, Y or Z” or, “oh, later, I’ll be able to…” how did you manage that, that transition and being in so much uncertainty? Yeah.

KAREN GROSS:
(18:19) Yeah. I mean, I think when you start out as an entrepreneur, there’s always that temptation to just take whatever you can get. And I always felt when I was about to do something that was more like for financial reasons or it felt a little bit off, it always backfired, unquestionably, something would go wrong. So what I always try to do now is really listen to my instincts. Again, this is what I’m saying about, it’s kind of a spiritual thing to some degree, there’s a very instinctive thing. And I think as women, we have really good instincts. And when I would listen to, say, “something feels off, this doesn’t quite feel right,” or the vibe isn’t, you know— I’ve learned too many times now that when I don’t listen, it just doesn’t work out and trying to force something also doesn’t work out. If there’s flow, it’s going to flow. (19:06) You have to have chemistry with your clients to write for them to help them communicate. So if the chemistry is not there, um, it’s not going to work. But I also think that applies to pretty much any industry, what we do. If you can ideally have a boss that you gel with, if you want to have, you know, any kind of relationship, a mentor, a friend, a partner, you know, you, you want to have a flowing chemistry where you’re not feeling like you can’t be yourself, or, you know, you have to measure your words. Um, in an ideal world, I hope everyone will find that.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(19:40) Karen, SHE ROCKED IT seems to be like this multi-pronged universe that I can, like, swim around in and there’s tons of different content. And so give me, give me a little bit of a roadmap of, of what we’ve got going on here.

KAREN GROSS:
(19:55) Well, I’m actually really glad that you put it that way because that’s exactly what I’m hoping is that women sort of come over to the SHE ROCKED IT universe and swim around in the various channels that we have going on. And we currently are most active on Instagram. Uh, we’ve had some great momentum and energy on our weekly Instagram Lives, our Lightning Round interviews with some incredible women in various industries. And we’ve just had just terrific of comments and people who are following our stories. So we are really excited about our Instagram and please feel free to follow us @ SHE ROCKED IT over there on IG, if you’re not already. And very soon Tori, we are going to be rolling out this podcast. And again, if you’re hearing us welcome! As well as our YouTube channel. So people who love podcasts, um, if they’d rather hear some of these interviews there, they can do so, or I personally like to watch interviews. (20:43) So if you’re following us on YouTube, hello, and I’m happy you’re taking a look here. So that’s how people can experience sort of the show, the, uh, SHE ROCKED IT interview show with, you know, these exceptional women and hear about their paths. The next sort of step in our journey is going to be doing some great programs and courses so that women can translate their passions into a business that rocks, into a life that rocks, and really come together in some exciting ways. So please stay tuned and, uh, sign up for our email list. If you go to, SHEROCKEDIT.com, you’ll be the first to know about some of these really exciting programs, retreats. Let’s just say, they’re going to be really fun. And we really would love to have you there and they’re going to be uplifting and really, I think, um, enriching opportunities for all women to be part of.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(21:33) Yes! And you’re calling this community the ROCKSTAR NETWORK. And I love that because it just really captures, I feel like the energy of what you’re the community that you’re trying to create.

KAREN GROSS:
(21:45) Thank you so much that again, name came to me like a lightning bolt because I just keep thinking over and over again. Um, I keep thinking about this idea of this powerful network of women and how women they’re constantly recommending things to one another. They’re connecting each other with professional opportunities, with people, with romantic partners, possibly— women just are good at creating a network. And I feel like that is something that we are really trying to tap into and create a ROCKSTAR NETWORK of women who are eager to listen to one another, learn from one another, lift one another up, share their wisdom, um, come together hopefully soon in the real world, as well as the virtual world. And as I said before, we are all rockstars. So it’s a chance for all of us to remember that and to celebrate that. While we have some programs in mind that we think are going to, uh, be really exciting to start, we still want to be hearing from the community as we build out what SHE ROCKED IT is going to be offering via our platforms. And so I couldn’t be more excited because I do think that one thing we learned this past year is that we can all stay connected virtually in ways that are meaningful. So I’m excited to tap into that power as women build this network, find each other, elevate our voices together. Um, I’m ready to, to really, um, build this in a broad way.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(23:05) So you have dropped a ton of beautiful wisdom on me throughout this interview, but I’m wondering to turn the tables on you. Um, with the trademark question, what is your ONE TIP TO ROCK IT?

KAREN GROSS:
(23:19) This is hard, um, to—now I feel— I’m sorry to everyone who I asked so far because to boil, you know, your learning, your experience, um, into one tip, I think is a great challenge. But I would just say for me that it’s been really important to honor my creativity. And I would say for all women that we are creative at heart in so many important ways and creativity can mean something different for all of us. It doesn’t have to mean that you’re an artist, doesn’t have to mean that you’re a singer. It could even mean just creating space in your life for something that gives you pleasure for being outside in nature. The thing that gives you joy, the things that gives you catharsis and release, and be sure to honor that in your life. Because I do think that when we, as women honor our creative selves, honor our creativity that so much good can come from that. That when we’re listening to that creative voice and that inner voice, I think then we’re really tapped into the source of who we are.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(24:26) Definitely. And, and, Sorry, I have another question.

KAREN GROSS:
That’s fine! I mean, like, I might have another tip in me somewhere, but I don’t know-

TORI MARCHIONY:
(24:29) Well, let me know. I’ll take them all to take them all.

KAREN GROSS:
You go first.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(24:37) It, it just sounds so vulnerable to me. You’re talking about being in your creativity. Like it feels so scary and vulnerable, and I’m wondering if you have any tips related to that, especially because you mentioned it wasn’t always easy to have your, your creativity and your business or your performance and, and your business and the different creative avenues, all sort of meshing together. So does that feeling of like, “oh God, I’m really exposed,” go away?

KAREN GROSS:
That’s a terrific question and observation, and I’m really glad you asked it because I guess I do have a sort of a second tip or an addendum to my tip, which is, I think that vulnerability is right where we need to be. That could mean crying. That could mean telling a really hard truth, that could mean telling, um, something that feels really scary. But I think that when we really make big changes or we really, um, want to cause ripples out in the world, it’s when we’re getting at the vulnerability when we’re getting at our deepest truths. That’s something on stage that I’ve always tried to do when I’m singing. I’m not just, like, kind of doing a standard the way everyone’s done it. I’m really tapping into what this song means to me in my life. So people can hear the lyrics in a whole new way. (25:54) That’s what, why I love cabaret to be honest because I feel like it gives each artist the opportunity to interpret a song that people may have heard before, but share it from their heart, from their vulnerability. And I think that translates to our lives. I think that if we’re really able to be vulnerable and truthful— number one, we’re going to be honoring ourselves. And number two, we’re going to be connecting more deeply with others because we can see through the bullsh*t. We can see when someone’s being real. And my goal, as scary as it is, is to be real. And it’s hard. And I find like every year as I get a little older, it’s easier for me to just let my own hair down, be my truest self in my life, with my clients and my partnership, with my family, just to actually honor my truest, most vulnerable feelings. I’m getting there. (26:42) And it’s a journey I hope we all can be on together. Cause I think we’re all figuring out how to just take away a lot of the, the facades that society puts on us and just honor who we really are. So I do think that just like everyone else, I might seem like I’m on stage and that, you know, I’m sharing my heart and “wow, how does she do that?” But guess what? I have the same fears that everyone else does. I get nervous every time I’m on stage. I get nervous every time I have to write a speech. I get nervous doing this interview, even though I’ve been on stage pretty much my whole life, you know. So know that you’ll be nervous. You’ll be fearful. You’re going to have to take leaps of faith every time you do something bold and share your vulnerability. But most of the time it pays off and it’s worth it. That’s what I’ve learned.

TORI MARCHIONY:
(27:24) I’m there for it.

KAREN GROSS:
Thank you.

TORI MARCHIONY:
Thank you! Thank you for sharing your truth, for raising your voice, and for giving us a little insight into how you got to be here and launch this beautiful vision that we’re all co-creating with you.

KAREN GROSS:
(27:43) Thank you. Couldn’t end with better words than that.

Thanks so much for tuning into the SHE ROCKED IT Podcast. I’m your host, Karen Gross. This episode has been produced by Tori Marchiony and Jake Segelbaum with audio engineering by Teng Chen. The SHE ROCKED IT theme song is by Karen Gross and Tim Motzer. I invite you to join us on Instagram @sherockedit and join our ROCKSTAR NETWORK at SHEROCKEDIT.com. We hope you’ll add your voice to the conversation because at SHE ROCKED IT, we are dedicated to raising the volume on women’s voices.

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