Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Viking Voices - Podcast: Alumni Success Stories - Jenn T. Grace

This edition of our Viking Voices conversations features an audio podcast interview with Jenn T. Grace.  Jenn is a 2004 Cum Laude graduate of Salem State where she studied Communications/Advertising. 

Today Jenn is a successful entrepreneur and author. She calls herself The Professional Lesbian. In her business she teaches straight people how to market to gay people and gay people how to market themselves.

Among her accolades include being named 2014 Enterprising Women by Lesbian.com; awarded the 2013 Regional Affiliate Champion Spirit Award by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; and also in 2013 Red Hot Entrepreneur by GO Magazine. 

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Synopsis:

Guy:
I greeted Jenn and then asked about her business.

Jenn:
My business tag line is that I teach straight people how to market to gay people and gay people how to market themselves. I go by the moniker the "Professional Lesbian." It started as a joke, going back to around 2006 when I used to say that I needed a name tag that said Professional Lesbian. It's something that people vary rarely don't make note of when they hear it. 

My day-to-day in my business is that I work with companies that are interested in marketing to the LGBT community. I also work with LGBT people themselves, whether individual professionals or business owners and help them market their businesses. This is both to the LGBT community also just kind of broad marketing. 

I do consulting, individuals coaching, and group coaching, I have written two books and I have a podcast and a blog. I share just about as much information as I can. My end goal is to make the world a more inclusive place for all LGBT people in business and professional life. 

Guy:
I asked Jenn about her podcast.

Jenn:
I started pod-casting back in early 2013. It started was an "aha" moment. I had two separate conversations in the same day between two very nondescript people; Just business people, your average persons. I started thinking, 'if somebody could just be a fly on the wall, because this person is so understated but so brilliant in what they do, it would be amazing for people to hear that conversation.'

My criteria is really just somebody who is either part of the LGBT community or someone who isn't but is active some way in the community. I have interviewed LGBT business owners and professionals. I have interviewed a lot of non-profit leaders of national LGBT organizations. 

The end goal is to give them a platform to share their experiences. Also to share tips and advice to those who are listening and to share better ways that businesses can be marketing to the LGBT community. 

Even though I am a recognized expert in the field of marketing to the LGBT community, there are still so many things that I don't know that my guests bring to the table. It is an incredible gift to learn, but also to be able to share. 

Guy:
I asked Jenn if she specialized in any particular vertical industry or business sector.

Jenn:
I don't Jenn said, but I do have particular patterns. I have as clients a lot of attorneys, a lot of accountants and financial advisers. Typically service-based businesses are ideal clients for me; Anyone who is looking to branch out in their marketing efforts or who say they want to be more inclusive of the LGBT markets.

Though we are in 2015 there are still a lot of places in our country that are still not open and accepting for LGBT people. A lot of times it is the straight business owner or somebody who is working in a corporate environment who says, "I want to make sure our company is really positioned to work with the LGBT community." This is important because A, there is a lot of money to be made by doing so, and B, it's the right thing to do. 

Guy:
I asked Jenn about the books she has authored. 

Jenn:
I have written two books. These sprung from my blog which I started in November of 2012. I started off with conversations such as with a nurse friend who is a straight person asking me for advice about how to relate to her LGBT patients. It hit me one day that if she has these questions, others do too. The advice is applicable across a broad spectrum of industries. 

After three years and over 400 blog posts I looked at what I had and repackaged the content based upon most popular topics. This resulted in two books, one focused on marketing and the other focused on communication. They represent a how-to guide to making sure you are communicating properly and marketing properly within the LGBT community. 

Guy:
I then asked Jenn about her time at Salem State University and what she remembers of her time on campus. 

Jenn:
I remember being very busy. I remember choosing Salem State so that I could be away from home, but not too far to my roots in Rhodes Island. Salem was just far enough away to give me a feeling of freedom, but close enough to get back home when I needed to. 

I chose Salem over the other handful of New England institutions I was looking at specifically because it is such an inclusive place in general. When I started attending Salem State I had just come out the year before. I wasn't really yet in the mindset of thinking of myself as an LGBT person, but Salem was just so appealing because of its history as a town. It seemed as though the puzzle pieces were fitting together. I felt I can just be me because everyone else here is also being themselves. Salem is just very naturally inclusive.   

I've heard from a handful of folks I used to attend with about of how proactive Salem State has been as of late in terms of LGBT inclusion. This is so important because LGBT youth, teens or college aged students, are the one who need the most support. Having such a supportive environment gives them valuable skills for the workplace.

Guy:
I asked Jenn about her recent experience in coming back to campus to speak to students.

Jenn:
In April I spoke to the communication program graduates for their senior portfolio night.  One of my core services is that of a speaker all over the country at conference and at companies. This time Dr. Brown and Dr. Oehlkers asked me back to speak to the students about what a successful communication based business looks like.

I spent some time after the event talking with students individually and making suggestions about their portfolios. It was fun to give back in this way. 

That was April and just at the end of October I got a LinkedIn message from one of the students saying that my speaking had a profound impact on her. 

It is so rewarding to be able to speak to 60 or so future alums and hear from them months later to know I had helped. It is a very easy way to give back and to continue to be involved in Salem State and what's going on.


Guy:
You can learn more about Jenn T. Grace, the Professional Lesbian by visiting her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @JennTGrace. She can also be found on Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Jenn's two books are:
Thanks for checking out this week's Viking Voices. I hope you'll listen to the full audio podcast

I am looking forward to our next conversation.You can join in the conversation by following this blog and checking out the many social media outlets available to our Salem State community. A short list of some of these venues are below.

Go Vikings!

Here are some of the places you may find me on social media: