Cheryl Grace is a past recipient of the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award. Her career spans 20 years as a brand strategist, managing high-stake projects and providing strategic counsel to Fortune 500 clients, C-suite executives, and elected officials, to name a few. From her years as a Black female corporate powerhouse and with all the experiences and lessons learned, she has established herself as an executive coach, speaker, workshop facilitator, mentor, and blogger. She is committed to coach women on how to be unapologetically fabulous at work, at home, and play.
Kim Durden (KD): How was it for you as a Black woman making your mark and securing great success in corporate America – a place that quite frankly does not openly welcome us in?
Cheryl Grace (CG): My grandmother taught me never to let anyone put me in a box just because they were not comfortable with all that I could be. So, I do not let anyone else define me. This is important because corporate America is quick to proclaim, they want you to be your authentic self. What they really want/need is conformity. Those who DO manage to be their authentic selves stand out. I think of myself as having the tenacity of those weeds that keep popping up in my flower bed no matter how often I think I have pulled them out at the root. They pop right back up! They refuse to be contained. I am that weed. I refuse to be contained. That mindset is how I survived as a Black woman in a world that otherwise does not openly welcome us. You must recognize that other people’s uncomfortableness with you is very often their problem, not yours.
KD: How have your experiences sharpened you as a Black female, and business owner?
CG: It took me a while to realize that every “bad” thing that happened to me was not bad! Those times where I struggled most caused the most growth.
KD: In 2017, you started Powerful Penny LLC. Why is this work so important to you?
CG: When I was starting in my career right out of college, no one would help me. I vowed that if I ever became successful, I would make it my business to mentor others from 20 years old to 50 years old and beyond. I believe everyone can use advice from someone they trust at every stage of their lives. I have had enough life experiences by now to be really good at helping people get to their next level of fabulosity! And I do this and more through Powerful Penny.
KD: What is the number one challenge that prevents women from manifesting their biggest, most audacious goals?
CG: The #1 blocker I have witnessed for women regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or job title is the lack of confidence. I always start my executive coaching with mindset exercises. It is a cliché, I know, but if you believe you can, you will. I try to dismantle belief systems that may be holding you back.
KD: What advice do you have for women who are overwhelmed, overloaded, and just over it already?
CG: #1. Know that superwoman is a fictional character created by a white man in the 60s. She does not exist. We need to stop trying to emulate ourselves after her—#2. Trying to do everything at 100% means nothing gets accomplished at 100%—#3. Self-care is not an option. It is necessary. I always find time for myself because it makes me a better person overall. Start scheduling an hour on your calendar every Wednesday to take a walk or a nap.
KD: Do you have any other projects, events coming up that you would like to share with our readers?
CG: I’m excited that we are in Season 2 of my mentoring web series “Live from the Pink Couch,” which airs live every 2nd and 4th Sunday on Facebook and lives on my LiveFromThePinkCouch YouTube channel. Five #NextLevelTribe of professionals at varying stages in their careers have agreed to be coached in front of a live audience. The coaching and homework assignments are applicable for viewers faced with similar career challenges, so it is worth watching if you are not quite ready for a private coach.
I have launched my executive coaching and consulting business full-time.
To learn more about Cheryl Grace, her offerings, and products, please visit her website, iamcherylgrace.com. You may follow her on Facebook, @powerfulpenny; Instagram, @iamcherylgrace, and LinkedIn, @cherylgrace. She can also be reached at email@example.com or 312-848-1909.
Contributor Kim Durden is a food writer and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours and DivinE320, an online marketplace featuring themed and custom gift boxes. She also has a lifestyle blog called Simply Divine.