Hey Guys, We Got Our Very Own Woman President
The country may not have elected its first woman president, but Delray has one great lady as the president of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber Of Commerce.
Karen Granger is the 4th president of the Chamber in 90 years.
She is the first woman president of the Chamber.
“It wasn’t easy. I had many tears. I was on my knees praying a lot. But I realized when you have a dream, surround yourself with good people. When everyone works as a community things work”.
I first bumped into Karen while I was interviewing Nancy of Garlic Fest. Nancy recommended her for an interview, pointing out that she is the first female president of the traditional Chamber Of Commerce organization. Being all for women in power, I didn't miss the chance to meet her. She welcomed me with the warmest smile and hug, and started asking all about me, POD, my vision, hopes, goals, career and business. Her interest and curiosity in other people was shining through her title, already explaining all I needed to know. We sat down and chatted, and the lines between me, as the interviewer, and her as the interviewee were blurred...then I found out that she used to be a reporter at WDTV and WMAR, with a TV Broadcast degree and a PR background, which made it all clear. Karen moved to Delray in 1987. She was born in Chicago and raised in Maryland. Her love for people, stories and broadcast were the driving theme in her life. She was a reporter at a competing station with Oprah Winfrey, who was a reporter at the time as well. “I wrote her a note asking if I could move to Chicago with her and she responded with a letter saying she was starting something new and didn’t have any jobs available yet.”
She dated a guy whose family lived in Delray Beach and asked her to go and check on their house. That’s when she fell in love with the town, and decided to stay. She left her boyfriend behind after making the decision to pursue her life and career instead of getting married.
She got a PR job with non-profits, a law firm and a catalog company. She was the first PR person to put their products on CNN, Oprah, and INC Magazine.
She met her husband at the age of 37, through the company she worked for at the time. “His sister was the owner of the company. I had to quit my job to get married as it was a conflict of interest”. She started her own PR company working with authors, speakers, books and people, placing them on TV shows and in magazines. She got involved with more local non-profits, and churches.
Karen got married around 9/11…the country was hurting, the economy went down, she didn’t have a job, her husband was laid off, and they lost a baby, after wanting and trying for a while. Her cousin was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and died quickly. “It was a rough few years, but I held on to faith to heal, and I started writing and sharing.” Her stories got published in gift books and Hallmark books. Time Magazine featured her in the centerfold of their “Happiness” issue, under the headline “Can faith make you happy?”
At the age of 43, Karen had what she calls a miracle – against all the odds, against doctors’ predictions, Karen and her husband had their first child, Luke, now 10 years old. He is named after Luke from the Bible, and they were inspired by the verse in Luke 1:37 “Nothing is impossible with God.” She’s been a member of Christ Fellowship Church for over 15 years.
She continued her work as a PR freelancer, working part time from home. The Delray Chamber of Commerce was looking for a communications manager. Due to her experience, she got offered the job as VP of PR for the chamber, 5 years ago, fall of 2011.
“At the time we worked out of an old office on Federal. The environment, the facility was run down. We didn’t enjoy coming to work”. Three years into her job with the Chamber, the CEO & President moved. They interviewed for a new CEO. Karen didn’t think to apply “there was so much work to do, I didn’t feel qualified. We had to raise money, rebrand, move, reorganize staff, get it out and growing. The Chamber was stuck, it was an outdated industry. There were growing pains with the town. It needed updating”. The Chamber received phenomenal applicants in Government affairs, staffing, marketing, but they couldn’t decide, so they assigned Karen as the interim CEO. In a 4-month period Karen raised $350,000 for the Chamber, built out a new facility, reorganized staff, “everyone loved coming to work. They asked me to keep the job!”
“I stretched out of my comfort zone. I had good people behind me, encouraging me and advising me. I was vulnerable and upfront about what I knew and what I didn’t know, so everyone came through to help”. She had a business coach through John Maxwell Leadership Experts.
Next goal for the chamber is to create a great environment for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, techpreneurs, and social media gurus. “We want to build Delray into a place not just for fun, but also as a place where you can build your dreams…we already earned the titles as a city for ‘the best beach town’, ‘happiest place’…now we need to put Delray on the map for businesses and entrepreneurs”.
Karen ended the interview by going back to talking about me and how she could help me. She gave me a list of women in power in town, entrepreneurs and people to connect with to grow People of Delray as a social media magazine site, and a new business rooted here. We talked about business. We talked about people.
Her last impression was as great as her first impression, leaving it with the note that the industry of Chamber was built on business cards…”We can do much better when we get beyond the business card, and the job title. When we get to know each other as people”.
Photo by: Studio B2 / Emiliano Brooks Photography