August 2020: A Note from Hope & Cynthia — It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Kathy Korman Frey, who currently teaches Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) at the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB), a winner of a USASBE Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Award.
Who she is: Perhaps Kathy’s bigger claim to fame is as the founder of the edtech social venture The Hot Mommas Project, the world’s largest women’s case study library providing access to diverse, teachable, scalable role models and mentors from around the world. The venture’s Women’s Leadership Academies and group coaching workshops have directly reached women from 138 countries, increasing self-efficacy of participants 21 percent in a half-hour workshop and up to 300 percent in a 10-module session. It is the winner of a Coleman Foundation Case Award and is included in the mission of the GWSB Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Hot Mommas Project have been featured in the media including the Washington Post Magazine, NPR, Working Mother, Forbes, BBC and TIME.
How she got here: Kathy earned her B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and her MBA from Harvard Business School. She has served as an analyst and in management for the competitive analysis/merger and acquisition firm MMI (later acquired by Citigate) advising major multinational corporations on strategic business and acquisition decisions. She went on to serve as the chief operating officer of the National Council on the Aging Development Corporation. She was part of the senior management team raising $8 million in strategic venture and SBIR funding and managing ventures for the aging and health markets (including BenefitsCheckUp.org, a benefits-matching service providing a 200-to-1 ROI). Kathy later founded Vision Forward, a strategic and operational planning consulting firm working with senior executive teams. An early innovator in the flex-work place, the firm’s consultants were highly skilled part-time consultants (the original “Hot Mommas” case studies). Clients include AARP, Discovery Communications, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Federal Drug Administration.
And there’s more: Kathy is a former two-term board member of the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Area, and has served on the boards of Mixology and United Women in Business. She is a Washington Business Journal Women Who Means Business awardee, winner of the DC National Association of Women Business Owner’s Woman of Distinction award, a Virginia Women of Influence Awardee, and the recipient of a Most Influential Faculty Award at GW from the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is also is the creator of the NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation curriculum taught to 40,000 junior high and high schoolers each year and served as special advisor to the U.S. Small Business Administration on its free women’s entrepreneurship learning platform.
Kathy lives in the Washington DC area with her entrepreneur husband, two crazy teenagers, and her dogs Chicken and Kirby.
Scroll down to learn more about Kathy’s thoughts on What’s Next for Women’s Leadership.
Hope & Cynthia: Tell us about your business / industry and where it was before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Business / industry: Women’s leadership education is our industry. Status: Booming, especially internationally (About 75 percent of what we do focuses on women and girls internationally). The academic year is a big time for us. We’re an academic-business hybrid. Our women’s leadership content is taught at the university level, and we adapt it for groups. We are also all kind of weird here at the Hot Mommas Project, so, it makes it what could seem kind of stuffy and boring, fun and approachable. This sense of humor – which always made meetings and classes fun – has pretty much saved our sanity during COVID.
Anywhoo, at the time COVID hit, we had workshops lined up domestically, and plans to take a seminar to Trinidad that we had done in Kuwait, Tanzania, and Taiwan. We were getting our passports ready! But, alas, the Trinidad project evolved into something entirely different, and better, that I hint at in “future” section. In person or virtual, every day was and is an honor to work with amazing leaders from around the world. It’s just taken a different shape now.
Hope & Cynthia: Where were you personally in your life when COVID-19 arrived in the US? What were your short and long-term goals at that time?
Kathy: My kids were nearing the end of the school year. We were thinking about summer activities and trips, including some college visits. We were considering heading back to volunteer with a freaking amazing school in Africa we had visited last summer. Then one day, school shut down. Then another day, I got an email from GW saying someone there had been exposed to COVID. We all have these stories. It was a crazy time. It’s still crazy…we’ve just gotten used to it.
Always goals: My short and long-term goals personal goals were too keep my family and myself emotionally and physically stable, healthy and happy. That is the core and foundation for me, personally. If the foundation is good, I can build and grow. It’s an extreme sport. My top source of pride, frankly, is how hard my kids and husband and I have worked over the years on this.
Por moi: Hope was my new goal. As anybody with chronic pain will tell you, hope can be a dangerous thing. But, for the first time in a long time it was nice to have hope. I’ve had chronic migraines for about a decade. I was (and still am) optimistic about a new medicine I had been on for a few months. I was my own, one-person clinical trial and it seemed to be going well. The world was opening up to me a little more, piece by piece, when COVID hit.
Professionally, we had just hit 300% in self-efficacy increases from a new class we ran in March… yes. In-person. Just under the wire. Background = self-efficacy is the type of self-confidence related to setting and accomplishing goals. It can differ between the genders as early as age 11. All of our seminars/workshops and speaking/coaching tie back to this. Our participant goal is this reaction: “I feel amazing. Why is that?” Because they have invested, done the hard work, and increased their own “success gene” aka self-efficacy. So, we were excited to have increased our results to 300% with a new seminar. We were ready to unleash that to the world. Now, we’ve taken it online. So far, so good. This is our alert list for people who want to be notified of the next class release.
Hope & Cynthia: What are your thoughts now about your industry, your business, your personal life, your heart?
Industry and business: In March through, I’d say, July the marketplace pause button was firmly in place like a corporate “doe in headlights.” Except for Madison Reed, the DIY hair color company. Now that folks accept this as a “new normal,” virtual life has sped up. Virtual presentations, online classes, etc. It’s happening. So, bottom line, people are out of denial and facing, adapting, and doing a pretty d*&m good job of it. It’s a true leadership opportunity.
Our level of nerding out online recently – possibly developing some mild carpal tunnel syndrome – has been astounding. We start every meeting with a funny video or picture. Not sure how this began but it has kept us laughing during COVID. This is my favorite so far (on TikTok) from our Leadership Fellow Sydney. This summer we brought on five additional Fellows. This could definitely seems like extreme idiocy, like “Let’s take the existing stress of COVID and pile a whole bunch of other stuff on there.” The real rationale behind this takes me way back to 2009 when we held a panel at the George Washington University School of Business called “The To Don’t List.” I shared my 5 most dangerous words for women: “I’ll just do it myself.” Most students and groups we’ve worked with since that time know this deadly phrase. The takeaway is: Don’t go it alone!
Personal life and heart: As one of our case authors Cynthia Short has said, “You’ve got one life” – meaning, it’s all work and personal piled together. It’s not rocket science to say that resilience-on-steroids is required for this time. School comes to a screeching halt, then goes on-line, then the kids online school didn’t work, then it worked, then we are thinking through the chaos and “new rules” of making sure the family was safe, and then we’re also pivoting our existing businesses. It’s a lot. A ton of my good friends are therapists, which has come in really handy. But the bottom line is I have doubled-down on preservation of stability at home to deal. I’d send out these little texts each day to the family and call it “Camp Frey” with the activities and meal schedule for the day. It’s about (the illusion of?) stability…sameness…structure. We have had some hilarious game nights, great meals, and time together – the likes of which we’ll never experience again. On a global level, watching people step up, come together – yes, with some big growing pains in between – makes me optimistic.
However just when we thought COVID was the worst thing that could happen, George Floyd entered. This is not a new topic. But the silence of quarantine seemed to provide the unique and much-needed environment for listening, learning, and action. I studied. I continued conversations with mentors and reached out to new mentors. I learned what I could do better. I decided on specific actions I could take. I want to contribute my drop to the tidal wave.
Hope & Cynthia: Now the big question — What do you see coming next?
- For your industry: Access — Girls around the world without access to education have even less access.
- For your company: We’re providing our content in unique ways to partners around the world to support these girls.
- For yourself: A massage
- For the country: Healing
- For the world: Peace
- For women: Leading the country and world in that future.
We look forward to conducting our Zoom video and podcasts interviews soon with this Truly Amazing Woman! Stay tuned for more.