Welcoming Life with Open Arms

**Interview is edited for context, clarity and length

Kori Brady is not only one of the most positive and fun-loving people I know, she’s also an inspiration, always welcoming the next chapter of life with open arms. Changes in life and your career can come with feelings of loss or anxiety for what’s next, but you can be in control of your next steps. Kori’s story teaches us how to know when it’s time to close a chapter and how to enjoy the journey while encouraging other women to follow us in success.

Jess Foutty: Tell Me About Yourself.

Kori Brady: “I’ve done a lot of different things. I started when I was 20, working two 40 hour a week jobs. My boss at Revco noticed my accounting abilities and he got me a job at the corporate headquarters in accounts payable. It afforded me the opportunity to go to school at night with tuition reimbursement through work. When they filed chapter 11, I went into another company called Action Auto Rental and worked in accounting for them for years. I really moved through the accounting thing until I became pregnant with my son. I wasn’t able to finish my degree. At the time a degree was important, but not as much as training. I wound up working for a company in Medina and started getting into purchasing. After that, I moved to Kent, Ohio and got a job as an assistant at a chamber of commerce. I had been doing accounting for quite a while, but within about a month of working for the Chamber of Commerce in Kent, the executive director left. They wanted me to take it over, but I really wasn’t ready at that point. So they brought in another person and I worked very closely with him. That job springboarded what I did after that. 

I worked for years in marketing, then the opportunity came up to be the Director in the Streetsboro Chamber of Commerce. I was involved in a lot of things at that time, not only for work, but in local politics and the community. I was a junior mom, Lions club member, board member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, a ten year veteran board member for United Services 10 years, being president for two years. I was involved in so many things and people really knew me and knew my reputation for working hard. That job was my dream job and in it I took the chamber from 50 members to the largest chamber in the area with over 350 members.

After that, I worked with my husband in our construction company for a bit, then hotel sales, then in sourcing until I moved down to South Carolina. I didn’t want to live in Charleston or Savannah. Instead, I chose a smaller town. We don’t have a corporate structure like we had in Ohio. Here it’s real estate, food and beverage, cleaning and tourism. I wanted to be my own boss and the easiest and lowest overhead thing to start is a cleaning business. I came here without knowing a soul and I really just grew the business which I’m very proud of.”

Jess: Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way?

Kori: “Dan Smith was the Director of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and we were buddies. He helped me so much as a director when I’d get stuck or had to learn new systems. I had to learn InDesign and how to publish newsletters. He was a great inspiration and resource.”

Jess: A lot of people have difficulty changing career paths. They feel like they have to pick one path and stick with it. But you welcome change in your career. How do you do that?

Kori: “I get to a point when I’m ready to do something different and to learn something new. 

For example, when I moved down here, I started working at a local restaurant as a bartender. Well, I’ve never bartended a day in my life! This was a 5 star restaurant. I walked in and was looking for a job. The owner hired me and really taught me everything he knew. I was a great bartender and I had a lot of fun for about a year until the restaurant changed hands. 

I also have a knack for knowing when it’s time to jump ship on something. I always try to think of what’s next. I’ve thought about getting into personal assisting next. Cleaning is very hard on the body and I clean large homes. It keeps me in great shape, but I tore my shoulder earlier this year and I was still cleaning which was hard on my shoulder. So I’m working on what’s next that makes sense for me.”

Jess: Which job did you find the most satisfying and why?

Kori: “The Chamber of Commerce job. I like to do multiple things and help others. I started a Women in Business group during my time as I thought that was overlooked. Those luncheons were really well attended. I left it open for women business owners in the community to attend as well. I’ve had people say “You were so great at the job, why don’t you go back to it?” I loved it and what I did. But I get burned out on things after time. I like to move forward.”

Jess: How do you know when it’s time to leave a job?

Kori: “Vibes honestly. It’s really an energy thing for me. Does management care? How are they treating their employees?

I’ve always been a watcher. I may not say much, but I’m watching what’s going on around me. And when I don’t feel it’s right for me or a fit, I know it’s time to move on. 

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Jess: What obstacles did you face in getting to where you are now?

Kori: “It’s difficult when women in business aren’t supportive. You get jealousies. I’ll give you an example.  There were three women and one man on the executive committee giving reviews. I was doing a great job so they could never knock me down on anything in my review. The gentleman needed to leave so when they did my review, they marked me down on how I dressed. That was the only bad thing in my review. I take pride in how I dress for work. I had never heard that before and so I asked them to expand on it. And their reply was that at a luncheon in the spring, I had on my pink pant suit, pink shoes, pink Coach purse and my blonde hair all down and curly. They were talking to some people who said  “Oh, look at Kori, isn’t she so cute, doesn’t she just look like Barbie?” They told me they didn’t want Barbie representing us. I refused to sign the review. I told them “Who wouldn’t want to be Barbie? She’s got gorgeous Ken, she’s got a penthouse, airplane, corvette. Which one of you doesn’t want to be Barbie?” I called the president and complained. I’m not changing how I dress. He told me to be how I am because the whole thing was petty.  

It makes me angry when a woman can’t straighten another woman’s crown. Quit knocking crowns off, straighten each other’s crowns. You find the few and rare women that will reach back and help and not knock someone down.”

Jess: Do you feel having a boss who’s supportive helps you overcome pettiness in the office? What has helped you overcome that in the past?

Kori: “You can’t change pettiness, but you can control your response. I wasn’t going to change for anyone. You have to rely on your confidence and hold your head high. They were just trying to knock me down. Their own insecurities might have been misplaced. Maybe they wanted my job. I’ve learned a lot in my life to just roll my eyes and walk away or on the drive home just scream in the car. But you’ve got to remain a professional in it at all times.”

Jess: What would you tell somebody who is struggling with a bad boss?

Kori: “If you don’t have the support from your boss like you should, it’s a key sign to move on. Unless you really love the job, then have the conversation. Ask why it’s the way it is, what has happened or what can change. There are times that I haven’t spoken up. I’ve shut my mouth and walked away. As women, we need to speak up more when we don’t feel that we’re being treated right. And that’s in all aspects. It took a #MeToo movement for people to speak up about harassment. We need to do that in all aspects. You have to be happy in the position you’re in because you spend most of your life with those people.

I recently read the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. It really changed the way I thought. Mark Manson says that ‘improving our life hinges not on turning lemons into lemonade, but on learning to better stomach lemons. Human beings are flawed and limited. There are winners and losers in society and some of it is not your fault.’  We have to figure out what we’re going to be positive about because we can’t be positive about everything. You might be in the middle of a negative situation, in work or relationships, and it’s about how we deal with it. How we try to figure out if this is something that is so negative that we can’t turn around and should walk away from. Or if it’s worth finding all of the positive aspects to change the situation. 

Sometimes a good cry is not a bad thing. I’ve come out of some cries very clear. It’s hard to be positive when some of those negative emotions build up. I also look at positive and negative things that are happening as energy. I’m sure you’ve met someone where you just felt like, I don’t like this person. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but just because of energy. Then there’s other people who you love being around because of how they make you feel and that’s positive energy. It’s in your heart. You can change it, but you have to do something about it. I find meditation and yoga very helpful.”

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Jess: How has your mindset changed over the years?

Kori: When I was younger, I was very outspoken. I was an angry teenager. An older lady I admired came up to me when I was 17 and said “Honey, you’re beautiful inside and out, you’re a diamond in the rough. Polish that diamond up and you’ll go really far.” It changed the way I thought. I was kind of mean, but I think it was a mechanism to keep people away from me. I didn’t want to be mean and angry anymore. I wanted to always change and try to get better as I go.”

Jess: Any words of encouragement?

Kori: “You have to learn you are enough. I think a lot of women don’t think they are enough. 

Be true to yourself, work on your dreams and straight other women’s crowns.”

Like many of us, Kori has faced adversity in work and external influences that have changed her path. But her positive energy and her openness to learning new things have kept her energy bright. We can’t control what others do, but we can control our response to it. We have to remember that we are enough and use that confidence to fight back with kindness and hard work to succeed. We must remember to use our voices to speak up when necessary and move on when the signs tell us it’s time. And most importantly, we must reach back and help each other, straightening crowns as we go. 

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You are Enough.
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  1. […] “You’re a diamond in the rough. Polish that diamond up and you’ll go really far.” These words can’t be more true for all of us. Each diamond is unique and with some refining, it can be exceptionally beautiful. So how do we ‘polish it up’? For diamonds, they are valued based on the 4 c’s- cut, color, clarity and carat size. If we’re a diamond in the rough, it’s worth using that same scale to learn how to polish it up and shine. […]

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