Catherine Gray is a film producer, TedX speaker, podcast host, and founder of She Angels which seeks to help women founders get their businesses funded. In a world where only 2.5 percent of women-led pitches get funded, Catherine is using her platform to change that. In this episode, you will meet a woman who is on a mission to change the world. As we celebrate Pride Month, you will also learn how Catherine shifted the optics on issues like same-sex marriage.
— Catherine Gray
Topics covered in the interview
Investing in women-led businesses
Letting go versus giving up
Advice in starting a business
Catherine Gray’s Bio
My focus is always on empowering female entrepreneurs. My passion is to utilize our multi media platform to fund women, and level the playing field, since women are severely underfunded. We get less than 2% of venture capital and only 1.6% of charitable goes to initiatives for women and girls.
Currently, my focus is on producing a new original series for streaming called Fund Women- Save the World! Together with my She Angels Foundation Co-Founder, Catherine Curry Williams- we travel to cities around the U.S. – arriving via branded motor coach to provide a grants to deserving female founded non profits who are helping women, and investments to for profit female founded companies with ground breaking business ideas. The show follows their back story, receipt of their surprise investment and mentorship, and a follow up segment of their success due the financial infusion and guidance.
Also, I produce and host a popular podcast series called INVEST IN HER, to discuss ways to accelerate the funding of women, and provide resources and inspiration to our listeners. We feature both female founders and funders! It is distributed on Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts.
In my past, I am so grateful and proud to have produced several award-winning films including the very first documentary film about gay marriage called ‘I Can’t Marry You,’ narrated by Ellen DeGeneres’s mom Betty, which aired on PBS in more than 60 cities nationwide. Also, I co-produced several documentary films for the LOGO network.
She Angels is my multi-media platform that creates everything from films and shows, to game-changing events to empower women such as the Live Love Thrive Conferences, podcasts, and the She Angels Pitch Fest and TV series. We collaborate with the City of West Hollywood, CA for the pitch fest.
As the top producer in the country in cable television advertising in Miami for 15 years, I left the position to become Vice President of Advertising for the first ever gay cable network and decided from that day forward, all of my ventures would be working on projects for the greater good.
My favorite quote is from Mahatma Gandhi “Happiness Is When What You Think, What You Say, and What You Do Are In Complete Harmony.” I also believe the quote of the Dalai Lama, “The Western Women will save the world”!
Follow Catherine Gray
Susan Sly 00:02
Well, Hey everyone, what's up? I'm so excited to be here with all of you for a brand new episode of the Susan Sly project and getting raw and real with entrepreneurship. Today's guest is truly one of my favorite humans. She just is like light. Every time I talked to her, we've done a clubhouse together, whatever. She's just pure, pure light. She is a TEDx speaker. She is an author. She is an entrepreneur. She is a massive advocate for women. And we're going to talk about a lot of things today. We're going to talk about why it's more challenging for women. I know we have a lot of men who listen to the show and shout out to my dad, I know dad listens. There's at least one man who's listening. And my son and my husband too. But we're talking about why women have more challenges, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship as founders. And if you're a man listening today, this is a great thing for you, especially as you wrap your arms around women, whether as a funder or co founder, whatever it is,. We're also going to talk about why now is a great time to be starting a business. So with that my guest today is Catherine Gray. Catherine, thank you for being here.
Catherine Gray 01:10
Thank you so much. I am so honored to be here. I love the work that you're doing. And so, you know, it takes a village and we're all in this together.
Susan Sly 01:20
Yeah, absolutely. And I'm so excited for everyone around the world to hear what it is you're working on. We're going to talk about your new television show and you know, everything you're doing, it's amazing. I don't think you sleep. Catherine, you have an amazing podcast, Invest In Her, you have the She Angels Foundation, you're a stand for women founders, and really this concept of women funding women and women founded businesses. But here we are, and looking at the real numbers, 2.5% of women led pitches get funded. That is, it's unbelievable. And as a female co founder with a business that is funded, I, you know, I have stories from the trenches for sure. But in your opinion, why is that? Why is it that we're, here we are in 2021, and, you know, only two and a half percent of the time, are we getting funded as women led businesses?
Catherine Gray 02:20
Well, you know, it's really very simple. The reason that we get less funding than men is more men are the decision makers. And so the only way to level the playing field is for us to become members of venture capital, become angel investors. And thank goodness, the light at the end of the tunnel is that there's also new ways for people to find investments that are seeming to serve women better than the traditional VCs. And that would be like equity crowdfunding, which of course, there have been laws that have changed in recent years, and even recently, that are accommodating that. And the more, the less barrier to entry for women to invest and be decision makers in that world, the quicker we're going to solve this issue. But your listeners can be part of the solution. And that's the best part. That's what I love to talk about. How can we as women start supporting other women? And so one of the best ways I tell people to dip their toe in is to look into equity crowdfunding like Republic or like We Funder because this is a way for them to dip their toe in with $100, $500, something really a small amount to start to learn how to become an investor. And so if they look into that, they'll see that, you know, Obama had signed into law some changes where you don't have to be an accredited investor. In other words, have a million dollars worth of assets and 250,000 in income a year in order to invest like you used to. So We Funder, Republic, and Equity crowdfunding services like that have opened those doors. And then once people get their feet wet, then maybe they want to start being a major angel investor, maybe they move up to five or 25,000. And then those that qualify should be looking into well, how did they become a limited partner in a venture capital firm? So there's so many opportunities and it's an exciting time for women to be looking at how can I invest in other women that are innovative and creative? And maybe you don't have that great idea. The beauty of it is you can invest in someone who does.
Susan Sly 04:46
Oh, Catherine, that is so well said and I love that because looking at, We Funder is one of my favorite platforms. It's so easy. And when, the listeners the viewers, they know that one of the biggest things I always say is make you have two jobs, making money and then the second job is putting your money to work for you. And of course, investing in startups is risky. So before you, you know, if you don't know what you're doing, don't write a check for, you know, 50,000, $100,000. But with We Funder, you know, $100 $150, if you have that disposable income, it's a great way to go. And to do your research on the businesses. Recently, I just funded a women led, women produced movie, and they were doing, because of Covid, you know, everything's weird in Hollywood. And they're doing their whole, their whole seed round on We Funder. And then I had another friend who had a movie, and she did the traditional route, but then COVID hit, and it was really hard on her because people had written very large checks, right? So I love that, you know, getting in there. And also, as women supporting women, right, and men supporting women, guys, you know, it's, you know, you look at a company, and I want everyone to start to think about this. When, I was recently invited to join a mastermind, so I looked at all the mastermind leaders, and it wasn't one woman. Oh, my gosh. And I said to my girlfriend, I'm like, dude, you know, what I say to her, but what is that there's not one woman leading this? And you look at the world of personal development, all the biggest, highest paid speakers, they're all men, and it's not going to change. It's not just women who have to lead the charge to support women. Guys, step up too, right? So Catherine, you have quite a journey in the entertainment world, you know, 15 years in Miami, you're, now you're working on a television show, you're getting funding for that that's going to be on NBC. Walk us through your journey. How did you first get into the entertainment world? Because I know a lot of people listening to be like, I want to get into the entertainment world. How did that happen for you?
Catherine Gray 07:01
Absolutely. You know, I've always been a filmmaker, it's been in my DNA. I started out my 20s in cable television advertising, and I would sell the airtime and then go shoot the commercial. So I've always been a creative, and it's really what fuels me. So I'm fortunate, like, I love to mix business and filmmaking, which is, I know it's a plus, because a lot of filmmakers aren't business people. So it's, it's I really enjoy both of those and bringing them together. And it was many years ago that I decided to make my first documentary that was called, I Can't Marry You, about same sex marriage. And when I made it, I said, I really see this on PBS. And I didn't know how I was going to get it on there. But once I completed it, and everybody told me, you're crazy, that'll never happen, same sex marriage will never happen. And I was like, Well, why not? And I do believe it's film and television that helps change culture. And so I just was on a mission to create this film, I filmed like, you know, 15,20 couples who've been together like, gay couples who've been together, you know, anywhere from 10 to 50 years, because I was trying to substantiate how they were together, they loved each other. They were just like any other couple. But at the same time, they didn't have the thousand rights and benefits and protections that come with marriage. A lot of people didn't realize that. Even a lot of gay people didn't realize that. So when I went on that journey, I thought, we need a TV documentary, to educate people on why we need this. And then humanize it so people felt attached to it and related to it. And I do believe that it was this film and many other films that were created about this topic that helped change the laws. Because otherwise people aren't educated about it. They're not aware of it. They're not inspired. And so you, it is a very powerful medium to change our culture. And it worked. It worked. Look at this now. I'm married, I'm married now. Yay. So I did benefit from that.
Susan Sly 09:20
And happily married because I just want to jump in. Like let's add, like marriages is like another full time job. Like, you know, as someone you know, Chris, I've been together for 21 years. It's a full time job. So if you're happily married, high five.
Catherine Gray 09:37
And you know what too? I guess it, you know, when you don't have that opportunity to get married, you just think well, I don't know. I don't know what I'm missing. So you know, what do I know? Wow, did I not know what I was missing? And I'm so happy that same sex couples have that opportunity. You know, I think we can all agree Love is love and everybody deserves to have a lifetime partner and I am certainly so, so grateful. It has just enhanced my life a thousandfold. So, but I digress.
Susan Sly 10:11
by Ellen Degeneres' Mom.
Catherine Gray 10:15
Yes. Thank you for reminding me. Yes, yes, I think it is important sometimes to put a celebrity face to your films because it does bring attention to it. And, and so I knocked on PBS his door several times in several cities and got rejected. And I said, Wow, I really felt in every fiber of my being this was meant to be on PBS. And then finally, about two months after I let go of it, I got the call after I had planted all the seeds. And they said, we want your film. And so that was a big deal for me. That was my very first documentary. And I later read that getting your documentary on television and distributed was like winning the lottery. It was like one in a million. And I think that experience made me understand that anything is possible, if you believe in it, and you believe with every fiber of your being that something is meant to be. And so that's how I try to live my life. And now, many years later, after making other documentaries, I'm on a mission to create this television project, I'm getting sponsors right now for it, we already have a deal to put it on NBC, which is wonderful, because we'll have worldwide exposure to reaching people around the world to make them aware of how underfunded women are, and how we can fix it, and how they, as an audience viewer can be a part of that change. So it's very exciting to me. And I have one piece of advice that I really love to share. And that is I work with, like a spiritual advisor that she's a wonderful thought leader. Her name's Andrea Quinn. And she has said something that I thought was very profound. And that is, when you're out there raising money for your great big idea, no matter what it is, television film, or your new widget or whatever your business is, always remember that you're asking for something that's your highest, higher purpose, that it's something for the greater good. So you're asking for the money for that, not for yourself. And if you keep that perspective, it makes it easier to do the ask and believe that you'll get the funding.
Susan Sly 12:38
You said so much there, Catherine, like going back to even you know, marriage, right, and how it applies to raw and real entrepreneurship. The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, Angie, and she started this medical clinic, she's become a thought leader in the space of ozone and how ozone has so many curative effects. And I was talking about the, you know, with Radius, and you know, where we're going with the company. And I said to her, Angie, I didn't realize I wanted something so badly until I began to experience it. And just like you getting married, just like anything that we do as entrepreneurs, it's that first taste of it. And then we just can't, you can't go back once you've had that experience. And I love that you said you planted all these seeds, and then you let it go. And then it came to fruition because it is a huge deal, you know, and we were talking about before the show are my friends Mindy and Glen Stearns. Glen being on undercover billionaire on Discovery. And then now he has another one on Discovery Plus, and it's all those things to get to that point where we can live into our dreams. But there's this piece about letting go and I want to, I want to touch on this for a minute. When you decided to let go, what's the difference in that as opposed to giving up? Because I there are a lot of people who give up, Catherine, and I did a post on this on Instagram, you know, like, you know, where would you be if you hadn't give it up? So what's the difference between letting go and giving up?
Catherine Gray 14:29
I think, knowing in your gut that it is going to happen. But you have to sit back and now let things come to you. Some time, you can't go after it. You have to let it come to you. So once you've done all the work and you've set your intention, and you see the vision and you know beyond a fiber of any doubt that it's meant to be, then you just let it fall into place.
Susan Sly 14:56
And that's the work behind the scenes that people don't see. What, in getting, you know, you're doing so much. You've got the foundation, you've got your show, now, you know, getting this, this show, your podcast show, but then you also are getting the show ready for NBC next year, which is huge, girlfriend like, congratulations. Thank you. What, you know, as you would I are really good and mutual friends are really good at sort of being this woman that people look up to,Aad they're like, Oh, she has it all together? How do you handle stress?
Catherine Gray 15:34
Oh, great question. You know, I believe it's important every morning to start the day with meditation. I think it sets the whole tone for the day, as Marianne Williamson would say, you know, five minutes of meditation sets the whole tone of your day. You know, and other wonderful thought leaders like Brendon Bouchard, you know, I've tried to learn from these people that give such great advice. You know, he always says, Don't, jump on your phone the minute you wake up, because you will get hijacked into that world. And it's not very calming. So, you know, I think, starting the day with a meditation with a walk for me, I love a walk, talking with some friends, to empower myself, fuel myself, and then start the day. So, and it is a concerted effort. It's, let's face it, it's hard for any of us not to look at that phone and get hijacked with things, you know. But if you make that concerted effort, it certainly is a wonderful way to start the day and set the whole tone of the day. And that's, that and exercise you know, obviously helps with stress. Yeah.
Susan Sly 16:40
Absolutely. And, and we speak often on the show about that concept and that foundation. And when I wrote the book in 2007, Have It All Woman, it was that you know how we set that foundation. Get prayer, meditation, nourishing ourselves, because you can't get from a well that's empty. But I want to ask you this. How do you handle, how do you handle No's? Because the you had a lot of no's to get your, to get your documentary, right? You're, you know, fundraising, there's always No's. How do you handle No's?
Catherine Gray 17:15
You know, again, back to Andrea Quinn, I will tell you, I love that she says, most women spend too much time trying to make not their people, their people. And so if there's anything I've cultivated over the years, it's that, a no is a no big, is not a big deal. And no just means they're not your people, they don't get it. Don't waste your time on it. Don't try to convince them, it takes too much energy. Just keep knocking on doors until you find your people. And when you find your people, they're the ones that say, Oh my god, I love what you're doing, I want to get behind that. And it's so, it should be simple. It really should be simple. And that is something to cultivate over many years of just, you know, saying, okay, so there's all these no's, that means a yes is on the way.
Susan Sly 18:04
Yeah, I love it. And I love that about stop trying to make people your people. That they're not supposed to be your people. And, and, and I think sometimes that's the hardest thing because a lot of people, men and women, struggle with self esteem issues. Right? And and so, and and it's Oh, they don't like me? Well, sometimes it's they don't like your concept. Right. Bottom line, right? And if they
Catherine Gray 18:29
like you, who cares? You know, it's like, you know, your people are going to like you and be cheering you on and fueling you. And they're going to get it and they're going to appreciate it. And it's going to be simple. So if you just wait, hold out and work with your people, it's all going to fall into place easily. Yeah, it's
Susan Sly 18:47
not blessed and next, right? Yeah, um, rapid fire. So someone watching, listening, they want to start a business, what is the best advice you would give them? If they're new to entrepreneurship.
Catherine Gray 19:02
I would say, get a mentor or coach. Because you shouldn't try to do everything yourself. You're, most people don't know everything. And so just do what you're good at, and bring in people that do what you're not good at, you know, if you're, if you have this great innovation, but you're not a great business person, then bring in someone who is. It doesn't have to be a partner, but you could hire them. You know, so I always say, let people do what they're good at so you can do more of what you're good at. And that's really what I think makes somebody successful. And of course, they have to find funding. They should, you know, I always try to provide resources to tell people, you know, hey, you need a good pitch. You don't have a good pitch? Here's this person over here that can help you with your pitch, because it's just the training of it. You know, don't go in and pitch if you don't know what you're doing. You won't get anywhere. So go to someone that could train you on that, and then go in prepared. And then you might even fall down a few times, learn from, that get back up, and go. It really, isn't it? I know, Susan, you know, it's about resilience. Oh, yeah.
Susan Sly 20:15
Definitely. I mean, we could have a whole show on resilience, right? It's good. Yeah. You know, it's interesting, because there, Jim Rohn, who is a great business philosopher. So I shared the stage with him three times, while he was alive, including the last time he spoke live in Dallas. And if someone doesn't know who Jim Rohn was, he was Tony Robbins' mentor. He is the person when Tony was 18 years old, gave Tony a shot. Tony went to a Jim Rohn seminar, there were 18 people there. He went on to work for Jim Rohn, he learned a lot of his skills from Jim. And, and Jim used to say that, you know, you've just, you know, blessed and next and everything else, but sometimes the, you know, success is the best revenge. And, and, you know, not that we're vengeful people. I'm a very loving person. But there is something gratifying when someone has said no to you, and you succeed anyway. I, you know, whether it was, you know, for me, oh, when I was diagnosed with MS, you're going to be in a wheelchair in 10 years. Well, guess what, that was the year 2000. In the year 2011, I ran super fast boston marathon and qualified to go the next year. So I wasn't in a wheelchair, and then they said, you're going to be dead in 20 years. Well, I'm, I'm not an AI. I'm not dead. I'm still here, that's 21 years later. Or, you know, what right do you have being a co founder of a tech company when you haven't written a line of code since 1991? Yet, here we are with a significant valuation. And you know, and i think that it's, it's taking those no's, and turning them into a place of strength. And I, I want to just share a quick thing I read recently in Jay Shetty's book, Think Like A Monk, and Jay was talking about trees, and how trees, when they are exposed to wind, it makes them stronger, the roots go deeper, their bark becomes thicker. But if a tree isn't exposed to wind, they learned this from a biosphere where they had these trees, they had light, they had water, but they got to a certain height, and they fell over. And they found it's because they didn't have wind, the wind to strengthen them. And when those winds come, they're there to strengthen us. So Catherine, I want to ask you this question. Someone listening or watching right now, they're going through a tough time, maybe their business is going sideways, maybe they bootstrapped it and they're not making any money, they're getting a lot of criticism. You mentioned resilience. What advice would you give to that person?
Catherine Gray 22:51
I think for that person, I would say, know when to quit, because sometimes it's time to quit and move on to something greater that you take all that you learn from that experience to the next one. So sometimes, I think if you're an entrepreneur, you certainly have had some, you know, so called failures, but really, they're just learning experiences. I don't think anybody escapes that because anybody who's an entrepreneur has made mistakes, and you learn from them, and it makes you a better entrepreneur. So it could be that you just say, you know what, maybe the universe has a different plan for me, I'll take what I learned from this experience and move it to the next one. Or it could be that you're just on the verge of being super successful, and you need to hang in there. And the best way to figure that out, I think, is to get a third party, that you really value their opinion. A coach or mentor, whoever that is, that says, You are almost there, keep going. Because so many people do quit right when they're about to be super successful. So it could be either of those things. You just have to listen to your insights, which by the way, I say never steer you wrong. Your insights will tell you if it's time to fold or keep on going.
Susan Sly 24:07
Yeah, that's so powerful. And the ones that the best pieces of advice I had this year is Todd Stottlemyre, the former MLB baseball player. He and I, he and his wife, Erica and Chris and I, were part of a couples forum at our church. And I was talking to Todd and he said, you know, Susan, sometimes you have to stay where it's hard. Yeah, yeah. Becaue how are you going to become the leader you need to be if you don't stay where it's hard? And goodness knows, Catherine, advocating for gay marriage, advocating for women. Those are not easy platforms. And so my sister, I just want to celebrate you. I can't wait. Catherine and I at some point in the near future are going to be having dinner. And I want to just invite everyone. If this show has been helpful today, please you know, on YouTube, hit the subscribe button, share the show. You know, give Catherine and I five star review. And all of your YouTube comments, I'm the one who responds to them. Give us a shout out on social. Catherine on Instagram is @investinher, right? And if you know a corporation or a foundation that would, that wants to advocate for women and advertise on Catherine's show, Catherine what's the best way for people to contact you?
Catherine Gray 25:30
Just to go to my site where it's a multimedia platform of everything. The podcast, the show and, our She Angels Foundation. So it's sheangelinvestors.com. sheangelinvestors.com. And they can also learn there about our nonprofit, which is She Angels Foundation that is helping female founded nonprofits that are helping women to thrive. We give grants to them. So thank you so much for having me on the show. This has been an amazing conversation. And I do think when you said it is hard, yes, it is hard. And that's what makes it fun and exciting. If it was easy, it would be a bore.
Susan Sly 26:10
So true. All right. Well, thank you so much Catherine Gray for being here. And everyone thanks for being a loyal listener and viewer to the show. And with that, this has been another episode of the Susan Sly project.
Susan Sly 26:28
Hey, what's up everyone, you are not going to want to miss the upcoming show where my guest and I are going to be talking about resilience and how do you stay in a place where something is so challenging and so difficult, and not let go of your dream. She is an amazing film producer, speaker, author and a thought leader in her space. So with that, stay tuned for another episode of the Susan Sly project.