Kristy Lenuzza is the founder of Sow to Speak, which was created with the sole intention to help people communicate better from the inside out to inspire people to do more meaningful work and, in turn, make the world a safer and better place to be. Kristy has witnessed countless times the immediate impact that occurs when communication techniques merge with the creative arts. People drop their guards and agendas and surprise themselves and each other, with their innate abilities to be present, creative, and playful, which is the birthplace for innovation, empathy, trust, and mutual respect.
Kristy bring equal parts insight, enthusiasm, and spunk to all of her workshops, coaching sessions, speaking engagements, and writing projects. Combining her education from the Theatre Education graduate program (M.A.) at Emerson College, the Roy H. Park School of Communications (B.S.) at Ithaca College, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting (NYC), and The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre (NYC), she aims to boost the fun and curb the funk. And believes, without a doubt, that the best leaders are the most curious students and that eavesdropping on strangers' convos will save the world.
Q: What inspired you to found Sow to Speak and what were the main challenges you faced?
I've always been inspired and intrigued by human behavior. I like exploring big questions and then incorporating the answers to making life more enjoyable and purposeful. I saw a very clear connection between the creative arts and personal development early on. As early as I can remember, I felt a magnetism to writing. It was an immediate route to feeling seen and connected to others. As a kid, I wanted to be Samantha Micelli (Alyssa Milano's character in the 80's hit show Who's the Boss?), and then as a teen wanted to be a child dream psychologist, so there was always a creative art and psychology-oriented connection from early on.
I was blessed with two incredible high school teachers, tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Wrate, and senior year psychology teacher, Mr. Murphy (who has passed on). Mrs. Wrate introduced us to two life-changing movies, The Graduate and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, forever changed me. The power of the arts is right there, helping us learn about love, mental health, and exploring mind control. Very poignant, mainly because my class underwent major tragedy at a very young age, four classmates died within four years (three from suicide and one from an accident), and it banded us all together, even decades later, to this day. Mr. Murphy was instrumental in helping us get through it. Kind, open-hearted, and looking back was my first introduction to, as we say in coaching and therapy, "holding the space" for others. Senior year, he circled chairs around after hearing about our classmate, Mickey, dying, and just let us all cry, reminisce, and sit in silence. It was cathartic and soulful. We were babies, sixteen, seventeen years old, and connecting on a level that many people never do. Tragedy does that often. From those experiences, mental health awareness was a thread throughout my entire education and career path.
As I grew up and became more immersed in personal development and the theatre arts, I saw a direct correlation between the two. What I didn't see was a lot of experiential humor in personal or professional development. This process can be very serious, redundant, and overwhelming, so my goal with Sow to Speak was to create an experience, no matter if through content, coaching, speaking engagements, or workshops that drew directly from the three pillars of humility, humor, and heart. The creative arts offer a way for us all to safely explore our humanity while learning how to transfer the deeper techniques to real life. The overall goal of Sow to Speak was and remains to rehumanize the workforce once and for all. I fully believe that by humanizing each other through play, is the gateway to have the more difficult and courageous conversations in all areas of our lives
The main challenge I faced was getting out of my own way. Sow to Speak is a very specific perspective and style and I started out trying to please the masses and we all know how that turns out: if you're talking to everybody, you're talking to nobody. So, I regrouped, reconnecting with my initial inspiration for creating Sow to Speak, which boils down to rehumanizing us all and created from that place. It was much more and remains to this day, grounded in a deeper place of integrity, wisdom, and heart.
Q: Did you start the venture alone?
You could say I started alone, but behind the scenes, family and good friends offered unwavering support and insight from the beginning. Having that backing was essential in surviving the overwhelming undertaking and newness of it all. Sow to Speak has only been in existence for a few years - established as an LLC in 2018. I'm very proud of it being so new and still having a lot of runway. I feel like it's just hitting its groove. It takes time, which I'm learning. If anything, my penchant for impatience and impulsiveness have matured (laughing).
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
To be honest, I started with no business model - mentally I had a clear vision, but nothing on paper. Revenue continues to grow through long-term contracts with organizations that believe in the power pair of continuous coaching and group workshops. Alone, and short-term, there's potential, but when you put coaching and workshops together, the impact, momentum, and effectiveness is richer and deeper beyond measure. Clients feel it and see it. I was just beginning to push live speaking engagements before COVID. Now, I'm shifting to a focus of a video series I started out of my linen closet, aptly called The Closet Series where I have conversations with guests who "come into the closet" to discuss ways that they are doing meaningful work to make the world a better place. It's resonating with people big time. We'll see where that goes.
Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of your company?
The short answer is no. To me, it boils down to dedication to duty. That sounds very serious as I hear it out loud (laughing) but it's about the delicate dance of taking yourself serious enough and not too much. That's an ongoing theme in my life. Very much like the popular William H. Murray quote: "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred." I don't look at that as luck, I look at that as a commitment to a deeper knowing and faith. Look, any entrepreneur knows starting a business is a crash course in surfing. You're eternally riding the waves of uncertainty and the only constant is being committed and anchored to your why. The "why" has been overused so much, but I feel with good reason. If you're not clear on your purpose then, staying with the surfing metaphor, the water's forever bumpy and murky and going to take you under.
For me, the clarity of my purpose for starting Sow to Speak is what keeps me going, and then it's being honest when you need to shift gears. But, once I was clear, and fully committed to Sow to Speak, then serendipities of people, feelings, moments were very noticeable in being the bread crumbs I needed to follow to head me in the right direction. So far, so good.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Right now, I have two main goals. The first is to simplify: quality over quantity. I have a tendency to take on too much and I'm going for depth over breadth. Our current reality was a much-needed wake-up call to sieve priorities. What was born from that realization is my second goal (which is in its infancy), an in-depth online course for women focused on self-awareness and self-compassion called "The COMPASS: Letting Self-COMPASSion Lead the Way." We hear so much about self-love, which is necessary, for sure. But, many people aren't aware of the practice of self-compassion. I look at self-love and self-compassion analogous to being nice and being kind. The former both have major benefits, but the latter is the deeper, more vulnerable, and intimate work that's essential in connecting us to ourselves and each other in richer and more sustainable ways. Self-compassion is our internal compass. It's in the word (self-compassion) itself, which is really cool. It will be a course that will connect women with themselves and each other in a very fun and powerful way.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Oh boy. Loaded question, Leo. (laughing). I would love to say I'd do nothing differently because you do better when you know better, but that's not entirely true. (laughing). The first thing that comes to mind is that I would slow down. I felt a self-imposed rush to get courses and content out super fast and that's never a good sign. It ends up being half-assed and takes a hit to your credibility. That leads to being kinder to myself. I would've been kinder to myself from the beginning. I can be incredibly hard on myself and being introduced to Kristen Neff's work on self-compassion was a game-changer and positively impacted the direction I took (and continue to take) Sow to Speak.
Also, I'm a creative by nature which, like anything, has its advantages and disadvantages. I would've taken a stronger look there. Meaning that when I'm stressed out, I can be highly scattered, sensitive, and self-absorbed but on the flip, when I'm aligned with integrity, I'm highly creative, intuitive, and self-aware. Again, slowing down. I do believe that you need to experience both ends of your personality spectrum to find your sweet spot where you thrive. So, I'm very appreciative of that experience so I can adjust accordingly now.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Judy Blume. Hands down. I was obsessively passionate about reading as a kid. Funny thing is I was horrible at reading comprehension in school because I was so easily distractable. But, for some reason with Judy Blume I was completely entranced every time. She had a book called "Letters to Judy" which if I remember correctly was like "Dear Abby" for kids. I just fell in love with her. The idea of being able to write relatable and heart-warming stories and help people feel less alone and interconnected in real life? Sign me up. I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. In a way, I feel like I'm beginning to do exactly what I admired in Ms. Blume with Sow to Speak. I just have to write that book - it'll happen.
Q: What are your favorite books?
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis (Kids book but I believe, for all ages)
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
I feel like as women, we have a tendency to people-please and caretake to our detriment - and in the end to others' too. We want to make sure that everybody is okay. There's a lot of love there but not at the expense of going against ourselves. My advice would be slow down and check in with yourself to become very clear on your intuition and inner wisdom. Create, decide, collaborate, navigate from that place. So often, we go outside of ourselves for direction first. I'd say: Go in before you go out. Have faith in what pops up and be guided by internal intentional action. It's a very brave and powerful move.