An Interview with Mother & Daughter, St. Louis Business Owners, Karen Carty and Jennifer Ray
By now we’re sure you know that the EYOB Foundation is a growing movement of people dedicated to the belief that together, we can make the world a better place – and it all starts with embracing your own beauty! But what you may not know is that the foundation grew out of theStitch.com (which is now EYOB.COM). Back in 2015, EYOB.COM had as their first interview & photo-shoot subjects, a mother and daughter team that truly embodied the Embrace Your Own Beauty ethos. We thought it would be fun to catch up with Karen Carty and her daughter Jennifer Ray and do an updated interview with them for the EYOB Foundation.
Karen and Jennifer are the owners of the Washington Ave. Post, a grocery store and coffee bar in a downtown neighborhood of St. Louis on, you guessed it, Washington Avenue! Over the years, these two women, along with Karen’s son, have lovingly grown their business into a vital part of the neighborhood and a top gathering place for the people living and working in the area. In the article below, you’ll get their take on being women in careers, how they handled high school and college and how and why they got involved with the EYOB movement!
EYOB: Karen, you were born in Ironton, Missouri a year after the end of World War II and subsequently, your family moved almost every year. What was that like for you?
I would note that she’s from a military family. That way when she uses the word transient it doesn’t look like her family was a bunch of hobos.
Karen: Growing up in a transient family probably contributed to my independent nature. I’ve never hesitated to pack up and visit or move, change jobs or try new challenges.
EYOB: Jennifer, are you anything like your mom? Or are you more of a homebody?
Jennifer: I think I’m a lot like my mom. I went to 3 different colleges. I’ve often thought I should have stayed focused and finished at the first one, but then I realized I would have missed out on meeting some really great people and missed some of my more interesting life experiences. Like my mom, I’m very independent. I’ve gone on four vacations by myself. Hot Springs, AR, Gatlinburg, TN, Nashville, TN, and New Orleans, LA. I like getting away and exploring by myself. Friends are fun too, but if they are not available to vacation with you, don’t not go because you are afraid to be alone.
EYOB: So, you both definitely have independent natures! When did you open the Washington Ave. Post?
Karen: My daughter and I opened the Washington Ave. Post in St. Louis in 2004. My son, Bob, joined us a few months later. That has been my occupation for the last 14 years. It’s been a good experience. That said, the store is for sale and I’m planning to move on in September. The path forward will involve our candle pouring.
EYOB: Best of luck on the sale and with your candle pouring business! What made you both decide to get involved with all things EYOB?
Karen: The biggest motivation for being part of the project was my relationship with the founder of the organization. I’ve known Andre for years and watched the project evolve.
Jennifer: And I appreciate the message that EYOB sends.
Karen: Yes. I think it’s an important one. Young women have much different challenges than young men in the areas of planning their lives and their careers.
EYOB: And as you know, an important step in our progression has been the addition of the workshops. What message do you think is important for young women to take away from the workshops?
Karen: I would like the girls and young women of today to understand that their choices are their own. It is good to listen to advice but, at the end of the day, they will regret the choices they DID NOT make more than the ones they made due to pressure of family and friends. For this, education is critical. They must get a good education. Without one their options will be limited.
Jennifer: I’d like them to be comfortable in their own skin. I think when we are growing up, we spend so much time trying to fit in that we overlook some of the great things that make us unique. I want girls to embrace their weirdness and pursue their interests without the fear of what others think.
EYOB: We like that, Jennifer. If we all embraced our own “weirdness,” aka, “beauty,” the world would be so much better off!
Here at EYOB Foundation, we’re all about empowering women and girls. We start by teaching workshop participants how to embrace their own beauty. What advice do you have as they journey through this process?
Karen: The most important thing they can do is like, accept and nurture themselves. A lot of different factors influence a girl’s ability to do that. If they have self-acceptance and self-confidence, then no decision is too difficult.
Jennifer: I know its cliché, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Positivity and openness are more attractive than negativity and close mindedness. People who base a person’s value on their physical appearance are not people you should value. You do you – and have fun while you are at it.
EYOB: Self-acceptance and confidence are key! But we all know that no one is 100% confident all the time. How do you each handle those moments of self-doubt and uncertainty?
Karen: None of us can claim that every decision we made was the right one. We all make mistakes in judgement. The key is that bad decisions are not a sign of failure. They are part of a learning process. If I feel uncertain it is usually because I don’t know enough about the subject. I look for more information and examine my perspective.
Jennifer: You have to be willing to fail and learn from it. Be willing to ask for help when you need it. I also try to force myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. I go to concerts and movies by myself because there was a point where I decided that I was missing out on some really great experiences by waiting for others to do things with me.
EYOB: Why do you think it’s important for young girls to have self-love?
Karen: I’m not sure self-love is the best term. I think self-respect and self-confidence are the most important things for young women. Trust yourself.
Jennifer: I’m a firm believer in treat yourself. Buy the facial masks. Go get the pedicure. Sit on your couch and read a book. Take the crochet class. Paint your nails and listen to a podcast or album or go for that hike with a friend. I think modern technology makes us feel like everything should be so immediate that we rush through our days and don’t take time to just actually be.
EYOB: What motivated you to choose the career path you are currently on?
Karen: I have had multiple careers. They were each right at the time. I started the first one because it paid well, was a challenge and I had 2 children to raise by myself. I learned to love it. I started the second done because it was something I had always wanted to do. If I had known when I was 18, how many options I had, I probably would have followed another path. That is why it’s important to keep your eyes open and examine all your options.
Jennifer: I stumbled into it. I’ve had a lot of different jobs and I spent a lot of time worrying about the lack of direction of my career. Through my different jobs I picked up a lot of different skills that I currently capitalize on.
EYOB: What were the biggest hurdles that you faced as a female in the workforce?
Karen: There was a time in the 70’s when I was the only female Electronics Buyer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then in the 80’s I was one of a small handful of female Computer Consultants in the country.
I have faced unimaginable discrimination in my career, along with more patronizing attention than I even want to remember.
Women of today have a much better chance of advancement and equal pay than we did when I entered the workforce. There are now laws to protect them, public dismay at egregious treatment and men fired for sexual misconduct. We all need to do what we can to ensure that these protections are not legislated away. They are important. The women of my generations worked hard to advance them when women in the workplace were treated with a true lack of respect.
EYOB: Karen, you’ve seen it all and have lived tell the tale! We’re so glad to gain your wisdom! Jennifer, same question. Hurdles?
Jennifer: I was self-employed for 10 years, so I wasn’t really a part of the ‘workforce,’ but I had a couple of instances when working in retail management where customers either didn’t trust my judgement or thought they’d get the answer they liked if they talked to the ‘male manager.’
EYOB: Ouch! We’re glad you persevered. Any advice for teen girls interested in starting their own business/entering the career field you are currently in?
Karen: Get an education. Expect to work hard. Keep your eye on your goals.
Jennifer: Be flexible. Don’t underestimate yourself or your skills. I went into job interviews and sold myself poorly because I didn’t feel my accomplishments were worthy of promoting. Looking back, I know I missed out on a few good jobs. Take the initiative and don’t wait for others to come to you. Always finish what you start. Always be friendly, look people in the eye, smile, and listen to them. Don’t rush to judgement. Make connections and network. You never know when someone will recommend you to someone. Don’t be negative. It’s unattractive and it leaves others with a bad feeling about you.
EYOB: Paint us a picture, what was high school like for you?
Karen: High School was a maze. I went to 4 different High Schools. (Florida (2), Missouri, Virginia). They were all completely different, everything from terrible to intimidating. I was happy when it was over.
EYOB: We’re glad you shared that you were happy that it was over. Some girls don’t like high school and they shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Jennifer: My sophomore year we moved to rural Missouri where I didn’t know anyone. I dressed funny, I talked funny, I had strange taste in music…. By the time I’d moved to Missouri I was tired of trying to fit in to new places and I did my own thing. I made a few core friends and stuck with that. I didn’t get asked to prom, homecoming, or any of the other high school rites of passage and that was fine. I would not go back and do high school again, but if I had to, I’d study harder and ignore a lot more people.
EYOB: We can easily see your strong, independent streaks. You both found ways to make high school work for you. What do you wish you knew back then?
Karen: I have always regretted that I didn’t know enough about what was possible. In the early 60s girls were expected to finish high school, get married, have children and take care of homes. Before the 60s were over, we realized there were more options.
Jennifer: High school is so short term in the grand scheme of things and I didn’t need to be such a drama queen. I wish I’d known all my options. My school didn’t really push us to seek education beyond the HS diploma, that was my mom’s doing. When I did got to college I really didn’t understand what all my options were and I think that limited my view of what I was capable of.
EYOB: Well, we aim to challenge those issues and make sure all young women know what their options are!
Thank you both for an amazing interview. We’re so glad that you met EYOB founder Andre Villa so that we could share your stories with our readers!
Photographs by Glennmade Studios – click icon’s to learn more:
To find out how to be a part of EYOB Empowerment Workshops contact by calling (314) 896-3962
The workshops are held at the Microsoft Store located in the St. Louis Galleria Mall.
If you’d like to find out more about EYOBFoundation.org click here.