Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blogathon Interview: Kara Gray

It's 6AM… the sun is rising over a New Horizon.  (Forgive me Kara, been blogging ALMOST 24 hours now!)

Welcome back, and thank you very much for supporting the Bay State Equine Rescue, Kara!  Kara L. Gray is the owner of New Horizon Consulting, a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and a fellow horse lover.

Last year, you shared with us some of the horses in your life.  How are Phoenix and Breeze?  What new adventures has your equine life inspired? 

“The Boys” are doing great, despite the heat, humidity and the ongoing battle against the flies! At 20, Phoenix is now mostly retired, as arthritis in his hips makes longer trail rides uncomfortable for him. But, he’s making an excellent training horse for my 8-year-old daughter. I “pony” him alongside Breeze and it’s a great experience for her to get to ride with another horse on the trail, not just in the confines of an arena.

Breeze and I recently had a great adventure—a lovely trail ride through the woods and about ½ mile down the creek where we caught another trail to bring us home. There were 10 of us altogether, and it was a glorious day! We’re trying to plan another trip along the same route, but the weather isn’t cooperating.

I’ve attached a photo of the group just as we headed into the water (that’s me and Breeze on the far left-I’m wearing a blue shirt).

How is New Horizon Consulting doing this year?  What are some of the projects you're working on?  What are some new challenges and lessons that have come up in the past year?

I’ve been so fortunate that, despite a tough economy, I have more work than I can handle. I continue to write press releases, by-line articles and other PR-related materials for several national/international clients. I also recently picked up some work from a local community college. It’s been great to work with a local client, and I’m so glad to lend my skills to help them grow the institution.

As a freelancer, it’s tough to give yourself a break because if you’re not working, you’re not earning any income. One of the biggest challenges I face is the fact that, with so much work available to me, I realize how easy it would be to become a true “workaholic.” I’ve joked that I must make a concerted effort not to evolve into Jack Nicholson’s character from “The Shining” (endlessly typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”). My horses provide such a welcome respite from work and I’m coming to realize that the world won’t come to screeching halt if I take an hour or two to go for a ride. ; )

In May, you offered the series, "Secrets of Marketing Success."  Can you share a little more about the courses and if you plan on offering them again?

Since then, I’ve done a series of webinars for the WV SBA and SBDC on social media and using Facebook for small businesses. We continue to develop new topics/materials based on feedback from participants, but right now, social media seems to be “where it’s at.”

The webinar format has been very popular because 1) it’s free; and 2) you can participate from anywhere without having to travel. I love them, too, and as I grow more comfortable with sharing my knowledge, I’m also growing more confident in my expertise.

You were also named one of Ohio Valley's "Faces of the Future."  Congratulations!  How do you see yourself as helping create a more positive future?  

Thanks! For me, creating a more positive future is about setting an example wherever you can. Here in West Virginia, we have a reputation for being heavily dependent upon extraction industries (coal, natural gas, timber) for our economy.

The reality is that there is so much potential here for hi-tech businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive, but they can’t seem to rise above the “noise” of the traditional industries. This is especially true for women who (at least in my area) are still mostly drawn to traditionally female employment roles (teachers, nurses, etc.). Not that there’s anything wrong with the extraction industries or becoming a teacher or nurse if that’s what you want to do--I just think that, in general, people in my area are unaware of other possibilities.

A large part of this is due to a lack of technology infrastructure to support hi-tech education and out-of-the-box workforce development. We desperately need broadband development here—people need to get over the Internet as a novelty and realize that it’s a vital utility for the future, a necessary infrastructure for progress…. but I digress. : )

Granted, a lot of people outside my state are surprised that I make a full-time living as a freelance writer, specializing mostly in hi-tech – after all, WV does rank toward the bottom in literacy. What saddens and frustrates me the most is that there are people INSIDE my state who are surprised by my career choice too—not because of me, but because a company from NYC or Chicago would give a WV girl a chance. Shame on them for not recognizing the potential of their own talents and skills to be marketable to the outside world!

So, I guess creating a more positive future has to do with rolling up your sleeves and just doing it for yourself and hoping others will learn from and feed off of your efforts. Not that I haven’t had tremendous support, both from family/friends and state programs to provide education/resources… it takes a village, you know?

In fact, this spring, I had the great honor of being named the West Virginia Women in Business Champion by the Small Business Administration for my work to help women develop and operate successful small businesses. The fact is, most of what I’ve done to earn the award is to pass along things I’ve learned in the hopes of saving others the trouble of having to learn these same things “the hard way.” To me, that’s what it’s all about—an intrinsic drive to help others whenever/wherever you can. After all, you never know when you’ll need some help yourself.

What other great projects do you have coming up that you would like to let people know about?

I’ve recently picked up a couple of projects for the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine that were very interesting: one is the brochure promoting their Human Gift Registry program (the donation of one’s body for study upon death) and the otheris  their annual Viewbook.

The HGR brochure was a fascinating/challenging project because while it’s a macabre subject, there really are tremendous benefits to the family of the deceased. The project required tact and sensitivity, while still maintaining a convincing tone. It was amazing to hear from the students how humbled and grateful they are for these gifts that allow them to study medicine. I’d never really thought much about this before, although I’ve known some folks who donated their bodies. It was very eye-opening – I’ve even considered a donation myself.

For the viewbook, I’m getting to work with a fabulously creative designer to come up with a unique twist to the typical viewbooks most colleges produce: this one will have a Facebook motif, where current students banter about what they’re learning in each class year. Prospective students get a peek into what it’s really like to be a student at WVSOM through a glimpse at current students’ wall postings. We’ve interwoven what I’m calling the nuts-and-bolts copy about the curriculum, etc. Coming up with the Facebook banter has been fun and challenging (writing dialogue is hard!) and I think we’ve arrived at a piece that will really speak to potential students in the own “language.”

What else is there that you wished more people knew about Kara Gray and New Horizon Consulting?

Nothing that I wished people knew, but something that may be surprising to know is that I literally live in the middle of a meadow, way out in the country (my husband and I built our own home here 3 years ago), but I work with clients around the world.

Most of my clients are in the hi-tech industry, living and working in large metro areas. They’d probably think I was a complete “hick” if they could see me at work in my jean shorts and flip flops! But, I turn out a hi-quality, professional product, so clearly location and wardrobe have nothing to do with it. : )

I wouldn’t trade the quality of life here for anything. I love that I can work in the fast-paced world of hi-tech PR and then “check out” at the end of the day to catch fireflies with my girls or sit on the porch swing with my husband and watch the sunset. I still live in the area where I grew up -- of course, I’ve traveled and seen the world, but I’d never live anywhere else. The fact that technology allows me to have the best of both worlds is amazing, and I’m INCREDIBLY grateful for the opportunity to live this life.

For more information about Kara and New Horizon Consulting, check out these web venues:

Twitter: @NewHorizon1

Thank you for your support this beautiful morning, Kara!  To join Kara and help BSER bring beautiful new days to more horses, please donate with the button below.  Thank you.

Click the apple to donate now to help the BSER horses!


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